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Riley tugged at the end of the board that had popped up a little.

The whole board came loose. She set it to one side.

And sure enough, there was an opening to a space under the floor.

Riley peered closer. Tucked under the floorboards just out of ready sight were bundles of paper money.

She yelled loudly, “Agent Crivaro! I’ve found something!”

As she waited for a reply, Riley glimpsed something else alongside those bundles. It was the edge of a plastic object.

Riley reached for the object and picked it up.

It was a cell phone—a simpler model than the one she’d been given a little while ago. She realized that this must be one of those prepaid types that couldn’t be traced to an owner.

A burner phone, she thought. That must be very useful for a drug operation.

Suddenly she heard a voice shout from the doorway …

“Sweeney! What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Riley turned and saw Agent Crivaro, his face red with rage. Agent McCune had entered right behind him.

She held the phone out and said, “I found something, Agent Crivaro.”

“I see that,” Crivaro said. “And your fingers are all over it. Give me that thing.”

Riley handed the phone to Crivaro, who took it gingerly with a thumb and forefinger and dropped it into an evidence bag. She saw that both he and Agent McCune were wearing gloves.

She felt her face flush with shame and embarrassment.

I really screwed up.

McCune knelt down and looked into the space under the floor.

He said, “Hey, Agent Crivaro! Get a look at this!”

Crivaro knelt down beside McCune, who said, “It’s the cash we’ve been looking all over the house for.”

“So it is,” Crivaro said.

Turning toward Riley again, Crivaro snapped …

“Did you touch any of this money?”

Riley shook her head.

“Are you sure?” Crivaro said.

“I’m sure,” Riley said timidly.

“How did you find this?” Crivaro said, pointing to the opening.

Riley shrugged and said, “I was just walking through here and I heard a hollow sound under the floor, so I pulled back the rug and—”

Crivaro interrupted, “And you yanked this board loose.”

“Well, I didn’t exactly yank anything. It just sort of popped up when I touched it in a certain spot.”

Crivaro growled, “You touched it. And the phone too. I can’t believe it. You got your prints all over everything.”

Riley stammered, “I—I’m sorry, sir.”

“You damn well should be,” Crivaro said. “I’m getting you out of here before you screw anything else up.”

He got up from the floor and brushed off his hands.

He said, “McCune, keep the search team working. When you finish the rooms on this floor, keep searching up in the attic. I don’t guess we’re likely to find much of anything else, but we’ve got to be thorough.”

“I’ll do that, sir,” McCune said.

Crivaro led Riley back downstairs and out to his car.

As they drove away, Riley asked, “Are we going back to headquarters?”

“Not today,” Crivaro said. “Maybe not ever. Where do you live? I’m taking you home.”

Her voice choked with emotion, Riley told him her address.

As they drove on in silence, Riley found herself remembering how impressed by her Crivaro had been back in Lanton, and how he’d told her …

“The FBI needs young people like you—especially women. You’d make a very fine BAU agent.”

How things had changed!

And she knew it wasn’t just because of the mistake she’d made. Crivaro had been cold to her from the start today.

Right now, Riley just wished he’d say something—anything.

She shyly asked, “Did you find anything in that other room across the hall? I mean, where the dumbwaiter used to be?”

“Not a thing,” Crivaro said.

Another silence fell. Riley was starting to feel confused now.

She knew she’d made a terrible mistake, but …

What was I supposed to do?

She’d had a gut feeling back in that room that there was something under the floor.

Was she just supposed to have ignored that feeling?

She summoned up her courage and said …

“Sir, I know I screwed up, but didn’t I find something important back there? Four agents searched that room and missed that space. You were looking for the cash, and I found it. Would anybody else have found it if I didn’t?”

“That’s not the point,” Crivaro said.

Riley fought down the urge to ask …

Then what is the point?

Crivaro drove on in sullen silence for several minutes. Then he said in a quiet, bitter voice, “I pulled a lot of strings to get you into this program.”

Another silence fell. But Riley detected a world of meaning in those words. She began to realize that Crivaro had really gone out on a limb on her behalf, not only to get her into the program but also to serve as her mentor. And he’d probably made some of his colleagues angry, perhaps by excluding intern candidates they might have deemed to be more promising than Riley.

Now that she thought of things that way, Crivaro’s cold behavior started to make sense. He hadn’t wanted to show even the slightest bit of preferential treatment toward her. In fact, he’d gone to the opposite extreme. He’d been counting on her to prove herself worthy without any encouragement from himself, and despite his colleagues’ doubts and resentments.

And judging from the looks and whispers she’d noticed among other interns during the day, Crivaro’s colleagues weren’t the only people who harbored those resentments. She’d faced an uphill climb just to achieve even modest success.

And she’d blown it all in a single afternoon, with one stupid mistake. Crivaro had good reason to be disappointed and angry.

She took a long, slow breath and said …

“I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”

Crivaro didn’t reply for a few moments.

Finally he said, “I guess you want a second chance. Well, let me tell you, the FBI isn’t big on second chances. My last partner got fired for making the same kind of mistake—and he definitely deserved it. A mistake like that has consequences. Sometimes it just means spoiling a case so that a bad guy gets off free. Sometimes it costs someone their life. It can cost your own life.”

Crivaro glanced over at her with a scowl.

“So what do you think I should do?” he said.

“I don’t know,” Riley said.

Crivaro shook his head. “I sure don’t know either. I guess maybe both of us should sleep on it. I’ve got to decide whether I misjudged your abilities. You’ve got to decide whether you’ve really got what it takes to stay in this program.”

Riley felt a lump in her throat, and her eyes stung and she blinked hard.

Don’t cry, she told herself.

Crying was the only thing she could think of that would make things worse than they were already.


Still stinging from Crivaro’s rebuke, Riley arrived at home a full two hours before Ryan did. When Ryan got there, he seemed surprised to see that she’d gotten back so early, but he was too excited about his own day to notice how upset she was.

Ryan sat down at the kitchen table with a beer while Riley heated up macaroni and cheese TV dinners. She could tell that he was really buzzed about everything he was doing at the law firm and eager to tell her all about it. She tried to pay close attention.

He’d been given more duties than he’d expected—a lot of complex research and analysis, writing briefs, preparing for litigation, and other tasks that Riley barely understood. He was even going to appear in a courtroom tomorrow for the very first time. He was only going to be assisting the lead attorneys, of course, but it was a real milestone for him.

Ryan appeared nervous, daunted, maybe a little scared, but above all else exhilarated.

Riley tried to keep smiling as they sat down and ate dinner. She wanted to be happy for him.

Finally Ryan asked …

“Wow, listen to me talk. What about you? How was your day?”

Riley gulped hard.

“It could have been better,” she said. “Actually, it was pretty bad.”

Ryan reached across the table and took her hand with an expression of sincere concern.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Riley wondered whether talking about it would make her feel better.

No, I’ll only start crying.

Besides, Ryan might not be happy that she’d actually gone out into the field today. They’d both been sure that she’d be doing her training safely indoors. Not that she’d been in any actual danger …

“I’d rather not get into any details,” Riley said. “But do you remember Special Agent Crivaro, the FBI man who saved my life back in Lanton?”

Ryan nodded.

Riley continued, “Well, he’s supposed to be mentoring me. But he’s got doubts now as to whether I belong in the program. And … I guess I’ve got doubts too. Maybe this whole thing was a mistake.”

Ryan squeezed her hand and didn’t speak.

Riley wished he’d say something. But what did she want him to say?

What did she expect him to say?

After all, Ryan hadn’t been enthusiastic about Riley being in the program from the very start. He’d probably be just as happy if she dropped out—or even got kicked out.

Finally Ryan said, “Look, maybe it’s just not the right time for you to do this. I mean, you’re pregnant, we’re just getting moved into this new place, and I’m just getting started Parsons and Rittenhouse. Maybe you should just wait until—”

“Wait until when?” Riley said. “Until I’m a mom raising a kid? How is that going to work?”

Ryan’s eyes widened at Riley’s bitter tone. Even Riley was startled at the sound of her own voice.


“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean it to come out like that.”

Ryan said quietly, “Riley, you are going to be a mom raising a kid. We’re going to be parents. It’s a reality we both have to deal with, whether you keep training this summer or not.”

Riley was really struggling not to cry now. The future seemed so murky and mysterious.

She asked, “What am I going to do if I’m not in the program? I can’t just sit around this apartment all day.”

Ryan shrugged slightly.

“Well, you can always find a job, help with the expenses. Maybe some kind of temp work—something you can just walk away from whenever you get tired of doing it. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you. There’s plenty of time to figure out what you really want to do. But before long, I could be successful enough that you wouldn’t have to work at all if you don’t want to.”

They both fell quiet for a moment.

Then Riley said, “So do you think I should quit?”

“What I think doesn’t matter,” Ryan said. “It’s your decision. And whatever you decide, I’ll do my best to back you up.”

They didn’t say much for the rest of the meal. After they finished eating, they watched TV for a while. Riley couldn’t really focus on what they were watching. She kept thinking about what Agent Crivaro had said …

“You’ve got to decide whether you’ve really got what it takes to stay in this program.”

The more Riley thought about it, the more doubt and uncertainty she felt.

After all, she had more than just herself to think about. There was Ryan, the baby, and even Agent Crivaro.

She remembered something else her would-be mentor had said …

“I pulled a lot of strings to get you into this program.”

And keeping her in the program wasn’t going to make Crivaro’s life any easier. He was likely to keep catching flak from colleagues who didn’t think Riley belonged there, especially if she didn’t live up to his expectations.

And she sure hadn’t lived up to his expectations today.

Ryan eventually took a shower and went to bed. Riley sat on the couch, continuing to mull over her choices.

Finally, she picked up a legal pad and started to draft a letter of resignation to Hoke Gilmer, the training supervisor. She was surprised at how much better she felt as she kept writing the letter. When she came to the end, she felt as if a load had been lifted from her mind.

This is the right choice, she thought.

She figured she would get up early tomorrow morning, tell Ryan about her decision, type her letter into his computer, then print it and send it out with the morning mail. She’d also make a phone call to Agent Crivaro, who would surely be relieved.

Finally, she went to bed, feeling much better about things. She found it easy to go to sleep.

Riley found herself walking into the J. Edgar Hoover Building.

What am I doing here? she wondered.

Then she noticed the legal pad in her hand, with her letter written on it.

Oh, yes, she realized.

I came to deliver this to Agent Gilmer personally.

She took the elevator down three floors, then went into the auditorium where the interns had met yesterday.

To her alarm, all the interns were seated in the auditorium watching her every move. Agent Gilmer was standing at the front of the auditorium, looking at her with his arms crossed.

“What do you want, Sweeney?” Gilmer asked, sounding a lot more stern than he had yesterday when he’d addressed the group.

Riley glanced at the interns, who gazed at her silently with accusing expressions.

Then she said to Gilmer, “I won’t take any of your time. I just need to give you this.”

She handed him the yellow legal pad.

Gilmer raised his reading glasses to look at the pad.

“What’s this?” he asked.

Riley opened her mouth to say …

“It’s my letter of resignation from the program.”

But instead, different words came out of her mouth …

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

To her alarm, she realized …

I’m reciting the FBI oath of office.

And she couldn’t seem to stop herself.

“…that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same …”

Gilmer pointed to the legal pad and asked again …

“What’s this?”

Riley still wanted to explain what it really was, but the words of the oath continued to pour out …

“… I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion …”

Gilmer’s face was morphing into another face.

It was Jake Crivaro, and he was looking angry. He waved the pad in front of her face.

“What’s this?” he snarled.

Riley was surprised to see that nothing was written there at all.

She heard all the other interns murmuring aloud, speaking the same oath but in a confused jumble of voices.

Meanwhile, she was nearing the end of the oath …

“… I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

Crivaro seemed to be seething now.

“What the hell’s this?” he said, pointing to the blank yellow paper.

Riley tried to tell him, but no words came out.

Riley’s eyes snapped open when she heard an unfamiliar buzzing sound.

She was lying in bed next to Ryan.

It was a dream, she realized.

But the dream definitely meant something. In fact, it meant everything. She’d taken an oath, and she couldn’t take it back. Which meant she couldn’t resign from the program. It wasn’t a legal problem. It was personal. It was a matter of principle.

But what if I get kicked out?

What do I do then?

Meanwhile, she wondered—what was that buzzing sound that kept repeating over and over again?

Still half-asleep, Ryan groaned and muttered …

“Answer your damn phone, Riley.”

Then Riley remembered the cell phone she’d been given yesterday at the FBI building. She fumbled around on the side table until she found it, then scrambled out of bed and carried it out of the room and shut the door behind her.

It took her a moment to figure out which button to push to take the call. When she finally succeeded, she heard a familiar voice.

“Sweeney? Did I wake you?”

It was Agent Crivaro, sounding none too friendly.

“No, of course not,” Riley said.

“Liar. It’s five o’clock in the morning.”

Riley sighed deeply. She realized she felt sick to her stomach.

Crivaro said, “How long will it take you to get awake and dressed?”

Riley thought for a moment, then said, “Um, fifteen minutes, I guess.”

“I’ll be there in ten. Meet me outside your building.”

Crivaro ended the call without another word.

What does he want? Riley wondered.

Is he coming here to personally fire me?

Suddenly she felt a rising wave of nausea. She knew it was morning sickness—the worst she’d experienced so far during her pregnancy.

She let out a groan and thought …

Just what I need right now.

Then she rushed to the bathroom.


When Jake Crivaro pulled up to the apartment building, Riley Sweeney was already waiting outside. Jake noticed that she looked more than a little pale as she got into the car.

“Not feeling well?” he asked.

“I’m fine,” Riley said.

She doesn’t look fine, Jake thought. She doesn’t sound fine, either.

Jake wondered if maybe she’d partied too hard last night. These young interns did that sometimes. Or maybe she’d just had too much to drink right at home. She’d certainly seemed discouraged when he’d dropped her off yesterday—and small wonder, after the chewing out he’d given her. Maybe she’d tried to drown her sorrows.

Jake hoped his protégé wasn’t too hung over to function.

As he pulled away from the building, Riley asked …

“Where are we going?”

Jake hesitated for a moment.

Then he said, “Look, we’re going to start from scratch today.”

Riley looked at him with a vaguely surprised expression.

He continued, “The truth is, what you did yesterday—well, it wasn’t entirely a screw-up. You found the Madison brothers’ drug money. And that burner phone turned out to be plenty useful. It had some important phone numbers in it, which made it possible for the cops to round up a few gang members—including Malik Madison, the brother who was still at large. It was stupid of them to buy a prepaid phone and not dump it after using it. But I guess they just didn’t think anybody was going to find it.”

He glanced her way and added, “They were wrong.”

Riley just kept staring back at him, as if she was having trouble understanding what he was saying.

Jake resisted the impulse to say …

“I’m really sorry I gave you such a hard time.”

Instead he said, “But you’ve got to follow instructions. And you’ve got to respect procedure.”

“I understand,” Riley said tiredly. “Thanks for giving me another chance.”

Jake growled under his breath. He reminded himself that he didn’t want to give the kid too much encouragement.

But he did feel bad about how he’d treated her yesterday.

I’m overreacting to things, he thought.

He’d pissed off some colleagues at Quantico by pushing for Riley to get into the program. One agent in particular, Toby Wolsky, had wanted his nephew Jordan to be an intern this summer, but Jake had gotten Riley in instead of him. He’d thrown his considerable credentials into that effort and called in a couple of favors owed him.

Jake didn’t think much of Wolsky as an agent, and he had no reason to think his nephew had any potential to speak of. But Wolsky had friends in Quantico who were now unhappy with Jake.

In a way, Jake could understand why.

For all they knew, Riley was just some ordinary college psych graduate who’d never even thought about getting into law enforcement.

And the truth was, Jake didn’t know much more about her either—except that he’d seen her instincts at work, up close and personal. He remembered vividly how readily she’d understood the killer’s thoughts back in Lanton, with just a little coaching from him. Aside from himself, Jake had seldom met anyone with those kinds of instincts—gut-level insights that very few other agents could even understand.

Of course, he couldn’t discount the possibility that what she’d done in Lanton had been little more than a fluke.

Maybe today he’d get a better idea of what she could do.

Riley asked again …

“Where are we going?”

“To a murder scene,” Jake said.

He didn’t want to tell her anything more until they got there.

He wanted to observe how she reacted to a really bizarre situation.

And from what he’d heard, this murder scene was about as bizarre as a murder scene could get. He’d gotten called about it just a little while ago himself, and he was still having trouble believing what he’d been told.

We’ll see what we see, I guess.


Riley thought maybe she was feeling a bit better as she rode along with Agent Crivaro.

Still, she wished he’d tell her what this was all about.

A murder scene, he said.

That was more than she’d bargained for in the summer program—let alone on her second day. Yesterday had been unexpected enough.

She wasn’t sure how she felt about it.

But she was pretty sure that Ryan wouldn’t like the idea at all.

She realized she hadn’t yet told Ryan that she was shadowing Jake Crivaro. Ryan wouldn’t approve of that either. Ryan had mistrusted Crivaro from the start, especially for the way he had helped Riley get a glimpse into a killer’s mind.

She remembered what Ryan had said about one of those episodes …

“Are you telling me that FBI guy—Crivaro—played mind games with you? Why? Just for fun?”

Of course Riley knew that Crivaro hadn’t put her through all that “just for fun.”

He’d been dead serious about it. Those experiences had been absolutely necessary.

They had helped make it possible to eventually catch the killer.

But what am I in for now? Riley wondered.

Crivaro seemed to be being deliberately cryptic.

When he parked the car along a street with houses on one side and an open field on the other, she saw that a couple of police cars and an official van were pulled up nearby.


Before they left the car, Crivaro wagged his finger and said to her …

“Now remember the goddamn rules. Don’t touch anything. And don’t speak unless you’re spoken to. You’re only here to observe the rest of us at work.”

Riley nodded. But something in Crivaro’s voice made her suspect that he expected something a little more from her than just watching quietly.

She wished she knew what that something might be.

Riley and Crivaro got out of the car and walked into the field. It was scattered with lots of debris, as if some kind of big public event had taken place here recently.

Other people, some wearing police uniforms, were standing near a stand of trees and bushes. A wide area around them was cordoned off with yellow police tape.

As Riley and Crivaro approached the group, she realized that the bushes had concealed something on the ground.

Riley gasped at what she saw.

Nausea swelled up in her throat again.

Lying on the ground was a dead circus clown.

Lukeman Literary Management Ltd
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