The Undercover Affair

By: Cathryn Parry

CHAPTER ONE

“OH-OH-SIX, M-S-T. A white box truck. That’s the tag and vehicle description for the crew of movers. They gave their names as—”

A shadow fell across the decoy catalog where Lyndsay Fairfax had scribbled her morning’s surveillance notes. Instinctively, she covered the jottings as she lifted her head.

Outside her car window, a man’s gaze met hers—the bartender from the Seaside Bar and Grill, whose parking lot she was currently sitting in. Her “police brain” automatically noted the details: six feet tall, dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt. He had brown hair with piercing gray-blue eyes.

She hadn’t expected anyone to sneak up on her like that. There was no exit on this side of the parking lot, which meant he must have come from the house behind the restaurant.

He stared, his attention lingering on her face. She’d noticed him during the past week while she ate lunch at the Seaside with the group of home contractors from the wealthy cul-de-sac she’d infiltrated. But he wasn’t the object of her investigation in Wallis Point, New Hampshire, and so she’d never endeavored to meet him. Her police task force hadn’t mentioned investigating him or the Seaside Bar and Grill.

With her phone still pressed to her ear, Lyndsay gave him the sweet, friendly “Lyn Francis” smile that her undercover alter ego had been using all week while she passed as an interior designer for Mrs. Kitty MacLaine and her congressman husband.

Unlike the contractors in the small community that she’d been monitoring, this man didn’t smile back at her. And something in his wary eyes made her pause.

His frown deepened as he moved past her vehicle.

Chewing her lip, she watched him, following his progress down the restaurant’s small, gravel parking lot to a commercial van labeled Seacoast Beer Distributors idling in the far spot. The bartender stood outside the passenger door, hand on his hip, as he rapped on the window, then initiated what appeared to be a not-so-friendly conversation with a younger man, also on his mobile phone.

She blew out a breath. Of course—the bartender was preoccupied with the state of his establishment’s beer lines.

“Lyn, are you there?” her partner’s gravelly voice asked over the phone.

“I’m here,” she said, relaxing into her seat again.

“What’s going on?”

“A local passed by the car. He’s gone now.”

“Be careful. The most important thing is to keep your cover.”

“Don’t I know it.” Pete, her partner during the past week, was a grizzled old-timer with years of experience under his belt, and though she was an experienced state police officer as well, this was her first time undercover. Pete seemed protective of her for it, and she didn’t mind. She got to do the interesting work, gathering and relaying the information to him, while he sat on the other side of her phone calls.

She craved the work. She needed the work.

“Okay,” she said, “moving on, the two guys who go with the white box truck are the McAuliffe brothers, James and Brian. James goes by Jimmie. Both are about five-ten. Midtwenties. Live locally. The truck has no identifying company name or logo, and I’m given to understand that they’re freelancers who work for themselves by word of mouth.”

“Got it.” Pete’s voice was a murmur, as if he was concentrating because he was typing the information.

“That’s all for today. I hope this is helping the burglary investigation,” she said wistfully, keeping her eye on the bartender, his back still to her. She was leaving this afternoon. She was going to miss the assignment, as well as her lunches at the Seaside with the contractor teams.

“Yeah, it’s helping. So far we’ve been ruling people out as suspects. We’ll find out more about the investigation tomorrow.”

“Right.” Tomorrow was the day the burglary task force was meeting at headquarters, up in Concord. She hoped to be part of phase two, because to be part of the team that brought down the ring of thieves preying on wealthy homes along the seacoast was what she most wanted.

The bartender glanced her way, and it wasn’t a friendly look. He was suspicious of her still. And that could jeopardize things…

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