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Protect & Serve(10)

By:Nikki Wild

“The Peachtree Overlook?” I asked, raising a brow. Captain Pierce nodded, and I stifled a laugh. “Oh, yeah. He’ll just love that.”

I couldn’t imagine Nathan Hale, a man accustomed to living in the lap of luxury, reacting to the Peachtree Overlook with anything short of disgust and horror. Those apartments weren’t exactly the worst the city had to offer, but they were far from the best. Located just a stone’s throw from the railroad tracks, they had a layer of grime and soot embedded into the exterior, and from what I’d heard, the inside wasn’t much better.

“A rich boy living in the Peachtree Overlook,” I mused, shaking my head. “I almost wish I could see it.”

“I’m glad you said that, because you will see it,” Captain Pierce answered. “You’re still on the case, detective. In fact, you’ve been assigned to him full-time until the trial.”

I felt all the blood rush from my face. My lip trembled for a moment, disbelief slackening my jaw as I tried to process what he’d just said.

“Wait—full-time? Meaning…”

“Meaning you’ll be sitting on Mr. Hale until the start of the trial,” Captain Pierce finished, sitting down again behind his desk. “The paperwork’s already been filed. You’ll be undercover, of course, posing as Mr. Hale’s girlfriend, Candy Love.”

I shot him an “are-you-serious?” look. I couldn’t help it—Candy? Really? Like some kind of stripper?

The captain waved his hand dismissively, as if that detail didn’t matter. “It’s just for a week, detective. And you won’t be the only cop there. We’ve arranged for undercover officers to be present on each floor. If you need something, just holler, Candy.”

I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it. The captain made it sound like I was staying in a guest room at some quaint little bed and breakfast. “Just holler” was more likely to mean “if we hear gunshots, we’ll come running.” I didn’t need him to candy-coat this for me.

I also couldn’t figure out if I was being punished or rewarded. An undercover operation was a serious undertaking, but a week with Nathaniel Hale was an even more arduous one. Why me? Why not someone with a little more experience who hadn’t let five criminals walk free just a few hours ago?

“Sir,” I began, measuring my words carefully. “I’m… not clear on why you need me for this. I’m a first-year detective. I’m sure there are more appropriate choices…”

“Not on this one,” he quickly answered, folding his hands on his desk. “This is a big deal. Nathan Hale’s testimony is going to put away a sex trafficker, murderer, and illegal arms dealer. We’re talking about unraveling the whole organization. With Wallace gone, the rest of the Paddies will crumble. That’s a feat even the FBI hasn’t been able to accomplish. It’ll look good for the department...”

There was an implication there, a subtle reminder that cops who did things to bolster the department’s reputation were always rewarded. Doing this might mean a chance at respect, but could I respect myself for dancing to this man’s tune by shacking up with some yuppie billionaire and calling myself Candy?

But he was right about the Paddies—the gang Wallace headed up with ties to the Irish mob. They had to go, and if this would oust them from the city once and for all, maybe it really was a small sacrifice.

“I get the point, sir. But I don’t know if it’ll be that easy. One of those men who came to Hale’s mansion—he called himself Francis O’Rourke—there was something about him. An air of authority? I think he might have been higher up the food chain than the others. Even with Wallace out of the picture, the Paddies might be able to hold their ground if that man’s been groomed to take over.”

Captain Pierce nodded grimly. “I’ll see if the FBI is willing to let us in on who some of the other major players are. In the meantime, get your things in order and meet me back here in an hour. I want you two moved into the Peachtree Overlook by this evening. The sooner, the better,” he added.

I shook my head. “I still don’t understand why you’ve chosen me, sir.”

The captain sighed. He looked weary. “Do you really want to know?”

I nodded. “Yes, sir. Absolutely.”

I’d been hoping for some speech where Captain Pierce admitted how much the department needed me, how I was an invaluable member of the force, and how handing me this responsibility was just the first step in showing the rest of the boys how capable I really was.