Blood & Thunder, page 8part #2 of THIRDS Series
“That son of a bitch.” Sloane gritted his teeth and took a deep breath. The bastard was taunting him.
“What does—” Cael gasped. “Oh. You’re Apollo.”
“Yes,” Sloane replied through his teeth. And Gabe was Hyacinth. He turned to Allan, pointing to the name on the tablet. “I want to see all the footage you have on this appointment here. We’re looking for a Caucasian Human male, midthirties, five-ten, one hundred and seventy pounds, light brown hair. The time beside his name is showing 2:13 p.m.”
Sloane stepped into a medium-sized security office behind and to the right of the reception area. It contained a wall-to-wall security console with an expansive flat screen monitor. As Allan accessed the security network searching for the footage they needed, Sloane tapped his earpiece. “Team, updates.”
Rosa’s voice came over his earpiece. “All top levels are clear. We’re emptying out the lobby now.”
“Copy that. Guys, how are we doing on that device?”
Calvin was the first to answer. “We’ve cleared the lobby and first floor. Ash cleared the second and third floors and is heading for the fourth. Hobbs and I are taking the stairs up to the sixth floor. There are a lot of places this thing can be. The closest substance we’ve gotten a read on is acetone, but that was from someone’s bottle of nail polish remover. We’ll let you know soon as we get something.”
“Okay.” Sloane turned to Allan who brought up the security footage from the timeframe they needed. The moment Sloane saw the bastard, his gut tightened. He’d lightened his hair and grown it out so it looked shaggy, the front almost falling over his eyes. He was dressed in tattered but fashionable jeans, expensive sneakers, a football hoodie, and carried a designer messenger bag. The whole ensemble had him resembling a college jock more than the maniac the THIRDS had put an APB out on, which Sloane suspected was Isaac’s intent. “That’s him right there. Let’s see where he goes.” He watched as Isaac signed in, smiling and flirting with the receptionist. She pointed to the elevator behind her on the right side of the lobby, and with a wink, he headed for it. Again, Sloane tapped his earpiece.
“It was Isaac. I’ve got eyes on him. He stepped into the elevator closest to the reception area, right side. I’m waiting to see what floor he gets off on.” A few minutes later, Isaac stepped off on the seventh. “He got off on the seventh floor. He’s carrying a messenger bag. My guess is the bomb’s in there.”
“We’re heading to the elevator. What room does he go into?” Calvin asked.
“Hold on.” Sloane watched the color screen as Isaac leisurely strolled down the hall as if he was in no kind of hurry. He opened his messenger bag, pulled out a tablet, and tapped away. Ten minutes later, he put the tablet away and headed for the end of the hall. Sloane tapped his earpiece, ready to give his team the location, when Isaac turned around and went back to the elevator. “What the hell?”
“What is it?” Calvin asked. “Sloane, we’re running out of time.”
“He turned around and went back down.” As Isaac walked through the lobby, he took out a cellphone, said a few words, smiled, and left. What in the living fuck? Why would he ride the elevator to the seventh floor just to ride it back down, and leave? Sloane wracked his brain. The guy was smart. He was also an ex-detective. “Dex?”
“I need you in here.”
Seconds later, Dex entered the room. “What happened?”
“If you were going to place a bomb inside a building knowing you were being watched. Where would you place it? He rode the elevator up to the seventh floor, walked around some, working on a tablet, then came back down, placed a phone call, and left.”
Dex worried his bottom lip in thought. “I’d put it somewhere the cameras couldn’t follow me.”
Allan pursed his lips. “Only places with no security are the bathrooms and the elevators.”
“The elevator,” Dex said immediately. “They all have access panels, right? For maintenance? It’s an oldie but goodie. Why try to reinvent the wheel?”
Sloane nodded. “Calvin—”
“We’re enabling the elevator and calling it up now.”
Sloane turned to Allan. “Can you get eyes on my team?”
They watched Calvin and Hobbs enter the elevator, the position of the camera outside in the corridor giving them an angled view. It wasn’t perfect, but it was enough. Calvin hit the emergency stop, and the elevator’s alarm went off, its doors remaining open. As soon as he stepped inside, Calvin’s voice confirmed their fears.
“I got a read. It’s somewhere close.”
Allan thankfully terminated the shrilling beeping, and Sloane gave him a nod in thanks. He checked his watch. “Ten minutes. Come on, guys.”
Hobbs’s height allowed him to reach up, and he pushed open one of the access panels situated on the roof of the stainless steel elevator. He removed the Packbot and placed it on the floor to one side before he propped one booted foot on the railing. They all cringed along with Calvin. Sloane sure as hell hoped those things were strong enough to take the weight of Hobbs’s nearly 300-pound frame. Sometimes being a Therian of that size had its drawbacks. Like when it involved small spaces or climbing flimsy structures. Hobbs tested the rail’s strength before hauling himself up, his upper body disappearing through the opening in the roof and his other booted foot resting on the opposite handrail.
Calvin’s stern voice confirmed their fears. “Hobbs found it.”
“All right. Destructive Delta, fall back. Calvin, that includes you.” With Calvin and Hobbs up on the large screen, Sloane gave Allan a pat on the shoulder. “You’ve been a great help, Allan. I need you to get yourself and your team out. If you wouldn’t mind speaking to Agent Rosa Santiago outside; she’ll take your statement.”
“Sloane, the bomb’s been deactivated.”
“What?” Sloane turned to the screen. Hobbs was climbing back down. He held a thumb up to the camera. “Talk to me. That seemed too easy.”
“Because it was,” Calvin said, heading toward the stairwell with Hobbs close behind. “According to Hobbs, there were no antihandling devices, motion sensors, overrides, kill switches, or anything that might trigger the explosion, just the one wire to the power supply. None of this makes any sense.”
“Thanks, guys. Get the disposal team up here.” Giving his final thanks to Allan, Sloane headed out with Dex beside him. He tapped his earpiece. “Sarge?”
“Yeah, I heard. As soon as Disposal gets here, we’re heading back to HQ, to see if we can’t figure this shit out. I don’t know what the hell is going on, and I don’t like it. Lieutenant Sparks is going to like it even less.”
“Copy that.” Sloane removed his helmet, chucking it into the back of the truck in frustration before he climbed in, Dex behind him. “This asshole’s jerking us around.”
“Yeah, but the question is why?” Dex removed his helmet and dropped down onto the bench as the rest of the team climbed in. “He’s got to have something bigger up his sleeve.”
Sloane agreed. There was no telling what Isaac was up to and worse than not knowing was the fear of not being able to do anything about it.
“ALL RIGHT, let’s run through this again.”
Dex tapped files open on his desk’s interface, and Sloane had to hand it to the guy; his partner was determined.
They’d been at this for hours since returning from the CDC registration office, and they were no closer to figuring any of it out now than they had been at the time of the call, yet Dex persisted. Sloane admired his partner’s dedication, and went along with it. “Okay. Thanks to you and Simon, we figured out the base at College Point was a distraction to keep us busy, though at the time, we didn’t know from what. Now we do. While we were there, Isaac was carrying out his plan at the registration office.
“He came out of hiding to plant a bomb in that specific office. Why, we don’t know. He puts in a call, giv
Dex ran a hand over his face and sat back, his frown in full force. “I would have thought it was a trap, except it wasn’t. What the hell was the point? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely relieved it went that smoothly, but why bother? To taunt us? To piss us off?” He shook his head. “That dick. I can’t believe I was friends with the guy.”
“He fooled us all, Dex.” Sloane watched Dex lean over his desk and tap away, bringing up Morelli’s file for the hundredth time that week. “Obsessing over that file isn’t going to add any more information to it.” His partner was frustrated. Sloane understood that. He was too, but after many years of fieldwork, there was only so much you could do with the information you had until something new came up. Staring at the same files over and over wasn’t going to make the case move any quicker.
The majority of Unit Alpha was working on this case, but unfortunately, information trickled down to Defense agents last, unless they came across the info themselves. Intel and Recon did the brunt of the investigating while Defense provided support and waited to be called out. Their objective was to employ special tactics in an effort to preserve life and apprehend dangerous suspects, often resulting in the use of weapons and aggressive maneuvers. Yes, they collected information along the way, interrogated suspects, and kept a clear channel of communication open with Recon, but in the end, Defense agents were the muscle, following orders and procedure. It was an aspect of the job his partner was finding difficult to accept. Sloane could see Dex going into “detective mode” every time he opened a file. It made him once again question whether Dex would be happier in Recon. He quickly pushed that thought aside.
“You’re right,” Sloane said, focusing on the task at hand. “It’s good to talk through it. What have you got?”
“We know Morelli accessed his THIRDS file before he was killed, most likely under duress, since he signed in on his personal laptop. It’s clear Isaac didn’t get what he wanted and killed him. What was he looking for?”
“I don’t know. Morelli tried to log in to Themis, but he would have known he didn’t have access. Only Team Leaders and those with higher clearance levels have offsite access. Isaac wouldn’t have known that. Maybe Morelli was buying himself more time.”
Dex nodded somberly. “Other than that, I can’t come up with any other reason Isaac would have picked Morelli. According to his file, the guy was a regular Lupus Therian agent. He was single, had a few girlfriends, and worked Defense before he moved to Recon. Do you know why he was moved?”
There had been rumors, but Sloane never relied on hearsay. Like any other organization, the THIRDS wasn’t completely void of office politics or gossip. He gave Dex a shrug. “Something about his health. I think it got too stressful for him. That’s not the first time it’s happened to a Defense agent. Everyone wants to be on Defense until someone tries to blow them up.”
“Glamor comes with a hefty price, huh?”
“Yep. A hefty price, a load of flying bullets, and bears.”
Dex opened his mouth, and Sloane held a hand up. He knew his partner too well by now. “Not those kind of bears. Actual bears, with claws and sharp teeth.” Though now that he thought about it, some Bear Therians were probably uh, bears. Trent from Unit Beta certainly was.
“My kind of bears are more fun,” Dex replied with a wink, before his gaze shifted back to the file, his eyes widening. “Shit.”
Sloane straightened. “What is it?”
Dex swiped his hand across his desk’s surface, sending the file onto Sloane’s desk and his connected interface. “Obviously we wouldn’t have thought anything of it before, but look, under the ‘History’ section.”
“Shit.” Sloane stared at the familiar words. “No way in hell that’s a coincidence.” He tapped his earpiece. “Sarge, we found something.”
Seconds later, Maddock came storming into the office, his nostrils flaring. “Give me good news, Sloane. I get one more call from the Chief of Therian Defense asking me for an update on this case, I’m gonna get an ulcer. We had video conference twice in a span of twenty minutes. What the hell was he expecting to happen in twenty minutes while I’m at the goddamn office? Other than exacerbate my growing desire to take his tacky-ass paisley tie, roll it up, and shove it up his—”
“Whoa!” Dex sprang to his feet and gave Maddock a gentle pat on the shoulder. “Easy there, Sarge. Your blood pressure’s gonna go through the roof at this rate. Not to mention you’ve got a few new additions already,” Dex said, putting a finger to Maddock’s salt and pepper stubble. Sloane tried his hardest to keep himself from laughing when Maddock smacked Dex’s hand away, glaring at him.
“Boy, are you crazy? I am royally pissed off, and you’re telling me I’ve got more gray hair? Who the hell do you think gave them to me in the first place?”
Dex blinked at him innocently. “Cael?”
Maddock pressed his lips together and turned away to address Sloane. “Please, tell me you’ve got something before I strangle your partner.”
Sloane couldn’t help his chuckle. “Looks like you’re going to have to leave the strangling for some other time, because it was actually Dex who found it.”
Maddock glanced at Dex, groaning at his son’s dopey grin. When Dex wriggled his eyebrows, Maddock planted his hand on Dex’s face. Sloane cringed. Bad move. Maddock snapped his hand back as if he’d been burned by acid, clutching it to his broad chest. His frown deepened before he wiped his hand on his pants and shook his head at Dex who was still grinning. “There is something seriously wrong with you.”
With a laugh, Dex dropped down onto his seat behind his desk. “I love you too.”
An unintelligible growl later, Maddock nodded for Sloane to continue.
“As I was saying, Dex was looking over Morelli’s file, and noticed Morelli was registered at the same CDC registration office where Isaac planted the bomb. Before today, it wouldn’t have meant much, but now….”
“Now, it means he chose that office for a reason.” Maddock rubbed a hand over his stubble as he considered this new information. “Isaac planted the bomb in the elevator because he knew it didn’t have cameras. Could he have done something else while in there?”
Sloane brought up the footage of Isaac at the registration office. They watched him get into the elevator and emerge a few minutes later. “I know it’d take a while to get to the seventh floor, but either this elevator is really slow, or he stopped it.”
“Well, we know he was planting the bomb,” Dex offered.
Something still seemed off. “True, but considering the explosive he used, all he had to do was open the access panel, plant the bomb, and flip the switch. Sarge, you might be onto something. What if he’d been doing something else? We don’t even know he planted the bomb when he rode the elevator. There’s no security in there. For all we know, he could have planted the bomb earlier, or had someone else plant it, and then activated it. Or maybe he had time to plant it and do whatever else he went there to do.”
“Okay, all good theories,” Maddock said. “So now what? Hold on a second.” Maddock tapped the desk’s surface, pausing the video. “What’s he doing there on that tablet?”
“Cael already tried zooming in, but it’s too fuzzy. We can’t tell what he’s doing,” Dex replied with a frown. “Whatever it is, he removed the tablet from his bag after he got off from the elevator.”
Sloane tapped his earpiece. “Cael?”
“We need Allan Jeffrey to gr
Maddock looked thoughtful. “You think Isaac went in there looking for more information on Morelli?”
Right now, they didn’t know much of anything, only that Morelli was somehow connected to all this. “We know he didn’t get anything from Morelli’s THIRDS file, and the guy was registered at that office. I don’t understand his obsession with Morelli.”
Cael’s voice came in over their earpieces. “Sloane? Dex?”