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Body heat and cannabis stench suffocated the air inside the crowded public bathroom, making her feel as if she were sucking tainted oxygen through a straw.
Trying not to inhale too deeply in order to avoid a contact high, Ana Moreno finger-combed the irritating strands of hair stuck to her face. Her lips and throat were dry, but her body was slick with sweat, pasting the screen-printed I'll Try Being Nicer, If You Try Being Smarter T-shirt to her stomach and back. She didn't pull at the black material, didn't fidget. Nothing to call attention to the wire taped between her breasts.
She kept her line of vision open as much as possible given the dimly lit area and group of stirring bodies. Enough to spot the thick rusted door that stood as a barrier between the bathroom and the decrepit theater vibrating with techno music and gyrating youths high on a variety of mood-altering drugs.
And enough to keep tabs on Stephen "Boner" Johnson, twenty-two-year-old drug dealer, and idiot.
In the light of a faint gas lantern set on a broken sink, Boner's rangy body twitched as he worked an illegal sale with two teenaged Candy Raverssuburban kids decorated with candy necklaces, fake tattoos and body paint.
Boner was small-time. A couple of possession charges with the intent to sell and a tendency to shoplift. Nothing major. In the last six months, she'd assisted in the arrests of plenty low-status dealers just like Boner. She'd strolled the streets as an undercover buyer, attended parties and learned who distributed the purest goods.
The thing was, none of her prior arrests had been the core focus of a SIDESecret Informant Drug Enforcementmission before. At no time had she been given an actual file on one specific dealer with the explicit instructions to find himonly himand initiate a transaction.
This entire set-up gave her a bad feeling.
There hadn't been time for questions. Even if there had, it wouldn't have mattered. Sarge, her boss, lived by a follow-orders-no-questions-asked motto. Just one of the several reasons they bumped heads as often as a junkie chased the dragon.
Paul Galvini, codename Skatesthe newest member of SIDE and her partner for the nightlurked five feet away in the center of the room. Tall and thin and just past twenty, with his blue Kool-Aid-colored hair and the crotch of his pants sagging to his knees, he blended in among the other partygoers. His usually vibrant blue eyes were now dark shadows flicking around the room, pale cheeks curved taut against high cheekbones, wide mouth tightened in a straight line. He played the lookout, in case something went wrong. Too bad the kid turned into a shivering puppy at any hint of conflict.
Boner finally turned toward her, rubbing his rigid nose. The dim light didn't catch any dilation in his pupils, but it did reveal the bumps of acne on his face and the way he continuously smacked on a piece a gum. Characteristics of a dealer who likely dipped into his own supply. Just what she needed. A strung-out target could be as unpredictable as any wild animal.
"Now," he said, his wide eyes scanning her up-and-down. "Anything you want, I probably got."
She took a step toward him. Gave the fool the impression she trusted him. Gave her concealed wire a clearer transmission. "You sure about that?"
He jerked his thin shoulders. His black trench coat swayed around his knees with the movement. "Let's find out."