‘The good news, however,’ said Ren, ‘is that I am leaving. I will soon have in my possession the keys to a beautiful home on Mardyke Street, straight out of Olde Denver.’

‘How did you swing that?’

‘My mom’s friend, Annie, is in need of a housesitter.’ She paused. ‘Desperate need, clearly.’

‘What? You’d be a great housesitter,’ said Cliff. ‘Clean. Rarely home. Avoids the kitchen. Excellent firearm skills…’

‘I like the way you said “clean”.’ Ren smiled. ‘I note, also, that “tidy” didn’t go along with it.’

Cliff glanced at her desk. That was all it took.

‘Where is everyone?’ Ren checked her watch.

‘Two separate robberies in the wee hours.’

‘Lucky escape for me.’

‘Yeah, because being here today will be a whole lot more fun,’ said Cliff. ‘Hey, here it is. He pointed at the television mounted on the wall in the corner and hit the volume on the remote control. Gary Dettling was standing at a podium, flanked by officers from Denver PD and the US Marshals Office.

Gary was athlete handsome, taller than all of them, dark-haired, loved by cameras. Ren had read posts on a 9 News forum from women who prayed for him to get a regular slot. Ren worked with him every day. She smiled at the screen. And you still do nothing for me. And please let it stay that way.

‘Agent Dettling, can you tell us a little more about The Rocky Mountain Safe Streets Task Force?’ said the reporter.

‘Just that it’s fabulous,’ said Ren.

Gary was nodding at the reporter. ‘The Safe Streets Violent Crimes Initiative was set up by the FBI in 1992 to tackle violent gangs, violent crimes and the apprehension of violent fugitives.’

‘Violent, violent, violent,’ said Ren. ‘Do you have any idea how brave we are?’

Cliff laughed. ‘My neighbor’s kid, he’s about sixteen years old? He thinks we help little old ladies cross the street.’

Ren shook her head slowly. ‘Safe Streets is not a great name, though…’

The reporter’s voice struck up again. ‘So, this is about pooling resources?’

‘Yes,’ said Gary. ‘The task force is FBI-sponsored, so we have access to all the FBI’s resources, but we also benefit from local law-enforcement knowledge, and we’re working together as one unit, instead of each agency taking care of individual cases that may overlap. It saves time, money, and it’s proven to be a very successful formula.’

‘You bet,’ said Ren. ‘Two people at Safe Streets are currently and fiercely protecting the city of Denver and beyond, as he speaks.’

‘Three,’ said Robbie Truax, walking in and putting his knapsack on the floor beside his desk. Robbie was a former Aurora PD detective. He was Ren’s pal; kind, wholesome, blond-haired, blue-eyed, healthy – an elongated boy scout. He was also a strict Mormon – no caffeine, no alcohol, no swearing, no sex before marriage. Robbie was the 30-Year-Old Virgin.

The TV screen flashed quickly across the first few lines of faces on the Fifty Most Wanted list. A stab of anger hit Ren.

When the hell did this change happen?

Gary picked a few fugitives from the list, pushed by producers, as always, to choose the most glamorous cases – the fallen-child-star fugitive, the murderous teen, the homecoming hooker…The Crimestoppers number scrolled across the bottom of the screen. Ren stood up and went over to the office gallery of the Fifty Most Wanted, pinned across a huge corkboard on the wall.

Cliff checked his watch. ‘Ren, don’t bother – Gary will be back in a half-hour. He said he’d go through it all when everyone’s here.’

‘Well, let me just do this—’ Ren began grabbing pins from the photos and stabbing them into the top five faces as she re-arranged them.

‘Easy tiger,’ said Cliff.


Gary slipped quietly into his office without visiting the bullpen, but Ren had seen his car drive into the lot. She paused outside his door. Despite her years at Safe Streets, there were still times when she took a moment before going in. Gary’s office was like a Dutch minimalist armchair – handsome and elegant, but you wouldn’t want to stay in it for too long. It was as if it had been designed as a quick stop-off on your way to solving a case.

Ren knocked. Gary didn’t respond. If someone said jump, Gary Dettling, wouldn’t say ‘How high?’ He would probably never jump again for the rest of his life.

Ren leaned an ear to the door.

‘Come in,’ said Gary.

He was sitting at his desk. Ren imagined him there on his first day in the job, carefully flattening out a sheet of graph paper and marking in the exact location of each piece of furniture and drawing red circles with Xs through them over any spot that would typically hold a personal touch. But Ren knew that the polished mahogany, the pristine blue carpet, the sharp lines, the austerity did not define the man. It masked him. Gary was not just head of the Safe Streets Task Force, he also trained the FBI’s UCEs – undercover employees. He had spent so long in deep-cover assignments that hiding his real life had become a habit. He had a wife, a teenage daughter, a house in the mountains, but his office gave no indication of who Gary Dettling really was.

After her own deep-cover assignment, Ren had gone the other way. Once it was all over, she wanted to reinforce who she was more than ever. The problem was, she had never worked out who Ren Bryce was. And somewhere along the way, she had given up. Now, her workspace was as impersonal as Gary’s.

‘Hey,’ she said. ‘How are you?’

Gary looked up. ‘What’s up?’

‘Uh…the Most Wanted, maybe?’

‘Late-breaking change of play.’

‘How did you let that happen?’ said Ren.

Gary stared at her. ‘It happened. US Marshals wanted it that way. I said, sure, OK.’


‘Ren, it’s done,’ said Gary.

‘I know, but…’

‘You still get to highlight the Val Pando three. OK, so they’ve dropped a few places on the Billboard charts…’ He shrugged.

‘That’s not the point.’

‘Ren, here’s the deal. Last year, we almost had the Val Pandos. And it dead-ended. This new top two have had confirmed sightings in Denver in the last month…’

‘Ah, meaning it’s going to be easier to strike this top two off the list. So everyone looks better?’

‘Including you,’ said Gary.

‘I could give two shits,’ said Ren.

Gary looked at her patiently. And glanced at the door behind her.

‘Fine. OK,’ said Ren.

‘Where are the others?’ said Gary.

‘In various states of “on their way”.’

Back in the task force office, Ren checked her email, flagged most of the new messages, then ignored them.

‘Coffee, anyone?’ Colin Grabien walked in the door with an offer he usually didn’t make until at least two hours into the day.

Colin Grabien had transferred to Safe Streets from the FBI White Collar Squad and was the task force’s IT and numbers expert. He was five foot eight in the flesh, six foot eight in spirit and a ball of latent anger. He was the

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