November, Six months ago
Sweat ran down Marcus's back and sides. The heat was cranked up too high and the room was stifling. To top it off, the tape from his body mike was ripping out hairs every time he moved.
Asa had strapped the wire on too tight, but Marcus hadn't complained. His partner had a lot on his mind. At the time Marcus didn't think it would matter. He'd expected to be in and out in twenty minutes. He should've known better.
They were waiting on Donny Simmons to make the delivery, then Marcus could "say the magic words." Of course, Donny was over an hour late, and Marcus was about to melt.
Half an hour ago he'd tried opening the window, but it was painted shut. He considered standing up and trying again, but couldn't summon up the energy.
God, he wanted a drink.
He looked around the shabby little living room. The carpet was worn, stained and smelled awful. Marcus sat on it because the only available chair looked worse. There was an old console television at the far end of the room, but apparently it didn't work.
He felt a prickling sensation along the back of his neck and couldn't figure out if something was truly wrong, or if he was just paranoid. After all, he'd been hanging out with Donny and his friends for the past two months. Some of their paranoia was bound to have rubbed off. He tried to concentrate on something besides the greenhouse effect and chest-hair removal, but he wasn't having much luck.
He knew his men outside weren't in any better shape, except for the heat issue. It was thirty-two degrees and dropping. The weatherman had predicted an ice storm for tonight, but the front was moving in early. Sleet splattered on the window above his head.
Perfect. No wonder Donny was late.
Four patrol guys were in an unmarked car down the street, while a six-man SWAT team was crammed into a plumbers' van parked next door. Marcus had been in that same van last week. The heater was broken, and he knew those men were freezing their butts off as the team listened in.
Up to this point there hadn't been much to hear. Just some dopers sitting around smoking and waiting on a delivery. Three of them to be exact—Donny's brother Charles, his girlfriend Janice and another small-time dealer named Billy.
Charles lay on a broken-down sofa, his back to the room. From his vantage point on the floor, Marcus had a clear view of his T-shirt. Underneath the winged motorcycle emblem, the shirt proclaimed, If you can read this, the bitch fell off.
Charming guy, that Charles.
Janice slumped in a broken-down recliner next to the sofa. Long greasy hair hid her face, and she held a cigarette in grimy hands. Billy fidgeted at the kitchen table, jumping up every five minutes or so to look out the window and pace around the sad-looking kitchen. Marcus wondered what he was on and how long he'd been up.
Mentally he reviewed the pre-raid briefing that had taken place earlier today. He had stood at the front of the conference room in the station house and pointed to himself, "I'll be inside wearing these clothes. Please don't shoot me."
Everyone had laughed and then they'd gotten down to business. At noon the Honorable Judge Watson had signed a search warrant for the property and arrest warrants for Donny, Charles and Billy.
The plan was to wait for Donny to make the sale.
Marcus would say, "It's all good."
Things would roll from there.
The SWAT team would hit the front door, take down the suspects and Marcus would hit the floor. The patrol guys would stay on the perimeter. They should be able to do this with a minimum of fuss, without firing a shot and he hoped, without blowing his cover.
Key word being should.
Donny was normally quite punctual with his delivery schedules—very unusual for a doper. Likewise, every Tuesday at four o'clock in the afternoon, Billy was there for a pick-up. Naturally, this was the first time in two months the delivery had been late.
Marcus's thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Donny's Camaro pulling into the driveway. The muffler must be dragging the ground to make that kind of racket. He stood as the dealer hustled in the back door carrying a nylon duffel bag, but Marcus's stomach clenched when he saw the woman with him.
Tessa. He'd been a fool to think he was protecting her by saying no. Instead, she was clinging to Donny like he was her ticket to the good life. And for the next few hours he would be, if he shared his product with her. She nodded coolly to Marcus, giving no indication she knew him beyond a casual bar-room acquaintance.
"It's about time," said Charles. "Where ya been?"
"Trying not to wrap my car around a tree." Donny's voice was high and screechy. "It's slicker'n a greased pig out there."
"Donny, you're such a comedian," sneered Janice.
"Bite me, darlin."
"In your dreams," she retorted.
"Cut the crap," interrupted Marcus. "Let's get on with this. I've got somebody waiting."
"You and me both," said Billy. He walked over to stand beside Marcus. "Let's see the st…"
Boom. Boom. Boom. The battering ram slammed through the front door.
Damn, somebody screwed up. Marcus hit the floor. The SWAT team burst through into the living room with 9mm MP5’s.
"What the f—" shouted Charles. His question was cut short as he fell off the couch.
Janice screamed. Donny hit the floor with Marcus. Billy pulled out a 9mm Glock.
"Police...Drop the weapon, you're under arrest!" shouted Tanker, the SWAT team leader.
Billy didn't hesitate; he just grabbed Tessa and put the Glock to her temple. "You drop it, or I do her right here."
"You got no place to run, man. The house is surrounded. Let her go." Tanker's voice was calm. His entire team was now in the living room pointing their MP5’s at Billy.
Marcus was sprawled at Tessa's feet, staring up at the Glock. She was scared, but looked at him with complete trust in her eyes. No way he was pulling out his own gun in this situation. That was a guaranteed way to get them both shot.
He'd suspected Billy was a speed freak, and right now he was pretty sure that the guy was "schitzing out". Marcus figured they had about ten more seconds before Billy completely lost it and starting shooting. If he rolled hard, Marcus could knock Tessa out of the way long enough for Tanker to do his thing.
He glanced over at the SWAT leader, gave him an imperceptible nod and rolled—right into Tessa's calves.
Tessa squealed and pitched backwards, away from the gun. Billy's arm was shoved to the side when she fell. She was safe but Billy squeezed off several rounds as his hand came down. Tessa's scream was cut short. Tanker ran forward and Billy was on the ground before the echo of the shots stopped reverberating around the room.
"Officer down!" shouted Tanker's second in command. "Officer down!"
Marcus turned to check Tessa and see who they were talking about before he felt the pain sear along his shoulder. Fire raced up and down his arm, but his body felt as cold as the sleet coming down outside.
Well, hell. The crowded room darkened around the edges but the volume increased. Tessa lay still beside him, her eyes staring lifelessly at the yellowed ceiling.
NO! Something inside him died when he saw the gunshot wound between her eyes, blood trickling from the corner of her mouth.
Asa shouted for an ambulance and leaned over Marcus, blocking his view of the men huddled around her.
Asa didn't answer immediately. "They're working on her. Hang on, partner. Help's on the way."
Marcus saw stark fear in his friend's eyes and was lucid enough to realize Billy's stray bullets might have nicked something major in him. He felt a growing puddle of warm blood beneath him.
Asa never stopped talking as he peeled off his own sweatshirt, wadded it up and pressed the material against Marcus's chest. "You did good, man. You're gonna make Hodges's day. There's a boatload of drugs here. Should be some cash, too. You just stay with me. Okay?"
"Sure," mumbled Marcus.
Asa was lying. Hodges was gonna be pissed at the way this had gone down. Not that Marcus cared what Hodges thought, he'd just screwed up so badly, there wasn't anything his boss could do to make him feel any worse. Tessa was dead and he couldn't tell Asa what that really meant. Marcus had to pretend she was no different from any other addict caught in the crossfire. Even now.
"I'll be all right," he whispered. The room grew dimmer. "You know, I almost passed out from the heat waiting on you guys. Better not tell Hodges, though, huh? I'd really like some fresh air."
Marcus could tell his words were slurring and he wasn't making much sense. "I had this feeling something would go wrong…You know that feeling?"
Then everything went black.
Excerpt from: BULLETPROOF BODYGUARD by Kay Thomas
Copyright © 2010 by Kay Thomas
Permission granted by Harlequin Books S.A. and Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved