When Agent Chad Brooks picks up a young hitchhiker in the middle of nowhere late at night he’s surprised the hitcher is on his way to Supinity. Why would a young man want to settle in such a small town? Was he running and hiding from the law?
“How about it, Brooks?”
Chad Brooks turned around to answer his partner, Ron. “No. You guys go ahead. I’ve had enough.” He wasn’t interested in watching the strippers dancing on the stage and even less in accompanying the women and men his partner had latched onto to go to some party.
They’d spent the evening at a nightclub in a town about forty miles west of Supinity. At Ron’s prodding and insistence, he’d gone along with him and a few other agents. All were eager to get away from the monstrous crime scene they’d witnessed and worked the last few days. This was their first night off so all they wanted was to relax to try and forget the massacre for at least a little while.
Three days ago he and his new partner, along with quite a few other agents, had been sent to replace the slain and the survivors. The surviving agents were too traumatized to continue working the case. He’d been briefed shortly after arriving.
Chad wasn’t impressed with his new assignment even if it meant a pay raise and more privileges. He’d known of the hunt for shifters but never thought he’d be sent to assist in it. He’d tried to refuse but his superior wouldn’t hear of it. Then early today the director of Phantom Division had called him. “Ron Phillips says you’re one of his best. It’s time we put an end to the endless hunt and catch the shifters. You’re to concentrate on finding them. Let the others hunt the cougars that murdered your coworkers. You’ve been reassigned to a special unit called Phantom Division. From now on you’ll answer directly to Simon Worley, owner and director of Labyrinth Technologies. For now, you’re the only special agent in Supinity County assigned to the Phantom unit. Phantom works out of Labyrinth in collaboration with us. I’ll send you further details shortly. This is all highly classified. You’re to speak to no one about it. We’ll assign you a new partner soon,” the director had told him.
Who the hell was this Simon? And he’d never heard of a company called Labyrinth Technologies. Who were they? What were they?
Soon after the call he’d retrieved the encrypted e-mail with login information and a phone number for Simon. Labyrinth Technologies was a multi-billion-dollar company that concentrated on bio chemicals, robotics, chemical weapon testing, cancer research, pharmaceuticals, paranormal activity research, and the list went on. Their directory of employees was quite lengthy. And now Labyrinth had created the new Phantom Division that concentrated solely on humans with special abilities. He found photos of Labyrinth’s buildings that were located in the Arizona desert. They were only three stories high, so he wondered if there were underground labs. Tall electric fences surrounded the property with guards posted all around. It looked impressive. Not so impressive was their involvement with the FBI and the hunt for shifters and vampires. He frowned when he read that Phantom Division was located in a top-secret facility, its location only known to those with the highest clearance.
He’d been very careful all these years. Hadn’t dated anyone since he joined the FBI and remained a very private individual, much to the disgust of the several partners he’d had over the last ten years. They’d often probed him about his personal life. Personal life? Did he even have one? Seemed that everything always revolved around his job. Even on his days off his mind was focused on catching killers, terrorists, drug smugglers, and thieves.
He’d had very little contact with his parents and siblings of late. His excuse, he had to travel a lot for his job. They thought he was a computer salesman. At times he felt guilty for the deception. His brother and sister were both married and had kids. He hadn’t even met his latest nephew. And now here he was, stuck in the middle of nowhere in a town reportedly populated by shifters and he was supposed to hunt them and turn them in to some new individual and corporation.
His beer stood untouched on the table as he left the club and headed for his car. It was a fair drive back to Supinity and one beer was his limit. He’d protested the second one, but his partner had ordered it anyway. He wondered if Ron would show up for work the next morning as inebriated as he was already.
About five miles outside Supinity he spotted a hitchhiker, a young man with a large backpack. Why would anyone thumb for a ride this late at night, especially on such a quiet, dark road? Thinking about the massacre that had just occurred he decided to pull up and give the stranger a ride.
“Where are you going?” Chad asked as he opened the window on the passenger side. A head appeared before the window. Chad couldn’t really see the man’s face clearly in the dark but he had the impression that the hiker was young.
“Hi. I’m just going to the next town.”
“Get in. Put your backpack on the backseat. The next town is Supinity,” Chad told him and after he heard the click of the young man putting his seatbelt on, pulling off the gravel and back onto the road. “Why are you going to Supinity? Do you live there?”
“No. I have my reasons for going to the town.”
Okay, the young man didn’t want to talk. Was he running from the law? Normal people didn’t hitchhike this late at night, especially in the middle of nowhere. A strange scent emanated from him, one that Chad didn’t quite recognize. He shrugged. The smell reminded him of something. A vague memory of cough syrup and chest rub stirred in his mind.
“What’s your name?”
“Teddy. Short for Theodore.”
“What’s it to you? What’s your name?”
“Chad Brooks.” What was he now? Special Agent Brooks of Phantom Division? He couldn’t introduce himself as such as it was a highly classified secret division. “I’m an FBI agent on assignment in Supinity,” Chad told him, although annoyed at the man’s attitude. Damn, he was only trying to be friendly. He glanced sideways to see if what he’d told him had made any impact. Apparently it hadn’t, so maybe Teddy wasn’t running from the law. He wasn’t allowed to talk about the Phantom Division or Labyrinth, so he guessed he’d remain supposedly working for the FBI. Fuck, he really resented them transferring him just like that without consulting him first. This was not a job he’d wanted in the first place, and least of all that he would now be working for a bunch of strangers.
“I heard about the commotion in that town,” Teddy said.
“Yes. That’s why I’m surprised you’re on a quiet road, hitchhiking in the middle of the night. It’s very dangerous in these parts. Does your family know where you are?”
“They do and I can take care of myself. Know of a good place to stay?” Teddy inquired.
“Motel’s full, so is the pub. There’s nowhere else.” Chad wondered what Teddy would do knowing there were no accommodations available.
“I’ll pitch my tent somewhere.”
“You can set it up on the motel grounds. There is plenty of room. I suggest you pitch it near the FBI’s tent. Might be safer,” Chad suggested.
“You think the cougars are likely to attack again?”
Chad pulled into the motel’s driveway. He turned the light on and studied Teddy for a moment. He looked very young, had brown eyes and an unruly mop of curly honey-brown hair. He had a cute face, boyish, yet a maturity shone from his eyes beyond his years so he had to be older than what Chad had at first thought. He looked as if he hadn’t shaved in days and appeared somewhat unkempt. Maybe he’d been on the road for days and had slept wherever he could. “You never know with cougars.” He didn’t add that he found it unlikely that cougars were the culprits of the attack. “I detect an accent. Where are you from?”
“Australia. Thanks for the lift.” After Teddy lifted his backpack out of the backseat, he started to head for the motel’s office.
“No use going there. There’s no manager. Just go ahead and pitch your tent. If anyone says anything, just tell them I gave you permission,” Chad called out after him. He wondered why Teddy had chosen Supinity as a destination. His Australian accent wasn’t pronounced, so he must have lived in the USA for a while. He decided to keep an eye on him, to make sure he was okay.