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“The go teams got back forty-five minutes ago. Where the hell were you two?”
Brigid’s eyes fluttered shut for a moment and she suppressed the urge to sigh—again—as her partner collapsed into a nearby chair. “You mean other than hauling your husband back here while he steadfastly insisted that he was perfectly fine when we both know he’s not?”
Kate Berkshire-McConaway crossed her arms, eyeing Brigid for a long moment before she looked at Tim. Operations was brightly lit again, as if they were running on more than just the backup generators. “What stupidly heroic stunt did you try to pull this time, Tim?”
“I resent the implication that I only tried,” Tim said, shucking off his slightly crisped gloves and examining the reddened flesh beneath them. “You know me. I don’t do anything by half measures.”
“He kept it busy while the rest of us dealt with it,” Brigid said. “If it wasn’t for him and John, we wouldn’t have pulled it off.”
Kate’s gaze softened into something close to fondness as she stared at Tim. She unfolded her arms long enough to reach over and tousle his short-cropped hair lightly. “You look exhausted.”
“The thing we just got done fighting tapped into my reserves.” Tim tossed his gloves onto one of the consoles and leaned back in his chair. “Nothing some sleep won’t fix.”
Both women knew him well enough to hear the probably that he’d left unspoken. Brigid cleared her throat. “All’s well here, then?”
“Yeah.” The Irish ex-pat raked a hand through her strawberry blonde hair and jerked her chin toward a map of the city they had pulled up on one of the larger monitors. “Power’s starting to come back up, too, though it’s slow going. I didn’t think you’d mind me dispatching a few teams to sweep the areas around the power stations. You know, make sure that the area’s safe for the ComEd folks to head in.”
“Any issues?” Brigid asked.
“Nothing reported so far, not from them. City’s gone half crazy, of course, but that’s because the power’s been out for a few hours, it’s summer, and it’s hot. We all know what happens next.”
Tim winced. Brigid’s lips thinned.
“Where are the kids?” she asked softly.
Kate stared at the map. “With Mat at Uncle Chris’s. He hightailed it there after the power started to go down out here.”
Brigid leaned against a console, her legs abruptly wobbly. “Did you talk to them?”
“I talked to Mat,” Kate said. “He checked in while you guys were underground, wanted to know if we needed him. I told him to stay put.”
“That was the right call,” Tim said quietly, glancing toward Brigid. She nodded slowly.
“Yeah,” she agreed softly, then scrubbed her hand over her eyes. “Send anyone home yet?”
“I was waiting for you two to get back before I let the folks downstairs off lockdown. I’ll let Scott know.”
“Where’s AJ?” Tim asked, pushing himself up out of the chair.
That was the thing about Tim McConaway. While he had the utmost confidence in his sister’s skills—and there was no reason why he shouldn’t, since there were few shots better even within the military and ex-military ranks of UNSETIC and AJ had a better head on her shoulder than most—that didn’t stop him from worrying about his twin almost as much as he worried about Kate and their daughter. Brigid glanced at Kate, who shook her head.
“Stuck at the university. She was teaching when the power started to go out and decided it would be a better idea to stay put than to try to get up here from the South Side.”
“Probably smart,” Brigid said. “Does U of C have power right now?”
“Don’t know,” Kate admitted. “I haven’t talked to her in a few hours, but she shot me a text to let me know she was holed up in her office for the time being and not to worry.”
She’ll spend the night there if she has to. Mat won’t be happy, but if it’s safer for her to stay on campus than it is to try to get out of the city, then that’s what she’ll do. Brigid glanced at Tim and shook her head. “Don’t even think it, Merlin. If the three of us can get out of the city safely and she needs to stay put, then we’re going to do it.”
He opened his mouth to argue, only to be silenced by a glare from his wife. Brigid killed the urge to smile.
“If you really want someone to go keep an eye on AJ, it’s going to be me,” Kate said firmly. “You two have already had your fun today. Let me get in on some of the action.”
Brigid crossed her arms. “Do you really want to?”
“If AJ wanted backup, she’d have asked for it by now,” Kate said. “She hasn’t. She’s fine and all three of us know that, even if one of us is reluctant to remember that.” She gave her husband another meaningful look. Tim flushed slightly and looked down.
“Right,” he muttered. “You’re right.”
“Of course I am.” Kate leaned in and kissed his cheek. “I better go give them the good news downstairs. Did Jim get a hold of you, B?”
She nodded. “Yeah, I talked to Jim.” I’ve got some digging to do, too. Bastard. If he was anywhere within a hundred mile radius, I’d drive to wherever he was just to punch him in the face.
Unfortunately, Long Island was a little out of her range at the moment.
“Good,” Kate said. “Going to file your report?”
“Probably in the morning, assuming nothing else goes sideways. Go spring the Portal Corps. I’m sure they’ll be glad to be able to head home.” She waved to Kate as the other woman ducked out of operations. Then she glanced at Tim. “Are you really going to insist on one of us going to collect your sister?”
He shook his head. “No. If she says she’s fine, then she probably is. Did you drive in today?”
“Yeah.” That was good news—it meant that she, Kate, and Tim would actually be able to get out of the city, since odds were pretty good that CTA wouldn’t be running and neither would the Metra rail.
There are going to be a lot of people stuck down here tonight, I’m thinking. We’d better get moving while the getting is good.
If she didn’t want to get out to the suburbs and hug her kids, they would have been spending the night in the barracks on level two.
Tim was watching her. She could feel his eyes on her.
“That kid back there—” he began. Brigid waved a hand.
“I trust your judgement,” she said. And my gut says that he’s probably not a threat—not unless we turn him into one. “And I think he’ll actually look up AJ. Maybe not tonight and maybe not tomorrow, but once things have settled down here after a few days, a week? He’ll find her.”
“And she’ll call you,” Tim said, a trace of wry humor in his voice.
Brigid grinned. “And then she’ll call me and I’ll hopefully get the answers I want. In the meantime, we’ve got some homework to do.”
Tim arched a brow. “Oh?”
“Yeah,” Brigid said. “We need to figure out everything UNSETIC’s got on Hunters and why the hell Jim McCullough was so worried I’d taken one of them into custody.”
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