Page 4

 Kristen Ashley

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Shaughnessy ran his men his way and word was, Shaughnessy took his job seriously but he was as laidback as they come otherwise. Even his officers didn’t wear uniforms. They wore jeans and tan shirts with their badges but that was as far as they got.
Gibbons was mostly the same, his two detectives dressed as they wanted. Officers wore uniforms, however.
Weatherspoon, who oversaw Chantelle, a town with more money, coming in top of the heap of the trinity it held with Gnaw Bone (second runner-up, a town that depended a great deal on tourist trade and took that seriously) and Carnal (not even close, it was a biker haven, mostly blue collar, definitely rougher). She was in full uniform. Her officers wore full uniforms. Her detectives wore suits or sports jackets and trousers. Her elite citizenry would expect nothing less.
Deck’s eyes shifted to Kenton Douglas.
That man was a wildcard. Recently voted sheriff, he came out of the blue, young, attractive, African-American, in the Sheriff’s Department only ten years, and he’d wiped the floor with his opponent who held that spot for twenty-five years. The old sheriff also held it while a serial killer hunted his patch and a police chief in his county got so dirty he was foul. The county was ready for change. Douglas was smart enough to know the time was ripe and slid in on a landslide.
Then he made sweeping changes.
And one of those changes was taking his sheriff’s police out of uniform and giving them the Mick treatment. Tan shirts. Badges on belts. Jeans. Boots.
It was a smart move. His county was a rural, mountain county. His residents liked easy and familiar, but they were scared after all that had gone on and many of them had learned not to trust the police. Easier to trust a badge wearing jeans and boots than one kitted out in full gear.
It wasn’t only smart, it was subtle. And so far, successful.
Change wasn’t easy and it wasn’t easily accepted.
Douglas breezed his through, didn’t take a breath, and kept on keepin’ on.
Deck didn’t know what to make of him. He was handsome. He was slick. He was personable. He was sharp. And he had balls. So Deck was leaning toward admiration.
“She’s an old friend,” Deck answered Carole’s question about Emme.
“What kind of old friend?” she asked, and Deck tamped down his annoyance at going through this again.
“My ex’s best friend,” he answered. “That kind of old friend.”
“How do you know she’s not involved?” Jeff asked and Deck looked to him.
“I know Emme. She wouldn’t do this shit,” Deck stated.
And she wouldn’t. He knew what was happening. The whole county knew. It was bad shit that, four days ago, got a hell of a lot worse. With all the shit going down in that county over the last few years, they wanted this nipped in the bud and they wanted that three months ago.
Problem was, they had a multi-department task force set up to do it and they still were finding f**k all.
This was why Chace suggested Deck. Deck would find everything they needed to end this and he wouldn’t dick around finding it.
“How well do you know Emme, son?” Henry asked, and Deck’s eyes went to Chace’s boss.
“Well,” he answered.
“They spend a lot of time together,” Jeff noted. “Holmes and McFarland.”
“She’s his girlfriend. They would,” Deck told him. “But this shit?” He shook his head. “No way.”
“Sometimes,” Chace started, and his tone was cautious, “girls like her, girls like she used to be who turn into girls like she is now, get a guy’s attention, a good-lookin’ guy like that, and they can go—”
Deck cut him off. “Chace, you know Emme. You know that’s bullshit. She’s always known her own mind. And she’s always been cool. Even when she wasn’t a knockout, she wasn’t that kind of person.”
“It’s been years, Deck,” Chace reminded him. “A lot of them. People change, and it isn’t lost on either of us she has in a big way.”
“Yeah, and I just met her on the street. I’m havin’ dinner with her tonight and she looks good, man, but she acts the same. And her man is a dick but he’s also a moron. So he’s no boss,” Deck declared and looked at Shaughnessy. “And you just got yourself a maverick.”
The mood in the room shifted. It had been alert. Now it was relieved.
Shaughnessy was the only one who didn’t want Deck stepping in.
The rest of them, after all they’d seen for the past few years, wanted this done, and they were willing to take risks to get that.
“Terrific,” Shaughnessy muttered, his eyes moving through the room.
“Decker, this needs to be discussed,” Douglas stated, and Deck looked to him.
“You want me on the team, we talk money. I’ll give a discount, see this shit sorted. I’ll want a full brief. I’ll want the entire file. I won’t take orders. I’ll keep you in the know of what I do and what I find. But, just sayin’, that woman means something to me.” He threw out a hand toward the whiteboard. “So even if you don’t put me on the team and pay me, I’ll still be seein’ her clear of this shit.”
“You can’t let her know we’re investigating her boyfriend,” Carole said swiftly.
“This isn’t my first rodeo,” Deck returned. “What’s goin’ down, I wouldn’t f**k your investigation. But she’s still clear and she’s clear in no more than a week. Not months. Not as long as it’ll take you to track this crew, the way you’re goin’, and stop their shit.”
“As contract to this task force, you cannot engage in illegal activities. We can’t prosecute with fruit from the poisonous tree,” Douglas told him.
“Again, not my first rodeo,” Deck replied.
“You have a crew or do you work alone?” Henry asked.
“This, I’ll be bringin’ in my crew,” Deck answered.
“They’ll all need to see me,” Douglas stated. “Contract is signed, you all work for my department until the case is done.”
Deck nodded and his eyes went to Chace. “Want a picture of that board, want the file.”
“Deck, not sure this is a good idea. You got a conflict of interest with this—”
Deck again cut Chace off. “This is Emme.”
“I know it’s Emme,” Chace shot back, concerned for Deck and losing patience because of it. “Until just now, I had no idea you’d react the way you have when you saw it was Emme. So Emme’s the goddamned conflict of interest.”