Seth slumped in the subway seat and shielded his face with a newspaper. Of all the luck. He was on his way to a meet with his handler and he didn’t want to be recognized. With care he moved the tabloid to study Tira. Panic showed in her expression. Perspiration dotted her forehead. Her tee shirt bore dirty smudges. She snatched a piece of paper from the seat beside her and seemed to study the words. As the car slid into the third stop she jumped to her feet and followed the crowd.
Another bit of bad luck. His stop, too. Just before the doors started to close he jumped out and headed up the stairs. When he reached the surface he searched and saw her running across the street. She entered the coffee shop. Strike three. That was the site of his meet.
Damn. Not a good idea to go inside. He would be late but late was better than made. Not that he didn’t trust Tira, but Ramos wanted her and the drug dealer had ways of making people talk. Tira’s sister had been a user and seller. Luci had angered Ramos by not paying what she owed and stealing drugs.
Seth slipped into a dark doorway and waited. Five minutes. Ten. At the fifteen minute mark Tira exited and stopped to use her phone. Moments later she dropped something on the sidewalk and hurried away.
Seth dashed forward and picked up the paper and read.
Life got you down? Have unsolved problems?
Looking for an escape? The answer is in your stars.
A counselor is available night and day.
Dial 1- 800- 555- ASTR
He read the paragraph again. Truth or scam? Had this piece of paper lured Tira into danger? Should he follow her? He frowned and peered down the street. She had vanished. When he’d warned her not to go home, he’d done more than he should have. But he liked her and knew she’d done nothing wrong. Her sister’s murder had put Tira in danger. The cops would have questioned and released her. Then Ramon would have stepped in. Seth hoped she had a safe place to hide. Holding this thought close he tucked the flyer in his pocket and entered the coffee shop.
As he slipped into the rear booth his handler glared. “You’re late.
“Better late than identified.”
Bob Tolena rubbed his hand over his receding hairline. “What?”
“The girl who just left the shop was Luci Gray’s sister.”
“And you let her get away?”
Seth shrugged. He grabbed the cup of coffee and drained the bitter brew hoping a caffeine jolt would unclog his head. If he didn’t get some rest soon he would make a fatal mistake.
The waitress arrived and refilled his cup. She slammed a plate with a burger and fries in front of Seth. He glanced at the older man. “Yours?”
“Not. Eat. You look like hell.”
As soon as the waitress left, Seth looked up. “That lead to Ramos is dead. What now?”
“If you see that young woman, have her picked up.”
“Why? She’s innocent.”
“Don’t you think someone official should make that call? No matter. We’ll keep an eye on her.” The older man slid a piece of paper across the table. “There’s some new info surfacing. You still have an in at that church-run community center?”
“Sure.” Seth picked up the burger and took a bite. How much longer could he continue undercover? For two years he had slunk through the alleys passing information to his handler. Three drug busts based on what he’d learned had gone down. But the bosses wanted more and more. Ramos would be the biggest.
Seth’s hands shook. Would he ever see the end? He felt older than his twenty-five years. “I want out.”
“Not yet. You’re young. Hang in there for another year or two. About the center, Ramos is sniffing around.”
The burger dropped to the plate. A year was too long. So was a month. He hadn’t gone to the academy or joined the force for this secretive life.
Bob clamped a hand on Seth’s wrist. “You’re good at this. Pete would be proud of what you’ve accomplished.”
Seth rose. He felt sick. “I’ll let you know if I hear anything.”