The police academy gave her the boot—and she knows how to use it.
All her life, Maisie McGrane dreamed of following in her father and older brothers’ footsteps and joining the force. But when she’s expelled from the police academy, she’s reduced to taking a job as a meter maid. Now, instead of chasing down perps, she’s booting people’s cars and taking abuse from every lowlife who can’t scrape together enough change to feed the meter.
McGranes weren’t put on this earth to quit, however. When Maisie stumbles across the body of a City Hall staffer with two bullets in his chest, her badge-wielding brothers try to warn her off the case. But with the help of her secret crush, shadowy ex-Army Ranger Hank Bannon, Maisie’s determined to follow the trail of conspiracy no matter where it leads. And that could put her in the crosshairs of a killer—and all she’s packing is a ticket gun.
“Mack’s outstanding debut conjures up equal parts Janet Evanovich (zany characters) and Michael Harvey (the Chicago political machine)… Riotous characters, including the members of the large McGrane clan, enhance a fast and furious plot that expertly balances menace and laugh-out-loud hijinks.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED Review
“Mystery buffs will not only be swept up in the ingenious and well-crafted plot buy will love the irrepressible Maisie, who knows what she wants. Recommend for readers who miss the works of Eleanor Taylor Bland and enjoy those of Tim Dorsey.”-- Library Journal, STARRED Review
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By Janey Mack
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Janey Mack
All rights reserved.
My abs were screaming. Sweat slicking between my shoulder blades, I ignored the rhythmic grunts next to me.
"Seventy-eight, seventy-nine ..."
Gut it out. Hank's voice echoed in my head.
"Eighty-four, eighty-five ..."
Gut it out! Gut it out! Gut it ...
"Time!" the PT sergeant yelled.
"Holy shit, that's gotta be a record," my counter said.
I lay prone on the mat, abs twitching like an epileptic at a rave from ninety-one sit-ups in two minutes. Fair to middling for an Army Ranger. But for me, a first in my class and a complete and total victory over jerkwad Tommy Narkinney.
Tucking my knees to my chest, I rolled up onto my shoulders and bucked to my feet Jackie Chan-style. Digging deep not to drop my head past my knees and suck air.
Hank's Law Number Five: Make it look easy.
I called over to Tommy. "How many, Nark?"
He sat on the ground, forehead on his knees, breathing heavy, straw-colored hair damp with sweat. "Eighty-eight."
"Yeah?" I said. "Good job."
Tommy frowned in suspicion. "And you?"
"Ninety-one." I raised my arms over my head, easing the fire at my sides.
He rolled his eyes and flopped back onto the ground. "Fuck me."
"McGrane!" the sergeant shouted with a former Marine's perfect enunciation and eardrum-blowing volume. "Quit dicking around. Reskor wants you."
And I knew why. I was finally going to join the ranks of Flynn, Rory, and Cash McGrane. Just as my older brothers had all been awarded Top Cadet, so would I.
It took every ounce of cool I had not to skip like a little girl out of the gym.
I trotted up the stairs to Reskor's office and rapped on the thick, oak-paneled door.
Polished wood floors, Oriental rugs, leather chairs—it looked more like the office of a Fortune 500 CEO than the commandant of the Chicago Police Academy.
Hank's Law Number Eleven: Heavy hitters don't advertise.
I stood at full attention in front of Reskor's desk, staring blankly over the top of his balding pate.
"Miss McGrane. Please take a seat."
Adrenaline pulsed double-time through my veins. "No thank you, sir."
"Sit." Reskor pointed at the chair.
He opened a manila folder on his desk, M. McGrane typed neatly across the tab. "Let's see ... ninety-eight percent on the written exam. Scored 'expert' on the shooting range, and a first in PT, as well."
My knee started bouncing. I leaned forward, pressing it still with the heel of my hand.
"But I regret to inform you that you failed the psych review."
"Huh?" "Failed the psych review" didn't sound anything like "Congratulations, Top Cadet." "I'm sorry ... What did you say?"
Reskor closed the manila file. "You failed."
The sweat on my forehead had dried to salt. I ran a hand over my gritty face. "There must be some mistake, sir." The room began to warp at the corners. "On what grounds?"
"As you know, failure on any exam results in immediate dismissal from the cadet program."
This can't be happening.
"Please, sir. On what grounds?"
He pressed the tips of his fingers together and gave it to me, right between the eyes. "The testing revealed you have an almost pathological need to be liked. The consensus of the peer review is that you are too thin-skinned to deal with the daily barrage of public hostility and unfriendly situations that a police officer encounters."
A pathological need to be liked? Me?
I realized I was rocking back and forth in the chair and got to my feet. "Sir, may I reapply, sir?"
"In a year, you may." His breath huffed out in a little sigh. "Reinstatement at the Academy is extremely rare. I see little point unless you can provide empirical evidence at that time to disprove the diagnosis." Reskor rose and held out his hand. "Not everyone is meant to be a police officer, Maisie."
And like some idiot robot, I shook it. "Sir, yes sir."
News of my disgrace traveled fast.
Tommy Narkinney was waiting for me in the hallway. "Tough bounce, kitty puncher."
Before I had time to tell him what a jackass he was, two academy instructors, one male and one female, escorted me to my dorm room. They watched me pack my gear and walked me out to my car in the parking lot.
What the fuck?
I sat in my Honda Accord and tried to remember how to start it, jumping when the female instructor knocked on the window. I turned the key partway and fumbled for the electric window switch.
"Hey." She gave me a sympathetic frowny-smile and said in a chipper voice, "Is there someone I can call for you?"
Jesus Criminy. My family.
"No. I'm fine. Really. Thanks." I zipped up the window and turned the key fully in the ignition.
Three miles later, I pulled into a 7-Eleven, got out of the car, and threw up.CHAPTER 2
The psych review? How could I have possibly failed the psych review?
I sat in my car, blood pounding in my ears, throat hoarse, unable to wrap my head around it. All I ever wanted was to be a cop. I rubbed my eyes with the heels of my hands.
Sharpen up. There has to be a way to fix this.
I wasn't above pulling strings. Not today.
Of my five older brothers, the one I was closest to was Flynn. The oldest. And as a homicide detective for the BIS division, he sure as hell would know someone.
I dug my iPhone out of my pocket and texted him.
Where R U?
Flynn: Working. N. Milwaukee & Hamlin. Home for dinner.
Most murder scenes took six hours plus tech time, which meant a mid-morning homicide. I started the car and drove to the Polish district. Flynn would know what to do.
"If it ain't Baby McGrane," said a familiar thickset uniform. "Here in the flesh."
I gave a short salute. "Officer Werth."
"Not much longer till I'll be seein' you in uniform, eh?"
Oh God. Somehow I managed a wobbly smile. "Flynn around?"
"He's in the alley. Watchin' 'em load up the stiff." Werth shook his head. "Even super-cop won't find nothing. It's a regular CSI cluster frag back there. Piss, blood, garbage, and glass, and you don't wanna know what else. Jiminey Jesus. What a place to cack."
I nodded. "If I could just talk to my brother for a minute? It's important."
Werth raised the yellow police line ribbon. "I know you know the rules, but do me a favor, all right? Stay behind the crime scene tape. Do not enter the alley."
"Thanks, Werth." I slipped under the tape. "You're a pal."
The closer I got to the alley, the tighter my chest got.
I belonged here.
The alley was filled to the gills with personnel. I caught sight of the back of Flynn's head, talking with the evidence techs while they were bagging and tagging detritus at the far end.
Up close, the victim lay in a pond of blood and alley garbage. He was a big man. Six-two, four bills, with a thick black mustache and short, coarse dark hair. A tiny woman in white coveralls with "Medical Examiner" across the back squatted down next to the vic. In her gloved hands were brown paper lunch bags and masking tape.
She raised the man's left hand, no wedding band, and clumsily got his hand into the bag before wrapping tape around the outside of the bag, and placing the bagged hand on the piece of plastic that had been taped across his chest.
And I thought I was having a bad day.
She moved to bag his other hand. On it, a class ring on steroids, gold with a bright blue stone. "Okay," she said to her partner as she got to her feet. "Let's get a board and bag under this guy."
Her partner retrieved the gear and placed it next to the body. He put his gloved hands under the victim's shoulders and heaved, grunting. No dice.
The woman came up next to him. Together, they tried to lift the vic's shoulders up enough to get him onto the board.
The body didn't budge.
"Aah! Shit." The woman jerked her hands from under the body and grabbed her lower back. "I popped somethin', damn it." Her gloves left dark smears of blood and dirt on her white coveralls. "Frigging lard monster."
Her partner snorted.
The woman straightened slowly. "Detective!" she yelled at my brother. "I need a couple of blues to lend a hand. We got a half-tonner."
The ignominy of death, presented by the Cook County ME's office.
Flynn, cop scowl of concentration on his face, turned and gave her a thumbs-up.
I slunk away from the edge of the alley before he saw me. Jesus, what was I thinking coming here? Masochist much?
Lupo's Cocktails beckoned from across the street.
One day I will solve my problems with grace and good judgment. Right now, however, it will be with alcohol.
Lupo's was dark and mostly empty. Opting for a front-row seat to Flynn's crime scene, I took a seat at the end of the bar and settled for a Coors Light. I was eventually going to have to drive home, after all.
I pressed the sweating bottle against my forehead. Expelled?
A misery-loves-company guy, gangly and awkward with glassy brown eyes, left his solo table for the stool next to mine. "Hi there."
Move along, pal. I haven't upgraded to misery yet. I returned a half nod and no smile.
He ordered a beer.
While I debated whether to chug my beer or leave it, the bartender slid Misery's Bud across the counter. Misery handed over a crumpled five. He was wearing the same gold ring with the blue stone.
The bartender pushed the five back. "On the house."
Misery lifted his beer. "To Nawisko." He drank most of it in one go and wiped his mouth on the back of his hand.
"What's the ring?" I asked.
He smiled sadly. "Amalgamated Transit Union. Local 56."
"Bus," he said. "See that?" He jerked his bottle toward the window at the crime scene. "That proud Polack was our union leader. But seeing as this is Chicago, not a goddamn thing is gonna happen to the assholes that ended him."
"Take it easy, Mike," the bartender cautioned.
"Gimme another beer."
The bartender glanced at me, then moved off toward the cooler. Misery Mike leaned in close. Too close. Beer wasn't all he'd been drinking today. His finger came up and brushed past my nose. "You watch. The cops are gonna say it's a goddamn mugging. But I ask ya, who the hell is gonna ice a nine-to-five joe for what he's got in his wallet? In the middle of the day? Goddamn know-nothing cop assholes."
Leaving my beer, it is.
The bartender returned. I stood up and threw a ten on the bar. "His beer's on me."
But Misery Mike wasn't letting me off the hook that easy. "Dontcha wanna know?" He caught my arm. "Who killed Nawisko?"
"Sure," I said, easing my sleeve from his fingers.
"That commie choad Coles."
"The mayor? Jesus, Mike." The bartender slapped a palm on the counter. "If that's not a sign for me to cut you off, I don't know what is."CHAPTER 3
I hit the clicker for the front gate of the massive house I lived in with most of my family, feeling sorrier for myself than a skunk without a stripe.
No one was home.
It never occurred to me that I wouldn't become a police officer. Ever. The job requires a certain ability and desire, but it doesn't exactly demand every officer is the sharpest tack in the box.
Numb from the shock of it, I slunk upstairs to my room. Of course there was a way to get reinstated. I just had to think of it. I flopped down on the bed and closed my eyes for inspiration.
I jerked awake at dusk, panting and sticky with my shoes still on. Cripes. I'm falling apart faster than an old IKEA dresser.
Stripping down to my underwear, I left a trail of clothing to my bathroom. I turned on the shower, my bare feet sinking into the plush bath mat, the first time in ages I hadn't had to wear plastic flip-flops in the shower.
The water streamed hot on my head. I laid my cheek against the cold limestone tile and tried to cry.
"When in doubt, pretty it out." Grandma Pruitt's advice for the ages. When at your worst, do every possible thing you can to look good. The rest of you is sure to follow suit.
And if that doesn't work, well ... I suppose you're an attractive suicide.
Somewhere between gluing on the short-flare false eyelashes and applying pink lip gloss I accidentally got a real look at myself in the mirror and the little flame of "everything's gonna be okay" snuffed out.
I went downstairs, getting a good look at the driveway through the transom foyer windows. Two pickup trucks, a Jag, a Jeep, and a BMW convertible were already in the driveway.
Lovely. All five of my older brothers. Home to bear witness to my crushing disgrace.
Everyone showing up was not a surprise. More often than not the lottery of overlapping cop shifts hit the rhythm of the rest of the family's lawyering, and we all converged at home.
Of course the Academy waited until today, Friday, to expel me, to give me the perception of a "normalized weekend" and ease me into accepting the sheer horror of my disgrace. And, because it's Friday, Mom cooks.
She was chopping vegetables at the kitchen island. "Maisie?" She looked up in surprise and got a load of my glam appearance. "Graduation isn't until next month. ..."
Da and my four brothers stared at me from the granite bar that ringed the entire kitchen. My own personal Black-Irish gang. Fierce and fit, they ranged from five-eleven to six-two, all square jaws, dark eyes, and dark hair, cursed with pathological charm and the satanic ability to tan. The two oldest, Flynn and Rory, worked Homicide with Da. The twins, Declan "the sinner" and Daicen "the saint" toiled where the money was—as criminal defense attorneys at Douglas Corrigan and Pruitt with Mom. Cash, the second youngest, chose Vice.
"I failed the psych review. They sent me home."
My mother closed her eyes, shoulders sagging in relief. She dropped the knife on the counter, walked over, and hugged me tight.
Da exchanged a look with Flynn. "Well, that's that." He took a long pull from his beer.
A cold finger of humiliation slithered down my neck.
The only McGrane to fail the Academy.
"Get her a drink," Mom said to no one in particular, wrapped an arm around my shoulders, and walked me over to where Cash sat beside the twins.
Rory came back with a shot of Jameson and a Coors Light and dropped a kiss on the top of my head. "Tough break, kid. Did they say why?"
I opened my mouth, but no sound came out. One thing's for sure. I don't suffer from a pathological need to be humiliated.
Mom had gone back to the island and was slicing everything within reach like a Benihana chef on crack.
"You can reapply, right?" Cash, our family's very own little Mr. Sunshine, smiled helpfully at me.
"Doubtful," Declan said. "Subjective police board interviews are part of procedure and probably binding. I know they are in the FBI."
"Jayus, Dec!" Cash set his beer down on the counter. "Drive Snap into the ground, why don't you ..."
"Don't call her Snap," Mom said automatically.
Snap. As in ginger snap. I'd adored my nickname, once. Now, at twenty-four, with my auburn hair painstakingly camouflaged with loads of blond highlights and even more brown lowlights, not so much.
Flynn and Rory nodded at each other with the same infuriating frowny-smile the woman who'd escorted me on the walk of shame gave me.
They were glad I was out.
And the sting of their relief was unbearable.
I downed the whiskey in one gulp, the scorching burn in my throat oddly settling to my stomach. Cash reached over and twisted the cap off my beer. "For God's sake," I said. "I'm not incapacitated with grief. I can open my own beer."
"Sure you can." He raised his elbow toward me, the beer cap pinched between his thumb and middle finger, and zinged the cap into my thigh.
"Knock it off," Flynn said.
Cash nattered on like a deranged squirrel, the twins started arguing, and Mom kept chopping. I felt like my head was going to explode and Da just sat there, not looking at me, saying nothing.
Declan winked at me and by way of an apology, waved his beer bottle across the bar at Flynn and Rory, who were in a glowering low-voiced tête-à-tête. "So, boyos. What's eating your guts out tonight?"
Excerpted from Time's Up by Janey Mack. Copyright © 2015 Janey Mack. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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