Chapter One

I PULLED the hood of the gray jacket over my head to shield myself from the rain and scurried into the alley.

Glancing around, I didn’t see anybody. They were supposed to be there. It was the time we had agreed on.

“Hello?” I called out, my voice an octave lower than normal. That was partially due to the wet weather and partially because I wanted to disguise my voice a little. It didn’t really matter, since the man I was there to meet had never met me before.

“Hello?” I shouted again, this time a little louder.

The headlights of a car in front of me came on, blinding me. I covered my eyes and stepped back. The driver and passenger side doors opened, and I could make out the forms of two people. One, somewhat short and stocky, made me relax. Things were going as planned. The second person, the man I was really there for, stepped forward.

“Are you Ruskin?” His voice was very deep and animalistic.

I nodded. “You’re Nicky Pointer, right?”

He didn’t answer my question but came closer. He towered over me by at least five inches. “Mosely says you have information that could bring down Anthony Zion.”

The other man left the shadows. I looked his way and nodded a greeting.

“I’m glad you came, Ruskin,” Kipp Mosely replied.

I hugged myself and stared at the ground. “I just want to be done with this. You have to protect me. Zion will kill me if he finds out what I know.”

Anthony Zion, Reno’s resident mob boss, was responsible for most of the drugs in the area as well as several other criminal enterprises.

“What exactly do you know?” Pointer asked.

I peered up at him. “You’ll take care of me, right?”

“I told you we would,” Mosely replied.

“Yeah, don’t worry about that.” Pointer and Mosely exchanged glances.

“I know where Zion is manufacturing the meth. He’ll be there tomorrow, so if you raid it then, you’ll catch him in the act.”

Pointer whistled. “Damn, that’s enough to bring the man down. You’re prepared to testify?”

“Hell, yeah,” I answered. “You guys take care of me and I’ll tell you everything I know.”

“That’s kind of too bad,” Pointer mumbled.

“Huh?” I pulled the hood off my head so I could peer into the man’s eyes.

Pointer yanked a pistol from its holster and aimed it at my head. “I was hoping you’d be lying or too chickenshit to testify.”

I raised my hands. “What are you talking about?”

“It’s too bad you came to my partner,” Pointer said. “You might’ve stayed alive longer if you went to someone else. A cop not on Zion’s payroll.”

“You’re dirty?” I cowered, shielding my face with my hands. “A fucking dirty cop, just my luck.”

He shrugged. “Zion pays me well, and most of the time I don’t have to get my hands dirty.”

“Don’t suppose I can talk you out of killing me?” I asked.

Pointer chuckled. “Trust me, you can’t afford me. Turn around and get on your knees.”

I glanced at Mosely. “You’re gonna let him do this?”

“Sorry, need the money,” Mosely replied nonchalantly.

“Turn around and get on your fucking knees.” Pointer waved the pistol at me. Mosely stood next to Pointer, a hand on his weapon, ready to pull it if needed.

Sighing, I obeyed the order but stuck my hands in my pockets.

“Raise your arms, creep.”

I gripped the item in my coat but didn’t move.

“Get your hands out of your pockets!”

“What are you gonna do if I don’t? Kill me twice?”

“I’m actually going to enjoy this.” He pressed the gun against the back of my head, and I sucked in a breath.

“Don’t. Fucking. Move.”

I exhaled when the gun no longer touched me.

“What the hell, Mosely?” Pointer growled.

I stood and extended an arm, aiming a pistol at the dirty cop.

“What the fuck is going on?” Pointer asked as I took his weapon.

“You’re under arrest.” I nodded at Mosely, who proceeded to cuff him. I then pulled out my wallet and showed him my badge.

“Jeremy Ranklin, Internal Affairs Bureau.”

“Oh fuck.” Pointer hung his head. “I ain’t saying shit until I’m talking to my lawyer and Dunross.”

Murray Dunross, the senior IAB investigator, was my boss. Why did Pointer want to talk to him?

Mosely assisted Pointer to the vehicle as I called my boss. “We got him, Murray. He wants to chat with you. Not sure why.”

“Hmmm, I don’t know. Call me when he’s at the station.”

“Will do.”

I shoved my phone into my pocket as Mosely returned. He was probably just an inch or so under six feet tall, so we were about the same height. However, he appeared much larger. He was muscular, with thick biceps and a wide chest. I wasn’t out of shape, but my muscles didn’t show through my clothes. My face and body were slender, while he was built like a brick house.

“I appreciate your help,” I said as I shook his hand.

He shrugged. “I don’t mind doing the right thing. I just hope there isn’t blowback.” He had a thin beard, and some chest hair poked out of the top of his shirt.

A bear. He was a sexy man with body hair, a trait I found very attractive. I forced myself to focus on the job instead of what my coworker looked like naked.

“Pointer’s dirty,” I said. “Keeping shit like that secret doesn’t do anyone any good. I think real cops will understand.”

“You doing anything later? You think we could meet for a drink, just to chill out after all this?”

I hesitated but didn’t have a reason to say no. That didn’t usually stop me, but I said yes anyway, then immediately regretted it. I wasn’t a social person, hadn’t been for a while. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to have friends, even one I found extremely attractive.

 

AT THE station Kipp booked Pointer, and I headed toward my upstairs office, but Chief Gary Brunson stopped me.

“I wanted to tell you something,” Brunson said.

Uh-oh. Lots of cops hated IAB because of the job we had to do, so I had no idea what Brunson had to say.

“Yes, sir?”

“Thanks for catching Pointer.” Brunson extended a hand, and I shook it. “That was an excellent sting.”

I stood straight. “Thank you, Chief.” I’d heard good things about the man, and it seemed like the stories were true.

“Dirty cops disgust me. Don’t hesitate to ask me if you ever need help.”

“I will, sir.”

I didn’t do my job to be patted on the back, but being thanked was nice. I relished the moment as I strolled upstairs to do my paperwork, stopping by Murray’s office on my way.

“Our man’s being processed right now,” I said.

He looked up from a file. “Any idea what he wants to talk to me about?”

“No clue, but find me when you’re done.”

“Will do.”

Forty-five minutes later I was finishing my report when Murray came into my office and flopped tiredly into the chair on the other side of my desk.

“How did it go?” I asked.

Murray rubbed his forehead, then wiped a hand across his face. His lips were pressed tightly together, his jaw clenched.

“Damn, you look like a twice-baked pile of shit.”

“I feel like it too.”

“Did Pointer give you any interesting info?”

He snorted. “Yeah. That’s an understatement.”

I folded my arms and leaned back in my chair. “I can’t wait to hear what he had to say.”

Murray chewed the inside of his cheek, then shook his head. “Not yet. Not that I don’t trust you, but I don’t want too many people knowing what’s being said until I have all the information.”

“You’re going to do the investigation yourself?”

“What? Like I can’t get off my ass and do some real work?”

I chuckled and raised my hands. “Not at all. It is unusual, though. Must be pretty big.” It wasn’t always a good idea to work a case totally alone. It made some cops suspicious.

Nodding, Murray replied, “You have no idea. I’ll bring you in if I need your help. I trust you more than my other investigators. Sad but true.”

“Only because you’ve known me since I was ten years old.”

Murray and my father had been partners in the Sacramento Police Department when I was a kid. He’d been like an uncle to me and my brother, Warren.

“The fact that I know some of the shit you got into as a young man should make me wary.”

I laughed and leaned forward. “You do know how grateful I am that you offered me this job when it came open two months ago?”

“You’re a good cop, Rank. And after all that shit happened in Sacramento… well, you deserved a shot. You aren’t your brother. You shouldn’t be forced to atone for his sins.”

I waved a hand. I didn’t want to talk about Warren. Thankfully I was saved from that conversation when Kipp strode into my office. He had changed into his civilian clothes and looked extremely sexy, simply dressed in a formfitting white T-shirt and blue jeans.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt. I was just coming to see if you were ready to get a drink.”

Murray rose. “It’s okay. We’re done here. I’ll talk to you later, Rank.” He patted Kipp on the shoulder as he left. “Good job today, Mosely.”

“Thank you, sir.”

I saved the document I was working on and shut down my computer. “Where do you want to go? I don’t go out often, so I don’t know the good bars from the dives.”

“Which kind do you prefer?” Kipp snickered. “The Drunken Wench is a total dive bar, but it’s not full of kids, and the music is quiet enough that people can talk instead of scream. It also has the added advantage of being one block from my apartment.”

“Kids? You aren’t exactly an old man.”

“I may only be twenty-seven, but when I’m hanging with twenty-year-olds, I feel more like fifty.”

I grabbed my keys and locked my office after we exited.

“Trust me, I understand. I’ve been a cop my entire adult life, right into the academy at eighteen. My friends were drinking and partying for another four years after high school. We were the same age, but we were living different lives.”

I followed Kipp down the stairs and out of the station. “I’ll be right behind you,” I said when I got to my car. He nodded, and a few minutes later the workday was done.

Going to the bar with him probably wasn’t the best decision, even though I didn’t have to work the next day and could get drunk if I chose. However, there was a reason I didn’t drink often. Losing control, even a little bit, could be problematic if it meant I revealed any of my secrets.

It was a different world than it had been in my father’s early days. Gay cops were more accepted than ever before, especially in the larger metropolitan areas like Reno.

It wasn’t the reaction of my coworkers I feared; it was my family’s reaction. Dad was old school all the way. Men couldn’t be gay and still be cops. His idea of queers was the effeminate flamers, and he looked down on them with disdain. Totally homophobic and not likely to change. He was an old man and not very healthy. The last thing I wanted to do was cause him more pain or create more stress.

Living in the closet wasn’t easy, but it was what I’d decided to do. It wasn’t like I had men beating down my door looking for a relationship. I wasn’t into one-night stands or random hookups, though I did occasionally have them.

Unfortunately Kipp was my type, both physically and personality-wise.

I’d have to watch my drinking with Kipp and not let my inhibitions loose. The last thing I needed was to make my attraction to him obvious. Even if he wasn’t offended, I didn’t want any cops knowing I was queer. The fewer people who knew that secret, the better.