Blood and thunder, p.7

Blood & Thunder, page 7

 part  #2 of  THIRDS Series

 

Blood & Thunder
 



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  A few shaky hands went up.

  “Great. Get ready for the next lesson. How to patch up a Human scratching post.”

  Dex was about to call his partner when Sloane came to an abrupt halt, standing exceptionally still, his ears perked up. Seconds later, the sirens around the facility went off and Dex jumped to his feet. “What the hell is that?”

  Sloane came running, then pushed his head against the back of Dex’s legs to get him moving. Their instructor tapped his earpiece then called out, “Unit Alpha, report in immediately.” Dex didn’t need to be told twice. He took off after Sloane who was nearly at the changing bays. Inside, Sloane ducked behind his assigned curtain, and Dex waited patiently. It would take some time after Sloane shifted back for Dex to administer Postshift Trauma Care, but as much as they both wanted to move quicker, you couldn’t rush nature.

  Several grunts, groans, and growls later, and Dex heard his name called. Sloane was especially grumpy postshift. He didn’t like Dex seeing him in such a vulnerable state, but Dex was happy to remind his partner it was his job to provide him the care he needed.

  Sloane was perched on the small cot with the towel across his lap, his head in his hands as the dizziness washed over him. Dex was all too familiar with the process. He removed the bottle of Gatorade from the Postshift Trauma Care kit in his backpack and waited a few seconds until Sloane was able to lift his head. His partner was stubborn, but Dex had found a way around it. He gently brushed Sloane’s fallen hair away from his brow, caressing his jaw before tenderly cupping the back of his head.

  After a moment of hesitation, Sloane leaned back, and Dex helped him with the Gatorade until every drop was gone. As soon as his partner was done with that, Dex unwrapped a couple of high-carb/high-protein bars and handed them over.

  Maybe Dex didn’t want the postshift trauma that came with being a Therian, but what he wouldn’t give to have a Therian’s metabolism. Therians didn’t get cholesterol, nor did they get fat or unhealthy from all the meat they consumed since their bodies depended on the stuff to keep them alive, providing they were remotely active, of course. Therians had crazy high metabolic rates and burned calories by just breathing.

  The expression “eaten out of house and home” had been thought up with Therians in mind. His dad could confirm that. Dex had felt for the guy. As if raising two mischievous boys hadn’t been difficult enough, one of them put away enough food you’d think he was storing it away for winter, while the other ate enough to put the butcher’s son through college. Dex would bet his own grocery bills were nothing compared to Sloane’s.

  A few minutes later and his partner was on his feet, somewhat wobbly, but okay enough to get dressed with Dex’s help. He gave the waistband of Sloane’s underwear a snap, drawing a playful grin from him. Soon Sloane was dressed in his uniform, looking imposing as always. It would take a hearty meal to get Sloane back up to full speed, but he’d be okay for a few hours.

  “Okay, partner?”

  Sloane nodded, his voice rougher than usual, as it tended to be after a shift. “Yeah, let’s go. You drive.” Dex nodded somberly, though inside he was pumped and doing a jig. Since Sloane was the senior officer, he always drove the huge black Suburban except during instances such as this.

  Making sure his partner was all right, Dex made a quick phone call to Cael on the way to the garage, putting in a request. He climbed in behind the wheel, telling himself he was just being a good partner, but a little voice in the back of his head reminded him he was a shitty liar when it came to those he cared about. The urge to take care of Sloane and fuss over him was growing, and he had to keep a grip on that. If Sloane suspected Dex was getting too close… well, Dex had no idea what he’d do, and he didn’t want to find out.

  SLOANE ENTERED his badge number and security code into the Suburban’s console, ignoring the hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach. His body craved meat, but it would have to wait. The console’s screen lit up blue before patching them into Themis. They tapped their earpieces, and Sloane brought up the location of Destructive Delta’s BearCat. The blue circle with black D’s navigated down FDR Drive. “Sarge, Dex and I are en route. What have we got?”

  “We received word there’s an explosive device at the CDC Therian registration office on the corner of Worth Street and Centre Street.”

  “Do you think it’s the Order?”

  “We don’t know. What we do know is that the call was put in anonymously, giving us one hour, so clearly whoever put in the call had something to do with it.”

  “Okay, thanks, Sarge. We should arrive about five minutes after you.” Sloane tapped his earpiece, disconnecting the call. “Dex, take FDR Drive.” He checked his watch. “Traffic permitting, that’ll leave us with just under forty minutes. Haul ass, but don’t get us killed.”

  “TMNT Party Wagon?” Dex said hopefully.

  “Seriously? You do realize it’s not the eighties. The world has moved on.”

  Dex beamed brightly. “I know.”

  “Do you? Because sometimes, I’m not so sure.”

  “How about just Party Wagon?”

  “Yes, damn it!” Sloane was caught between feeling frustrated and wanting to laugh. “Fine. Party Wagon.”

  Dex let out a loud whoop, hitting the sirens and lights. Something was seriously wrong with Sloane. There had to be. Why else was he continually allowing Dex to name maneuvers and equipment? Especially when it was always a reference to some eighties movie, or God help him, after cartoon turtles. Maybe because arguing with his man-child partner wasn’t worth the exhaustion or pouting that resulted from it. God, he’d let the guy name the Suburban after a cartoon truck. “I must be losing my mind.”

  Dex laughed as he maneuvered through traffic. “Variety is the spice of life.”

  “Is weed a spice? Because that would explain a lot where you’re concerned.”

  His partner burst into laughter, the sound infectious. Sloane shook his head, his lips pressed together, but he couldn’t stop it from bubbling up, and he started laughing. Oh God, the crazy was contagious. He sobered up, wiping a tear from his eye. “We better get our shit together, because if not, your dad’s going to kick our asses.”

  “Welcome to the ranks of every boyfriend I’ve ever had,” Dex said, then seemed to catch onto Sloane’s startled expression. His smile fell away. “I didn’t mean to imply you were, you know, um…. Forget I said that.”

  Sloane nodded, his heart feeling as though it was trying to escape from his chest. “It’s not that I don’t want—”

  “Don’t worry about it. It was my bad.” Dex waved a hand and gave him a sweet smile. “You know me. Sometimes the wires get crossed, and my mouth is quicker than my brain.”

  “Sometimes?” Sloane teased.

  “Dick,” Dex said with a chuckle before his expression grew concerned. “You think it’s the Order?”

  “I don’t know, but it makes no sense. They plant a bomb, then call to inform us and give us enough time to get there? Why?”

  “Trap?”

  Sloane shook his head. “They’d have to know we’d think that. Doesn’t make any damn sense. First College Point, now this? What kind of game is Isaac playing?”

  The CDC Therian registration office was situated on busy Worth Street across from Thomas Paine Park and surrounded by several other government buildings. One block over was the courthouse where Dex had testified against his Human partner, thus sending his HPF career down the pan and getting him recruited to the THIRDS.

  Dex pulled the Suburban up behind the BearCat parked beside the State Office Building a block over, his expression thoughtful. No doubt, his partner was thinking along the same lines. Sloane turned to look at him. “You okay?”

  “Yeah. Just thinking about how this is kind of where it all started.”

  Was Dex wishing he’d never left the HPF? Had his life been better? Sloane couldn’t help his frown. By now, Dex would have still been with his old boyfriend Lou, or moved onto someon
e else, but instead he was stuck with a guy who freaked out over hearing the word “boyfriend.” As if sensing his thoughts, Dex quickly spoke up.

  “Not that I’m not glad to be here now, with the THIRDS and you. It just would have been nice to get here without all the bruises and threats.”

  How was it that Dex always knew Sloane needed reassuring without Sloane saying a word? He smiled at Dex, and took Dex’s right hand in his, giving it a quick squeeze before letting go. “I’m glad you’re here too, Daley. Though if you touch my radio again, you’re going to see some more bruising.”

  “Right, sorry.” Dex held his hands up in surrender. “I let the power go to my head.”

  “Come on, wise guy.” Sloane climbed out of the Suburban with Dex following his lead. He knocked on one of the BearCat’s back doors, and as soon as they were inside, Sloane took a seat to conserve his energy while Ash handed him his equipment piece by piece, starting with his tac vest. The weight of his equipment was going to be uncomfortable, but he’d simply have to endure it like so many of the other times before. As he clipped pieces of his equipment into place, he noticed Dex head straight for the front of the BearCat and the security console where his brother sat. Without a word, Cael held out a white paper bag that Dex snatched up with a broad smile and a wink. “Thanks, bro.”

  “No prob.”

  With a dopey grin, Dex handed the bag over to Sloane. “Here. I had Cael grab you a triple beef burger from the cafeteria.”

  Sloane took the bag, his voice mirroring his surprise. “You asked him to get me food?”

  “Yeah.” Dex shrugged as if it was no big deal. “I figured you’d need the boost. You’re my partner, right? It’s my job to help where I can.”

  Sloane didn’t know what to say. It was true Dex was his partner, and as such, part of his responsibility was providing PSTC, but his responsibility as far as nutrition went ended with Gatorade and protein bars. Dex’s job was to get Sloane on his feet. Making certain he recuperated properly, and/or healthily wasn’t part of his partner’s duty. Gabe had provided exceptional PSTC, but while at work, he focused on the job, and he expected Sloane to be responsible for himself. With a “thanks,” Sloane dug into his burger while Ash played the recording of the phone call put in to 911. Dex finished gearing up and stepped up to the ballistic window with a frown.

  “How is no one at the registration office panicking? People are coming in and out as if nothing was going on.”

  The phone call didn’t reveal much other than the caller was obviously using a voice enhancer. This wasn’t looking good.

  “I don’t like this,” Ash said. “Something’s not right here.”

  Dex turned to address Cael. “Recon have any luck tracing the call?”

  “No. Most likely the call was made using a burner phone.”

  Sloane finished eating in record time, popped a mint into his mouth, and stood to snatch a ballistic helmet off the wall. He handed it to Dex with a wink, knowing his partner would have pretended he’d forgotten it. “Cael, get a hold of the registration office’s security team and get us into their system. I want access to that feed, along with all their security footage.”

  “You got it.” Cael got to work while Sloane addressed the rest of the team.

  “Let’s get in there and see what the hell’s going on. I want that device found.” As he said the words, Hobbs grabbed one of the EOD X-Ray kits and handed it to Calvin, another to Ash. He put a hand to one of the weapon’s cages and removed the large backpack containing his EOD Packbot. As soon as he’d strapped it to himself, he grabbed another EOD X-Ray kit and held it up to Sloane with a big grin, making Sloane smile. Hobbs loved his toys.

  “Okay, let’s go.” At Sloane’s signal, Letty opened the back doors and the team exited the truck, standing by while Maddock faced them.

  “Recon agents are here. They’re setting up a blockade around the perimeter. We’ll keep you all informed. If the Order is responsible for this, I want to know about it. Keep me updated and watch your backs.”

  Chapter 4

  LIKE MOST of the surrounding federal buildings, the CDC Therian registration office was a Greek revival style structure made of stone. Above all its center windows were depictions of Greek physicians, along with some Greek style ironwork on its front doors. The building had two entrances, one on Worth Street and the other on Centre Street, with more offices and windows than Sloane cared for.

  Destructive Delta hurried to the building, and Sloane cursed under his breath. Goddamn revolving doors. He hated these things. He pounded on the glass on the exit door to the right of it. A confused-looking guard promptly opened it. The guy quickly jumped to one side as Sloane and his team flooded inside. Sloane motioned for Letty to lock up the front doors. The second security guard posted on the other side gave a start. Ash was right. Something was wrong. Normally when someone reported a bomb, people got gone. They didn’t linger about looking more confused by the agents coming to answer the call than at the thought of being blown up. The team spread out, investigating the lobby for any possible threats, with expert speed and precision. In less than five minutes, they came back to him.

  “We’re all clear,” Ash stated. Sloane approached the large reception desk ahead of him, and the petite redhead sitting behind it, looking on with wide eyes.

  “Can… can I help you?”

  Sloane leaned over, taking note of the young woman’s nametag. “Ms. Beverly, I need you to listen carefully to me and remain calm. Can you do that?”

  The young woman’s brown eyes widened even more, but she nodded fervently.

  “Good. I need you to start an evacuation procedure immediately. There may be an explosive device in this facility.”

  “Oh my God,” she gasped, snatching up the telephone and hitting a host of blinking buttons as well as one underneath her desk. Sloane turned to his team.

  “Letty, Rosa, Dex, you start evacuating the building. Hobbs, Calvin, Ash, find that damned device. Give a shout when you do.” His team broke off, and Sloane turned to the numerous security guards flooding out from several directions. “Who’s in charge of security?” Sloane asked. A guard in a white and black uniform stepped up.

  “I am.” He held his hand out to Sloane. “Allan Jeffrey. What’s going on?”

  “Allan, my name is Agent Sloane Brodie with the THIRDS. We have reason to believe there may be an explosive device inside the building. I need your team to help my guys get everyone out. Also, you should have received a phone call from one of my agents, an Agent Cael Maddock. I want you to give him access to your security network, its feed, and any footage we may require.”

  “Yes, of course.” Allan turned to one of his guards. “Javier, you heard him. Get everyone out, and get Agent Maddock his access.”

  With Javier running off, Sloane turned his attention back to Allan. “Has anyone unscheduled come in or out of this facility?”

  Allan shook his head. “All visitors either have an appointment or have to be cleared by someone in the building. There’s a log at the reception desk visitors and employees fill out when they come in or out.”

  “I’d like to see that list.”

  Allan gave him a nod and led him to the reception desk where he handed Sloane a tablet. The log had six columns, one for date, name, time, species, company name, and purpose of visit. The majority were registrations, the rest employees. “Allan, can these dates and times be doctored?”

  Allan shook his head. “They’re automatically inserted by the system to prevent falsification. As soon as a name is submitted, the system logs the time.”

  “Excellent.” One less thing to worry about. He scanned the list of names when one jumped out at him. A Therian registrant under the name Zeph Hyacinth. Why did that strike him as odd? He tapped his earpiece. “Cael?”

  “Cael, here.”

  “Can you search the National Therian Database for the name Zeph Hyacinth?”

  “Sure.”

  Sloane lifted h
is head in time to watch dozens of citizens come rushing out of the emergency stairwells, ushered by his team. Dex’s voice rang clear above the others.

  “Please exit in an orderly fashion. We’re here with you, so no need to panic. That’s it, follow my colleague, she’ll guide you. Ma’am, please, you can come back for your belongings later, I promise, but right now your safety is far more important to me. Thank you, I appreciate your cooperation. Sir, just breathe. It’s okay. Take my arm. Old? Haven’t you heard? Seventy’s the new fifty. Do I? Well, your grandson must be a handsome devil, then.”

  Sloane held back a smile. Rookie was a natural. Seconds later, Cael came back on the line. “No one under that name, no new registrants either. Themis did give me a different kind of hit on it, though. It’s weird.”

  “What is it?”

  “A Greek myth.”

  “What?”

  “Hyacinth was lover to the god Apollo. According to one version of the tale, the West Wind, Zephyr, was also in love with Hyacinth, and in his jealousy at having Hyacinth choose Apollo over him, he blew Apollo’s discus off course so it struck Hyacinth, and he died from his injuries. There’s more detail, but that’s the gist of it.”

 
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