The pharmaceutical turned out to be heroin, but the purity tested below thirty percent.

Frank had a chat with his supplier.

"I want to thank you, lad," he told me later. "He gave me a nice discount on the merchandise and on the next deal as well. I wish I'd met you some time ago. I'd probably be getting ready to retire by now."

Frank brought me in on several deals and paid me a fee that reflected his increased profits made possible by my initial insistence on quality testing his purchases.

Chapter 3

I continued to frequent The Shillelagh. I didn't chase the ladies. Neither did I chase them away.

Liam, the bartender responsible for keeping the peace the night I had the altercation with the big guy, was frequently comping me Diet Cokes. He said he was grateful I had taken care of the big guy because he couldn't. He also said he had noticed there were rarely fights when I was there. I had become the unofficial bouncer.

Liam helped steer me away from women who could get me in trouble.

I was sitting at a table two days before the first purchase in which I would be involved.

"Do you mind if I join you, John?"

"Please, Maeve."

"I don't want to be stepping on anybody's toes here. I see you leave with Darcy now and then." She put her hand on my thigh. "But I do have an interest in you."

I glanced down at her hand and smiled. "Your interest is welcome. And no toes are in danger."

I liked Darcy, but I didn't see it as anything serious.

I danced with Maeve. I tried to focus on the slower tunes. It is my sincere belief that an important part of the experience of dancing with a woman is feeling her body against mine. She did not complain.

We also talked. At times it felt awfully close to an interrogation.

"What kind of work do you do," she had asked me.

"Odd jobs."

She made a doubtful face. "You can't make very much doing odd jobs."

"No, odd jobs; Jobs where it can be difficult to find somebody who knows how to do them.

"One guy wanted me to teach his son how to throw a twelve-to-six curve ball and a slider. He also wanted me to teach the kid a changeup, but I never learned to throw a decent one myself.

"Another guy hired me to stop his kid from being bullied."

"That is an odd job," Maeve said. "How did you do that?"

"I 'happened' upon them around the time the bully usually did his thing. As the bully was approaching the kid I said, 'Hi,' and asked him if this was the jerk he told me about.

"Of course, I was a lot bigger than the jerk and an adult, so it wasn't like I could smack him around. The cops would have been all over my ass.

"So, I asked the crowd if anybody would help me demonstrate how to take care of somebody like the bully. No volunteers. 'How about you,' I asked the bully. He didn't say anything.

"That would probably have been sufficient intimidation for him to lay off. So I told the client's kid to come at me like he was attacking. 'Remember how to fall,' I reminded him.

"He came at me like he was going to punch me. I leaned back a little and swept his feet. He went sprawling, but he broke his fall as he landed and popped back up.

"I gave him a big smile, told him how beautifully he broke his fall and said he should have no trouble with the take downs if he mastered the fall so easily. It wasn't entirely accurate, but none of the kids knew that. I said he probably didn't even need me, but he should give me a call if he had any more problems.

"As I was walking away, the bully remembered he had to get home."

"You're what, five nine, five ten?" she asked.

"Five eight."

"I can understand using somebody like one of Frank's goons for intimidation. But you're not exactly a scary physical presence, no offense."

"None taken. That's part of my intimidation. I'm not imposing. Then, I simply move a foot and somebody goes flying. People think there's got to be a lot of mysterious stuff I could hurt them with. These were kids, but, believe me, it works with adults."

"So, how do you just move your foot and somebody goes flying?"

I looked around and offered her my hand. "Come on. I'll show you."

We walked down a hall toward the office and a storage room.

I heard Frank's voice from the office.

"I want you to see if you can find out if he works for the Department. He's a little strange. I just want to be sure he isn't cop strange before..." it became garbled after that as I directed Maeve into a pantry.

I thought I saw something on her face, but it was gone so quickly I couldn't be sure.

"Did you ever have any pets, a cat or a dog, or even little children crawling around?" I asked.

"I never thought of kids as pets, but yeah."

"Did you ever find you were about to step on one of them or were starting to step on one of them? They can get under foot."

"Yeah, I did."

"And you stumbled or fell to try to avoid them?"

"Yes, I did."

"I use the same principle to send somebody flying. I block or sweep the foot they're shifting their weight onto and there's nothing to hold them up. It's called a sweep, but you don't actually have to sweep the foot anywhere; you just have to stop it from supporting the shift of weight. Let me show you."

She stiffened. "I don't want to get hurt."

I put a hand on her thigh. "Would I do that to someone who has an interest in me?"

She giggled.

"You won't get hurt," I said.

I put my right arm around her back and took her right hand almost in dancing position. I put pressure on her back to move toward me and swept her left foot a few inches toward her right as she tried to step down on it. She completely lost her balance and would have taken a fall had I not lifted and pulled her off the floor and against me with the arm I had around her back. She squealed.

She regained her composure. "You probably just wanted to demonstrate, but you might have been trying to make a move on me a little too fast. If so," she kissed me sensually, "it worked."

I heard a noise behind us.

"Sorry to interrupt you kids. I thought I heard a scream."

"This brute is trying to have his way with me," said Maeve. "I may let him."

"Uh, I've got some business to take care of," Frank said.

He turned and left. He had probably been checking whether he had been overheard.

I eased her to the floor. She leaned in for another kiss.

"I'm not sure who is taking advantage of whom," I said.

"We can sort that out later."

Maeve took me back to her place. She was definitely taking advantage of me.

It wasn't because I liked Maeve better than Darcy, though I did. It was because I had developed the habit of saying yes to any reasonably appealing female who asked. I couldn't seem to develop the ability to just say no.

Chapter 4

I like to dance. I don't like clubs. That limits my opportunities to dance.

One of the things I dislike about clubs is that they're noisy and crowded and it's difficult to hear what anybody is saying, including your dance partner.

On the other hand, the difficulty overhearing other peoples' conversations can be a distinct benefit.

I came alone, so I had the burden of having to ask women to dance. While I'm shy, that isn't a problem for me. My dancing is compelling to many women. I'm relaxed, I move as the music inspires me and I'm uninhibited about how I move.

It's not that I'm imbued with a surfeit of confidence; I just don't care what anybody else thinks. For dancing, it works. In other areas of my life, it's not so helpful.

I've worked hard at swing and once I get started, women ask me to dance with them.

As the evening wore on I danced with a potpourri of women, several of them for more than one dance.

I had an especially good time with an attractive five foot eleven blonde with two-inch heels. "No names; just wonderful dancing," she had said.

I whipped her around to the music while she laughed with delight.

We finished off with a slow dance, at the end of which she leaned down and said, "If you don't come back here and dance with me again, I'll hunt you down."

Across the dance floor was a fit, six foot one brunette with five-inch heels and a killer body squeezed into a tight dress. It was a bold statement that she was worth dancing with even if you had to look up at her, which almost all the men did.

She swayed sensually to the music.

I walked up to her and said, "The rest of my night will mean nothing if I don't get to dance with you."

She smiled and held out her hand.

I couldn't have danced in five-inch heels, but she was amazing.

We were drawing way too much attention until we finally got to dance a slow number. Then I noticed we were drawing some smirks. She was six foot six in her heels. I was five foot eight. My head tucked in under her chin.

"Don't you wish you were about a foot taller so we could dance face to face?" she asked.

"I was just lamenting not being six inches shorter."

She couldn't help an abrupt laugh. "You perve."

I tried to shrink myself with my posture, but it wasn't nearly enough.

I had thought about what to say to her. I wasn't sure what direction to take so I went with honesty.

"I overheard a piece of a conversation. Frank was on the phone with somebody asking for information about whether someone was a cop. I'm pretty sure he was talking about me."

"When was this?" she asked.

"About a week ago. I didn't ask for a special meeting because I thought I could handle it. Even if they made me they wouldn't want to rush into anything."

"Anything? You mean like killing you?" She expressed considerable displeasure in those six words.

"This is a good thing. It tells us whoever he's working with isn't in the Department."

"You're good. You can do whatever the hell you want and make it sound like a well-thought-out plan."

I kept the dreamy look on my face that would be expected dancing with her this way. She maintained her amused smile.

"The Lieutenant is not going to be happy with you," she said.

"Maybe you shouldn't tell him."

Lily didn't reply.

"You have to be able to trust your partner," I said.

She harrumphed.

"I meant me, not you," I said.

Either way I meant it, we both knew I was working her.

"So what are you involved in?"

I snuggled a little closer. "We're hijacking a load of narcotics. But I think this other thing is bigger. If he's got someone higher than the Department, it's in the DA's office, the Mayor's office or City Council. That would be huge."

"That could also be a political bombshell for the Lieutenant. He'll want to think about how it would play out."

"Well." I stretched the word out.


"Why don't you tell him about the hijacking, but hold off on the other thing. He'll be better positioned to know how to handle it when we have an idea who it is."

"You're so full of shit," she said.

I waited for more, but she remained silent.

"I am full of shit, but you kind of like the plan."

She smiled. "Yeah."

"That expression looks like you succumbed to my proposition."

"As if."

"I don't think there's anybody watching me, but let's go back to your place just in case."

Lily leaned down and gave me a soft kiss on the lips. "Nice of you to share your fantasy."

Chapter 5

I was at the bar before Richard Taylor arrived. I don't know why it is, but human nature seems to be that people are suspicious of those who arrive after them, not those who are already there.

I had peeked in a few times before and seen Taylor sitting at the bar in the same spot. I had also done research on his family. My plan was to be as scary as possible.

He sat down at around ten minutes to six and asked me to pass the nuts. I had moved them when I sat down so he would have to ask me for them. He thanked me.

"No problem, brotherhood of the bar nuts," I said.

He chuckled. "Beer," he called out to the bartender. He was a regular. There was no need to specify any further.

The lead-in to the six o'clock news mentioned a story about Kim Basinger.

"If only I wasn't married," he said. "She was just in Nine 1/2 Weeks. I damn near melted."

"I prefer Michele Pfeiffer."

"I'd take her as a second choice," he said.

"I'm single, but somehow I don't think my chances are very good."

"Women," he said.

"Yeah, but it wouldn't be much fun without them."

He nodded agreement with delight in his eyes. "I love the old ball and chain."

"Kids?" I asked.


"That's nice. Kids are a great thing. They bring life into perspective. All those great plans you had for yourself when you were young, you'd gladly give them all up in exchange for having happy, healthy kids."

"That's the truth," he said.

"I bet you'd give anything to keep something from happening to Teddy, Lois and Jeffrey. Louise too for that matter."

I said it as casually as I would mention it was getting dark outside.

His head jerked in my direction. His pale, white face turned paler.

"Perhaps you should follow me out in five minutes so I can explain," I said. "I'll be on the corner."

I finished my Diet Pepsi with a lemon slice to hide the fact it wasn't Coke, put down two bucks for the bartender and left.

He came out exactly five minutes later.

"Your family is fine," I said. "It would really upset me to have to do anything to them. I just need a little cooperation from you."

"What do you want?"

"You're driving a load next Wednesday. Some dangerous men plan to hijack it. They were just going to shoot you, but I convinced them your family needed you."

I took out a small, hand-drawn map.

"Stop here to use the bathroom. I'll tie you up loosely enough for you to work your way out and call in the hijacking. That's all you have to do. Tell the police we surprised you. We were wearing masks so you can't identify anyone."

He didn't respond.

"If you're thinking about not stopping: Don't. We won't hurt you. You just won't have a family to support.

"If you set us up with the police, you won't have a family to support.

"If you hide your family away, we'll kill you. Then we'll find them and kill them."

I rubbed my chin and raised my eyes in an imitation of thinking.

"Did I leave anything out? I don't think so. To review: you cooperate, everything is fine. You don't cooperate, well, I don't even want to think about it. Do we understand each other?"


Chapter 6

Richard Taylor pulled alongside the Atlantic station. He went inside and came out with the key to the men's room.

We pulled up behind him and I got out of the van and followed him into the mens room.

He handed over the key to the rig. I took out a notebook and asked him for the security codes and procedures.

"You don't want us caught, Rick," I reminded him. "Don't leave anything out and please speak slowly."

My writing is illegible. My printing can be read if I do it carefully. It's especially important when I'm writing down numbers. One mistake and we'd set off an alarm.

I asked him to review my notes to make sure I got it right.

While he was reading it I took some rope out of my gym bag.

"It's okay," he said, handing the notebook back to me.

"I'm going to tie you up and put on a gag. If one of the gang comes in to check on you, I don't want them to worry you could get away and mess this up. I didn't tell anyone else the details of our discussion, so if they get worried about you, they'll kill you. I don't want that to happen."

He nodded his understanding.

I indicated he should turn around so I could tie his hands behind him. "When we've secured the load, I'll come back and release you. Your family will be fine."

"I don't want you to hurt them," he said.

"I don't plan to. By the way, don't ever talk to anybody about this. My word you can count on. If the other guys find out you talked, they won't take it well. They will kill you. What they do about your family would depend on what kind of mood they're in. You really don't want to risk that."

"How can I be sure they won't hurt us anyway?"

I indicated he should sit on the toilet in the stall. I started to tie his feet. "They don't get violent for no reason. The only contact you'll have with them is if you talk."

He had a worried look on his face.

"I won't let them do anything," I said.

I opened the door after I finished and signaled we were ready to go. Frank sent the dumber of the two guns in to check on Rick.

"Maybe I should just pop him," the well-toned collection of muscle suggested.

"I don't think you want to do that without, uh, the boss' approval."

"Oh, you mean –"

"No names!" I said. "You can see he isn't going anywhere. Let's get going."

He followed me out.

I spoke with Frank's replacement driver. I gave him the notebook and explained the procedures. I had him explain them back to me to be sure he didn't mess it up.

He entered the cab and I got back in the van. Mickey was driving.

We took the lead and everyone followed us to a nearby warehouse. We pulled around the back to an empty dock.

The fleet of vans pulled up. Two men exited each vehicle and started unloading the trailer into their vans.

When they were about two-thirds done, I walked over to Frank.

"I'm going to go back to release the driver."

"Are you sure he isn't going to talk?" he asked.

"I made you sound like big, scary mobsters. There is no way he'll say anything, not that he knows much except doing what I told him."

"Well, you made this very easy, lad. And you've done me proud with the pharmaceuticals. I trust your judgment."

"I'll see you later, Frank."

I took the lone car in our caravan and drove back to the Atlantic station.

I untied the gag first and continued to release him.

I looked at him meaningfully. "I trust it goes without saying."

He gave me a serious look. "It goes without saying."

Chapter 7

I walked into The Shillelagh at quarter to eight. Frank Ryan waved me over.

"Did you see the news, my boy?" he asked.

"No. I was working on some things."

"It seems a driver was intercepted with a load of pharmaceuticals. The masked thugs tied him up, but he managed to free himself. The police found his rig abandoned on a side road later. It was empty. They have no leads."

"I'm confident our men in blue will diligently pursue this. I'm sure they will stop and question every masked man they come across."

Frank laughed. "You're a wicked one, you are. It's a good thing they don't have to contend with your wit."

"I tried that the night I took out the big guy. They were not impressed."

"That's why they have trouble closing cases," he said. "Come on back to the office. We'll talk."

Frank seated himself behind his desk and let out a deeply satisfied sigh.

"I've got to say that you've pleasantly surprised me, my boy. You've not only done everything I've asked of you, you've done it quite well.

"I was pretty skeptical of your approach with the driver. But, you did what you said you would and it's worked out beautifully. He followed your instructions and told the cops exactly what you instructed him to say. I thought he might break. You must have put quite a scare into him."

"I've studied some motivational techniques. I would be stunned if he ever says a word about us."

Frank raised a glass. "Here's to a job well done. I know, you don't drink."

If he was starting to anticipate what I would say then he was starting to trust me as a member of his organization.

He extracted a fistful of bills from his pocket and counted off a quantity, returning the remainder to his pocket. He extended the hand with the bills and I got up and took them. I put them in my pocket without counting.

"Thank you."

"You earn every penny of it, lad."

"Thank you nonetheless."

Frank tilted his head from side to side. "I've some things to do."

I nodded and left the office.

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