When they opened the door Camel and Yuriy, sitting at their respective desks, looked at them in surprise.
- As I leave and breath, eh? - joked Yuriy - We thought you had been kidnapped by the Russians-
- Is everything okay?- asked Camel, who seemed worried.
- Unfortunately, we didn't hear the alarm clock- Shuichi admitted - We’re no longer used to the small hours-
She remained silent, she didn't want to joke or justify herself.
- Blondie, did you stay in the world of dreams? - Yuriy tried to make her speak.
- Yeah - she replied simply.
- Is everything okay? - he asked, turning serious after noticing her cold reaction.
- Yes, I'm just tired-
She looked at Shuichi in the eye as he spoke those words, silently begging him not to do what he was about to do. But her prayers scattered in the office air.
- I have to go to James for a moment, in the meantime you can inform Jodie about the news of the case - he said, walking towards the door.
- Are you sure you want to go to the boss now? He didn't seem very happy with the fact that you were late- Yuriy informed him.
- I know, that's why I want to go and apologize-
He was lying, that was certainly not the reason why he was going to James. He didn't want to tell Camel and Yuriy the truth, maybe not right now. He would have reserved the grand finale for the evening.
- I'm coming too- she stood up quickly.
- No need, I'll apologize for you too- he stopped her, since he probably understood her intent.
- I want to do it in person- she insisted.
- Jodie... -
- I don't need anyone to speak for me! - she said.
- It will mean that you’ll go to James when I'm done. I also have to talk to him about a personal thing-
She clenched her fists on the desk, not knowing what else to say to get him to let her go with him. He couldn't deny him a moment of privacy, not in front of Camel and Yuriy watching them not understanding what was going on.
Eventually she sat back in the chair and without even looking at his face she replied with a simple "Okay". When he left the office, frost filled the room despite the hot summer day. The two colleagues stared at her perplexed, looking for an explanation. Maybe she could fool Camel, but Yuriy was almost as smart as Shuichi.
- Am I indiscreet if I ask you what's wrong? - the Russian broke the silence.
- Shu went to James to deliver him a letter of resignation- she confessed.
- WHAT?!?! - the two exclaimed in unison.
- Today will be his last day here-
- But why? Did something happen between you two? - asked Yuriy - I noticed some tension in the last two days-
- No, it's all ok between us. Indeed, that's why Shu made this decision-
- I'm sorry but I don't understand-
- James told him that if he didn't leave me he would have to take some action and Shu preceded him saying that if he didn't let him stay with me then he would have left his job as FBI agent-
- James?! But he can't do it! - Camel intervened.
- Yes, he can. In the FBI, love relationships between colleagues aren’t well received-
- But in the past he allowed you to be together, didn't he? -
- Yes, but since it didn't end well this time he doesn't want me to find myself in tears again picking up the pieces-
- So James used as an excuse the fact that love relationships between colleagues aren’t well regarded in our environment, but actually he’s doing it to protect you? - Yuriy took stock of the situation.
Silence fell between them again, as if that brief but intense conversation had never existed. Maybe she should have waited for Shuichi to tell their friends and colleagues that he would have no longer worked with them, but she hadn't been able to lie to Yuriy's insight.
- You know what, Starling? - the latter intervened, shaking everyone from their thoughts.
- That now we're all going to James- he stood up.
- What do you have in mind?- Camel asked.
- Nothing in particular: we go there and cheer for you two. If any of you manage to cry on command, all the better, we must be desperate and upset about the abandonment of a partner-
- Do you want to go to James and play the theater? - she looked at him skeptically - He will never fall for it. He’s twice our age and can read people's eyes well. I know him better than anyone else-
- Precisely for this reason you have to be the one to do the most "intense" part. He’s doing all of this to protect you, so you have to be the one to make him understand that instead of protecting you, he’s pushing you away-
- You think I don't know? I've been puzzling to think about what to say to him to change his mind since this morning! -
- Tell him the truth, that you love Shuichi and that you want to be with him even if he breaks your heart again. Tell him you don't want to lose him either as a boyfriend or as a colleague, because he's good at his job. Drop a few tears in it though, so it works better-
- And what do we do? - Camel intervened.
- I'll explain it to you as we go to the office of the big boss. Come on, the most brilliant team in the FBI goes on the attack! -
- Are you serious? - she asked him.
- Trust Uncle Yuriy- he winked.
- The same Uncle Yuriy who made me dress like a prostitute yesterday? -
- Yes, but admit it was worth it-
She sighed, not knowing what to do. Everyone seemed to have a solution to the problem except her. Shiho just before, now Yuriy.
- Come on, what have you got to lose more than this? - he insisted.
- I think Yuriy is right- Camel supported him - And then I also don't want Akai to leave-
- Okay, let's go to James- she gave up, getting up and following them.
As they walked along the corridor, she had the impression that they were shooting the scene of one of those movies where superheroes advanced in slow motion next to each other, while the wind blew on their faces making their hair move sinuously. But they weren't superheroes, they were three fools who were going to their boss to play a script that was as believable as a low-quality soap opera.
They stopped in front of the closed door of James's office, without saying a word. They listened trying to understand what he and Shuichi were saying to each other inside that room, but they heard nothing.
- Shall we go in? - Camel asked hesitantly.
- Better to knock, we’re rebelling but in a polite way- winked Yuiry.
- Is there a "polite" way to rebel? - she looked at him skeptically.
The colleague didn’t answer her, smiled and gave three light knocks on the door. On the other hand, no answer came.
- Do you think he has heard? - asked Camel.
- Do you think it’s better to knock harder? - Yuriy answered with another question.
As they wondered what was best to do, the sound of approaching footsteps came distinctly to their ears.
- I think he heard very well - she commented.
The door opened and the imposing figure of James appeared before them.
- What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be in the office working? - he looked at them one by one, focusing in particular on her.
- We should, but we needed to talk to you- said Yuriy.
- I'm busy now, when I'm done I'll join you in your office-
- No, we need to talk now - he insisted - Can we enter? We know Akai is in there-
- This is a private conversation, I'm sorry but you can't enter - he replied adamantly.
- Let me in at least- she intervened, staring at him seriously.
- You and I will talk later- he held her gaze.
- No, you and I talk will talk now and we will do it in the presence of Shuichi. I remind you that I’m also involved in this story, so stop excluding me as if it didn't concern me! -
- Please James, we would like to be able to say what we think about it- Camel tried to speak, albeit hesitant - We’re very sorry for Akai's decision and if we can do something to convince him to stay we will do it-
- What's going on? - they heard Shuichi's voice behind James.
He must have overheard the conversation and approached to speak.
- Apparently your colleagues don’t want you to leave- James explained.
- We wanted to make a polite riot but we weren't very convincing- Yuriy told him.
- Did you tell them? - he turned to her, ignoring their colleague.
- Yes, it was right that they knew-
- The idea of coming here was mine, she didn't want to. Don’t blame her- Yuriy defended her.
While they were arguing some of their colleagues walked past them, walking down the corridor and observing the scene. Perhaps it wasn’t the case to give further spectacle, also judging by the annoyed expression on James's face.
- Come in - he ordered, moving to the side of the door to let them pass.
Without opening their mouths, like obedient toy soldiers, they lined up one at a time. James knew how to intimidate someone if he wanted to.
They positioned themselves in front of the desk but moved to the right side, while Shuichi returned to sit in the chair on the left. Their leader took his place behind his desk and crossed his arms over his chest.
- Let's hear what you have to say that is so important- he invited them to speak, in a not exactly cordial and friendly way.
- Let's get straight to the point: we want to prevent our colleague from going away- said Yuriy.
- Please Akai, think about it- Camel pleaded, approaching him.
- Couldn't you just tear up the resignation letter and give him permission to date this beautiful girl? - ventured the Russian, indicating her with a nod of the head.
James didn’t answer her question, he remained silent and turned to look at her.
- You don't say anything? -
- Oh, now you care about what I think? When you told Shu that if he didn't leave me you would take some action you didn't seem to care much about my opinion! - she vented.
- Remember that we are here to speak in a kind and polite way- Yuriy tried to calm her down.
- I don’t understand, boss- Camel took the word - If they’re good at work and respect the rules, why can't they be together? - he spread his arms.
- I agree - Yuriy supported him - In these weeks in which we have worked together Akai and Jodie have always maintained a professional attitude in the office. No fuss, nothing that could in any way embarrass me and Camel or distract them from their work-
- I confirm- Camel nodded.
- I’m well aware that love relationships between colleagues in the FBI aren’t well received, but personally I’ve always found this view a bit rigid. In short, if two colleagues fall in love it’s not a crime. As long as they do their job well and leave their problems outside the door, what harm they can do if when they leave this place they hang out, live together or get married? -
- And tell me, Yuriy: can you say with certainty that the problems will remain outside the door? - James asked him, staring him straight in the eye.
- As far as I could see, yes. I don't know much about it because it's not in my nature to meddle in the affairs of others, but if I may say so, the fact that there may have been problems between them in the past it doesn't necessarily mean they have to repeat themselves in the future. We all make mistakes, the important thing is to learn from them and move forward. Thinking about it and digging it up doesn't help anyone, at least that's what I think-
All along Shuichi had done nothing but listen to everything his two colleagues had said, in silence and with his eyes closed. Yuriy and Camel were fighting for them while she was doing nothing. That was her battle, she had to be the one to make a move.
- I was twenty-three years old and had no experience, James, you can't sentence me to life because six years ago I suffered for what happened. I'm not the same little girl anymore-
- Even when you were crying a few nights ago in front of your door you were twenty-three, Jodie? - he replied.
- Now you're unfair - she pointed out, hurt by his words - You don't even know what was behind those tears and if maybe, for once, it wasn't my fault. You say you’re doing all this to protect me but you don't understand that the only thing you’re actually doing is hurting me. How can you ask a man you know how much I love to leave me?! -
- Forgive me if I say so- Yuriy interrupted their conversation, turning directly to James - In every relationship there are tears, good times and bad times. Even if there are days when Akai will make her cry, then others will follow where he will make her laugh. Life is like this, but this doesn’t mean that we shouldn't fall in love just because love can also be painful at times-
- Please James, throw that letter - Camel pleaded him.
- If you’re firm in your position no one will be happy at the end of this day - said the Russian - If you’re really convinced that Jodie is wrong then let her make this mistake. My mother always said that at a certain point you have to let your children go and watch them from afar as they fall and get up: if you always walk alongside them they will never learn. Maybe you'll learn that you were wrong and that what you thought was a mistake is actually the best thing that could happen to Jodie, who knows-
- That's enough, you can go- James ended that conversation, inviting them to come out.
His tone seemed to have softened compared to before, but his expression remained serious and thoughtful.
- So, what conclusion have we come to? - asked Yuriy.
- I need to think about it, I will call those directly involved when I’ve made my decision-
- And you leave us hanging? -
- Yuriy, get it over with - she dismissed him, exhausted.
- Hey, I'm working for you- he pointed out.
- Do you have anything to add? - James asked Shuichi.
- I would just like to thank my colleagues here for asking my opinion before doing this whole show - he finally spoke.
- But we just wanted to prevent you from leaving- Camel justified himself.
- Without asking me first- he repeated, but in a calm tone.
- Now don't be a spoilsport - Yuriy went on - You wouldn't have allowed us to help you and so we took the liberty of doing it by keeping you in the dark. It's for a good cause, don't get mad-
Shuichi got up from his chair and headed for the door, followed by the other two colleagues. Instead, she stood there looking at James, not moving a muscle. The three stopped in front of the open door and looked back, waiting for her to join them too.
- Jodie? - her boyfriend called her.
She turned to look at him but didn't answer. She wanted to stay there and talk to James alone.
- Come on, let's go and close the case of the Russians- Yuriy invited her too-
- Go, I'll join you shortly-
She felt the concern on the faces of her colleagues, but eventually Camel and Yuriy nodded and headed for the office. Only Shuichi remained there and took a few steps to go back inside.
- You can go too, Shu - she reassured him.
- You intervened in my private talk with James and now you do not allow me to be present in yours? - he smiled.
- I would like to speak privately with James-
- I wanted to do it too-
- You can discuss your personal matters out of here- James intervened - And now you both get out-
- I'm just asking you for two minutes of your time- she replied.
- Not now-
- You can refuse to accept my decision but you can’t refuse to talk to me- she stood up to him.
- And you can refuse to accept mine but up to a certain point! - he raised his voice - I allow you certain attitudes only because I raised you and I consider you as a daughter, but remember that I’m still your boss and you can’t refuse to obey my orders at work! -
- I didn’t oppose your orders at work, last night I worked until two o'clock risking to be stabbed or shot by Russian criminals! I opposed your interference in my private life! - she raised her tone too.
- I told you I'll call you back here later! Now get out of my office, both of you! - he ordered, standing up and banging his open palms on the desk.
She jumped at that reaction: James didn't get angry often but when he did he was terrifying.
Shuichi walked over to her and placed a hand behind her back.
- Come on, now let's go. James said he will call us when he had thought about it, you have to be patient- he invited her to follow him out the door.
Walking slowly and with her head down she followed her man without saying anything more. She didn't want to pull too hard and felt hurt by the fact that the man who said he thought of her as a daughter didn't even want to listen to her.
- Sorry for the trouble James, we didn't want to waste your time- said Shuichi, making a small bow with his head and closing the door behind him.
There was no one in the corridor, the silence hovered like the calm after the storm. She was still standing there, staring at the floor with clenched fists, while Shuichi's hand stroked her head.
- Don’t worry, he’ll get over it. But you shouldn't have come to play the heroes, you irritated him-
- And what were we supposed to do, let you deliver that letter and give up on you? - she finally looked him in the eye.
- In that way the matter would have been closed without clashes-
- How can you say such a thing?! - she stared at him shocked - We fought for you! Nobody wants you to leave just because you kiss me out of here or sleep in my bed! We're not doing anything wrong, Shu! -
- I know, but the decision was mine. James never told me to leave-
- He threatened you! -
- It wasn’t a threat, rather a warning- he smiled - Come on, now let's go and deal with our case-
Without saying a word, they walked to the office where Yuriy and Camel were waiting for them. She felt she hadn’t done enough and made the situation worse. James was angry as she had never seen him before and the fact that he didn't even want to listen to her hurt her. She felt stabbed in the back by the man she had always trusted more than anyone else, before meeting Shuichi.
- So, did he say something to you? - asked Camel, as soon as they crossed the threshold of the office.
- No, I think he will speak only at the end of the day- Shuichi answered, taking his place at his desk.
- Was he very angry? - intervened Yuriy.
- Let's say he haven’t liked your intervention and even less Jodie's rebellion-
She said nothing, went to sit down and stared at the desk with her head down. She was tired, angry, disappointed, plus she was sleepy from the sleepless night. She could feel her colleagues' eyes on her and it bothered her.
- Don't worry, you'll see that everything will be fine- Yuriy tried to reassure her, but she didn't answer.
- Did you do something before we got there? - Shuichi brought attention back to the case.
- I went to interrogate some clan members we caught last night, but they’re all small and frightened fishes and haven’t opened their mouths. I got some insults and no valuable information- concluded Yuriy.
- Apparently Viktor was their leader and Aleksander his right hand. At the moment they are the only ones from which we can obtain information- added Camel.
- How are they?-
- Some of our people are watching them in turn. For now they’re not dead and they’re out of danger, but they still have holes in their bodies and I think they hate us to death- replied the Russian.
- Well, then if they're alive they can take an interrogation, right? - he grinned.
- Do you want to go to the hospital to question them? -
- If they are the only ones with information then I see no other solution-
- But wouldn't it be better to wait for them to recover and be discharged? - Camel intervened doubtfully.
- I'm sorry but I don't mean to wait. I don’t have to feel compassion for them- he replied firmly.
- What do you think?-
She didn't even notice the question that Yuriy had asked her, she was so immersed in her thoughts.
- Jodie? -
Shuichi's voice brought her back to reality.
- What? - She shook her head, as if she had suddenly woken up from years of sleep.
- Try to be careful, if you lose the explanations then we have to repeat from the beginning- her boyfriend scolded her, but without being too harsh.
- Sorry- she took off her glasses, running a hand all over her face.
- Akai wanted to go to the hospital to question Viktor and Aleksander- Yuriy summed up the situation, looking at her worried.
- It's the same reaction that Camel and I just had, but he didn't give up- he pointed at Shuichi with his thumb.
- Do you want to go now? -
- We have no reason to wait, do we? - answered her boyfriend.
- If you’re not feeling well, you can stay here and finish filling out the documentation of what we did last night. So if James calls you you can go- said the Russian.
Certainly he must have understood that her only concern that day was to receive a definitive answer from her boss and former legal guardian, everyone had understood that.
- I think it's better that she comes too, it's not good for her to be here alone- Shuichi said.
- You and I can go to hospital and leave Camel with her. I think no more than two people are needed for the interrogation - suggested the Russian.
- We need her, you forget that she did the biggest part of the job and that maybe she have some power over Viktor-
- I don't think he still has a soft spot for me after I reduced him like this - she shook her head.
- Wait a moment... - Yuriy stopped them - We’re forgetting about someone else besides Viktor and Aleksander-
-And who? - Camel asked.
- Harrington's widow and his beloved little brother. Oksana said that they too had something to do with it. Maybe it’s the case that someone also goes to them-
- We can't do it before we have Viktor's confession - she said - Otherwise if they find out that it was Oksana who gave us this information they will make her pay dearly and I don't want to-
- Don't worry, I have the solution- Shuichi smiled, as always with that self-confident air.
- And what would it be? -
- Since we captured them last night, Viktor and Aleksander have always been constantly monitored by our agents: in this way it’s impossible for them to have contacted Charlotte and Daniel Harrington to tell them about what happened and plan a way to get everyone clean. Just go to Charlotte and say that Viktor spilled the beans, so she won't be suspicious of Oksana-
- Should we lie to her? - Camel asked incredulously.
- We do it for a good purpose - he replied - The end justifies the means-
- So what do you do? You and I are going to the hospital and Jodie is going to Charlotte? - Yuriy suggested.
- Yes, it seems like a good idea. Camel, accompany Jodie- he ordered.
- No need, I can go alone- she replied - After all I don't run any risks, Charlotte would never get her hands dirty to hurt me-
- Not her, but I suspect Daniel may be with her. As the saying goes "when the cat is away, the mice play": now that Russel is out of the game I think Daniel visits that house more often-
- No problem, I'm going with her - accepted Camel, who would have never disobeyed an order from Shuichi.
- Well, let's go then- Yuriy stood up, followed by all the others.
It bothered her to leave the office, as she hoped that James would have come in at any time and accept her relationship with Shuichi; however, she couldn’t shirk her duty or she would have given him one more reason not to give her the benefit of the doubt.
Eventually she got up too and went out with her colleagues. Unfortunately, all she could do was wait for that day to come to an end to know how that story would have turned out.