Forced Alliance(3)

By: Lenora Worth



“Well, that sure makes this more understandable,” she said on a sarcastic note. Then she regretted that note. She’d learned not to take anything for granted, not even an informant who grated on her last nerve. Heading northwest out of town, she decided to play along. “Tell me what you need.”

He let out an exasperated sigh. “Look, this is bad, but it’s a chance to...get you inside his world.”

Good point. That way, she could keep an eye on both of them and maybe convince Armond to cooperate.

“But what if this is a setup?” she asked, her mind moving through several scenarios. “Maybe he’s luring you out so he can kill you. I mean, has he told you the big secret he wanted to share?”

“Not yet.” She heard a chuckle. “As for him killing me, yes, he could do that. I’ve already considered that angle, but right now he’s in no shape to kill anyone. He says he didn’t kill his mistress and I believe him. I think a sniper made this hit. He thinks they’re onto him and that they’ll come after anyone associated with him, including me.

“He’s so scared he might be willing to save us a lot of trouble by cutting an even better deal.” He went silent for a second or two. “Armond isn’t the kind to scare easily, so I’d say we’re onto something big here. I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and now I’m not at liberty to walk away.”

Josie read between the lines. The man had him right where he wanted him. Connor could testify against Armond, and if he told the truth—that he’d seen the man holding a gun over a woman lying on the street—things could go bad for Armond. But if Connor could be persuaded to put a different spin on that story...well...he might get to live.

Right. She’d never known a Mafia boss to have a change of heart unless he thought there was something in it for him. This could get messy. Connor could turn back to the dark side to save his own hide.

“Where are you now?” she asked. She had the car out on the street, moving.

“We just arrived at his estate on the Old River Road. It’s like a fortress, so he should be safe here for a while. I’m not sure how safe.”

He gave her the address and some directions, but Josie was pretty sure this place wasn’t on any map.

“Okay, got it. On my way.”

“Oh, and by the way, we have to make him believe you will help us clean up this mess. If he asks, and trust me, he will, you have to be prepared to make this go away.”

Connor ended the call before she had a chance to burst out laughing. Or protest.

Wondering why she hadn’t become a teacher like her mother had suggested, Josie quickly called Special Agent in Charge Joseph Sherwood and explained what Connor had told her. “I’d like to go in alone and undercover for now, sir.”

After a long silence, the older man said, “You can go in alone, but I’ll have a team on standby in case you get into trouble. We’ve worked too hard to bring Armond in to let anything go wrong now.”

There was another slight pause and then he added, “Meantime, let me know if you need any backstopping. I’ll get the techs involved and I’ll work with the locals on the shooting.”

“Yes, sir.” If he was willing to set up an undercover background for her, Sherwood must understand the magnitude of this mission. She might be in this for days, possibly weeks.

She’d go out to the Armond compound and get Armond and Connor to safety. That is, if someone else didn’t beat her to the place and do harm to both of them.





TWO

Josie checked her rearview mirror several times to make sure she wasn’t being followed. Normal Saturday-night traffic streamed along the interstate.

She bumped up her speed, her pulse zooming along with the vehicle’s high speed. Why was she so worried anyway? Connor could handle himself. He knew all the tricks of survival.

But...Connor Randall was almost legendary around the bureau, so maybe Armond considered him more valuable alive than dead right now. If anyone could charm a snake, it’d be Connor Randall. She didn’t want to think about how he could turn a woman’s head, too.

She hadn’t decided if the debonair Mr. Randall had finally mended his ways or if he was just working on one last big con. They’d had several conversations, or as Connor liked to call them—interrogations. She asked questions, and he either answered with a cool disregard or said nothing at all. She’d pulled him in earlier today to get a better handle on tonight’s mission, and the man had waltzed in wearing a custom-made tuxedo and a custom-made smile.

Get that out of your head, she told herself. So he was handsome and debonair and...still a criminal in her mind.

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