Read an Excerpt
Laura And The Lawman
By Shelley Cooper
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe two men met in the parking lot of a busy truck stop located off of Interstate 80 in western Pennsylvania. It was nearing midnight, and they had each traveled in excess of sixty miles to make the assignation.
Together they entered a brightly lit diner and sat down in a small booth in the rear. From that vantage point they could keep an eye on all comings and goings.
As the sole liaison between undercover cops and the department they all served, the men were used to meeting in out-of-the-way places. Places where they were unlikely to be seen by those they didn't want to see them, and even less likely to be overheard.
Neither spoke until two frosty mugs of root beer, along with two huge plates of food, each loaded with enough fat and cholesterol to guarantee a heart attack, had been placed on the table.
"When's he going in?" Erik Hitchcock asked after taking a hearty swallow of his drink.
"Two weeks," Gregory Phelps replied, spearing his sixteen-ounce Delmonico steak with a knife and fork.
"Have you told her yet?"
"Word came down they don't want her to know. They think it'll be safer for them both. If she doesn't know, she won't make a mistake."
Erik paused to take another sip of root beer, then gave aloud belch for which he didn't apologize. "What about your guy?" he asked, wiping the back of his hand across his mouth before slathering butter and sour cream on a baked potato. "Have you told him we already have someone inside?"
"No. I got the same word you did." Both men ate in silence.
"Know what I think?" Erik finally asked.
"My girl's from New York, right? And your guy is from Pittsburgh. He's a hometown boy. I think the chief wants Pittsburgh to get the credit for this, not New York. That's why he's sending your guy in."
"Even though NYPD's commissioner is his brother-in-law?"
"Because NYPD's commissioner is his brother-in-law."
"Why didn't we send my guy in first, then?" Gregory asked.
Erik grabbed the dessert menu and studied it for a minute. "He didn't fit the bill for the job opening. No one in Pittsburgh did."
"So they had to bring someone in from the outside."
"Exactly. This case is extremely delicate. We send someone in, she has to be an expert."
"Or he," Gregory interjected.
"Or he," Erik acknowledged with a nod. "Anyway, when we knew we didn't have anyone for the job, that's when the chief went begging to his brother-in-law."
"And it's been sticking in his craw ever since?"
"Like the ham sandwich Vinnie Turco choked to death on. That's why, when this opening unexpectedly arose, and we had someone who did fit the bill, the chief decided to send your guy in."
"Two pairs of eyes and ears are better than one, eh?"
"Especially if our pair of eyes and ears pulls off the job." Erik looked rueful. "I have to be honest with you. I'm pulling for my girl. She's smart, she's good, and she's got a great pair of legs."
"She's also going back to New York when this is over," Gregory said, "and we have to stay here with the chief."
"Good point. She's making progress, though. She's been inside a month now. It'll be six weeks by the time your guy goes in. It might be too late for him. Hell, it might even be all over. Rumor has it a big shipment will be arriving shortly."
"Has she found out how it will be coming in, and how it will go out?"
"Then my guy still has a chance. Who knows? If things go well, when this job is done maybe the chief'll be in such a good mood we'll all get promotions."
Erik emptied his mug and replaced it on the table with a thump. "For that to happen, your guy would have to be something else."
"Maybe," Erik allowed. "But can he work miracles? And can he work them before my girl does?"
Gregory shrugged. "Only time will tell."
* * *
Antonio Garibaldi scanned the 4,000-square-foot auction floor and felt his stomach plunge like an elevator whose cable had snapped. He had never been so nervous in his life.
It was only to be expected, he told himself. After all, he lived and worked in a world where murder, violence and treachery were commonplace. A cop couldn't work undercover for any length of time and not carry on an intimate relationship with fear.
In general, fear was a good thing. It kept a man alert. Without it, he'd lose his edge, and probably his life. Truth was, though Antonio had a reputation for being a daredevil - some even said he took unnecessary risks - he was always nervous before starting a new job.
But the way he felt this morning was different. He'd never been this shaky before, and that threw him.
Maybe it was because the man he was replacing, a man who had presumably stumbled by accident across what Antonio was deliberately trying to discover, had disappeared without a trace.
Maybe it was because the recommendation that had allowed him to secure the position of head auctioneer for the Merrill Auction Gallery had claimed an expertise Antonio didn't possess. Though he'd regularly attended auctions since he was a child, and though he knew more about antique furniture than most dealers, the only auction he'd ever conducted had been during his recent, intensive two-week training session with one of the country's foremost auctioneers. Though he'd received high marks, that auction had been roughly a quarter the size of the one he'd be in charge of today.
Maybe it was because it had been months since he'd been with a woman, and his hormones were in overdrive.
Or maybe - and this seemed most logical to him - it was because he'd been looking forward to this job too much. A lot was riding on its outcome. Joseph Merrill was a suspected drug kingpin who controlled a large portion of the drug traffic in the tristate area encompassing western Pennsylvania. Many lives would be lost if he wasn't stopped. Working as an auctioneer for the man would be one of the most dangerous and demanding jobs Antonio had ever undertaken.
But it was more than that. He had a personal stake in the outcome of this case. He was counting on it to revitalize his interest in police work.
Family duty and a sense of adventure were the driving forces that had led Antonio to become a cop. Three generations of his family had proudly worn a uniform and badge. His father was a highly decorated officer. Two of his brothers were also cops. Police work was in his blood.
Given his propensity for danger and excitement, it was only natural that he'd gravitated into undercover work. Antonio was a good undercover cop. He did his job well and always got his man. He'd lived on the edge for years now, receiving commendations and advancing in rank. Until recently he'd loved every minute of it.
Excerpted from Laura And The Lawman by Shelley Cooper Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.