Page 23 of Forced Alliance

“Who knows at this point, but yes, that’s possible. We didn’t get to question him or even arrest him. He’ll hear the good news on that if he ever wakes up. Just keep reporting in so I won’t have to worry about you, too.”

“Yes, sir. We got out a window and circled back to the Quarter in a cab so we’d throw off anyone following us. Randall knows of a safe house out from the city.”

“What about our other in-town designated safe house?”

“We think it might have been compromised, considering.”

After a long pause, Sherwood said, “Do what you need to do to stay alive. I’ll check back soon. Oh, by the way, before he passed out, Armond said something about a garage.”

“Really? So did one of the hit men. We heard him, but he was speaking in Italian, so we can’t be sure.”

“Keep that in mind and check out any leads.”

Josie hung up and gave Connor a nod. “Sherwood is okay. Got hit in the shoulder but it went through.” She filled him in on Armond. “He’s at the hospital with Armond, undisclosed location.”

“We have a lot of medical centers and hospitals,” Connor replied. “Why didn’t he give you Armond’s location? We still need to talk to him, find out what he wanted to tell me.”

“Sherwood’s trying to protect us, too,” she explained. “He told me to stay with you. Oh, and he mentioned the garage—said Armond mumbled something about it before he passed out.” She jotted some notes on her phone’s notepad. “Maybe we should do a search of the parking garage back at the hotel.”

“Or maybe another type of garage, like the big one back at the estate. But there are outbuildings all over that place. I know of one other one that has a classic car stored in it. We can’t be sure which one everyone’s talking about.”

“You’re right. I’ll let the forensic and crime-scene techs handle that until Armond is conscious. Hopefully, he’ll come clean.”

“Unless we can figure something else out.” He tugged her through the crowds crossing Decatur between the Square and the Moonwalk. The Quarter was alive with music and laughter. The St. Louis Cathedral looked like a beacon in the wee hours of the night. “We threw them off but need to get out of town.”

Josie agreed. Every face seemed sinister and ominous. She glanced over her shoulder with each turn, expecting a gunman to be following them. She noticed Connor doing the same. He was a distraction. And a partner now, since they’d been forced to team up. They were in this together, for better or worse.

Being an agent meant she always watched her back and stayed alert, but tonight she doubled that practice, her mind going back to the last time she’d been undercover. She’d missed one glaring sign that could have saved a young girl’s life. Her informant’s life. She wouldn’t do that now, even if she thought saving Connor shouldn’t be her concern. He was a human being, and he had been helpful in getting them out of that hotel and back to the Square. Sending out a prayer that the Lord would replace her judgmental attitude with one of wisdom, she followed Connor through the busy, crowded streets.

“Are they here?” she asked, her own instincts too blurred to pick up on anything out of the ordinary.

“I don’t know,” he said, his gaze roving over the streets. “I don’t think they’d come into a crowd, but these people certainly are ruthless. Could be anyone, dressed like a tourist or a vendor. Let’s head up Ursulines and take North Rampart back to Canal. Grab a cab and hope we’ve thrown them off.”

“Not your fancy car?” Josie asked to take her mind off this horrible night.

“No. Too well-known around here.”

“Aren’t you too well-known around here, too?”

“Yeah. Which is why I’m going where no man in his right mind would venture.”

“These men might not be in their right minds,” she reminded him.

“Then we’ll be waiting for them.”

* * *

Connor had been running all of his life. He was used to running from the law, and lately, he’d learned to run from the bad guys, too. But having a too-bold, too-beautiful woman with him, now, that was different. Not that Josie was deadweight. She knew her stuff and watched and checked diligently as they moved through the shadows.

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