Making Angel (Mariani Crime Family Book 2), page 1
Table of Contents
Copyright © 2017 by Harley Stone
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States
For Aunt Cindy,
The most courageous humanitarian adrenaline-junkie I've ever known.
I miss you every day.
THE DAY BEFORE Halloween I paced my office, trying to figure out how to make a better bomb. I needed to widen the radius of its electromagnetic pulse blast without increasing its pocket-sized dimensions. I palmed the device, once again working through the equation in my head. I had to be missing something.
A figure darkened my doorway. "Angel, we're gonna be late," Bones nagged.
My best friend, bodyguard, and schedule keeper stood just under six feet tall, inches shorter than me, but with a build that dissuaded muggers and a scowl that forced hardened criminals to drop their gaze and haul ass to the other side of the street. Smartly dressed in a suit that screamed "funeral director" or some other occupation paid to put people six feet under, his real name was Franco Leone, but I'd nicknamed him Bones in fourth grade when he shattered the wrist of an aspiring bully who'd shoved me against my locker. The nickname stuck, and so did our friendship. Nobody had my back like Bones.
"I know. I know. One more minute."
"The big man's gonna fuckin' ice us if we're late. You know how important this drop is."
"The drop's at three, right?"
I glanced at my watch. "Then don't worry about it. We got plenty of time." It was too early for rush hour, and little things like traffic weren't a big deal for my family. Our technical guru had the city wired and controlled the lights from the comfort of his hidden lair.
"Plenty of time? Aren't you forgetting something?" Bones gestured toward my body.
I followed his gaze and swore. T-shirt, jeans, sneakers; I needed to change and had forgotten to bring a suit. We'd have to stop by the condo, which would add another twenty minutes to our commute. Dropping the device on my desk, I ran for the exit.
"Angel." Bones's tone held laughter, causing me to stop and look at him. He grinned and whipped out a garment bag he'd been hiding behind his back. "Who the fuck's got your back?"
See? That's why he's the best. "You're the shit, Bones," I said, taking the suit. "Best goddamn butler I ever had."
Scowling at the backhanded compliment, he flipped me off.
I hurried back into my office and changed. Once I'd donned the family-approved wiseguy apparel, Bones and I rode the elevator up to the ground floor, emerging into the busy plastics manufacturing plant that served as a front for my father's technical (weapons and war gear) development business. None of the legit employees so much as glanced our way as we jogged toward the garage.
"Keys?" I asked.
He tossed them to me. "She's all gassed up."
I climbed behind the wheel of my black and silver Hummer H5 with tinted bullet-resistant glass and tires designed to resist deflation when punctured, glancing over my shoulder into the backseat. Blankets hid the machine guns we'd be delivering.
"Thanks for making the pickup. I'm close to figuring out a way to keep the--"
"You're close to making us fuckin' late, is what you're close to." Bones tapped the clock on the dashboard. "Twenty-three minutes. I'm calling Tech."
I nodded and slammed the Hummer into reverse. As we pulled away from the building, Bones spoke a code and the dashboard screen came to life. The screen blinked, requiring another password. Bones rattled off a series of numbers and then placed his thumb in the center of the box.
The face of a man I'd known for years, but had never met in person, appeared. "We're secure, Bones, how can I help you?" Tech asked. Nobody but my father knew the real name of the head of the technical department. To the rest of us, Tech was the autonomous human version of a digital personal assistant and knowledge navigator.
"We need a clear route from Plant A to Drop..." Bones pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and scanned it before adding, "Charlie-four-niner-alpha."
Everyone who worked for my father spoke in codes that changed frequently, and were issued on an as-needed basis. Bones--for all his strengths--had one weakness... he couldn't memorize the damn codes. He was one of the few people Father allowed to write them down, and Bones guarded his codes like they were a matter of life and death, which, essentially, they were.
"Got it," Tech replied. "I'm sending the navigation now. Everything's covered."
Confident Tech had control of the lights and eyes on the cops, I stomped on the gas and maneuvered through traffic. Lights turned green before we reached them and once we cleared the downtown congestion, the Hummer ate up the distance between us and the little blinking light marking our destination on the screen. We were less than a mile from the drop point when Tech's face reappeared on the screen.
"You have incoming. Blue. Next light," he said, before disappearing.
Startled, I took my foot off the gas and hit the brakes.
Too late. A siren blared to life, and I'd only slowed to eighty in the sixty-mile-per-hour zone.
"What the fuck, Tech?" Bones shouted. "You said we were clear."
The screen stayed blank, but Tech's voice came over the speakers. "You're supposed to be. He's off route. I'm calling it in."
"What do I do?" I wondered out loud. It had been years since I'd been stopped by a cop. The family shelled out millions to make sure we stayed well under their radar.
"Just keep driving," Bones said.
"And go where?" We couldn't lead him to the drop point. We could try to lose him, but if we engaged in a high-speed chase that ended badly, the pigs would search m
"I gotta pull over. Maybe I can reason with him."
"What? No! That's a shitty idea," Bones objected.
"I'm working with my contacts at the station, but a team has been routed to your location just in case. Be careful, Angel," Tech said.
I slowed the vehicle and veered to the outside lane, rolling to a stop just beyond an on-ramp. Bones reached for the gun in his jacket pocket. I also had a gun in my jacket and another under my seat, but didn't reach for either since I had no intention of using them.
"This is a cop. He's just doing his job," I said, eyeing Bones's pocket.
Bones stiffened. "And I'm doing mine. Trade me seats."
"No. I can handle this without violence."
I looked into my rearview mirror, watching as the cop sat in his cruiser, radio in hand.
"He's calling it in," Bones said.
Tech's face materialized on the screen again. "You may have a problem, Angel. The officer has been ordered to return to the station, but refuses."
Damn. "Tech, I need information. Who am I dealing with here?"
"I'm pulling his file now. Roger Hill, typical beat cop, no marks in his file, married, two kids, a third on the way. His family just moved here from the Denver area. That's all I've got, but I'm still searching."
The door of the police cruiser swung open and Officer Roger Hill climbed out. He marched toward us, wearing a stern glower with the same efficiency that he wore the signature tan uniform of the Metropolitan Police Force. Lapel mic clipped to his shirt, radio at his hip, clipboard in hand, he tapped on my window like he meant business. I pasted on my friendliest smile and rolled down the window. Hot, dry Nevada air gushed in.
Officer Hill leaned forward and looked me and Bones over. I could almost see the wheels turning in his head as he took in our nice suits and the tricked-out Hummer, weighing it all against the orders from his department to leave us alone. He had to be wondering who we were.
"You boys in a hurry?" he asked.
I nodded. "We're businessmen, Officer, always in a hurry. But I apologize, I didn't mean to speed."
His eyes hardened, telling me I'd get no mercy. "I clocked you at seventy-nine, and your brake lights were on. License and registration."
I glanced at Bones, and we both eyed the glove box. Even if registration paperwork existed, there was no way it was in my name. My father had taught me to officially own nothing, that way the IRS couldn't officially take it away. I hesitated, wondering if I should pretend to search the glove box or just go straight for the fake ID in my wallet.
The officer's radio came to life with a burst of static, followed by a pleading female voice verging on hysterical. "Officer Hill, you are not on radar. Please report."
He frowned. "Excuse me for a moment," he said to us, before stepping back and answering.
"Tech, what's going on?" I asked.
"I'm working on it, sir. Don't worry. The team is almost to you. Sit tight."
The team was why I worried. I needed to diffuse the situation before they showed up.
Officer Hill reappeared in my window. "License and registration," he repeated.
Desperate, I blurted out the first lie that came to mind. "We have this important meeting we're late to and my car broke down. I had to borrow my father's ride, and I can't find his registration. Can you just write me a ticket and we'll be on our way?"
"Officer Hill, we need you to check out a possible ten-seventy on Wedgewood Drive. What's your status?"
Keeping an eye on me and Bones, he pressed the button on his radio and said, "I'm still at the four-thirty-eight."
Static. Then, "Officer Hill, you are not authorized to proceed with that four-thirty-eight. You have been ordered back to the station by the chief."
He tilted his head to the side, eyes hardening. "Your father could be the devil himself, I don't care. Nobody's above the law."
"I told you, we're just a couple of businessmen trying to get to a meeting."
"Oh yeah? What type of business you into? Drugs? Trafficking?"
"Officer Hill, report. What's your status?"
He didn't even blink.
"You should probably get that." I nodded toward his radio.
"Don't tell me how to do my job." His hand slid to his holstered gun. Sweat glistened across his forehead. "Now, hand over your goddamn license."
I took a resigned breath and slid the ID from my wallet. Righteous anger radiated from the Colorado transfer. He was a good cop who didn't understand how we played the game here, but he was about to get a crash course.
He studied my fake license and chuckled. "John Frank, huh? They're not going to let me run this, are they?"
I didn't reply. Even if they did, he wouldn't find anything.
"You part of one of the families?" he asked.
He knew about us. Hell, he was probably some wannabe savior who thought he could bring us down. Thought the good guys would win or some shit like that. In a last ditch effort I switched tactics and tried honesty. "I'm just a man trying to save another man from making a big mistake. Christmas is coming and you have two kids and one in the oven. Am I right, Roger?"
That surprised him. His eyes widened for a second before hardening again. Maybe he'd come around after all.
"You're in a lot of danger right now, Officer, but not from me."
He pulled his gun. "Don't threaten me, and don't talk about my family."
Bones shifted. I slowly held my hand up, silently begging my friend to trust me.
I tried to pretend the Glock pointed at my face didn't piss me off and opened my wallet again, this time reaching for the bills in the back. I needed this dumbass to stand down and fall in line so he wouldn't create a scene. "You're a good cop, going above and beyond, so why don't you accept this token of our appreciation for your service and get back in your cruiser while you can still drive away."
"Officer Hill, do you read me? You are not authorized to proceed with that four-thirty-eight," the dispatcher said again. "We need you to return to the station. Now."
I slowly withdrew seven hundred dollars, and then added another three. "Last chance. Think of your kids, Roger. Don't you want to see their Halloween costumes? To spend Thanksgiving with them? And Christmas? They need their father. Your wife needs her husband. Nobody has to get hurt. Just take the money and walk away."
His jaw clenched. He didn't even glance at the cash. "I'm an officer of the law and not interested in your chances. Now, hand over your real license and registration before I arrest you both and impound your car."
I sighed. "You have no backup. Nobody's going to impound my car, and there's no way you're taking me in. In a few minutes a group of men will show up and they'll lose their shit over you pulling a gun on me."
Officer Hill's hand began to tremble.
The screen on my dashboard lost its connection. I didn't have to look at my phone to know I had no bars. All electronics in the area were blocked. I was out of time.
"Incoming," Bones whispered.
My rearview mirror showed a black SUV pulling up behind the cop car. Doors opened. Officer Hill turned toward the sound.
Six shots rang out and Mrs. Hill became a widow.
Pockets were rifled through, keys were tossed, and then the police cruiser started up and drove away. Suits blocked the body from the view of freeway drivers as the clean up crew bagged up the officer. Someone handed me back my fake ID.
What a fuckin' waste.
My dashboard screen lit up and Tech's face appeared. "Get out of there, Angel," he said. The map with our blinking drop point reappeared on the screen.
"You tried," Bones said. "Stupid son-of-a-bitch should have listened."
My father's men were watching me, measuring my reaction, judging whether or not I was ruthless and apathetic
He was a good guy--a good cop--and in Vegas, nice guys didn't just finish last... they didn't finish at all.
WITH MY SUITCASE packed and set beside the door, I paced the small, dank room I had shared with eight orphans for the past eleven months. Empty, lumpy mattresses sat atop four sets of bunk beds, the absence of their occupants filling my stomach with lead.
The door opened, and I stopped in my tracks, hopeful.
Tad stepped into the room, wringing his hands as he scanned the space. "They're still not back," he said, leaning against a bunk.
Somewhere north of forty with skin darker than a starless night and heart larger than Texas, Tad had devoted his life and finances to running this orphanage in the impoverished, AIDS-ridden village of Mwembeshi, Zambia. He had patience for days, but I'd managed to wear it thin on more than one occasion. Today was no exception.
He glanced at his watch. "If we don't leave in the next ten minutes, you'll miss your flight, Ms. Markie."
"I know. I just--" Having no idea how to finish the statement, I closed my mouth. Almost four hours ago the children--six girls and two boys ranging from ages three to ten--had set off to deliver fresh water to a family in the bush north of the village. We'd made the trek together dozens of times, but this time I stayed behind to pack and say my good-byes to the villagers. The delivery should have taken them two hours, round trip, and knowing I was on a schedule, the children had promised to hurry back. And with every minute they were late, my stomach tied in another knot.
"I'm sure they'll be all right, Ms. Markie," Tad said. "They know the land. They will not get lost."
My worries had more to do with Zambia's Boko Haram infestation than with the children getting lost. If those psychos got their hands on the children... there'd be nothing I could do. We'd be lucky to ever see them again. Guilt gnawed at my insides, making me wish I'd just gone with them. A little voice in the back of my mind reminded me I was abandoning the children to head back to the States and they'd have to make deliveries without me from now on. Doubting my decision to leave for the millionth time, I checked my cheap, international cell phone again, hoping for a text from my sister. Nothing. It had been weeks since I'd heard from Ariana.
Other author's books:
- Breaking Bones (Mariani Crime Family Book 3)Making Angel (Mariani Crime Family Book 2)Dom's Ascension (Mariani Crime Family Book 1)Trapping Wasp (Dead Presidents Book 3)Dom's Ascension
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