I hadn't known that his mauling had gotten federal attention. I couldn't think why it would have but I couldn't ask that here and now because it would be admitting too much ignorance. Also, I wasn't sure how much Micah wanted to share in the airport with people walking around us.
I covered. I can do blank pleasant cop face with the best of them. I did it now. "What are the odds that he'd be the agent in charge of this case?" I said, smiling, as if I knew exactly what we were talking about. I'd give Micah a chance to explain later, when we didn't have an audience.
"I didn't know that you were an animator," Fox said, still talking to Micah.
"I'm not." And Micah left it at that.
Fox waited for him to add more, but Micah smiled and didn't. Fox would have let it go, but Franklin didn't. Some people just can't leave well enough alone.
"Are you a vampire executioner?" Franklin asked.
Micah shook his head.
"You're not a federal marshal." And Franklin said it like he was positive.
"No, I'm not."
"Let it go, Franklin," Fox said.
"She's brought a civilian along on a federal case."
"We'll talk about this in the car," Fox said, and the look he gave Franklin stopped the taller man in midsentence.
Fox asked me, "Do we need to wait for more bags?"
"No," I said. "We're going back home tomorrow, right?"
"That's the plan," he said, but his face was not happy, as if the whole thing with Franklin was still bothering him.
"Then we're ready to go."
He actually smiled. "A woman who packs light--that's rare."
"Sexist," I said.
He gave me a nod. "Sorry, you're right. I apologize."
I smiled and shook my head. "No sweat."
He led the way out the doors, and there were two cars waiting. One had two other agents with it, and the other was empty and waiting for us.
Fox spoke over his shoulder at us. "With the new regulations, even the FBI doesn't get to leave cars parked unattended."
"Glad to hear the new rules apply to everyone," I said, more for something to say than because I cared. I wanted to look at Micah and was afraid to. Afraid if I gave him too much attention, he'd fall apart or feel like he had to explain in front of them. Of course, by not looking at him, he might think I was mad about him not sharing details. But... oh, hell.
We were pretending he was just my assistant. Holding his hand or giving him a kiss might expose that lie. Or give Franklin even more reason to think I was sleeping around. I hadn't thought about what it might mean to introduce Micah as my assistant. I guess I hadn't really thought it through at all. In my own defense, I hadn't had time to come up with a good explanation for why I needed to bring my boyfriend along. Assistant had seemed like a good idea at the time.
I did the only thing I could think of to reassure him and keep the assistant thing going: I patted him on the shoulder. It wasn't much, but he rewarded me with a smile, as if he'd known the mental gymnastics I was going through. Maybe he did.
Fox drove. Franklin rode shotgun. Micah, the briefcase, and I rode in the backseat. The other car followed us as we pulled away.
"We'll drop you at the motel," Fox began.
Micah interrupted him. "Actually, I booked us into the Four Seasons."
"Jesus," Franklin said.
"The FBI won't pick up the tab for the Four Seasons," Fox said.
"We wouldn't expect it," Micah said.
I sat there wondering why Micah had changed hotels, then realized that Fox had said motel. Oh. Micah wanted a nicer place for our first night alone together. Logical--so why did it make my stomach tight? What was he expecting of our first night alone?
"Are you really going to let her bring a civilian into our case?"
Fox looked at Franklin. Even from the backseat it didn't look friendly. "I suggest, strongly, that you let this go, Agent Franklin."
"Jesus, what is it about her?" Franklin said. "She blinks those big brown eyes and everyone just looks the other way while she breaks a dozen rules and bends the very law we're sworn to uphold." He turned around in the seat as far as the seat belt would let him. "How do you do it?"
Fox said, "Franklin," and the word was a warning.
"No, Fox, it's all right. If we don't get this settled, Agent Franklin and I won't be able to work together, will we, Agent Franklin?" My voice wasn't friendly when I said all that. "You want to know how I do it?"
"Yeah," Franklin said, "I do."
"I know how you think I do it. You think I f**k everyone. But I've never met Fox, so that can't be it. So now you're scrambling, trying to figure it out."
He scowled at me.
"When you thought it was just sex, just a woman sleeping her way through her career, you were sort of okay with it, but now, now you just don't get it."
"No," he said, "I don't. Fox is the most by-the-book agent I've ever worked with, and he's letting you cart around a civilian. That's not like him."
"I know the civilian," Fox said. "That makes a difference."
"He was a victim of a violent crime. So what? You knew him how long ago?"
"Nine years," Fox said in a soft voice, his dark eyes on the traffic, hands careful on the wheel.
"You don't know what kind of person he is now. Nine years is a long time. He must have been a teenager then."
"He was eighteen," Fox's careful voice said.
"You don't know him now. He could be a bad guy for all you know."
Fox glanced in the rearview mirror. "You a bad guy, Micah?"
"No, sir," Micah said.
"That's it?" Franklin said, and he looked like he was going to work himself into hysterics or a stroke. "You ask if he's a bad guy, and he says no, and that's good enough?"
"I saw what he survived; you didn't. He answered my questions when his voice was only a hoarse rasp because the killer had clawed out his throat. I worked for Investigative Support for five years and what was done to him is still one of the worst things I've ever seen." He had to slam on the brakes to keep from hitting the sudden line of traffic in front of us. We all got very well acquainted with our seat belts, and then he continued. "He doesn't have to prove anything to you, Franklin, and he's already proven anything he ever needed to prove to me. You are going to lay off him and Marshal Blake."
"But don't you even want to know why he's here? What she brought him for? It's an ongoing case. He could be a reporter for all you know."
Fox let out a long, loud breath. "I'll let them answer this question once, just once, and then you let it go, Franklin. Let it go before I start having more sympathy with why Bradford had you reassigned."
That stopped Franklin for a second or two. The traffic started creeping forward. We seemed to be caught in rush-hour traffic. I thought at first that the threat would make him give it up but Franklin was made of sterner stuff than that.
"If he's not an animator or a vampire executioner, then what does he assist you with, Marshal Blake?" He almost managed to keep the sarcasm out of the "Marshal Blake."
I was tired of Franklin, and I'm not that good at lying. I'd had less than two hours of sleep and had to fly on a plane. So I told the truth, the absolute truth.
"When you need to have sex three, four times a day, it's just more convenient to bring your lover with you, don't you think, Agent Franklin?" I gave him wide, innocent eyes.
He gave me a sour look. Fox laughed.
"Very funny," Franklin said, but he settled back in his seat and he left us alone. The truth may not set you free, but used carefully, it can confuse the hell out of your enemies.
The hotel was nice. Very nice. Too nice. There were people in uniforms all over the place. Not police--hotel employees. They sprang forward to get doors. To try to help with luggage. Micah actually let a bellman take our bags. I protested that we could carry them. He'd smiled and said to just enjoy it. I hadn't enjoyed it. I had leaned against the mirrored wall of the elevator and tried not to get angry.
Why was I angry? The hotel had surprised me, badly. I'd come expecting a clean-but-nothing-special room. Now we were going up in a glass and gilt elevator with a guy in white gloves pressing the buttons, explaining how the security on our little key cards worked.