Read an Excerpt
I hope no one minds us parking here."
Dorothy Murdock glanced at Jasmine Storm, her less than enthusiastic passenger, before pulling her car behind a wooden garage in a dark alley half a block from the public library. A door slammed on the opposite side of the alley just after she turned off the ignition. Footsteps sounded on wooden steps, and then a few seconds later it was quiet.
"I'm sure someone will investigate if they have a problem," Jasmine said. Then maybe Dorothy would give up her quest and go home. "You know it's very possible that nothing will happen tonight."
"I have nothing better to do."
Jasmine sent her boss a disbelieving look. "You have about five hundred projects going."
"I want to find out how the library is getting unlocked, who is doing it and why."
"I still think the chances of the person who's responsible coming by tonight are slim." Jasmine frowned over at Dorothy. "You don't plan on doing this every night, do you?"
"Of course not."
Jasmine wasn't certain she believed her. Dorothy might be a librarian by trade and have put more than thirty years into the profession, but she was an adventurer at heart. Jasmine was not. She was careful. She saved her money, invested in retirement, looked both ways before she crossed the street. She was neither a mystery solver nor a risk taker.
But she was tonight. She couldn't let a sixty-year-old woman do surveillance by herself in a dark alley—not that anything was going to happen.
Dorothy pulled a package of chocolate-chip cookies from her tote bag and offered a cookie to Jasmine, who shook her head. The car was getting stuffy, and after a brief discussion they decided to crack open the windowsand avoid conversation.
For the next hour Dorothy sipped bottled water and Jasmine stared out the window at the dark library, trying to remember the last time she'd been so bored, and occasionally reminding herself that it was no one's fault but her own that she was there watching Dorothy's back. Dorothy would have happily conducted her stakeout alone.
At eleven-thirty, Jasmine started to nod off in spite of her efforts to the contrary, when Dorothy gasped. Jasmine sat upright and squinted into the darkness, her heart beating faster.
"Over there…by the shrubbery…something moved."
"Probably a big dog," Jasmine whispered, rolling her sore shoulders. But then she saw it, too, and froze. A dark form, definitely human, slipping through the shadows toward the library. Her breath caught, not out of fear of the person, but out of fear of what Dorothy might do next. The little woman was practically quivering with anticipation. Jasmine got ready to tackle her if she had to in order to keep her from exiting the car and defending her library.
The person moved closer to one of the library doors and Dorothy sat up straighter, craning her neck to see. The form stilled, and then it turned and darted back the way it'd come, around the corner of the building, out of sight.
Dorothy reached for the door handle.
"Don't even think about it," Jasmine ordered.
"But I recognized—" Dorothy abruptly stopped speaking and her eyes grew round as she stared over Jasmine's shoulder.
Mystified, Jasmine followed Dorothy's gaze and then her heart hit her ribs as she found herself staring down the business end of a very, very big gun.
"Police," the man said in a low voice. "Don't move."
Tony DeMonte was tired and he was pissed— more for his partner than for himself. Yates had spent weeks trying to put together a bust—his first—and now some vigilante neighbor had blown it sky-high by calling to tell Dispatch that if the police didn't do something about the drug house, then he and his buddies were going to. Tonight. And they were going to start with the car parked in the alley, waiting to buy.
Tony understood people wanting to clean up their neighborhoods, but it would have been a damn sight more effective if Yates had been able to work on his own time frame. And now, since the house had been amazingly devoid of anything drug related, it appeared as though the dealer had been spooked by the car that had been sitting in the alley for so long.
Which left the question, what in the hell had these women been doing parked behind a suspected drug dealer's house for several hours?
Yates motioned for the driver, a woman about sixty, to step to the other side of the unmarked patrol car, leaving the passenger to Tony.
"Do you have some identification?" he asked the woman.
"In my wallet."
"Go ahead and get that out."
Her hand was shaking as she removed her driver's license and then handed it out to him.
Oh, well. If you choose to hang out in alleys, you need to be prepared for the consequences.
He compared the ID with the woman standing in front of him. Straight brown hair, brown eyes. Her height and weight matched the description. She actually looked better in the photo than she did in person, but he attributed that to rampant anxiety and bad lighting in the alley.
"Is this your real name?"
"Excuse me?" The question seemed to startle her.
"Jasmine Storm. Is it your real name?"
"Of course it's my real name. Why wouldn't it be?"
"It sounds like a stripper name."
Her eyes widened and Tony sensed that he may have offended her.
"It's my real name."
"It's a nice one. Why are you here?"
She drew herself up. "I'm a library technician—"
"You're a librarian?" Oh, man.
"Library technician. It's different. The library is right there."
"I know where the library is."
"We were here to find out how the basement door gets unlocked."
She spoke grudgingly, as if not wanting to admit to such a ridiculous activity, and Tony started counting the painful throbs now beating in his temple.
"The door's locked when we leave at night, but in the morning it's unlocked."
There was a silence and he realized the story was over. He rubbed hand across his face. "That's maybe the stupidest thing I've heard all day."
"It's the truth," she snapped.
"Doesn't make it any less stupid."
Jasmine Storm glared at him. "Are you a real police officer?"
"No," he said blandly, "these guys let me hang out with them if I promise to buy the beer after their shift."
"I want to see a badge."
He picked up the shield attached to the chain around his neck, held it out for her to see, then dropped it again.
"I didn't get the number."
"Would it make a difference?"
"It will when I report you."
Ah, so the librarian was going to play hardball— or try to. Good luck.
"The name is Anthony DeMonte. There's only one of me on the force, so no one should have a problem figuring out who you're reporting." And he didn't really care if she did, because he was an official short-timer. Seven weeks.
"They're probably used to it."
He shifted gears. "Were you aware that the house you parked behind is a possible drug locale?"
"I'm aware now."
She would have to be pretty dense not to be, since the bust of a bust had occurred within seconds of Yates's identifying himself and keeping her and the older lady contained while the rest of the team swarmed the place. If the raid itself hadn't tipped her off, then Yates forgetting himself and cursing about the absence of drugs should have clinched the matter.
"How about before?"
"Why would I be… I mean, this house is only four doors down from the library. I never dreamed…"
Most people in nicer, quiet neighborhoods didn't.
"You didn't find anything, though, did you?"
That's it, honey. Touch the sore spot. He glanced over at the house. "I can't say." Translation: Not even a pipe.
Still, Yates was positive that Robert Davenport, the man who owned the house they had just raided, as well as several others in the neighborhood, was knee-deep in the drug trade. If that was true, then it was only a matter of time before things were in operation again. And then maybe Yates would have some vindication. Tony hoped so.
"Stay here." He walked over to Yates, who'd just given the other woman permission to inspect the library door.
Yates nodded. "Apparently, they've been having some trouble with someone breaking into the library, and decided to sit in the alley and see what happened."
"Same story I got."
"I know that one." Yates pointed at the older lady. "Her name's Dorothy Murdock. She did story hour when I was a kid."
Vigilante citizens and vigilante librarians. What next? Tony muttered an impolite word.
"Guess we can turn them loose."
He walked back to where Jasmine Storm waited, and Yates headed back to Dorothy Murdock.
"Take my advice and stay out of alleys. Get a surveillance camera if you want to watch the doors," Tony said.
"We can go?"
She glanced past him to the back of the library, where Dorothy Murdock was now inspecting the lock with a flashlight, Yates by her side, and then focused on Tony once again.
"Your treatment of me tonight was less than professional, you know."
Tony's eyebrows went up in surprise. "You're critiquing my performance?"
"Yes, I am," she said, straightening her shoulders. "Is it standard procedure to tell people they're stupid and they have stripper names?"
"I didn't mean to offend you," he said in his cop voice. "Please accept my apologies."
She pulled open the car door without answering, so he tried one more time. "Lady, I'm tired."
"So am I, and I haven't been rude to you."
"Tell you what. I'll give you one free shot to make up for it. Go ahead. Be rude to me. You'll feel better."
Jasmine suddenly narrowed her eyes, as though she'd solved a problem that had been niggling at her. "I know you."
Tony frowned. "No, you—"
"I've seen you at the little market. More than once."
Tony studied her, shook his head. He did shop at a little market, and maybe she had seen him there… but he couldn't recall her.
As her expression changed, he realized that a smart man probably didn't admit to things like that, even silently.
"I'll say hello next time," she said with a little sneer, and then she got in the car.
He tried to think of something to say, but came up with nothing except for a brilliant, "Yeah. You do that."
After Dorothy had dropped her at her home, Jasmine shut the front door and leaned back against it, exhaling loudly. She was embarrassed and exhausted.
The things that had happened tonight never happened to people like her. She sincerely hoped they'd never happen again.
Dorothy had been apologetic on the drive home, but Jasmine suspected that her boss had found the events of the evening stimulating and perhaps even entertaining. Jasmine had not.
She'd had a gun pointed at her, been accused of attempting to buy drugs, and then insulted by an intense and decidedly unprofessional police officer—one who shopped in her little market. All in all, an extraordinary Friday night.
She needed a cup of tea.
Jasmine was halfway to the kitchen, when she heard the characteristic thud of her tabby, Ghengis Khat, landing on the outside windowsill—his cue that he wanted in. Jasmine stopped. He was already supposed to be in.