The New Year of 2002 starts off with a literal bang, when Mark Vincent is called to WBIS headquarters and learns the Washington Bureau of Intelligence and Security has been disbanded. He's not happy with the situation, but he's ready to make his own way in the intelligence waters of DC. However, when Trevor Wallace, known as The Boss, requests he accept the CIA's offer of a job, Mark reluctantly agrees. He isn't surprised to find working for the CIA is exactly what he expected, with the Company not allowing him to do his job. Mark lets his resentment be known as he's partnered with one officer after another, with no success. As a result, he's determined to leave the CIA, in spite of his promise to the man whose opinion he valued so highly.
Quinton Mann is viewed as royalty in the intelligence community. He had a run-in with Mark Vincent a few years before, while Vincent was still senior special agent for the WBIS, and Quinn had developed a healthy respect for him. Now, however, it's his turn to partner with the man considered by the alphabet agencies to be a sociopath.
Quinn can see what the problem is, and he's aware Vincent might not remain CIA for long. Now, the year is drawing to a close. Will a drink on Christmas Eve change things for both men?
Although it was getting late, the sky was still light, a wash of nimbostratus clouds; according to the weather forecasters, the threat of snow was ominously hovering over this entire portion of the East Coast.
It seemed we were going to have a white Christmas.
The door of my office opened unexpectedly, and I turned my head, an eyebrow raised. I'd given Janet Watson, my personal assistant, the afternoon off, so there was no one to screen my visitors.
"Hey, Quinn." David Brendan Cooper sauntered in, grinning. We had worked together for some years, and had been friends for as long.
"DB. The least you could do is knock," I complained mildly.
"Nah. We've known each other too long. And besides, I may have been hoping to catch you-"
I raised an eyebrow.
"Never mind, you don't chase anyone around your desk."
"Maybe you should."
"Oh, not Ms. Cooper or Ms. Raffles." He named two women agents with whom I worked from time to time. I was aware he had a relationship with them, although he didn't know I knew.
"Of course not," I agreed.
"But someone. You need to-"
I frowned at him. "If you're about to say get laid, I will retract my invitation."
"What invitation?" As I'd hoped that intrigued him. "To where?"
"To my mother's for Christmas dinner."
"I haven't been invited."
"And if you persist in saying I should get laid, you won't be."
He took it as a joke and chuckled. "Forget about it."
"I'm more than happy to."
"Cool. Okay, listen, I'm calling it a day. You want to go out and have a drink, maybe grab a bite to eat?"
"I'd like to, but I just finished a late lunch."
He glanced over the papers on my desk. "And there are no doubt a few more reports you need to complete and file."
"Quinton, Quinton, Quinton. What do they say about all work and no play?"
"I'm quite aware that makes me a dull boy. Nevertheless, these reports do need to be finished. Perhaps another time." I smiled at him. "So what have you been up to?" I could afford to give him a few minutes' conversation.
"Same old, same old, but never mind about me. How are you doing?"
"I'm fine. Why would I be anything else?"
"It's your turn to deal with Vincent."
"Yes, he was transferred to my department a few weeks ago." A week before the assignment that resulted in me questioning for the first time the directors for whom I worked, who not only sent me out without a partner but ignored the intelligence I'd uncovered and sent back to Vincent.
"I'm sorry you're stuck with him, Quinn."
"But you're damned glad the last thing the Company wants is Vincent within a hundred yards of your computers?" I tried to keep the conversation light.
"Sorry." DB looked more annoyed than sorry. Cyber security was his department, and if Vincent had been anyone other than who he was, DB would have been salivating to get his hands on the man -- figuratively speaking -- and have Vincent working under him. However, the powers that be had refused the former WBIS agent permission to so much as set foot on the same floor as that department, which I felt might be an act of petty vindictiveness, given the man was a skilled operative, among many other things. Rumor had it he'd been the one who'd wiped the WBIS computers before anyone could access the information they held, although it couldn't be proven.
"Don't be." I brushed back the lock of hair that was forever falling into my eyes. "He's really not that bad, you know."
"Are you shitting me? He's Vincent."
"Well, yes, but --"
"Listen, Quinn. I heard how you tried to be nice to him in the cafeteria once."
"So you're listening to gossip now, David?" He was coming very close to crossing a line with me. He was a friend, yes, but no one ventured into my departmental life. "Officers of the CIA have nothing better to do than pass on rumors?"