May 2013

Somewhere on the train is a key witness for a crime involving arson, murder and a high-profile businessman. And reporter Marni Clare will do whatever it takes to get the story—even if it means crashing in a sleeper car that’s she’s not sure she’s reserved. But when she wakes, she finds herself curled up with the man she’s seeking…and he’s hot enough to derail all her plans!

FBI special agent Hunter won’t complain about the wickedly hot blonde in his arms. And maybe it’s the medication he’s on, but he’s even agreed to share his room for the entire journey….

ComingonStrong cover

Check out the second story in the Midnight Special 2-in-1

It’s a long trip in close quarters, and within days their berth becomes the scene of some steamy railway romps. But is Marni just having fun…or is she taking Hunter for a ride?

ISBN-10:0373797540 | ISBN-13:978-0373797547

wax creative bn print waxcreative-bamwaxcreative-powells

 

 

Midnight Special

Prologue

 

He could have been wrapped around a sexy redhead, letting her use his body to fulfill any number of her kinkiest desires.  He could be playing pirate and the captive wench at that very moment, stripping off his eye patch while singing Love Machine.

But, no.

FBI Special Agent In Charge Hunter had figured he’d wrap up the last hour of the day by picking up a low-level criminal reputed to be fencing hot art.  Find the guy, work a little intimidation, figure out who he was schlepping bronze nudes for.  Easy as one-two-three, done in plenty of time to grab a shower before his date.

Except the dumbass fence must’ve had something hot going down, because after finally tracking him down in that skeezy bar in Hoboken ten minutes ago, they guy had taken one look at Hunter’s face, ran to his rusty Tempo and peeled out.

Adrenaline racing, he’d chased the idiot over the bridge back into Manhattan.  Now, his hand’s gripping the steering wheel, Hunter stayed glued to the guy’s bumper.  He eyed the speedometer.  One-twenty heading into a residential.  Probably not a good idea.

As chill as if he were on a Sunday drive, he mentally mapped the area, then pressed down a little harder on the gas so his front fender was level with the Ford’s rear tires.  He feinted to the right, as if he was going to ram the guy.  He grinned at the wild-eyed stare in the rear view mirror, quickly followed by a look of desperation.  The dumbass cranked the wheel, taking the first right on two tires.

Hunter smirked, easing back on the gas and letting dumbass think he was getting away instead of falling into a trap.

“Special Agent Hunter, in pursuit of suspect in Ford Tempo.”  He reeled off the license number and their current location.  “Requesting backup at Pier 57.  ETA, three minutes.”

Just then, the Ford lost control.  The guy bounced his fender off three cars, and then he got stupid.  Hunter saw the Ford’s rear glass shatter just in time to duck before the bullet came through his own windshield.

Sonofabitch.  This was going to screw up his ETA.  To say nothing of his date.

Pissed now, he set his jaw, wrenched hard on the steering wheel and used the momentum of the car ricocheting off the curb to slam into the back end of the other car.

Hunter hated being late.

He didn’t bother pulling his own gun.  He just rammed into the back of the idiot’s car.  The damned thing exploded.  Hunter flinched as the flames lit the night sky, not sure if he was glad or not when the dumbass rolled out of the car just before it went kaboom.

The impact of the blast sent his own ride spinning.

He flipped three times, each one sending his brand new, Government Issue vehicle bouncing like a beach ball across the pavement.  The seatbelt cut viciously across his chest before the airbag deployed with the impact of a fist to the face.  Hunter’s head snapped back, his ears ringing like the Liberty Bell.

Freaking A.

As his car slid to a stop his head kept on spinning like the tires that were whirling in the air.  With a growl, Hunter decided that yeah, he was glad the idiot had been thrown clear.  Now he could kick his ass.

Climbing out through the window, he grimaced as his palms met a carpet of broken glass.  Pain ripped through his head.  Muscles, clenched tight during his little loop-di-loop, seized up painfully.

“Sir?”

Knees drawn up, the back of his head resting against his wrecked car, Hunter opened one eye.

“Ferris.”  Figured. The beat cop was Hunter’s age, but gleamed like a bright new penny.  Bright, hopeful and so damned young.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m breathing, aren’t I?”  As long as the air was hitting his lungs, Hunter was on the job and doing fine.  “You get my guy?”

“Layton is rounding him up now.  An ambulance is on its way.”

“He needs an ambulance?”  Hunter opened both eyes now, squinting across the dock to the other squad car, the cop and the puny idiot who didn’t know how to drive.

“The ambulance is for you.”

Hunter sneered.  Then, figuring it’d have more impact if he wasn’t sitting on his ass, he pushed to his feet and shook his head.  He regretted the move when the sky did a slow three-sixty.  “I’m fine.”

“Uh huh.  Sir, I gotta say, I’ve worked with a handful of feebies over the years.  Most of them, they’re total paper pushers.  But you?”  Ferris shook his head, giving Hunter a doleful once over.  “This is the second time in as many weeks I’ve answered a call with you on the other end.  Running out of exploding buildings, high speed car chases…  You might want to sit behind your desk once in awhile.  Push those papers.  Give your body time to recover.”

“Desks are for wimps,” he said with a dismissive smirk.  Desk jockeys meandered up the ladder.  Hunter planned to vault his way up. Eight years on the job and he was a Special Agent in Charge.  So far, he was doing pretty damned good, about two years ahead of where his old man had been at his age.  Not surprising, since his father had wasted time and energy on marriage and a kid.  Of course, as the kid in question, Hunter figured the old man’s choice had worked out fine.  But losing his wife when his kid was six had unquestionably put yet another crimp in the career climb.  So while Hunter was more than willing to follow his father’s footsteps as far as his career was concerned, that was as far as it went.

No wife.

No kid.

Just the job.

It’d be nice to quit getting blown up or set on fire, though.

He lifted his hand to the wet patch on his cheek, noted the blood, and sighed.  Yeah.  A break wouldn’t be a bad thing.

“Aren’t you, like, a boss?”  Ferris matched his steps to Hunter’s limping stride as they made their way toward the EMTs.  “You don’t have to have the crap trashed out of you on a regular basis, right?  You could opt out once in awhile.”

Well, that was one way of looking at it.  Hunter glanced down, noted his new jeans were ripped at the knee, and cussed a mental streak.  Dammit.  The Deputy Director wasn’t gonna spring to pay for two pair of pants in a single month.  And the shoes were toasted, too.

Behind them, a huge explosion was followed by a gust of fiery air.  Bits of metal flew through the air, followed by the sound of the firefighters rushing to contain the conflagration.

There went his car.

“Holy shit.”  Ferris turned to watch the blaze.

Hunter didn’t bother looking back.

Not that he’d admit it to anyone, but suddenly the idea of cozying up to desk for a few days was sounding pretty damned good right this second.

 

 

Chapter One

A smart woman knew what she wanted, and how to get it.

Marni Clare considered herself damned smart.

Every step she’d taken up the career ladder had been weighed, calculated and carefully thought through.  From starting her first newspaper in second grade to choosing to work as a reporter at smaller papers instead of large for a chance to build a stronger criminal reporting portfolio.  Right up to her move last year to shift from papers to Optimum, a renowned national magazine that’d give her a stronger gravitas.

Everything she wanted always boiled down to her career.  And what she wanted right now was information on a patient who’d been in here a week ago.  The huge explosion of a rundown warehouse owned by reputed mobster and current FBI prisoner Charles Burns had been all over the news.

What hadn’t been on the news, but Marni had managed to ferret out using her super reporter insider info, was that someone had been injured, requiring an ambulance ride to this very emergency room.

She wanted to know who that someone was.  Everyone was focused on Burns.  On the trial, on the odds of a conviction.  Marni had the feeling that whatever had gone down in that explosion, whoever had been involved, was the bigger story, though.

And she wanted it.

But sneaking patient information out of a very ethical nurse wasn’t an easy task.  It required stealth.  A gift with reading people.  A little bit of finesse.

And, of course, a bribe.

“I brought you cupcakes.  Your favorite, chocolate with raspberry frosting,” Marni said, setting a cute little purple basket on the counter and giving her cousin a bright smile.

“You brought me cupcakes?”  Sammi Clare-Warren gave Marni a suspicious look.  “Why?”

“Why would I bring my favorite cousin cupcakes?”

“You’re up to something,” Sammi declared knowingly.  Still, she did slide the basket closer and sniff at the cupcakes.  She gave a hungry little sound, like she was sniffing at pure temptation, then pushed them back and gave her cousin a narrow look. “What do you want?”

Marni debated.  She could tell the truth, that Meghan, Sammi’s sister said her twin had come home eight days ago raving about the drool-worthy, too sexy for words FBI guy who’d been admitted to Emergency after a building exploded.

Or she could just throw herself out now, muttering a lecture on the sanctity of patient privacy and abuse of family ties.

“Wait…” Sammi gleefully drew the word out like she’d just discovered where Marni kept her secret stash of girly toys.  “I know why you’re here.”

“Do you?”  Marni wasn’t sure if she should pull on an abashed look, or go for guilty.  It was hard to tell what Sammi suspected.

“You’re hoping to meet someone.”  Sammi’s grin was pure triumph.  And now that she’d divined her cousin’s nefarious scheme, she pulled the basket of cupcakes across the counter.

“Seriously?  You think I’m trolling the Emergency room for a date?”  What was wrong with her family?  Did they not know her, but at all?

“Why else would you be here at nine o’clock on a Friday night?”

Marni pushed her hand through her hair.  Oh, now that was just pathetic.  Just because she was the only one of her thirteen cousins still uncommitted didn’t mean she was looking to change that status.  Especially not like this.  She didn’t figure it conceited to acknowledge that she was a good looking, intelligent, fun woman.  If she wanted a guy, there were plenty of better places than this to find one.  But she didn’t want a guy.  She wanted a career.  A fabulous, famous, reporting on big stories, career.

Which she’d told her family over and over and over.

“You think I’m here looking for, what?”  She gestured to encompass the sterile, rundown room.  “An old man with pneumonia and a fat inheritance he’s looking to bequeath?  Or a single, male accident victim with a good paying job that doesn’t live with his mother?”

Sammi peered around the glass partition toward the waiting room, as if checking to see if either of those potential dates had come in.  Then she squinted at Marni.

“You make it sound like the only guys we get in here are all messed up.”

“That’s because other than the doctors, who you’ve already deemed not worth setting me up with,” thank God, “the only guys you get in here are all messed up.”

Choosing the cupcake with the most frosting, Sammi peeled back the paper liner and took a big bite.

“Then why are you here looking for a date?” she asked around her mouthful of chocolate.

Marni buried her face in her hands and groaned.

“Hey, some of those messed up guys are pretty hot.  There’s a guy in room five right now even you would drool over.  He has that smoldering, sexy thing going on.  And muscles.  Talk about hot.  His shoulders are to die for.”

Sammi sighed so deep, she sent the papers on her nursing station fluttering.  Marni wasn’t sure any man was worth that much oxygen.  Not even the one she was after.

Then again, what she wanted from him had nothing to do with the size of his… shoulders.  And everything to do with the Charles Burns case.  Indicted on SEC fraud and money laundering, the wealthy CEO was on his way to to trial.  After his dockside warehouse had exploded last week, rumor had started flying that the Feds were going to bring new charges.

If she could get a handle on what they were, even an inkling about what had gone down with that explosion, she could write the article of her life.  The one that would launch her out of the questionable fluff as the senior editor of Style and Entertainment and into the nitty-gritty of real reporting.  Investigative reporting.

Marni gave a mental shiver of delight.

All she needed was a break.  And that break was standing in front of her, licking frosting off her knuckles.

“You’ve had one sexy guy in here in the entire month, yet you think this is the place I should look for eligible bachelors?”

“You’re the one who came in here looking for a guy.”

Touché.

“If I wanted a guy,” which she wasn’t saying she did, “I wouldn’t want one who was sick.  I want a guy who’s healthy.  One who’s strong, with a brilliant mind and an intense personality.  Sexy and fit, with a body that you can tell he takes care of.  Running, swimming, I’m not picky.  As long as he’s got a sweet ass and some solid biceps.  Oh, and washboard abs.  There’s nothing sexier than a guy with a flat stomach in tight jeans and a tee-shirt.”

Whew.  Marni almost had to fan herself over that image.  Not that she wanted a guy.  She really didn’t.  But the fantasy was pretty sweet to entertain, all the same.

“We get guys like that,” Sammi assured her.  “The hottie that’s in here right now?  He’s all of that and more.  I mean, not too many guys can look gorgeous after almost being blown to pieces.  But this guy is hot, and not just because his hair was singed.”

“Hair straightener gone wrong?”  Marni joked with watchful eyes.

“Building gone boom.”

Bingo.

“So what’s his name?”

A name would tell her if he was really with the FBI.  Marni’s pulse raced.  A name might, with the right research, even tell her what the case was that’d resulted in an exploding building.

“I nicknamed him tall, dark and sexy.”  Sammi shrugged.  “But really, I just know him as ruptured inner ear and broken rib.”

Tall, dark and sexy?  What good did that do her?

Well, Marni considered, it might do her good if she was open to getting naked and wild with a guy.  But hot sex was on page two of her goal list, something she could get to later.  After she’d reached her career goals.

“How can you stand it?”  She tilted her head toward the computer.  “You claim the sexiest guy you’ve ever seen was in here, you have his vital statistics, home address, heck, even where he works all there in the computer.  You’re telling me you don’t peek?”

How had she cornered all of the nosiness in her entire family?

“Peeking wouldn’t be ethical,” Sammi said, her lips a prim bow.

“What fun is your job if you can’t peek?”

“Oh, and your job is better?  Why don’t you get to bring home all those fashions you’re always writing about?”

Because the magazine had a strict policy against paid their reporters accepting products, figuring any gifts would result in a story bias.

Okay, fine.  Ethics were a good thing.

But they weren’t going to help her get that name.

“There’s tons of intrigue and excitement in Style to make up for the lack of perks.  You should see how crazy it is during fashion week.”  Marni didn’t add that most of the craziness stemmed from her chafing over always being stuck covering fluff stories.  She’d been thrilled to get on with a magazine like Optimal.  An award winning periodical with national distribution, covering everything from politics to human interest to entertainment with a little crime and world news thrown in, too.  It was a dream job.  Originally hired for her gift with human-interest pieces, Marni had quickly realized that wasn’t going to get her any big attention.  So she’d taken the only senior editorial spot and became the head of Style.  But now nobody took her seriously.  She was the pretty little blonde with an eye for spotting the next hot trend and a gift for schmoozing with the hoitiest of the toity.  But not a real journalist.

This story was it, she vowed.  The one that’d make them see her as more than a curvy kewpie doll with a fluff byline.  But first she had to get that name.

“I guess you’re right, though.”  Marni put a heavy pout into her tone, adding a sigh for good measure.  “The magazine really is a lousy place to meet single, heterosexual guys.  So maybe you can help me out.  Tell me more about the one with the singed hair.  He sounds dreamy.  Maybe I could meet him.”

Marni wanted to cringe, to yell hey, doesn’t anyone know me well enough to realize that’s total b.s.?  But she knew better.  It didn’t matter how often she claimed her career was her life, twenty—six was old maid status in her family.

“Really?”  Sammi did a little dance in place, jiggling with enough excitement to dislodge the pencil from behind her ear.  “You want to meet tall, dark and sexy?  He’s in exam room five, and has to walk right past us when he leaves. You can check him out yourself.”

Was it the FBI agent? Was he working the same case?  Grilling her cousin and trying to sneak out a name was one thing.  But actually seeing the guy herself, being able to follow him, maybe even meet him?  Holy cow.  Marni almost did a little dance right there on the faded linoleum.  It took all her control not to rush down the hall, trying to find the fifth exam room.

“Nurse Clare-Warren?”

The women both turned, Sammi coming to subtle attention for the approaching doctor.  “Hang back,” she muttered to her cousin with a subtle shooing motion of her fingers.

Using patience she only expended on the job, Marni gave a cheerful nod and stepped aside.  All the while pretending she didn’t see the doctor trying to catch her eye.

This was it.  Her shot.  If she pulled off this article, they’d give her a slot as an investigative reporter.  Working the crime beat.  Digging for details, breaking the big stories.  In a world where most reports in the papers and magazines were fed via carefully controlled press releases and media manipulation, she wanted to stand out.  To be like the big reporters in the heyday of newspapers.  The ones who squirreled out information, who were often as instrumental as cops in stopping crime.  The ones who weren’t afraid to expose ugliness.

She wanted to be like her Aunt Robin.  A Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, she’d given the cold shoulder to traditions, diving into the men’s milieu when women were still chained to the oven by their apron strings.  She’d jumped right in and made their world her own.  She’d interviewed world leaders, had waded into war zones and broke stories on everything from criminal justice to corrupt politicians.  Her career was amazing.

Exactly the path Marni wanted for herself.  She just needed her break.

And this FBI case, with the exploding building, art theft and rumored mob connects, was gonna give it to her.  She’d write a huge story exposing the truths, the reality of how the FBI had busted a bigwig CEO and get the inside scoop on the real crimes of Charles Burns before the trial got going.  Fame, fortune, accolades… They were right around the corner.

“Marni.”  Sammi’s impatient tone interrupted Marni’s daydream.  “This is Dr. Green.  Maybe he could show you through the E.R.”

Huh?

Shaking off the dream of glory, Marni pulled her attention away from her ambitions and focused on the eager man standing next to her cousin.  Forty, balding with bad plugs and a hint of garlic on his breath, he was looking at her like she was his favorite centerfold come to life.

“Hello, it’s nice to meet you,” she offered formally, hoping the distant tone would clue him in to her disinterest.

“It’s great to meet you,” he said, shaking her hand just long enough to make her want grab the antibacterial lotion off the nurses’ station.  “Nurse Clare-Warren explained that you’re writing an article on our hospital?”

Again, huh?

At Marni’s questioning look, Sammi shrugged, then tilted her head toward the no personal visitors notice taped on the file cabinet.  Then she held up five fingers and tilted her head toward the exam rooms.

Ooooh.  Marni offered her cousin, and the good doctor, a big smile.

“You were interested in a tour of our emergency facilities,” he queried, making it sound like he was extending an invitation to see the backseat of his Lexus.  “I’ll fill you in in the details of what I do here.”

Sammi was now mouthing married behind his back and making faces.

Figured.

Still, he could get her in closer eavesdropping range of exam room five, so she might as well take advantage of his interest.  In the fake article, and in her body.

When a girl looked like Marni did, the choices were limited.  Fight to be taken seriously, courting frustration and disappointment on a regular basis.  Or accept that her curvaceous figure, kewpie doll face, flaxen hair and big blue eyes were the stuff fantasies were made of, and use it to her advantage.  Marni wasn’t big on frustration, disappointment, or losing.  So she was all about the advantage.

“Sure.  I’d love a tour, especially of the exam areas.  That’s the focus of the article,” she lied.  Smiling, she pulled out her ever-present notebook, making sure her elbows angled out so as to keep at least a foot between them.  Noting exam rooms one and two to her left, she turned in the opposite direction.

And was pretty sure she heard her cousin giggle as she went.  It was hard to tell, though, with the doctor rambling on about his qualifications.  A few of them even applied to his job.

“Excuse me, Dr. Green?”  An exhausted-faced guy in scrubs stepped out of one of the exam rooms and gestured for help.  “A minute?”

The good doctor gave a frustrated huff, then asked Marni to wait.

Her gaze angled one door away, labeled five.

“Oh sure.”  She bit her lip, then made a show of making a few notes.  “I’ll be fine here.  I’ll just get everything you said written down before I forget.”

Giving the doctor a big smile, Marni stepped just a smidge to the left and let her eyes slide past the balding head to the open door of exam room five.

Her heart raced.  Her pulse skipped.  Her mouth went dry.

Oh, baby.

Those were definitely some sexy shoulders.  Right there, above a very nice ass.  The shoulders were bare, and Marni was pretty sure it was a crime that the ass was covered.

She’d never wanted anything more than her career.

Until now.

 

“I don’t have time for this crap.”

Hunter glared at the doctor, then shifted the same threatening look at his boss.

“You should have thought of that before you messed yourself up again.  What were you doing chasing some low-level art fence?  It has nothing to do with the Burns case, dammit.”  Looking as frustrated as Hunter felt, Deputy Director Murray took the clipboard from the doctor’s hands and flipped through the chart.  As if he could change the diagnoses by reading it himself.  “You should have taken the time off like I ordered.”

“That was an order?  I thought it was a suggestion,” Hunter countered with a grin.  At least, it was supposed to be a grin.  But the good doctor, his hands now free of the clipboard, was poking at Hunter’s ribs again like some kind of sadist.  They were cracked again, dammit.  He knew it, the doctor knew it, Murray knew it.  Poking wasn’t gonna change that fact any more than Murray glaring at the chart was going to change the diagnoses of further damage to Hunter’s inner ear.

“You’re supposed to be on the west coast to testify in a week,” Murray snapped, shoving the mental file at Hunter in accusation.  “How are you planning to make that happen now that you’re on the injured hero’s no fly list?”

“Seriously?” Hunter asked the doctor.  “I can’t fly at all?”

“Not unless you want to risk losing your hearing, collapsing in the air or possibly bleeding from the brain.”  The doctor offered a cheery smile to go with that dire prognosis before stepping out of the room and closing the door behind him.

Well, none of that sounded appealing.

Hunter’s brain, still thankfully not bleeding, raced.  He had to get to California for that trial.

Charles Burns was a nasty piece of work who thought he was going to skate on the current charges.  He’d already won the first round by having the case tried in California by claiming that was his main residence and corporate headquarters.  His defense team was the best dirty money could buy and the crooked CEO knew that the worst he’d do was a couple of years and a fistful of fines.

Unless the FBI could pull together all the pieces that had exploded in their lap last week.  Pieces that would add money laundering, racketeering and if Murray had his way, attempted murder to the list of charges.  Burns was so sure that he’d gotten away with murder.  The creep had no idea that Hunter had rescued the victim he’d left for dead just before the building exploded.  It was up to Hunter to turn a botched homicide into enough evidence to not only put Burns behind bars for life, but take down his entire operation for good.

He had an ace in the whole to make that happen.  By hauling Burns’ victim out of the explosion before she was blown into tiny bits, he’d secured the devotion—and a huge amount of insider information—from the rumored late Mrs. Burns.  In return, he’d promised that she’d stay dead.

“Beverly Burns only agreed to hand over her husband’s books, files and passwords in exchange for not being brought into the trial.”

Murray waved that away.

“And she’s yet to hand it all over.  At this point, she’s offered up maybe, what?  Seventy-percent of what she said she would?  She’s holding out the rest for a cushy life of luxury in Witness Protection.  To hell with that.  I don’t care if she’s interested in testifying or not.  We have ways of making people talk.”

His eyes narrow with dislike, Hunter asked, “Don’t you need a heavy accent and a flashlight when you say shit like that?”

Murray sneered.  Hunter’s flippant remarks were just one more thing the Deputy Director didn’t like about the man he saw as his subordinate.

“Look, I want this guy put away.  We have a witness who can guarantee that.  Just because you’re all comfy cozy with criminals doesn’t mean we should coddle her at the expense of the case.”

“Comfy cozy?”

“Black Oak, California,” Murray shot back.  “Three known criminal elements, and you let them go.  Hell, you were best man at one of their wedding last year, weren’t you?”

“Caleb Black was DEA and is now the sheriff of Black Oak.  Hardly a criminal element.”

“And the rest of his family?”

“Well, I did walk Danita down the aisle when she married Gabriel.  But I wasn’t best man at that one, even though Danita’s FBI, too.  Maya married an FBI agent as well and I caught the bouquet at their wedding.  Is that too cozy?”  Hunter made a show of shaking his head in disgust.  “Yeah, they’re all major criminal elements, all right.  Good thing each is assigned their own personal law-enforcement babysitter.”

“You think it’s funny?”

Yeah, pretty much.  Murray was one of those guys who operated in black and white.  Us and them.  Good and bad.  Hunter saw life in shades of gray.

He didn’t say that, though.  Instead, he pointed out, “You’re just pissed that you’d have arrested the wrong person.”

“I’d have arrested a criminal.”

“Tobias Black wasn’t behind the crimes in question.  Arresting him would have been a grave miscarriage of justice.  Just as it will be if you force Beverly Burns to testify against her husband, jettisoning the illusion that she died in that explosion.  If Burns knows she’s alive, he’ll have her killed.  He knows she’s alive and cooperating with the Feds, he’ll have her killed faster.  She won’t make it to the trial.”

“She’s under FBI protection.  She’ll make it to testify.”

Hunter just stared.  Unspoken, but clear, was the truth that if she testified against her husband, her life expectancy would thereafter would be on par with that of a fruit fly.

“This is my case.”  Ignoring the pained scream from his rib, Hunter got to his feet and gave Murray a look of cold determination.  “I’ve already cleared the plan through all appropriate channels.”

“I spoke with the director myself.  Unless you can show you’ve nailed Burns without his wife’s testimony, she’s taking the stand.  You have a week into the trial.  Good luck with that.”  He waited a beat, then with a smile filled with malice, added, “Oh, by the way.  How are you getting to California?  Driving?  You’re gonna have a great time building a case from behind the wheel.”

That Hunter’s car currently resembled tin foil went unspoken.  Not because the Deputy Director was playing nice.  But because the man knew the value of leaving the worst unsaid.  It lingered there, floating above them like a vile stench.

Hunter debated his options.

“Fine, I’ll take a train.”

“Train?”

“Sure.  There has to be a train going from New York to San Francisco.”  Despite the fact that the room was spinning in three directions at once, Hunter shifted into intimidation mode, using his four-inch advantage to loom over his boss.  “Bottom line, we’re not bringing Beverly Burns into this trial.  I made a promise.  She gave us ample information to indict Burns on twice as many charges as we already had.  Enough to shut down his entire operation.  In exchange, we not only tuck her away in the hidden depths of Wit-Sec, but make sure everyone believes she died in that explosion.”

“The trial is in a week.  And we’re still desperately sifting through all of that ample information.  It’s not like the pieces we need are just sitting there waiting to be used to nail him to the wall.”

“I know the Burns operation inside out.  I’ll find every single piece,” Hunter vowed.

“This case hinges on you, then, doesn’t it?  Now, there’s a damned good chance this guy will walk free because you couldn’t resist hot dogging it down the pier on the hood of your car.”

Hunter gritted his teeth.  Asshole or not, Murray was right.

“I can work the case while I’m on the train just as well as I could here in my office.  I’ll just take it with me.”

“Those files are classified.”

“I’ve got clearance.  You need more, I’ll make a couple of phone calls and get it for you.”

Hunter didn’t pull the connection card out very often.  He didn’t need to.  His father’s legacy at the FBI was the stuff legends were made of.  The Bureau Chief was Hunter’s godfather.  And his own record wasn’t just shiny, it glittered.  So while he never played the prima donna, it was pretty rare that he heard the word no.

And he wasn’t about to hear it now.  Murray offered a sour smile.  The man knew Hunter was going to vault right over his position on his climb up the ladder.  He didn’t like it, but there wasn’t a damned thing he could do about it.

The doctor stepped back into the room.  Face blank now, Murray turned away to make a phone call.

“Here’s your prescription, filled.  I wrote up a list of dos and don’ts for you to ignore, as well.”

“Add the drugs to the list, because I’m not taking them.”  Hunter grimaced as he shrugged into his shirt.  Every muscle in his body was screaming.

“You don’t take two of these before you go to sleep tonight, you won’t be moving tomorrow.”  He held out the pills and list with a patient smile.

He had a job to do, one he couldn’t accomplish doped up.  Hunter’s eyes cut to Murray’s back, then he started buttoning his shirt.  The tips of his fingers whimpered their protest.

He wouldn’t get it done if he was laid out, either.

“Fine.”  He stuffed the bottle and paper in the pocket of his leather jacket just as his boss ended his call.

“I pulled some strings and found a Vintage Rail Car heading west.  New York to Chicago, Chicago to San Francisco.  You’ve got a private sleeper car on the Midnight Special.  It leaves tonight at nine forty-five.  An agent will meet you in Chicago with the files, a secured laptop and luggage.”

Hunter didn’t gloat.  Why would he?  He’d known he’d win all along.

“Midnight Special?”  It sounded like something offered by a discount prostitute.

“It’s a restored luxury train owned by a private rail company.  This is some kind of themed trip.  Passengers are required to participate.”

“I don’t play dress up.”

“You do if you want on this train.”

Hunter just stared, his gaze steely and his jaw set.

“You want to find something else, feel free.  You want to go now, the train leaves at nine-forty-five,” Murray said again, his smile just this side of gloating.

He could ignore rules, he just had to get on that train.  Hunter glanced at his watch.

“It’s quarter of eight now.”

“Guess you’d better hurry, then.”

 

Be sure to check out Coming On Strong – the second book featured in the Midnight Special two-in-one!

SaveSave