Sequel to bestselling novels Diversion and Collusion.
Renegade biker. Drug runner. Recovering addict. Wanted by the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau. But he isn’t a crook, he’s the law.
SNB Agent Bo Schollenberger’s solved his cases using his brains and not a gun, and with his partner, not alone. Now he’s handed a tough new case involving designer drugs that turn users violent. One false move could end his life as he immerses himself into a motorcycle gang to locate the source. His fate depends on how well he can impersonate someone else. Someone named Cyrus Cooper.
Cyrus is everything Bo Schollenberger isn’t, including the badass enforcer for a smuggling ring. He establishes pecking order with his fists and doesn’t take shit from anybody, not even the undercover agent who comes to help his case.
Simon “Lucky” Harrison’s always been the best, whichever side of the law he was on. Former trafficker turned SNB agent, he damned well ought to be undercover in this motorcycle gang, instead of hanging around the office going crazy with new policies, new people, and “inter-departmental cooperation” that sticks him in a classroom. Yet he’s passed over for the SNB’s biggest case in decades in favor of the rookie who shares his bed. A man Lucky thought he knew.
When survival depends on a web of tangled lies, lines blur, worlds collide, and a high stakes game turns friend to foe. Lucky knows the difference between Bo the agent and Cyrus the outlaw, but does Bo?
Another night in Hell.
Simon “Lucky” Harrison paid the cover charge at Armageddon, or whatever the fuck they called this gussied-up bar. The pretentious crowd the club catered to made the place close enough to Hell in his book. And nobody even frisked him. He shifted the holstered department-issued gun beneath his jacket. Damn, but he missed his own weapon, and damn the son-of-a-bitching bastards who’d swiped his .38.
The bouncer waved him through. Wasn’t much use in finally having an honest-to-goodness Southeastern Narcotics Bureau badge if he didn’t get to flash the shiny gold shield once in a while to get his way, but going high profile would blow the whole undercover thing to kingdom come.
Heavy bass pounded against his skull before he’d even gotten properly inside the door. These assholes called this racket music? If he wanted to bust somebody, he’d definitely come to the right place—they had to be taking some weird-assed shit.
Tonight wasn’t about taking down the bad guys, though. Tonight merely laid groundwork, Lucky showing himself off as another run-of-the-mill club-goer. The better to lull the sheep in the presence of a wolf. A drink or two, some mingling, then home to bed. Alone, damn the luck.
Fuck this off-duty, keep-your-hands-to-yourself recognizance, he could see half a dozen people who needed a tap on the shoulder from the long arm of the law. Was the guy in the holey jeans reaching for his wallet or a baggie? The mullet-haired asshole should be reaching for the door, ‘cause he sure as hell didn’t fit in with a crowd where casual meant lose the tie. What a huge pocketbook on that lady’s arm. A whole kilo would fit in there. And one big-assed alligator gave its life to make the thing.
A trip to the bar yielded a club soda with some kind of green vegetable sticking out of the glass. Seemed a man couldn’t even drink without finding greens. Bad enough they made their way onto dinner plates. The guy standing two feet too close turned away. Lucky took the opportunity to shove the offending stalk into the man’s glass of orange liquid.
To the club’s credit, he’d been in the place a full five minutes and hadn’t witnessed a fight, and no peanut shells littered the floor. His elbows hadn’t stuck to the bar when he’d waited for his drink, either. The bartender’d been hit with a few ugly sticks, but he controlled the booze, giving him an automatic upgrade from a three to an eight. He seemed friendly enough and kept his fingers away from the top of the glass—all Lucky needed in a bartender.
Now to find a vantage point on the second floor, the better to see and be seen. The nooks and crannies near the balcony also provided discreet enough venues for drug dealing. His scouting mission didn’t mean he couldn’t tag someone dumb enough to mistake him for a buyer.
Lucky sipped his drink, staring down at a writhing mass of humanity, folks who didn’t have anything better to do than waste their hard-earned money on watered-down drinks and spine-rattling dance tunes and go home with someone they’d deny knowing the next day. Huh. And to think he’d dressed up for this. He scratched his leg through the unfamiliar stiffness of a pair of dress slacks. Hell, he’d even ironed a shirt for the occasion.
Nothing much seemed to be happening on the main club level, except for one couple hanging on the fringes, pushing the envelope of public decency. A table in the far corner provided entertainment when two women kissed their male dates and disappeared toward the ladies’ room. Their dates waited a full thirty seconds before pouncing on each other like starving wolves. They’d better come up for air before the ladies returned.
A woman’s scream jerked Lucky’s attention away from the two men in need of a room. “Get away from me!”
Lucky grasped the railing, leaning over for a better view of the packed floor below. There, in the red dress. The woman screamed again, “Go away!” She swatted at the air above her head.
Oh hell. Let the crazy begin. Fighting with shit that wasn’t there was never a good sign.
“’Scuse me,” Lucky muttered, squeezing through the onlookers. “Get the fuck out of my way” worked better, but the department frowned on the direct approach. They should stick with what worked.
The woman’s shouts carried over the throbbing beat from the DJ booth, and Lucky lost sight of her a time or two while struggling to get past a couple who didn’t want to move. A hand landed on his ass from behind. “Wanna keep that hand?” he snapped. The hand disappeared, and the couple jumped out of the way. Fuckers.
He caught sight of the screaming woman again a few yards to the left. Her friends stood back, creating some space. “Can’t you see them?” she shrieked, staring toward the ceiling.
“Move, dammit!” Lucky pushed against a wall of gawkers four or five inches taller than him. They didn’t budge. All hell was about to break loose. “Get the fuck out of my way!” bought Lucky enough space to slither through.
A man grasped the woman’s arm about the time Lucky got within grabbing distance. She pulled back for a swing. Lucky jerked back. Crack! She bypassed Lucky and slammed her knuckles into the man’s jaw. He fell with a thud. Better him than me.
Two uniformed security guards approached, middle-aged men who huffed and puffed by the time they reached the ruckus. Here come Doofus and Dipshit. ‘Bout time the fuckers got here before Lucky blew his cover. Back in his day, clubs employed muscle-bound gym bunnies to work the weekend crowds. They didn’t make bouncers like they used to. “Ma’am, you need to settle down,” the first one said, standing outside the woman’s reach.
Doofus. Was he for real? Settle down? Did he have any fucking idea what he was dealing with? She might appear a sweet young thing in a red dress, but whatever she took/snorted/shot up had definitely taken control of the wheel.
“Make them stop!” The woman ducked beneath her arms, batting away invisible attackers.
“There’s nothing there, ma’am,” Doofus said, while the other guard rolled wary eyes upward.
“Maybe you better come with us.” This time Dipshit spoke. He must have gone to the same training program as his partner. Didn’t they at least watch some outdated training video on the warning signs of drug use and dealing with folks on their way ‘round the bend?
The woman straightened, eyeing the guard. “Ahhh! You’re one of them! Get away, get away!” Flinging another woman to the side, she charged toward the exit, screaming and swatting. The guards trotted behind her.
“They better pay me extra for this.” Lucky stepped on a couple of toes and bumped a drink or two while zigzagging in pursuit.
He burst through the front door and followed the screams down an alley. The ankle he’d broken during an investigation last summer squealed in protest at being forced into a run.
Doofus and Dipshit had the woman cornered by the time Lucky caught up. Damn fucked-up leg. Heal, you sumbitch, heal! Six months should be long enough.
“Stay back! Stay the fuck back!” the woman squawked. She grabbed a hank of her not-found-in-nature-red hair, and jerked the strands out of her head with nary a wince. Holy shit. That had to hurt. Her breath turned to fog before her face, adding another layer of creepy to the moment.
She took a few wobbly steps back, a high-heeled shoe on one foot and the other bare. A sleeve hung from what had likely been an expensive designer dress. Eyes wide, she pressed against the brick wall of the club. Lucky shivered, wrapping his jacket tighter around him. Late October, close to midnight, and the woman didn’t appear to feel a lick of cold.
“Easy, ma’am, we don’t want to hurt you,” Dipshit said, empty hands splayed to show he wasn’t armed. With his graying hair and bulging belly, he probably had kids this woman’s age.
Wild eyes stared out from an ashen face, heavy with black and red makeup smears. The woman’s hair hung in strings over her face. She glanced right and left, then focused on the guard nearest her. “I didn’t do anything. Leave me alone.”
“We can’t do that,” Doofus replied, edging closer. “You attacked a man. We need to ask you a few questions.”
Stupid assholes. They ought to know better than to say such shit. Tell her whatever lies were necessary to calm her ass down.
Lucky held back, cataloguing symptoms: delusional, paranoid, any number of street drugs produced the same effect. The woman quieted, and the guards held their ground. Fat tears rolled down her cheeks. Torn knuckles oozed blood. Her hand would hurt like hell once she came down. “I didn’t mean to, I really didn’t mean to.”
Crazy lived in her eyes. By day she probably drove a fancy car to a high-rise office complex downtown. Tonight, she lived in a hell created by her own mind. And her demons were more real to her than two security guards trying to talk her down off the proverbial ledge.
The guards exchanged worried glances. Between the two of them, they’d probably never dealt with bad drugs to this degree before. And why the hell were their guns still holstered? Didn’t they have a taser? They sure as shit needed one. One hundred and five pounds of unpredictable with superhuman strength, no pain threshold, and no concept of right and wrong made one volatile threat. Little Miss Red Dress might be the most dangerous person they’d ever met.
The guards took a few steps back. Bad move. A split second later, the woman screamed, staring past the first guard’s head. “They’re back! Oh my God, they’re back!” She dove toward Dipshit’s sidearm while Doofus grabbed his gun. “Don’t let them get me!”
She wrestled with the guard while his partner hesitated a moment too long. Lucky raced across the alley on his uncooperative leg. He slammed into both guard and the attacker, knocking them to the ground. The woman snatched the gun from the guard’s holster. Lucky fished his own weapon out from beneath his jacket and took aim.
The tiny assailant gawked at something Lucky couldn’t see. “I can’t let them get me.” She knelt on the pavement, shivering with unknown terrors one minute, and the next she pointed the gun.
Lucky lunged. A shot rang out.