Page 69 of Forced Alliance

Turning back to the tiny desk near where she’d been sitting, she noticed a landline telephone. Dust covered it but the wireless receiver sat inside a charger that was plugged into the wall.

Glancing at the door, Josie took a chance. She grabbed the receiver and prayed for a dial tone. When she heard one, she quickly dialed Connor’s cell number and waited. When she only got his voice message, her heart sank. Then she heard a voice outside the room, someone talking, maybe into a phone. Sherwood coming back?

Josie watched the door while she waited for the beep to leave a message, her breath counting the precious seconds. The beep sounded. The door lock rattled and clicked. She said one word before she placed the phone back in its cradle and rushed back to her chair. “Cupid.”

* * *


Their fail-safe code.

Connor hurried down side streets and listened, his throat clogging with pain and fear.

And anger.

Sherwood had taken her, and now Sherwood expected Connor to take the rap for his wrongdoings. Turn himself in and confess to deeds Sherwood had obviously perpetrated?

No way.

But he said he’d kill Josie.

Connor called Sherwood back and dangled a carrot in front of him.

“Before you starting doling out ultimatums, Sherwood, I found something that you might be interested in.”

“I’m only interested in sending you and Louis Armond to prison,” Sherwood retorted. “It’s too late, Randall. I’ve got agents in place to escort you back to headquarters. When you get there, you will confess to being a double agent. You worked for Armond and I’ve got evidence to back up my suspicions.”

“Evidence that you produced?”

“Evidence that you so readily provided, but nothing that I could use to stick it to him. You were careful, smart, unshakable. I had to doctor things up. Well, now you’ll pay for your little games.”

Connor wouldn’t let this man rattle him. “I’m thinking you’ve managed to plant evidence, Sherwood. That’s what you did the night of the explosion, right?” He skipped a beat, then added, “Or how about evidence that will prove you’re Armond’s silent partner?”

“You’ll never get anyone to believe that,” Sherwood said, anger escaping with a hiss.

So, that was it, then. FBI Special Agent in Charge Joseph Sherwood was notorious Mafia king Louis Armond’s silent partner.

Connor knew he’d never beat the rap, but he could try to save Josie. “This is between you and me now, and I can show you what I’ve found. I think I have the real evidence—against you—and that’s why you’ve been keeping Armond hidden, and that’s why you’ve been trying to kill Josie and me. You thought we already had the evidence, thought maybe Armond had given it to us that night we helped him. Let her go. She knows nothing about your true identity and we can keep it that way.”

Sherwood let out a curse. “Not so fast. She’s in the middle of it, and she showed her loyalties when she ran away with you.”

“You gave her permission to do so. Did you expect her to leave me hanging? Is that why you’re so angry?”

“I expected her to do her job and bring you both in, but you talked her into running and taking that washed-up crime boss with you.”

The rage in those words sent a chill down Connor’s spine. If Sherwood had been working double time with Armond all these years, he’d do anything to protect himself. Including killing as many people as he possibly could.

“Listen, I have a coin,” Connor finally blurted. “I think I know how to break it open. And I think I know what’s inside. Probably a SIM card or some sort of thumb drive. Interested? Or should I just give it to the locals?”

The line went silent for a minute. “You’re smarter than I gave you credit for,” Sherwood hissed. “You’re running out of time, though. You’ve got two hours to leave the coin in a place of my choosing. If you don’t show up, the woman’s dead. And Armond will have to die, too. The next time you hear of Josie Gilbert, it will be on the evening news. Her body will be floating in the swamp right next to his. Or what’s left of them.”

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