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Vvvvvtttt!!

Virginia ducked at the sound of wood splintering. A loud crack followed, and she covered her head with her hands as glass and liquid rained down around her. Shit! Fortunately it was brief, the strong malty odor an indication as to what had been hit.

Great, now she smelled like a brewery.

Dropping her arms, she scanned the room but there was nobody. It had been a stray, just as she had thought. Shots echoed in the distance, confirmation that her team's chase had moved outside. Staying in her crouched position, her back pressed against the bar, she listened again for the soft scuffing she'd heard coming from behind it.

The popping sound of glass underfoot was a telltale sign that her suspect was on the move. Time to earn her paycheck. Staying low with her arms extended and gun leading the way, she inched along, taking extra care to slide her feet through the bits and pieces of broken bottles. At the edge of the bar, she froze and held her breath. Did a one, two, three in her head. Then darted around the corner . . . What the—?

Squatting on the ground with a box of bullets spilled out at his feet, a teenage boy had the cylinder of a snub-nosed revolver open, trying to load the thing with shaking hands.

"Police! Drop it!"

A full-body jerk sent the gun flying from his fingers. He lifted his head, eyes shifting between her weapon and the one that thudded to the floor in front of him.

He slowly raised his hands in the air.

"Good choice." Virginia rushed to his side keeping her head down. Putting one knee to the ground, she took a long look at the boy.

Jesus, they kept getting younger and younger. Or maybe it only seemed that way as time passed and she grew more cynical, sick and tired of seeing these kids sucked in and manipulated by false promises. She knew most of the troubled teens in the area but couldn't place this one. And based on the side part, polo shirt, and plaid shorts, she would have expected skipping class to be the worst of his offenses. Apparently not.

"Hands behind your head," she ordered.

He did as he was told, arms trembling.

She frowned. "What are you doing here, son?"

"None of your business," he hissed.

Pressing her lips together, she gave him a slow shake of her head, an I'm-not-too-proud-of-you look that always worked on her daughter.

He shifted one hand up to flip her off.

"Nice." Reaching down, she pocketed the bullets and threw the classic Colt into the open drawer nearby—assuming that was where it had come from—then slammed the thing shut as she peeked over the bar. All was quiet now. She stood and holstered her own gun, wondering what to do about the kid at her feet.

She hadn't expected this. They'd been staking out the restaurant for weeks, planning the bust for a Monday night knowing the place would be closed, the element of surprise on their side. These guys didn't seem all that surprised. She and the five men she was leading had been met with gunfire as soon as they had crossed the threshold of the building.

This felt more like an ambush.

Virginia looked around the lavish dining room, from the fully stocked wine cellar by the kitchen to the floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace near the entrance. The Gondola was popular among those who could afford it, a linen tablecloth, soft candlelight, jacket-required kind of joint. The average patron, however, had no idea about the criminal activity happening right under the same roof. All bets and payoffs were made out of the back room-the same room all the suspects had just made a beeline into.

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