The crime-fighting duo of Megan Luz and her K-9 is back—and on the prowl. . .
WILL THEY DIG UP THE TRUTH?
When a rash of college students falls seriously ill after ingesting Molly, a “club drug” also known as ecstasy, Officer Megan Luz and her K-9 partner Brigit are tasked with tracking down the dealers. Going undercover at the university leads Megan closer and closer to infiltrating the drug trafficking ring. But when the investigation implicates her former partner and workplace nemesis, Officer Derek Mackey, Megan’s powers of discernment are put to the test.
OR ARE THEY BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE?
Thwarted when the Feds seize control of the investigation and frustrated by the lack of attention the DEA is putting into the case, Megan continues her own unofficial investigation with Brigit’s help. But when the trail leads them in an unexpected and dangerous direction, Megan and Brigit find their own lives at risk. Can the K-9 team take down those in power? Or are some criminals simply above the law—and paw?
Above the Paw is the fifth book in Diane Kelly's series featuring Police officer Megan Luz and her K-9 dog partner Brigit.
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About the Author
Diane Kelly is a former state assistant attorney general and tax advisor who spent much of her career fighting, or inadvertently working for, white-collar criminals. She is also a proud graduate of the Mansfield, Texas Citizens Police Academy. Diane combines her fascination with crime and her love of animals in her stories. Diane now lives in North Carolina, where she spends her days catering to her demanding cats or walking her dogs in the region’s beautiful woods.
Read an Excerpt
Above the Paw
By Diane Kelly
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 Diane Kelly
All rights reserved.
BUSINESS, BUT NOT AS USUAL
"Things aren't looking too good for you, are they?"
God, how he'd love to wipe that smirk off the prick's face. Instead, the Dealer offered a shrug. "I'm not worried."
The prick snorted, clearly not buying it. "You should be."
The two locked stares for several moments. He was sick of demands, sick of threats, sick of people like the man sitting in front of him. Acid churned in his gut, threatening to eat its way through and dissolve him on the spot. But he'd be damned if he'd show any sign of weakness.
"Look," the guy said, the smirk softening a bit. "I need you, you need me. We help each other out. That's how this works."
That might be how it worked, but there were lines the Dealer had never crossed before. Lines he would never cross. There was too much at stake, too much he could lose. He looked the prick in the eye. "No deal."CHAPTER 2
THE PRICE OF FREEDOM
Fort Worth Police Officer Megan Luz
Hell couldn't be any hotter than Fort Worth, Texas, on the Fourth of July.
My polyester-blend police uniform stuck to my sweaty body as if I'd been shrink-wrapped. It didn't help that the darn thing was dark blue. The metal badge on my chest had heated in the sun, like a branding iron trying to sear my skin through the fabric. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, either. Relief would only come when the relentless sun fell below the horizon in another hour or two. I only hoped I'd last until then.
I glanced down at my furry, four-footed partner, Brigit. "How you holding up, girl?"
The large shepherd mix looked up at me, her tongue hanging out of her mouth as she panted. Her weary eyes said what her mouth couldn't. This stinks.
The two of us had been assigned to work the Independence Day celebration at the Panther City Pavilion. The full-day festival included pony rides, bounce houses, and face painting for the kids, as well as tubing on the adjacent Trinity River and live music for the adults. Of course the fireworks display scheduled for later tonight was for everyone.
To ensure the event was as family-friendly as possible, the chief had scheduled extra patrols to work the crowds, pulling officers in from other divisions throughout the city. Just as the police department had reported en masse to cover the various Independence Day events throughout the city, as well as to deal with the inevitable drunks the day would bring, so had the fire department beefed up its head count to deal with fires caused by errant Roman candles and accidents caused by the inevitable drunks.
Given my partner's olfactory capabilities, she and I had been assigned to work the entry gate. While I greeted attendees with a smile and a "How are you doing today, folks?", Brigit performed a sniff test on each of them, scenting for illegal drugs. Our mission was to prevent any such things from making their way into the venue.
While the heat was stifling, at least Brigit and I were in good company. Having appointed the subordinate members of his team to other duties, my boyfriend Seth worked the gate with us. He sported a pair of black boots, dark cargo pants, and a fitted T-shirt identifying him as a member of the Fort Worth Bomb Squad.
With broad, hard shoulders and powerful pecs, Seth was quite a sight to behold. Several women and a couple of teenaged girls in the vicinity were doing just that — beholding him. Yep, those hours spent perfecting his butterfly stroke in the city's swimming pools had certainly paid off. With his gorgeous green eyes, a strong jawline, and a sexy chin dimple that drew your eyes to his mouth, a girl could do much worse.
But what made him even more attractive was that he wasn't exactly model perfect. His ears were a little too big and his right cheek was tainted by a faint pink lemon-sized scar, a burn mark earned during his days with an army explosives ordnance disposal unit in Afghanistan. That scar wasn't the only one he'd earned in the army, and he'd gotten plenty before joining the military, too. But those scars were on the inside, invisible yet unhealed.
Seth worked now both as a firefighter and a member of the explosives unit for the city's fire department. So did his partner, a yellow lab named Blast who was sniffing the people coming through the gate for fireworks or explosives while Brigit sniffed them for drugs. They were a tag team in dog tags. Sniff-sniff. Sniff-sniff.
When a couple with a toddler in a stroller passed muster, I waved them in. "Enjoy yourselves."
The parents gave me a smile, while the kid pulled its fingers out of its mouth and reached for Brigit, giving her a friendly pat that resulted in a fur-coated hand. She held the hand up in front of her face, looking at it quizzically, too young to understand how her hand had suddenly sprouted hair.
Crouching down, I picked up the cooler I'd brought and poured more chilled water into Brigit's bowl. While I ran a hand over her neck, she furiously lapped up the liquid with a slurp-slurp-slurp. Blast shoved his face into the bowl next to hers to get at the water, too.
Seth held up a hand to stop the line of people streaming through the gate. "Give us just a second, folks."
Once the dogs had drunk their fill we resumed our duties.
Blast alerted on a group of five boys who appeared to be around twelve or thirteen, just old enough for their parents to send them to an event like this on their own.
Seth rewarded Blast's efforts with a "good boy" before turning to the bad boys. "You boys got fireworks on you?"
"Yeah," one said. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of Black Cats, opening his palm to show them to Seth.
"Sorry, buddy," Seth said. "I'm going to have to take those."
Fireworks were illegal within the city limits and anyone caught with them faced a hefty fine. Of course the department tended to go easy on minors, merely confiscating their stashes and educating them on the law.
"Aw, man!" the kid complained. "I bought those with my lawn-mowing money."
"I feel you, kid," Seth said sympathetically. "But you gotta keep them outside the city limits. That's the law. They cause too many fires and injuries. We had one kid yesterday who blew half his finger off."
The boys exclaimed in unison, half disgusted, half intrigued by the carnage. I wasn't sure if Seth's story was true, but even if it wasn't, it could be.
"Tell your parents, okay?" Seth added. "They could be fined a lot of money if the fire department finds y'all with fireworks again."
"Okay," the kid muttered.
All of the boys emptied their pockets and Seth added the take to the fireproof bin he'd brought to collect the contraband.
"Cool dogs," one of the boys said, eyeing Brigit and Blast, his resentment evaporating as fast as his adolescent sweat.
Seth reached into a pocket on his cargo pants and pulled out a trading card that featured a photo of Blast and some details about him. He held it out to the kid. "Would you like one of Blast's trading cards?"
The boy took the card. "Cool!"
The others clamored for cards. "I want one! I want one!"
Seth distributed cards among the boys. I, too, had a pocketful of cards made with Brigit's photo and details on them, including the fact that she'd been recruited from the city pound after impressing her first handler with her high energy and intelligence, two traits critical for a successful K-9. The card also noted that she'd graduated at the top of her training class. Valedogtorian. The boys left without their fireworks but at least they now had souvenirs to take home with them.
A few minutes later, a bosomy woman with hair the color of canned peaches approached. She was dressed in her trademark pink, all the way from her straw sun hat, down to her fitted knit dress, and ending at her wedge sandals. Trish LeGrande was a reporter for a TV station in Dallas. Though she'd worked her way up from PTA carnivals and charity bake sales to report on bigger stories, she still handled the occasional fluff piece. Her cameraman trailed along behind her, his equipment resting on his shoulder.
"Hello, Miss LeGrande," I said as she approached.
She stopped and tilted her head just so. "Have we met?"
"Several times," I said.
Though Trish and I had met when she'd reported on earlier cases I'd been involved in, she never seemed to remember me. It could be an honest mistake. After all, she surely met hundreds if not thousands of people when working her stories. Then again, she could just be a bitch.
She made no apology for failing to recognize me, which had me leaning toward bitch. Instead, she eyed Seth, running her eyes over his broad, well-muscled shoulders and firm pecs under the thinly veiled guise of reading his BOMB SQUAD T-shirt. She gushed in her breathy voice, "I'd love to get some footage of you."
I bet you would.
I stepped back to allow Trish and her cameraman to make stars of Seth and Blast. Who was I to stand in the way of their fifteen minutes of fame?
Trish scooted up next to Seth, draping a hand over his shoulder and smushing her boobs against his upper arm. Yep, definitely a bitch. Her cameraman stepped into place and gave a signal.
"Hello!" Trish purred at the lens. "I'm here at Panther Pavilion for the fabulous Fort Worth Fourth celebration! As you can see, we're in very good hands here. To ensure no illegal fireworks make their way into this family-friendly event, the bomb squad has its best two-footed and four-footed team members on duty." She bent down next to Blast. "Isn't that right, boy?" With that, she reached out and ruffled the dog's head. He looked up at her with gaga eyes and wagged his tail. Damn him. Returning her attention to the camera, she stood. "Stay tuned for more footage throughout the day. Happy Fourth, everyone!"
She turned to Seth. "Thanks. You two will play great on screen."
"Anytime," he replied.
Damn him, too.
As soon as Trish and her cameraman were out of earshot, I stepped back into place next to Seth and mocked him in a cartoonish voice, "Anytime." I shook my head. "Pathetic."
Seth cut a look at me. "Jealous?"
I scoffed. "No."
He nudged me with his elbow. "Yes, you are."
I fingered the handle of my gun. "Don't make me shoot you."
A soft smile skittered over his mouth. "I like that you're jealous. It means you like me."
"I've let you see me naked. Of course I like you."
I scratched Brigit behind the ear. "Almost as much as I like my dog."
He dipped his head in acknowledgment. "I'll take it."
While Seth and I continued to welcome newcomers with smiles and verbal greetings, our dogs continued to stick out their noses and scent the air as the people slowly passed by. The crowd ebbed and flowed, at times arriving in small packs of one or two, other times congregating in large numbers at the gate. A half hour after Seth had confiscated the fireworks, a trio of twentyish Caucasian men approached, two with brown hair and one blond. All wore cargo shorts and T-shirts, but while the brown-haired boys wore tennis shoes the blond wore a pair of flip-flops. The blond elbowed the one to his right and pointed to a group of girls wearing skimpy bikini tops, short Daisy Duke shorts that barely covered their butts, and sandals. Yep, there was a lot of skin on display here today, much of it sunburned. One of the girls poured water from a bottle over her chest to cool herself off, providing the young men with some live soft-core porn.
Brigit plunked her butt down on the ground and raised her back leg to scratch her shoulder, the movement catching the blond's eye. The arm that had only recently been elbowing his friend now flew out reflexively to hold his friend back and the word "Cops!" sprang from his mouth. The three turned on their heels, hightailing it away from the entrance, the flip-flops living up to their name as they made their signature flip-flop-flip-flop sound. Real subtle, huh?
"We're up, Brigit." I unclipped her lead from her collar, gave her the order to stay by my side, and my partner and I headed out after them.
The one who'd spotted me cast a glance over his shoulder, his eyes widening in alarm when he saw me and Brigit in pursuit. Without a word to his friends, he took off running. Flip-flop-flip-flop! By the time the friends looked back, I was on them. "Stay right here!" I shouted, pointing to the ground as I sprinted past.
I continued after the blond. Given that he hadn't spent the last four hours being broiled by the sun, he had a distinct advantage. Still, I would've expected his footwear to slow him down. Those shoes were made to be an easy-on, easy-off option, not for running. Flip-flop-flip-flop! Nonetheless, his fear fueled him, overcoming his poor choice in shoes.
"Stop!" I shouted after him.
He didn't stop. Instead he ran toward the Trinity River, cutting left and right around the people coming up the riverside trail. Flip-flop-flip-flop! As he darted around a stroller with a drooling toddler in it, his right shoe came off. His feet now gave off a flip-flop sound broken by a split-second pause as his bare foot hit the ground. Flip-flop ... flip-flop ... flip-flop ...
"Stop or I'll deploy my dog!"
He made no move to slow down. Flip-flop ... flip-flop ... As he ran alongside the riverbank, he pulled something that looked like a small piece of trash from the pocket of his shorts and flung it as hard as he could out over the water.
"Last chance!" I hollered.
Still he ran on.
He couldn't say he hadn't been warned. I gave Brigit the order to take him down. She looked up at me as if to say Really? You expect me to run all-out in this heat? But she obeyed and took off after him. In seconds, she'd leaped onto his back and taken him down to the ground, the back of his tank top still gripped in her teeth.
I caught up with the two and issued the order for her to release him. She sat down and continued to pant, drool dropping from her lips and saturating the young man's back.
"On your knees," I ordered. "Hands behind your head."
Cursing, he pushed himself up from the dirt and attempted to eviscerate me with his gaze. Luckily for me, his eyes weren't laser beams. He put his hands behind his head, seeming to realize the jig was up.
I pushed the button on my shoulder-mounted radio to call for assistance. "Officer Luz requesting backup at the river just west of the entrance gate." I looked back to where I'd told the other two to wait, but they were gone. Ugh.
Yanking my cuffs from my belt, I secured them around the guy's wrists. Click-click. By this time, a crowd had gathered around and the current was carrying the item he'd tossed into the river downstream. I issued Brigit the order to watch the suspect and take him down again if he tried to flee.
I nudged the boy with my toe. "Try to run and she'll tear you apart."
He glanced at my dog, who sat rigid just three feet away, her brown eyes locked on him.Nope, he's not going anywhere.
Scurrying over to the bank, I crouched and reached for the baggie, stretching my arm as far as it would go. Just another inch ... another inch ... oh, crap! Physical laws kicked in and I fell forward into the muck. Spluck.
I stood, my knees muddy and the front of my uniform soaking wet, but at least I'd retrieved the baggie full of pills the kid had tried to ditch. I took off my sunglasses to better inspect the contents of the bag. Inside were three dozen or so pills and tablets in various shapes, sizes, and colors, a virtual candy store for someone looking to get high. Or dead.
Excerpted from Above the Paw by Diane Kelly. Copyright © 2016 Diane Kelly. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
One: Business, But Not as Usual,
Two: The Price of Freedom,
Three: Shake Your Booty,
Four: Nip it in the Bud,
Five: Stars and Stripes,
Six: Sixth Sense,
Seven: The Cover of Darkness,
Eight: Chain of Custody,
Nine: Getting Our Licks In,
Ten: Let's Make a Deal,
Eleven: Party Poopers,
Twelve: Good Things Come in Small Packages,
Thirteen: Banking on It,
Fourteen: Back to School,
Fifteen: Canine Coed,
Seventeen: Sniffing for Suspects,
Eighteen: Quitting Time,
Nineteen: Shopping Spree,
Twenty: For a Good Time, Call Molly,
Twenty-One: Shake, Rattle, and Roll Over,
Twenty-Two: Job Dissatisfaction,
Twenty-Three: Closing In,
Twenty-Four: Swing and a Miss,
Twenty-Five: Sleepless Nights,
Twenty-Six: Something to Rally Around,
Twenty-Seven: Queso Me Mucho,
Twenty-Eight: Crowd Source,
Thirty: Night Light,
Thirty-Two: Immunity, Impunity, Impurity,
Thirty-Three: Raining Cats and Dogs,
Thirty-Four: For Sale,
Thirty-Six: Get Meowt of Here!,
Thirty-Seven: Screwed Over, and Over Again,
Thirty-Eight: Dance Moves,
Thirty-Nine: There's No Place Like Home,
Forty-One: No Means No,
Forty-Two: Eau de Ew,
Forty-Three: The Numbers Game,
Forty-Five: Party Animal,
Forty-Six: Back to the Table,
Forty-Seven: Making a Splash,
Forty-Eight: Mutt in a Mug Shot,
Forty-Nine: A Monumental Failure,
Fifty: Girls Gone Wild,
Fifty-One: Two Dog Night,
Fifty-Two: Delete, Delete, Delete,
Fifty-Four: Doggone It,
Fifty-Six: Fast and Furry-Ous,
Fifty-Seven: Pack Attack,
Fifty-Eight: The Upshot,
Fifty-Nine: Evidence and the Lack Thereof,
Sixty: Sixth Scents,
Sixty-One: Above the Law,
Sixty-Two: Coming Clean,
St. Martin's Paperbacks Titles by Diane Kelly,
Praise for Diane Kelly's Paw Enforcement Series,
About the Author,