Home>>read Protect & Serve free online

Protect & Serve(6)

By:Nikki Wild

That hardly surprised me. It was practically required reading for opportunistic capitalists everywhere. What I was surprised by was how every book in Nathan’s tremendous collection seemed worn enough to have been read through at least once. I hadn’t pegged him for a reader, and I’d certainly never seen him pining for books in the times we’d spent together. He didn’t seem like he had the patience.

I turned as he closed the doors behind us and crossed the room to the small seating area near to the fireplace. “Have a seat, detective. If you’re here for business instead of pleasure, we might as well get comfortable.”

As he draped himself lazily across a tufted leather settee, I sunk into one of the high-backed armchairs across from him. I felt like royalty just sitting there, but Nathan didn’t seem to share my perception. He lounged like a bored lion, his muscular limbs dangling almost petulantly off the edges of his seat.

“If you’re not here to fuck, you’re here about Peter Wallace, aren’t you?”

“I am,” I admitted. “His trial’s coming up soon, you know.”

“I’m aware,” he answered in a tone that was half a sigh, half a groan. “I watch the news. I hear the prosecution’s built a decent case this time around, too.”

“Decent isn’t going to cut it,” I interrupted, “and you know that. This is Peter Wallace we’re talking about—the same guy who’s weaseled his way out of prison a dozen times before. And he’ll do it again, unless someone could, say, provide testimony about the particulars of his business in our fair city.”

Despite the oppressive heat lurking just outside, I felt a distinct chill in the air. It was blowing in gusts from Nathan’s side of the room and got stronger with every mention of Peter Wallace’s name. I almost wanted him to turn on the fireplace just to drive it out.

“Sounds like you know a lot about this guy,” he said at last, though he was staring at his bookshelves and not at me. “If you do, then you know what he does to witnesses who agree to testify.”

I nodded solemnly. “I do. And I also know what he does to witnesses who don’t. Last I checked the only difference is how pretty the corpse looks.”

Nathan went quiet, his eyes finally meeting mine. I scooted to the edge of my chair, holding his gaze. “I expect we’ll keep this talk off the record for now?”

“I understand your concerns, Mr. Hale,” I replied, trying to keep my mind off the dark little desires that kept bubbling up inside me.

“Off the record, you’re right. Wallace is not a man to be trifled with. He’s got connections. He’s got ways of making everybody miserable. But that all stops if we put him behind bars, and I’m afraid the only way for us to do that is with your help.”

“And what do I get in return?” he asked me, raising an eyebrow that made it clear he was being coy. As I gave him the death stare, he sat up straighter, his voice taking on a more serious tone. “I mean, sure, there’s some satisfaction in watching this guy get put behind bars for the rest of his life. And from what I understand, he deserves it. It’s not like I don’t want to have a hand in putting him there. But you have to understand, detective—the price I’d pay for that… it could be steep. What guarantee can the police offer me that I’m not going to end up in one of those shipping containers?”

I frowned. I didn’t think we’d released that detail yet, but men as powerful and rich as Nathan had a way of getting information. Some jaded beat cop had probably forked it over for a small fee. I counted my blessings that at least the culprit hadn’t talked to the media—as far as I knew, anyway.

“You don’t have any family, no wife, no real girlfriend,” I said, watching as he grimaced, “so there’s only you we’ve got to worry about. We’ll move you to a safe house, someplace that Wallace’s men won’t be looking for you.”

Nathan shook his head. “I’m staying here.”

“You can’t. This place—well, I’m sorry to say it, but compared to the rest of the city, it stands out like a sore thumb. Your address isn’t exactly private information these days, either. I’m pretty sure half the population’s been to one of your parties, which means if the mob is looking for you, you’re making yourself damn easy for them to find. And if they do…”

I trailed off, hoping Nathan’s imagination would fill in the blanks. He stood up, turned his back on me, and visited the bar at the far end of the room, prying a tumbler from the other side along with a bottle of what looked like whiskey.