Both detectives know that there’s different kinds of dangerous—the obvious threat you clock on approach, and the one you never see comin’…
Colt Harkan’s not much of a laughing man, or he might better appreciate the biggest joke of his life. Fresh from his time undercover, his first day at Mason PD finds him partnered with Everett Kane—a man determined to stumble through life and still come up the golden boy.
Makes it all look so easy, talking to people with his sun-bright smile. Everett just…cares. It’s like the man can’t help it.
But even in Mason, Colt sees darkness at the fringes, and catching that State Rodeo case starts two unexpected obsessions—proving Patrick Combs’ death was a murder, and screwing around with Ev in the backseat of their car. Seems to work out fine for them both, when Ev isn’t busy with his women or his wife.
One of these days, Everett’s going to find the rock bottom he’s digging for, and Colt can’t help but push him along. The bosses won’t admit it but there's more to Combs than meets the eye, and that bigshot Richard Edwards knows something for sure.
Ev would say it makes him a pessimist, but Colt just has that feeling, an ice-sharp truth learned in days spent dodging death. Getting honest words from Edwards and Everett both? Might be what kills Colt yet.
General Release Date: 6th September 2022
“You know who you have to call, Everett.”
Lead Detective Everett Kane sat at his desk with a single thought in his head, surrounded by files that looked like scrapbook memories. Because this Meyers case? Staging aside, it was Patrick Combs all over again.
Major Stapes leaned against the open office door, face unreadable in the light of dimmed fluorescents. “I’ll be the first to admit I’ve no love for the bastard. And with how you all left things…well, there’s a bigger picture now.”
A hard laugh escaped Everett’s throat. “He’s the one who saw that in the first place. Back then.”
The major nodded, but didn’t look happy to agree. For all anyone ever said about “that nutcase outsider,” not to mention the legitimate grief he gave the bosses back in the day, it’d be easy to turn a blind eye and avoid an uncomfortable sight. But Major Stapes had a reputation for giving credit where it was due. He was the one who’d hired the bastard back when. He knew what he was asking Everett to do—again.
The older man picked at peeling black letters that read E. Kane, Lead Detective. “Maybe so,” Stapes hedged. “But it doesn’t change the facts. Now that there’s another body…do it now or do it tomorrow, but you’re out of time. We need him.”
Everett eyed the locked drawer of his desk. They both knew exactly who he meant, but Everett wasn’t stupid enough to go saying the man’s name aloud, even to the only boss who could halfway stand him. This case had conjured up enough old ghosts without adding him to the mix.
Everett shook his head. “I’m not workin’ with him.”
The major snorted, a paternal sound that made Everett feel like a kid complaining over chores. With his silver hair and well-lined face, Stapes often reminded Everett of his grandfather, though he wrangled small-town cops instead of stallions. He rapped his knuckles against the door. “Believe that’s the second time you’ve tried to convince me of that, Detective.”
Shit. Stapes was right about that too.
The fight fell out of Everett with a heavy sigh, leaving him hunched over the desk. He fixed weary eyes on the photo in front of him—a young woman in a State Rodeo T-shirt and a puddle of her own blood—cut up and dead in a way no person ought to be. One look at those photos and the petty wilted in his gut.
Yeah. There’s that bigger picture to think on.
He tried to rub the tiredness from his eyes. “I’m not gettin’ out of this, am I?”
Stapes’ attention darted around the room—at the photos stapled over the walls, the files that littered every surface, the theories and timelines connected by string and too many cards to count. It made his point too well.
“Not this time.”
The major turned on his heel, leaving Everett to stew in his half-lit office. The station lights had long ago been dimmed, which made sense. Everett’s colleagues all had homes to be getting to. There’d been a time he had the same—a couple different homes, if he were honest.
He clicked his pen twice, then chucked it at the desk. Broken pieces of plastic scattered to corners unknown.
Fuckin’ Harkan. Why’d Colt always have to be right?
Alone and accustomed to being so, he cracked the small window in his smaller office and blazed up a Camel filter. On a normal day, Everett was a strict only-with-coffee smoker. He was down to a pack a week when things stayed the right kind of average. But this one was peeling fast, half-gone from yesterday—a soft pack because fuck it, they weren’t gonna last long enough to matter. Not when the State Rodeo was once again the scene of a murder. And certainly not now the name Colt Harkan was playing on a loop in his mind…
* * * *
Louisiana, 2009, nine years earlier
“I’m not workin’ with him, Stapes. Guys who come off undercover…they ain’t right.”
“That’s what I like about you, Kane. Got such heart.”
Everett took the correction in stride. He slid into a chair with an easy smile, looking wry across the major’s desk. A person would be hard-pressed not to give him the whole world when he turned on the charm like that—and Everett knew it. Just so damn likeable. People couldn’t help but say yes. Sometimes before they even realized what he’d asked.
Everett had always been a force-of-personality type, though he wouldn’t say the overall package was terrible to look at. The title of Lead Detective kept him clean-shaven and clean-cut, his thick sheaf of wheat-colored hair cropped short and threaded with sun. When he looked in the mirror, his cornflower eyes saw how family life and the nine-to-five grind had dulled the edges of his expression, creased careworn lines he was still getting used to in the corners of his honest face. Everett wasn’t as fit as he had been in his rodeo days, but he’d been known to joke in a western bar or three how time made grown-ups of them all. Eventually.
Everett kicked his leg up, bracing his shoe against the major’s desk. He propped an arm on his knee, looked down his nose and tilted his head—every trick in the book to get Stapes to go his way. “You know what I mean, Major. Can’t hardly tell what he was up to, there’s so much black in his file. Looks more like sheet music than Times New Roman. Reads like arty poetry with three words to a page.”
Stapes kept typing. “He’s had more career in months than most do in decades, I’ll give him that.”
Everett grunted as he thumbed through the file in his hands. “How can you tell? Even his start date is redacted. And don’t tell me it’s some clerical error.” He closed the rust-colored folder. “What’s he doin’ in Mason? Ain’t we a little back-country for someone with this kind of weight in his file?”
When Everett looked up, the major had that look that meant stop askin’ and I won’t have to lie to you.
Stapes returned attention to his computer monitor. “He’s owed some favors. He’ll be comin’ in rough, but we’re the lucky ones here. I’ve done my calling around and even with those complaints from the brass, he’s got the clearances. Might be the real deal.”
It wasn’t what Everett wanted to hear, but he knew that tone in the major’s voice by now.
He grumbled, “Don’t see why I gotta hold his hand any.”
“Choose your training strategy as you see fit, Kane.” Stapes chuckled from behind his big desk. “But he’s your partner until he learns the ropes.”
Everett stared at the patchwork file labeled C. Harkan and decided it was too thick to contain so little fact. But he let it thunk on the major’s desk and leaned back in his chair, lacing hands behind his head like he couldn’t be bothered. Seemed he was getting a partner after all. He asked, “When’s Mr. Sunshine reporting for duty?”
A new voice at the door replied, “Ten minutes ago.”
That low, even tone turned Everett’s head quick, and he got his first look at Detective Colton Harkan.
Somehow, he looked exactly like his file—a few broad strokes to make the outline of a man. A body by default, formed out of assumption and habit. Like he’d shrugged into life one day and hadn’t figured out why. At first glance, Everett was struck with the thought that a man with his background, running thick as thieves with all manner of rough, shouldn’t look so quiet, so worn. So tired. Colt’s dark eyes and darker hair gave him the look of a shadow, like a piece of thread left to twist in the wind and well, maybe Everett could see it now, on that second look.
Everett knew much about different kinds of dangerous. There was the obvious threat, clocked and taken out on approach.
And there’s the one you never see comin’…
Everett’s curiosity got the better of him as he held Colt’s gaze, a worn-wood ochre that spoke of knowledge learned through pain. Wisdom, some might call it. Colt seemed the type to call it necessary means. He had an angular face that might’ve looked kinder with a smile, but it didn’t seem to Everett those were muscles Colt flexed often—though the rest of him was in decent shape. Golden skin shone like he was hardly without a tan. The purple under his eyes matched a bad night’s sleep or two days’ drunk. Having had his share of both, Everett figured he wasn’t in much position to judge and decided to extract the foot from his mouth as fast as possible.
He walked to the door, hand extended. “Everett Kane, Lead Detective. I’ll be your—”
“I know who you are.”
Colt’s assessing eyes swept up and down Everett’s frame, radiating how unimpressed he was with anything he was seeing. From Everett’s khaki work slacks, blue button-up and cheap tie, even the pleasant smile plastered across his face, Everett knew himself to be the very picture of politeness.
None of it seemed to matter to the man in the doorway. He stepped to the side, angled around Everett and inclined his head to the man behind the desk. “Major.”
With that, he left the office.
Everett’s outstretched arm felt cold in the empty air, like the handshake he’d expected and had decidedly not received was some missed opportunity. His fingers itched as he pulled up short, anxious to get a read on the mystery he’d be working with. Could tell a lot about a man from a handshake. Maybe more from one passed by.
Everett’s hands braced on his hips, thumbs digging into the leather of his belt. He watched through the major’s window as Colt ambled to the only empty desk, set down a yellow legal pad like he’d been there for years, then left for whereabouts unknown.
Everett swiveled his head to the major, not caring the door was open or that the squad could probably hear him. “You’ve gotta be fuckin’ kidding me, Stapes.”
“Just a couple of months till he gets his feet.”
“And if he don’t?”
“Then I’ll fire him—and you, if you don’t start doin’ what it is I pay you for.”
Everett mumbled something about “Seniority my ass,” that he was careful not to finish too loudly. Before the major could ask him to repeat it, he cut Stapes a sarcastic salute and stuffed his fists in his pockets, resigning himself to follow a man whose training would clearly include Workplace Etiquette for Dummies. If they made it through training at all.