"How does he know about me?" Allison asked suspiciously.
"Noah, I'm guessing," Jordan answered. "My poor husband has heard us talking codes and viruses and programs for hours on end. He probably mentioned you to Phillips. So, do you want to go or not?"
"Absolutely. I'm in."
She hadn't unpacked from her trip yet and went to her closet to find something to wear. She didn't think her usual uniform, jeans and a T-shirt, would be appropriate, so she chose a skirt and a silk blouse with a pair of nude heels.
When Jordan came to pick her up, Allison's two housemates were shooting hoops in the driveway. They stopped to watch her walk down the sidewalk and whistled in appreciation.
"Where you goin', Al? Must be someplace special for you to put on a skirt in the middle of the afternoon," Mark called out in a singsong tease.
She smiled and waved to them as she got in the car.
The ride took a long while. Jordan's GPS led them onto three different highways before they exited into an old industrial area. Allison wasn't even sure they were still in Boston. They turned a corner and ended up on a long, winding road that seemed to be heading to the middle of nowhere. There weren't any houses or other commercial properties around, just thick trees on either side. The branches draped over them like an umbrella.
"Why would the bureau put an office all the way out here?" Allison asked.
Jordan was just as puzzled. "I don't know. When I told Noah we were going there today, he warned me it was in a remote area. I wish he could have come with us, but he had to leave for Florida this morning."
They pulled up to a gate in a tall chain-link fence, and the GPS announced that they had reached their destination. Beyond the fence was a modern three-story building, all tinted glass and steel. There weren't any signs indicating it was an FBI office.
"Are you sure we're in the right place?" Allison asked. "It looks deserted."
"This is the address Agent Phillips gave me," Jordan said.
The gate suddenly opened.
"I guess they know we're here," Jordan said as she stepped on the accelerator and drove through. She pulled into an empty lot obviously meant for visitors and parked in the slot closest to the front door. "There must be a parking garage on the other side of the building or maybe it's underground."
"There's a guard just inside the door watching us."
Jordan nodded. "I count two cameras on top of the building, and the red eyes are definitely on us."
"This is very weird," Allison said. "But the fact that it's such a highly protected site makes me all the more excited to see what's inside. I wonder if they have a code room."
"I'm sure they do."
They started for the door. "Don't let me forget to thank Agent Phillips. This is such a cool opportunity," Allison said.
"About Phillips . . . ," Jordan began.
"You won't like him much at first. He's arrogant and wants things done his way, but he grows on you. He can be a real pain. . . ."
"And he's your friend?"
Jordan nodded. "If you're in the mood, I'd love it if you'd take him down a peg, maybe chip away some of his arrogance."
"You want me to show off for an FBI agent?"
"I kinda do."
"It's not going to happen." Allison began to laugh. "You've got a crazy amount of faith in me. I'm sure the head of the cyber task force won't be interested in anything I have to say."
The guard at the door escorted them to a reception desk where another guard sat behind a bank of computer screens. The young man, with a badge clipped to his blazer pocket identifying him as Tom Pritchard, picked up the phone to notify Phillips of their arrival. While they waited, the door guard leaned against the counter, obviously happy to have a break in the monotony of his job and ready to chat. "We hardly ever get visitors, and today we have three."
"Three?" Jordan asked.
"That's right. You two and an agent, but not with this division. I'm not real sure who he works for," he admitted. "But I do know he's got higher clearance than Agent Phillips. He could shut us down if he wanted to."
"Why would he want to?" Allison wondered.
The guard grinned. "I'm not saying he would. I'm saying he could. He's got the authority."
The elevator doors opened and a man stepped out. He was putting his jacket on as he strode toward the desk. He appeared to be in his mid-forties. His hair was trimmed so close to his head he almost looked bald, and his stocky build and thick neck strained the buttons of his shirt.