Mario Comarella sat at his desk, staring at the framed picture of his wife near the computer, when Betsy Brodderick approached him from behind. “Agent Comarella?” she said softly, as though afraid she might startle him.

He turned to face her, but the expression in his eyes was still distant. “I’m sorry,” Betsy said, “I didn’t mean to interrupt, but Commander Thacker would like to see you when you have a moment. He’s anxious for an update on your trip to West Virginia.”

Comarella nodded, his eyes still staring blankly back at her.

“Is everything okay? You seem…distracted today.”

At this, Comarella forced himself back to reality. He shook his head. “No, no, I’m fine, just thinking about Cristina.” He tilted his head in the direction of the framed picture.

“Oh, right, of course. I do apologize. I’d completely forgotten. She’s expecting, isn’t she? Must be getting pretty close now. Are you getting nervous?”

A shadow darkened his expression then disappeared. “A bit, yeah,” he admitted.

“No worries, dear, women have babies every day. I’m sure she’ll be fine.”

He smiled politely and nodded. “That’s what I keep telling myself.”

Betsy hesitated, wondering if she should press the topic further or return to the business at hand. “Of course she will. So shall we say ten o’clock then?”

He looked up at her, his expression blank. “Sorry?”

“For Commander Thacker’s update?”

“Oh, right,” he said, but she could tell that his attention had already returned to the photo on the desk.

A few moments later, Betsy strode into Thacker’s office. “I spoke to Agent Comarella. He’ll be in at ten to brief you on the meeting in West Virginia.”

Thacker, who was holding his smart phone as though it were a grenade on the verge of detonation, greeted her with, “Do you have any idea how much I hate this damned thing?”

She hurried forward and snatched it away from him. “What have you done to it now?”

“What have I done to it?” He pointed to the phone accusatorially. “I’m not the one losing vital information left and right.”

“You must not have saved it properly. What are you looking for?”

“Don’t blame me for that phone’s shortcomings.”

“It doesn’t have shortcomings,” she said. “It’s a phone, not a politician. What information do you need?”

“Brad Dawry’s number. I put it in there last week. I know I did. Now it’s gone. Wait, did you say Comarella would be in at ten?” He glanced at his watch.

“I did.” Betsy’s attention was now given over completely to the phone in her hand.

“Did he give you any idea how the meeting in West Virginia went?”

“He did not. Do you need Mr. Dawry’s cell or his office line?” she asked, still tapping the phone with her thumb.

“The cell, please. He didn’t say anything at all?”

“He said he’s concerned about his wife.” She handed him back the phone, which now displayed Brad Dawry’s cell phone number. “Just press the send button,” she instructed.

He glanced at the phone, but did not seem to hear her. “His wife? Crissy? What’s wrong with her?”

“Nothing, I’m sure. He’s just concerned about the delivery.”

“The delivery?” he repeated. “Of what?”

“Lunch,” she snapped, rolling her eyes. “The baby, of course. He’s worried about the birth. It’s coming up soon, I think.”

“Did I know she was pregnant?” he asked seriously.

“You did. You signed the card for the gift we got him. When was the last time you saw her?”

“I saw her at the Christmas party and she certainly didn’t look pregnant,” he insisted, as if to justify his own poor memory.

“Well I should think not. I don’t even think she was pregnant then, maybe just barely.”

He grumbled a thank you as he pressed the call button on his cell and she understood herself to be excused.

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