Authors: Jana DeLeon
"And what does the deputy do on Sunday that can't be disturbed?" Richard's voice began to take on an aggravated tone.
"Fish?" Richard's voice raised a notch or two. "You're telling me you want a federal law enforcement officer to wait until Monday to conduct business because the person in charge is fishing?" He stared at Joe as if he'd lost his mind.
Joe shook his head in dismay, the conversation he had ready for Jenny long forgotten. He threw some bills on the counter and nodded to the cafe owner, who stood next to the grill, an anxious look on her face. "Okay. I'll take you, but don't say I didn't warn you.”
Dorie stepped out onto the deck of the large cruiser she called home and cast her fishing line into the bayou. She was going to relax this afternoon even if it harelipped the Pope. The weekend's events had been far more than the norm for Gator Bait and she was ready to wash it all from her mind-if only for a couple of hours. Tomorrow morning she'd make a phone call or two, but she didn't really expect to find out much of anything. Basically, that left her with the ole sit-and-wait, something that tended to grate on her nerves.
She draped her beach towel over the lawn chair beside her and reached for the tanning lotion on the small table next to it. Carefully setting her bra straps to the right location, she began applying the lotion to her arms and shoulders. Her tan looked very nice for so early in the year, she observed as she worked the lotion into her skin and noticed how it complemented the pink nail polish.
Moving down to her legs, she rolled up the denim shorts as high as they would go and doused the exposed skin with lotion. Dorie didn't believe in bathing suits. What was the point of spending all that money? She wasn't going swimming and undergarments worked just the same. Besides, since she went without a bra most days anyway, tanning was almost the only time the thin lacy fabric got a workout.
And everyone in Gator Bait knew not to bother her on a Sunday. It only took one interruption from Joe for him to decide that talking to Dorie while she tanned was far too uncomfortable to merit the conversation. Nothing in Gator Bait could be that big of an emergency. So that left the creatures of the bayou as her only audience, and she was fairly sure the fish didn't care. In fact, the company of alligators and fish was more preferable to her because they never offered any advice on how to live her life.
Finished with the lotion, she stretched out on the lounge chair and put on her sunglasses. The weather was perfect. Nice warm sun and a gentle breeze blowing off the gulf. Definitely sleeping weather. Aligning her limbs so that none shaded the other, she closed her eyes.
She must have been dreaming, because it took a while to realize the noise she imagined in her head was very real. She rose slightly from her chair and saw Joe about to dock at her boat. And he didn't look happy.
As Joe guided the boat down the bayou, Richard studied the terrain. This was going to be a pain in the ass. There were probably a zillion bayous and cuts and inlets in which to hide and move down here. And from the odor wafting up off the water, he was fairly sure he wanted to finish up this assignment as quickly as possible. Of course, he'd felt that way for eight years, and he still wasn't much closer to catching Shawn Roland than he had been when he first started with the agency.
Roland excelled at his job.
He looked across the bow and realized they were approaching an old dilapidated cabin cruiser. There was hardly any paint at all left on the hull and PVC pipes ran from the boat onto land, letting him know this baby hadn't left the dock in a long time. Joe cut his speed as they approached the floating disaster, and Richard put one hand over his eyes to shade from the sun. He could barely make out a fishing pole extended off the side of the relic, and a figure in a lawn chair next to it. As they drew nearer, the figure was all too clear.
Joe pulled right up next to the cruiser and grabbed the side, bringing his boat to a complete stop, then peered over the edge of the cruiser at the woman in the lounge chair. Richard stared at her in amazement. Surely she'd heard them approaching. Why in the world hadn't she put on her clothes? And why were they stopping? Sunbathing in your underwear was hardly as serious a crime as drug smuggling.
The woman lowered her sunglasses and looked over at them. "Hi, Joe," she said. "Problem?"
"Someone here to see you," Joe said.
"Anyone I know?" she asked, her voice teasing.
Joe gave Richard a wry look. "No, but he's exactly what you were expecting"
The woman smiled and sat up in her chair.
"This is Richard Starke," Joe said. "He's with the DEA in Washington, D.C. Mr. Starke, this is Deputy Dorie Berenger. She's in charge here."
Richard stared at Joe in amazement. This had to be some kind of joke. The woman on the boat next to him couldn't possibly be in charge of this town. She was barely dressed, for starters.
Dorie Berenger was all woman-from her mass of blond hair all the way down to her bright pink toenail polish-and Richard was not in the least bit happy about how that made him feel. Where was his self-control? He was here to catch a drug smuggler, not get laid.
Dorie stood and gave him a quick assessment. "DEA, huh? You got here awfully fast for a fingerprint with no prior record. Go figure." She gave Joe a smile and he grinned.
Richard glared at the woman, willing his gaze away from her well-endowed chest. This was business-serious business and nothing in the world would interfere with him getting his man, especially not the floozy in front of him. "I need information on the print you ran," he said, "but I can't imagine you'd be the person to give it to me."
She cocked her head to one side and studied him. "No? And just what kind of person do you imagine I am, Dick?"
"It's Richard," he said, bristling, "and I imagine you're the kind of person who should be arrested for public indecency. I can't believe you're the type to effectively run a law enforcement agency."
She laughed, seemingly unaffected by his comment. "Geez, Dick. I didn't realize you city boys were so sensitive. I'd think you'd never seen a bra before. Is that it? You've never seen a bra before?"
Richard felt a flush of anger begin to creep up his neck. "It's Richard, and the bras I've seen are not the point. The point is, I've never seen them on another law enforcement officer. Particularly not in public." He looked at Joe. "You should arrest this woman"
Joe pursued his lips. "Yeah, you see, the only problem with that is that we're not on public property. Dorie lives on this boat, and it's docked in the game preserve. So technically, I'm out of my jurisdiction. This is an issue for the game warden."
"You live on this floating piece of garbage?" Richard stared at Dorie, trying to control his mounting anger but barely succeeding. "And I don't suppose you have a game warden available?" He looked back at Joe.
Joe gave him an amused look. "Sure," he said and nodded his head toward Dorie.
"You've got to be kidding me!" Richard finally exploded, all patience gone. He looked at Dorie, who had put on a semblance of a T-shirt, but the thin white material wasn't much better than nothing at all. "For Christ's sake, she's fishing! In the game preserve! Isn't that against the law?"
"I'm not fishing," Dorie said. She picked up the rod and began to reel in the line. When the cork popped out of the water, Richard could see there was no line or hook beneath it.
"I'm tanning," she continued. "I always tan on Sunday."
Exasperated beyond belief, Richard threw his hands up in the air. "This is how it is. I want to see what you lifted the print from and make sure you did your job properly, which is highly in question at the moment. If, after my test, the print is still a match, I'm taking over this investigation."
Dorie smiled at him and shrugged. "Well, Dick, you can certainly try."
Dorie watched Joe as he headed back up the bayou, Mr. Personality in tow, and blew out a breath as they disappeared around a corner. This wasn't going to be pretty. And since Dick was really living up to his name, it would be far more work than she was interested in-if she could even get enough information out of him to help. The idiot seemed to think he could waltz into a small town, ask questions and actually get an honest answer.
He had a lot to learn.
And that was a shame, really, because Dick wasn't exactly a bad-looking man. In fact, he ranked somewhere around downright hot in her estimation. If the situation had been anything other than what it was, Dorie would have considered passing a little time with him, but instead she just wanted him to pass through her town and take his attitude and his criminal with him.
She stored the fishing pole and walked into the cabin. Besides, who did he think he was, making those derogatory comments about her living arrangements? Sure, it could use a bit of paint, but it wasn't that bad. She gave the inside a critical look, scanning the entire interior standing in one place.
The kitchenette was small but serviceable and had a tiny table opposite it. The bath was no more than a shower, toilet and sink, but what else did you need? And there may only be one bedroom with a single bed, but Dorie didn't have visitors-the kind who needed a guest room or the kind who wanted to sleep with her.
Okay, maybe it was a little sparse and dull, but if she put up decorations, then she'd have to dust them. What was the point? This way everything fell to the ground and she could vacuum it all up easily. Of course, with his straight-laced personality, Richard probably had a house with one of those fancy toilets that squirted water. It may be the only way to loosen up his tight ass.
Realizing she had stalled long enough, she grabbed a pair of jeans from a basket in the bedroom and threw them on along with a pair of tennis shoes. She started to change into a thicker T-shirt, but decided against it. She only had one clean one left, and laundry was not her favorite activity. Besides, Richard claimed he had seen a bra before. He could just get over the T-shirt.
She locked the cabin behind her and jumped down into her bass boat. As she hurried back to town, she thought about the situation again.
If she made Mr. Personality uncomfortable, that was just an added bonus. She owed him one for disturbing her day off. No one disturbed her on her day off. And a girl should be allowed to have a little fun.
Especially with a Dick.
As they made their way up the bayou to town, Richard's jaw was set and his teeth ached from clenching them together. This was not going as planned. He had expected to find a fat, balding man in charge of this hick town. Someone who was more than eager to turn the investigation over to qualified law enforcement so he could get on with his beer drinking, or fishing, or whatever the hell they did around here for entertainment. After the tanning-fiasco, he was almost afraid to know.
He tried to tell himself he was only shocked by the woman's behavior, but he knew that wasn't all of it. He was shocked by the woman herself. Dorie Berenger was the last thing he expected to find in a place like Gator Bait. She'd look more at home gracing the front page of a magazine-at least until she opened her mouth. Still, the sheriff had left her in charge, so he must have thought she was qualified to do the job. Of course, the sheriff could be on leave for mental problems, which would explain everything nicely.
He needed to focus. Check the print, find his criminal and get the hell out of this place. If that print even turned out to be a match, and at this point, the entire situation seemed rather grim.
Which meant he was back to square one. And no closer to catching Roland than he had been his first day on the job. If this turned out to be nothing, where did he go from here? The anxiety of starting over again left a bitter taste in his mouth, and he hoped desperately that despite the less-than-stellar actions of the local law enforcement, there was actually something to the print they had run. Something that would end this once and for all.
Richard looked over at Joe, who still wore a sour expression. "You get much in the way of crime around here?" he asked.
Joe stared at him, apparently a little surprised at the question. "No, not really," he finally replied. "Mostly fishing and gaming violations, drunk and disorderlies, domestic disputes. Your normal course of business for a small town."
"But never any problems with drugs?"
Joe rapidly shook his head. "No way. We bust a couple of teenagers for grass now and then, but nothing big has ever been through this town. I guarantee that."