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The next morning, Alex rose from a blessedly dreamless sleep and headed to work in a pleasant mood. The previous night wasn't the deep, honest conversation she needed, but she felt better having Georgia in her corner regardless of where the situation took her.

Phillip greeted her from the break room with a smile and a small list of client meetings. He also told her they should grab a bite later if she had the time. "On account you've been a bit of a recluse lately, and I'd like to catch up with my friend."

Alex agreed and got to work, happy for the workload and the paces it would put her through. She needed the mental distraction and a chance to shake the silt from her mind. After all, the world didn't begin and end with the Underground. Topside turned just as regularly, and it was high time she planted both feet back in her world.

At a quarter past eight, Alex booted her computer and laid out her current spread, opening a Word doc and setting her fingers atop the keys. Fully immersed in her element, she breezed through her first solid draft in days, outlining a story about the polarizing effects of the Afghan war effort she had on the backburner for weeks. Time flew by unnoticed and unfelt. Her lunch with Phillip arrived in the space between blinks, filled with lighthearted laughter and well-worn jokes, the two making a ruckus but hardly caring.

It wasn't until she slipped back into her office chair and kicked off her heels—fashion was torture, plain and simple—that the phone on her desk rang, hardly jarring her out of her steady rhythm.

"New York Times, Alex Bailey speaking," she greeted, cradling the receiver against her collar bone while she continued to type.

"Alex, it's Georgia."

"Georgia, hey!" That got her to lift her fingers from the keys. "I'm actually really glad you called. I rounded up those tax forms you asked me to look into, but I needed to double-check them with your sources. What do you say we pick up dinner at Ramon's?"

"I, um...I'm not sure that's going to be feasible tonight."

Alex's busy fidgeting stopped, alarm bells going off in all directions. "Is everything alright?"

The pause told her everything. "No."

Her stomach felt like a compressed bellows blowing cold air down her spine. "Georgia?"

"I need to speak with you. Privately."

Well, if that wasn't a surefire way to spike her anxiety. She turned in her chair to face the door like Georgia was waiting for her. "Alright. Is this something that can wait until tonight, or do you need to see me right now."

"Now is preferable."

"I'll buzz you—"

"Meet me outside. Five minutes."

The line went dead, dial tone whining between each frantic heartbeat. Hurriedly saving her document and shutting her computer down, she told the receptionist to hold her calls while she went out to grab coffee from next door. It was the only excusable cover available at short notice.

Once in the elevator, the cage couldn't descend fast enough. Punctual as always, Georgia walked towards her looking more than just grim. Alex had only known the woman for a scant few months, but fear wasn't an emotion the PI regularly displayed. Today, Georgia looked on the verge of testing just how far her legs could carry her before her heart gave out.

"Georgia?" Alex worried, hastening her approach. "What's wrong?"

"Walk with me but go slow enough we can talk," the taller woman instructed, falling into step beside Alex. From her light jacket, she retrieved an envelope and passed it over with all the finesse of a covert information swap. "I stopped looking into Rebecca Farrow the night your Underground friend came to visit, but I completely forgot I put in a request to an informant of mine. I'm going to be straight with you, I'm scared, and you should be too."

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