The Ex Assignment - Victoria Paige
The tip came at fifteen hundred.
Gabrielle Woodward had just come home from her father’s funeral. You would think it was a Hollywood premiere with the who’s who in attendance. The reporters were ready with their cameras, waiting for when the stars, dressed in Armani, and Stella McCartney would make their way past them.
No one paid attention to Gabby. She wore no labels, just a simple, ill-fitting black dress. No one questioned why she was at the back of the funeral crowd rather than in front with Peter Woodward’s ex-wife and son. She’d shunned the spotlight such a lifetime ago that people had forgotten the famous Hollywood mogul had a daughter.
Crossing the threshold of her apartment, she pulled the dress over her head and walked to the utility room, tossing it into the hamper, probably never to be needed again. Her LAPD blues, perfectly pressed and laundered, hung ready in her closet for when she would attend the next funeral of a victim or a fallen officer.
As a detective with the LA Gang and Homicide Division (GHD), death was her constant companion, and she’d witnessed its brutal ripple effect on the loved ones left behind. And yet today her emotions laid dormant inside her. Granted, she and her father had not spoken for years, but she should feel something, right? A wave of grief? Gabby was still waiting for the first one to hit.
Heading into her bedroom and straight for her closet, she kicked off her equally uncomfortable pumps and dragged her black tactical clothes from behind columns of gray suits and white button-down shirts. With the hours she put into her job, this self-imposed uniform made it easier as if she had her shit together.
Her phone buzzed with a message from her partner and adrenaline breathed new life into the numbness of her muscles and limbs.
There was a high probability that the crime lord of LA was meeting his minions in the house on Zamora Street. Since the fentanyl aerosol attack in a downtown shopping center eight months ago, Raul Ortega had become public enemy number one. Going after him had wrung every bit of blood, sweat, and tears from her team. Endless stakeouts, monitoring money drops and exchanges, and going undercover as drug addicts took a toll on everyone. The price of getting Ortega couldn’t have been higher after one of their own was killed a few months ago.
She thought about her LAPD blues again.
Gabby squatted beside the puddle of blood. A low current of rage zipped through her veins as her brain struggled to comprehend how the operation had gotten fucked up beyond recognition.
A mother was dead and a child had been traumatized.
Ortega was nowhere on the property. Their sting operation failed.
Off to the side, a CSI tech documented the carnage.
“You okay?” asked Brock Kelso, her partner of five years.
“No.” Her lips pressed into a straight line. A child had witnessed her mother’s death. The girl would have nightmares for years if not her entire life. The higher ups would have to answer to the press, but bad publicity was the furthest from Gabby’s mind. “They better not pull us from this case.”
“I don’t think they will, but it’s not looking good for us.”
“It should’ve been our call. We’ve been on Ortega’s case since the beginning. Captain wouldn’t have okayed the op with the patchy intel we received.”
GHD was in charge of the case, but the order for the raid involving different units of the LAPD—SWAT, Narcotics, and GHD—came from the top. The mayor needed a win for his reelection and pressure cascaded down the chain of command.
“Tell me something I don’t know.”
“They should’ve let us do our job!” Gabby exploded. “We’ve only alerted Ortega.”
Eighteen months of work derailed by damned politics.
“Kelso! Woodward!” Captain Frank Mitchell strode into the room with his distinctive gait, as if his ramrod-straight back was held up by a plank. Tall and lean with a shaved head that gleamed, the whites of his eyes were a stark contrast to the deep mahogany of his skin. “Why are you still here?”
“This”—Gabby pointed at the pool of blood—“This shouldn’t have happened.”
“Agreed,” the captain replied. “But it did. And it will be investigated. So, go home, both of you. Nothing else to be done here.”
“How’s Lucia?” Gabby asked.
The lines around the captain’s mouth softened. “She’s with a patrol officer. She’s shaken but you did a good job calming her.”
Gabby gave a somber nod. In all her years on the force it was a constant balance to