Damien Drake hunched low, hiding his six-foot frame behind a parked Lincoln Navigator. He was breathing heavily, and sweat was dripping down his forehead despite the snow that flitted down around him.
I’m getting sloppy.
If it hadn’t been for his recent health kick—not skipping the booze, certainly, but cutting back—he almost certainly would have been seen.
And what had Ken Smith instructed him?
Don’t be noticed. If you’re noticed, I will deny ever speaking to you, Drake. And you know what that means.
Drake grimaced as he recalled their conversation by the fire in Ken’s lavish penthouse condo.
Yeah, I know. I know what that means.
He instinctively held his breath when he heard the voices, louder now, and he remained completely still, hoping that the two people he had been following hadn’t noticed the puffs of warm air filtering up from behind the Lincoln.
“You know what the worst thing is?” the male voice asked.
“He’s the one who’s dirty; he’s the one who bailed his son out of all his problems as a teenager, paid off the cops, reporters, and god knows who else. And yet he’s painting me as a criminal. If it wasn’t so damaging, it would be damn comical.”
Drake heard the sound of a car door opening. Taking one deep breath, he raised his head just enough to peer through the Navigator’s windows at the two people who were speaking.
One was Dr. Gary Kildare, of course, but the other was a pretty woman he didn’t recognize.
“Yeah, but you can’t go after Ken, at least not directly. If you do, you might as well just forget about winning the election,” the woman said, her bright red lips turning downward in a frown. “After what happened with Thomas…”
Dr. Kildare nodded.
“Yeah, I know. And I feel bad about what happened to his son,” he paused. “I know that this is going to sound terrible, but I can’t help but think that Thomas’s death was the best thing that happened to Ken’s election hopes. Seriously.”
The woman’s frown deepened.
“You’re right, it does sound terrible.”
Dr. Kildare sighed heavily, then rubbed at his temples with a gloved hand.
“I know; I’m sorry. It’s been a long week is all,” a weak smile crossed his face, which made him look much older than he did on the large election posters that covered the windows of the building that they had just exited. “Thank you, Mary. Thanks for everything.”
Then something happened that made Drake’s eyebrows lift, something that convinced him that hanging outside in the freezing cold for the better part of an hour wasn’t a complete waste of time.
Dr. Kildare leaned in and kissed the woman, who Drake was now fairly certain was his campaign manager, on the lips. Only this wasn’t one of those European-style exchanges between close friends.
This one lingered.
When they eventually pulled apart, Dr. Kildare wiped his mouth and then his eyes darted around.
Drake dropped a split-second before the man’s gaze fell on the Navigator.
Shit, that was close.
“See you tomorrow?” Dr. Kildare asked.
“You’re sure that we can’t meet later tonight?”
There was an inaudible exchange that Drake didn’t pick up.
“Alright, tomorrow then,” Dr. Kildare said, a hint of solemnity on his tongue. “Goodnight, Mary.”
A car door closed, and then the sound of an engine starting filled the winter air.
Drake finally allowed himself to exhale, and then slumped against the Navigator’s wheel well. His relief, however, was short-lived; the sound of footsteps approaching in the freshly fallen snow incited panic.
What the hell?
It dawned on him that he had only heard one door close, and then the obvious fact that the doctor and campaign manager had said goodbye outside the car came to the fore.
Drake had expected that they would leave together, which was obviously not the case.
Jesus Christ, I really am getting sloppy. Sloppy and slow.
The real problem, was that there was only one other car in the lot beside Dr. Kildare’s Mercedes.
And that car was a black Lincoln Navigator.
Drake swallowed hard, and focused on the sound of the footsteps. He was huddled by the rear driver side door, and when he confirmed that Mary was making her way around the front of the car, he slid around the back of the vehicle, staying crouched and out of sight. The sound of a key fob chimed, and then the driver’s door opened. Mary stepped inside, knocked the snow from her boots, then slammed it closed.
Drake glanced around, desperately trying to find a way out of the situation. He considered running, but there were no other cars in the lot that he could hide behind. And in his black coat, there was no question that he would be spotted in the snow.
Does it matter? I can hide my face; she’ll never know who I am.
Drake shook his head.
It did matter; it mattered because Mary would tell Dr. Kildare, and they would know that Ken was spying on them.
And that would make them cautious, and Drake couldn’t afford that. He needed them to be loose, to be free-speaking, in order to get what Ken wanted.
There was only one other thing he could think of to do.
Drake waited for the engine to roar to life, and then when the brake lights came on, he quickly swung around to the passenger side of the vehicle. With a hand on the bumper to gauge the car’s speed, he moved with it as Mary backed out of the parking spot. He stared at the side mirror, and realized that he couldn’t make out her face; it was bent in such a way that he could only see that Navigator logo embroidered on the passenger seat headrest.
Drake was reminded of the signs that he occasionally saw plastered to the back of transport trucks.
If you can’t see me, I can’t see you.
He wondered if that were true, but then had to focus when Mary put the car into drive.
To make things worse, Dr. Kildare’s campaign manager had a lead foot, it appeared.
The car shot forward, and Drake had to jog to keep up with it, which was no small feat considering that he had to remain crouched the entire time.
He slid in behind the vehicle, his thighs burning, the inside of his legs chaffing. Just when he thought he was going to collapse with exhaustion, the car neared the entrance to the parking lot. And there, parked at the side of the road coated in a fresh layer of snow, he spotted his car. As Mary passed his Crown Vic, Drake leapt and landed on the road, barely missing the bullet-ridden hood of his ride.
The air was forced from his lungs, and he gasped, but remained completely still. The snow had looked much more comfortable, more cushioning, than it actually was.
After a moment, he turned his head and peered beneath his car. Breathing heavily, his heart-pounding in his chest, he watched as the Navigator turned left and sped into the night.
When he was confident that Mary was gone, Drake started to laugh.
This is ridiculous. Absolutely fucking ridiculous.
But as insane as it might be, he finally got something on Dr. Kildare. After all, everyone knew that the good doctor’s wife’s name was Julia, not Mary.
Check back tomorrow for Chapter 2!