Sam needs a fifth person for his team and Beth has had it with her team in New York.


"Hey, Coop, are you coming to dinner with us or what?" Mick asked, sticking his head into the office.

"I was planning on it," Sam said, looking up from the papers on his desk. "Are you leaving now?"

"As soon as Gina and Prophet finish getting changed." Mick stepped inside, crossing his arms over his chest as he leaned against the wall. "Was that the director I saw heading out?"

"Yeah."

"What did he want?"

There was more than a little suspicion in his tone, and privately Sam was glad that Mick had been out in the gym sparring with Prophet and Gina when the director had arrived. While Prophet seemed to take the fact that he was still an agent pending in stride, Sam knew that it bothered Mick. Truth be told it bothered him too since he'd expected the director to promote Prophet to full agent when Gina had joined the team, but Mick in particular wasn't very good at hiding his feelings when it came to things like that.

"He dropped off a list of available agents and suggested that I look at filling that last slot of ours," Sam responded, nodding to the list in front of him rather than acknowledging the suspicion. Theirs was supposed to be a five man team, that had been the agreement since the beginning, but he and Mick and Prophet had worked well enough together that Sam hadn't been in any hurry to bring others in. Gina had been the first person that he'd seen that he'd thought would be a good fit, and while he'd quickly been proven right despite her lack of field experience, he doubted that they'd get that lucky again. He'd managed to keep the director at bay fairly well thus far in the months since Gina's arrival, but it seemed that he wasn't going to be able to keep it up much longer.

Mick scowled, although it was hard to stay whether he was actually displeased at the idea of another teammate or if it was just his displeasure with the director carrying over. Knowing him it was probably the latter; he usually enjoyed being in a group of people.

Sam shook his head and stuffed the list into his pack as he stood. He'd take a better look at it this weekend and hope that something jumped out. And if it didn't, he'd go check out the current academy class or start looking through rejected FBI applications. That was how he'd found Prophet and Gina, after all; maybe lightening would strike again. "So who won the sparring match?" he asked as he set his pack on his desk and reached for his jacket.

Mick's scowl shifted into a smile. "Me. Although if Prophet actually acknowledged that there were rules for sparring I'd kick his arse a lot more often. Plus Gina's been picking up all kinds of nasty stuff from him, and I'll tell you, man, she's got some sharp elbows."

Sam grinned in return. Prophet would never win a martial arts tournament, but the mishmash of techniques and street tricks that would get him kicked out before the first bout was over did make him an interesting sparring partner. And Sam wasn't at all surprised that Gina had been picking up on those tricks, he had a more than sneaking suspicion that Prophet was teaching her some of them on purpose. "So does that mean that he's buying the first round or that she is?"


"So it was a loner, specifically a teenage male Caucasian with a preternatural interest in chemistry and a history of fire-starting. Gee, why does that sound familiar?" Beth didn't wait for an answer. "Oh, right, that's what I said two weeks ago."

Thornburg and Rilke both gave her sideways glances but neither responded. Not that she'd expected them to. They were the main reason that the team had wasted their entire time here tracking down and interviewing the local ex-con population, after all, despite the fact that absolutely none of said ex-cons had a history of bomb-making or arson.

She shook her head. She'd told them that those interviews were a dead end, that they'd be better off focusing on the local schools and specifically the high school chemistry classes since the profile said that the arsonist would be a Caucasian male between sixteen and eighteen and anyone who knew anything about bomb making could have told them that the chemicals weren't the typical fertilizer and kitchen cleaner sort, but as usual no one had listened. Two more cars and a shed had burned while they were chasing their tails, and within the shed had burned a boy named Daniel Taylor. Who was—or had been—seventeen, with a history of trouble at school including setting a fire in one of the middle school bathrooms once upon a time. And the only subject he'd shown any interest or aptitude in was chemistry.

"So I want everyone to take the rest of the night off," Dawson said with a sigh as he wrapped up the analysis. "We'll head home tomorrow, and we can do the case write-ups when we get back."

"Well, one bomb never made it into someone's car, anyway," Thornburg said. "We can take credit for that much."

Beth snorted. "That bomb was never meant for a car, he was escalating and miscalculated. And as for credit, we could have ended it two weeks ago—" without the body of a dead kid, arsonist or not, on their hands—"if either of you had any actual investigative skill."

Rilke curled his lip. "'Escalation'? Please."

"Do you seriously think that that shed was his staging point for building bombs?" she demanded. Of course, knowing Rilke, he probably had, but…. "It was thirty-some miles from his house in a location without easy access, and no material was found there beyond the bomb itself. No, that was a test run for burning buildings, pure and simple."

"At least he's dead."

"At least—?"

"Take the rest of the night off," Dawson interrupted as Beth started to gain volume, and she clenched her teeth over what she really wanted to say and pushed herself away from the wall.

Dawson wasn't the worst team leader she'd ever had, but he had a bad habit of letting the majority rule, and she'd more than had it with Rilke and Thornburg. Rilke had been bad enough on his own, with his assumptions that the easiest answer was always the right one and never mind whether he'd arrived at that answer by logic or a damn magic eight ball, but since Thornburg had joined the team a few months ago he'd become almost insufferable. Of course, the two of them probably thought the same about her, but at least her deductions made sense and she didn't say damn stupid things like it was good that a kid—a kid who, despite an unsettling knack with explosives and the very high probability of escalation hanging over their heads, hadn't actually caused anything more than property damage to date—was dead. And as far as the rest of the team…well, she didn't mind Purros, but that was because he spent most of his time with his nose buried in his computer. When he decided to join the real world, he tended to fall in with the other two. Kane was tolerable, but she was also barely a year out of the academy and tended to let the others run over her when she needed to stand up and say what was on her mind. Beth had tried to help, but given her relationships with the others it had done more harm than good, and obviously Dawson wasn't the best example when it came to growing a spine.

She heard Kane asking the others about dinner as she headed for the door, but she didn't bother to wait for an invitation. She'd get one, she didn't doubt that, but it would be made out of obligation and she'd end up spending the entire meal either being ignored or fielding subtle digs. Well, okay, she'd spend the meal being ignored or about five minutes ignoring subtle digs before she lost her temper, and she didn't see that ending well. It had been obvious almost since Thornburg joined the team that it was time for her to move on, and she'd put in her official application with Dawson's blessing just before this case had come up, but until she got that transfer she had to at least pretend to be able to get along with her current teammates.