“Curran, quit your bitching. It’s a cake assignment,” he says. “Look at it as a break before you’re back on the job.”
“You sayin’ I can’t do the job?”
Declan’s jaw tightens hard enough to stiffen every muscle in his face. Either I pissed him off, or I’m onto something. “I’m saying it wouldn’t hurt to have more time before you’re back on the streets,” he answers, keeping his voice low. “What happened to Joey isn’t something you just get over.”
“Who’s saying I’m over it? I know I fucked up.” And so does everyone on the force, I don’t add. “That doesn’t mean I’m washed up or can’t do my job.”
Declan’s already stiff posture tenses even more. “I never said you were washed up, or that you can’t―”
“Might as well have.”
“Curran, don’t you get it? It’s not a punishment.”
“Don’t you get it? While you’re sitting here behind a desk, I got dealers and gangbangers offing people left and right―and you’re asking me to play bodyguard to your librarian.”
Declan leans back in his high back office chair, clearly annoyed, but also worried. “She’s not a librarian, Curran. She’s an intern in her last year of law school. She’s helping me with research in the Montenegro case.”
“Like I said, librarian.”
“Jesus. Just help me out, will ya?” he snaps, rubbing his forehead hard.
Ya? Okay, now he’s pissed. Behind that new suit, clean-shaven face, and hundred dollar haircut, my brother’s Philly through and through. One more smart-ass comment from me and the “youz” are going to drop like water ice and his fist will swing my way.
With a groan, Declan pushes away from his desk and stands to face the window. Useless gesture if you ask me. His view is a brick wall. Seriously. But I suppose it’s either that or pace, and his closet-sized office isn’t big enough to take more than a few steps.
The thing is, I can read faces. He knows as much, and doesn’t want me to read his then. “Curran. This is my chance to move up,” he says. “Zabrinski, head of Homicide, is retiring in a few months. I’ve paid my dues, worked the shit cases, and won trials seasoned D.A.s thought I should plead out or walk away from.” He looks at me then. “If I could put Montenegro away, it would upset organized crime from here to Jersey.”
“And seal your position in Homicide,” I finish for him.
“Yeah. It would.”
I cross my arms. “So why the hell do I have to babysit your librarian? If anything, I should be watching your back. You painted a bull’s eye on your forehead by taking on this case. Vincent Montenegro isn’t just a mob boss. He’s a legend only a dumbass would cross.” I roll my eyes at his glare. “Calm your shit, you know what, I mean.”
“Don’t you think I know that? It’s the reason I don’t want anyone else helping me with this case. No other names. No one but me for the mob to target.”
“And no one else to steal your glory,” I add, which earns me yet another glare. “Declan, I know you want the promotion, just like I know you want the street cred. But don’t be stupid and get yourself killed in the process. Let me watch your back. The librarian can get another badge to shadow her.”
“I already have someone watching me.”
I straighten. “One of the boys in blue?”
“Actually a few. They alternate nights. When I’m at the office, or courtside, the detectives and sheriffs here have my back. Contessa will be―”
“Contessa? Is that even a real name?” Declan coughs into his fist in a lame attempt to muffle his laugh. “Damn. If it doesn’t mean ‘I have a stick rammed up my ass’ I don’t know what does.”
My remark only makes my big bro laugh harder. “She’s . . . intense and, at times, rigid, I’ll give you that.”
“Like I said, stick up the ass.”
“She’s a hard worker and a nice young lady, I assure you.”
I assure you, I repeat in my head. Okay, the Philly boy has officially left the building.
“Curran, just take the assignment. From what we hear, Montenegro isn’t going to go to prison without making a lot of noise. The badges assigned to this case have the smarts to watch their own backs, and mine as well.”
“But no one’s guarding that poor homely intern’s back. I get it.”
A sly grin edges across his face. “I never said she was homely, bro.”