The doorbell rang and everyone in the room, with the exception of Gage, turned towards the door. Joel pulled it open to find Julien standing in the doorway. To his left, leaning against the house with his arms folded as though he’d been standing there for hours, was a man he knew only as Dez. At the bottom of the stairs, he recognized Giorgio Pozza, although he suspected that neither were any of the man’s real names. In front of Giorgio was a woman who didn’t look as out of place as he would expect standing with the group of men.
The men had supposedly met through the business they conducted, but Joel suspected a deeper, and possibly deadlier, connection.
“You called your hounds?” Joel asked, turning to Gage. “And there’s a woman in the group now?”
Gage’s brow ticked up. The group walked into the room, formally uninvited. Up close, Joel could see bits of gold flecks in the woman’s chocolate-brown eyes and they reminded him of someone that his mind hadn’t brought to the forefront in years.
When Gage saw the woman, his brow fell. “I told you not to come with them, Mo. But, it doesn’t surprise me that you’re here. Where’s Huang?”
“On assignment,” she answered. “Look, Tayler’s missing. Women are dying. If I can do something to help, I will.”
Julien pulled a laptop out of a pack strapped to his back. “Where do I set up?”
“I don’t know if I want you messing with any of our equipment,” Joel replied.
“You guys would still be running MS-DOS if it wasn’t for Julien,” Mo argued. “You should feel honored that he even asked for permission.”
“And who are you again?” Joel asked.
Giorgio made a noise deep in his throat. His face held no expression, but it somehow still conveyed that for whatever reason, this woman was off-limits.
“Don’t mess with Mo when Giorgio’s around,” Julien said, making his way to the room where the department’s computers had been set up. “Actually, don’t mess with Mo when he’s not either.”
Joel knew it would only be a few minutes before Julien had everything they’d accumulated on the case, leaving no trace of his entrance behind the government’s firewall. Everything that was about to happen was more illegal than he could quantify, but Julien was one of the bureau’s top liaisons because of his technological expertise. The men were like Navy SEALs compared to his officers and at that point, any assistance was welcomed. However, he couldn’t admit to that and validate the very little trust they already had in the government’s infrastructure.
Giorgio made himself comfortable along an empty wall. Dez walked to the kitchen. Although Joel was not a small man himself, standing a couple inches over six feet, the size of the men that had entered the house helped him understand why the King of Prussia had created his army of Potsdam Giants in the late-seventeenth century. All it had taken was four of them and the room shrunk to half its size.
Julien reappeared, balancing his laptop on one hand. “Didn’t take as long as I thought it would.”
Dez followed, chewing on a green apple.
“I’m heading down to the site where they found the driver’s body,” Joel announced, walking to the door. “While I’m gone…don’t kill anybody.”
None of the men acknowledged the request that he hadn’t quite made jokingly.