Sean turned around and looked at her. She was so sad; such a young, pathetic wreck of humanity.

“You’ve got to get off the stuff,” he told her quietly, “or else it will be a mercy for you if he strangles you.”

Her eyes were huge and blue and filling with tears. “I want to ... he won’t let me. Oh, God, he’s already coming for me!”

She shrank back against Sean, clinging to his arm. He could see that Rutger stood about ten feet away, on the edge of the crowd. He was looking from Ray on the ground to the girl. Admittedly, he looked as if he was already planning her murder. For a moment, his hands clenched into fists at his sides. Instinctively, Sean stepped forward.

Rutger held still. Sean could see the tension knotting his neck, the veins bulging against his skinny throat.

Then Rutger eased back, giving Sean a thumbs-up sign and a mocking smile.

By then, several uniformed men were running up around him. “The one on the ground isn’t going to give you much more trouble—but haul that son-of-a-bitch over there down to the lock up!” Sean commanded, pointing at Rutger, who was now looking for a place to run.

“Arrest me for what, free speech?” Rutger taunted.

“Inciting a riot,” Sean snapped. “Hell, I’ll give you any additional paperwork you need—just read him his rights and arrest him!”

Luckily, the first uniforms on the scene were toughly muscled guys, two of whom were quickly on either side of Rutger. While a crew-cut, six-footer in his prime recited Rutger’s rights, Rutger shouted out explicit instructions as to what Sean should be doing with himself. Sean ignored Rutger, glad to see that Heidi Branson, a capable young policewoman, had arrived on the scene and was taking the girl in hand.

Blood still dripped from the young woman’s hand. Heidi was calmly asking her just how she’d been cut, and assuring her that the medics would be arriving any second. The girl quietly insisted she was all right, then burst into tears.

Sean felt hands on his shoulders. He swirled around. Maggie. Sweet Jesus. Maggie. Eyes dark and worried, flesh pale.

She was staring at the corpse. With a strange dread. Finally, her eyes touched his.

“Are you all right?”

“I’m fine. I’ll have to go to the office for a bit.”

“I’ll tag along.”

“Thanks. You’re a good kid.”

She smiled, moistened her lips, looked at the corpse again.

“What about him?”

“He’s dead.”

“You’re certain.”

“Maggie, of course I’m certain.”

“Where will they take him?”

He frowned. “To the morgue, of course.”

“Oh.” She hesitated. “Autopsy?”

“Naturally. He died an unnatural death.”

“But everyone on the street saw—”

“Maggie, honey, you know that there’s always an autopsy.”

She nodded.

He tugged lightly on her arm, wanting to draw her away from the man he’d been forced to kill. But she resisted, looking at the girl now. “Is she going to be all right?”

“Heidi is great with battered women.”

“Is she a junkie?”


“Give me a minute. Just a minute.”

Maggie eluded his hold upon her arm, stepping past Heidi, touching the girl lightly on the cheek. The girl looked at her. “Don’t be afraid,” Maggie told her. “This is your chance, your real chance to break away.”

The girl stared at her. Tears welled in her eyes again. “I can’t help it. I’m scared to death!” Maggie shook her head, smiling. “The cops won’t let that scum near you now. It’s your chance. Get clean. Get to another city if you have to. This is it. Don’t be afraid, take your chance, run with it.” To Sean’s amazement, the blonde offered Maggie a tenuous smile and inhaled on a ragged breath. “I’m going to try.”

“You’ll make it.”

“I always wanted to believe that we had angels. You know, like guardian angels. Maybe mine will watch out for me now.”

“Believe in yourself. That’s more important.”

“Are you a cop? Will I see you later?” the girl asked anxiously.

Maggie shook her head. “No, I’m not a cop, but I’m friends with some great cops. And I’m sure we’ll see each other again.”

She left the girl to Heidi then, joining Sean once again.

“We’ll get my car,” he told her. “Sorry, but I do have to do a report on this one.”

“How long can you hold Rutger? All he did was egg on the other guy.”

“I’m going to have to get the girl to file charges. I can hold him long enough to give her a break, at any rate.”

Maggie nodded. She frowned, looking at a streak of blood on her finger. “Must have jabbed it on something,” she murmured, staring at it. She shuddered suddenly, bringing her finger toward her lips.

“No!” he cried, grabbing her hand.

Startled, she stared at him.

“Honey, I don’t think that’s your blood. And,” he added softly, “Blondie there is definitely a junkie.

We’re talking serious communicative diseases here.”

“Oh ...”

“Come on.”

The afternoon was wretchedly long. Maggie did hang around, meeting a lot of the cops who were in the station, chatting, laughing with them softly as he worked—making him more and more distracted.

Paperwork. He hated it—it had to be right. He wanted charges brought against Rutger, and he wanted them to stick.

The young blonde’s name was Callie Sewell. She was twenty; she’d run away from an abusive father to an abusive lover. Patterns were hard to break. She needed help—and self-esteem. Somehow, it seemed that Maggie had given her the latter.

She was in the hospital now. The gash on her hand had been severe enough for her to lose a lot of blood. Between that and her fragile physical condition, they’d determined to keep her overnight.

Dr. Larson Petrie had been the man to see the blonde. Sean knew Larson, and that he did his best to get around rules and regulations to help people. He was probably keeping Callie Sewell to see her through a rough night.

The dead man—Ray Shere—was in the morgue, scheduled for autopsy the following morning. Sean was sure they’d find that he’d been pumped through with drugs as well as alcohol. Something had to explain his walking as far as he had after being shot in the chest.

At four o’clock, Sean was finished with desk work at last. Jack had come in—for moral support, he told Sean, but it seemed to be Maggie he was supporting rather than Sean. When Sean finished up, Maggie was seated on the edge of Jack’s desk, and the two of them had been laughing and chatting away. “Where to, boss?” Jack asked.

Sean arched a brow.

“Ole Mamie’s bar?” Jack suggested.

“We were going alone,” Sean said.

Maggie grinned. “Naturally, you’re invited.”

“What the hell difference does it make?” Sean muttered. He rubbed his jaw. Five o’clock shadow. Well, hell. He felt as if he’d been dragged through the mud. An arm muscle ached and he was beginning to feel the spot in his ribs where he’d hit the pavement when he went down with Ray. “I need a drink. Let’s go.” Maggie still looked fresh, bright and beautiful. The concept of being alone with her had been a nice one—even if being alone meant keeping an eye on every customer in Mamie’s place.

The hell with it. This was better. He could sit back with Maggie and relax. And Jack could do the looking.

Maggie slipped off the desk, setting her hands on his shoulders, brushing his lips with a kiss. She was about to escape. He caught her by the waist.

“As long as I get you alone later.”

She tensed slightly.

“I’ll have to go home tonight—”


She stiffened.

“Please. I want you with me tonight.” He hesitated. “I need you with me.” He met her eyes. She seemed to be working something out in her mind.

“Maggie ...”

She nodded after a moment. “All right. I’ll ... I’ll stay tonight.” Maggie was startled by the elegance of Mamie’s establishment. It wasn’t ostentatious, just quiet and nice. In both the restaurant area and the bar, soft lighting spilled over fine carved light-wood booths, tables, and chairs. Watercolors lined the walls, and several large tropical fish tanks were attractively set around the rooms. The bar was a deeper wood, finely polished. Table settings were spotless, glasses sparkled, the linen was snowy white.

They were seated in a booth in the bar, Sean taking the rear— so that he could see everyone who came and went, Maggie was certain—even though he had told Jack that Jack was “on” and he was “off.” Maggie was equally amazed when she met Mamie, who was as elegant as her decor—even though she could slip into street language at the drop of a hat. But Mamie seemed decent and down to earth—not at all like she had expected a female pimp to be.

And the wine list was incredibly extensive. She ordered a 1976 California burgundy which was excellent. Sean ordered a beer and Jack did the same.

Sean drank half the beer on his first swallow, and eased back in the booth somewhat. Maggie couldn’t help studying his face. He was tired; sore. He looked worn, and yet even the weariness seemed to add to his character, and she was frightened by the force of the emotions that pulsed through her. He hadn’t hesitated. When there was trouble, he instinctively ran into the fray. He hadn’t been stupid, he’d done his damned best not to kill. And when the drunken perp had assaulted him, he’d fought back with strength and determination. And Ray had fallen.

She bit lightly into her lower lip, staring down into her wine.

Ray had fallen. Dead. But not until after he had come after Sean while surely almost half dead.