To Protect & Serve

Free To Protect & Serve by V. K. Powell

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Authors: V. K. Powell
but Keri was proceeding with calm and confidence.
    Rattled, Alex replied, “The chief wants all my attention focused on this case. In that capacity I will be reviewing every piece of intelligence gathered and every report submitted, and approving every operational plan proposed for execution. It’s my job to compile a solid, leakproof case against Sonny Davis. Is that specific enough?”
    Keri’s heart sank. She already knew the answer to her next inquiry, but had to ask, “And what about the day-to-day operations?”
    “My presence will be much more evident in this case than any other, since it is my only focus. And to be perfectly honest, operational involvement isn’t out of the question. However, my intent is to let Sergeant Price handle that as much as possible.”
    “I see.” Keri only hesitated for a few seconds. “I’m not sure I’m the right person for this job, Lieutenant.”
    The rebuff caught Alex off guard and she fought to keep the simultaneous flashes of relief and disappointment from registering on her face. She had seriously doubted that Keri might turn down the assignment. If she did, Alex would be in the clear with the chief. She should be thrilled.
    Before she could stop herself Alex said, “You might want to give some serious thought to your future, Morgan. This case can make or break a career.”
    There it is , Keri thought, her motivation. She’s definitely bucking for another promotion . And that had to spell trouble for anyone in her path. “I’ll have to think about it—in light of everything we’ve discussed. Can you give me some time?”
    “Time is short.” Alex’s voice was suddenly terse and unfriendly. She was obviously annoyed, probably not used to being turned down. “I’ll need an answer by the end of business tomorrow, at the latest.”
    Keri’s legs shook as she stood and followed her to the door. She didn’t care what Alex thought; she wasn’t about to jump into this hotbed of political land mines without careful consideration of all the facts. “Thank you for your time, Lieutenant, and for considering me. I know it couldn’t have been easy for you.”
    Alex noticed the almost imperceptible tightening at the corners of Keri’s mouth and the focused stare of her cobalt blue eyes. The anger was still there, carefully contained, but present nonetheless. Maybe it was best if Keri declined the offer. Without giving her time to respond, Keri turned and exited the office, leaving Alex speechless in the doorway.
    As Keri walked away, she replayed the conversation and weighed her decision carefully.
    Over the past few days, she’d glimpsed a softer, more personal side of the woman behind the badge, even hints of actual compassion. But she’d also seen the sharp edges of her ambition rise to the surface again, and Keri had a feeling if she got too close to that edge she’d be ripped apart, just as she was three years ago. Her first instinct was to take the assignment. But she wasn’t the same impulsive person she’d been a few years ago, and she would never allow Alex Troy to compromise her again. If she joined the task force, she would make sure to watch her back.

    *

    Keri ended her shift with a sense of anticlimax. She’d made her decision but when she tried to find Alex to tell her, the lieutenant had already left. Looking forward to releasing some tension, she strode into the women’s locker room and was instantly assaulted by the odor of wet towels and perspiration. The beige concrete walls displayed a collection of dirty handprints and scuff marks from neoprene police shoes. As she sat on the narrow bench that ran the length of the tall metal lockers, her waning enthusiasm was mimicked by a flickering fluorescent tube that threatened to go out permanently.
    She changed from jeans to a pair of white running shorts she kept in her locker for such occasions. She didn’t have another T-shirt, so the white, rain-splotched one she had on under her vest would have

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