Cavanaugh on Duty - By Marie Ferrarella
Something was wrong.
He could feel it in his bones, smell it in the air. The minute Esteban stepped out of the run-down tenement apartment building he’d called home these past three years, he’d sensed it.
Something was off.
He had nothing concrete to base it on, except for a gut instinct. The same gut instinct that had helped him survive out here on the cusp of hell, slowly making his way up the cartel food chain, earning trust by seemingly not giving a damn.
It had been a juggling act all the way. The people within the drug cartel had an honor code without displaying a shred of real honor. Moreover, they expected a man to keep his word while they broke theirs with bone-chilling regularity.
Black was white, and white vacillated between nonexistent and a color he couldn’t begin to describe.
But he had managed to navigate these streets, being one of them while standing apart, and all the while sleeping with one eye open.
Although it had come at a great personal cost, he’d bided his time, waiting for the chance to even a score that would never truly be even.
But this thing he was feeling was different. His nerves twisted and tensed; a chill swept along his spine. Every fiber in his body was on high alert, listening intently even though he didn’t know for what.
And then he knew what he was listening for.
Because he heard it: the high-pitched whine of a bullet as it hurtled from its source.
A bullet with his name on it.
Abruptly, he swung to the right.
The bullet couldn’t.
It missed him.
The same gut instinct told him to keep on running if he wanted to live. Confronted with an actual choice between life and death, he surprised himself by deciding to live a little longer.
So he kept on running.
His job wasn’t finished. He still had people to bring to justice. After that, it didn’t matter what happened to him. He was already dead on the inside anyway.
Brian Cavanaugh leaned back in his chair as he studied the young man in his office. Intense was the first word that sprang to mind, prefaced by very.
His own words were measured when he spoke, as his goal was to put the other man, freshly plucked out of undercover work, at ease.
“The first thing I want you to know is that this is not a demotion—”
It had been an exhausting thirty-six hours, beginning with a nerve-racking leap from the very jaws of hell. Esteban’s surroundings right now—clean, orderly, devoid of vermin—seemed almost surreal. He’d all but forgotten places like this existed.
But he’d chosen that netherworld over this because he had a purpose, a mission. The mission wasn’t accomplished yet. He needed to find a way back. Somehow.
“With all due respect, sir, when someone leads with that, it usually means that it is a demotion,” the man who had gone by the name Juan Dominguez for the past three years pointed out.
The corners of Brian’s mouth curved in apparent amusement. “You mean like when someone prefaces a statement with the phrase, ‘With all due respect,’ he or she usually doesn’t harbor that respect?”
Unable to contain his restlessness, the detective who’d been summoned to Brian’s office continued to pace. His broad shoulders stiffened slightly. “I wouldn’t know about that, sir. In this case, there is a great deal of respect. It’s just that—”
“It’s just that you feel as if you’ve been given a time-out, sent to stand in the corner, while everyone you know is still out on the playground, doing what they please,” Brian guessed, completing what he anticipated were the younger, somewhat disheveled-looking man’s thoughts on the matter.
“Something like that,” the detective murmured. He returned the Chief of D’s look, searching for an opening, a way to reverse what he knew in his gut the older man was planning on doing.
“You know you can sit down in my office,” Brian reminded him patiently. He’d already extended the invitation to the man whose real name, according to the requisitioned file on his desk, was Esteban Fernandez.
Esteban stopped pacing. His tone was polite, with just a hint of defiance, as he asked, “Is that an order, sir?”
Brian had not reached his rank by choosing his battles recklessly. This was not a battle, just a reassessment of a situation. Fernandez could be either a valuable asset—or a loose cannon.
“No, just a point of fact,” he replied calmly.
“Then if it’s all the same to you, sir,” Esteban said, “I’d rather stand.”
“Actually, it’s not,” Brian told him, his eyes holding