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The Truth is Right Here

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If someone’d told 18-year-old Alex Manes that his life would fall out this way, he probably would’ve punched them in the face. Once he stopped laughing.

If they’d told him he’d end up married to Maria DeLuca, he would have accused them of being homophobic. If they’d told him he’d end up heading up an entire division of the FBI with said wife, and that that division would be just the two of them, hunting for UFOs, he would have seriously considered committing them.

“Hey babe.” Maria leaned down over the back of their sofa to kiss his hair, dropping a file on his stomach.

Alex jumped a bit. He’d been deep in a reddit hole, combing through stories about strange lights in a Virginia forest, trying to decide if it was a hoax, natural phenomenon, or something worth a trip out there. He rubbed his hands over his face, looked up at her with a soft smile.

Okay maybe this was not anything he expected his life to be, but god, he couldn’t complain.

“What’s this?” he asked, setting the laptop aside and shifting to sit up properly.

Maria folded her arms on the back of the sofa. “A person of interest.” 

“What?” Alex asked, raising an eyebrow at her. What did that even mean, person of interest? They weren’t exactly the crime-solving types.

“Look at the file.” Maria ruffled his hair lightly. “Chinese for dinner?”

“Yeah, sure.” He nodded. “Make mine--”

“Extra spicy, I know.” Maria laughed, stepping away. Alex smiled to himself. A decade of marriage and she knew him better than ever.

He flipped open the file, eyes landing on the prominent mugshot. Black and white and grainy but it didn’t hide that he was hot . Riotous curls, half-lidded eyes, and a gorgeous smirk that Alex couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to kiss away. “Maria, are you trying to hook your husband up with a criminal?” He called out despite the fact that she was on the phone, laughing and ducking as she threw a lime from the kitchen at him.

She covered the mouthpiece of the phone. “Don’t think with your dick, Alex. Read it.”

Alex laughed and settled in to actually read.

The next thing he knew, Maria was nudging him with a box of takeout and a beer - sans lime.

He looked up at her, distractedly taking it. “This is...”

“I know, right?” She settled on the couch next to him, cross-legged, digging into her sweet and sour chicken with chopsticks. “Who makes a career of stealing from UFO museums and military storage facilities?”

Alex stole one of hers, popping it into his mouth over her protests. “I mean. It’s weird, for sure, but…” 

“But nothing. This guy? The stuff he’s grabbed? Look at that list. Line after line of highly classified materials. Most of this stuff we’re not even allowed to know about. It’s all affiliated with Project Sign, Project Grudge, Project Blue Book. He’s gotten closer than we have in the last five years. And they never recovered it. Any of it.” 

Alex chewed on his lip. “Who says he still has any of it?”

Maria shrugged. “Who’s to say he doesn’t?”

Alex smiled, still looking over the file but leaning against her shoulder, digging into his own food, here and there stealing off Maria’s food too to contrast with the pleasing burn of his own, until she laughed and started threatening him with her chopsticks and elbowing him. 

“Stop it, you’re making mine spicy!”

He was lucky. So lucky that Maria had been okay with a quickie town hall wedding to her gay best friend when he enlisted, so that she could be his emergency contact instead of his asshole father -- and that somehow that arrangement had kept working for them both. Lucky that, when he had been digging for dirt on Jesse Manes and had found that his father was apparently obsessed with literal actual aliens, Maria had been all-in on trying to dig up evidence of the government’s (and by extension, Jesse Manes’) coverups and crimes. Lucky that she’d come up with the plan of enlisting in the National Guard to make it easier for them both to apply to the FBI together. And lucky that the FBI had let them take over this long-defunct department together. Alex was always sure that that luck wasn’t going to hold forever.

“Yeah,” Alex said, slowly. “But even if he does, he’s not going to have any incentive to just hand it over.”

Maria chewed on the end of a chopstick, thoughtful. “You know the FBI has a work release program for cons?”

Alex snorted. “Yeah, but what does that have to do with us?”

“His skill set and knowledge base is relevant?” Maria said slowly, slyly. “Freedom is pretty convincing.”

“Work release isn’t freedom.” Alex pointed out. “Even if we could get that approved -- and that’s a big if -- we’d be responsible for babysitting him.” 

“Ok, fine work isn’t freedom but not being in prison is the next best thing,” Maria said. “For an ankle bracelet and some information, he can have real food and sleep on a real bed. After two years on a five year term, that could sound pretty convincing.” 

Alex couldn’t argue with that. “I guess there’s no harm in talking to him,” he said, setting his food aside and wrapping an arm around her. “File the paperwork, just in case. 99% it’ll get shredded.” 

“Hey,” she said softly, snuggling against him. “We’ve had worse odds, before.”

 


 

Two days later, they were pulling up to the Penitentiary of New Mexico. 

“You know this place is supposed to be super haunted?” Maria asked, with a grin, as they got out of the car and she smoothed her suit - black, pricy, well-tailored to all her curves. A neckline that was definitely not standard FBI issue. No one seemed to mind though - Maria had style.  

“Oh shut up.” He groaned. He probably shouldn’t be slightly ashamed of believing in ghosts, considering that they were alien hunters. And he didn’t actually believe in them. He was just the pragmatic sort, and on the off chance they did exist, he’d prefer not to piss them off. It made perfect sense.

Maria laughed, stopping him before they could walk in to straighten his tie, which Alex had tugged loose during the car ride. “I’ll protect you.”

“I don’t need protecting,” he grumbled a bit. 

Maria smiled, and pecked his cheek. “Not even from Guerin’s bedroom eyes?” 

He gasped, swatted her hands. “Oh stop it.” 

Maria chuckled and let him go. “Just keep your eyes on the prize, babe.” 

“I could say the same to you,” Alex protested, heading for the door. After all, the night they had decided to file the work release paperwork for Michael Guerin, they had a lengthy (and slightly drunken) conversation about how cons should not be that hot. The conversation then dissolved into speculating about all the things Guerin’s pretty mouth could do. 

She sputtered lightly. “Excuse me? I..”

“Have eyes, Maria. Keep them on the prize.” He turned it on her, and pulled the door open, holding it for her, so they could go check in and be escorted to the waiting room. 

 


 

“Hey. Guerin.” A guard knocked his baton against the bars of Michael’s cell, startling him out of yet another run-through of an escape plan. He should never have even gotten arrested, or convicted. Should have cut and run. It wasn’t like the bars and locks could actually hold him. But they’d hustled him into a real prison awfully quickly, since they suspected him of breaking into a top-secret military contracting facility and the right moment never really presented itself. 

And maybe the locks couldn’t hold him, but the guns sure gave him pause.

Besides, now that he was in the system, he couldn’t exactly have a normal life if he just walked out of prison. And there were still a couple people who needed him.

The guard knocked again, louder. “Guerin, get your ass out here.” 

Michael sighed, opening his eyes and sitting up. “Officer Meyers, something wrong?”

“Visitors.” 

Michael frowned at that. Visitors? Normally he was fine with the guards here not being the chatty sort but Michael Guerin wasn’t exactly known for having visitors. He’d warned Izzy and Max off. And besides, it wasn’t even time for visitation. He got up and stepped out of the cell, deciding not to test Meyer’s patience today. “Yeah?”

“Feds, I guess.” Meyers shrugged. “Come on.”

Michael followed after, frowning more. Feds. He had to guess that they were trying to nail him for something else, lengthen his sentence. As if five years wasn’t enough, considering the fact that he was just reacquiring his family’s stolen property. 

Not that he could use that as a line of defense. Ah yes, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you see I can’t be convicted because I’m a literal alien and therefore the legal owner of the shit I stole.

Nope. Best-case scenario, that would have gotten him a straitjacket, worst-case? Alien autopsy.

Michael let Meyers cuff him to the table, raising an eyebrow but not protesting. It wasn’t worth it. Just another little humiliation. Par for the course, here. 

Michael closed his eyes, counted to ten. He could feel the lock in the cuffs. It would only take a tiny little nudge to get them to fall open. He breathed through the urge to do so, only opening his eyes when the door opened. 

He wasn’t sure what he was expecting when Meyers said Feds were here to see him. Suits, yes. But suits were normally cop-faced assholes. 

These two looked like… a generous TV interpretation of feds. Gorgeous, both of them. 

God, he’d been in jail far too damned long.  

“Agents,” he drawled as they both took seats on the other side of the table. 

They glanced at each other, briefly, as if deciding in the moment how to approach him. Good cop bad cop? Pride and ego?

Michael sat back, relaxed as much as the cuffs would allow. All he had to do was relax, breathe, and not give them anything. Easy.

“Mr. Guerin,” the woman started, no-nonsense, with a smile that was probably meant to disarm him, but it was one he recognized all too well. She was already trying to hustle him. If he weren’t cuffed to a table he probably would have respected the effort. Might have even let her do it, considering the fact that she was wearing the hell out of that suit... don’t let your eyes wander, Guerin, he reminded himself, sternly, just in time to tune into her introductions. “It’s good to meet you. I’m Agent DeLuca. This is my partner Agent Manes.” 

“Can I help you?” God, just skip to the song already.

“Well, we’re certainly hoping so,” she said, smiling just a bit brighter. “We’ve been reviewing your file.  It’s quite interesting. We believe you have a... skillset that would be relevant. We’d like to offer you a job as a criminal consultant.” 

Michael blinked, honestly taken by surprise. “I’m sorry you want to… what, be my FBI pen pals?”

“Actually, no. We’re thinking of something a little more mutually beneficial.” Damnit Michael, don’t read into that … he tried to focus on anything other than the curve of her mouth, settled for the cuffs around his wrists. They were just a little too tight. He wasn’t sure if that was helping or not, honestly. “We’d like you to work with us. On the outside.”  

That took a moment to sink in, but once it did he was even more confused. He didn’t know what angle he was expecting, but this definitely wasn’t it. “I’m sorry, you’re offering me… work release?” Michael just knew there was more to this. But it was hard to pin down what exactly. It wasn’t like he had been working for the mob or a drug cartel or anything that the FBI would consider useful, really.

“There’d be conditions, of course.” Manes finally spoke up. Michael tried to ignore that he had one of the sexiest goddamned voices he’d ever heard. That voice was going to haunt his dreams for months, along with Manes’ messy dark hair and intense dark eyes. He looked at Michael like he wanted to take him apart. Michael knew, logically, that it had nothing to do with sex but it would… in his dreams, it definitely would.  

“Oh of course,” Michael scoffed. 

Manes raised an eyebrow at him, it spoke volumes, and Michael visibly bristled. But Manes didn’t seem to care, shifting his gaze towards his partner. Their eyes met again, and if Michael didn’t know any better, he’d swear they were communicating psychically.

Something more than partners, then? His eyes fell to the wedding rings on their fingers. They looked like they matched.  

Great. He was never, ever getting that picture out of his head, was he?  

“Mr. Guerin,” DeLuca said, grabbing Michael’s attention. “We would urge you to take this proposal into consideration.” She pulled out a few pages from a folder and slid them over to him. “For the price of your expertise--”

“Yeah see that’s the part that doesn’t make any sense to me,” Michael said, leaning on his elbows and staring at them. He knew he was a genius. But these two had no reason to suspect that he was anything other than an (admittedly good) thief. Maybe they knew he got decent grades in school, maybe they even knew he tested high enough on a high school IQ test that he’d been accused of cheating and spent two weeks suspended while they tried to prove it. That was hardly a qualification for the FBI. “You two have an air of competence and you’ve read my record, so you know what I’m in here for.” 

“Oh we’re well aware. Let’s see.” She pulled another paper out of the file. “They actually convicted you of the theft of the UFO museum down in Roswell -- pretty small time. But you’ve been implicated in at least a dozen other thefts, including top-secret military facilities.” DeLuca looked at him, a little challenge in her eyes. Trying to get him to brag, apparently.

“Allegedly.” Michael was tense and trying not to show it. Did they want a confession? Did they want him to lead them to his stash? Wasn’t gonna happen.

“Let’s just say your resume is impressive. We don’t often see people with this level of experience with…” she trailed off.

“The supernatural?” He filled in, sarcastically. 

“Unexplained phenomenon,” she corrected, “which happens to be our area of expertise.” 

Michael’s eyes widened. Shit. This wasn’t just about them scraping the bottom of the barrel, was it? To cover, he turned to look at the guard. “Did you guys check to make sure their credentials were legit?” 

Meyers, the asshole, was completely stone faced. As always. Didn’t even look at him. Michael turned back to the two agents. 

“So you’re the Men in Black?” He continued and glanced at DeLuca. “Always thought the name was a little sexist by the way.”

“We’re the FBI, Guerin,” DeLuca said dryly. “Read over the documents. Our proposal is legitimate and I would urge you to consider it seriously. Unless you want to continue to waste that high IQ of yours--” oh, they did know about that “--on making licence plates for another two and half years.” 

Michael clenched his jaw, looked down at the cuffs on his wrists. One tiny little nudge. They were getting up. 

“Fine,” he said, tightly. “I’m in.” He might be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire, but he was real fucking sick of the frying pan. At least they had beer on the outside.

 


 

It took a few weeks, almost a month before the paperwork went through. Time dragged through most of it, but all of a sudden he was out, his head practically spinning. 

DeLuca and Manes had set Michael up in some kind of group home that was way too much like one of his foster homes to be at all comfortable. When he’d complained, they’d told him that he had a criminally small housing stipend and that was the best they could do on that budget, and if he could find something within the 20 mile radius of the tracking anklet that was part of his deal, he should take it.

Not the answer he was looking for but at least they weren’t forcing him to stay at the home, which had actually been a surprise. He’d met some shit people in law enforcement. 

By the next day he’d found a trailer park that was right at the edge of the anklet's radius. The place wasn’t terrible. Plenty of trees, roomy lots. Enough room to build out a deck, string up some lights. He’d make it homey. Once Isobel got here with his actual home.

He leaned against the fence to the lot he rented, waiting. It was a good half hour before he heard a familiar rumble, saw his old, faded pickup, airstream in tow. Just the sight of it had him feeling misty eyed. It wasn’t a joke either. That was home. He wasn’t sure what this whole work release program had in store for him, but fuck was it nice to see home. 

And his sister.

“Iz.” Michael felt the knot in his stomach loosen as she slid out of the truck, flipping her hair back a bit. 

“Michael!” She was running, launching herself into him, squeezing him tightly, hand cupping the back of his head. Michael let himself melt into the hug, burying his face into her shoulder. Two and a half years. Sure, he’d gone longer between seeing her but not since they were kids. He swallowed the lump in his throat.

“Missed you,” he got out, softly. Let her hug him for several long minutes before they both drew back.  

“Are you okay?” She was smoothing his hair back. Normally he’d resent the fussing, but...

“Am now,” he said, smiling a bit. “Thanks for coming up.”

“You owe me so much,” she said, laughing. “That thing is a pain in the ass to tow.”

“Come on, it’s only three hours up from Roswell.” He grinned.  

“Three painful hours,” Isobel said. She was still touching him, smoothing her hands down his shoulders and arms, or cupping his face, stroking his hair. 

He smiled, letting her pet him -- uncharacteristic from him, granted, but he’d missed being touched so much (rough and desperate quickies in the more “secluded” places of the prison did not count), missed that simple warmth from the touch of a loved one. “Grabbed some beer. We could order pizza? Is Max still coming to pick you up?” 

The plan had been for Izzy to drive up with his truck and trailer. Max would come up the next day to spend the weekend with Michael, since he couldn’t get that Friday off, and drive Isobel back home. 

“Still coming up, yeah. He wants to see you.” Isobel hesitated, trailed off. It felt a little evasive, and Michael immediately knew something was up. 

“Iz?” 

She let out a breath. “I was thinking of staying up here in Albuquerque for a while. At least till you're settled in.”

“You’re not just here to keep an eye on me,” he said, suspiciously.

Isobel exhaled, pulled away. “Lets get those beers first.”  

Michael frowned, mind running through all the possible issues. Gotta be something personal, he reasoned. Something not alien related. Worried and frustrated, he scrubbed a hand through his hair and went to grab the beer without pressing, letting Iz unlock the Airstream. 

“Smells in here,” she said, wrinkling her nose as they both climbed in.

“Yeah, well, no one emptied the fridge when I enrolled in con college.” Michael shrugged, grabbing a trash bag from under the sink and going to empty everything out of it. It did reek. 

“Ugh, I’m gonna puke,” Isobel said, exaggerated. Michael rolled his eyes, and used his powers to slide the windows open for her -- god, that felt good. It was like a really good stretch after sitting for a long time. So he used his abilities again, clearing out the spoiled and rotted contents of his fridge. Opening cabinets where a lump of mold that was once a loaf of bread floated into the trash. After so damn long pretending to be human, it felt good to be himself. 

A half hour later, and the spoiled food was cleaned up and the airstream was more-or-less sanitized and aired out. Izzy had stopped whining so much about it and had ordered pizza for them both. 

“My bunker?” He asked, once they’d demolished a pizza and a half between them.  

“Still under a pile of junkyard trash. Secrets are safe.” She reassured him, fingers sliding into his hair again. “That prison shampoo did you no favors, I’ll get you some new stuff.”

Michael shook his head a little, taking a swig of his beer. “My hair’s fine. Why are you thinking of staying here? Don’t you have the whole American Dream down in Roswell, picket fence and all?” 

She chewed her lip a little. “Not exactly.”  

Michael frowned, immediately on edge, protective. “What’s going on?” 

“Things got weird. With Noah.” Isobel tucked her hair back a bit, a little nervous tic.

Michael was immediately bristling. He had never cared for Noah. He was too old for one, seeming to have swooped in out of nowhere half way through college like some kind of creepy vulture, and two… well there wasn’t really a two but there was just something wrong about Noah. Something that didn’t sit well with Max or Michael. 

They had both been privately dismayed when she accepted his proposal. 

“What happened?” He frowned, ready to give up his new found almost-freedom by driving down to Roswell and kicking Noah’s ass if he so much as--

Izzy immediately reached to squeeze his arm, soothing him. “Nothing dramatic. I just decided that I wanted to spend a bit of time on my own. And with my favorite trailer trash.”  

Michael groaned, shoving her lightly, half-heartedly. But he didn’t believe her. Not by a long shot. He’d have to wait though. Pushing would make her turn right around, head back to Roswell and Noah’s arms. So he’d wait and hope that when Max showed up, he’d have more details. 

“Can I see the lojack?” Izzy asked, nodding at his leg.

Michael groaned, and shifted to tug his jeans up, showing her the tracking anklet. “Never gonna be able to wear boots with this thing.” 

She laughed. “You are so predictable.” 

“I don’t wanna buy new shoes!” He protested. “Do you know how much I made making license plates? It’s criminal. Legalized slavery.” 

Izzy rolled her eyes. “Surprised you haven’t picked it.”

Michael made a face. The prison locks had been basic. This thing? Not so much. “Can’t. Requires a digital key. The feds are pretty serious about me staying on leash.”

“So, what are they like?” she asked after a minute. “Your new handlers.”

Michael hummed. “Haven’t really gotten a good read on them. Weird, I guess.” He bit his tongue on the ‘smokin hot’ observation. 

“Weird?” Isobel asked.

“They head the FBI supernatural division.  The FBI has a division for the supernatural,” Michael explained.

“Yeah so does the Air Force,” Isobel replied, frowning. “It’s why you have that fancy new piece of jewelry.” She pointed at the anklet peeking out from under Michael’s jeans. Isobel and Max had implored Michael, begged him even, to leave well enough alone. Not to fuck with the military. Leave the past in the past. Just try to live a normal life. 

As if Michael ever knew what the fuck that was. 

At least they didn’t say I told you so when he was arrested. Though they hadn’t gotten a chance to say much of anything, since Michael had warned them off, told them not to visit, on the off chance that they figured out what he was. That was the shit that kept him up at night, the thought that he might get sick or get himself stabbed and a prison doctor would stumble on the discovery of the century.

“Fair,” Michael said. “But it’s still weird you know? They’re clearly interested in what I might have taken from the Air Force. But I gotta wonder if the Air Force has done anything to get on the FBI’s radar.”

Isobel took a pull from her beer, nodding. “Be careful, Michael.” If Michael fell from the tightrope he was walking, he might take Isobel and Max with him this time. And of course he knew that. 

“Hey, I’m always careful,” he protested. 

She snorted. “If that were true, we wouldn’t be in a city I still have trouble spelling, drinking to your indentured servitude to the FBI.”

“You’re such a ray of sunshine.”

“I am a delight,” she agreed, and got up to get them another round of beers.

 


 

Finding out Guerin had found a new place in the span of a day had been somewhere between amusing and annoying. On the one hand, the boy worked fast, and Maria, having a healthy appreciation for hustle, couldn’t fault him. On the other, they were gonna get a late start to their day because of him. Why did he have to move all the way across town?

“This the place?” Alex asked as they approached the RV park. 

“Yup.” Maria nodded, glancing at Guerin’s note. “Lot 58. Says to look for an airstream.” 

Soon enough they were pulling up in front of said trailer, sliding out of the car. Maria went to knock on the door. 

“He better not be asleep,” Alex said under his breath as they waited, taking a drink of his tumbler full of strong, black coffee. Even after all that military, Alex was decidedly not a morning person, which meant that he resented anyone who was able to sleep in past him.

A minute later, Guerin yanked the door open. His hair was in damp disarray, and he was only in a pair of practically painted-on, worn jeans that looked ridiculously soft. 

“Guerin.” She forced herself to shift her gaze, because Guerin’s bare chest and stomach were just… right there, and she wasn’t in the mood to be flustered right now. Her eyes fell on a woman, long blonde hair in a tousled braid, holding coffee. Thankfully fully dressed. Maria arched an eyebrow.  

“Are we interrupting something?” She asked, dryly. Guerin worked very fast, apparently. 

“Gross,” he said, shaking his head slowly, as if ashamed of her for even suggesting it. “Gimme a minute to grab a shirt.” 

“Grab a bag of clothes, while you’re at it. We’re gonna be on the road for a couple days,” Maria called after him.

“Hi.” The woman was standing, going to shake Maria’s hand. “I’m Bella. Michael’s sister.” 

Well, that explained the disgust. Maria kept her expression politely neutral but her instincts told her something was off about this woman. She was… lying. 

“I don’t remember a sister in Guerin’s file,” Alex said between sips of coffee.

“We’re not blood related,” “Bella” said. This time honestly.

Mara hummed, suspicious, and Alex rolled his eyes. But neither of them really cared, as long as it was just sex. After all, sex wasn’t illegal as long as Bella here wasn’t a prostitute. Which if she was, Guerin definitely couldn’t afford her. Too well dressed, for one, and definitely too hot.  

But if she was a girlfriend, why lie? 

Guerin came out a moment later in a blue plaid button down that he couldn’t be bothered to button all the way up, a backpack and a black cowboy hat.

“Oh God, I thought you lost that,” Bella groaned.

“You wish,” Guerin replied, handing over the backpack when Maria motioned for it. He was frowning, not enjoying his privacy being violated. One would think he’d be used to it, Maria thought as she checked the contents--toiletries and a change of clothes. Good. 

“You know,” Guerin continued, taking back the pack once Maria was satisfied with the contents. “Not having this hat with me was the worst part of prison.”

“I think being in prison is the worst part of prison,” Alex said dryly. “Are you ready?” 

“Yeah.” Guerin nodded, taking a breath, looking at his so-called-sister. “Belle, you mind locking up?”

“I’ll head out, call a car. I need to get back to my hotel, anyway,” she said, grabbing a purse and heading out of the airstream with them. She turned to Guerin once more, and poked him. “Call Max,” she said, with the tone of a threat.

Guerin groaned, waving at her a bit and going to climb into the car.  He seemed upset, maybe even regretful. Alex must have picked up on it because he asked, “Who’s Max?”

“My brother,” he replied and Maria couldn’t pick up a shred of dishonesty from him, which was odd. This whole thing was odd. Guerin wasn’t lying, but Bella was? And from all the files on him, Guerin had no siblings. No parents. No nothing before a long string of foster families. Like he had sprang out of the Earth one day.

“So, what exactly do you two do?” Guerin asked from the backseat. Maria glanced back, noting the way he was sitting in the middle of it, arms sprawled over the back of the seat. He was insufferable. “Is there a particular case we’re working on?” 

Since Maria was driving, Alex pulled out a folder from his briefcase and handed it back to Guerin. 

“Goblins?” Guerin said, incredulously.  

“Possible first contact,” Alex said. He didn’t sound hopeful but Maria knew he was. Hopeful for anything that could get him a step closer to nailing his father. “This area of Kentucky does have a history of unexplained sightings.” 

Guerin, however, just snorted. He was skimming through the file, Maria noted with a glance through the rearview mirror.

“So you’re dragging me to Kentucky,” Guerin paused. “I’m sorry, wait. Not just Kentucky but the cousin fucking boonies of Kentucky over the testimony of some drunk ass yokels?”

“I’m sorry,” Alex said. “Would you rather we take you back to the Penitentiary?”

“Alex,” Maria scolded. A glance through the mirror showed Guerin bristling. Not that she needed to see him to know. She could feel the wave of spiky irritation coming off him. And there was no need for that. “Guerin, the reports are from multiple people over a span of weeks. Yes, it’s in the boonies, as you call it, but it can’t all be chalked up to liquor.” 

“I’m just saying,” he started, relaxing just a little. “You’re telling me that a species that has the intelligence for interstellar travel is out in BFE and not at the Jim Beam distillery? I’m calling BS.”

“Why would they be there?”

“There is nothing else of interest on this godforsaken planet. If I were an alien, that’s where I’d be,” he said, with a smirk that felt like some kind of private joke. “Looks like whatever it is has caused some damage,” Guerin continued. “The cops don’t know what to make of it… not that they ever do.”

“Exactly,” Maria said, turning on to the highway that would lead them to the airport.

“Probably just some teenagers in costumes,” Guerin said after a moment.

Alex snorted, amused. “I didn’t peg you for a skeptic.” 

“You can’t possibly believe this stuff?”

“You don’t?” Alex asked, glancing back at Guerin. Maria had to admit, the skepticism surprised her too. It was odd that he seemed so against the idea of aliens considering his rap sheet. 

Guerin was quiet. From the rearview mirror he seemed thoughtful. Maria hoped he was going to spill the beans, the motive for his crimes. No one could ever get that out of him. 

But in the end he just shrugged. “Are aliens real? I think so,” he said, sounding careful and guarded in a way Maria couldn’t understand. “But did these people get visited by rambunctious little green men? Unlikely. Most unexplained phenomena’s perfectly explainable if you have two brain cells to rub together.”

With that said, Guerin slouched over his seat, ducking his head, his hat covering his face, while continuing to go over the file quietly, as if he were aware of Maria’s scrutiny in the rearview mirror. He probably was. 

Alex glanced at Maria, his expression curious and interested. Maria shrugged. But she felt it too. Guerin was hiding something.

Probably hubris to think that he’d be spilling any of his secrets the day he started to work with them, though. This was going to take some time.

Good thing they both liked a challenge.