Cullen leaned back in his chair and scowled across his desk at the SAIC from the New York office. Tyler frowned heavily back at him, his expression stubborn as he continued their argument, "Without the original time-stamped data, we don't have a chance of nailing Jenkins. There's no way we can entertain the idea of actually handing it over to them."
"Look, Mark," Cullen's voice was tired but his tense frustration was evident in the way he bit off each word, "My tech is telling me that the card is pretty much useless anyway. He says the damage is too extensive and the data that he can manage to extract has no value to us…" He snorted slightly, "Unless we can manage to get Jenkins on tax evasion…"
Tyler's eyes widened. "Did he find something…" he began hopefully.
Cullen interrupted him with an impatient huff, "That was a joke, Tyler." He sighed, glancing down at where the pen in his hand was making absent doodles on the desk calendar in front of him.
A soft tapping on his office door brought his gaze up. Brow furrowed as he debated their options, he raised a hand to impatiently gesture the intruder into the room. A slight young man, his expression harried, juggled a large stack of manila folders, three-ring binders, and a sheaf of papers as he negotiated opening the door.
He took two steps into the office and hesitated, beginning to stammer uncomfortably, "Er… Ms. Cason asked me to bring…" He stuttered, his eyes darting between Tyler and Cullen before he swallowed hard and started over, "Um, she said…" He paused, and then continued in a rush, "This is some of the…ah…it's the information you requested, sirs,"
His voice was diffident, his expression still nervous and twitchy even after having served at the Hoover for a month. Recognizing the youngster, Cullen sighed and nodded at the newly fledged intern, trying to ease the scowl on his face enough so the young man wouldn't quiver to a full stop in the middle of his office.
He pointed impatiently to a spot on his desk, silently ordering that the load be placed on the corner. The ability to ignore the presence of interns was a habit deeply ingrained in most senior agents, and he swiftly dismissed the man from his thoughts, turning his gaze back on his New York counterpart to continue their conversation, "I think it'd be best to go ahead and set up the meet. Try to negotiate. Use the card to get Dr. Brennan freed." He waited for the expected objection.
Just as easily as the Deputy Director, Tyler ignored the young man who was attempting to sort the folders and binders onto the desk. He shook his head and eyed Cullen dourly, "Jenkins isn't going to go for it. Not unless you send Agent Booth with the card." His scowl matched the one that formed on Cullen's face at the thought. He rolled his head, trying to ease the overly tense muscles in his neck and shoulders before he sighed again. "This bastard's tough, Sam."
"Yeah," Cullen frowned thoughtfully and then sighed in resignation, "Jenkins said he'd call us. All we can do now is wait. My bet is that he wants Dr. Brennan safely on his own territory before he sets up the meet."
Tyler nodded his confirmation of the other agent's summation. "That would be my guess, too. But I'd like to have a plan in place for when he does call…"
"Oh, damn!" The muttered oath resounded in the room, swiftly followed by the thud of two binders hitting the floor. Another binder slid off the stack of folders to knock over a brass and glass picture frame on Cullen's desk and the frame skidded off the desk to hit the floor with a clatter. The rustling flutter of freed papers wafted through the pregnant silence that followed the initial noise as a folder calmly continued to dump its contents over the side of the desk.
Cullen and Tyler rolled identical glowers over to pin the hapless young intern who squirmed and flushed and then suddenly started babbling. "I'm so sorry…oh damn…they slipped, Director Cullen…I…Sorry…I'll just…" He crouched and started blindly grabbing for the loose papers that had hit the floor with one hand while the other hand picked up one binder and tried to place it on top of the precarious stack of folders on the desk.
The small pile started to slide again, threatening to dump the rest of the information into an avalanche of paperwork that would follow the picture frame. Cullen moved swiftly, leaning forward and placing a blocking hand on top of the pile, stopping its forward motion just shy of having the contents of yet another manila folder land in his lap. Cullen shot Tyler a filthy glower as a hastily stifled snort of amusement escaped the man.
"Jason!" Cullen's growl brought the young intern's head up. Wide blue eyes peeked fearfully over the edge of the desk at him as the kid swallowed audibly and remained crouched, his right hand frozen in the act of reaching for the next binder.
"Sir?" the question was a squeak more reminiscent of a teen going through puberty than the voice of a young-twenty FBI intern.
Cullen sighed, closing his eyes. "Just leave it." His exasperation was palpable.
The narrowing of Cullen's eyes stopped the next squeak and the young man swallowed audibly, nodded jerkily, and dropped the binder he held back down onto the floor. He straightened up, his hand leaving the pile on the desk as Cullen gave it a steadying shove away from the edge. "Um…"
Cullen jerked his chin in the direction of the door and the intern flushed hotly and nodded, his voice finally lowering back into its normal register, "Yessir…" He spun on a heel and darted out of the door, pulling it shut behind him as he fled the room.
Another poorly disguised chortle of laughter brought Cullen's glower to rest on Tyler. The other man raised his hands in appeasement, and then grinned in open commiseration with Cullen's plight. Shaking his head again in exasperation, Cullen gingerly lifted his hand from the pile of paper, ready to slap it back down if the small mountain made any new motion. He sighed.
Tyler eyed the pile and chuckled slightly, guessing lightly, "Less than a month?"
Cullen grunted an affirmative as he leaned back into his chair, eyeing the mess with a morose eye. "Just a bit over…" Mild amusement finally edged into his face before he sighed again and groused about the intern program, "I hate their first three months; they're always so jumpy…" He shook his head as Tyler chuckled at his beleaguered mutter. "Where were we?"
Tyler sobered swiftly and leaned forward. "We need to come up with a game plan, Sam."
"Yeah." Cullen frowned, his eyes focusing on something in the middle distance as he tried out a few scenarios in his mind. "Okay," his eyes found Tyler's, holding them with an intense stare, "You're sure Jenkins won't go for a trade that doesn't include Booth?"
Tyler nodded emphatically. "Yeah, I'm sure." His tone was apologetic, but there was no hesitation in his answer.
Cullen scowled, reluctantly admitting, "Well, I know Booth wouldn't have a problem with taking the risk…" His frown grew fierce as he shook his head. "But, the shape he's in, no way I'm going to let him volunteer."
Tyler waited tolerantly as Cullen paused again in thought. His patience was rewarded when Cullen spoke into the silence, his voice slow and reflective as he worked his way through an idea. "I have an agent who is very close to Booth's height and build. With a little help from our undercover gurus, I think he could pass for Booth as long as Jenkins doesn't get too close a look at him… Long enough to get a team in place, at least."
Tyler nodded, considering the idea. "Any differences in their appearance could be attributed to Booth's injuries." His tone held both an apology for the injuries that had been caused and a blunt practicality as he planned to use those same damages to good effect, "All the bruising on his face…I think we could play it up a bit use it to conceal the fact that it isn't actually Booth."
Cullen nodded, his frown remaining. "I don't like putting any of my agents under the gun like this, but…"
Tyler nodded his understanding of Cullen's reluctance. Quietly, he offered, "Once we get the location for the meet, we can set up a trap. I know I can get a couple of teams down here quick enough to get them into position."
"If we can convince Jenkins that he is getting both Booth and the card, we might get a chance to get him in custody…" Cullen raised an eyebrow at Tyler, "For kidnapping, at the very least…"
Tyler made a moue of distaste that ended with a one-shouldered shrug of resignation. "I'd rather put him away for the drugs, Sam. You know that." He sighed. "But right now, given the situation, I'll be glad to have him on anything."
Cullen watched him for a long second, his eyes measuring the other man. Tyler met the direct gaze head-on, one eyebrow climbing in inquiry as he waited for the other man to judge his sincerity. Finally, Cullen nodded his acceptance of Tyler's words.
"Okay, then…" He leaned forward. "Let's get the details worked out before we get that call…"