Page 22 of Forced Alliance

“What did that man say?” she asked. “It sounded like Italian.”

Connor’s expression went dark. “He told someone they’d taken care of the situation. Then something about a garage—the parking garage maybe.”

“I guess that means they slaughtered everyone in that room. And they’re still looking for something or someone.”

“Josie, we can’t go back into the hallway. They might still be lurking around to make sure they got everyone. Or they could be looking for us right now. Maybe they think we ran to the parking garage.” He watched her and then said, “Let’s get out of here, and we can circle back around to check, okay?”

Josie agreed with a nod. He was right. She just prayed she’d get a call from Sherwood. She followed Connor back to the big window and together they managed to pry the lock, both of them heaving and tugging until it slid open and they crashed against each other again.

A hot, humid night wind hit them, followed by the sounds of revelry down in the Square and traffic somewhere on Canal. Josie inhaled the smell of fried shrimp and freshly baked bread coming from a nearby restaurant.

Together, they climbed over the balcony and made the short drop to the ground. Connor dusted himself off, then took Josie’s hand. “Let’s get out of here.”

They ran back toward downtown. “Let’s get to the Square,” Connor urged. “More of a crowd to hide in until we can get out of town.”

But when they heard shouts, Connor tugged her back into a shadowed alley. “I don’t think it’s safe to go back.”

Josie started forward, but a gunshot stopped her.

“Let’s go,” he urged. “We can do more good finding out who’s behind this.”

Josie reluctantly nodded her head. “Then let’s get somewhere safe and start working this case.”

An hour later they moved through the tourists crowding into Jackson Square. The sound of a lively jazz number spilled out of an open doorway down the street, followed by the smell of something spicy and tempting. Josie’s stomach growled.

“I’m so hungry,” she said, wishing she hadn’t answered that phone last night. But this was her job, her life.

“Let’s go,” he said, his hand grasping hers. “I know a place out on the bayou where they have the best food in the world—pizza and po’boys and everything in between.”

“Is it safe?” she asked, glad to follow him out of the stifling crowds. They’d backtracked up to Canal, and now he was weaving her in and out of the Quarter to throw off any followers.

“It will be if you’re with me,” he replied in that confident way that had her all mushy inside. Unnecessary, but this time she didn’t argue with him.

SEVEN

Josie’s cell chimed as they later merged with the crowd on Decatur Street. When she saw the caller ID, she immediately answered. “Josie Gilbert.”

“It’s me, Gilbert.”

“Agent Sherwood? You’re alive?” She gave Connor a quick thumbs-up.

“Barely,” her superior said with a groan. “Took a through and through in the left shoulder. They hit Armond with three bullets. He’s in a coma. I’m with him at the hospital now. Undisclosed. We don’t want the press blabbing his whereabouts. Got guards on him, too, but that big guard, Beaux, is on the run.”

“And our other agents, sir?”

“One dead and one in critical condition.”

Josie closed her eyes. “I should have been there.”

“You did the right thing by getting Randall out of there. Stay with him. He’s had eyes on Armond for a while, so he might be our last hope to figure this out.” He paused and then added, “Randall could be holding out on us. Try to get him to open up.”

Josie didn’t let on. “We’ll stay undercover and out of sight until we hear differently,” she said. “And, sir, I’ll work on that suggestion.”

“Good idea. And guard yourselves. These people mean business.”

“I’ll do my best. They came after Armond at his home and then found him in what we considered a safe location at the hotel. Could this be an inside job?”


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