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He put his palm out to Brent, and they did the shake and slap. “Just so you know, I plan on having an urgent stationhouse call in thirty-five minutes.”

“Shocker.” Brent straightened his tie. “So Graham Perry came and found me. The mayor wants to see us.”

“Now? What about her dog and pony show to the masses.”

“It’s the cocktail hour. There’s time. Come on, the greenroom is over here.”

Tom fell into step with the other guy. “Why do I get the feeling I’m being set up?”

“Because you’re paranoid.”

Tom nodded at a pair of lobbyists, but didn’t slow down as they started to roundabout. “Tell me something, how old are you?”

“Excuse me?”

“How old?”


They entered a carpeted hallway that was nothing but brass-plaqued double doors and poster ads for theater shows, high-end restaurants, and jewelers. The air smelled like steak, which suggested the hotel had ventilation issues, and he wondered when the last time its management had done a fire drill for the staff.

Brent looked over. “Why’d you ask me my age?”

“Because you look a little old to be this naive.”

“I don’t know what your problem with Catherine is—”

“Oh, so now we’re on a first-name basis, are we. What’s next? Netflix and chill?”

“—a good mayor, a better person, and she gets us. Her father was a firefighter.”

Tom shook his head. “Politicians do one thing with reliability and that’s look out for themselves. You’re going to learn this the hard way, but that evolution is not my problem.”

“You don’t know her.” Brent stopped in front of something called the Salisbury Room. “And you’re too young to be this cynical.”

“We’ll see about that.”

Brent opened the way in, and talk about standing room only. There were a good fifty people crammed in around a boardroom table long enough to bowl on, everyone talking loud enough so they could be heard over the very din they were creating.

“There you are.” The mayor’s right-hand guy came over, porcelain caps flashing as he smiled. “Thanks for stopping by, Chief.”

Graham Perry was the kind of sharp, useless, egoist in a Brooks Brothers suit who made Tom scratch. He’d had to deal with them all his life, Ivy League golden boys with Greco-Roman playbooks, all kinds of Et tu, Brute? pole marks on his ass. If this was who the mayor thought she needed at her side? She was either a bad judge of character, or she shared Perry’s opinion that people would fall for a faker.

Brent cleared his throat and elbowed Tom in the ribs. But he was not shaking that greasy palm.

Perry retracted the offending item and smiled some more. “Well. We just wanted you to know how much we appreciate your department’s support in this election.”

“I haven’t given it to you.”

As Perry looked at Brent, there was an awkward pause.

“Are you kidding me,” Tom muttered. “Seriously, did you—”

The warm bodies in the room parted like the Red Sea and he knew without a proper look that there was only one person who could get that kind of effect.

Mayor Catherine Mahoney was wearing red, the dress totally modest, the body it was covering absolutely not. Tom kept his eyes on her face, but his peripheral vision filled in all kinds of details about her that he really could have done without.

He wasn’t going to be Brent, damn it.

“Tom,” she said in her smooth voice, “I’m glad you came. Thank you so much for your support. It’s going to make a big difference in the election. Barrington is going to be a tough opponent.”

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