Deleted Scene – Takes place two weeks before The Broken Doll
He read through his notes one last time before he shoved them back into his messenger bag and climbed out of his rental car. His meeting wasn’t for another fifteen minutes, but he couldn’t sit in his car anymore. If he was lucky, the special agent-in-charge of the San Francisco field office would be available to meet before their designated time. If not, he’d at least have a chance to stretch his legs before they got down to business. He had no doubt the meeting would be long and probably a bit tumultuous given the subject matter and who would be in the room.
Stopping at the security desk, he showed his badge to the man behind the counter. “Special Agent James Cade to see SAC Jennings. We have a ten a.m. meeting.”
He waited while the security guard checked his computer, then called up to announce his arrival. After being assured that someone would be down to get him shortly, Cade walked over to the waiting area. Instead of sitting down, he looked out the floor-to-ceiling windows that allowed him to watch the people walking by.
Before he knew it, the elevator dinged behind him, and someone was calling his name. He turned around to find a skinny, well-dressed man approaching him. His hair was perfectly styled, his tie smoothed down beneath a bright paisley vest. It was obvious the man wasn’t an FBI agent.
“I’m Michael, SAC Jennings’s assistant. She sent me down here to get you while she finished up with another meeting. Do you need anything before we head up?”
Cade shook his head, then followed the younger man back to the elevator. They made small talk on the way up to the fifth floor. Michael asked him how his flight had been, and Cade asked about places to eat around where he was staying. The more normal he could make things around him, the less likely word would get out that an agent from Quantico was in the building. He didn’t want the weirdness that would come along with that until he was sure he’d be staying in town. Even then, he’d prefer not to deal with it, but that wasn’t likely to happen.
Once they were upstairs, Michael motioned for Cade to head into SAC Jennings’s office. As his hand made contact with the doorknob, he prepared himself for the conversation ahead. He knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and he’d probably get a lot of push back from Jennings and whoever she brought into the situation. Taking a deep breath, he held it for a moment, then let it out as he pushed the door open.
Behind the wooden desk, the SAC was on the phone, so he took a seat in one of the oversized guest chairs, then pulled out the file he’d been reading in the car. Paperclipped to the back of the front cover was a picture of the most intriguing part of his case. Isabelle DiSanto, currently known as Sloane Matthews, former FBI agent, current best-selling author, and the daughter of two of the most prolific serial killers in US history.
Even without the last part, Sloane was an interesting case study for people in his line of work. Her drive to join the FBI, her meteoric rise as an agent, followed by her epic burnout. She was compelling while with the FBI, but once she essentially became a hermit living in the woods of Washington state, she turned into a mystery people wanted to solve.
Until recently, Cade hadn’t had a reason to think much about her. He’d heard about her, of course, but until she became the prime suspect in the case he was assigned to, he hadn’t bothered with trying to figure out. Now, he didn’t have a choice, which was why he’d made the trek to San Francisco. There were people in this particular field office who’d be able to give him a better idea of who he was dealing with. They also had a better chance of figuring out how to get her to come to them than he had if he stayed in Virginia.
“Sorry about that, Agent Cade. Now, how can we here at the SF field office be of assistance to you and your team at Quantico?” Diane Jennings asked, barely bothering to hide the contempt in her tone.
Cade was used to being unpopular; it was the nature of his job most of the time. Unfortunately, that lack of popularity affected everyone, even those in charge, which made his job a hell of a lot harder on most days. He couldn’t let it bother him, though, or stop him from doing his job. If he wanted to be liked all the time, he’d have gotten a job as a dog walker. People loved dogs, and by extension, they had to like dog walkers, right?
Shaking his head, Cade moved his focus back to the task at hand. He laid out what he needed from her and what he needed to know. SAC Jennings didn’t seem convinced by the very little evidence they had, and frankly, he couldn’t blame her. Sloane Matthews would be an easy scapegoat, but the list of possible other suspects was non-existent. She was the only one with the knowledge necessary to pull off what their killer had managed over the last few months.
“Look, I’m open to other possibilities, but EAD Anderson and my boss have already decided she’s guilty of this. I have a very short leash right now to either prove otherwise or bring her in.”
“I didn’t get the chance to work with her much while she was still an agent, but from all accounts, she was damn good at the job. She despised what her parents stood for and did everything she could to make up for it, even though very few people knew who she really was. Why would she do that, then turn around five years later and become the very thing she hated?”
Cade shrugged. “I honestly don’t know, but that’s why I’m here. It does seem far-fetched, but stranger things have happened. We don’t know why most serial killers turn to that life, but there’s almost always a trigger of sorts. If she is behind this, I’ll figure out what hers was. Any chance she’s been at it all this time and just now let us in on the secret? Maybe the unsub she killed at the end of her career showed her how much she enjoyed killing.”
Jennings shook her head. “I can’t believe that’s the case, but I also can’t say for sure that it’s not. No one saw that coming, though the guy deserved a hell of a lot worse for what he did. I can’t say I wouldn’t want to do the same if I’d just watched him slit the throat of a helpless little girl.”
“Between you and me, I feel the same way,” Cade admitted. “I’m not here to crucify her or pin all of this on her without proof, even if the people above me are. I need to see evidence that she’s truly behind this, not just take other people’s word for it. I would love to have your cooperation and ultimately your help.”
Jennings sat back in her chair, her arms crossed over her chest, her brows furrowed in concentration. Cade focused on breathing, fighting the weird impulse to hold his breath until she gave him an answer. Whatever she said really didn’t matter. In the long run, she didn’t have a choice. She could either help him willingly or under duress, but either way, her office, and her staff would give him what he needed. It would be a hell of a lot easier, though, if she went along with his plan willingly. Otherwise, things would get a lot tenser around here than it already was.
“Fine, I’ll give you whatever you need, Agent Cade, but hear me on this. You will not railroad her, attack her, or blame her for anything without hard proof. That woman has been through enough in her lifetime. She deserves the peaceful life I assume she’s living right now.”
“I promise you we will look under every rock we can to find proof she isn’t behind these murders. That being said, if the evidence points her way, I will take her down.”
Jennings nodded. “I would expect nothing less.”
Before he could add anything, she was picking up the phone on her desk and pressing a few numbers. When the person on the other end answered, she told them she needed them in her office. Cade wasn’t sure exactly who she was talking to, but he had an idea. And if he was right, things were about to get a whole lot more awkward and maybe a bit more hostile.
They waited a few minutes before someone knocked on the door. Jennings didn’t have a chance to tell them to come in before the door opened, and a man with short blond hair came stalking into the room. The newcomer looked over at his boss, then down at Cade, who was still seated, a smirk gracing the blond man’s face until his eyes fell on the file Cade had set on the desk. He took one look at the picture of Sloane, and the arrogant stance and badass persona were washed away and quickly replaced by remorse and anger.