Cops And ...Lovers?By: Linda Castillo
Erin McNeal had always liked the taste of adrenaline. But as she stared at her partner lying on the floor with his hands bound and a pistol at his nape, it sat in the back of her throat in a bitter pool. He knew better than to get himself into a situation like this. She sure as hell knew better than to follow him into this godforsaken warehouse. But not even the caution instilled by nine years of law enforcement experience was enough to keep her from going in after him.
Heart thundering, she slipped her service revolver from the holster at the small of her back, praying she wouldn't have to use it. She didn't want to get into a firefight with two men wielding semiautomatic weapons and displaying a complete lack of conscience. But the cop in her wouldn't allow her partner to die simply because she was outgunned two to one.
Never taking her eyes from the men, she eased the hammer back with her thumb. She'd radioed for backup, but knew her counterparts wouldn't arrive in time to stop the inevitable. She figured her partner had about a minute left to live—if he was lucky. That gave her about thirty seconds to come up with a plan.
"You gonna tell us who your snitch is, cop, or do we get to beat it out of you?" said a man in an ill-fitting suit.
Erin was too far away to recognize the thug, but she could tell by his calm demeanor and steady hand he'd murdered before. Probably more than once, judging by the anticipation resonating in his voice. Where the hell was her backup?
"We ain't got all night," the second man said. "Do him."
The man in the suit raised his gun. "Last chance, cop." Moving out from behind the forklift where she'd taken cover, Erin raised her revolver and leveled it on the man in the suit. "Police! Drop your weapons and put your hands over your heads!"
The second man pivoted, his right hand slithering into his jacket. "What the—"
Erin shifted her aim to the man reaching for his gun. "Get your hands where I can see them!"
The two men exchanged looks. A sinking sensation rippled in her gut. In that instant she knew they weren't going to go down without a fight—not to a woman.
Her partner raised his head, drawing her attention. Erin saw fear in his eyes. She felt her own like a raging beast in her chest. She was outnumbered, and they all knew it. Not the kind of odds she wanted to stake her life on, not to mention someone else's.
Damn, this wasn't working out the way she'd hoped.
Panic threatening, she dropped into a shooter's stance, with legs apart, pistol cocked and level, but not quite steady. "Drop 'em!" she said, barely hearing her own voice over the roar of blood in her ears.
In her peripheral vision, she saw movement from above. Surprise jolted her when she saw a figure on the catwalk. Dark clothes. Tinted glasses. A glimpse of blue steel.
Terror fused with adrenaline and cut a path through her belly. She swung her weapon upward—and felt her blood turn to ice. The man on the catwalk was too young to be aiming a gun at a cop. Her police training told her to fire, but her finger froze on the trigger. An instant later, the sound of a gunshot rocked her brain.
The bullet slammed into her shoulder with the force of a cannonball. She reeled backward. White-hot fire seared down her arm to her fingertips. The ensuing pain sent her to her knees.
Through a haze of dizziness, she raised her weapon and fired twice in quick succession. The figure on the catwalk tumbled over the rail and hit the concrete with a sickening thud.
Another gun blast reverberated through the warehouse.
Erin screamed her partner's name, but she knew it was too late. She'd seen the bullet hit its mark. She tried to stand, but her legs refused to obey. An animal-like sound tore from her throat as she sank to the cold concrete. Her vision blurred, but she didn't lose consciousness. Through a haze of shock, she heard sirens wailing in the distance. Angry shouts. The shuffle of shoes against concrete.
Twenty yards away, her partner lay silent and still.
Rage and disbelief mingled with grief. Pain slashed her with brutal force, but it was nothing compared to the guilt exploding in her heart.
Please, God, don't let him die.
As the darkness caved in around her, she silently prayed her partner would live. In a small corner of her mind, she prayed he would be able to forgive her for what she'd done. As unconsciousness overtook her, she prayed she would someday be able to forgive herself.