72 Hours

By: Shannon Stacey


For Stuart, who has supported me in being the Shannon I need to be—wife, mom, and writer—and for being my own personal Batman.

And for Wax, for the late night chats about Alex.

Chapter One

Key West

Facing down an irate, grenade-toting guerilla beat the hell out of knocking back umbrella drinks in this sun-drenched purgatory any day.

But Alex Rossi waited, boiling in the unforgiving humidity. Any second now, the man who’d killed his mother might walk around that corner.

He loosened his grip on the glass before it could shatter in his hand. Wouldn’t want to startle the mimosa-serving legion of Malibu Ken dolls.

But twenty-five years of waiting might come to a head in this tourist trap of an outdoor café, and if Alex didn’t get to release some tension soon, the glass was toast.

“We’re on vacation, here. Remember?” His partner raised his own glass. “Two fishing bums with nothing better to do than soak up some rays and play spot the silicone.”

Alex gave Gallagher a hard stare, but he was fighting like hell not to smile. The man looked ridiculous in his blinding tropical shirt, and he’d even smeared some kind of white sunblock on his nose.

His own white tee and cargo shorts were a little on the conservative side, but at least he didn’t look like some sunburned escapee from a Beach Boys reunion  .

They didn’t come any steadier than Gallagher, though. When Alex Rossi had started the Devlin Group eleven years before, Gallagher was the first contract agent he’d taken on. He was his right hand, his best friend and the only guy Alex trusted to have his back when this deal went down.

Usually, the Devlin Group worked at the request of governments who needed help going over, under or around regulations or jurisdictions to get a problem taken care of. Now his job had collided with his past and it was personal.

When his mother, Maria Rossi, was gunned down as a warning to her undercover-agent husband, the family had been using the name Devlin. Eleven years ago, Rossi put that name on his own agency’s letterhead as bait. Over a decade of hunting might pay off today, if Alex’s intelligence was correct. Some two-bit thief named Johnny Washburn was moving up in criminal circles—into a circle headed by the man Alex was looking for.

For two weeks now he’d done nothing but watch Johnny Washburn lie in the sun, smoke pot and leer at beach bunnies. The only interesting thing the man did was sit at the same table in the same outdoor café for every meeting. It made the surveillance almost too easy. Except for the sunburned tourists who’d managed to grab the only table with an unobstructed view of Washburn’s table. He was half tempted to go over there and…

The sound of a chair being pulled out scraped through his earpiece, and Alex let the thought die.


He slid a hand into his pocket and hit the button to record the conversation feeding into his earpiece. Another chair slid across the cement patio floor, and he couldn’t keep himself from sitting straighter in his chair, his hand inching toward the Glock tucked in a pocket of his shorts.

The visitor spoke first. “Why are you alone, Mr. Washburn?”

That voice. He knew it from somewhere. Alex met Gallagher’s eyes, but he didn’t see any recognition there. Not somebody who’d come up in recent surveillance, then. But so familiar.

And too young. Alex choked down a bitter curse. This guy, whoever he was, was too damn young to be the man who’d ordered his mother murdered just to make a point.

The disappointment was keen, and he fought the urge to yank out his earpiece and walk away. Vengeance wouldn’t be served today, but the contract remained.

Washburn said, “My friend won’t meet with just anybody, man.”

“I’m not here to play games.”

“No games. This is the way it’s done.” A little edge crept into Johnny’s surfer dude voice.

The hair on Alex’s arms tingled, his interest piqued again. He leaned forward, trying to see around a wide woman in a wider hat. Maybe if he could see the man’s face he’d place the voice.

Gallagher leaned in with him, smiling, but with hard eyes. “Chill, Alex. That boy’s wound tight.”

“I know that voice.”

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