It Happened One Wedding Page 31

“It’s f**king genius,” Pritchett bragged to Vaughn. “I’ve got a good group here. Whatever you want, we can get it done. We rent vans or trucks, depending on the size of the job. If anybody ever stops us, we’ll just show them our badges and say we’re working off-duty to deliver items that somebody bought at an auction. Nobody’s gonna question that.”

“You get stopped a lot?” Vaughn asked, looking skeptical.

“Not once. I’m just telling you that we have a backup plan, if necessary,” Pritchett said, quick to reassure him. “This isn’t some amateur thing I’m running here. We’re cops. That’s the beauty of it. We know the way cops think.”

“Such as?” Vaughn asked.

“Like, we know to split up when driving a route because a large caravan of vans driving along Lake Shore Drive in the middle of the night might arouse suspicions. We know the neighborhoods and streets that cops patrol the most. We know all kinds of tricks like that.” Pritchett took a sip of coffee. “But it’s not just the police you gotta worry about. Maybe somebody else gets word that you’re moving guns and decides he wants in on the action. Maybe he thinks it’d be easy to take out a smuggler or two and steal your merchandise for himself.” He nodded to the two beefy police officers on each side of him. “We’re ready for that kind of thing. We’re like the goddamn Boy Scouts. Right, Ortiz?”

“‘Always be prepared,’” the beefy cop on Pritchett’s right answered with a sly grin.

Vaughn betrayed no reaction to that, but in his head he was thinking that the jury, and the press, was going to love that little exchange. Corrupt cops comparing themselves to Boy Scouts—it was sound bites like these that got blasted all over the media once a case went public.

“We have tasers, guns, and bulletproof vests,” Pritchett boasted. “Whatever you need smuggled into the city, we got it covered. No one will mess with us.”

Vaughn leaned back in his chair and studied Pritchett, as if thinking all this through. “I have a job out of Indianapolis,” he finally said. “Maybe we could consider it a tryout.”

Pritchett’s eyes lit up greedily. “What’s the cargo?”

“Firearms—a mix of assault rifles and handguns,” Vaughn said.

Pritchett shrugged. “No problem.”

“Guns are heavy. How many guys are in your crew?”

“Four, plus me.”

“All of them come with those handy badges you talked about?”

Pritchett grinned at that. “Every one.”

So they were looking at a smuggling ring with five active cops. “How do you know you can trust them? They’re cops. What if they suddenly get a guilty conscience?” Vaughn pointed emphatically. “You f**k me on this, Pritchett, and it’ll be the last f**kup you ever make.”

Pritchett was quick to ease his concerns. “Don’t worry. I handpicked all these guys myself. It took me almost a year to put this group together. These guys are solid—they know a good business opportunity when they see one.”

Vaughn pulled a piece of paper out of his pants pocket and slid it across the table to Pritchett. Enough of the chitchat—it was time for them to seal this deal. “The top address is the warehouse in Indianapolis where you’ll pick up the guns. Be there a week from Monday at midnight. Park on the south side of the lot—a guy named Masso will be waiting for you. You’ll bring the guns to me at the other address.”

“What’s our cut?” Pritchett asked.

“Fifteen grand,” Vaughn said, his tone an indication that this was not open for negotiation.

Pritchett exchanged another look with the police officers at his side, then turned back to Vaughn with a nod.

“Done.”

 • • •

LATER THAT EVENING, after Vaughn had changed out of his swanky clothes and ditched the Rolex, he and Huxley filled Cade in on the progress of the Pritchett investigation at a pub located around the corner from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“So who’s Masso?” Cade asked. Eventually, after any arrests had been made, the agents would turn over the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution—but until that point, Vaughn, the senior agent assigned to the matter, was running the show.

“Masso is Special Agent Brent Lyons in the Indianapolis office,” Vaughn said. “On Monday night, he’ll be waiting for Pritchett’s crew with several duffle bags of guns that, unbeknownst to them, we’ve rendered inoperable.” He paused when the waitress brought their burgers, and didn’t waste any time in digging in. Undercover work always made him ravenous—perhaps it was the extra kick of adrenaline.

He continued after swallowing. “So, if everything goes as planned, in a month or so, Hux and I should have enough evidence for you to—” He stopped, seeing Cade and Huxley exchanging bemused looks. “What?”

“You really aren’t going to say anything about the situation at your three o’clock?” Huxley asked. “They’ve been looking over here since we sat down.”

Vaughn glanced out of the corner of his eye and spotted a table with three women in their midtwenties, all dressed up for a night on the town in jeans, heels, and skin-revealing tops. The brunette facing him caught his eye and boldly held it for a long moment before returning back to her conversation with her friends.

He shrugged. “Eh. They all have that fake too-tan look.”

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