Bait:Bait & Switch Book 1

By: Lissa Ford

Bait & Switch Book 1


“You’ve gotta love this job, Dan. Love it, or it will shank you in the gut.”

Poetry wasn’t his old man’s strong suit. But the words rang with the clarion of truth, like the bells of St. Immaculata’s ringing out over Philly’s South End, calling his family to Mass every Sunday morning. A higher purpose. A higher calling. While growing up, Daniel O’Pray had watched his father solve one case after another; then, after Danny joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a Special Agent, the words sank deep into his bones. Love this job, or it’ll shank you.

He clung to those words as he sat in a shitty sedan parked in the shadow of dumpster overflowing with ripe garbage from the adjacent roach-coach kabab restaurant. Coms chattered in his ears. The team was in place. Everyone on alert, waiting.

Danny cracked the window, letting the fetid aroma of Philly’s streets leak in. Ozone and garbage and car exhaust. It had been a brutal summer so far, with the promise of more as they headed into the dog days. Streets shimmered with heat during the day, the nights were stagnant. People were getting edgier, waiting for a break in the weather, and more apt to pull out that knife or gun or monkey wrench.

Love this job. Or…

He rubbed his gritty eyes. The sting had been brewing for days. Multiple agencies involved: DEA, FBI, Philly PD. His first big investigation, and he’d worked like a mutha trying to get personalities to put aside their differences, make sure the intel was solid, get the buys locked down. The china white hitting the streets this spring had been a particularly deadly strain, the heroin cut with what had been billed as quality meth. But, as the autopsies started piling up, quality “kicker” was found to be rat poison. The cost-cutting filler was a calling card of a repeat offender to the Philly drug scene, with ties to the Mexican side of Nogales. The international aspect moved the case from local law enforcement to the intra-agencies, and that’s where the FBI’s Philadelphia Division came in.

They tracked the deaths. The dealer was selling to teens, a customer base too raw to know the shit they were buying would kill them before they even felt the first wave of euphoria. Snort a rail and go straight to OD.

The hardened LEOs didn’t bat an eye at the sight of the lifeless body of a teenaged girl found by her mom. The girl, eyes staring and face vomit-smeared, was crumpled in the corner of her bedroom underneath a poster of a boy band. She’d used a teddy bear as a pillow before checking out. But Danny cared. Danny cared a lot.

He cared even more when they found a couple of kids who’d snuck under the bleachers at South Philly High to smoke a little dope. Delinquents, sure. But the blunts had been dipped in the arsenic-laced meth to make “wet” doobies, and two teenaged boys who should have been sent to the principal’s office were instead vomiting blood from their ripped up lungs.

Just because you were young and stupid didn’t preclude you from justice. That’s why when his boss, FBI Special Agent in Charge Bob Connelly, asked him to take point on the sting, he said yes.

The assignment raised a few eyebrows in the Division, most notably among some of his colleagues. But Danny appreciated Connelly’s faith and worked his ass off to justify it. He’d been making buys for days. He’d built trust with hustlers eager to take his small bills and trade for information. In a few weeks, he’d found the right network. Then he became a reliable customer. They trusted him, as far as drug dealing scuzz buckets trusted anyone. They’d given him the name of a dealer who trafficked in some high-quality shit, man, brought all the way from Tijuana.

Tonight would be the payoff. Danny would make the final buy. Then they’d arrest these assholes and the fetid, beloved streets of his hometown would be temporarily cleaner for it. A few less dead teenagers. A few more occupants in County Correctional.

If someone asked him right now if he loved his job, he’d say yes.

Ted Shaughnessy slid into the sedan’s passenger side, bringing the reek of cigarette smoke with him. He’d punched his twentieth year with the Bureau, and liked to say he’d forgotten more shit than they taught at Quantico “in the information age” with liberal quote-unquote fingers. His shaggy head swung around to Danny. “Suspects are on the move,” he said. “Coming to the buy zone. You ready?”

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