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Arresting Victoria – Incognito #12

ArrestingVictoria_300X454ISBN:  978-1-60088-428-3

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They met once through The Pleasure Club, now they find one another in the heart of Incognito.

Drake Kavanaugh is a private investigator working undercover to set up a sting on a human sex slave ring. He wants Victoria, but he has to keep his distance or risk blowing his cover.

Victoria Casey wants him more than anything in the world, and when she’s in his arms she feels safe. Little does she know that one good deed could lead her right into the middle of his sting where her life, and her body, is up for sale.

Link to The Pleasure Club – The Cop


EXCERPT:

Drake Kavanaugh headed straight for the bar when he first entered the exclusive fetish club, Incognito. It wasn’t often that he got a night off, so he sure as hell wasn’t going to pass up a beer or two tonight. He was here to meet with Detective Paul Baxter, but that didn’t count as business, not if they were meeting here. And who knew? Maybe, he thought as he glanced around at the various club patrons, just maybe he might wrap up his talk with Paul quick enough to sneak in a half hour or so for some more enjoyable pursuits.

“Hey, Drake,” Tyrone said from behind the polished mahogany bar. “What’ll it be?”

“Bottle of Bud.” He cocked his head toward the other end of the bar. “And that busty redhead down there.”

Tyrone’s laugh was boisterous as he twisted the cap off the longneck. “Here’s the brew, but I ain’t playin’ pimp to an ex-detective. Sorry, man.”

“Aw, I’m outta my jurisdiction. Do a guy a favor,” he said with a grin, then winked. He dropped a five on the bar and waved it away, letting the burly bartender know he could keep the change. “You seen Paul Baxter around?”

Tyrone nodded. “Sure have. Over there.”

Drake turned to see where Tyrone meant, and Paul raised his hand. “Thanks, Ty,” he said, taking his cold longneck with him.

He made his way across the main floor of the club. It wasn’t very busy, since it was before five in the evening and a weekday, but it wasn’t empty either. The air was filled with the unmistakable scents of sex and lemon cleaner…not unpleasant. A few couples sat here and there, mostly just enjoying a happy hour cocktail or two. It seldom got exciting until later at night. Then it was no holds barred, and anything Drake might fantasize could become reality. Damned if he didn’t wish he had the time to hang out here more often. He’d paid the ungodly fee for membership to the private club but only managed to make it in once or twice a month.

“Hey,” he said when he pulled out a chair next to Paul, who sat alone at a small, round table.

Paul clasped his hand in greeting. “Thanks for coming.”

Drake turned the chair to face the hall, still unable to stand having his back to the crowd after all of the years spent as an undercover cop. Then he sprawled into it, crossing his ankles and taking a swig of his beer. “No problem. Besides, your message got my curiosity up.” He lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper that was half serious, half amused. “Why the clandestine meeting in a top secret location?”

Paul flashed a brief smile and took a drink from his own glass. Drake wondered briefly whether his friend’s soda was spiked with a touch of liquor or not. Then Paul set the glass aside. “I need some help.”

Drake cocked an eyebrow and cast him a glance. “Oh?”

“Mmm hmm. I’m on this case, and it’s a real bitch because we can’t get any of our guys on the inside.”

Drake fiddled with the label on his beer, his question stone cold serious this time. “And you want me on the inside?”

“I’d like you to consider trying, yes.”

“Why can’t you get your own guys in?”

“Because, as you know, the law limits how far an officer can go. There are lines we can’t cross and still hope to make a case that’ll hold up in court. Whereas, a P.I. has more…latitude…shall we say, to make things convincing.”

When Paul paused, Drake said, “I’m listening.”

“We could do a raid, I suppose, if we could get a judge to sign off on a warrant, but if we were to move in right away…” He shook his head. “No, we need to find the ring leader, the men responsible for this whole operation, not arrest some poor women who’ll just be deported and replaced by others.”

Drake sat up and leaned his elbow on the table. “Okay, you’ve definitely pricked my curiosity. What are we talking about here?”

“Sex slave trade.”

“Whoa.”

Paul nodded and twirled his glass between his hands. His somber expression told Drake how hard this case was for him.

“I suppose the guys doing the trading aren’t the ‘safe, sane, and consensual’ type.”

Paul shook his head. “There’s nothing consensual about this operation.” He scanned the club, licked his lips, and then met Drake’s eyes. “A month ago, a body was discovered on the beach about fifteen miles from here. Young girl, around sixteen or so.” He rubbed his forehead with his fingertips, and Drake could see how exhausted his friend was. “It was bad, man. Real bad. Beaten, cut, evidence of… Well, it was one of the most horrific things I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a hell of a lot in my years.”

Drake nodded. “Yeah.” He’d seen some pretty sick shit while on the force back in Chicago—the things mankind would do for pennies or no reason at all. He sighed and took another swig of beer.

“A week later, we got a call from the hospital. Another girl, young, pretty, cut and bruised and…mangled…a lot like the first. But this one was alive. Of course, our first thought was that a serial attacker was on the loose and trolling for victims along the shoreline. A couple had found this victim on another beach and called for an ambulance.”

“Okay, I’m following so far,” Drake said, then took another swallow of his beer, not enjoying it as much as he’d hoped. He’d helped bust a human trafficking sex ring in Chicago about six years earlier. It wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was downright nasty. Girls from adolescent to barely legal forced to use their bodies to make money for their pimps—their owners.

“The girl in the hospital—gorgeous Cuban girl of seventeen—actually talked. She was scared to death of us, but more fearful of her captors. She told us about her parents buying her transport into the U.S. She was supposed to work off the rest of the money by waiting tables. They told her father that in two years, she’d have her green card and would be free to live the great American life.”

Yeah, same song, second verse, Drake thought. The predators preyed on families in third-world countries or anywhere they could find impoverished neighborhoods where families had trouble feeding all of the mouths in their ramshackle hovels. They always promised opportunities in the big city, an education, a chance to get rich, achieve the American dream—whatever it took.

Paul cleared his throat then downed the rest of his drink. “All of her real paperwork, identification, birth certificate—you name it—had been collected by a man in her village who made these promises to her father. After that, she was flown to another country and eventually brought into the States with a fake identity. She thought she could go to school while she worked in some diner, but when she got here, she was brought to…” He shrugged. “It was a brothel, plain and simple, disguised as a bar.”

Drake nodded. “Many of them are.” Massage parlors, pool halls, pubs, or gentlemen’s clubs. The sign out front mattered little, so long as men with money could pair up with working girls behind closed doors and away from prying eyes.

“Yeah.” Paul sighed and folded his hands together on top of the table. “There were other girls there. They were expected to be friendly to the bar patrons. Anything was allowed so long as the patron kept buying drinks. But she couldn’t tell us where. She never saw the outside of the place. Not until a man, one who worked there, offered to take her away, help her escape.”

“A test,” Drake suspected right off the bat.

“We think so. When she agreed, he took her to the beach and…left her there to die.”

“Fuck.”

“Yep. That about sums it up. She died a few weeks later from complications from surgery. One clue she gave us, though, was that it wasn’t a long drive from the bar to the beach. She estimated five, maybe ten minutes. But fuck, everything here is near the beach. We’ve got it narrowed down, we think, to three places in Little Mexico.”

There was no mistaking Paul’s frustration. Drake sighed. “And your boys can’t get in there?”

“Like I said, if we send them in to check things out, they pretty much have to lay out cash and buy a girl, or we won’t learn anything. Just by doing that, they’re breaking the law, and we can’t have that. But if we have an anonymous informant…”

Drake got it. He could lay out cash and buy time with a girl without any departmental politics involved. He could do some digging from the inside which, for a cop, would be impossible, because as soon as he tried to loiter or refused their special services in one of those places, he would be marked as the law, and nothing illegal happened. Money must exchange hands, and illegal activity must go on and be witnessed for there to be anything for the cops to build a case around.

“Okay. So, you want me to check these three places out… Do a little digging… See if I can purchase a girl of my own and find out who’s running the show?”

“That about sums it up. Because of the location of these places in Little Mexico, there’s no telling if the women—girls—there are of legal age or not, and we don’t know if they’re working there of their own free will. And because Little Mexico is run like a police state by Hugo Sanchez, the unofficial mayor, and he’s always cooperated with us in the past, there’s been no bad blood. But if we go in there waving badges and arresting all these women—who would be too scared to tell us anything, anyway—we’ll fuck ourselves. We need to know who to go after before we do it. Try to take out the ringleader who’s footing the bill to get these girls here—and profiting from them being here. And then pray Sanchez will take our side.”

“And if he’s in on it? What if he’s the money behind it?”

“We’ll only know that when we get someone on the inside.”

Drake leaned back in his chair and took another swallow of beer. “Okay.”

“Okay?” Paul asked, sounding surprised.

“I was undercover on a similar trafficking ring in Chicago. It was Russian girls there, but I’m sure these fuckers work about the same everywhere. Same story as you told, promising these girls a bright future in America when what they get is stuck in these places, forced to fuck for pay, which they forfeit to their handlers to pay off some obscene, manufactured debt. A few escape, but most die, either by their own hands or some john with a sick twist to his kink. So yeah, if you need me, I’m there. You tell me where and when and exactly what you want.”

Paul sighed in what looked like relief. “I told my boss I was going to talk to you, and he’s all for it. You’ll be an anonymous paid informant for now, I’ll be your one and only contact within the force, but when it goes down, you’ll probably need to testify, which means a big target on your forehead if we don’t get them all.”

Drake absently rubbed the old scar on his chest. Wouldn’t be the first time he walked around with a big, bold bull’s-eye on his back. “I’ve been taking money from people wanting to know if their spouses were cheating on them for the last few years and installing security systems. Maybe some excitement is what I need.”

Paul chuckled. “You miss it, don’t you?”

With a one-shoulder shrug, Drake finished off his beer. “Yes and no.” He missed the adrenaline rush of breaking a case, getting the bad guy—the sense of accomplishment he felt when the drug dealer or pimp or crime boss sat behind bars. But he didn’t miss the fear of being undercover, of always looking over his shoulder, wondering who was ready to slit his throat at any moment.

“I appreciate the help, whatever you’re willing to give me.”

Drake smiled and slapped him on the shoulder. “I’m here for ya.” He yawned and slouched in his chair again. He’d been up most of the night staking out a motel, gathering dirt on a client’s cheating husband. After that, he spent the morning testing the new security system he contracted to be installed at an apartment complex. He was beat.

And all the talk of illegal human trafficking had put a damper on his appetite for sex. As much as he’d like to put his membership to better use at Incognito, he decided he’d have to take a rain check on sticking around to leash a stray sub for a quickie.

He folded his hands over his middle and scanned the room. Then his heart almost jumped out of his chest when he spotted someone he never expected to see again.

“Holy shit,” he muttered as he sat up and swung his chair around, so his back was to the woman.

Paul raised his eyebrows. “What?”

“That woman with Kat.” He thumbed over his shoulder.

“Hot babe. What about her? She one of the cheaters you’ve been following?” Paul’s grin was pure humor. “Or one of the other women?”

“Neither. Remember I told you about The Pleasure Club?”

“The sex date club?” Paul’s expression proved his friend was having too much fun at his expense. Paul’s tone changed to mimic an anonymous commercial announcer. “TPC…the pleasurable way to turn fantasy into reality.”

“Yeah, yeah… So you remember.” Drake rolled his eyes and stayed slouched in his chair. “Quit staring at her.”

“What about it?”

“She was one of my…nights.”

Paul let out a low whistle between his teeth, his attention even more riveted now as she walked about the room with the club’s owner. “That’s some fantasy, man.” When Drake didn’t respond, Paul’s eyes narrowed on him. “Why’re you hiding from her? She couldn’t’ve been that bad.”

Drake shook his head. “No. She was…amazing. And fun.” Too fun. He squeezed his eyes tight, trying to force that night from his memory. The attempt was a lost cause. He’d thought about his witty little “diamond thief” a thousand times in the last few months. He hadn’t found anyone so great before or since.

“Okay, so why are you freaking out?”

Drake looked across the table at his buddy. They’d been friends since he moved to Florida, and Paul was the one who introduced him to Incognito, but TPC had been Drake’s thing. Paul didn’t need blind dates when he had a cute little redhead warming his bed at home.

“Because it’s against TPC rules for two players to seek contact outside of the club, especially for someone like me who has the ability to find just about anyone. I signed a contract, swore to never look for anyone I met through the club. We all use pseudonyms. It’s supposed to be totally anonymous.”

Paul leaned forward and in a stage whisper said, “You didn’t seek her out. You two happen to be in the same place at the same time. It’s fate, man. The stars aligned.”

He shoved Paul’s shoulder. “Cut that shit out.”

Paul laughed.

Drake couldn’t tell his buddy he didn’t want to see his diamond thief outside of TPC, because he did. He’d dreamed of it. He’d even caught himself driving by the house that belonged to the real V. Casey, according to the mailbox at the curb. That had been a technical violation of the rules, but he appeased the guilt with a lame excuse that he’d been headed in the general direction anyway. And he’d idly wondered what TPC member had volunteered the home for that night’s scene. He figured the club would’ve prepared her for the night by providing the key and layout so she could stay in character. She’d done a damn fine job, and he’d hoped to see her again, because that one amazing night was something he held precious in his…heart.

Fuck, he was a sap, but it was true. He’d hoped that TPC would hook them up again, even though Pleasure Masters weren’t allowed to request a specific member.

Still, he’d hoped she might….

 

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