PRIMARY TARGET, Double Blind Book 2
is coming soon!
But YOU can check out chapter one right now! I might even post other chapters as I write them.
After a major screw up, Detective Sergio Martin gets suspended—right as his partner Carly Sanderson gets thrust into the spotlight on Tampa Bay This Morning. Stuck working a politician’s security detail, Sergio is frustrated when a sniper begins taking out random hostages, and he can’t help with the investigation. His partner is on the rise while his own ship is sinking. The best way to get his mind off things is to assist his new friend Tyree in what seem to be an unrelated matters. Even with the victims piling up, one politician is determined to show his courage by continuing to hold large, outdoor rallies for the upcoming primary election, and Sergio is forced to watch from the sidelines as the mayor leans on rising star Carly, who can’t seem to catch a break in the sniper case.
The lady in the pink sweater had a friendly smile and a nice demeanor; it would be a shame to kill her.
The assassin took a deep breath and lined up the crosshairs of the rifle scope. Putting a bullet through the third button on the cashmere cardigan would give the woman a major wound to the torso—painful, and not necessarily a certain kill—but a very high probability.
Seven or eight points, if she were a paper target.
Easing a finger near the trigger, the killer assessed another shot. Four inches under the top button would pierce the lady’s heart. Nine points. She would fall to the ground and bleed out in seconds.
Drop and flop, but it’s quick. Not the worst way to go.
The huge bullet would send a spray of red behind the woman, like someone had spritzed the air with a Windex bottle filled with cherry Kool Aid. A jerk to the body from the impact, then the sweater lady would lose all muscle control and slump to the concrete platform, a puppet suddenly without strings. Her lifeless head would hit the floor with a loud, sharp whack. Pools of red would spill forth. Some of the people around her—men in suits, mostly—would run for cover, and a few would dash to her side, but that would prove futile. She’d be dead before she hit the ground.
A bead of sweat rolled down the killer’s cheek.
Then would come all the panic, the wondering, the fear. Wide eyes scanning all around, some looking for a place to run and hide; some looking for a shooter. Shouts for 911, shouts for CPR, shouts of fear . . .
But in all that chaos, a calm assailant can slip away unseen and undetected.
The planning was meticulous. Perfect. Practiced. Everything thought out in advance.
The killer panned the scope to the right. A man in a charcoal gray suit came into the cross hairs, then the man next to him. They pointed at banners, nodding and frowning to each other, acting very important. Would they try to help the sweater lady if she dropped to the stage floor with a fountain gushing from her chest? Or would the suits run behind one of the red, white, and blue façades the stage workers were rigging for Tampa’s live mayoral primary broadcast?
Who’d help you, pink lady, if I pulled the trigger today?
The sniper let out a long, slow breath, and lowered the rifle.
“Not today, Pinky.”
A gentle press with a finger slid the weapon’s safety into place, and the assassin backed out of the kill nest.
“Time to go do a little target practice. But I’ll be back.”
* * * * *
“Hey, partner—are you excited?” Detective Sergio Martin pressed his phone to his ear, pacing back and forth across the car wash lobby as foam and water splattered the large window next to him. A plastic Christmas tree stood in front of the glass; on the other side, a burnt-orange Camaro with black hood stripes rolled by.
“Excited? No.” Carly said. “More like nervous. Maybe panic attack-ready.”
“Dude, you’ll do fine.” He waved a hand. “I’ll pick you up afterwards and we’ll go have lunch, then we can watch the whole interview at my place. I’m recording it.”
“Um, well—Kyle is picking me up. He and the boys are taking me to lunch. But I’ll get with you after.”
“Right! Sure.” Sergio’s face fell. “Yeah, you should celebrate with your family.” He glanced at the Camaro as mechanical hoses doused it with wax. “How do you want me to get your car back to you?”
“Come to lunch with us. You’re invited.”
“No, no, no. Let them share in your big moment.”
“It’s our moment. We’re a team. We caught the serial killer together.”
Sergio fingered the stitches on his upper hip. “Hmm. Well, I suppose after today’s TV appearance, you’ll probably need a bodyguard to keep your swarms of fans away.”
“Bleh. Don’t make me any more nervous than I already am.”
“I could head up your entourage . . . stick by your side day and night . . .”
“Day and night, huh?”
He smiled. “Hey, did they send a limo for you? I heard they do that.”
“It was a van. And it smelled funny.”
“Are you getting my oil changed for me?”
“Wow.” Sergio chuckled. “You went diva fast.”
“What? You said—”
“Yes, yes. I’m joking.” He peered through the soapy glass at the orange Camaro. “Your pretty little Halloween parade float is getting all gussied up as we speak.”
“Hey, you love my car.”
“I do. And for the record, I totally hate you right now. I’m completely filled with jealousy.”
“I bet. They should have sent you for this. It’s right up your alley.”
He shrugged. “Sadly, I didn’t fit with channel eight’s theme of Women Leaders Week.”
“Oops, they’re calling me.” The phone rustled on Carly’s end. “Wish me luck.”
The car wash cashier walked into the lobby and held up a set of car keys. “Orange Camaro?”
Sergio waved at the clerk. “Knock ‘em dead, partner. And, hey—did you wear your blue jacket?”
There was no reply. He held the phone away from his face.
The clerk approached, holding out a service ticket. Sergio put the phone back to his ear and cleared his throat. “Because you look awesome in blue. Okay, good luck. Bye.” He smiled at the clerk. “My partner’s going to be on TV this morning.”
“Uh-huh. That’s eleven-fifty for the car wash and thirty-nine for the oil change, $54.73 total with tax.”
Sergio winced. “Wow. Yeah, okay.” He dug into his pocket and pulled out his wallet, removing a credit card.
The clerk stepped behind the counter, swiping the card across the top of the cash register and handing it back. “Car’s out front.”
“Thanks.” Easing the wallet past his stitches, he slid it back into his jeans and took a step toward the door. His phone buzzed. His spirits lifted as he checked the screen, expecting Carly to be calling with a last-minute request for advice. Maybe she’d requested he participate in the interview via phone.
Instead, DeShawn Marshall’s name appeared on the screen. Sergio pressed the button and put the phone to his ear. “Hey, boss, I’m not sure I’m allowed to talk to you while I’m still on medical leave. Could cause a worker’s comp thing.”
“Guess who’s about to take down your old buddy Lucas Parmenter?”
Sergio’s head snapped upright. “Get the hell out of here. Really?”
“We got a tip and tracked him to the abandoned Payless shoe store on Gray Street. I’m perched on the roof across the street. That old boy’s about ten minutes away from retiring as a professional car thief.”
“Gray Street? Sarge, I’m literally, like, right around the corner.”
“Oh, no you don’t. This was a courtesy call. Don’t get any ideas.”
“What?” Sergio bolted across the lobby and out the door. “You’re breaking up, sir.”
“No, Sergio. Don’t come over here!”
“I can’t hear you, boss!” Sergio ended the call and ran for the Camaro.
* * * * *
Carly wiped her hands on her skirt as she followed the Production Assistant. Random coils of cable and wood-framed sets lined the narrow hallway. The young lady occasionally put her hand to her phone headset, but otherwise kept walking—fast.
“Right this way, Ms. Sanderson—I mean, Detective.”
“Carly’s fine, ma’am.”
“I’m Jeannie.” The young lady turned and smiled. “If you need anything, I’ll be right out front, center stage on the right. Next to the big camera.”
The words shot a jolt of adrenaline through Carly. She swallowed hard and took a deep breath, following the skinny twenty-something toward a brightly lit stage with a huge red couch and a giant Christmas wreath.
Stepping into the studio, Carly did her best to smile. The hosts of Tampa Bay This Morning busied themselves with shuffling papers or a hair touch-up.
“We’re on a commercial break right now, Detective. Your segment is after the next break, and I’ll be conducting your pre-interview in here.” The P. A. pushed open a large door, revealing a room with several couches, a mirror, a TV with a live feed of the broadcast, and a big table filled with fruit and yogurt. “Coffee’s in the corner, but we recommend you drink water so your mouth doesn’t dry out during the interview.”
The word interview sent another ripple through Carly. She had the sudden urge to use the restroom.
“And of course, the bathrooms are right there in the back.” The P. A. put her hand to her headset again. “Please make yourself comfortable, Ms. Sanderson. I’ll—”
“—Carly. I’ll be right back.” She spun around and disappeared, closing the big door behind her.
Carly stared at the table of breakfast items, completely un-hungry. The male host of Tampa Bay This Morning, John Harkins, appeared on the TV screen. “Welcome back. Coming up, we have part of the heroic team that took down the Seminole Heights serial killer, Detective Carly Sanderson.”
The effervescent Cheryl Hills took over. “But first, the weather.”
Upon hearing her name on TV, Carly raced for the restroom.
* * * * *
Sergio hoisted himself over the last rung of the fire escape ladder and crawled onto the gravel rooftop. “Psst.”
Sergeant Marshall shook his head, not looking back at the detective. “I don’t hear you because you aren’t here.”
“Oh, I’m absolutely not.” Sergio squinted in the bright sunlight, moving toward his boss. “But Sarge, you need more units for this takedown. This guy’s going to run.”
“No, he’s not. Stop that.” Sergeant Marshall inched forward on his belly, peering over the raised edge of the shop’s gravel roof. He lifted his binoculars to his eyes. “First of all, he doesn’t know we’re here, but we have other units on the way.”
“Feel’s too easy. Plus, he’s a killer now.”
“Eh, I don’t think he went looking to shoot that security guard.” DeShawn handed Sergio the binoculars. “This guy likes stealing cars, not killing people. We got an early Christmas present. Enjoy it.”
“Ho, ho, ho,” Sergio grumbled, staring at the vacant shoe store. No lights appeared to be on inside. Out front, a red Ferrari sat parked by the curb. Bits of trash flittered across the sidewalk, pushed by the warm, humid breeze. “He’s out in broad daylight—after all these years? And driving that?” Sergio crawled backwards from the roof edge and sat up, brushing bits of gravel from his chest and hands. “I don’t like it.”
The sergeant’s gaze remained trained on the vacant shoe store. “Somebody else is gonna get your collar, is that it?”
“No. I’m telling you, it’s not his style. The second he comes out of there, he’s gonna run.”
“And I’m telling you to pipe down.” Deshawn wiped a bead of sweat from the back of his neck. “You’re not even supposed to be here. Just sit tight and watch the takedown. Don’t get me in hot water for calling you.”
* * * * *
The sergeant’s radio squawked. “Team leader Alpha, your support units are en route. We will be in position within five minutes.”
The team leader was quick with his reply. “Roger that. All units, get ready for takedown upon arrival. Spotters, keep eyes on the target.”
Deshawn smiled. “See? In about five minutes, your old case will be—”
He glanced over his shoulder. Sergio was gone.
The Ferrari’s engine started. The suspect, a tall African-American man in a long overcoat, walked toward it carrying two briefcases. With a tug, the passenger door opened and he got in. The shiny red car eased away from the curb, then the throaty motor growled and the car sped away.
Sergeant Marshall pounded the raised edge of the rooftop. “Crap, he’s running.”
The radio blared with activity. “All units, engage lights and sirens. The target is fleeing east on Gray Street.”
“Alpha leader, this is unit one. We’re not on scene yet.”
Marshall yanked his radio off his belt and crushed the red transmit button. “Well, get on scene! We’re losing him! Move to intercept him on Kennedy Boulevard. Unit two, head toward north Dale Mabry Highway. Those are his best escape points.”
He stood up, gritting his teeth and shaking his head as the Ferrari disappeared around a corner.
Below him, Detective Martin sprinted across the street toward a row of parked cars a block and a half up away.
The sergeant’s jaw dropped. “No, no, no, Sergio. What are you doing?”
* * * * *
Sergio yanked open the Camaro’s door and flung himself inside, jamming the key into the ignition and stomping the gas pedal. The engine had barely started when he slammed the gear shift into drive and mashed the pedal again. With its tires squealing and smoke pouring from the wheel wells, the orange car swerved onto Gray Street and sped after the Ferrari.