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By Harper Allen
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWhen the night-light in his room suddenly went off, Joey Begand knew the killer had done something to the electricity.
He sat up fast in the dark. Swinging his sneaker-clad feet out from the covers, he reached for the duffel bag he'd stashed under the bed the day he'd been brought here, just as if he had been waiting for this moment all along. He had been. He'd even tried to warn the agents guarding him that calling this place a safe house was stupid since it was an apartment, not a house, and hiding here wasn't going to keep him safe at all.
But that was the trouble with being nine years old. Grown-ups thought you didn't know a thing.
He was going to have to get out of here. Then he was going to have to find the one person in the world he figured could protect him.
She'd snuck onto a top-secret government base and watched an alien autopsy. She'd tracked Bigfoot and even taken a picture of him - kind of a blurry one, but that was because if she'd gotten any closer Big-foot would have smelled her scent and torn her apart.
She'd hunted down a whole colony of vampires living in the mountains just north of Albuquerque, and if it hadn't been for the crucifix she always wore around her neck she never would have been heard of again.
Tess Smith, star reporter for the National Eye-Opener, wasn't like most other grown-ups, Joey told himself shakily. Tess Smith believed in monsters. She went up against them every day - went up against them and whipped their ugly monster butts.
Keeping a little kid safe from the monster who was trying to kill him would be a piece of cake for Tess Smith, nine-year-old federal witness Joey Begand thought desperately as he heard the muffled thud of the first body falling somewhere in the darkened safe house....
FBI Special Agent Virgil Connor pushed open the door of the all-night diner just outside of Roswell, New Mexico.
To hell with the heat, caffeine had become a food group over the past few hours, Connor told himself as the waitress plunked a mug in front of him and he slid into a booth adjacent to one occupied by a brunette with a grubby hellion. The waitress plunked a mug in front of him. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the hellion staring at him through an uncut swath of straight, black hair. He lifted his menu, blocking the kid's view.
For two solid days he'd made the rounds of truck stops and diners like this one. The grunt work had just paid off.
The kid was Joey Begand. Connor had no idea who the woman was, but kidnapping a child who just happened to be a federal witness wasn't the only charge she was facing. He could think of a dozen others, starting with accessory to murder. Breaking the news of Bill Danzig's death to the slain agent's wife two nights ago had been the worst moment of his career.
"Keep the ketchup on your side of the plate and stop playing with those fries." The husky-voiced command came from the brunette. "We can't stay here all night, you know."
Connor risked a glance over the top of his menu. Instead of the suspicious glare he'd favored Connor with, the gaze the urchin was directing at the tight-lipped brunette was wide and shining. Joey picked up a too-large cluster of fries with fingers that were even grubbier than the rest of him.
"That's prob'ly not what it looked like, right, Tess? I betcha they got it all wrong, huh?"
The woman called Tess frowned. "For crying out loud, you don't have to choke on them," she said swiftly. "Put half of those back. Who got what wrong?"
"So what'll it be?"
Connor blinked. The diner's waitress, pencil at the ready, had paused beside his booth. He snapped the menu shut.
"Cheeseburger, plain," he said, coming to a decision that had nothing to do with food. "Is there a phone I can use?"
He needed backup. He would have preferred to keep this takedown low profile, but low profile took second place to the safety of civilians, especially when one of those civilians was a child. There was a chance he could still keep a lid on the situation by using the security of a land line, instead of contacting the Agency office on his cell phone.
"Pay phone's outside." The waitress tucked her pencil behind her ear.
"... nothin' like them, right? So what did it really look like, Tess?"
A ketchup-dipped fry in his hand, Joey was pointing to a dangling row of bobble-head dolls suspended over the cash register. About to slide from the booth and head outside to make his call, Connor checked his movement.
Excerpted from Desperado Lawman by Harper Allen Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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