01 – Like A Bad Penny

March 1, 1987

The pounding at my door makes me contemplate discharging my firearm first and asking who it is later. My head’s thumping harder than Rick Allen on his drums. What the hell time is it, anyway? I jerk my pillow over my head and hope whoever it is goes away. Right when I’m drifting back to dreaming of Ho-Ho-Hoing for Elle the banging starts again and is louder.

“Fuck, alright,” I grumble as I roll out of the bed. I don’t even remember getting undressed. Squinting one eye as I look myself over, I’m not sure what happened, but it must have been hellacious. I’m in my boxers, my left hand has a bruise across the knuckles. Did I get in a fight? Shit, the floor won’t stop spinning.

“Thatcher! Open up!” The urgent knocking at the door syncs to the beat in my head.

I freeze in my inspection and close the other eye, struggling to focus.

“Did she say Thatcher?” This can’t be good. “What the fuck is she doing here?”

Giving my cheeks a couple of rough slaps I shake my head and motorboat my lips. By the time I reach the door, I’m wishing I had never gone to meet Elle yesterday at work.

I peek out the curtain, and sure enough, there stands Shannon Mallory in all her redheaded glory. I’m too hung over for this shit. She’s supposed to be with protective detail until the trial. I rest my forehead against the door, struggling with what to do. I should bring her in, cuff her to a chair, and call Elle to come get her. This is a fed case in the courts. I’m not hanging my ass out to dry for this girl.

“Open the feckin’ door. They have my sister.” She whines.

I bang my forehead against the door lightly, kicking myself for being sucked in by her plea. “Yeah. Don’t get your panties in a twist. I’m workin’ on it.” I unlatch the chain and turn the deadbolt.

As soon as my hand touches the knob she pushes the door open and storms in, damn near plowing into me.

“Come in, Red. Make yourself at home,” I say with enough sarcasm even I want to slap my face.

She paces and keeps adjusting her jacket. Her hair is pulled into a ponytail haphazardly. Her cheeks are stained red, which could be from running, or crying. Red’s not known to be a crier. Everything about her demeanor screams she needs help.

“What are you doing here? Thought you were on a one-way ticket to Ireland?” That’s what she told Thatcher she was going to do with the money she won from the fights. At least my cover isn’t blown. I grit my teeth as I’m not a spy, I’m a damn detective. I should tell her the truth and drag her ass to Elle’s office.

“I am. Was. Feck. They took her.”

I put myself in the path she’s burning into the carpet and rest my hands on her shoulders. “You said that. Who took her? Did they offer any proof?”

“Kleinfeld you gobshite! These two fuckers showed up in my hotel room and said they were the replacement guys. That woman at the FBI said she picked the guys for my detail herself, and they’ve been with me since. Except this mornin’ when they brought me breakfast it was these two apes, not Feds. I know a copper when I see one. And the note was in my breakfast plate. So I told ‘em I was taking a shower, then I shimmied down the fuckin’ balcony to the room below and ran.”

She’s talking faster than the speed of light and with her Irish lilt I’m struggling to understand half of what she’s saying. She flings herself against me, hugging me tight.

“It’s my sister. She’s not part o’ this shit. She was comin’ to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with me. Ya have to help me, Thatcher. They’ll kill her.”

“It’ll be alright,” I mumble as I wrap my arm around her into a hug. “I’m gonna take a shower, put some clothes on, then we’ll talk. Sit down, and for fuck’s sake don’t answer the door.”

“Okay,” she says as she sniffles at me.

Fuck, those big doe eyes and tears get me every time. It’s my fault she’s in this mess and I’ll be damned if I let them hurt her sister. Why didn’t she run to Elle? How the fuck did she find my apartment? Once I’m sure she’s not going to bolt, I leave her in my living room while I get cleaned up.

The icy cold shower wakes me up fully. The drum solo in my head rocks on without any end in sight. I pick the phone up next to my bed and call the Captain. “I’m gonna be late to work. Something came up.”

“Something like assaulting a federal officer?”

“What? No. Listen. I’ll explain when I get there. Got some personal shit to deal with.” But now my brain is ticking a mile a minute and I bring up my bruised hand. I vaguely remember Elle’s new partner, Lewis, at the bar last night.

“This had better not be some of that bullshit with that fed, Wolfe. Or I’ll bust your ass back down to meter maid.”

“No, you prick. It’s Thatcher. You know. You’re favorite.”

The line goes quiet for several beats, and I hope he picks up what I put down.

“You need backup?”

“Nah. I can handle it. Just gonna be late.”

“Don’t be a hero. If you need help, you call.”

“Yes, sir.” I say with a chuckle.

I snatch a fresh T-shirt from the dresser and come walking back out of the bedroom as I pull it on. Caught with the shirt halfway over my head, I pause, hearing the deadbolt being fussed with. Yanking my shirt down, I’m met with a blazing angry Elle, keys in hand.

“What the feck?”

“What the fuck?”

Elle’s voice matches pitch and irritation with Shannon’s.

“You’re a fucking cop! I knew it!” Shannon shouts.

“She’s why you couldn’t fucking answer your phone?” Elle growls as she waves her hand at us like we’ve been caught in bed, and not in my living room.

I’m not sure which angry woman to address first.

The three of us ping-pong look between each other for what feels like minutes. My body’s tense and the drummer speeds up the beat in my head with the sudden rush of adrenalin. Last thing I want is for Elle to think I’m fucking some other girl when all I want is her.

Elle solves the problem for me by shaking her head and turning on heel to storm back out, slamming the door behind her.