Maurice and Jessica rode the elevator down to the parking garage. It was awkward and silent, both keeping an eye on the other. Jessica took a mental survey of the parking structure while calculating escape routes should she need them. She was alone and her escort was huge, strong and a career criminal who had an insatiable blood lust. She had no plans on being his next meal. She was relieved when her car came into view.
“This is me.” She said pressing the release on her fob and opening the door.
“Get home safely.” He responded, not really meaning it.
Maurice took a few steps back as she started the engine. She felt as if she needed to say something before backing out of the tight space, but she held her tongue. It would be easier if they could be friendly but that wasn’t about to happen. Besides, her plans to take him down and his boss were just a few days away and all she really wanted was to end this case in one piece.
Jessica watched Maurice from the rearview mirror until she was out of his sight. Just as she hit the freeway, she dialed Herman’s number. He needed to know that his right-hand man was stealing him blind and even though Maurice would never actually steal from his boss, Jessica needed Herman to believe he would; her life depended on it.
S.W.A.T. Headquarters –
Hondo had been pacing the concrete floor of his office for the last thirty minutes. His gut had been telling him things that he didn’t want to hear. Jessica was in trouble, the case against Lauder was too dangerous. Even her director knew that she could very well end up a casualty in their war against the man who was hell-bent on destroying their city. Still, she insisted on going deep cover. It infuriated Hondo that she was willing to risk her life. Then without warning, he sent his coffee mug flying across the room crashing loudly against the far wall.
Hondo was embarrassed to see Cmdr. Hicks enter the room, as pieces of the mug hit the floor.
“Commander….” He stammered.
Looking at the mess before speaking again, the commander looked with concern at Hondo.
“That’s coming out of your pay, you know.” Half-teasing.
“Sorry, I just…”
“Look Hondo, she’ll be fine. Cortez knows how to handle herself. If things get dicey, she knows to call for help.”
“She shouldn’t be doing this in the first place! Lauder is dangerous. If he thinks he’s been backed into a corner, he’s going to kill her!”
“Hondo, she’s a trained agent! You have to trust her, and you have to trust her team to protect her.”
“I’m not sure I can, commander. This case could easily go wrong…”
“And if it does, we’ll be there to pull her out.”
Hicks could tell that his words had not done any good in calming Hondo down and even though he had tried to sound reassuring, he knew that Hondo’s concerns were valid. This was a case that could get her killed. Then he saw the look in Hondo’s eyes; a look of guilt…and love.
“Hondo, please tell me that you two aren’t still…”
“No, no…” Hondo began.
Hicks didn’t believe him.
“…I still have feelings for her…I can’t lie about that but we both know that it would never work.” Hondo tried to sound truthful. He failed. “Besides, we’ve both moved on.” He lied, again.
Home of Dominic Luca –
Nia could smell the lasagna from the front porch; she took a deep shaky breath and rang the doorbell. She wanted to run but the footsteps from inside kept her in place. Meeting family, she was actually meeting his family tonight. She wondered how she’d gotten here and so fast. Luca had come into her life and blindsided her; she didn’t see him coming but he’d made her feel safe and happy and…
“Hey beautiful; you made it!”
He grinned and pulled her gently inside.
“You look amazing!”
“Thank you; are they here?” Nia asked.
Kissing her on the cheek and taking her coat he knew he’d have to calm her down and quick. His father could smell blood a hundred yards away and he’d eat her alive.
“Relax, relax, everything will be just fine.”
Nia plastered a smile across her face and followed him into the room where his father and brother sat.
“She’s here!” Luca was nervous suddenly.
The two men looked up, the younger nodded and smiled while the older man, grimaced and returned to his beer.
“Uh…Nia this is my father, Carl and my brother Terry.”
“Nice to meet you both.” Nia replied.
Terry, Luca’s brother stood and hugged her. He was a large man, but he was gentle as he pulled her toward his body. Carl didn’t move nor did he utter a word in response except to ask for another beer.
Nia’s hopes for a cordial evening fell as the air in the room began to freeze. She looked up at her boyfriend and judging by his sudden flushed face, it was obvious that his hopes had fallen as well.
Home of Herman Lauder –
He was surprised to see her number flash across his phone. It was his CFO, working late again. He hated being interrupted after hours but if it had anything to do with his money, he’d make an exception this time.
“Jessica! Please tell me you’re not still working.”
“What can I do for you?”
“I’m sorry to disturb you but I was wondering if I could meet with you in the morning?”
“There are some irregularities that I think you should be made aware of.”
“Just put it in a report and email it to me.”
“It’s of a sensitive matter.”
“Wow, sounds serious, okay. How about meeting me at the office at eight?”
“That’s perfect and thank you…Herman.”
Maurice rode the elevator up to the administrative offices. Besides the cleaning crew, he was the only one still in the building. At the end of the main hallway was the finance department. He stopped momentarily at the last office and ran his finger across the gold nameplate on the door.
“Jessica Arrellano;” gorgeous, smart, eager. Maurice didn’t trust her, and it worried him that Herman was so willing to believe that she was here with no hidden agenda. He’d been around too long watching his friend’s back and pulling him out of near disasters and he wasn’t willing to take the woman at face value.
He pulled the master key from his pocket and let himself in. He closed his eyes and inhaled her perfume that lingered in the air. It was odd that there were no personal items, no pictures of family or cute nick-nacks sitting around with silly sayings embossed on them. There was more to her than this empty office with neat piles of files stacked on the desk.
Maurice kept looking, pacing the floor, pulling the drawers open, nothing was out of place or suspicious. The orderliness was off-putting and that in itself told him everything he needed to know. Then, there it was, like a small child jumping up and down demanding attention. On the corner of the desk was a fingerprint, her fingerprint.
“Gotcha!” He growled with glee.
He grabbed the tape dispenser and carefully used the tape to lift the print from the desk. Smiling, he lifted the prize in the air toward the light. Then, pulling his phone from his pocket, he dialed a familiar number.
“LAPD, Keisha speaking.”
“Hey Handsome, it’s been a while.”
“Yeah well, they’ve been working your man like a dog.”
“Umhmm…I’ve heard that before. What can I do for you, Mo?”
“I need a favor.”
“For you, of course, you know that.”
“That’s my girl.”
“So, what’s the favor this time?”
“I need you to process a fingerprint.”
“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” – Napoleon Bonaparte