Unbridled and Untethered

By: Elle Saint James

His life had changed significantly in recent months. Not only had he reconnected with his brother, Kendall, and visited his place up in Montana not too long ago, Clay had also been in contact with an old friend, Jake Salerno. In fact, Jake was probably the reason Clay had so much on his mind lately.

Among other things, Jake, was the first guy he’d ever shared a woman with back when they’d both been barely in their twenties. Having decided recently that he’d been on his own for far too long, Clay was considering inviting Jake to the DRMC. He didn’t know if his old friend was still interested in a ménage lifestyle, and that frustrating lack of information apparently made him stupid about everything else going on around him.

Clay took the time to stop in his command center to send Emma Rae her electronic payment. Double the hourly rate was still a bargain, in his opinion, so he added an additional bonus on top of the bill. She deserved it. Once that was complete, he headed to the conference room and Zeke.

Seated at the table with files open and paper spilling out in five different directions, Zeke was already poring through the information Clay had brought him here to look at. On the large screen at the front of the room, a video was paused at the end of a grainy display showing a woman poised half in shadow. The remote control for it was inches away from Zeke’s hand.

“Thanks for jumping right in,” Clay said.

“Sure. What am I looking at?”

“Surveillance footage and still photos of someone who is supposed to be dead.”

Zeke’s eyebrows went skyward. “Really? She looks awfully good for having expired.”

“Exactly. But what I need to know is if it’s actually her. It’s entirely possible the woman is simply a doppelganger.”

“I’m in the Treasury Department. We are concerned with counterfeiting. How would I, in any stretch of anyone’s imagination, know that or care to find out?”

“I know it’s a long shot, but in the film, she’s coming out of a bank in Denver carrying a satchel. Maybe we can identify her through the bank transactions at that time of day. Don’t you have access to bank-withdrawal information?”

“No,” came his sharp retort. His tone didn’t soften when he added, “And even if I did, the information is not for just anyone asking. Who needs this?”

Clay pulled out a chair and sat across from Zeke, trying to reduce his ire. “It’s for an old friend of mine.”

One of Zeke’s eyebrows rose a notch. He shook his head. “Still not good enough. Specifically, who?”

Clay wasn’t ready to out Jake yet. “I have a very good friend who works in Immigration and Customs Enforcement—ICE. They are trying to identify this woman and ascertain whether or not it’s a former witness. My friend is asking because no one is even sure that this woman is who they think she is. If this woman is alive, she’s probably in danger. My friend was connected with the case at the time of her disappearance. Up until now, she was thought dead.”

Zeke pushed out an annoyed-sounding breath, but his harsh manner diminished just a bit. “Aren’t there easier ways to discover her identity instead of a long shot using bank transactions?”

“Apparently, a facial-recognition expert said there was a sixty to seventy percent probability it could be her. But that’s due to the best shot of her face being only a partial and the rest being in shadow. It was high enough to make my friend want to pursue it quietly.”

“And what did this woman do? If it’s even her.”

Clay cleared his throat. “She was a witness in a foreign-based organized crime ring. Someone blew up the house where she and her husband lived. They found two bodies. If this picture is her, then someone else was identified incorrectly at the house where she lived. She was about to be put into witness protection.”

Zeke huffed. “So the Federal Marshal Service is involved, too? Shit, maybe we could invite Homeland Security into this and really have a party.”

Clay sighed. “I already tried that direction. Dalton couldn’t help. Plus, he deferred to both Wit Sec and ICE.”

“Why can’t the ICE folks determine if it’s her? Surely they have resources.”

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