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Riley felt her breath and heartbeat quicken as she walked from the metro stop toward the massive white J. Edgar Hoover Building.

Why am I so nervous? she asked herself. After all, she had managed her first solo trip on a metro through a larger city than she had even visited before moving here.

She tried to convince herself that this wasn’t such a big change—that she was just going to school again, the same as she’d done in Lanton.

But she couldn’t help feeling awed and daunted. For one thing, the building was on Pennsylvania Avenue, right between the White House and the Capitol. She and Ryan had driven past the building earlier this week, but the reality was only now hitting her that she was going to be coming here to learn and work for the next ten weeks.

It seemed almost like a dream.

She walked through the front entrance and passed on through the lobby to the security gate. The guard on duty found her name on a list of visitors and gave her a clip-on identification card. He told her to take an elevator three floors down to a small auditorium.

When Riley found the auditorium and went inside, she was handed a packet of rules, regulations, and information that she was supposed to read later. She sat down among about twenty other interns who appeared to be in her general age range. She knew that some, like her, were recent college graduates; others were undergraduates who would be returning to college in the fall.

Most of the other interns were male, and all of them were well dressed. She felt a little insecure about her own pantsuit, which she’d bought at a thrift shop in Lanton. It was the best business-type outfit she had, and she hoped she looked sufficiently respectable.

Soon a clean-cut, middle-aged man stepped in front of the seated interns.

He said, “I’m Assistant Director Marion Connor, and I’m in charge of the FBI Honors Internship Summer Program. You should all be very proud to be here today. You are a very select and exceptional group, chosen from thousands of applicants …”

Riley gulped hard as he continued congratulating the group.

Thousands of applicants!

How strange it seemed. The truth was, she hadn’t put in an application at all. She’d simply been chosen for the program straight out of college.

Do I really belong here? she wondered.

Assistant Director Connor introduced the group to a younger agent—Hoke Gilmer, the training supervisor who had called Riley yesterday. Gilmer instructed the interns to stand and raise their right hands to take the FBI oath of office.

Riley felt herself choke up as she began to speak the words …

“I, Riley Sweeney, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic …”

She had to blink back a tear as she continued.

This is real, she told herself. This is really happening.

She had no idea what awaited her from this moment on.

But she felt sure that her life would never be the same.


After the ceremony, Hoke Gilmer took the students on a long tour of the J. Edgar Hoover Building. Riley grew more and more amazed at the size and complexity of the building, and at all the different activities that took place here. There were various exercise rooms, a basketball court, a medical clinic, a printing shop, many kinds of labs and computer rooms, a firing range, and even a morgue and a car repair shop.

It all boggled her mind.

When the tour was over, the group was taken to the cafeteria on the eighth floor. Riley felt exhausted as she put food on her tray—not so much from the miles of walking she’d done, but at everything she’d seen and tried to absorb.

How much of this wonderful facility could she hope to experience in the ten weeks she was to spend here? She wanted to learn everything she could, as fast as she possibly could.

And she wanted to get started right this very minute.

As she carried her tray looking for a place to eat, she felt strangely out of place. The other interns already seemed to be forming friendships and sitting in groups, chattering away excitedly about the day they were having. She told herself she ought to sit down among some of her young colleagues, introduce herself and get to know a few of them.

But she knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

Riley had always felt like something of an outsider, and making friends and fitting in had never come naturally for her.

And right now, she felt shyer than she could remember ever feeling.

And was it just her imagination, or were some of the interns glancing at her and whispering about her?

She had just decided to sit alone when she heard a voice next to her.

“You’re Riley Sweeney, aren’t you?”

She turned to see a young man who had caught her eye back in the auditorium and during the tour. She hadn’t been able to help noticing that he was remarkably good-looking—a bit taller than she was, rugged and athletic, with short curly hair and a pleasant smile. His suit looked expensive.

“Um, yes,” Riley said, suddenly feeling even more shy than before. “And you … ?”

“John Welch. I’m pleased to meet you. I’d offer to shake hands, but …”

He nodded at the trays they were both carrying and laughed a little.

“Would you care to sit with me?” he asked.

Riley hoped she wasn’t blushing.

“Sure,” she said.

They sat down across a table from each other and started eating.

Riley asked, “How did you know my name?”

John smiled impishly and said, “You’re kidding right?”

Riley was startled. She managed to stop herself from saying …

No, I’m not kidding.

John shrugged and said, “Pretty much everybody here knows who you are. I guess you could say that your reputation precedes you.”

Riley looked over at some of the other students. Sure enough, a few of them were still glancing at her and exchanging whispers.

Riley began to realize …

They must know about what happened back at Lanton.

But how much did they know?

And was this a good thing or a bad thing?

She certainly hadn’t counted on having a “reputation” among the interns. The idea made her feel extremely self-conscious.

“Where are you from?” she asked.

“Right here in DC,” John said. “I graduated with a BA in criminology this spring.”

“What school?” Riley asked.

John blushed a little.

“Um—George Washington University,” he said.

Riley felt her eyes widen at the mention of such an expensive college.

He must be rich, she thought.

She also sensed that he felt a little awkward about that.

“Wow, a criminology degree,” she said. “I’ve just got a psych degree. You’ve really got a head start on me.”

John laughed.

“On you? I don’t think so. I mean, you’re probably the only intern in the program with actual field experience.”

Riley felt truly taken aback now.

Field experience?

She hadn’t thought of what had happened back at Lanton as “field experience.”

John continued, “I mean, you actually helped track down and apprehend an actual serial killer. I can’t imagine what that must have been like. I really envy you.”

Riley frowned and fell silent. She didn’t want to say so, but envy seemed like a terribly inappropriate emotion to feel about what she’d been through.

What did John think had gone on during those terrible weeks in Lanton? Did he have any idea what it was like to find the bodies of two of her best friends, their throats brutally slashed?

Did he know how horrified and grief-stricken she’d felt—and also how guilty?

She was still haunted by the thought that her roommate, Trudy, would still be alive if Riley had just done a better job of watching out for her.

And did he have any idea how terrified she’d been when she’d fallen into the killer’s clutches herself?

Riley took a sip of her soft drink and poked at her food with her fork.

Then she said, “It was … well, it wasn’t like you must think. It’s just something that happened.”

John looked at her with real concern now.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I guess you don’t want to talk about it.”

“Maybe some other time,” Riley said.

An awkward silence fell. Not wanting to be rude, Riley started asking John questions about himself. He seemed reluctant to talk about his life and family, but Riley was able to draw him out a little.

John’s parents were both prominent lawyers who were heavily involved in DC politics. Riley was impressed—not so much by John’s affluent background, but by how he’d chosen a different path from anyone else in his family. Instead of pursuing a prestigious career in law and politics, John had dedicated himself to a humbler life of service in law enforcement.

A real idealist, Riley thought.

She found herself contrasting him to Ryan, who was trying to put his humble background behind him by becoming a successful lawyer.

Of course, she admired Ryan’s ambition. It was one of the things she loved about him. But she couldn’t help also admiring John for the choices he was making.

As they continued talking, Riley sensed that John was putting on the charm for her.

He’s flirting with me, she realized.

She was a bit taken aback by that. Her left hand was in full view right there on the table, so surely he could see her new engagement ring.

Should she mention that she was engaged?

She felt as though that would be awkward somehow—especially if she was wrong.

Maybe he’s not flirting with me at all.

Soon John started asking questions about Riley, carefully staying away from the topic of the murders at Lanton. As usual, Riley avoided certain issues—her troubled relationship with her father, her rebellious teenage years, and especially how she’d watched her own mother get shot to death when she was a little girl.


Also, it occurred to Riley that, unlike Ryan or John, she really didn’t have much to say about her hopes for the future.

What does that say about me? she wondered.

She finally did talk about her budding relationship with Ryan, and how they’d gotten engaged just yesterday—although she didn’t mention that she was pregnant. She didn’t notice any particular change in John’s behavior.

I guess he’s just naturally charming that way, she thought.

She found herself relieved at the thought that she’d jumped to conclusions, and he’d never been flirting with her after all.

He was a nice guy, and she looked forward to getting to know him better. In fact, she felt pretty sure that John and Ryan would like each other. Maybe they could all get together sometime soon.

When the interns finished their meals, Hoke Gilmer rounded them up and took them down a few floors to a large locker room that was to be their headquarters for the ten-week term. A younger agent who was assisting Gilmer assigned each of the interns a locker. Then all the interns sat down at the tables and chairs in the middle of the room, and the younger agent started handing out cell phones.

Gilmer explained, “It’ll soon be the twenty-first century, and the FBI doesn’t like to be behind the latest technology. We won’t be passing out pagers this year. Some of you may have cell phones already, but we want you to have a separate one for FBI use. You’ll find instructions in your orientation packet.”

Then Gilmer laughed as he added, “I hope you’ll have an easier time learning to use these than I did.”

Some of the interns laughed as well as they claimed their new toys.

Riley’s phone felt oddly small in her hand. She was used to larger house phones and had never used a cell phone before. Although she’d used computers at Lanton, and some of her friends there had cell phones, she still didn’t own one. Ryan already had both a computer and a cell phone, and he sometimes teased Riley about her old-fashioned ways.

She hadn’t liked that very much. The truth was, the only reason she didn’t already have a computer or a cell phone yet was because she couldn’t afford it.

This one looked almost exactly like Ryan’s—very simple, with a small screen for text messages, a number pad, and just three or four other buttons. Still, it felt strange to realize she didn’t yet know how to even make an ordinary phone call with it. She knew that it was also going to feel strange to be reachable by phone all the time, no matter where she happened to be.

She reminded herself …

I’m starting a whole new life.

Riley noticed that a group of official-looking people, most of them men, had just filed into the locker room.

Gilmer said, “Each of you will be shadowing an experienced special agent during your weeks here. They’ll start off by teaching you their own specialties—analyzing crime data, forensics work, computer lab work, and what have you. We’ll introduce you to them now, and they’ll take things from here.”

As the younger agent matched up each of the interns with their supervising agent, Riley soon realized …

There’s one less agent than interns.

Sure enough, after the interns went away with their mentors, Riley found herself without a mentor of her own. She looked at Gilmer with perplexity.

Gilmer smiled slightly and said, “You’ll find the agent you’ll be shadowing down the hall in room nineteen.”

Feeling a little unsettled, Riley left the locker room and walked down the hall until she found the right room. She opened the door and saw that a short, barrel-chested, middle-aged man was sitting on a table.

Riley gasped aloud as she recognized him.

It was Special Agent Jake Crivaro—the agent she’d worked with back in Lanton, and who had saved her life.


Riley smiled when she recognized Special Agent Jake Crivaro. She had spent her morning among strangers and she was especially glad to see this familiar face.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, she thought.

After all, she remembered what he’d told her back in Lanton, when he’d handed her papers for the Honors Program …

“I’m eligible for retirement, but I might stay on for a while to help someone like you get started.”

He must have specifically requested to be Riley’s mentor for her internship.

But Riley’s smile quickly faded when she realized …

He isn’t smiling back.

In fact, Agent Crivaro didn’t look the least bit happy to see her.

Still sitting on the table, he crossed his arms and nodded toward a nondescript but amiable-looking man in his twenties who was standing nearby. Crivaro said …

“Riley Sweeney, I want you to meet Special Agent Mark McCune, from right here in DC. He’s my partner on a case I’m working on today.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Agent McCune said with a smile.

“Likewise,” Riley said.

McCune seemed markedly more friendly than Crivaro did.

Crivaro stood up from the table. “Consider yourself lucky, Sweeney. While the other interns are stuck indoors learning how to use filing cabinets and paper clips, you’ll be heading right out into the field. I just came up here from Quantico to work on a drug case. You’ll be joining Agent McCune and me—we’re headed to the scene right now.”

Agent Crivaro strode out of the room.

As Riley and Agent McCune followed him, Riley thought …

He called me “Sweeney.”

Back in Lanton, she’d gotten used to him calling her “Riley.”

Riley whispered to McCune, “Is Agent Crivaro upset about something?”

McCune shrugged and whispered back, “I was hoping you could tell me. This is my first day working with him, but I hear you already got to work on a case with him. They say he was pretty impressed by you. He’s got a reputation for being kind of brusque. His last partner got fired, you know.”

Riley almost said …

Actually, I didn’t know.

She’d never heard Crivaro mention a partner back in Lanton.

Although Crivaro had been tough, she’d never thought of him as “brusque.” In fact, she’d come to think of him as a kindly father figure—quite unlike her actual father.

Riley and McCune followed Crivaro to a car in the FBI building’s parking level. Nobody spoke as Crivaro drove them out of the building and continued north through the streets of DC.

Riley began to wonder whether Crivaro was ever going to explain what they were supposed to do whenever they got wherever they were going.

They eventually reached a seedy-looking neighborhood. The streets were lined with row houses that looked to Riley like they must have once been pleasant homes but had become awfully rundown.

Still driving, Agent Crivaro finally spoke to her.

“A couple of brothers, Jaden and Malik Madison, have been running a drug operation in this neighborhood for a couple of years now. They and their gang have been brazen about it—selling right on the street, like it was some kind of outdoor market. The local cops couldn’t do anything to stop them.”

“Why not?” Riley asked.

Crivaro said, “The gang kept careful watch for cops. Also, they had the whole neighborhood scared stiff—drive-by shootings, that kind of thing. A couple of kids got shot for just standing around where they weren’t supposed to be. Nobody dared talk to the cops about what was going on.”

Looking along the rows of houses, Crivaro continued.

“The FBI got called in to help a few days ago. Just this morning, one of our undercover guys managed to arrest Jaden. His brother, Malik, is still at large, and the gang has scattered. They won’t be easy to catch. But because of the arrest, we were able to get a warrant to search the house they’ve been working out of.”

Riley asked, “If the gang is still out there, won’t they just start all over again?”

McCune said, “That’s where the local cops can really get something done. They’ll set up a ‘mini station’ right out on the sidewalk—just a picnic table and chairs manned by a couple of uniformed officers. They’ll work with the locals to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen here again.”

Riley almost asked …

Won’t they just start up in another neighborhood?

But she knew it was a stupid question. Of course the gang would start up somewhere else—at least if they weren’t caught. And then the cops and the FBI would have to get to work all over again wherever that happened. That was just the nature of this kind of work.

Crivaro stopped the car and pointed to the nearest house.

“The search is already underway in that one,” he said. “And we’re here to help.”

As they got out of the car, Crivaro wagged his finger at Riley sternly.

“By ‘we,’ I mean Agent McCune and myself. You’re here to watch and learn. So stay the hell out of the way. And don’t touch anything.”

Riley felt a chill at his words. But she nodded obediently.

A uniformed cop standing in the open doorway led them inside. Riley immediately saw that a big operation was already in progress. The narrow hallway was bustling with local cops and agents wearing FBI jackets. They were piling up weapons and bags of drugs in the middle of the floor.

Crivaro looked pleased. He said to one of the FBI men, “Looks like you folks have hit a real gold mine here.”

The FBI man laughed and said, “We’re pretty sure this is only the start of it. There’s got to be a lot of cash around here someplace, but we haven’t found it yet. There are plenty of places to hide stuff in a house like this. Our guys are going over every square inch.”

Riley followed Crivaro and McCune up a flight of stairs to the second floor.

She could now see that the house, and apparently the others surrounding it, was larger than it looked outside. Although it was narrow, it was also deep, with a good many rooms along the hallways. In addition to the two floors in ready view, Riley guessed that the house also had an attic and a basement.

At the top of the stairs, four agents almost collided with Crivaro as they came out of one of the rooms.

“Nothing in there,” one of the agents said.

“Are you sure?” Crivaro asked.

“We searched it top to bottom,” the other agent said.

Then a voice called out from inside the room directly across the hall …

“Hey, I think we’ve really got something here!”

Riley trailed Crivaro and McCune across the hall. Before she could follow them into the room, Crivaro held out his hand and stopped her.

“Huh-uh,” he told her. “You can watch from right here in the hallway.”

Riley stood just outside the door and saw five men searching the room. The one who had called out to Jake was standing beside a rectangular shape on the wall.

He said, “This looks like it used to be a dumbwaiter. What do you want to bet we’ll find something inside?”

“Bust it open,” Crivaro said.

Riley took a step forward to see what they were doing.

Jake looked up at her and yelled …

“Hey, Sweeney. What did I just tell you?”

Riley was about to explain that she didn’t actually intend to come inside when Jake ordered a cop …

“Shut that goddamn door.”

The door slammed shut in Riley’s face. Riley stood in the hallway feeling shocked and embarrassed.

Why is Agent Crivaro so angry with me? she wondered.

A lot of noise was coming from inside the room now. It sounded like somebody was taking a crowbar to the place in the wall where the dumbwaiter had once been. Riley wished she could see what was going on, but opening the door again was out of the question.

She walked across the hallway and into the room on the other side, the one the agents had said was already searched. Chairs and furniture were overturned, and a rug was crumpled from having been pulled up and thrown back down again.

Alone there, Riley walked over to the window that overlooked the street.

Outside she saw a few scattered people moving briskly as if in a hurry to get wherever they were going.

They don’t feel safe outside, she realized. It struck her as incredibly sad.

She wondered how long it had been since this neighborhood had been a pleasant place to live.

She also wondered …

Are we really making a difference?

Riley tried to imagine what life might be like here after the “mini station” Agent McCune mentioned was in place. Would neighbors really feel safer because of a couple of cops posted at a picnic table?


Riley sighed as the handful of people on the street continued hurrying to their separate destinations.

She realized she was asking herself the wrong question.

There’s no “we”—at least not yet.

She wasn’t involved in this operation at all. And Agent Crivaro certainly wasn’t showing any confidence in her.

She turned away from the window and headed back toward the door. As she crossed the rumpled rug, she noticed an odd sound under her feet. She stopped in her tracks and stood there for a moment. Then she tapped her heel against the floor.

It sounded oddly hollow where she was standing.

She walked over to the edge of the rug and pulled it off that patch of the floor.

She didn’t see anything unusual, just an ordinary hardwood floor.

I guess I was just imagining things, she thought.

She remembered what one of the agents had said coming out of this room.

“We searched it top to bottom.”

Surely she wasn’t going to find something that four FBI agents had missed.

And yet, she was sure she had heard something odd. She wouldn’t have noticed it if anybody else had been moving around the room. She’d only noticed it because it was quiet in here.

She took a couple of steps to the side and tapped her heel against the floor. The floor sound solid again. Then she stooped down and rapped on the spot she’d noticed before with her knuckles.

Sure enough, it did sound hollow there. She still didn’t see any sign of an opening but …

I wonder.

She could see that one length of board was shorter than the others. It had a dark spot on one end that looked like an ordinary knot.

Riley pressed the knot with her finger.

She almost jumped out of her skin as the board sprang up a little at that end.

I’ve found something! she thought.

I’ve really found something!

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