Would Josie want him?
The Lord wants you.
His sister’s gentle reminder held him steady. He thought of the thief on the cross next to Jesus. The Lord had told that man he’d see him in heaven.
Connor closed his eyes and envisioned Josie’s always-doubtful smile. “Will I see you in heaven?”
He asked God to allow him a bit more time on earth. Just until he could put the real criminals away forever.
“After that, Lord, I’ll leave it in your hands.”
When he opened his eyes, he saw a man wearing a dark suit and sunglasses approaching him. Connor prepared for a fight. He wasn’t giving up this coin until he saw Josie. Glancing around, he took strength in knowing Mama Joe’s men had his back.
The man walked up to a bench a few feet from Connor and sat down to look straight ahead. Connor approached and took a seat next to him.
“Do you have what we need?” the man asked.
“That depends,” Connor replied. “Do you have the package I’ve requested?”
The man glanced around, then turned toward Connor. “If you can’t give me what I came for, I’m to take you to meet my supervisor.”
Connor nodded, then stood up to give the man a once-over. They were close to the same size and height. “Lead the way.”
“I need to take that backpack,” the man replied.
“Negative.” Connor stood over him. “I have what you want, but I’m not giving it up until I see the woman.”
“Then you’ll have to take a nice drive with me out into the country.”
“I’m prepared to do that,” Connor retorted.
That and more. They’d try to take the backpack away from him when he got there, but he hoped before then he’d have help in securing this messenger and some of Mama Joe’s boys would be there to get behind the wheel.
* * *
Josie rushed to Armond’s bed and tried to check him over. “How long have you had him here?”
Armond went in and out of consciousness, still moaning and asking for his family. He tried to reach out to Josie, his hand old and withered, like a broken bit of dry bramble clawing at her skin.
“Tell him where his wife and son are,” Josie said, her hand on Armond’s arm. “He’s worried about his family.”
“Relax,” Sherwood said, shaking his head. “You do remember he’s a criminal, right?”
“I remember everything,” she retorted. “But have you forgotten everything we stand for? This man should be in a hospital.”
“He was, long enough to save his sorry life. I convinced the hospital personnel to let me take him to a safe place. He agreed to it, since he’s so afraid for his life.” He shrugged. “Or maybe he’s afraid I’ll kill someone he really loves.”
Armond moaned. “No agreement. Kidnapped.”
Sherwood walked up to the bed. “I should have killed you myself, since you can’t seem to let go and just die.”
Josie wondered why he’d kept Armond alive. “Are you making him suffer because you thought he was going to turn on you?”
“I’m making him suffer because he’s a liar and a cheat and I’m tired of fighting the system. We have to walk a tightrope to bring in scum like this. I got tired of all the rules and regulations.”
“So you took matters into your own hands?”
Sherwood nodded. “I needed to keep him alive for leverage.”
Josie inhaled a deep breath. “So you could lure Connor and me into a trap because you were afraid we’d find out the truth?”
Sherwood nodded, his scowl softening. “I knew sooner or later you’d want to talk to Armond, and I couldn’t allow that. That’s the FBI way, isn’t it? Question everyone and everything? Get the evidence, record and preserve the crime scene. Jump through hoops while these scumbags get away with everything from murder to...taking over a man’s soul. And so on and so forth.”
Josie saw a trace of regret in his wary eyes, but she didn’t give Sherwood any points for it. “So you got tired of doing all of that?”
Sherwood let out his own long sigh, his brown eyes going dull. “I’m close to retirement, Gilbert. But a few years ago, I got tired of beating my head against the wall...and I made a few bad decisions.”