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Devil's Den Preview

Chapter 4

Chase sat in her car for several moments after making sure that Stitts’s apartment was empty. She wasn't sure what to do; Director Hampton had called again, stressing how important it was for her and

Stitts to come to see him.

But that was the problem. Where the fuck was Stitts?

The only good news was that Chase was almost certain that Director Hampton had a new case for them; that was the only explanation for the urgency.

It dawned on her that Stitts might already be at the FBI Training Facility, but she quickly banished the idea.

What? He went to work, leaving his place a sty and forgetting not just to lock the door, but close it? Besides, Hampton said that he couldn’t even get a hold of him; how would Stitts know that the Director wanted them to come in? Use your head, Chase.

Scowling now, she pulled her phone out and dialed Stitts’s number for what felt like the hundredth time that morning. As usual, it went directly to voicemail, which was still full.

“What the hell, Stitts?”

Chase was about to put her phone away, before hesitating. She had to go see Hampton, with or without Stitts. But she couldn’t just leave his place without doing something… could she?

With a sigh, Chase scrolled through her contacts before landing on the name of one of the few people that she could trust.

It felt cheap, passing the responsibility of her partner’s whereabouts onto someone else, but if there was a case, she needed to get started yesterday.

Chase clicked the name and then waited for her friend to answer.

"Louisa? It's me, Chase. Listen, I was wondering if you could do me a favor…"

After hanging up the phone, Chase felt a little better about her decision and made the short drive to the

FBI Training Headquarters with a relatively clear head. She wasn’t Stitts’s girlfriend, she was his partner.

Not all of the man’s personal life was her domain.

Just the parts that affected her, and by proxy, her work.

Chase had barely made it into the building before she noticed the stares, the strange looks that her colleagues tried, and failed, to subversively cast in her direction. To her surprise, this didn’t bother Chase. After what happened in Washington, after William Woodley aired that piece about her, despite since recanting, people had started looking at her with a mix of scorn and pity. But Chase didn’t care; she knew that she was quickly becoming one of the best agents in the Bureau, and the fact that she had a checkered past didn’t change that fact. It wasn’t like they came in with perfect histories, either; most every Agent was in the FBI because of something that had happened to them, or someone they knew.

They all had skeletons in their closets. Chase just happened to have a mausoleum of cadavers stalking her past.

In the present, Chase. Remain in the present.

Chase approached Director Hampton’s door and knocked once.

"Come in," a voice barked, and Chase did just that.

Hampton’s usually sour demeanor was particularly acerbic today, which manifested as deep grooves around his mouth. Even his eyes, typically a light hazel, appeared nearly black.

"Where's Stitts?" he demanded, casting a glance behind her.

Chase’s visceral reaction to the comment was one of disdain.

Stitts… you fun boys always looking out for each other, aren’t you?

She pushed these feelings aside.

"He's… He's…"

Chase shook her head. Normally, lying came easily to her; after all, she’d been lying to herself for most of her life. But for some reason, she was at a loss for words.

"He's what?"

Chase cleared her throat to buy time.

"Well, he's, uhh, he’s—"

"—running a little late," a familiar voice said from behind her. Chase turned around and had to suppress a sigh of relief when Special Agent Jeremy Stitts stepped into the office. He was wearing his characteristic navy trousers and blazer, but the white shirt beneath was buttoned incorrectly, which made the right side of his collar jut up a half-inch higher than the left. He hadn't shaved, he had dark circles under his eyes, and his hair was a mess—at least by Stitts’s standards. As if this wasn’t enough of a tip off that he’d been out the night prior, just a single step forward caused a wave of booze and cigarettes to waft in with him.

Chase stared at her partner, blinked twice, and then shook her head. Stitts ignored her and took up residence in one of the two chairs across from the Director. Chase slid into the other.

"Albuquerque, New Mexico," the Director said sternly, clearly unfazed by Stitts’s appearance. He produced a folder from the top drawer of his desk and slid it across the table. Stitts instinctively reached for it, but his movements were languid, and Chase snatched it up first. Hampton frowned and continued.

"A twenty-nine-year-old woman by the name of Bea Stigurl was found wandering just north of Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge in some sort of daze.”

As the man spoke, Chase opened the folder, holding it at such an angle that Stitts could also see.

The first photograph was of Bea Stigurl, evidently taken not long after when she'd been found. What little makeup the woman wore was streaked, her hair was thin and ratty, and her cheekbones prominent. She was thin, bordering on anorexic. Chase flipped to the second page and quickly scanned the summary, which wasn’t hard, given how sparse the information was. The woman had some sort of amnesia and could only remember her name. She had a large, but not serious, contusion on the back of her head, as well as minor scrapes and bruises. Preliminary examination revealed no evidence of sexual assault.

Chase made a face and raised her eyes.

"I don’t get it… was she kidnapped? Abducted?"

The director raised an eyebrow and with her guard down, Stitts managed to snatch the folder from her hand.

"Unclear at this point," Director Hampton informed her.

"Then why are we being called in?" Chase asked, her face awash with confusion.

Before the Director could answer, Stitts held up several photographs.

"What's all this crap?" he asked. His breath smelled like a distiller.

Chase glanced at the photographs that her partner was holding up and tilted her head to get a better view. The first was a bracelet of some sort, the second a necklace, the third a small, silver ring. There were a dozen or more similar photographs behind these first three.

“A jewellery store heist?” Chase said, half-jokingly. “We’re being called in for a—”

Stitts flipped to another photo, this time of a necklace with a small heart on it, engraved with initials.

Chase’s face suddenly dropped.

The initials weren’t BS, or B something S, like she might have expected from a woman named Bea Stigurl, but MBP.

"They're trophies," Chase said suddenly. "They're trophies from the people she's murdered."

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