Undertow: A compilation of short beach stories, page 23
Logan escorted Judge Espinosa out of the Courthouse. His suit jacket covered the handcuffs he wore. The sheriff had Judge Sylvester similarly restrained, and he waited in the back of the cruiser. The massive takedown of corrupt officials was a coordinated effort executed at exactly the same time in four different states and three different time zones. The arrest warrants had been hand delivered this morning by an FBI agent. Not Cole. Two sitting judges, four court officers, one social worker and thirteen other warrants for drug dealers, money launderers and leaders of not one, but two, prostitution rings rounded out the day’s activities. Every deputy and five trusted police officers from the city were used to take down the criminals.
Logan’s cruiser idled with the air conditioner set on the lowest setting. The fan barely blew. What a shame. The judge, accused of murder, corruption and graft, would have to sweat. Awww…suffer asshole.
She pulled a pad off the front seat of her cruiser. It listed each warrant in their jurisdiction. After several minutes on the phone with dispatch, she regarded her grandfather. “Patrols have confirmed apprehension of all but four. The four who are missing are low-level drug dealers. Apparently, they’re in the wind. All in all, it was a good sweep.”
Sheriff Deadeaux nodded at the cars where the judges sat. “Damn good day. Since we are done with it, you think your young man is coming back?”
Logan put her phone back in her pocket and shook her head. “Nope. He’s been gone for almost a month now and he hasn’t called. For him, this was an assignment.” Logan moved from her patrol car to her grandfather’s leaning on the door ignoring the judge sitting inside.
“Pawpaw, I’ve been doing some soul searching. I need a break from all of this. Law enforcement isn’t what I need right now. I’m handing in my resignation in the morning. I’ll take the Backwater over to Florida or maybe Texas. I have my charter boat license for both states. I’ll find some work…or maybe I won’t. I have the inheritance from Mom and Dad. It’ll last me long enough to figure something out. I packed up Cole’s stuff. I’ll put it in his SUV and lock it. Changed the locks on the house and left one with Meemaw. If you’d check on things every now and then, I’d appreciate it. ”
“I’ll look after things. What about Frankie?” They watched two other officers bringing out a pair of court clerks. The elderly woman currently wearing handcuffs as a fashion statement cried so hard her mascara ran, streaming little black rivers down her cheeks.
Logan waited until the bawling woman passed before she continued. “I’ve been talking with him. I told him he could come with me, but he doesn’t like the idea of leaving you and Meemaw. I’ll call. I know I’ll miss him, but he’ll be fine.”
“Hate to see you leave, Isabella.” He sighed and rose from the trunk of the patrol car where he’d been leaning.
Her eyes misted at the mention of the name she shared with her dead mother. “I need to go. If only for a little while.” Logan lifted her utility belt and moved her holster back slightly preventing the weight of her nine millimeter from pinching the skin on her hip.
When all the deputies had their intended criminal in possession, she moved away from the side of his car. Her grandfather sighed and headed for his driver’s side door. “I understand why you need to go. Don’t make it easier though.”
Logan threw him a sad smile, got into her patrol car and cranked the AC.
Logan pulled away from the curb heading to the county jail to process his-honor-the-murderer.
The drive would be her last to the jail. She’d put everything into motion. Knowing she needed to go and actually making the move to leave had been a hard decision. But life wasn’t exactly easy was it? If life had taught her anything, it was she was too damn good at the hard stuff.
Cole sat at his computer console in the task force war room surrounded by other agents. They continued to log in evidence and track down leads gained by rolling high-level personnel in bed with the Morales cartel. Two hundred and forty-seven people from politicians to pushers were officially off the streets with dozens more implicated. Each warrant had been meticulously detailed and executed. He’d done a mental fist pump when the judges from Mississippi, who’d been involved with the prostitution ring, had also been implicated in murder. Bastards. But Cole couldn’t celebrate. Much larger fish were frying and the task force’s operation absorbed all but a few hours of the agents’ days. They were lucky to rack out four hours at a time.
The domino effect slammed the agents, threatening to crush them under tons of information and evidence. When people started rolling over in order to get lighter sentences, the agents working the force had been strained to the point of breaking. The sheer volume of physical evidence and testimony coming in against the drug king’s United States network boggled the mind. Cole didn’t leave the facility for the first two weeks. The agents slept in make shift bunks in an office adjacent to the war room. He and his fellow agents literally ate, slept and lived the operation since they day they were recalled and assigned.
Cole jerked his head around at the sound of his name. Deputy Director Hayes beckoned him over.
“I’m pulling you from the task force. I need you for another situation we have brewing in Texas. From what I’ve been told, it’s extremely volatile and needs to be addressed ASAP. “
Cole tried not to show the disgruntled disappointment running through him. Getting pulled from the task force wasn’t the reason he was upset. He needed to go back to Mississippi and see if he could salvage anything left of his relationship. He doubted it, but he needed to try. This new assignment would delay the conversation even further.
“What’s the mission, sir?” Cole crossed his arms and rocked from the balls of his feet to his heels.
“It’s a joint operation. I don’t have many particulars. You’ll be filled in when you get there.”
Cole rubbed the back of his neck. The urge to beg off and ask the case be assigned to another agent hit him hard. He’d never turned down an assignment before, but he needed to talk to Bella.
“I’d send someone else, Cole, but this one is too sensitive. I need you to do this for me. Once you get this matter taken care of, you’re off. Thirty days mandatory down time.”
Thirty days off? Fuck. He could go to Mississippi and beg Bella to speak with him. And if she wouldn’t? He’d have twenty nine days to tie on one hell of a drunk and try to work her out of his system. As-fucking-if.
“Alright. When do I leave?” Cole took the paper his boss handed him. It contained his flight information and a pier and slip number at a port in Texas. Water access, port and boat. Probably a DEA joint effort or maybe a Customs and Border Patrol operation. Who knew?
“In exactly two hours. Pack from what you have here. There’s a car waiting outside to take you to the airport.” Hayes turned on his heel and left without another word.
Cole glanced at the paper again. Exhaustion landed a one-two punch on his waning curiosity and then knocked the bitch out. He was too tired to care. He dumped a couple changes of clothes in a backpack, checked his weapon and holstered it, made sure he had his badge and credentials and headed out.
Logan dropped the engine compartment door. The leak in the fuel line was easy enough to fix. She’d found the problem while doing her weekly check of the twin diesel engines. They were old, but she kept them in top shape. A glance at her watch put a smile on her face. Done with time to spare. The man who booked the charter told her he’d be arriving this morning from out of town. He’d paid in full for a four-day charter so she’d wait for him. Not like she had anything else to do since he’d paid for her time.
In the three months since she’d moved to Texas, the Backwater Blessing had become a popular charter boat. The thought of making a living like her dad did sent a small tingle of pride through her. A sense of longing took over as she edged along the cabin on the n
Logan puttered doing small things to the Blessing. The old girl looked good but there was always something to be done. The charters kept her busy. They made money. But most importantly, the constant activity kept her mind engaged. On a good day, when she was booked and working she’d only think about Cole every other thought. On days like today when she was waiting, she obsessed. What they had. What it wasn’t. What she wanted it to be—simply everything. Her thoughts occasionally drifted to Beau and how much she’d grown since he decimated her self-esteem. At least with Cole she knew it wasn’t her fault they didn’t work. Their relationship was a sham from the beginning. The lover who rocked her world hadn’t returned her feelings. There wasn’t a real relationship to morn, but she grieved anyway.
Logan glanced at the bright blue fish-shaped clock. Today’s booking consisted of one guy who wanted to get away. He said he wanted to fish, but nothing too aggressive. He’d had a rough couple months and needed to relax from everything and everyone. He’d even requested she not bring any additional crew. The request sent off some warning flags, but with her nine millimeter stowed up top and a forty five resting at the far end of the cabin behind the fishing poles, she had no doubt she could handle one man.
Her plan was to head toward the oil wells and anchor about thirteen miles out. She’d drop a couple lines, maybe troll for a while before moving on to one of the barrier islands to lay anchor for the night. If they were lucky she’d cook their catch on the boat grill she’d attach to the aft. A perfect way for the man to unwind and relax.
With her sleeping bag and air mattress stowed up top, she’d sleep outside away from her guest. She’d rechecked the prep work and sat ready to go. There was enough water, beer and soda in the cabin to host a good-sized party plus she had plenty of food. The fresh water tank was full and her fuel tanks were topped off. The weather was perfect and she was ready to head out. All she needed was a passenger.
How much longer could he keep going? The triple shot espresso he’d ordered and guzzled at the airport coffee kiosk more than a half hour ago didn’t faze the cloud of debilitating fatigue. The exhaustion sucked what was left of his energy reserves from him. He stumbled twice on the boardwalk. Evidently picking up his foot was too damn hard today. Fuck, he hoped the mission he was assigned to didn’t require immediate response. He needed sleep.
He thought he’d be able to catch a couple hours on the flight from D.C.—until Brandon got on the plane. How did he know the little boy’s name was Brandon? His mother said it at least five million times. Brandon, get down. Brandon, come here. Brandon don’t touch the man’s computer. Brandon, Brandon, Brandon…hell everyone in the entire plane knew who Brandon was by the time the plane landed. He’d like to shoot the travel agent who booked him a seat adjacent to Brandon and his mother. At one point, he felt sure he’d have to flash his badge to stop a mob from forming. Although to be honest, he wasn’t sure if the mob would lynch the kid or the mom. Both were equally annoying.
The pier split and he had to turn left or right. The numbering system sucked and he walked about two hundred feet the wrong direction before he figured it out. Retracing his steps in the sweltering heat, he rubbed his eyes trying to get them to focus. He obviously wasn’t seeing things correctly. The boat at the end of the pier appeared to be the the Backwater Blessing. Same color, same size. Hell, it even had…what the fuck? Bella’s boat. Here? What in the hell was going on? He walked as if in a trance to the back of the boat. Sure enough, it was her boat. Cole stepped over the side and missed the first step landing with a loud stomp on the back deck.
Alerted to her presence by the sound of the plastic flaps falling back into place he turned. The shock he had when he’d walked down the pier and saw the Backwater Blessing moored in the slip was quickly replaced with 100% unadulterated fucking happiness. His smile faltered at her slack-faced, shocked look. She didn’t know he was coming. Damn, what was going on?
“Hey.” Great Davis, you are one fucking smooth talker, ain’t yah?
“I have a charter. You can’t be here.” Holy hell, if the frozen attitude she was blasting toward him was any indication, his woman was piiiiissed. Capital P.
“I think I’m your charter.” He lifted the slip of paper in his hand in a flimsy ass attempt at…something. What, he had no idea, but hey, he was working on too little sleep and one hell of a shock.
“Then I’ll refund your money.” She turned and walked toward the ladder leading up to the captain’s nest.
“I’m here on orders. A mission.” He ran his hand through his hair. The freaking sun was pounding down and sweat dripped off him. Wearing a suit in ninety-degree weather and what felt like 100% humidity sucked.
His comment stopped her. “What mission?”
“Hell, if I know. Hayes pulls me from the task force and drops this on my lap. The only reason I took it was because…” Cole dropped his head and laughed as the trail of bread crumbs became a road. The road morphed into an interstate of understanding. “Son of a bitch!”
Hayes. Who would have believed it? Hayes and Logan’s grandfather were old friends. Mensa buddies. Those two meddling geniuses had concocted his mission, her charter and had set them both up. Cole surveyed the crystal blue sky and laughed, “Those meddling, old men.”
“Excuse me?” Logan’s question drew his attention back to her.
“Hayes and your grandfather. They set us up.” Cole watched her carefully as he spoke. A single well-defined eyebrow rose above her sunglasses.
“Seriously? Why are you here?” Always straight to the point wasn’t she? Well he wasn’t prepared to answer, but how much preparation do you need to grovel?
“I came because Hayes promised me thirty days off after I finished. I was going to come to Mississippi and see you.” Cole pulled off his jacket and shucked his tie dropping them on the deck. Both were wet with sweat.
“Too little, too late.” Logan leaned against the cabin in the shade of the overhang and crossed her arms over her stomach.
Cole kicked off his leather dress shoes and pulled off his socks. His shirt came next. Standing on the deck of her boat in his dress slacks and white undershirt, he inhaled a soup bowl’s worth of muggy air and nodded.
“Yeah. Look Bella, I know I screwed up.”
“Really? Yah think?” The acidic, bitter disdain dripped from her tongue.
“Can we please go into the cabin? I haven’t slept in…fuck, it feels like forever. I’m going to chug sea water if I don’t get something to drink soon, and I would like to talk to you without having to guess what’s in your eyes. I hate mirrored sunglasses.”
His elation at seeing her morphed into cranked-the-fuck-off, but he’d be damned if he was leaving before she’d heard him out. He wanted nothing more than to pull her against him and fucking hold her for a day or two. He was too tired to do anything else. But give him a decent night’s sleep? He’d fucking own that hot-bodied babe. He would handcuff her to the bed to make sure she didn’t slip away. For some reason the thought struck him as funny and he chuckled to himself.
She peeled off the cabin wall, disappearing behind the clear plastic strips. Cole grabbed his pile of sweat soaked clothes and followed her. Entering the cabin shocked his system. The cold air blasted against his overheated skin. He dumped his clothes and all but fell onto the bench seat by the table.
“I was going to call you, but things swarmed us. The next thing I knew it was a week later and well, I knew you’d be pissed. Fuck, I would have been pissed if you stayed and I was told to go. And I knew you’d be hurt. I didn’t know how to deal with it from a thousand miles away. So I rationalized I’d come see you when we wrapped. B
“Good to know.” She sat several bottles of water in front of him and backed away until she leaned against the counter.
“Seriously? That’s all you have to say?” He downed the water and reached for the second. His mind raced and the direction his thoughts took him sucked. His mentally drawn conclusions to this conversation didn’t bode well for his desire to…to what? Have sex with her? Fuck no, ahh…yes actually, but oh hell...he wanted so much more.
“What do you want me to say, Cole? You told me up front, I was a cover story for you. By your actions, it’s obvious the physical events between us were part of your cover.” Her voice lost some of its sting, but the words more than made up for the less than vicious response. Those comments hit him in the gut. Hard.
“Physical events? Holy hell is that how you see what we did? What happened between us wasn’t a cover. I wanted you. I still do. You left like I’d thrown you out. I didn’t.”
Logan’s arms crossed around her waist, hugging herself. She stared at her bright red painted toenails. Cole wanted to take her into his arms, but even in his muddled mind, he knew she’d retreat farther if he did.
“Wanting me isn’t enough, Cole. Not anymore. I can’t be your convenient piece of ass when you are working in the vicinity. I deserve more than being an afterthought when you finish a mission.”
Cole risked moving. He stood and closed the space between them with two steps. “Bella, you are not an afterthought, shit…you’re all I think about.” He lifted her chin and sucked a deep breath when he saw her tears.
Using his thumbs to wipe the moisture away he kept her face cupped in his hands. “Baby, I love you. I have no idea what to do with it, but I love you.” He lowered a pressing kiss against her. Feeling her flesh tremble under his seeking lips, he pulled back.