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Dangerous People

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On Monday morning when Josie walked into FindLove’s offices, Blake and Max both stared at her and Elise rolled her eyes. “Oh dear god, I was afraid that would happen.” Their boss sighed, then gave Max a little push in Josie’s direction. “Fix that, we have a meeting in an hour and I don’t want to deal with it. Use my office.”

“Yes ma’am.” Max smiled his best reassuring smile at Josie. “You heard her. Leave your bag with Blake and come on.”

Mystified, she handed over the bag and followed him. “What…”

“Nope, she said in the office.” He didn’t lead her to Elise’s office, though; he led her to Elise’s gun range and closed the door behind them. And then he gave her a hug. “Congrats, Josie. Steve’s a great guy.”

Josie let him hug her, because Max was really good at hugs and she’d been worrying about things all weekend without having anyone she could discuss them with. “Are you sure he’s real?”

“Oh yes, he’s real – but you aren’t the first person who’s wondered that.” He sat down on the low concrete wall she was pretty sure was the place Elise put her extra guns and things when she was shooting. “I know he didn’t tell you everything.”

She shook her head. “He said he’d tell me in New York next month.” She raised an eyebrow at him. “You know…?”

Max nodded. “Yes, of course I do – I don’t know him as well as I know his buddy Clint, but Steve’s a good friend of the family.” He cocked his head, obviously considering the best way to tell her something without actually telling her anything, and finally said, “Remember when Steve showed up at the wedding because he wanted to drop off a present for Blake and I? Did you ever wonder what it was he gave us?” She shook her head. “He gave us a brand-new unrated special edition of my favorite movie…signed by the director and the star. And the card that went with it had handwritten messages from all three of them.”

Josie took that in. “What’s your favorite movie?”

He blushed, just a little. “Um… Scayered Straights.”

Okay, the idea that Max watched Tarantino movies – much less liked them – was a surprise. “I thought you liked romantic movies?”

Max shrugged. “That is a romantic movie – the protagonist spent the entire thing proving how much he'd loved his husband.”

She closed her dropped-open mouth with an effort as her perspective shifted just enough to make some things that had been blurry come into focus. Max fit so well with Blake’s family not just because he was nice and loved Blake, but because he had a similar mindset. Two hours of bloody revenge killings equals true love? Not the way most people think. And Steve was afraid to tell her who he really was…because he was famous. Not just famous enough that a prestigious restaurateur almost got the vapors from meeting him, but famous enough to get a world-famous director and an A-list movie star to autograph a last-minute wedding present for him – and write personal messages on the card to go with it. “I already knew he was afraid I’d break it off with him once I found out who he really was…but that’s because he’s afraid I’ll treat him differently once I know, that I won’t see him as a person anymore. And he hates it when people don’t treat him like a person…because people do that to him all the time, don’t they?”

Max smiled. “Got it in one. I thought you just needed a little nudge in the right direction to figure it out.” He stood back up, and she realized that he’d only sat down in the first place so she wouldn’t feel confronted in the relatively small space. “Okay, now that your Science Brain has clicked back on, I think we’re good to go.”

Josie wasn’t so sure, though. “Wait. There’s something…this is going to sound really weird, but I need to ask someone about it.”

He obligingly sat back down. “I am someone,” he agreed. “Is it about Steve, or something else?”

“Someone else,” she corrected. “Sort of, anyway. And sort of about me, too.” Josie mentally pawed at the very vague memory that had been bothering her since Saturday night. “We went out shopping for the wedding with Stephen on Saturday, and it was great, but something happened…I’m not really sure how to explain it.” She started to pace. “Steve doesn’t know how to handle it when people aggressively come on to him. Stephen was teasing him about it and told me he was clueless…and then my intuition thing clicked on and I told him why Steve had that problem. Steve thanked me – he said he’d always had trouble putting it into words – but Stephen looked at me like he’d never seen me before and asked how long I’d been able to do that, and if I’d ever done it to him. He seemed to think I’d have been acting funny around him if I had, for some reason. And then after we’d talked about it a little bit he waved his hand and it was like fog rolled through my head and the conversation just sort of went away for a while, I didn’t remember it until later that night.” She stopped pacing and plopped down next to Max on the concrete wall. Her feet dangled, his didn’t. “I’m really not sure what to think about that. The whole incident doesn’t make sense!”

Max’s mouth had dropped open; he closed it again pretty quickly, but he still looked like he’d suddenly realized something really obvious and now felt stupid for not seeing it sooner. “Oh. My. God. I never thought…” He shook his head. “Okay, this is going to be a little trickier than the last one, because I really can’t tell you who Stephen actually is. Maybe if I go at it from the other end…” She snickered in spite of herself, and he shook an admonishing finger at her. “Bad you – not that I wouldn’t have thought of that myself if someone else had said it, but still. Anyway, yes, your intuition thing is special and different and some people might be weirded out by it. That wasn’t why Stephen reacted to seeing it in action, though. My guess would be he reacted because he hadn’t realized you could do that, and because you still treat him like a normal person.”

“I thought he was a doctor?”

“He used to be, I guess you could say he still is – I don’t think they take your degree away just because you change careers.”

“So now he’s in ‘law enforcement’?”

“Sort of.” Max thought some more. “Pretty much everyone you met at the wedding could be considered…well, dangerous, at least by some people. You know that, right?” She hadn’t, but she nodded anyway. “Okay, well…some people can’t handle that, so they act weird around them. Hell, my sister acted weird at the wedding, she was about as subdued as I’ve ever seen her.”

That was subdued?”

“Funny. But yes, it was – I love my sister, but I’ll never deny that she can be kind of a bitch sometimes. A lot of the time. Okay, most of the time.” He waved that away. “Anyway, Stephen…even other dangerous people act weird around him sometimes, Josie, and not just because he’s usually wearing almost every color in the rainbow flag. You didn’t. You liked him from the get-go. And then he finds out you have a…well, I’m not sure it’s a gift so we’ll just call it an ability for hearing the truth about people when they talk. And you still genuinely like him, and you don’t treat him any different than anyone else. I’m sure his mind was absolutely blown by that.”

Josie felt relieved. “So he’s like Steve, he just wants to be treated like a person. And the mental fog thing…” Max shook his head. “You can’t tell me.”

“I can tell you it was probably more about that being a conversation you guys shouldn’t have been having in public than it was him not wanting to keep talking about it. And possibly about him not wanting you or Steve to worry because he reacted to it that way.” He smiled at her. “Stephen is a big mother-hen a lot of the time, he’s really protective of his friends. But if it still bothers you, just ask him to please not do that again the next time you see him. He won’t get upset unless he thinks you’re mad at him over it.”

She shrugged. “I’m not mad, I was just confused. And I’d never thought about that being something…well, we probably shouldn’t have been talking about it on the sidewalk in whatever undiscovered corner of L.A. that was, someone might think we were doing something unethical here at work.”

“Yeah, I’m sure some people might think that.” He stood up, pulling her up with him, and gave her another hug. “Okay, back to work for us. I sent you a file to look over before the meeting, someone may have figured out how to bypass the image screener. It’s someone who works here, though, so I wasn’t sure if he’d been testing something for you or not.”

“Not,” Josie told him. “So yes, feel free to throw him to Elise so she can shred him into tiny little cringing pieces. I’ll find out if he broke anything and then send her a report.”

“Copy me on that,” he requested, and they both left the room and went back to work. Still leaving Josie with more questions than answers, but at least he’d given her some clues she hadn’t had before, and that had been better than nothing.