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The Florida night air clung like a damp blanket. Despite the oppressive heat, State Attorney Gail Malloy could barely suppress a shiver as she approached the rendezvous spot. Hard to say whether her blood pumped with anticipation or fear. Probably both.
Her boss accused her of having a death wish, and for once he might be right. She preferred the polite euphemism of being a thrill seeker. However, Gail tightened her grip on the pepper spray can she carried. She'd tucked whatever identification she needed and payoff money in the pocket of her black jeans and clipped her cell phone to the belt.
She checked for traffic and crossed Olive, pausing for a moment by the light pole. Thunderous clouds lumbering overhead kept covering the moon. One block south, West Palm Beach's Thursday night bash was winding down. The live bands along Clematis Street had packed up and only canned music still blared from the nightclubs. Even the stream of pedestrians had thinned. Those citizens who lived by the day were on their way home; those who lived by the night were beginning to emerge.
Gail hoped her snitch, Jean-Pierre, would be on time. He'd picked this spot, a restaurant that catered only to the breakfast-lunch business crowds on the corner of Olive. At the first sign of trouble, Jean-Pierre could scatter down the alley while Gail ran toward the bright lights of Clematis.
If she was able to.
She hadn't told the chief state attorney about her meet. He would have placed a police detail on it, and her favorite snitch could smell a cop within a mile.
No, this was too important. Jean-Pierre had information that might finally put Tony Hernandez in jail forever. If Hernandez had personally killed Juan Montoya-Ortega's number one man in the United States, she'd have a murder one case against the drug kingpin. Not the racketeering charge that had turned into evidentiary shit and teetered on the verge of dismissal by Judge Milken. She could taste the sweet victory that could catapult her out of the ranks of faceless prosecutors and bring down a criminal enterprise.
Yes, there was a chance it was a set-up, but it was a risk she was willing to take to nail the drug lord for good. Tony Hernandez had slipped from the grasp of the law one too many times.
The psychiatrist she'd seen briefly years ago had warned that she wasn't like a cat with nine lives. Well, she still had a number of them left to test out his theory. Tonight's meeting was as important as they came. Jean-Pierre had also hinted he had information concerning the motorcycle gang responsible for the recent rash of attacks on marijuana grow houses.
She needed to know if the city was facing a gang war or if vigilantes were responsible. People meting out their own form of justice were as dangerous as those who broke the law.
Gail halted at the edge of the alley. No light from the street penetrated its inky depths. Only the homeless and criminals would be crazy enough to walk through there. Rotting garbage from the restaurant saturated the air, almost causing her to gag.
"Jean-Pierre?" she called out in a low voice.
No answer. A bead of sweat trickled down her spine. She thought the promise of a thousand dollars would have kept the junkie on time. If she loitered here too long, she could attract the attention of foot patrol officers.
The air stirred behind her. She whirled around. Was that shadow moving?