Author’s Note: I actually kind of enjoy their bickering here. And Vershon got funny.
She wasn’t wrong about them having cars. Apparently walking was for the compound, only, which was fine with her. She saw the ignition was biometric—this car could only be started by Vershon, which was probably another means of control—but if someone was stupid enough to think they could drive off in one of these, she figured they deserved whatever they got.
Vershon didn’t say anything on the drive, and she didn’t push for conversation. The radio had been on when he started the car, so they weren’t in some awkward silence, and really, what would they talk about? She was new to this life, and he was supposed to train her, but since she’d already been warned against her plan of leaving as soon as training was over, she wasn’t sure it was worth bothering to learn anything.
And she got the distinct feeling that he wouldn’t be willing to talk about anything that wasn’t related to work.
She found his taste in music interesting if not quite her speed, since she wouldn’t have pictured him as the type for it, but he also didn’t seem like someone who’d let someone else choose the station, either.
He parked the car in front of another building where the police had established a perimeter and marked it off with their tape, the blue warning flapping in the wind as Vershon got out of the car. She rolled her eyes and resigned herself to following him again.
He passed the uniformed officers without incident, but as soon as she got near the tape, they moved to intercept her.
“Sorry, lady. This is a restricted area.”
“You let him pass,” she said, waving her hand at Vershon. “We were in the same car. How did you miss that? Are you incompetent, blind, or just sexist?”
“Marcey,” Vershon snapped, and she shrugged at him. He sighed, pinching his nose as he spoke. “She is with me. The paperwork may be delayed, but she is now with—”
“She doesn’t look SILT.”
“I think I’d almost take that as a compliment,” she said, ducking under the tape and getting in the officer’s face. “But as much as I don’t much care for them, I think I’d rather be on their side than yours. You smell, and that is really pathetic. Basic hygiene is a thing, you know, and—”
“I know I told you not to start,” Vershon interrupted, taking her arm and dragging her away from them with ease. Holy hell. He was a lot stronger than he looked. Sure, he was tall, but he was thin, too so she hadn’t thought he could manhandle her that easily. “We cooperate with the police.”
“Speak for yourself. I didn’t ask for this.”
Vershon let her go just inside the building. “No one with a Talent does. Stop thinking you’re special. You’re not.”
He walked away from her, starting up the stairs. She balled her fists and then felt herself get a bit light-headed. She was almost sleepy. What the hell? She shook it off and started up after Vershon, looking down the second floor hall and opting for the open door out of the four there.
She stepped inside, careful of the mess on the floor. Someone had done a number on this place, scattering papers and everything else across the room in a giant mess. Most of the furniture was broken, and nothing seemed intact aside from the body in the middle of the chaos.
She joined Vershon beside the body. “Forensics already cleared the room?”
He nodded. “All necessary scans are finished. They took what they identified as necessary for additional testing already as well.”
“Just not the body.”
He shook his head. “This is a replica created to preserve the scene for analysis. The body was already removed.”
“This is fake?” She reached over to poke it and frowned. “Certainly feels real, like actual skin would, right down to the way the body is relaxing after having stiffened up after death. You’re not teasing me, are you? No, wait, you have no sense of humor. I don’t… Why?”
“Because before those idiots decided to make a big fuss outside, it was my intention to leave the scene ‘undisturbed’ in case the killer returned for a second look.”
She frowned. “You think he’s got a ritual in this?”
“No, I think he didn’t find what he was looking for so he will be back to search further.”
She stood back up, folding her arms over her chest. “The room has been trashed like they searched everywhere. And if someone didn’t raise the alarm, then how did you even know about it?”
Vershon pulled up the fake’s sleeve, and she swallowed as she saw the very familiar scar. “A Talent. So… this guy was one of yours?”
Vershon shook his head. “I don’t have people. I get assigned as a trainer on occasion, but they do not want me having any real authority.”
“So he wasn’t an agent.”
“Not of our division. Not everyone is given to us, after all. We’re specialized. We have some kind of background or Talent that is useful to the agency. In your case, your training as a doctor got you sent to us.”
“I excel at paperwork.”
She snorted, unable to help her laughter though she didn’t actually think he’d made a joke. “I suppose that’s not hard to believe with you throwing all those pages at me the other day, but that can’t be the only reason they dragged you into this. I mean, you’ve got that kill switch in your neck, so they must think your Talent is valuable despite how dangerous it is and how scared of it they are.”
“I have no interest in satisfying your morbid curiosity.”
“You do not need to know why I was given that restraint. It’s not relevant.”
She shook her head. “It’s not morbid to want to know why they think you’re so dangerous. We’re working together. You know everything about me, right? I don’t get to know anything about you? Not even if we might end up in combat or something? Shouldn’t I know what you can do just in case?”
“You’re infuriating,” she muttered. She folded her arms over her chest. “Aren’t I supposed to be in training? What are you actually teaching me here?”
He gave her a long, dark look. “Do you actually intend to learn anything?”
She couldn’t answer that.