427 Evergreen Terrace
New Hebron, California
Amelia groaned, her eyes fluttering open. Light filtered in through the blinds casting the room in the brilliant hues of early dawn. She sat up, rubbing her jaw and paused grimacing as her fingers traced across the imprints left by the keyboard. She’d fallen asleep at her desk again.
“God, I need coffee,” she mumbled under her breath and shook her head to clear the morning fog from her mind.
She lurched out of her seat and stumbled toward the kitchen, clearing the hair out of her eyes with a casual flick of her wrists. She stopped mid-stride craning her neck around to glance at the door, positive the bell must soon ring and sure enough it did.
That was strange. She shook her head, staring at the door for a moment, pinching herself to ensure she was still awake and made her way across the room swinging it wide open. A gust of wind blew into through the opening, and the agent folded her arms across her chest shivering against the cold.
“Van den Broeke,” Matthews greeted her unperturbed by the frigid temperature and strong winds. “May I come in?”
Amelia bit her lip and nodded, closing the door once her superior had stepped inside and dropped her hands. Matthews gripped his attaché case against his chest and looked around, his eyes taking everything in before he met his subordinate’s gaze.
His keen investigative eyes must have picked up on her disheveled appearance, that she was wearing the same dress from the previous night, and the fading keyboard marks on her face, but he didn’t say a word. A fact, for which, she was grateful.
“Nice place you have here.” He said, his eyes never once breaking gazes with Amelia.
Amelia glanced around, fingered her tangled locks and bit her lip. “Sir, I’m sorry if I’d known you were coming over I would have–”
He held a hand up stopped her before she finished. “Think nothing of it Van den Broeke, I should have called first.”
“Sir, is there something I can get you? I was about to make coffee if you’d like some.”
“Thank you, Agent. I take it black.” Matthew hung back, hovering near the doorway as Amelia moved back toward the kitchen.
“Uh, go ahead and make yourself at home,” she called back over her shoulder.
When she returned a moment later, Matthew had done just as she’d suggested and taken a seat on the loveseat that sat opposite and just to the right of the door. He looked up at her as she reentered and frowned.
“The coffee should be ready in a few minutes.” She threw a thumb over her shoulder and took a seat opposite him. “So, sir what brings you out to my neck of the woods?”
Amy was no idiot. Matthews had never once visited her home in the years she had known him. He wasn’t the sort to make social calls, which meant he’d come to confirm his warnings from the previous night. Sure enough, when he spoke Amelia’s heart sank.
Matthews grimaced and leaned back in his seat. “Amelia, you should know assistant deputy director Steenburg has ordered that you be relieved from field duty.”
Amelia bit her lip and nodded, silent for the first few seconds because she didn’t trust herself to speak. She took a deep breath to calm herself and cleared her throat. “Because of Mr. Howard?”
Matthews nodded, leaned forward and clasped his hands together. “The situation is worse than we thought. Steenburg fears that Mr. Howard may have the makings of an aberrant.”
“Oh, god,” Amelia cupped her face with both hands and shook her head. “The background check turned something up, didn’t it?”
Matthews nodded, set his case down on the coffee table and slipped one of the side pockets open, producing a stack of documents. “See for yourself.”
The topmost report was over twenty years old and looked as if it resulted from at least half a dozen different photocopies. She skimmed through, but stopped as her hands trembled and shook. Something was wrong.
Amelia attempted to call out to Matthews, but her mouth froze shut and eyes wide. The reports fell from her stiff hands, fluttering to the ground in a messy heap.
Her vision flashed, and the world shifted and turned supplanted by images out of the past as bright and as vibrant as the ones she’d seen viewing the assault on the AEGIS facility.