Excerpt, Thirty-one Seconds

A meddlesome FBI agent meets two people at an airport, one of whom, a woman named Kasi Brennan with whom he shares an unhappy and sometimes antagonistic history. The agent, Carmichael, has secured rooms for Kasi and the protagonist of the story, Daniel Blaine. but Kasi does not want decisions made for her,

She slipped behind me as he approached and lifted the sign a little higher. “I didn’t want you to miss me,” he said. “Are you Blaine?”

“Daniel, yes. You’re Alex.” It was hardly a lucky guess.

He nodded, rolled up the sign, then shoved it into some oversized leather coat. “Mr. Blaine. How long have you been a human shield? I mean isn’t that…why I believe it’s Kasi Brennan hiding behind you.”

She moved out into the open. “From embarrassment.” Everything was off to a fine start. And it only got better.

“Moss told me you’d be here and I found the flight,” he said. “I also reserved two rooms for you—FBI courtesy, but you’re paying.”

“Already done,” Kasi said.

“I checked. You don’t want to stay there,” Carmichael said. “It’s the noisy side.”

“We’ll be fine.”

“Of course you will—that’s why I cancelled them for you. You’re on the fourth floor now, when you get off the elevator…”

“You don’t understand,” Kasi said. “I have reservations.” Carmichael shook his head. He looked incredulous. “Really?’

“Really.”

“Okay then, I’ll take care of getting the inferior rooms back. You won’t have any trouble—certainly nobody wants them.”

“We want them.”

Carmichael looked at me, grinned, asked me if I had anything to do with this. I think he knew the answer.

Kasi didn’t give me a chance to respond. “It’s not his call,” she said. “The Board reserves our rooms.”

“They do,” he said, and I thought he winked. If he didn’t, he had the right to.

Kasi Brennan—at that particular moment—was no more NTSB than I was.

There was a momentary silence before Carmichael adopted a more philosophical attitude.

“Don’t matter. I’ll make it good. And if I’m not being officious, how about eight tonight—over there—Three Down—pretty good food and lousy drinks. Just three of us. Maybe more. Dinner’s on me. Kasi will explain.”

He waited for blowback. When none came, he left for the front desk. Moments later we had our rooms—seventh floor and close to each other. My view of the taxiway was unobstructed, and right on cue as I opened the door, a plane roared away from the gate. Kasi was standing next to me, but neither of us commented on it.