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Consumed

Consumed

Page 32

After filling in her name and address, Anne flashed her ID, and the receptionist hit a buzzer that released a locked gate over on the right.

“Here is the map. We’re here for questions.”

But I’d have to fill out a form, right? Anne thought. Or call your buddy.

With a nod, she took the piece of paper and walked through. The deed room was lit bright as an OR and had a tall ceiling that was useless, as the rows of metal file cabinets only went up to chin height. There was a long desk with three computers on it, but she never did get a log-in sorted. Besides, she preferred to do things by hand—

Between one blink and the next, she got an image of her fingers clawing into Danny’s shoulder as he churned on top of her.

Exhaustion, a parting gift from her night of not sleeping, bear-hugged her. But she’d already spent enough time trying to frame what she’d done into any kind of rational framework of no-big-deal. At least Danny hadn’t tried to call or text. She needed space.

On that theory, she should move to Canada.

Right, time to look at the map and go on the hunt.

A number of desks with chairs were in the middle of the room, and she claimed one by putting her bag and her coat on it. As she got out her notes, she thought of her new boss’s pep talk. Someone had died in at least two of those old warehouse fires. And hell, she had been permanently changed.

So there were crimes to solve here.

There was still something worth fighting to protect. And in this case, it was justice.

• • •

“Sorry I’m running a little late.”

As Danny got up from a sofa that was too soft, he put his hand out to a fifty-year-old woman with thick gray hair and a shapeless brown dress that reminded him of the tarp he had over the chopped wood out at the farm.

“It’s okay,” he said.

Her limpid, concerned eyes made him want to go Warner Bros. cartoon through a wall.

“Daniel Maguire.” She smiled as they shook. “That’s a good Irish name.”

“Yeah.”

“I’m Irish, too. Dr. Laurie McAuliffe. Won’t you come in?”

Not if I have a choice. “Sure.”

The office beyond was pretty much what he expected, a lot of earthen tones and more Wonder Bread furniture, an ornamental water thingy in the corner making I’m-a-fountain noises.

“Where do you want me to sit?” he said.

“Anywhere you like.”

Danny surveyed the choices—two-seater couch, armchair, armchair, rocker—and wondered whether this was the first of the tests to determine whether he was keeping his job or not. As he couldn’t guess what it was assessing, he went with the closest armchair.

Lowering himself down, he was not surprised she took the rocker. Given the pad on the little table next to it, it seemed like it was her normal perch.

“So, do you want to talk a little about why you’re here?”

No. “I have to do this to keep my job. How long does the test take?”

“Test?”

“Yeah, I have to pass a test, right?”

The woman smiled again. “Not really.”

“Don’t lie to me.”

As her eyes narrowed, he got his first inkling that maybe things weren’t as loosey-goosey, touchy-feely as he had thought. “That’s not a lie. My job is to evaluate your mental and emotional state, but I do not do that by giving you a bunch of fill-in-the-blanks.”

“You’ve read my personnel file, right?”

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