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Cause/Effect - Part I

Interlude 3.15

Uploaded on 8/15/2009

"How would you describe your job here at the Agency?"

Investigator Bridget Monaghan looked up, examining Boyd closely as she waited for a response. Her lips rose briefly in a seemingly polite smile but her thick eyelashes lowered over her sepia-colored eyes as she twisted a letter opener idly between her fingers, the sharp point glinting beneath the light of her temporary office.

Stacks of papers and files were neatly piled on her desk and on the floor behind her. Unfortunately for Bridget, a deadly virus and worm program had infected the Agency's network on the day that the European Division had sent her to begin agent evaluations. The virus had spread throughout every computer on the network which put the Agency on a temporary standstill.

With no anti-virus capable of getting rid of the previously unknown virus, no uninfected computers and no surveillance footage for Bridget to analyze later due to the hard drives being currently unavailable, the end result was a massive amount of paper files on the field agents, R&D agents and support staff that she was intending to interview.

"I function in a role that fights terrorism and insurgency on a domestic and international level to protect national security and ensure the stability of the United States government," Boyd replied calmly, more or less quoting the propaganda job description he'd been given before.

She had already asked him a few questions and he'd straight-faced replied with the answers he knew she would want to hear; the ones the Agency had taught him. He knew she would be well aware of what he was doing but he didn't see the point in saying what he really thought.

He'd already been close to termination enough times in the past year; there was no point in giving them a glaring reason to sign his death warrant. Especially since that was basically her function; weed out the agents ahead of time who would not meet the European Division's standards when the new Marshal came over in the next several months.

"You do realize, Agent Beaulieu," Bridget said with the same pleasant smile as she shook her head, jet black bangs moving with the motion. "That parroting Agency rhetoric does not make you appear more genuine?"

"Whether I use my own words or theirs doesn't change the truth of it," Boyd said with a shrug.

"Mmm." Bridget leaned back in her chair, crossing one knee over the other. "And how would you describe your performance?"

Boyd thought about that. "Acceptable with room for improvement."

Bridget raised one black eyebrow. "In detail, describe your performance or I'll just mark your response as unanswered."

There was a moment in which Boyd actually considered the question before he tilted his head slightly, blond hair falling against the side of his face. His honey brown gaze was steady as he met her eyes. "I would say the strengths of my performance have been related to improvisation, negotiation and undercover technique. In general, those areas have been acceptable in my missions due to the fact that on average, I succeed in missions that have that as the focus. Where my performance is lacking is primarily in strength and endurance, both of which can continue to be improved with additional training. I've also had the occasional issue with making a poor decision when I was unfocused or thinking too far ahead and not considering immediate ramifications to changed plans."

In truth, his greatest weakness was probably his sensitivity to Sin.

When he thought back to all the times he'd majorly botched missions, he could pretty much draw a line back that somehow related to Sin, whether directly due to something Sin did or said or whether Sin was the most influential of several contributors. But Boyd wasn't going to say that aloud because it would just be reinforcing whatever she probably already saw in his file. And the last thing Boyd wanted to do was in any way potentially implicate Sin as someone needing additional scrutiny. It was going to be hard enough for Sin on his own with his history.

Bridget nodded seemingly in agreement although he didn't know if that was actually the case. "Do you consider a 12% failure rate in 1.5 years of continuous engagement to be acceptable?"

"Yes," Boyd said after a moment of thinking about it.

This time Bridget stared at him and she didn't bother to appear agreeable. "That is interesting considering the typical agent is terminated for far less."

"You asked if I believe it is acceptable, not exemplary," Boyd replied calmly. "This is all predicated upon the assumption that the failure rate continues to shrink with time. But considering I didn't have any background at all in anything related to this field of expertise prior to my arrival at the Agency, it's not as terrible as it could be. I can't say at which level the Agency typically terminates because I'm not privy to that information and I wouldn't say I did the best I could. Like I said, there is room for improvement."

"Excuses are meaningless to this evaluation." Bridget gave him another intrusive stare but the corners of her lips remained raised slightly. "Your assumption that most field agents have prior background in fighting terrorism is false. The assumption that most field agents have a military background is false. Lacking the ability to recognize your failure as an operative is inexcusable. You are here to protect the lives of innocent civilians and democratic values. Failing 12% of the time is unacceptable."

Boyd watched her evenly but didn't respond. She was right; he did know other agents who didn't have a background that naturally lent itself toward being a field agent. And as far as the Agency was concerned, he wouldn't be surprised if their typical tolerance level for failure was closer to 5%, not the 12% he had.

Bridget nodded briefly when he didn't argue further and continued. "Your success rate would likely be 3-5% higher if you were not sexually involved with your partner. Is this a true or false statement?"

"It's a trick question," Boyd said, quirking an eyebrow slightly. "But on the face of it, I would say false. I'm not sexually involved with my partner."

"This is not a trick question," Bridget replied in a blithe tone, smiling once again. "There is no need for games. Your entire file is laid out before me. You did not admit to having vigorous and often violent intercourse with Hsin Liu Vega throughout the course of the past year and a half?"

"I had sex with him in the past," Boyd agreed, mildly put off by the woman's choice of words and tone. "But I'm not now and haven't for months. As the failure rate you're determining for me must be based on missions that did not succeed, I only failed one when sexually involved with him."

"How many have you failed due to your feelings for him?" she queried shrewdly, leaning forward with slightly narrowed eyes as her mouth curled up further in a knowing smile. "Two for certain. How can we be certain there aren't more? Your answer is obviously meaningless as you are given to falsehoods and word games. Your tendency to lie about your connection to Agent Vega is fruitless and further pockmarks your record as there are many ways to tell when an agent is lying."

"If you don't believe anything I'm telling you then I don't know what to say," Boyd said, watching her without his expression changing or giving away the fact that she was right.

"For your own best interests, you should cease your petty attempts at avoiding the truth and be straightforward," Bridget said bluntly. "This is not a game. This evaluation will decide whether or not you will be terminated when Marshal Seong arrives next year. If she sees that you are blind to your flaws and willing to boldly lie in the face of an individual who is very well aware of the truth, she will see no need for your presence."

Boyd considered Bridget for a long moment before his eyes narrowed and he leaned forward, his expression turning serious. "I know you know the truth. I don't see why you feel the need to ask me about it when you have it in the file in front of you. I've already told the Agency that not only did I have sex with Hsin Liu Vega, that I had also loved him. I've fucked up before because of what I felt for him. I realized how detrimental the feelings were for everyone and I stopped it. I haven't been with him for nearly a year."

"And yet you still failed a mission due to your attachment to him." Bridget raised her eyebrows slightly. "Is this a false statement?"

"I did go back for him because he is my partner and because I felt it was better in the long run for the Agency," Boyd said, gaze even as he met her eyes. "I've already been informed that it is not my place to make such judgment calls. But the failure of that mission was not because of reasons I had failed other missions in the past. So if you consider attachment to be the professional relationship of having worked with someone for years, I suppose it's not a false statement, no."

Bridget tapped the letter opener against the desk and sat back briefly as she stared at him. "I think you are lying and I will include that fact in my review. I find it doubtful that an agent would risk his own termination for another agent unless there is emotional attachment. Emotional attachment of that kind is unnecessary and unwanted in a field agent. Your claim that you were thinking about the good of the Agency is so far-fetched that I will not dignify it with a response. If you cared about the good of the Agency you would not have claimed that you didn't care about the mission or the Agency."

She shifted in the chair and crossed one knee over the other as she set the letter opener down on the desk in front of her. "Do not further attempt to insult my intelligence. While it may work on the Acting Marshal of this Agency, Marshal Seong will not play such games."

Boyd didn't respond to Bridget at first because he didn't know what to say. Even if she was aware that he was lying, he still couldn't bring himself to confirm exactly how much. He wouldn't outright tell her that he loved Sin more than anyone, that he would choose Sin over the Agency any day; that he would die for Sin.

Even if Bridget believed that there was an emotional connection, even if it gave him a poorer grade on his assessment, he didn't want to let them know how much he was omitting, precisely for the reason she gave: the Agency would not see his love for Sin as something desirable.

Still, if he remained completely silent it lent weight to words she'd put in his mouth.

"I never said I didn't care about the Agency," Boyd pointed out, quirking his eyebrows as he shifted back in the chair. "I said I didn't care about a target. That could put into question my views on that particular mission, it's true, and maybe my opinion of what the Agency expects of us, but if I truly didn't care about the Agency I wouldn't have done a lot of the things I have. I wouldn't have tried for level 10, I wouldn't have had sex with Thierry without being ordered to because I wouldn't have believed it was for the greater good. So I don't think it's accurate to make the leap from a decision on one of many missions to make judgments about my overarching views of the entire organization."

Boyd crossed his arms, honey brown eyes trained on her. "If you've read my file, you know I basically had nothing before I came to the Agency. You know I'd failed attempts at suicide and you know that in effect, my life was meaningless. If it hadn't been for the Agency, I would still be in that state of mind; it's possible I even would have succeeded in killing myself by now. The Agency changed a lot of things for me. It gave me a reason to live again; it gave me a sense of purpose."

His tone was forthright and honest and on its own; there didn't need to be word games because it was the truth. The Agency really had given him his life back in a lot of ways and without it, Boyd truly didn't know whether he would still be alive today.

In a way, in that alternate reality, he hoped he wouldn't have been. The way he'd been existing had been no life at all yet he couldn't imagine anything powerful enough to have snapped him out of it short of basically the shock value of the Agency and the connections he'd gained. He simply failed to mention that over time, the greater connection had become about Sin.

Bridget studied him for a moment as if considering this response. She seemed to be turning the statement over in her mind and taking her time to reply. The silence between them was extended but it didn't feel heavy or intimidating. It was only broken by the tapping of one of her shoes against the floor and a low beeping sound that emanated briefly from somewhere in the room.

Bridget's lips pursed briefly and she once against shifted her position, uncrossing her knees and sitting up straight in the chair as she picked up a silver fountain pen and held it poised against a blank pad of paper. "If you were ordered to develop an ongoing sexual relationship with Thierry Beauvais for the purpose of getting close to him and keeping tabs on him now that he has been instated as an agent with unrestricted access to the city, what would be your response?"

The information caught Boyd off guard and he didn't hide his surprise. "He's an agent now?"

"Yes. Homosexual valentine field operative, level 7. Answer the question."

That took a moment to sink in but when Boyd replied, he was truthful. "I would do it."

Although his last sexual encounter with Thierry had been anything but satisfying for either of them, he still liked Thierry. The idea of being ordered to be around Thierry for extended periods of time, to have sex with him, was less unnerving a concept than it would have been for pretty much any other agent. He wouldn't like the idea of leading Thierry on, but then, Boyd doubted Thierry would be fooled.

Bridget stared at him for another moment and scribbled something on the pad before she asked, "If at the end of such an assignment you were ordered to terminate Agent Beauvais, what would be your response?"

Boyd's eyes narrowed slightly as he studied her, silence falling between them briefly. Despite the fact that he was uncertain what he would actually do in that situation, he wasn't going to be truthful about that. His valentine status and the lengths he'd go for the Agency were probably the only things that would keep him alive.

"I would do it."

She watched him with the same enigmatic smile on her face as she wrote something else. "Do you feel as though in your current position, under the current administration, you are able to pick and choose assignments according to how agreeable you find them?"

"No. I haven't turned down any missions presented to me," Boyd said truthfully. "As far as I understand it, even under the former administration agents had the ability to turn down an assignment, especially longer lasting ones like you're referencing. It just doesn't mean the agent will necessarily live long if that becomes a typical response."

Bridget studied Boyd closely, her eyes slightly narrowed and expression intrigued by this response. It seemed as though she wasn't just judging Boyd at the moment; she was judging the Agency standards under Connors and Vivienne as well.

The Investigator's lips quirked up into a small, tight smile and her fingers moved across the pad of paper slowly. "Standard procedure in the European division is that after one infraction, and refusing an assignment is guaranteed to be an infraction, an agent is placed on probation. After a second infraction, it is determined how long he will be of use to us and after said time has passed, he is terminated unless something extraordinary occurred. I guarantee that this policy will find its way here after Marshal Seong has replaced the current... Marshal."

"I see," Boyd said neutrally. The more he heard about this new administration, the less he was looking forward to it. "Is Marshal Seong a Marshal over there currently?"

Bridget leaned back in her chair and crossed one knee over the other. "Marshal Seong is a former General in charge of field operative activity and was chosen to replace the deceased Marshal Connors due to her outstanding record, her extensive history of the Agency and her knowledge of field operatives."

She smiled at Boyd quietly and tilted her head to the side once again, black eyelashes lowering over her eyes. "Don't misunderstand, Agent Beaulieu. Marshal Seong is by the book and does not leave room for error. However, due to her former position she knows how to accommodate valuable agents when they have certain needs, certain desires. If I were you, I would keep that in mind. You are still young but you have potential for great things and that would put you greatly in Marshal Seong's favor. However, the moment you become a liability, you will no longer be considered of use."

Boyd considered her, eyes narrowing slightly in thought. "If she holds the same position as General Carhart, who also would qualify under the accolades you listed, then why is he not getting the position instead?"

The smile remained on Bridget's face but something about it turned colder. "Because while Marshal Seong understands field operatives, General Carhart has the distinct flaw of empathizing with them. In the past his judgment has been clouded due to his emotions and under the standards of our division," she said coolly, her tone making it clear that she considered the European division to be vastly superior to the American one, "he would not even have maintained the position that he currently holds."

"Was the European Division founded prior to the American?" Boyd asked after a moment, drawing his eyebrows down.

"No," she replied simply. "In the beginning they worked in tandem as different offices of the same entity. Now we are two entities with the same causes who don't always work in tandem."

"I see. Then what gives your division jurisdiction over ours?" Boyd watched her closely, his tone mostly mild. "Since our main focus is anti-government entities related to the US, I find it curious that European Division, who I imagine has their own goals, would determine who is best for over here."

Bridget shook her head and dusted over her blouse although there didn't appear to be anything there. "It was the powers that be, the people who control both Agencies, who made that decision. And the decision was made to send someone from Europe to America because this place has been sloppy for quite some time."

She smirked and seemed to particularly enjoy talking about the American Division's failings. "From the failure to protect this city against the bombings at the beginning of World War Three, to the fact that Janus has been allowed to mobilize globally and focus on European governments as well as American, to the fact that this place is so lax that it allowed itself to be raided."

Boyd considered that. If that was the case-- that there was someone out there who controlled both Agencies-- then he supposed that when it was laid out like that, it did make sense provided the European Division didn't have a similar track record. Even so, Boyd wished Carhart could have become the Marshal instead. The Agency would have been a much better place if that had been the case.

It did make him wonder who was really in charge but he knew she wasn't going to tell him.

He nodded, leaning back in the chair and crossing his arms. His gaze was steady and more contemplative than anything as he studied her. "Will we be advised of the new standards of procedure when Marshal Seong arrives? Such as, you mentioned the change in our ability to turn down assignments. If we don't know the new rules, we may unwittingly cross lines we didn't mean to cross."

Bridget shrugged her slender shoulders. "That is up to the new Marshal. I have not been advised on how new regulations will be dispensed. However if you have any other questions about your expectations, I will be very happy to share them with you."

Boyd sat up straighter. "I do, actually."

The wind gusted, causing Boyd's hair to fly into his eyes rather irritatingly. He tilted his head toward the ground as he walked, pulling hair behind his ear and digging in his pocket for his keys. His mind was on everything Bridget had told him-- on the changes that were coming and the fact that very few of them seemed like they boded well.

If he was already in danger of termination when his mother was in charge, he doubted he would last long at all once Marshal Seong arrived. Bridget's comment that he had great potential gave him a little bit of hope that he wouldn't be marked for termination under the new regime, at least not immediately.

Yet he felt uncertain about that, given the fact that not only did he apparently have a 12% failure rate but also that, in all honestly, some of those had been some very serious mistakes. Monterrey alone probably would have gotten him killed if Marshal Seong had been around. As far as that went, if his mother hadn't been there he probably would have been terminated by Connors.

It made him wonder how he'd done on his interview and whether they would decide that his shift away from default loyalty to the Agency would make him too much of a liability in the end.


Boyd stopped and looked over to see Sin standing a few feet away. He was wearing his seemingly customary scuffed boots and black hoody with the hood pulled down low.

"Hey," Boyd greeted as he walked closer. He slid his hands in his pockets and smiled slightly. "What are you up to?"

Sin shrugged, eyes flicking over to the parking lot briefly before he focused on Boyd again. The hood shadowed most of his face but Boyd could still see his vivid green eyes. "Nothing, really. Feeling restless. Carhart gave me the evaluation pep talk awhile ago so I suppose I'm feeling impatient to get it done with but it isn't until tomorrow."

"Ahh, you got a pep talk? Lucky you," Boyd drawled, the small smile widening on his lips. "I'm just coming back from my evaluation, actually. So I guess I won't be getting one."

"I doubt he thought you needed one. It was the typical, 'this is a very serious matter Sin, it isn't a time for your sarcasm and bad attitude,' spiel." Sin made a face and crossed his arms over his chest as he observed Boyd from beneath his hood. "How did it go?"

"I don't know," Boyd said with a shrug. "Okay, I guess. She thinks I'm untrustworthy in some regards but if I'm a good little boy, Marshal Seong will like me and everything will turn out fine." He raised an eyebrow. "By the way, Carhart needn't have bothered since she'll give you the same spiel if you don't take it seriously. She likes to inform you about how it will be when Euro's in charge."

Sin shrugged and looked away briefly, his full lips turning down. There was a brief pause before he said finally, "Well I don't have much hope for passing this evaluation anyway but I don't really want to dwell on it now."

Boyd watched Sin more seriously. The concept was one he didn't even want to fully consider.

"I guess we'll see," Boyd said, almost continuing before he stopped himself; he didn't want to press the issue.

Another burst of wind threw hair into Boyd's face; his eyes narrowed and he frowned as he reached up to pull long blond strands behind his ear. "What I don't understand is why the European Division feels so superior to the American. If Bridget is anything to judge. She spent half the evaluation telling me why they're better than we are. Even if they think our administration has become sloppy here and there, they do the same job as we do..."

"Hmm." Sin uncrossed his arms and shoved one hand in the pocket of his frayed jeans before frowning and taking it out again as if he'd been looking for something that wasn't there anymore; most likely his cigarettes since he'd been trying to quit. "I think it has less to do with them thinking the American division is really terrible in reality and more to do with the fact that there has been tension between us and them since the war."

Boyd considered that, then nodded. "That's true... Even with the truce, people don't forget grudges that easily."

"Yeah." Sin shook his head slightly as if tossing the topic out of his mind and focused on Boyd more intently. "What are you doing now?"

"I was just heading home," Boyd said, glancing toward the parking lot and raising one shoulder in an idle shrug.

He found it more difficult to meet Sin's eyes when Sin was watching him so intensely. Those vivid green eyes were too familiar and it made him want to stare at Sin; to run his gaze along the planes of Sin's face showing through the shadows of his hoody.

"Ah." Sin stepped forward and asked slowly, almost hesitantly, "If you aren't very busy, would you like to spend the afternoon together?"

Boyd snapped his gaze over to Sin, surprised by the question. Sin's wording almost made it sound like he was asking Boyd out on a date and at first Boyd didn't know how to respond; didn't know how to interpret it.

"Uh..." Boyd started to reply and he was cut off by another strong burst of wind that threw his hair into his face. Before he could do anything, Sin's strong hand reached out, brushing callused fingers against Boyd's cheek as he pushed Boyd's hair out of the way.

Boyd's eyes widened and his hand hovered where he'd started to hold it up; he stared into Sin's green gaze and he was struck silent briefly, caught off guard and feeling flustered.

He couldn't remember how long it'd been since Sin had touched him in that manner, his strong fingers moving almost gently along the surface of Boyd's face. It was bittersweet for Boyd, who felt like each day he spent around Sin he was reminded even further of how much he missed him.

That touch, combined with Sin's invitation... It seemed like more than the platonic way they'd been behaving together in the past few months. Yet, Boyd didn't know if that was truly the case or if he was reading too much into the interaction; seeing things the way he wanted to see them.

"Um," Boyd stumbled slightly with his words, not knowing what to say. "I-- maybe another time?"

Sin blinked at him silently for a moment and he shoved his hands into his pockets. "Oh. Okay."

The moment was awkward and Boyd didn't know what to say or do. Sin was staring at him blankly and Boyd felt for a moment like he'd done the wrong thing.

"Hsin..." He stopped himself when he realized he was subconsciously using Sin's real name. His eyes narrowed slightly and he took a step back automatically. He couldn't think properly with Sin that close to him.

"I should go..." Boyd said more quietly, feeling troubled and confused.

Sin shrugged and looked away but not before Boyd caught a glimpse of narrowed eyes and a frown. "I'll see you around."

With that being said, Sin turned around and strode off in the direction of his building.

Boyd watched Sin leave and after a moment of hesitation, he headed toward his car. His eyes were narrowed and by the time he shut the driver's side door behind him, he felt conflicted and regretful. He realized it may have seemed like he blew Sin off and although that was the last thing he wanted to do, he still didn't know how to rectify the situation.

He didn't know if he would be able to keep himself purely platonic if he chased after Sin. He was worried that something would show through and he would end up doing exactly what Ivan had pointed out that he shouldn't be doing; sending mixed signals while Sin was involved with someone else.

Yet as Boyd drove out of the parking lot, the memory of Sin's blank stare still bothered him and he decided that he would return to the Agency tomorrow to make it up to Sin. By then, he should have had the chance to be more reasonable and he would be able to ignore how good it had felt to have Sin touch him even that briefly.

There was the air of something tense and unspoken the next day when Boyd returned to the Agency compound. Although no one seemed to be particularly on high alert, implying that it probably wasn't a matter of security, there were still groups of people milling around who seemed to be discussing something in low undertones. A small crowd was in front of the Tower and as Boyd started to head toward Sin's building, he felt something shift uneasily inside him.

He saw Toby hovering alone near a group of people and Boyd automatically headed over to him, his eyebrows drawing down slightly once he came within speaking distance.

"Hey, what's going on?"

"Hey Boyd," Toby greeted and a brief smile crossed his thin, beaky face as he glanced at Boyd. He nodded at the Tower, his perfectly styled black hair barely moving with the motion. "I'm not exactly sure, to be honest. Something happened in the Tower but I don't know what. They cleared the lower three levels."

"That's odd," Boyd said, looking over at the Tower with narrowed eyes. "So people are still inside?"

Toby nodded. "Yeah, I guess. I was heading over there for a meeting when Lt. Gerant and a swarm of guards came charging up the stairs and stopped letting people in."

"They didn't say why?"

The other man shook his head. "I'm sure someone will find out soon though."

Boyd nodded, gaze tracking the black monolith of the Tower and the shining, tinted windows that couldn't be seen through from the outside. "It can't be anything structural or they would have evacuated everyone. Unless something happened on Fourth that's somehow trickled down." He tilted his head and said doubtfully, "Maybe even someone got loose?"

"Maybe that Jane Doe girl," Toby suggested although he looked skeptical of his own suggestion.

"Maybe..." Boyd shrugged. "Otherwise it could have to do with the conference rooms on the lower levels but I doubt many people other than Bridget are using them right now." He smirked lightly. "Maybe she suddenly decided she needed a slew of armed guards to protect her notes."

Toby smirked at that and adjusted his green button-down shirt. "I still can't believe these incompetents allowed someone to hack the network so badly. I haven't seen the Agency at a standstill like this ever. Even after the raid we still had missions going out-- It's inconceivable that so much valuable data could have been tampered with or lost."

"It must have been a damn good hacker, though, to get through the system," Boyd observed, sliding his hands in his pockets and turning his attention fully back to Toby. "And how did they even know to target us in the first place unless it's related to the raid? That may be part of what's causing the standstill; trying to figure out where exactly our weakness is."

"There's all sorts of theories floating about this place," Toby said as he nodded in agreement. The wind blew stronger and Toby ducked his head slightly, lifting one hand to hover above his hair. "People are saying it's the insurgents from the raid trying to get us electronically, other people have been saying maybe it's someone on the inside with a beef against the admin. And more ridiculous people have been saying that it's all a ploy to get us through the evaluations quicker."

Boyd laughed shortly, pulling some hair behind his ear to stop it from clouding his vision. "Yeah... I doubt it's the last one. But if it's the insurgents, why didn't they just take the information when they were here? Or attack us sooner? We were probably vulnerable enough right after the raid to be able to do it. Especially with the change in administration."

"Speaking of changes in admin..." Toby turned slightly and studied Boyd closer, raising an eyebrow. "How did your evaluation go? I heard you had it yesterday."

"I don't know," Boyd said, shrugging and subconsciously looking toward the Tower again, as if he could see Bridget inside. "I think it went alright but it sounds like the European Division operates on much higher standards than our admins have. I'm a little worried that my failure rate is going to make the new Marshal pretty much give up on me from the start."

"Hmm." Toby's gaze slid away and he said with only a bit of his former haughty attitude, "Mine went well although that's likely because I have a slew of talents under my belt. I wouldn't be too worried, though. You'll be fine. You wouldn't have been promoted if you don't have some redeeming qualities."

"I guess," Boyd said, not wanting to get into why he was promoted. Considering the fact that Toby had gone through training with him, he didn't think it would be appropriate to say anything. "What was your failure rate?" he asked curiously instead.

"I don't know. She didn't mention it." Toby shrugged and didn't seem concerned.

"Oh." Boyd assumed that meant they only brought it up when the rate was too high.

That didn't help much with his mild concern about what his future would really be at the Agency, but at the same time he didn't feel the need to worry about it. If they'd already made their decision then there was nothing he could do about it. And in the missions that would occur in the interim before Marshal Seong arrived, as long as he remained successful then maybe it would work out fine in the end.

"Well," Boyd continued after a brief pause. "It sounds like as long as we perform our jobs well and don't question them too much, they'll ultimately be okay with us."

That made him wonder how well Sin would do in his evaluation today or what the new regime would think of Emilio. Boyd hoped both Vegas were valuable enough to the Agency that the attitudes they sometimes portrayed wouldn't cause too many problems for them.

Although his first and foremost concern was for Sin, Boyd found that he didn't relish the idea of Emilio being terminated. He still didn't know exactly what he thought of Emilio but he didn't intensely dislike him the way he had before he'd known him; before Emilio had helped him out and had shown that there was more to the man than the ridiculous facade others seemed to believe so easily. Still, that didn't stop him from being a complete asshole sometimes, although Boyd tended to ignore any comments Emilio made during those times.

Toby opened his mouth to reply but a tall woman with brown hair caught his eye and he waved her over. "Hey Soniya, come here for a second!"

The woman, Soniya apparently, walked over slowly. She glanced at Toby before eyeballing Boyd oddly. She had a peculiar look on her face but Boyd didn't know what to make of it. "What?"

Toby gestured to the Tower. "You were in there, right? What happened?"

Sonyia crossed her arms over her green sweater and flicked a look at Boyd. Her bushy eyebrows drew together and she frowned deeply. "Uh."

"What?" Boyd asked, looking at her strangely.

"Well..." The woman looked distinctly uncomfortable. "I'm not sure exactly why but I saw them dragging your partner to the elevator all covered in blood."

"What?" Boyd nearly snapped in surprise, his heartbeat stumbling over itself, and he looked at the Tower again, as if it would tell him anything. His eyes had widened and he went still; worry and fear surged within him even as he tried to guess what happened. "Was he attacked? Did he look conscious?"

Toby looked from Soniya to Boyd, his eyes widened slightly with surprise.

"I'm not sure but I don't think it was his blood," the woman said hesitantly. She shook her head, mumbled something to Toby and walked quickly away.

"What the f..." Boyd's mind was racing and he couldn't understand what the hell had happened. His concern only heightened at Soniya's words and his eyes narrowed, expression growing taut. He barely glanced distractedly at Toby. "I have to go," he said distantly even as he turned toward the Tower.

"Let me know what the hell happened!" Toby called after him and he sounded genuinely concerned on Boyd's behalf.

Boyd nodded but it was more of an automatic response than anything. As he moved through the sporadic crowds toward the front line, he saw that the entrance was still blocked. He didn't bother trying to gain entry; they had no reason to let him in and he wasn't going to try to pull strings when it was doubtful he would be successful anyway.

Instead, he stood to the side, waiting anxiously for the chance to get inside; to find out what was going on. He couldn't believe that Sin would suddenly attack someone. Although it was possible, it just didn't make sense. Sin had been on his medication, he'd been stable and seemingly relatively content. He'd been perfectly fine yesterday.

So unless something triggered an episode, he didn't understand why Sin would be covered in someone else's blood. And even if he'd had an episode, what the hell could possibly have been bad enough to start it?

The questions and doubts strengthened with each second that passed and Boyd could feel the tension growing in his shoulders while his stomach clenched with anxiety and his heartbeat sped. Thankfully, it wasn't long before the guards seemed to be having a conversation over their comm units and then, briefly looking toward the crowd, they stepped inside and let the doors open.

Boyd didn't waste time; he was one of the first people inside and he ignored the sidelong glances he got from the guards. Instead, he strode straight to the elevators. It wasn't long until the first one arrived and Boyd stepped in along with a handful of other people who had walked into the building once they'd had the chance.

The group was talking in undertones to each other, speculating about what had happened, but Boyd barely paid attention. He got off at Carhart's floor and headed straight for the General's office, where he knocked on the closed door.

The door opened and Carhart stared down at him, moving to the side so that he could enter, although he was holding a slim grey cordless phone to his ear. His handsome face was drawn and his cerulean blue eyes darkened but he just shook his head at Boyd and moved back to the desk.

"Good," he said curtly into the phone. "I'll be there soon."

Carhart hung up and put the phone onto its cradle with more force than was necessary.

"What happened?" Boyd asked as soon as Carhart was free.

Carhart gave Boyd a distracted look and stood up straight, pushing his shirt sleeves up to his elbows as he once again headed in the direction of the door. "I don't have time to explain," he said curtly, his expression foreboding. "I don't have all the details and I need to get downstairs."

"Can I come with?" Boyd asked, moving out of Carhart's way.

"No," Carhart snapped but then paused with his fingers wrapped around the doorknob and looked over at Boyd wearily.

The General just looked at him for a moment and seemed very tired. "Investigator Monaghan was murdered and Sin was there, covered in blood."

Boyd's eyes widened and he paled, at once realizing the magnitude of the situation even as he felt like he couldn't have heard that correctly. He shook his head slightly. "What-- That doesn't... How could that be? He wouldn't..."

Carhart didn't respond to Boyd's statements directly. "I don't know what happened, Boyd, and I haven't spoken to Sin yet. I'll contact you when I learn more."

With that being said, the General strode out of the office to leave a stunned Boyd behind.

Boyd stared at the empty doorway then blankly walked over to one of Carhart's guest seats where he dropped down. He felt like he was in a state of shock and no matter how he went over the words in his mind, it made less sense each time. He couldn't believe that Sin would kill Bridget.

Everything seemed surreal and Boyd leaned forward, dropping his face into his hands, his elbows resting on his knees.

He felt more afraid of losing Sin than he ever had.

The European Division seemed harsh enough on its own; he couldn't imagine that they wouldn't demand that Sin be terminated immediately if they suspected that he was responsible. And if Sin was found covered in her blood...

He squeezed his eyes shut, his heart thundering in his chest even as he felt almost nauseated. He knew there was the terrifyingly real chance that he would never see Sin again. That the last time they interacted, he seemingly blew Sin off. That the last memory he would ever have would be of Sin's blank stare and his slouched back as he strode away.

Tears gathered in Boyd's eyes but he viciously fought them back because it would do no good.

All he could do right now was trust Carhart to do damage control; to fight to keep Sin alive for the moment. All he could do was wait for Carhart's call. And once he had more information, he would be able to figure out what he could do.

He didn't know how long he sat there, feeling sick with worry, but when his phone finally rang he pulled it out immediately and flipped it open. His throat felt tight and he almost couldn't get words to come out at first. He cleared his throat and said his code name, confirmation of his identity. "Terrence Grey speaking."

"You have a ten minute window to see Sin," Carhart's voice said, lower and gruffer than it'd been before. "He's being kept in the holding wing for the time being. Go now while Lt. Gerant is there or you won't get another chance."

"Thank you," Boyd said, already standing and heading toward the door. Carhart's tone and words didn't do much to allay Boyd's fears but he didn't dwell on it. The phone had already gone dead before he flipped it closed and put it away.

He didn't waste any time getting down to the fourth floor. When he stopped by Gerant to verify his clearance to be there, Gerant's expression was unreadable and he wouldn't quite meet Boyd's eyes. It wasn't long before Boyd was led to a solid door with a number painted next to it in blocky, plain white letters. Gerant unlocked the door for him and let him inside, closing the door behind Boyd.

The room was set up quite similarly to the cell Boyd had been placed in for isolation. The stark white of the walls and floor made the blood smeared across Sin and the places he'd touched seem that much more vivid and disturbing.

The dark colors of Sin's clothing was almost completely overrun by the deep red blood covering him. He was sitting in the far corner facing the wall with his head in his hands and his shoulders hunched forward.

Boyd hesitated very briefly, struck by the sight and feeling his heart twist. He walked over by Sin and crouched down next to him, reaching a hand out to rest on his shoulder comfortingly.

"Hsin," he said quietly.

Sin's body tensed but he didn't look at Boyd and he didn't say anything.

"Hsin, please talk to me," Boyd said a little louder, lightly squeezing Sin's shoulder. "Do you remember anything?"

There was another extended silence. It was nearly overwhelming in the empty, stark white room but then Sin's rough voice uttered, "No."

Boyd nodded even though Sin couldn't see. "Will you look at me please?"

Sin didn't move at first but then he slowly unfolded himself and turned slightly, looking over at Boyd with reddened almond-shaped eyes and blanched features. "Why?" he asked in the same hoarse voice, eyebrows drawing together. "Why would you want to look at me right now?"

Boyd reached out and gently pushed Sin's hair out of the way, then almost absently rested his hand against Sin's cheek comfortingly, although it was partially to make sure Sin wouldn't look away again. Boyd's eyes narrowed thoughtfully, ignoring the blood as he searched Sin's face briefly then stared into that familiar vivid green gaze.

He didn't see even a hint of insanity, of anything that he would typically expect around an episode. Although it was possible Sin had experienced an episode earlier and had already recovered, it just didn't seem right to Boyd.

"I wanted to see your eyes," Boyd answered after a moment, his own gaze steady and sincere.

Sin almost immediately shifted his eyes away from Boyd's, staring at the floor.

"What happened?" Boyd asked, undeterred. "What do you remember?"

Sin's eyes flicked up briefly to Boyd and he shook his head. "I don't remember anything," he replied in an empty, toneless voice. "She was questioning me about my crimes, my mental health. She was making it clear that she considers me a liability who should be replaced and everything after that is a void."

Boyd shifted back slightly, eyebrows drawn down as he took in that information, trying to figure out what could have happened. "There wasn't anyone else there with you?"

Sin shook his head slightly and hunched forward again, threading his bloodstained fingers into his hair. He clenched the silky black strands and he released a low, shuddering sigh. "I don't understand. I just don't fucking understand why this would have happened, Boyd. I swear to God I don't remember even feeling... feeling like anything was happening."

Boyd's expression twisted slightly and he reached out, resting his palm against one of Sin's hands. He kept it there for a moment and finally Sin released the violent grip on his hair, his hands brushing against Boyd's as they dropped to his lap.

"What were you talking about specifically when you blacked out?" Boyd's voice was almost gentle, although his tone remained nonjudgmental. He dropped his hands away from Sin. "Was it something that would have especially upset you? Was she asking you about your family?"

Sin just shook his head again, looking up to meet Boyd's eyes directly. "No. She was more focused on my crimes. On what happens when I have an episode. It was clear that she considered me a liability but even then... I wasn't surprised by this. I wasn't lashing out at her and she wasn't overtly disrespectful to me."

Obviously troubled, Sin looked down at his hands and stared at the crusted blood on them. "I don't understand," he said again but this time his voice was quieter.

Boyd slid one hand around Sin's, squeezing briefly in a comforting gesture to remind Sin that he wasn't alone. Boyd's eyebrows drew together as he searched Sin's expression, brown eyes determined even though he was disturbed by the entire situation. "I'm sorry to ask so many questions at once but I only have so much time. Are you still taking your medication?"

Sin nodded his head in assent although he made a scornful sound in the back of his throat as if denouncing the medication as useless.

"Has it been working for you still?" Boyd's thumb absently ran along Sin's hand once before he caught himself. "Have you noticed any hallucinations lately, have you been feeling depressed?"

"No," Sin replied in the same low tone. His eyes remained on his hands, long black lashes nearly blocking the vivid green of them.

Boyd reached out with his free hand and, with gentle but firm pressure on Sin's chin, he forced Sin to look up at him. "And nothing happened before the interview? You didn't witness or do anything that upset you?"

"No." Sin's voice was becoming wearier, more dismal. His shoulders slumped further and he once again wrenched his gaze from Boyd's as he tilted his head down, black hair hanging around the sides of his face.

"Hsin." When Sin didn't immediately respond, Boyd pushed Sin's hair out of the way and behind his ear, trying to see his face. Some of the silky black strands fell down almost immediately, partially obscuring Sin's expression. "What happened when you woke up?"

Sin's body tensed further, every muscle coiling tight as his eyes closed briefly. "I woke slumped over her desk. Blood was everywhere. Her body was nearby, carved up... I guess with the letter opener. It was on the desk, next to my hand. She reminded me..."

Sin frowned. "She reminded me of Lydia. Her body did."

Boyd's fingers twitched against Sin's hand and he drew his eyebrows down. "How? Did it look really similar?"

This time his only response was a silent nod.

That was certainly interesting. "Hmm." Boyd frowned thoughtfully, his fingers slackening on Sin's hand as he considered the information. "What did you use on Lydia?"

"Boyd..." Sin looked up with narrowed eyes, shaking his head. "Just stop. It doesn't matter."

"It does matter," Boyd insisted, narrowing his eyes in return and releasing Sin's hand. He shifted so he was more fully facing Sin and met his eyes clearly. Without a hint of uncertainty or hesitation he continued, "I think someone set you up. I just don't know yet how or why."

Sin sat back and frowned slightly, confusion clouding his expression as though the possibility had never entered his mind. "Even if that were true, there's no proof. They're going to terminate me after they figure that out and I..."

He looked away again, a pained look clouding over his features. "I'm not even sure I didn't do it."

"Listen to me," Boyd said firmly, reaching out and placing his palm against Sin's cheek to bring Sin back to him, to make Sin look at him.

"Don't doubt yourself over this." Boyd's eyebrows drew down and his expression saddened even as his features set resolutely. He genuinely believed in Sin and didn't hide it in his eyes even as his fingers twitched against Sin's skin intently. "You didn't kill her. And I'm not saying this without thinking it through. I know you're physically capable of it; I know you don't always know what you're doing when you have an episode. But it doesn't matter. I don't have a doubt in my mind that you were framed and I'm going to find out how. I promise you I'll prove your innocence. Just hold on until I can."

Sin stared into Boyd's face and a flicker of something unidentifiable crossed his expression but he closed his eyes briefly, blocking it away. He briefly leaned into Boyd's touch, lips parting as a shuddering sigh escaped them, before he pulled away reluctantly and looked at Boyd again.

"But what if it was me?" he asked, his voice practically a whisper. Sin shook his head and wet his lips, eyebrows drawing together and raising. "What if it's just that... now I don't even need a trigger to have an episode? What if I'm just getting worse?"

"You aren't," Boyd said confidently, dropping his hand over Sin's again and squeezing. "I've been beside you for years. Maybe I missed what was happening when you really were getting worse, but now I know to pay more attention. Lately, you've been more stable than I've ever seen you."

Boyd narrowed his eyes, his eyebrows drawing down again. He tilted his head a little and blond hair shifted against the side of his face. "If Emilio coming back from the dead after you thought you'd killed him didn't trigger something for you, why would Bridget? I met her. She wasn't aggressive; she wasn't overly intrusive. She wasn't like anyone who would hurt you-- if anything, she was the sort of person you would protect. And if you've gone your whole life with your illness affecting you one way, why would it suddenly and without cause change?"

Sin shrugged his shoulders listlessly, obviously not having an answer for that.

Boyd continued insistently when Sin didn't say anything. "It took years of childhood abuse to build the illness in you-- now that you're on medication, you've been going through therapy, you've seemed relatively content with your life... I don't believe that you suddenly worsened and will kill people without warning. I think it's far more likely that someone wanted to make it seem like you'd snapped; maybe to get you killed. And that person fashioned the murder after Lydia, because they could've seen the video or photos, and they'd know most people would automatically believe you did it."

"Even if that's true," Sin said with a frown, his eyes searching Boyd's as he spoke. "No one is going to believe it. I have trouble believing it. Security is at the highest level since the network was hacked and there's only a small handful of people on this compound who could get the drop on me, one of them being my father and another probably being you. It's just-- I just--"

Sin broke off and wrapped his hands around Boyd's forearms, pulling him closer as he said quietly, "I just don't want you getting yourself in trouble for me. Not when I can't even guarantee... that I don't deserve whatever they give me."

"They'll kill you, Hsin," Boyd said equally quietly, his mouth turning down and gaze troubled as he searched Sin's green eyes. He tilted his head forward, blond strands barely brushing against Sin's dark hair. "I won't just stand to the side while you take the fall for something you didn't even do. Maybe you've done things in the past you felt bad about but that's over; you've more than paid for any crimes you've committed. Even if you're afraid you deserve it, I know you don't."

Boyd shook his head firmly. "And you don't need to worry about me. There has to be evidence somewhere; I'll just find it and present it to them. It'll be fine."

He made it sound simple, even though he knew there would be more going into it. The amount of time he was going to need to prove Sin's innocence was almost positively going to exceed the amount of time the Agency would keep Sin alive.

Sin didn't respond verbally but his eyes narrowed and he speared Boyd with a piercing gaze as his fingers tightened around Boyd's arms slightly.

Boyd was caught by the intensity in Sin's pale green eyes; he was unable to look away and in truth, he didn't particularly want to. Sin's fingers curled against the bare skin of his arms was distracting and seeing Sin covered in someone else's blood-- a framed murder he may die for-- was disturbing and made his stomach clench in worry.

He was acutely aware that, even trying as hard as he could, it was entirely possible that he wouldn't be able to succeed. That whatever evidence was out there had already been destroyed. That this would be the last time he would ever see Sin.

Boyd couldn't read Sin's expression and he kept his fears to himself, although he couldn't stop the strength of his own gaze. And although part of him thought he should say something, his throat felt closed up.

Someone banged twice on the cell door, shattering the moment. Boyd wrenched his eyes from Sin to glance at the door quickly although Sin never looked away.

Boyd was reluctant to leave but he knew that the sooner he left here, the sooner he could help clear Sin's name. He started to pull away, looking over at Sin again although this time he met Sin's eyes for a shorter period of time. It was difficult looking at Sin and not being pulled in.

"I have to go," Boyd said with a distracted frown.

Sin's fingers slid along the skin of Boyd's arms as he slowly let go. "Thank you, Boyd," he said quietly, his voice low and thicker than usual.

Boyd smiled and he rested his hand briefly over Sin's. He squeezed his fingers in tacit support, then shifted back on his heels and stood. He looked down at Sin again for another second, committing to memory every detail he could of his partner.

"I'll see you later," Boyd said with quiet assurance and, with one more glance behind him, he walked out of the cell.

Gerant glanced over when Boyd emerged into the hallway; after the door shut behind him, Boyd looked over at the lieutenant and said sincerely, "Thank you."

There was a brief pause and Gerant replied, "I hope he didn't do it, Agent Beaulieu. Or I'll be sorry that I did this for him."

"He didn't," Boyd said without doubt and nodded briefly at Gerant in acknowledgment, then left.

He headed straight for the next most important person to see, his expression unreadable as he strode through the compound. Once he reached Carhart's apartment, he paused at the door and knocked loudly, hoping his timing would be right.

It took several moments for the door to open but when it did, Emilio appeared in low riding black leather pants, barefoot and shirtless. His hair was disheveled and his jaw covered with stubble. He gave the impression of just having rolled out of bed, although his eyes were narrowed slightly and his expression alert.


Boyd's gaze flicked behind Emilio briefly. "Are you alone?"

Emilio lifted one tattooed shoulder in a shrug. "Yep. Why? Finally decided to try out vintage Vega?"

Ignoring the question, Boyd met Emilio's eyes seriously. "Can I come in?"

"Sure, why not." Emilio stepped aside so that Boyd could enter the apartment and shut the door behind him.

It was the first time Boyd had ever been in Carhart's apartment and he automatically glanced around. The door opened into the living room, with a comfortable-looking couch, wooden coffee and end tables, and a rug that sat beneath. Everything was in earth tones and the overall impression was rather masculine. An opening in the wall to the side led into what appeared to be the kitchen.

Boyd couldn't see the bedroom from here so he couldn't tell where Emilio may have been sleeping but he assumed he'd been on the couch.

Returning his gaze to Emilio, Boyd narrowed his eyes slightly. "Did you hear about Hsin yet?"

"Uh huh." Emilio sat on the arm of the couch and picked up a black box of cigarettes. He extracted one and popped it between his lips.

"I don't think he did it and I want to prove it, but I won't have time before they terminate him," Boyd replied bluntly, crossing his arms and watching Emilio closely. He couldn't tell what Emilio was thinking but he didn't hesitate to continue. "I want to break him out and hide him in the meantime."

Emilio inhaled from his newly lit cigarette, eyeing Boyd thoughtfully as he exhaled slowly. "I'd already planned on it."

"Good," Boyd said, not hiding the relief he felt that he wouldn't have to convince Emilio, although his eyes were still narrowed seriously. "Will you let me work with you on it?"

The other man shrugged and continued to leisurely suck on his cigarette, not appearing to be in a hurry. "If I go through with what I'd planned, he'd go into hiding for good. Your plan is to prove his innocence and I'm not even sure if he is innocent. I just don't really care either way."

"He is innocent," Boyd said without hesitation. "I know he is. I just need time to show it." He drew his eyebrows down thoughtfully. "I have an idea for where to hide him in the short term but if something happens or I can't find the evidence-- or if they don't care and intend to terminate him anyway-- is it possible to transition to your plan at that point?"

"Sure." Emilio cocked an eyebrow at Boyd. "But you wouldn't see him again."

The very idea was incredibly painful and Boyd looked away briefly with slightly darkened eyes. Yet the information didn't come as too much of a surprise, since if Emilio knew a way to hide Sin more permanently, Sin would have to disappear completely. If Sin was gone-- if Sin was out of Boyd's life and Boyd was stuck here never able to see him again--

Boyd cut the thought off. If they had to default to that plan, it meant that they would have been unable to save Sin anyway. And if that was the case then the only solution was to get Sin as far away from the Agency as possible.

The determination remained strong within him; he shook his head, returning a somber stare to Emilio. Part of him wanted to ask what Emilio had in mind but he also knew that it was probably best if he didn't have details-- that way, no matter what happened, he would never be able to betray Sin's location.

"Would he be safe?" Boyd asked instead, eyebrows furrowing and a frown pulling at the edges of his lips. "Maybe have a chance to build a new life or be happy?"

Emilio shrugged and hopped down from the sofa's arm, bare feet landing lightly on the wooden floor. "He'd be alive. Whatever he does after that is on him. I doubt I'd see him again unless he came back like a stupid ass."

"How would you ensure the Agency wouldn't go after him?" Boyd asked slightly dubiously. "Would you fake his death?"

"Don't worry about what I'd do," Emilio replied as he took another drag off his cigarette. He padded across the room and ashed the cigarette in an ashtray that sat on a nearby bookshelf.

Boyd studied Emilio for a long moment then shook his head and dropped his arms at his sides. His eyes narrowed and he was intensely serious in a way he rarely got except in the midst of mission planning. "It doesn't matter, anyway. His life is most important, regardless of if I ever see him again. I really think that should be Plan B. But would you be able to put it in motion even if you aren't free? Because once Sin disappears, we'll be the first people my mother will suspect."

"She won't keep me locked up forever unless she can prove I'm involved unless she's a fucking idiot and doesn't want missions getting done." Emilio looked over at Boyd. "But I'm not doing nothing until I talk to Zachary first."

Boyd watched Emilio for a moment then glanced away. In a way, he thought it would be good to bring Carhart in on it; to let him know what they planned. But he didn't know what Carhart would do. There was no question that Carhart cared about Sin and would want to be on their side, but Boyd still remembered Carhart's uncomfortable silence during the debriefing with his mother.

Carhart would do everything he could legitimately to help out, but Boyd and Emilio were contemplating going against the Agency and Boyd didn't know what to predict Carhart would do with that. He didn't think Carhart would stop them and yet... he just didn't know anymore.

"Are you sure that's a good idea? He'll probably be implicated as it is and the less he knows or is involved, the less of a problem it would be for him. He's probably already pulled what weight he could just to keep Sin alive. Not to mention," Boyd added, watching Emilio, "the fewer people who are involved, the better."

Emilio waved the concern off and put out his cigarette, grabbing a white t-shirt that was laying crumpled on an armchair. "For someone who came in here asking me for help, you sure seem to be questioning my decisions a shitload."

Boyd sighed and ran a hand through his hair, forcing as much tension as he could out of his body. Blond strands fell messily back down when he dropped his arm at his side and he nodded almost distractedly. "You're right. I'm sorry. I'm just worried and I feel like the more it's all delayed, the more likely something will happen to him before we can get him to safety." His eyes narrowed and a troubled expression crossed his face. "I don't want him to be killed before we even get him off Fourth."

"Then we got to get moving, blondie." Emilio raised an eyebrow at Boyd. "My connec' on the seventeenth floor tells me that we have a twenty hour window before my boy is incinerated but as soon as head guard Gerant is off duty, his boys are gonna be in charge and as we all know, they ain't especially fond of Hsin. I'm gonna have to wait until after dark to make a move and he'll likely be tranq'd by then so you need to figure out if the place you're thinkin' of is actually gonna be a good place to stash him."

Boyd nodded, although he gave Emilio a mildly odd yet curious look. "Who's your contact?"

A somewhat smug expression crossed Emilio's handsome face and he sat down to pull on a pair of socks and sneakers. "Someone who works for the top people in charge. You should know him. He helped you out last time you busted Sin out the fourth."

It took a moment for Boyd to think back; not many people had been involved in that. Yet when he thought of it in terms of someone on the seventeenth floor, there really was only one person it could be-- Samuel.

Boyd had wondered why exactly Samuel had shown him Connors' schedule, which had given Boyd the chance to know when to break Sin out. Although it could have been coincidence, that option didn't make sense anymore. Especially since Samuel had remained as the Marshal's aide; Aisha was his mother's personal assistant for the Inspector duties, and Samuel was for the more highly classified work.

Still, it was surprising, especially since Emilio had been gone for nearly twenty years. Boyd raised his eyebrows, impressed. "How long has he been your contact?"

"Since he came to the Agency," Emilio replied easily. "Money talks."

"Apparently," Boyd agreed mildly.

Emilio didn't look up from lacing his sneakers and he finished quickly, standing up straight. He ran a hand through his short hair and moved toward the door. "I'll contact you within the hour. Stay here and make what calls you need from the land line."

Emilio opened the door and stepped out without another word.

Continue to Cause/Effect: Part II