Page 10 of Forced Alliance

“Of course,” Connor said on a reassuring note. “I told you Josie knows her stuff.”

Armond didn’t look convinced. “So...what should I do now?”

“I’d say we wait,” Josie replied, her fingers tapping on her phone. It really was a burner. She’d hidden her secure work cell in her car, where his men couldn’t find it when they went out to do a search. She’d fill the burner with what she needed and send it to the fake email account she used as Josie Grant. Then she’d hide the phone in her lockbox in her apartment. If she got out of here alive, of course.

“Look, Mr. Armond, your girlfriend got shot on a city street and there’s bound to be other witnesses who will come forward and tell what they saw.” She leaned forward, her dark bangs covering her face in what she hoped was an intimidating, mysterious way. “Some of them could lie, so it’s a good thing Connor came along when he did. He knows the truth.”

Glancing over at Connor, she caught a whiff of admiration before his eyes went dark again. Then she turned back to Armond and did her tough-girl act. “Did you see the shooter?”

Armond shook his head. “No. I was too busy telling Lewanna to leave. We could never be seen together.” He held his hand to his head as if he had a bad headache. “I can’t believe she’s dead. If my wife hears this...”

Connor got up and poured coffee for Josie and then got himself a cup. “So why did she show up at the opera?”

“She was frightened,” Armond replied, his hand shaking when he tried to take a sip from his cup. He finally gave up and grabbed a silver flask off the table. Opening it, he poured what looked like whiskey into his coffee. “I’ve never seen Lewanna like that. Someone had left a nasty note on her porch, along with a dead rat.”

“Do you think she ratted someone out?” Josie asked.

“No, but someone thinks she did. And that means they also think I ratted them out. Lewanna showed me the note.”

Connor glanced over at Josie and then turned back to Armond. “Do you have that note?”

Armond looked shocked, as if he’d forgotten. “I tucked it into my pocket.” He pulled the crushed paper out and stared down at it, then began reading.

“Your boyfriend has been playing outside the boundaries. Tell Armond he’s a dead man if he crosses that line again.”

He threw the letter down and stared at Connor. “They know something. They musta found out I was meeting you tonight to give you information.”

“You can still give us information,” Connor replied, his gaze full of resolve.

“Did you read that note?” Armond asked in a shout.

Josie took her napkin and reached for the paper, careful to keep her fingerprints off it. “Cutouts from magazines. How juvenile.”

“How serious,” Armond replied. “It might look like I killed her, but I didn’t. I was standing there trying to talk her into leaving. I had dismissed my guards for the sake of privacy.” He rubbed a hand down the bald spot on top of his head. “Happened so fast. Had to be a sniper. It’s a terrible thing, her being shot. But I’m a target, and someone wants me to be aware of that.”

He finished his spiked coffee, back to being the boss he thought he was. “I need you two to get to the bottom of this. Right away. And you need to tell the feds all deals are off.”

Connor gave Josie another glance. “You don’t trust your own people, so that means you think this is an inside job?”

Armond nodded, shrugged. “I’ve made many enemies. Some of my close associates have betrayed me.” His keen stare indicated that Connor was one of those.

Josie did an eye lift to show her displeasure. “Let’s start at the beginning,” she said. “We’ll need a list of anyone you might have inadvertently offended, especially recently. And we need to check all your personal weapons to see if anything is missing.” She tapped notes into her phone.

“Maybe they made it seem like a sniper, but someone else with a closer aim could have done it with a different weapon and a silencer.” She tapped notes into her phone. “The forensic team and medical examiner can determine that if they can find any bullets to compare. Based on the angle and where the bullet entered, the type of weapon, all of that will come into play.”