"Phillips is younger than I expected," Allison whispered to Jordan.
"That's not Phillips," she replied.
"No, that's Curtis Bale. He was head of our Midwestern division in Detroit," Tom said as he opened a drawer and took out two large envelopes. When Bale reached the counter, he handed them to him. Bale couldn't seem to take his attention away from the women, so the guard quickly introduced him.
"Are you here to see anyone in particular?" Bale asked.
Since the question was directed at her, Allison answered. "Yes, we are."
"Agent Phillips," Jordan supplied.
It was apparent that Bale wanted to know why they wanted to see Phillips, because he waited several seconds for one of them to explain. Neither Jordan nor Allison did.
The guard filled the awkward silence. "I think they're here for a tour or something."
Bale's eyebrow went up. "Phillips is giving tours?" He laughed as though the notion was ludicrous.
"Not exactly," Jordan said. "Agent Phillips is a friend."
"Then the rumor's true. Phillips does have friends." He shook his head, then said, "It was nice meeting you. Enjoy your tour." He checked the time on his watch and hurried down the hall.
Tom noticed the two women were still holding their purses and said, "No cell phones or cameras beyond this point. You can leave your things here, and I'll lock them in the desk."
They were handing over their purses just as the elevator doors opened again and Agent Phillips stepped out. He managed a smile for Jordan. When she introduced him to Allison, he gave her a frown and a curt nod. Allison guessed Phillips was around fifty. His thick hair was streaked gray, and his weathered tan implied he was an outdoorsman. His piercing gaze told her he didn't miss much.
Allison followed Jordan into the elevator. Leaning close, she whispered, "He's a real charmer, isn't he?"
The second floor was just as shiny and uncluttered as the first. There were several sleek desks scattered around the area, but there weren't any employees working at the stations. Aside from the stack of Post-its and pens, there were no other papers or personal effects such as potted plants or photos of family. Maybe they weren't allowed, Allison thought. The wall opposite the elevators was constructed of huge opaque glass panels.
A tall young man in a suit that looked a size too large for his thin frame stood waiting for them as they exited the elevator.
"Ladies, this is Agent Kimble," Phillips said. He then turned to Kimble. "If you'll take Mrs. Clayborne and show her around, I'd like to have a word with Miss Trent before her tour."
Clearly surprised by the unexpected separation, Jordan looked puzzled.
"We'll catch up with you," Phillips assured her.
As Jordan began to follow the agent down the hallway, she glanced back at Allison and gave her a baffled shrug.
Phillips led Allison to his office to the left of the main room. While she waited, bewildered, in the doorway, he went to his desk and picked up a file folder, then came back to her and opened it. Looking at what was inside, he said, "Allison, I see your parents died when you were four years old. Your sister, Charlotte, was ten. The two of you moved in with your aunt and uncle, Jane and Russell Trent-"
Shocked, she interrupted. "Wait . . . You have a file on me?" She could feel her face heating up. "Why would you have a file on me?"
Oh God. What had he found out about her?
"We don't let just anyone in here. We're making an exception for you and Jordan. Jordan has clearance, and we've done a thorough check on you."
"Why did you invite us here?" Allison asked. She could feel panic building inside her, but she was determined not to let it show.
"I didn't. It was decided this morning. The order came from above. We knew that Jordan was your friend, and if we invited you together, you would most likely come. Does my looking at your file upset you?" he asked curtly, as though resentful of the intrusion on his time.
She squared her shoulders and took a step inside his office. Perhaps if she appeared cool and self-assured, he would not detect her anxiety. "It upsets me that you have a file on me. Yes."
Allison suddenly realized she was surrounded by federal agents. She didn't have any idea where they'd come from, and she was beginning to feel claustrophobic. Focusing on Phillips, she asked, "What did you decide this morning?"
"To see what you can do."
"I'd like to show you around our operation and then see what, if anything, you can do," he explained.