There should be a word for it. That feeling of sitting across from someone you thought you’d never see again. The specific scramble your brain made to pull memories it had already let fade and align them with the real thing, wondering if time had transformed your perceptions or if you’d never actually seen the real them at all.
Cooper Dayton leaned back in his chair, arranging his hands on the smooth, sterile table, the perfect picture of relaxation. Across from him, Dr. Emily Freeman mirrored his position and continued to say nothing. For someone who had voluntarily surrendered herself into custody and demanded to speak to Cooper and Cooper alone, she was being awfully quiet.
“I feel like we should be playing chess. Or eating fava beans,” Cooper said. “Isn’t that how these dramatic interrogations between arch nemeses go?”
“I’m not your enemy, Mr. Dayton. I want to help you.”
Cooper smiled pleasantly. “That’s funny. I just got back from this whole counseling retreat thing—long story—the point being I’m fully on board with the ‘getting help’ thing now. Less sure on how you can do that for me, though.” He shrugged and his clothes felt sticky and damp. Although it had still been morning when he’d made his way over to the Trust, the swamp air of DC in July was operating at full blast. That, and he’d been...nervous.
Cooper glanced compulsively past Freeman at the two-way glass where he knew his partner, Oliver Park, and their boss, Trust director Margaret Cola, were watching them. At least he hoped they were watching and not fighting. Again.
It had been a solid week of arguments over whether Cooper should agree to Freeman’s request to meet. Cola didn’t see the downside. Park disagreed. “I’m not saying he never talks to her, I’m just saying we need more information first.” Freeman had gone from quirky witness to vulnerable victim to coldhearted accomplice who’d spent four months on the run with a pocketful of biological samples ripped right out of a dead man’s mouth. You had to admit, the woman had range. It didn’t surprise Cooper that this request to meet with him was making Park nervous. “We have no idea what she’s been up to or what she wants now.”
In the end, Cooper had decided he didn’t want to wait, and though Park had furrowed his brow, he’d held his tongue because he respected that it was Cooper’s choice. Too bad. Having a little more information in his back pocket was sounding pretty good right about now.
“Yes, Maudit Falls, I heard all about that,” Freeman was saying. “Another pretty feather in your cap. You’re really building quite the reputation for yourself.”
“Is that what you want to talk to me about? My reputation?”
“In a way.” She leaned closer, walking her thin, pale hands across the table, like pink spiders. “Someone’s got a crush on you,” she said in that up-and-down singsongy voice reserved for children and serial killers on primetime TV.
Cooper laughed. He couldn’t help it. “My condolences. Who is it? You?”
Freeman shook her head, looking vaguely disgusted. “Someone very interested in the work you’re doing. The...potential you’ve shown. Someone with big plans for you.”
“And how do you fit into these plans?”
“Me? Not at all.” She shifted in her seat. “Just consider me a Good Samaritan.”
“Okay. Thanks. But why the sudden change of heart? I thought you had plans of your own. The next big scientific breakthrough. The woman who discovered werewolves.”
“We both know I was never going to be allowed to do that. And it’s not a particularly pleasant life, being the fox in the hunt, followed by a pack of dogs.” She paused, studying him for a reaction. Cooper kept his face amused, skeptical, a little bored, and Freeman’s eyes narrowed. “But I’m not the only one at this table being hunted. And the enemy of mine enemy—”
“Is your friend?”
“Or a bargaining chip.” Her expression turned serious, intent. “I’ll tell you who’s coming for you, but I want the hunt called off. I want out with time served.”
“Time served?” Cooper repeated. “You haven’t even been tried yet.”
“True. But I will, soon enough. And what exactly will the charges be?” She tilted her head. “Making a false statement? Breaking and entering?”
“Accomplice to several murders. Stealing samples off a dead man,” Cooper suggested. “Stealing samples of a dead man.”
“I wasn’t an accomplice, Mr. Dayton,” Freeman said in a painstakingly patient voice. “Marcus Park murdered those poor people, including my own beloved husband. Then he intimidated me into lying for him.