His assistant, Mike, walks up carrying two empty plates and a couple of bratwurst requests.
As Hassler spears one of the brats, he spots Theresa Burke moving away from the group she’s been standing with, heading down toward the shoreline at a pace substantially faster than a leisurely stroll.
Hassler sets down the fork and looks at his assistant.
“Did I mention I’m promoting you?” Hassler says.
Mike’s eyes go wide with self-interest. The young man has only been working with Hassler for eight months, but he has, on a number of occasions, demonstrated a complete lack of awareness regarding the fact that his main purpose in life is answering the phones, pouring coffee, and typing up the special agent in charge’s dictation.
Mike says, “Seriously?”
Hassler lifts the white-and-red checkerboard apron over his head and appoints his apprentice.
“Your new duties include asking people if they’d like a hamburger, bratwurst, or both. And also, not burning shit.”
Mike’s shoulders sag. “I was getting a plate for Lacy.”
“That your new girl?”
“Tell her to come over so you can fill her in on the big news.” Hassler slaps Mike on the shoulder and abandons the grill, moving down through the buttercup-dotted grass.
Theresa stands by the water.
Hassler walks to the shore and stops twenty feet away, pretending to take in the splendor of the view.
The radio towers at the top of Capitol Hill.
The house-covered hillsides of Queen Anne.
After a moment, he glances over.
Theresa stares hard across the water, her jaw tight, eyes intense.
He asks, “Everything okay?”
She startles, looks over, wipes her eyes, and musters up a pathetic smile.
“Oh, yeah. Just enjoying the day. Wish we got more like this.”
“No kidding. Kind of makes me wish I knew how to sail.”
Theresa glances back toward the park where the rest of the party is mingling.
Hassler looks too.
The breeze carries the pleasant reek of beer in plastic cups.
He spots Ethan Burke and Kate Hewson standing off to the side, just the two of them, Kate laughing as Ethan gestures his way through what appears to be a story or a joke.
Hassler closes the distance between himself and Theresa.
“You’re not having much fun, are you?”
She shakes her head.
Hassler says, “These work parties must be weird for the families. My agents see each other day in, day out. Probably spend more time together than with their own spouses. Then you come here, feel like an outsider.”
Theresa smiles. “You pretty much nailed it.”
She starts to say something else, but stops short.
“What?” Hassler prods, venturing a step closer. He can smell her conditioner, whatever body wash she used that morning.
Theresa’s eyes are clear and green. The electricity goes in through his eyes and travels down into the pit of his stomach. He feels, all at once—sick, exhilarated, terrified, alive.
“Should I be worried?” she asks.
She lowers her voice. “About them. Ethan and”—it’s like she doesn’t even want to say the word, like it brings a bad taste to her mouth—“Kate.”
He knows. He just wants to hear her say it.
“They’ve been partners, what? Four months now?” she asks.
“Yeah, something like that.”
“That’s an intense relationship, right? Partner-partner?”
“Can be. You work cases together. Often long hours. You have to trust each other with your lives.”
“So she’s like his work wife.”
Hassler says, “I’d be hard-pressed to name any pair of agents under my supervision who aren’t close. The nature of the job pushes people together.”
“It’s just hard,” Theresa says.
“I can’t imagine.”
“So you don’t think . . .”
“I haven’t personally seen anything that would make me suspect Ethan is anything other than a devoted husband to you. He’s a lucky man. I hope you know that.”
Theresa blows out a sigh, puts her face into her hands.
“What’s wrong?” he asks.
“I shouldn’t have—”
“No, it’s fine. Please.”
“Do me a favor?” Theresa asks.
“Don’t tell Ethan about this conversation. You don’t know me that well, Adam, but I’m not a jealous person. It’s just . . . I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”
“Lips are sealed.” Hassler smiles. “And you should know, I’m pretty good with the whole confidentiality thing. The word ‘secret’ is in my job title, for chrissakes.”
Now Theresa smiles at him and he can barely stand it, knows he will think of little else in the days to come.
“Thank you,” she says, and puts her hand briefly on his arm.
He could live a year in this moment.
“I could stay here,” he offers. “Keep you company . . .”
“Oh no, you’ve got a party to get back to, and I’ve got some big girl panties to pull up. But you’re sweet to offer.”
Theresa starts back up the grassy slope and Hassler watches her go. What it is about this woman that rips his heart out, he can’t exactly say. Truth be told, they’re just acquaintances. Have talked only a handful of times.
When she breezed through the office to bring Ethan something.
A bump-into-each-other at the symphony.
A cookout he was invited to at the Burke house.
Hassler has never been married, hasn’t been in love since high school, but in this moment, as he stands on the shore of Lake Union watching Theresa arrive at Ethan’s side and wrap her arm around his waist, he feels a flicker of blinding jealousy, as if he’s watching the woman who belongs with him falling for another man.
He crashed the CJ-5 through the rock-facade door. A piece of metal struck the windshield, sent a long, branching crack straight down the middle of the glass.
Ethan had half expected a brigade of Pilcher’s men to be waiting for him, but the tunnel stood empty.
He shifted into third gear.
Thirty-five miles per hour up the steep grade was the best he could do.
Lights streamed past overhead.
The bedrock dripping on the fractured windshield.
Every time he rounded a curve, he expected to see a roadblock, a line of Pilcher’s men with assault rifles and orders to shoot on sight.