Welcome To The Harem

An Office Romance (Part 1 of 7) by Scifinerdgrl
Summary: This is my attempt to explore what Reyes could have been thinking when she got involved with Brad Follmer. This story takes place between her arrival at the New York Field Office (after graduation from the FBI academy in 1995), and her first meeting with John Doggett in 1997.

From: Scifinerdgrl
Date: 1 Oct 2002 12:03:01 -0700
Subject: NEW: An Office Romance (1/10)
Source: atxc

Title: An Office Romance
Author: Scifinerdgrl
Rating: NC-17
Classification: X/R
Keywords: Follmer/Reyes Romance, Pre-XF, X-File
Summary: This is my attempt to explore what Reyes could have
been thinking when she got involved with Brad Follmer. This
story takes place between her arrival at the New York Field
Office (after graduation from the FBI academy in 1995), and her
first meeting with John Doggett in 1997.

Disclaimer: I started writing this story before 1013 changed
the time line for the Pre-XF background for Reyes, Doggett, and
Follmer. I can't figure out how to accommodate the change of
date in "Release: so I won't! Here's my time line: 1995 Monica
Reyes begins her FBI fieldwork with Follmer as her supervisor;
1997 Luke Doggett Case


Brad Follmer, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field
Office's Crimes Against Children Division, sat at his new desk,
surveying his new office with pride. He inhaled deeply, as if
the air in the office could infuse him with the success his
predecessor had enjoyed. His predecessor, now an Assistant
Director at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., was both his
mentor and the model for his own career aspirations. He looked
toward the guest chairs on the other side of the desk, the
chairs he had so often inhabited. He looked forward to being a
mentor for the new agents assigned to his office. He would
listen patiently to their troubles, then dispense just the right
words, sending them back into the world with renewed confidence.
Things were about to come full circle.

"Mr. Follmer," the intercom interrupted his musings and he
jumped slightly.
"My intercom -- my secretary," he thought to himself pridefully.
His eyes grazed the buttons on the phone until he found what he
hoped was the right one. He pushed the button, held it down, and
said "Yes, Janet?" No response from the speaker. He lifted his
finger. "Yes, Janet?" Still no response. He put his hands on
either side of his head, and gazed intently at the buttons, his
eyes moving from one to the other as he puzzled over each's
function. Suddenly the door swung open. He looked up in
embarrassment. "Janet," he started.

She marched efficiently to his desk and fingered the button he'd
dismissed as useless. "That one," she said conspiratorially.
"Press it once and let go. And be sure to press it again when
you're finished."

He looked up at her sheepishly. "Thank you," he said. Then, as
if to assert his authority and possibly also his manhood, he
said, "What did you want?"

"Your new special agent is here. Monica Reyes. Should I send her

"Yes, of course."

Monica Reyes sat in the outer office, crossing and re-crossing
her legs, trying to push the morning's doubts from her mind.
She'd felt excited and exuberant as she stepped onto the subway
platform near her Brooklyn apartment, but as her subway car
swayed and the experienced New Yorkers let their bodies sway
with it, she started to feel even more like an outsider and a
fraud. Her clothes, her shoes, her briefcase... she had agonized
over her choice of each, yet they all felt wrong to her. In
Manhattan, walking up the stairs to the street level, she felt
the warmth of the sun on her face, and as that warmth fought
against the cold winter wind for her attention, she searched
deep inside herself for the optimism that had carried her
through so many difficult days.

She paused in front of the field office, unbuttoned her coat to
reveal the FBI badge on her blazer, and took a deep breath. "I
can do this," she said to herself, and she marched toward the
security guard. He nodded perfunctorily at her badge and let her
through. She took comfort in being
treated so casually. "I belong here," she thought excitedly.
"This is where I work!"

As she stood in front of the directory, scanning the white
plastic letters behind the glass, she noticed the reflections of
the people passing behind her. One man caught her eye. He was
tall, thin and authoritative. His demeanor said "FBI" and she
couldn't imagine anyone challenging his
authority. She sighed. She would never have that demeanor. She
turned to get a better look at the tall man and she gasped. His
face was at once babyish and handsome, and his hair was a shade
of light brown she'd never seen before. He turned in her
direction, and seeing her looking at him, he
smiled. His teeth were bright and even, and his eyes sparkled as
he smiled. She smiled back at him, blushing slightly. "He knows
he's good-looking," she thought. "What a prick." He turned away
from her, and she quickly turned back to the directory. "Get
ahold of yourself, Monica," she
berated herself. "You're here to work." Yet even as she rode the
elevator to her destination she continued thinking about the
smiling stranger.

In the waiting room, she ran her hand across the top of her
briefcase. Although it contained only make-up and a day-runner,
it gave her a sense of purpose, of professionalism. "I'm a
Federal Agent" she rehearsed in her mind. Suddenly the door
opened and the secretary emerged, followed
by her new supervisor. It was the smiling stranger.

Follmer stopped walking mid-stride. His mouth hung open for just
a second, but it was long enough for Monica to know that he
recognized her too. "Damn," she chided herself. "Why did you
have to smile at him?" But he recovered is composure so quickly
that she found herself wondering later if she'd read him right.

"Ms. Reyes," he said warmly, smiling a more subdued smile than
his lobby smile. "Won't you come in?"

She walked toward his office, and he followed her for a few
steps then paused. Out of the side of his mouth he whispered to
Janet, "No intercom -- just knock, okay?"

When Follmer walked through the door he noticed that Monica had
taken the chair that he used to take in her position. He smiled
inwardly. Perhaps she truly would be his replacement. He sat
down at his chair and looked appraisingly at his new charge.

"I've heard good things about you from the instructors at the
academy, Agent Reyes," he started.

"Thank you, sir," she said. She wondered which instructors he
knew and what they had said about her, but she didn't dare ask.
There was an awkward silence, and his face seemed expectant. Did
he expect her to have heard of him?, she wondered. She smiled
weakly. "I hope I can live up to whatever they said.

He wanted to hear her say something about him, but then he
reminded himself, this meeting is about her. "I'm sure you will.
Just remember, you can always come to me for help. This is a
tough division, and it can be especially difficult for new

"I know that sir, but I volunteered for this division because I
like a challenge." She instantly regretted her words -- they had
just spilled out, and she could see his lips fighting not to
curl upwards in amusement. "I mean, of course, all divisions are
challenging... and ..."

"I understand," he interrupted. "Don't be embarrassed. You've
just confirmed what I'd already heard about you. And now I also
know that you're honest and self-aware. These are good qualities
for the job." She relaxed visibly, and Brad congratulated
himself on his first mentoring success. "But keep my offer in
mind in case you face some... unexpected challenges, okay?"

Monica nodded. "Now, I'll show you around, and please, feel free
to ask me anything."

For the next hour he escorted her from office to office,
introducing her to his colleagues. She blushed at first as he
listed her credentials in the most glowing terms, but by the
time they reached her office her back-story had become a
well-rehearsed speech on his part and a rather boring
exposition for her. They arrived at a non-descript door, its
blandness marred only by its placard:

Brad Follmer, Special Agent.

Monica looked at Brad in confusion. "This used to be my office,"
said in answer to her unasked question. "It's yours now. I'll
have Janet order a nameplate for you."

He pulled a key ring out of his pocket, unlocked the door, then
wound the key around the ring and gave it to her, smiling
broadly. "Welcome to your FBI home."

She stepped tentatively inside as Brad flicked the light switch.
Two walls were lined with bookshelves, and framed pictures of
children crowded the rest of the wall space. Monica felt drawn
to the pictures, and she approached the closest ones. Her eyes
looked at each face, scanning upwards then down, moving toward
the black-and-white pictures at the other side.

"That's what this office is about, Monica." Brad said seriously.
"All of those children are dead."

At his last words tears came to her eyes and she turned around
to face him. "All of them? No successful cases at all?"

"It's a success if we find the perpetrator. Most of these cases
didn't come to us until the children were already dead." He
studied her face carefully. "Are you sure you can handle this?"
he asked, modulating his voice in a way that he knew would
elicit an honest answer.

She nodded. "It's sad, is all." She put her hand on one of the
pictures and suddenly her mind's eye showed her the perpetrator,
a middle-aged man with horn-rimmed glasses and a greasy
comb-over designed to hide his balding pate. Suddenly her hand
felt hot and she pulled it away as if from a
flame. She inhaled and looked at Brad. He seemed not to have
noticed any reaction, and she exhaled deeply. "So," she started
awkwardly, stepping toward her desk. "When do I get my first

"I want you to study some old case files first. Then in a few
weeks I'll partner you with an experienced investigator and
you'll start with some parental kidnapings." He studied her face
as she nodded. "It's the most common type of kidnapping, Monica,
and the hardest to solve. I'm not
lobbing softballs here, okay?" She nodded again and sat down at
her desk as his hand skimmed over several binders on the shelves
to her left. She found herself looking at his back, wondering if
he was muscular despite his thinness, wondering if he was
single... He turned around quickly, as if
sensing her watching him.

"Here," he said, setting two binders on her desk as he grabbed a
pad of yellow post-it notes. "Read through the ones I'm marking,
then make an appointment with Janet so we can discuss them." She
nodded obediently. "I know you thought you were finished with
homework, but in reality it's just beginning," he said

"Thanks," she smiled and reached for the first binder. "I want
to learn."

Brad strolled jauntily back to his office and paused at the
door. The nameplate read, "Crimes Against Children Division,
Agent Michael Brennan, Special Agent In Charge." Brad made a
mental note to himself to order a new nameplate for himself then
opened the door.

Janet was on the phone, her face relaxed and smiling. When she
saw Brad enter she said, "Hang on, Mike. He just walked in."

"Mike's on the phone?" Brad said excitedly.

"Hold on I'll transfer you," Janet said into the phone. She
pushed a button, stood up, and followed Brad into his office.

He stood at his desk as Janet instructed him in the transfer
process. He was a little annoyed when it turned out to be
simple, but he appreciated her efficiency. She had been Mike's
secretary, and he felt almost as much awe for him as for her.
When she'd shut the door he sat down and snapped
up the phone. "Mike!" he shouted gleefully. "How is D.C.?"

"It's too soon to say," Mike started. "I have taken a week off
to unpack and get settled. I wanted to see how your first day
is going. Have you met your replacement yet?"

Brad filled him in on the start he'd made with Monica. "I think
you've made a fine choice there. She'll be very helpful to you."

"How so?" Brad asked. One of the last things Mike had done was
help Brad select Monica from the stack of transfer requests that
had come in. Brad valued Mike's opinion but had not thought of
an agent as being "helpful" before.

"Brad, you're going to be supervising a lot of men who are older
than you are. You're up to it, but it will be tough sometimes.
This new agent has no agenda, no alliances... Get her on your
side, right from the start. She can't help you now, but her
loyalty will pay off down the line."

Brad felt a knot form in the pit of his stomach. "I was
planning on putting her on parental kidnapings at first."

"Good move," Mike offered. "Difficult cases, but few dead
victims. You need to get her started on something safe." They
spoke about Reyes' training for a few more minutes, then Mike
abruptly said, "I'm leaving the division in good hands. And
remember, the A.D. is always happy to help the division. Cases
with children can make or break a field office's reputation.
Keep that in mind."

"I will, Mike," Brad said. He felt a little sadness welling up
in him. He knew Mike would not be as available now. "And,
Mike..." he started.

"Yeah," Mike answered, a little skeptically.

"Thanks for all your help over the years. I wouldn't have made
it this far without it."

"I know, kid," Mike answered. "Make me proud."

They ended their conversation and Brad sat staring at the only
folder on his desk, Monica's personnel file. After thumbing
through it for a minute, he reached for the phone and pushed the
intercom button. "Janet?" he said. No response. He let go of
the button. "Damn" he swore to himself.

"I heard that," Janet's voice came over the intercom. "What did
you need?"

"Call the A.D.'s office. See if he can see me tomorrow."

Monica sat at her desk, the binders staring up at her,
threatening to swallow her self-confidence. She looked at her
watch. 10:30. She wondered if she could take a coffee break
first. After a few minutes wandering around, trying to remember
where a ladies room might be, she found herself
back at Brad Follmer's office.

"Excuse me, um Janet?" she said tentatively.

Janet looked up and smiled welcomingly. "Agent Reyes, do you
need something?"

"Yes, I need to find the ladies room. I've found three men's
room and no ladies room yet." Her hands moved from her hips, to
clasping each other, to crossing over her chest as she spoke.
"And, if you could tell me where I might get some coffee..."

Janet stood and smiled. "Let me show you. Just a second." She
knocked on Brad's door and opened it. "Agent Follmer, is it
okay if I take my coffee break?" Follmer stood and went to the
door. Janet stepped backward and revealed Reyes standing behind
her, smiling awkwardly.

"Agent Reyes," he said warmly. "Is there something you need?"

Janet positioned herself next to Monica. "I was just going to
show her where to..." she looked at Monica and winked. "find
some coffee."

Brad looked from one woman to the other then smiled with forced
empathy. "Good. I guess I forgot a few things on our tour, eh,
Agent Reyes?"

"Nothing that critical, but..." Monica stuttered. "Yeah, there
are a few things."

In the elevator Janet filled Monica in on the bathroom
situation: Two floors up or three floors down. And the best
coffee was at a deli a block away. The two women chatted
cheerily on the way back from the deli, their coffee cups
warming their hands. At the front door Janet stopped. "You go
on, Monica," she said, reaching into a pocket. "I'll drink my
coffee here." Janet pulled a pack of Morley's out of her
pocket. She shook out a cigarette, grabbed it with her mouth,
then put the pack back in her pocket and pulled out a lighter.
The cigarette dangling from her lips, she added, "Can't smoke
inside anymore. I'm getting used to it, though."

Back on her floor, Monica roamed around, sipping her coffee,
looking for company. She found a room lined with file cabinets,
a large conference table in the center. She sat in a seat that
would be visible from the door, and listened eagerly for the
sound of footsteps. Hearing nothing, she scanned the labels on
the fronts of the file cabinets. Case numbers -- impersonal
labels attached to personal tragedies. Above the cabinets,
framed awards for the division lined the walls, with pictures of
children interspersed throughout. One child's picture caught
her eye. She stood to see it more closely, and found herself
almost floating as her hand reached out to the little boy. He
had blond hair, and was wearing well-worn pajamas. He looked
so normal, yet she felt a shiver as she looked into his eyes.
"Agent Reyes," she heard a voice at the door say.

"Agent Follmer," she looked up, startled. "I'm sorry, I thought
it would be okay to have my coffee here. I didn't mean to..."

"It's okay, Agent," he said soothingly. He walked toward her,
his eyes on the picture. "Do you recognize him?"

"No, should I?" Reyes answered.

"That's Etan Patz," Follmer said, then paused to see if she
recognized the name.

"Was he killed?" Reyes asked.

"We don't know. All these pictures are of unsolved cases --
missing children who have been missing for a long time. Etan
Patz has been missing since 1979." (This is an actual missing

He looked almost wistfully at the picture. "I tell ya, Monica.
If you could solve this case, your career would take off like a
shot." Monica stared at him in disbelief. "Of course, we all
want to find this little boy, or I guess now, man, if he's still
alive..." he said awkwardly. "At least give his family some
closure if he isn't, but..." he studied her face as he spoke.
"If you could boost your career in the process, so much the

Monica looked into his eyes, not sure how to interpret what she
saw. "This is my first day," she said with deliberate
lightness. "I'm not thinking that far ahead yet. So far I
haven't been able to find the ladies' room!"

He laughed. "Is that what Janet needed to show you? I'm sorry
about that. I wasn't thinking..."

"It's okay," Monica said, trying to ease his discomfort. "At
least you didn't show me the men's room, either."

He smiled. "No chance of that," he assured her. "I noticed you
were a woman right from the start." He put a finger to his eye
and added, "Trained investigative eyes. I never miss a trick!"

She laughed lightly, and it seemed to him her eyes were
sparkling. Instinctively, he quashed the feelings her smile
elicited, but he still found himself liking this woman. They
stayed in the file room, and as she sipped her coffee he filled
her in on all the unsolved cases represented by the pictures on
the walls. Then he patted the file cabinets. "Here are the
rest of the unsolved cases. No danger of running out of work,

Monica spent the rest of the day reading through case files in
her office, the door propped open in the hopes that fellow
agents would stop by. None did. At 4:30 she closed the binder on
the last of the case files that Brad had flagged. The cases all
ended the same way: the special agent, often
Brad himself, rescued the child and apprehended the perp. Reyes
leaned back in her chair and glanced at the other binders, then
went to a shelf and started thumbing through one. Pictures,
interviews, autopsy reports and rape kit analyses... The
investigator's routine was clear to her by
now, and none of the cases in the binders held any appeal for
her. She found herself thinking about the cases in the file
cabinets instead. Those agents had done all the right things, no
doubt, but still weren't successful. She grabbed her briefcase
and purse and left the office, being careful to lock the door.
She went to the room with the file cabinets, which she now knew
was the conference room. She opened a drawer at random and
pulled out some files:

Case #83-1024: Child abducted from playground.
Case #83-1068: Runaway teen.
Case #83-1133: Homeless child missing from father's van.
Case #84-0105: Child missing from hospital emergency room.

She sat at the conference table and focused her mind on the
stack of folders. An unpleasant feeling, somewhat nauseating,
yet oddly compelling, suffused her soul. Evil was reaching out
from within the folders, and it angered her. She opened the top
folder and placed the palm of her hand
over the child's picture. She closed her eyes and saw a group of
teens playing basketball in a park, a younger child looking on
through a chain-link fence. A shadow passed over the child's
features and Monica felt an icy cold wind on her face. Suddenly,
her hand felt hot and she pulled it off the picture. The image
of the basketball court and the child vanished, and she was left
staring again at the picture. If only she could have held the
image longer, she thought. She might see what the investigators
had missed. She put the four folders in her briefcase and pulled
another three from a file drawer. She closed her briefcase, and
rubbed her hand over the side. She could feel the evil passing
through her palm, to the pit of her stomach, then to the back of
her neck. "I have to try," she thought. "I can't ignore these

She looked at her watch: 5:00. Time to go home. Home, where she
might have the strength to hold the visions longer. On the
subway, she could feel the force emanating from her briefcase as
she clung to the pole with her other hand. She swayed with the
motions of the subway, and felt the heat of her briefcase
approaching then leaving the side of her leg.

She exited the Carroll Gardens subway stop and looked around,
getting her bearings. The two-story brownstones cast long
shadows across the street, and the winter wind swirled
newspapers and other trash around her feet. She grimaced and
tightened her grip on her briefcase, defiantly bringing its evil
closer to her person. The picture of a two-headed baby caught
her eye,
and she stopped at a newsstand to buy the Weekly World Tattler.
As she fumbled in her purse for her wallet, she brought her
briefcase up onto the counter protectively. After paying, she
tucked the newspaper under her arm and walked on toward her

She turned down her street, a residential street lined on either
side with rowhouses that had been divided into small apartments,
like hers. The sun had dipped just below the horizon and
everything, even the brick facades of the houses, had turned a
gray-blue in the twilight. She pulled her briefcase up under her
arm, and hugged it to her side. With one arm clasping the
newspaper and the other clasping the briefcase, she felt a
little clumsy, and she decided to stop and put the newspaper
into the briefcase. As she lowered the briefcase, she felt it
get lighter, then felt it disappear into nothingness. She looked
up and saw a tall, slender boy running down the street with the
briefcase. She started to run after him, but he ducked into an
alley and disappeared from her view.

Monica ran as far as the corner, then stopped and looked around.
Even though she knew she wouldn't see him, she strained to peer
as far as she could. Feelings of anger, helplessness,
embarrassment, and fear overwhelmed her, and her lower lip
started to quiver. Suddenly she saw a police patrol car
approaching, and she ran into the street to flag it down. The
car slowed and stopped at the curb. The officer in the driver's
seat rolled down the window a few inches. "Someone just
snatched my briefcase," Reyes said breathlessly. "He's tall,
thin, dark-skinned, but I'm not sure how dark... He's wearing a
black sports jacket and blue jeans. Fancy sneakers -- expensive
designer stuff..."

The two officers looked at each other and the driver said to his
partner, "You take the report, I'll look for the perp.... And
don't say I never did you a favor." He winked and his partner
opened the car door.

"Thanks, John," he said. "Don't hurry back."

The officer walked around the rear of the car to the shaken
young woman. His partner watched for a moment, then drove off.
Monica looked up into the penetrating brown eyes of the officer.

He smiled broadly and held out a hand. "Officer Costello,
ma'am." He was tall, and had obviously made body-building a
habit. His hair was nearly black and slightly wavy. Monica
resisted the urge to check his hand for a wedding ring, but
resolved to sneak a glance soon. She held out her hand
and he took it, shaking it vigorously.

"Monica Reyes," she said, her voice a little shaky.

"So tell me what happened, Mrs. Reyes," Costello said, his voice
the model of compassionate efficiency.

Monica told him what she could, and when she'd finished, a tear
sneaked down one cheek. She brushed it away quickly and sniffed.
"I'm sorry," she said in embarrassment. "I've never been robbed

"That's okay," he said. "Everybody gets shaken up when they're
robbed." She smiled at him gratefully. "What was in your

"Files, from work," she started. "FBI case files."

Costello raised his eyebrows. "You work for the FBI?"

"Yes," Reyes admitted. "Today was my first day."

Costello flashed a compassionate smile, then continued
questioning her about the crime. He interspersed his questions
about the crime with chit-chat about the FBI, her recent move,
her education. He pulled a business card out of his pocket and
wrote on the back. "Here's my card, if
you have any questions feel free to call. And here," he turned
the card over. "Is my home phone number. You can call me
anytime." She took the card and grinned. Her demeanor seemed
more relaxed to him, and he felt hopeful that she might call
him. Then, as if on cue, his car pulled up.

The driver rolled down the window and shouted. "Couldn't find
him. Want me to keep looking?"

Costello looked at Reyes and said, "I think we're done here.
Want a lift home, Agent Reyes?"

She sighed. "Yes, thank you. Even though it's close..." He held
the rear door open for her and she slid into the patrol car. The
driver turned around and smiled.

"This is my partner, John Doggett," Costello said. Monica and
John nodded to each other and John turned back to the front.


The next morning, Monica's legs felt heavy as she climbed the
stairs out of the subway station. Janet was standing by the
front door, smoking and chatting with a fellow smoker. "Monica?"
she said. "Are you okay?"
Monica mustered her strength and replied stoically, "I've had
better days."

Janet's companion stomped out his cigarette and said his
goodbyes. Janet asked with motherly compassion, "What happened?"
Monica spilled the whole story as Janet lit then smoked another
cigarette. Janet's reaction was not what Monica expected. She
took the news of the lost files in stride, and when Monica's
anxiety and Janet's cigarette had both been extinguished, she
ushered Monica into the building. "C'mon. We'll tell Brad

Brad Follmer sat at his desk, the private personnel folders of
all of his agents stacked before him. He knew all these agents
personally, and found reading their personnel files an
eye-opening experience. He looked up, surprised, when Janet
ushered an embarrassed Monica, trench coat buttoned against his
wrath, into his office.

As Monica told her story, Brad tried to maintain a supportive
demeanor, but he couldn't help his groans, sighs, and
disbelieving interjections. "Those files aren't supposed to
leave that room..."

"You told a *beat* cop?" "He's making an official report?..."
He put his hands behind his head and looked at the ceiling,
hoping this was a bad dream.

Monica steeled herself and kept her composure throughout. When
she was finished, she stood quietly and waited for the
explosion, the tirade, the veiny-necked tongue-lashing, that she
felt she deserved. Instead, Brad offered her a patronizing sigh
and an exasperated expression.

"I'm so sorry," she added. "I really shouldn't have..."

"No, it's not your fault," he said. "I should have told you not
to take those files..." He brought his eyes to hers and saw the
pain in them. He sighed loudly then pursed his lips in thought.
"Did the cop give you his card?" he asked.

Monica pulled Costello's card from her pocket and handed it to
Follmer. Brad picked up the phone and dialed the number.
"Officer Costello, please," he said officiously. As he waited
he absently played with the card, turning it over to reveal the
officer's home phone number. Follmer
shook his head and thought "This keeps getting worse and

Monica remained standing as Brad talked to Costello. She
started to feel warm but didn't want to attract his attention by
removing her coat. She stood as still as she could, as if by
not moving she could disappear.

"If you do find those files," he said with finality. "Don't
call Agent Reyes, call me, okay? Those files are my
responsibility." He gave Costello his phone number then hung up
and looked into Monica's eyes.

She seemed nervous and looked flushed. He felt a little flushed
himself, both from the challenge of fixing this mess, and from
the power he held over her emotions. He paused to think, unsure
of the proper way to respond to Reyes. He squinted slightly and
studied her face.

Suddenly, she fell into a heap on the floor.

An Office Romance, by Scifinerdgrl Part 2

She came to laying on her back, her coat unbuttoned and spread to
her sides. Brad and Janet knelt at either side, concerned looks
on their faces. Janet was reaching toward her face, a wetted
paper towel in her hand. Reyes' eyes widened and she rolled to
her side to avoid Janet's hand.

Brad grabbed her upper shoulder and pushed her back onto her
back. "Relax, Agent Reyes. You just fainted," Brad said kindly.
He took the wetted paper towel from Janet and laid it across
Monica's forehead.

"I fainted?" Monica whimpered. "That's not like me..."

"What do you remember?" Janet asked.

"Just, feeling warm, and..." Monica thought back to the moments
before her faint. "That's all, just warm."

"Well, you did have your coat on..." Janet offered. Monica nodded
in response. "I'll get you some water." Janet rose and left the
office, leaving Monica on the floor with a concerned Brad looking

"I think I'm fine," Monica said as she raised herself up on her
elbows. Brad took one of her hands in his and helped her up. He
walked her to the nondescript naugahyde sofa that occupied the
far corner of the office. She sat down and looked gratefully up
at him. "Thank you. Really, I was just overheated..." she
stammered. "And I didn't eat any dinner last night."

"Or breakfast this morning?" Brad asked. Monica shook her head.
Brad felt a surge of sympathy for her. She was so worried about
the files she couldn't eat? He imagined what it must have been
like for her the night before. He pulled at the collar of her
coat and her shoulders folded over to help him remove the coat.
"Feeling better?" he asked.

She nodded, feeling both excited and embarrassed by his attention
to her. Janet arrived with a paper cup of cool water, and Reyes
drank it down in a few gulps. "Thanks," she said softly. "That
helped a lot. I think I'm ready to work now."

"First, you need to eat something," Brad said paternally. "And
then we're going back to Brooklyn to look for those documents."

Reyes was relieved to hear him assigning her a task, especially
one that might help her redeem herself after her mistake. She
started to stand, but Follmer was standing in front of her,
blocking her way. "Give yourself a minute, Agent. I need to tie
up a few things before we go." To Janet he
added "Get her some more water, and reschedule that appointment."
Janet nodded and left the room again as Brad walked to his desk.
"Just relax, Monica," he said. She couldn't help watching as he
reorganized the files on his desk, put them in a file drawer,
tidied his desk, and checked his calendar. She found it hard
to believe he'd been in his position only a day and yet had
such a grasp of his space and his authority.

As they exited his office they saw a pair of agents escorting a
somewhat disheveled middle-aged man out of their office. Brad
and Monica paused to let them pass, and as they did Monica felt a
flush of warmth come over her again, along with a wave of nausea.
She swayed slightly and put her hand against the wall to steady
her. Brad put his arm around her shoulders and righted her.

"Do you need to rest some more?" he asked solicitously.

She watched as the three men walked down the hall and entered the
elevator. "No," she said, shaking her head. "I'm fine. I just
felt warm again for a minute."

He took her to a noisy caf with a glassed-in extension built
over the sidewalk. They ordered coffee, and Reyes studied the
menu. She didn't feel hungry, but felt pressured to eat. She
ordered an omelet and picked at it as Brad sipped his coffee and
watched her. Finally she said, "Being watched isn't helping my

He smiled, and she could see where his crows' feet would someday
be. "I'm sorry... Please, I didn't mean to make you nervous."

"You're my boss and this is my first job. And I've already
screwed up. Being watched while I eat is just one more thing..."
Monica said, almost defiantly.

He leaned forward on his elbows and looked directly into her
eyes. "This is the first time I've been a supervisor, so we're
even, okay?"

She looked away, blushing slightly. "Okay," she mumbled, and
returned to her food.

Brad continued looking at her, trying to think of the right
words, words that would make her feel better, not worse. He
waited until she raised her eyes again and said, "Really, Monica,
I'm not an ogre. You can come to me with any problem, any time.

She could see that he was sincere, and that she had hurt his
feelings with her embarrassment. She stopped chewing and stared
at him for a moment. Finally she swallowed and said, "Okay."

An awkward silence fell over them and they each sipped their
coffees, keeping their eyes on each others' eyes. Monica was the
first to break the silence. She put her fork on her plate with
finality and said, "I really can't eat any more."

Brad stood and watched carefully as Reyes did likewise. When he
was satisfied she was alright he paid the bill and they left.
They walked to an underground parking garage and after Brad
started his car he said, "Now, where did that brief-case
snatching happen?"

Brad parked where the squad car had been the day before, and put
an FBI placard on his dashboard. Monica stared at it, impressed
with her new parking status, until Brad tapped on the window.
She hurriedly opened the car door, whacking Brad in the process.
They both grimaced then laughed.

"Okay," Brad started when the car was safely locked. "Which way
did this guy run?"

Monica gave him directions and they walked along the sidewalk.
They came to an opening into an alley and Brad said, "This one?"

"It might be," Monica answered. "I'm not sure."

Brad sighed and said resignedly, "We'll start with this one."
They walked into the narrow alley, the two-story brick walls of
the rowhouses forming a narrow canyon around them. They saw
nothing unusual but as they walked Brad briefed her on what to
look for. "Dumpsters, any garbage laying around, abandoned
cars... He wouldn't have wanted to be caught with any I.D. of
yours. He'd stop somewhere dark, someplace he could hide, and
then check the contents. He probably thought from your body
language there would be something valuable in there -- that's why
he didn't take your purse..." Brad paused as they came to the
alley running behind the rowhouses. He looked in both
directions then chose one. "You take the left, I'll take the
right..." he said.

Monica went to a dumpster and tentatively opened one of its two
lids. She looked over her shoulder to see what Brad was doing,
and seeing that he was looking under a car, found no clue how to
proceed. She pushed the lid a little further up, and held it
with one arm as she hooked the other arm over the edge. She
peered in, but the other lid cast a shadow and she couldn't see
anything. Still holding the lid, she slid her hand down the
inside until it came upon something wet. Instinctively, she
pulled back, then checked to see if Brad had seen her. He had.

He was by now two rowhouses down the alley, and she was still
where she'd started. He walked back and said, a touch of
condescension in his voice, "Maybe we should work on this

Monica tried to smile but her frustration furrowed her brow and
the resulting expression was so pitiful Brad had to suppress a
laugh. "They don't teach dumpster diving at the Academy yet,
eh?" he asked. Before she could respond, he flipped the lid
backward, and it clanged loudly against the back. He repeated
the lid trick then said, "Well?"

"You really mean *in* the dumpster?" Monica said, incredulous.

He put his hands together, interlocking them into a stirrup, and
lowered them to Monica's mid-thigh. "I'll give you a leg up
because you're new."

She put her foot into his hands and he lifted her up with more
power than she would have expected. She jumped over the side and
landed with one foot on something slippery and the other on a
plastic garbage bag that ripped under her weight. As she was
looking down she saw Brad's feet land nearby. "Let's get to
it," he said with boyish glee.

They dug through the top layer of trash, Brad talking the whole
time about investigative techniques: how to tell how long trash
has been in a dumpster, the trash pick-up schedules in the
various parts of their jurisdiction, the kinds of things that
look like nothing but might be evidence.

By the time they had searched three dumpsters Reyes had become
expert in entering, searching the top level of trash, and exiting
a dumpster, and Follmer was quite proud of her. "She's a quick
study," he thought. In his office he had been having doubts
about the choice he made, but Monica was quickly earning his
respect. They split up again, and she searched her side faster
than he searched his side this time. He looked over his shoulder
to see her ass poking up as she heaved herself over a dumpster.
It disappeared into the dumpster and he sighed, hoping that some
new and unwelcome feelings would disappear also.

They finished their first block and were half-way down the second
block when Reyes jumped out of a dumpster and fell to her knees.

Brad rushed to her side and helped her up. "Are you okay?" he

Monica didn't answer. Instead, she returned to the dumpster, her
face expressionless. She hopped over the edge easily, and Brad
ran to the side and peered over. Monica felt her feet getting
warmer, until it felt like they were on fire. She gritted her
teeth and walked gingerly around the dumpster, stopping to rest
for a second in one corner. She stepped backward, dropped to her
knees, and frantically started digging through the trash to the
lowest layers.

Brad hopped over the edge and knelt next to her. "What are you
looking for, Monica? What is it?" he said, infected by her

"Help me, Brad," she said, annoyed at his questions.

Instinctively, he obeyed her command and started digging in the
same spot. When they were both up to their elbows in trash they
both felt the same thing. They paused and looked into each
others' horror-stricken faces, then continued digging.

When they reached the bottom, Brad looked with sadness into the
beaten yet serene face of a toddler, then he looked to Reyes in
the hopes of an explanation. Her forehead wrinkled up and she
turned around, vomiting over the side of the dumpster.

Brad pulled his cell phone from his pocket and dialed for help as
Monica leapt over the side. She leaned against a brick wall,
then slid down to a squat, her back against the wall, her head in
her hands. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. Feeling the
gentle touch of a hand on her shoulder, she looked up to see Brad
Follmer's face looking down on her.

"After the cops are finished with us, I want you to take the rest
of the day off," he said. "Come to my office at eight tomorrow
morning." Reyes' eyes teared up, and she fought to keep her
lower lip from quivering. "No, you're not fired," Brad added
gently. "I want to discuss your training with you."

Monica pulled her lips inward in an attempt to smile, her eyes
looking up with such gratitude that Brad had to turn away. He
walked back to the dumpster and leaned against it. She watched
him from the corner of her eye. When her stomach had settled,
she stood and walked to his side. Almost immediately, she felt
warm and nauseous again. She walked around the side of the
dumpster and heaved again.

"Monica," Brad said from behind her, close to her ear. "Why
don't you go home now? I can manage here."

She nodded, still not facing him. He put his arm across her
shoulder and led her away from the dumpster. "I'll see you in
the morning," she said, looking only briefly into his eyes.

She walked to her apartment, not knowing that Follmer was
watching her as she walked to the end of the alley. She made a
bee-line for the bathroom, peeled off her clothes, and took a
long, hot shower.

As she was brushing her wet hair she heard a knock at the door.
She threw on her robe and raced to it, expecting to see Brad
Follmer. She opened the door and was surprised to see Officer
Costello instead. "Officer Costello," she said nervously,
pulling her robe more tightly around her.

"Ms. Reyes," he said politely, a smile letting her know he was
pleased she remembered his name. "I'm investigating a child abuse
case in the neighborhood..."

"Yes, I know about it," she said. "Please come in." She ushered
him in and closed the door. He followed her to her futon, which
was spread out for sleeping. She pushed against the frame and
returned it to its couch form, then sat down at one end.

He sat at the other end, his notepad poised on his knee. "Which
child abuse case have you heard about?" he started, a little
skeptical yet intrigued.

"I thought you meant the baby discovered in the dumpster today,"
Monica started, a little puzzled by his question. "How many
cases are there?"

"No, that's the case," he assured her. "How did you know about

"I'm the one who found it," she said matter-of-factly.

He stared at her, dumbfounded. "You were there?"

"Yes, why?"

He flipped several pages in his notebook. "Someone named Brad
Follmer from the FBI found him. He didn't mention you."

Monica felt both hurt and relieved not to have been mentioned.
She wasn't sure how to respond, and decided to stick with the
truth. She told him about searching for the files, and digging
through the trash.

"How did you know the baby was there?" Costello asked.

Monica gulped. "I know this sounds strange, but I sense...
things. I sense when something evil has happened. I knew there
was something there, but I didn't know what."

Costello continued staring at her, his hands poised to flip his
notes back to her page. "Like a psychic thing?" he asked
finally. She nodded. "Did you tell Follmer that?"

Monica shook her head. "We haven't talked about it at all."

Costello sighed and flipped the notebook pages over. "That's
good," he said as he started to write. "So, tell me again. You
sensed something bad in the dumpster... then what?"

"That was it," Reyes said. Costello looked into her eyes,
looking for reasons to suspect her. Instead he saw an innocence
a New Yorker rarely saw. Monica kept her eyes on his, unsure why
there seemed to be a problem. She continued, "Agent Follmer,
he's my supervisor, he told me to go home." She watched as he
studied her face, then admitted, "I threw up."

He smiled. "First case?" he asked. She nodded. "We all do
that. Don't be embarrassed. If this didn't get to you I'd
wonder about you."

Monica relaxed her shoulders and tried to smile back at him.
"Thanks. I was starting to wonder if I was cut out for this

"My partner isn't on this case. He's an experienced cop, but he
has a little boy himself, and he just can't deal with cases
involving children. The guys out there today are single guys
like me. We don't like it either, but we can handle it." He
paused to study her reaction. "Does that make you feel any

"Yes, it does," she confessed, smiling more easily now. "I
volunteered for this division, and to react this way..."

"You volunteered for the Crimes Against Children division?" he
repeated, incredulous. She nodded. "Why?"

"Well," she said slowly, a blush crossing her face. "It's these
feelings I have... about evil... I've had these feelings since I
was a child, but I could never do anything about them... you
know, prevent that evil." She struggled to get the words out,
but his patient, listening expression encouraged her to continue.
"One time, I sensed this... presence, an evil presence... and
I ignored it. I was about thirteen, I guess, and I was playing
basketball on a playground..." Her eyes started to tear and her
voice quivered slightly as she continued, "I ignored what I felt.
I was the tallest girl, and I was the center, you know?" He nodded
sympathetically. "Well, one of the children at the other side of
the playground, on the swing set..." She clenched her lips shut
and her face crumpled as she struggled to continue.

Instinctively, Costello put his hand on her shoulder. "I
understand," he said softly, and her teary eyes responded by
looking gratefully into his. She put her hand over his and tried
to grin.