High Treason(7)

By: DiAnn Mills

“Go ahead,” Jeff said. “That has to stay intact.”

Reaching inside her handbag, she pulled out her iPhone and listened to SAC Thomas talk to his agent before she left the room. “The urgency of a task force and the work ahead is your style. Behave yourself and get the job done.”

“The prince will object to any American on his protective detail but me, especially a woman.”

“It’s not your call.”

MONICA TAPPED HER FOOT and waited for Lori to answer her cell phone at the Coffee Gone Dark café. The time registered at 1:35, and the shop didn’t close until 3 p.m. Few customers ventured in midafternoon, making the last hour easier to prepare for the following day.

“How’s everything?” Lori said, a bit breathless.

“Okay, I think. Were you running?”

“Took a late delivery order and left my phone in the office. You didn’t answer my question.”

A heavy shot of remorse hit her. “I’m going to be out of pocket for the next few weeks, maybe a month. I’m so sorry.”

“Forget it. Don’t worry about your job. Take care of what’s pressing, and I’ll get my niece to fill in until you’re back.”

“Are you sure?” Monica enjoyed working at the café, although she could be whisked away at any given moment.

“We’re sister-friends, aren’t we? Just call me when you can.”

“You’re the best.” Soon enough she’d have to quit her job and move on to wherever the CIA sent her.

“What can I do to help? I understand family and personal issues, and I’m praying, but what else?”

She’d have an ulcer soon. “I wish I could talk more. Just impossible.”

“No worries. You’ve had to take off before, and it always works out.”

“Lori, a shipment of coffee beans is coming in. I’m sticking you with roasting them.”

“Who showed you how to use the roaster?” Lori laughed rather musically, and Monica bathed in the temporary relief. “When you’re ready, I’d like to hear what’s going on with your family.”

“No big thing.” Monica’s family had no clue how she occupied her time.

“My worry is the sacrifices you’re making. I hope your family appreciates you. Anyway, I’d like to think you’re on your way to Costa Rica. Some gorgeous Latin guy is waiting to sweep you off your feet.”

Monica sighed. The CIA was her family, and there was no gorgeous hunk in her path. “How did you guess?” Her five minutes were nearly up. “I have to run. Are we okay? I mean, I’m saddling you with all this extra work.”

“You deal with your problem. Prayers headed your way.”

Regret swept through Monica for hiding her career from Lori, the dear friend who sat beside her in church, where they sang praises and prayed together.

Pushing her cover life to the side, she needed to focus on the new assignment and process a ton of data. Add to the mix a partner who’d voiced his opinion about the two of them being a lousy fit. This had disaster written all over it. Working alone was her preference. Taking on a partner complicated her trust issues, but she’d give it her best.

She dropped her phone inside her bag and stepped into the kitchen. There she eased onto the chair beside Agent Davidson.

The idea of Jeff entrusting her to a task force meant he had more confidence in her than she had in herself.

Jeff caught her eye contact. “You and Kord have notes to compare. We all do. Talk through the police and FBI reports sent to your phones while SAC Thomas and I continue our discussion in the sitting room. In five minutes, you two are to head out to investigate this morning’s crime scene. FBI and HPD are on it, but we want your perspective. Initial reporting confirms a sniper fired from the roof of Paramount High School.”

“Did anyone get my change of clothes from the trunk before taking my car?” she said.

“No. I’ll get what you need later.”

She’d deal with it. “Yes, sir.”

The two men left the room. She took account of the time. Davidson sat at the table poring over his phone.

“What can you tell me about Prince Omar?” she said. “I’ve heard the media claims of his extravagance, appreciation of beautiful women and fast cars. But who is the real man, the one you call friend?”