as I stared across at their unassuming faces and nondescript clothes, if they were that good, why didn’t they look it?
“Tell me something,” I said, tucking my shirt in behind the badge secured to my belt. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t ever keep my shirt from snagging on the badge’s sharp edges of justice. “Why the turn around? The sudden change of heart?”
“Ain’t a change of heart, officer,” Donny said. He tossed an arm casually across the back of his chair. “It’s the best trick of all.”
“Cheating the cheaters?” I shook my head. Crook logic was, well, crooked.
“It’s got a certain poetical justice to it, don’tcha think?” Claudine asked me, popping a pink gum bubble and winking at me.
I pulled my jacket over the badge. “That’s not the word I’d use,” I said.
“Give ‘er another one. Claudine’s real fond of words. Ain’tcha, sweetheart?” Donny said, grinning at his…girlfriend? Partner? Fond as she might be of words, there were quite a few they didn’t use. I’d found that out three hours ago when they showed up at my desk.
Claudine blew him a kiss and launched into a stream of words I wasn’t sure would ever stop. She was a talker, that one. No doubt the perfect distraction for any number of cons.
I cut in without ceremony. “How am I supposed to trust you?”
“We were discussin’ that very predicament, weren’t we, dollface? This is what we figure.” Donny flicked his fingers against the high collar of his leather jacket, making it stand full straight again. “You never give us a spit of info that would do us any good. You never leave us anyplace we’d have access to stuff we could use to get up to trouble. Lock up your valuables. Easy, right?”
“What do you want in return?” I asked, my cop instincts telling me to lock them both up right this second. My boss wanted the publicity, though. Needed it to boost funding.
“The chance to show you everybody’s tricks, Sergeant Pinker. We’ll go down to the boardwalk, tell you what all the shysters are really doing. Under the table, behind their backs. Why, no cop’s ever had it so good!”
“That sounds like more of what’s in it for me. What do you get out of it?”
Donny and Claudine exchanged a look I couldn’t read, which made it darn near blank. Claudine blew another bubble, popped it, and said, “We want you to lock up Sadie Six and her Catscratch Gang.”
“Why? What did they do to you?”
“That don’t matter right now,” Donny said, leaning forward over my desk. “You want the chance or not?”
“Sure,” I said. “Why not?” What the captain wanted, the captain got. The captain wanted a big break, something to set the papers on fire.
Donny clapped his hands together. “Great! Let’s go see your paddywagon, huh?”
I led the way out of the station, even held the door for them. But I couldn’t stop wondering if “the greatest trick of all” was going to be on me.
Keep this t shirt on if: : You know the ways of shady characters. Including the secret handshake that gets you in the backroom at Mama Murphy’s Pub.
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