They were almost back to the SUV when Kavon spotted a pair of parole officers with their credentials hanging around their necks on lanyards. They had thunderous expressions, and both were on a beeline for him and Darren.
“Twelve o’clock,” Kavon whispered.
“Got it.” Darren walked a little faster so he would be the first to reach them.
If the danger were physical, Kavon would have stepped out in front. Technically Darren had access to more magic through Bennu, but he didn’t know how to wield his magic effectively. The largest weapon in the world couldn’t save a person who didn’t know how to use it. And while Darren had worked hard to master his shamanic skills, Kavon had twenty years of experience, so defensive magic was second nature to him.
However, this danger was more political. While Kavon was capable of letting the two officers vent their anger at him, he didn’t know how to calm the situation.
The larger of the two stopped when Darren moved to intercept him, but before the man could say a word, Darren jumped in with, “Hi. I’m Darren Oberton from the FBI. This is my boss, Kavon Boucher.”
Kavon nodded politely, and he could see the two were already off balance. They exchanged a quick glance, and then the older one said, “I’m Kyle Hall, and this is Chandler Owen. Are you working the case?” He didn’t hide his wariness.
“Offering an assist,” Kavon said calmly.
“Because the perp used magic?” Owen demanded. He had angled his body in an almost pugilistic stance, his elbows bent and his hands clenched. Kavon’s first instinct was to refuse to share anything.
“Possibly,” Darren said with caution. “You know how it is with an open investigation.” He gave an apologetic shrug. Kavon felt a whisper of magic against his skin as Darren broadcasted a sense of regret and friendliness. When they had first started practicing projection, Darren’s enthusiasm and Bennu’s power had created a nearly palpable storm front of happiness that could have challenged opium as a street drug. But now the magic was a subtle undertone that encouraged the two officers without overpowering their emotions.
The two exchanged another look, and suspicion swirled around them. Darren’s spell was subtle enough that they shouldn’t have noticed it. Unfortunately, Kavon suspected it also lacked the power to undo even a fraction of the negative emotions around these two. They were upset enough that they were instinctively blocking anything except more negativity.
“Both of you are shamans too, aren’t you?” Hall asked.
“Yes, we are, from the FBI Talent team,” Darren said easily.
Owen nearly exploded. “So, what? Did you come in to clean up after one of your own or cover for one?” He took a step forward, and several of the officers around them suddenly took notice of the conflict. Kavon stepped up to Darren’s side as the aggression levels skyrocketed.
“You don’t know us, so I’m trying to give you the benefit of the doubt here, but we’re FBI agents,” Kavon said, his voice tightly controlled. “We’re here to uphold the law, not cover for anyone.”
“Is that right?” Owen demanded.
“Jesus,” Hall whispered. He put his hand on Owen’s arm. “You are so far over the line.”
“You know we’re all thinking it.” Owen defended himself angrily. “Peterson deserves better.”
“He deserves justice. Let’s not make assumptions beyond that,” Hall said. He turned to Kavon and Darren, and pain twisted his features. “I hope you can help us find the killer.”
“That’s the goal,” Darren said softly. He was projecting a businesslike aura now. Kavon thought that was a better choice than friendliness, especially with these two who wanted revenge for their colleague.
Owen was not placated. “It just seems strange that you show up at exactly the time we don’t need you. Where were you when Peterson was trying to track down Alan Underwood?” He spit the words out.
“If he had asked for help with a suspect who used magic, we would have offered an assist,” Darren said, and both men turned nearly red in their fury.
“So you’re blaming Peterson?” Owen demanded, and for a second, Kavon thought he might take a swing.
“Whoa. Absolutely not,” Darren said quickly. He raised his hands in a gesture of surrender. “This is a result of miscommunication. We should have made it clearer to the various departments that if someone needs help with a situation that involves Talent, they can come to us as the Talent team or even go to the Djedi center. I am sorry that Peterson didn’t know that he had resources. I am sorry he was out there alone.”
“Do you mean to say that an FBI team would care about a parole officer’s attempt to track down a parolee?” Hall didn’t even hide his skepticism.
“I consider every request that hits my desk,” Kavon said. “I don’t make promises, but if the case is local, it wouldn’t involve travel costs. If I didn’t have all my people involved in major cases, I would have sent someone. I would rather back up another officer than have my people on cold cases.” If Kavon had received a request from Peterson this week, he would have sent Darren and Boyd to give an assist. Kavon’s guts tightened. That would have put the two of them in the center of an explosion that Darren might or might not have been able to prevent. Kavon had always been able to separate his personal life from work, but the idea of Darren in danger tested his resolve.
“That’s easy for you to say now, after the fact.” Owen’s fury colored every word.
“Why don’t you try asking around the precinct before you make any accusations,” Darren suggested. “If you did, you would discover that Boucher has a reputation in Maryland for being a hard-assed bastard who gets the job done and pisses the bosses off because he does what’s right and not what’s politically convenient. He would have helped.”
“Against a magician
?” Owen asked, choosing one of the most offensive slurs for those with Talent.
“Keep it up, and I’ll file an official complaint about your behavior,” Kavon warned. If these assholes weren’t responding to Darren’s good cop impression, Kavon was more than willing to provide a little bad cop.
Owen shook his head as though he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “We lost a friend, and you’re out here looking to attack us. You are arrogant bastards.”
Kavon had a ready retort, but Darren spoke up first. “Oh, sometimes we can get arrogant. I have to give you that one. But this time, you’re the ones that are out of line. If we had a black suspect and you walked up to Boucher and told him that you didn’t trust him on scene because you thought that as a black man he would cover for any other black man, you would get written up within two seconds. I want you to think about that right now. I would explain it to you, but I’m going to spend the next fifteen minutes trying to convince him to avoid filing official complaints against both of you.” Darren put a hand on Kavon’s arm and urged him to the side. Several of the watching officers stepped back as though afraid of getting caught in the middle.
“Don’t you lecture me,” Owen snapped.
Hall stepped in front of Owen. He was a good foot shorter, but Owen still stopped. “Hey, drop it. The Fed is right, you’re out of line,” Hall said.
“Me? You think I’m the one out of line?”
“You’re so far out of line that you can’t see where the line is anymore,” Hall told him without any mercy. Kavon didn’t know whether Hall believed that, or if he was trying to head off an official complaint. Hall turned to Darren. “Right now our number one priority has to be that suspect.”
Owen added, “Make sure that you and your boss are sticking with that agenda. Don’t come in here playing the abused minority.”
Hall flushed and then turned red all along his neck. “Agents, I apologize for my partner. He’d known Peterson for a very long time, and it’s making him unreasonable.”
“Yes, it is,” a new voice said. Kavon turned to see Commander Emerson coming through the crowd. One of her officers must have warned her of trouble. “Owen, one more word and I’m filing an official complaint with your supervisory officer. Agents, this attitude is not shared by the department.”