Mouth to Mouth

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“He’s not going to show.” Russ Evans didn’t even spare fellow detective Jerry Anders a glance, eyes trained on the coffee shop and the woman inside sitting alone. “Ten more minutes.” Jerry didn’t protest, but Russ felt him shift in agitation, the heels of his shoes crunching in the hard packed snow. Russ knew Jerry was cold, because he was too. Hell, cold was an understatement. His nuts were completely numb. January winds were creeping in under his nylon jacket and his fingers were stiff wrapped around the binoculars he was using to watch the door of the coffee shop. But discomfort was part of the job, and he wasn’t going to be hanging his badge up anytime soon. In fact, he loved being in Special Operations, got a kick from the watching and the waiting and the thinking- cold nuts or not- because in the end there was nothing like slapping the cuffs on slimeballs. “He’s standing her up.” Thoughtful, Russ scanned the nearly deserted parking lot. Nothing. Their target, petty con artist and first class bastard, Trevor Dean, was nowhere to be found and it didn’t add up. There was no reason to think Dean had figured out the cops were waiting for him, but it wasn’t like Dean to pass up a chance to meet a woman. Women were Dean’s source of income, and he liked to live well beyond his means. “Not his usual type, is she?” Russ took another hard stare at the petite woman sitting in the shop with a cup of coffee in her hand, a thick pink scarf wrapped around her neck. The view of her face was obscured by the glass, the coffee steam, and the rich blond hair that fell over her cheek, but Russ could see enough to feel the prickles of intuition tripping up his spine. Something was off here. “You mean she’s not butt ugly?” Jerry cupped his hands and blew into them. Russ laughed. “No. Look for yourself.” He handed over the binoculars. “And Dean’s women aren’t ugly, they’re just… plain.” “Just plain ugly, maybe.” Jerry studied the blond. “But this one’s not bad. Good hair, tight sweater, I’m liking it. Hey, she just licked her lips, did a little nervous tongue thing. Do that again, honey.” “Glad you’re enjoying yourself.” Russ stamped up and down a little to get the blood flowing in his legs. “Well, my pants are warmer anyway.” “But don’t you think it’s strange that this woman looks so different? I don’t like it when a con changes a pattern without reason. He’s been going after plain women, earning their trust. Letting them think he’s in love with them, then stealing everything they’ve got- and it’s been working. That we know of, he’s hauled off a hundred thousand bucks so far. And there’s probably been more. So why do anything different?” Binoculars still stuck to his eyes, Jerry murmured, “Maybe this one isn’t for business. Maybe this one is just for pleasure.” Russ hauled himself off the brick wall of the bookstore across the street and pitched the cigarette he’d been holding down into a snowdrift where it sizzled. He’d been hanging onto the thing just in case they were spotted. It would look less suspicious, like he’d just stepped outside the store for a smoke. He dug a cinnamon disc out of his pocket and unwrapped it, popped it into his mouth. Crunching on his candy, Russ said, “Like a girlfriend, huh? A real one?” He bent over and picked the butt back up once it stopped burning and dropped it in the pocket of his jacket. “You could be onto something, Anders.” “What can I say? I’m a deep thinker.” “Bullshit.” Russ grabbed the binoculars off of Jerry’s face. “Pick your tongue back up off the ground before it freezes to the concrete.” “So if Dean’s got a girlfriend, why’s he standing her up?” “Because you can stand up your girlfriend. “Sorry babe, I got held up” and all that shit. You can’t do that with a woman you’re trying to con.” You didn’t piss off the meal ticket. Jerry snorted. “Maybe you can stand up your girlfriend and get away with it, but Pam would rip me a new one if I did that. Of course, you don’t got a girlfriend, because nobody will put up with your ugly mug.” “I don’t have a girlfriend because I don’t want one. I’ll stick to casual sex. You can keep all that other crap that goes with a relationship.” Russ didn’t have time for it. Between his job and raising his little brother Sean, he barely had time to go to the john. And he’d never met a woman yet who didn’t make things more complicated than they needed to be. “You’re a cold man, Evans. But someday you’re going to get knocked on your ass by some woman and I’m going to be there taking pictures.” Russ only half heard Jerry’s razzing him, puzzling over the blond waiting for Dean. If this woman was Dean’s girlfriend, was she in on the con? What did she know? And could she be coerced into talking? Stuffing the binoculars in his pocket alongside the cigarette butt, he started across the street. “Where the hell are you going?” “Stay here a minute, Anders. I’m going in the shop, get a better look at this chick. I’ve got a feeling about her…” “Yeah, I just bet you’ve got a feeling,” Jerry grumbled. “Fine, leave me out here freezing my ass off while you check out the blond. I’m waiting in the goddamn car.” Russ grinned over his shoulder. “Don’t be such a whiner, Jesus. If you’re quiet, maybe I’ll even bring you a coffee.” “Do that, Evans. So I can spill it on your lap.” The warm air from the shop hit Russ as he opened the door, enveloping him in the scent of coffee beans and chocolate. The bell announced his entrance and the spike haired guy working the counter glanced over, gave him a head nod. “Hey, how’s it going?” “Good.” Russ waited for the blond to look up, but she didn’t. She was reading a magazine, a strand of her hair wrapped around a finger, and pulled across her lips. She didn’t look capable of theft. She looked sweet and innocent, her fleece scarf making her look like an overzealous Old Navy employee on her coffee break. But Russ knew looks were deceiving. He’d seen the most evil hearts lurking behind pretty faces. His fingers were still frozen, so he went to order himself a coffee. Than he would feel the blond out, see where she fit in this puzzle so he could track down Dean. The chalkboard menu was riddled with flavors and blends, iced and hot, mochas and javas and lattes, and he gave up trying to read it. “I just want a cup of coffee. Black.” The guy wiped his hands on his green apron. “What kind of bean? You can pick from these.” He pointed to the case of seventeen different bean flavors. “Oh, Jesus Christ.” Scanning the variety of French this, vanilla that, winter roast-whatever the hell that was- and hazelnut, he said, “Just give me something with no flavor. Something that just tastes like coffee.” The clerk smirked a little. “You know, there’s a Perkins down the street. They have that bottomless coffee pot deal going on.” Wise-ass. Russ was debating flashing his badge to scare the little punk, when he heard someone call, “Russ!” Startled, he turned to see the blond rising from her table, a welcoming smile dancing over her face. “I’m so glad you made it, Russ! I’ve been really looking forward to meeting you.” What the… Knock him over with a fucking feather, the woman knew his name. She reached him, took both of his hands and squeezed. She knew his name, looked pleased to see him. He was holding hands with Dean’s girlfriend and didn’t have a clue what was going on. “Hi,” he said. Wow, that was really thinking on his feet.