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By B.J. Daniels
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OnePuget Sound, Seattle
The smell of fish and sea rolled up off the dark water on the late-night air. Restless waves from the earlier storm crashed into pilings under the pier and in the distance a horn groaned through the thick fog.
Maggie shut off the motorcycle and coasted through the shadows and damp fog. She couldn't see a thing. But she figured that was good since he wouldn't be able to see her. Nor hear her coming.
She'd dressed in her black leathers and boots. Even the bulging bike saddlebag was black as the night. She told herself she was being paranoid as she hid the bike and walked several blocks through the dark old warehouses and fish plants before she started down the long pier.
He would be waiting for her somewhere on the pier. With the dense fog and the crashing surf, she wouldn't know where until she was practically on top of him. She assured herself that she had taken every precaution - short of bringing a weapon.
But she was no fool. He had the advantage. He'd picked the meeting place. He was expecting her. And because of the fog, she wouldn't know what was waiting for her at the end of the deserted pier until she reached it.
Fortunately, she was a woman used to taking chances. Except tonight, the stakes were higher than they'd ever been.
The sound of the sea breaking against the pilings grew louder and louder, the wet fog thicker and blinding white. She knew she had to be nearing the end of the pier.
And suddenly Norman Drake materialized out of the fog.
He looked like hell. Like a man who'd been on the run from the police for three days. He looked scared and dangerous - right down to the gun he had clutched in his right hand.
He waved it at her, his pale blue eyes wide with alarm. And she wondered where he'd gotten the gun and if he knew how to use it. He was young and smart and completely out of his league - a tall, thin, bookworm turned law student turned law assistant. She could smell the nervous sweat coming off him, the fear.
"You alone?" he whispered hoarsely.
"You sure you weren't followed?"
He exhaled loudly and wiped his free hand over his mouth. "You bring the money?"
She nodded. The ten thousand dollars he'd demanded weighted down the saddlebag. She reached in slowly and held up one bundle. Unmarked, all old, small denomination bills, dozens of bundles making the bag bulge.
It took him a minute to lower the weapon. His hands shook as he shoved it into the front waistband of his wrinkled, soiled slacks. Not a good idea under any circumstances. As nervous as he was, he'd shoot his nuts off.
"I didn't know who else to call but you," he said, his gaze jumping back and forth between her and the fogged-in pier behind her. "They killed Iverson and they'll kill me, too, if I don't get out of town."
Clark Iverson, her father's long-time attorney, had been murdered three days ago. The police had determined that his temporary student legal assistant was in the building at the time. There was no sign of forced entry. No sign of a struggle. Visitors had to be buzzed in. That's why the cops were actively looking for Norman.
"You told me on the phone you had important information for me about my father's plane crash," she said, keeping her hand clamped on the saddlebag, keeping her tone neutral.
He nodded, a jittery nod that set her teeth on edge. "It wasn't an accident. The same person who murdered Iverson killed your father."
She felt shock ricochet through her. Then disbelief. "It was determined an accident. Pilot failure."
Norman shook his head. "A week before the crash, your father came into the office. He seemed upset.
Later, after he left, I overheard Iverson on the phone telling someone he couldn't talk your dad out of it."
"That's not enough evidence -"
"I was there three nights ago, I heard them talking about the plane crash. Iverson had figured out that the plane had gone down to keep your father from talking. He threatened to go to the Feds. I heard them kill him -" Emotion choked off the last of his words.
"You actually heard someone admit to murdering my father?"
He nodded, his Adam's apple going up and down, up and down. She watched him, shock and pain and anger mixing with the grief of the past two months since the single passenger plane had gone down on a routine business flight. She fought to keep her voice calm. "You said they?"
He seemed surprised by the question. "Did I? I only heard one man talk but -" He frowned and looked away. "I remember thinking I heard two people coming down the hall after the elevator opened." He was lying and doing a poor job of it. Why lie about how many killers there were? "You believe me, don't you?"
She didn't know what to believe now. But her father had liked Norman, thought he was going to make a good lawyer someday. Good lawyer, an oxymoron if there ever was one, her father would have joked. "Norman, how did they get in? The building was locked, right?"
He nodded, looking confused. "I guess Iverson buzzed them up. All I know is that I heard the elevator and -" He looked behind her again as if he'd heard something. "I somehow knew not to let them know I was there."
A foghorn let out a mournful moan from out beyond the city.
"You're telling me Clark didn't know you were still in the office?"
Norman fidgeted. "I'd fallen asleep in the library doing some research for him. The door to his office was closed. Earlier, he'd told me to leave, to do the rest in the morning. I guess he thought I'd left by the door to the hallway. The elevator woke me, then I heard voices arguing."
Excerpted from Wanted Woman by B.J. Daniels Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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