Chapter One

Along the counter was a line of transistor radios. Admirals, Afcos, they ranged from cheap to expensive. Some shone with mesh radiator fronts and circular dials, some squatted with antenna majesty, and some were two-toned and smart. In particular the girl with the mod go-go boots and bright red nails admired the turquoise and white pocketbook-sized model with a snappy handle across the top.

Captain Greer stood behind the counter, his hair parted to one side and combed back, and the bow tie around his neck constricting.

"Does this come with AC or DC wiring?" asked the girl.

He held up the model and showed it to her.

"DC," he said. "It takes batteries."

She squinted.

"So it doesn't plug into the wall?"

He managed to keep his expression steady; after all, he was the fuzz.

"No Miss. It takes batteries."

The girl's eyes wandered, drifting now to the slick magazines along the rack near the door. She moved to flip through them. He placed the radio back on the counter and his eyes brightened as Linc, with a psychedelic sash wrapped around his head and black sunglasses covering his eyes sauntered in. There was always something special about Linc. The way he had of looking like he was someone who should never be pushed out and like young people had the right to rule the world at the same time.

The girl didn't like the look of him. She sent a glance of distaste to where the Captain stood at the counter. Her white boots flashed as she went out. Linc drifted over and took up a transistor and rattled it.

"Have anything to report?" the Captain asked him in a low tone. "Or are you just here to scare off my customers?"

He was rewarded by Linc's grin.

"You asked for this class, Captain," he said.

"So how's Pete?"

The smile disappeared.

"Getting tired. They're working him like he's three cats instead of one."

"He can take it."

They were interrupted by some kids coming in, looking for candy, but Greer knew that Linc wouldn't argue anyway. He was too used to the idea of taking the hard in life, and dealing with it. But Linc didn't like the situation, and neither did he. For two days Pete had been working at the warehouse down the street, waiting to be contacted by the gang of reds peddlers that they'd heard about. Both days Pete's shift had started at 5 a.m. and ended fourteen hours later. Linc, loitering in the deserted shell of an industrial warehouse across the street, found Pete often with his binoculars.

Working, hauling, shifting and sweating, non-stop with no breathers while the other employees ignored him and took lunches and coffee breaks.

Something about the set-up didn't feel right, and as soon as the kids finished dreaming of candy they couldn't afford and ran out, searching for the possibility of finding pennies on the sidewalk Linc leaned his elbows against the counter and confirmed his worries.

"Pete got pushed around today, fierce," he said. "This whole scene's a bad trip."

"Who pushed him?"

"The boss man. Like something personal, you dig? Maybe we should back off."

"They could be testing him. There could be a break in the case tonight."

Linc pushed away from the counter and dug out a coin. He bought a cola from the pop machine in the corner and popped the top with the built-in bottle opener.

"Or Pete could fall over," he murmured, never making eye contact as he strolled out.

Greer tugged at the wretched tie and turned to the phone against the wall. If Linc's instincts had kicked in, he'd learned to react to them. A few seconds and the phone on the other end of the line rang.

"Barbara's Beauty Shop," Julie's voice answered. He could see her standing there in his mind's eye, with her hair in a thick bun at the back of her neck and that professional dialed-down expression on her face, as if she were about to attend to nothing more interesting than a perm and a blow dry. "Can I help you?"

"Time to get Pete out of there, Julie," he said, his voice taking charge. "Linc thinks the situation doesn't add up, and I agree with him."

"Would you like that appointment now or after lunch?" she asked.

"Now," he said. "Right now. Get Linc and put on the show."

"Yes, Ma'am, I'll pencil you in."

The dial tone sounded in his ear and he unknotted the tie and opened the top button on his shirt for good measure. He smiled in satisfaction as he removed the petty cash from the register, flipped the sign on the door to 'Closed', and locked it tight with the key. It would be a relief to get Pete out of there and into his office where they could talk and figure this whole thing out. He tried to ignore the feeling of concern that curled in his stomach as he walked to his car. Over at the warehouse where Pete had been slaving away, there was an ominous silence.