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Protect & Serve(9)

By´╝ÜNikki Wild



“Leave the gas cans,” I instructed, finally tearing my eyes away from them to look up into Nathan’s face.

He waited until they’d shut the door to look down at me. Then he produced the faintest of smiles.

I holstered my gun, leaving the thumb-strap open in case we were in for any more visitors. “Thanks,” I said, though it pained me to do so. Maybe Nathan was a bit braver than I’d given him credit for. “You really think a bullet would set the gas off?”

“No,” he answered, downing the rest of his whiskey in one harsh gulp. “I don’t. And I’m pretty sure the boys downstairs would have riddled us with holes before you took down more than two of them.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” I replied, a shiver passing through me. He was right, of course. I only had a clean shot on two of them, at best. Even if we ducked back into Nathan’s office, they could have lit the house and left us to smolder…

“So if I couldn’t stop them, why did they back down?” I asked.

“Because they know where I live, and they were just here to scare me. I think it might be time to talk about that safe house, detective,” Nathan replied, his smile growing. “I suddenly have a burning desire to put this place on the market.”





2





“So, it’s worse than we thought.”

I stood in front of Captain Pierce, looking down at his wizened face as he leaned back in his chair. His fingers touched his lips, drumming softly the way they did when he was thinking hard about something. His bright eyes narrowed as he stared off into nothingness like an oracle searching the aether for answers. When his faraway look receded, he turned his attention back on me.

“I made a mistake sending you without backup, Williams. If something had happened to you today, it would’ve been my fault. I would’ve had to live with it. It was a bad call. It won’t happen again.”

I straightened. That was the closest thing I’d get to an apology, and I was happy to take it. Captain Benjamin Pierce wasn’t exactly renowned for his overabundance of sentiment, and given how he felt about me, a female cop doing what he felt to be a man’s job, it was more than I had expected.

He stood up from his chair and walked to his office window, lowering one of the horizontal blinds that made mincemeat of the sunlight streaming in. The department had a great view of the city from here and overlooked the distant bay. I got the feeling that he was silently wishing this case away so he could be out in his fishing boat hauling in a marlin or two.

“Look… I want you to keep what happened out there quiet for now. No reports. It’s possible those men stopping by our playboy’s mansion wasn’t a coincidence. Someone might be feeding them information from the inside, letting them know who we’re talking to as we build the case.”

“You think we have a rat?” I asked, my voice low.

“I think we have reason to be careful,” Captain Pierce replied, shifting his gaze back to me. “I spoke with Mr. Hale,” he began. “He said you handled the incident well, despite your obvious disadvantage. I know there wasn’t much you could do, given the circumstances.”

Obvious disadvantage? The words burned in my mind.

“Yes, sir,” I answered, though I didn’t particularly agree. I couldn’t help but feel like I’d fallen short in my efforts to protect Nathan, especially since he’d had to step in and convince those goons I was serious. In all my time on the force, I’d never fired my gun on duty. This time, I was a breath away from pulling the trigger. I felt like a rookie on her first day, and worst of all, I had no doubt that was how the other officers and detectives would choose to see me. I wanted to be angry at Nathan, but I could only be mad at myself. This was my failure, and I needed to own it and not let it shake me up for round two.

Captain Pierce must have read my expression, because he sighed, ran a hand through his white hair, and turned to face me.

“Sandra,” he said, “everybody has something go wrong at some point. Today, you had to let Wallace’s boys walk free to save yourself and the witness. Nobody got hurt, his property is still intact, and you not only convinced Mr. Hale to testify, but to move to the safe house he was so adamantly against last time I sent a uni out there to talk to his spoiled ass. I know it’s not a perfect score, but I think you can count this one as a win.”

I nodded and forced a smile. “Yes, sir.”

He mirrored my expression. “Good. Now, let’s talk about where we go from here.” He put his hands on his hips on either side of his pot belly. “Mr. Hale will be transferred to a secure location on the other side of town. It’s nothing fancy, just some apartment complex near the tracks, but it’s the last place anyone will look for him.”

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