"Sorry, sir, but no can do." Portland-based Deputy U.S.
Marshal Caleb Logue handed the fax with his next
assignment back to his boss. Granted, Franks knew his job
and was the presidentially appointed U.S. Marshal for all
of Oregon, but surely even he'd understand that this —
"Scuse me?" Franks's wooly-worm eyebrows raised and his
thick neck turned red. Even at fifty, the guy still bench-
"Sir…" Caleb gulped, but held his ground. "I know this
judge. We went out for a while in college. I really think
it'd be best if someone else was assigned to —"
"Ordinarily," his boss said, "I'd agree. But with Mason
and Wolcheck in Texas, Villetti in Michigan, and Smith in
New Orleans, I got no one else to give this to. As is,
you're going to have to pull in a whole new team from
other offices. Feel free to appoint someone else as our
lady judge's primary sidekick, but make no mistake, you
will be a key player. Capiche?"
Elbows on his cluttered desk, Caleb cradled his forehead
in his hands.
No way this was happening.
No freakin' way. "Glad you're on board, Logue. Get
together a twelve-man team — I want six on her and four on
her son at all times, two off — then haul ass down to
Calumet City. This has to be in place by the end of the
day. And I'm talking end of the business day — not
ALLIE HAYWORTH looked up from her organized desk, wishing
her life could be as tidy. "Watcha' doin?" she asked her
eight-year-old son, Cal.
"I can see that," she said, rising to cross to the far
side of her office where he sat on the floor. By U.S.
District Court Judge standards, the space wasn't all that
attractive. The burgundy leather sofa had a tear she'd
duct-taped, then covered with a throw pillow. The white
drapes, carpet and ceiling had a faint yellow hue and
smoky smell from the judge who'd served before her — an
avid cigar smoker. In a dream world where she had plenty
of free time, she'd love to paint the space some vibrant,
exciting color. Cobalt-blue or jungle-green. Still, floor-
to-ceiling mahogany bookshelves added warmth to the
overall feel, as did the fresh flowers she collected from
her cutting garden at least once a week in the spring
through early fall.
Her current bouquet had seen better days. The snapdragons
looked tired. For this year, the growing season had ended.
Would she be around for next year?
Squelching the macabre line of thought, she forced a
smile, saying to her son, "Guess I should've asked what
"What do you think?"
"I dunno." Glad she'd worn slacks, she plunked down beside
him. "A boat? Upside-down skyscraper?"
"What?" she asked, ruffling his short dark hair.
"Don't you know anything?" With dusky-green eyes that
reminded her of dried sage, he gave her the look. The one
that said despite the fact she was one of the state's
youngest federal judges — not to mention, a female — that
he was and would always be wa-aa-aay smarter than her!
"Yep," she said with a heavy sigh. "You must be right.
Guess I don't know anything. So? Help me out. What are you
"It's a gun." He picked up the monolithic mix of colorful
blocks only to pop to his feet, then run to the window and
start shooting. "Pow, pow!"
Allie cringed. "Caleb, get away from the windows."
"How come? The cops are right outside. No one can get us
If only that were true.
Allie scrambled to her feet and drew him back, safely out
of view, before closing the drapes on the low-hanging
clouds and persistent rain. "I, um, appreciate you looking
out for us, but why don't you leave the shooting to
"What're they gonna do? They've been protecting us a whole
two days and still haven't caught the bad guys."
"I know, baby, but they will. Real soon."
"This is boring," Cal said, slamming his gun hard into the
plastic Lego tub. His creation shattered. "I wanna go to
school. Henry's bringing his dad for show and tell. He
makes donuts for his job and we were gonna get free ones
"I'm sorry," she said, drawing him into a hug. "But
remember how we talked about this? And decided it would be
safer if you just hung out with me?"
"Yeah, but —"
A knock sounded at the door.
Allie jumped, then felt silly when her elderly secretary
poked her head in. Guess being used for target practice
set a girl on edge.
"Allie, hon, there's a gentleman here to see you from
Portland. He's with the U.S. Marshals. Shall I send him
"Of course," Allie said, releasing her son to smooth her
hair and straighten her aqua silk blouse. At first she'd
been opposed to having the big dogs called in, especially
on the off chance her and Cal's father's paths should
cross. But after this morning's latest attempt on her
life, she was relieved help had arrived.
Usually, federal courthouses had marshals' offices right
inside. Hers was no different, except the marshals were
actually local policemen who'd been deputized into
service. Not that they didn't do a fine job — after all,
she was still alive. But seeing how their usually peaceful
district had never had something this serious happen, they
were rusty on evasive maneuvers.
Apparently the members of the white supremacist
organization intent on taking her life were not.
"Baby," she said to her son. "Could you please make me an
airplane while I talk to this man? A great, big one with
maybe a swimming pool in first class, and —"
She looked to the door and her pulse went haywire. Caleb?
Of all the luck….
It'd been nine years since she'd last seen him. For nine
years she'd told herself she hated him. Never wanted to
see him again. She'd told herself every morning and night
that what she'd done, what she'd kept from him, had been
for good reason.
She made the mistake of meeting his direct stare. The
exact shade of dried sage….
Her gig was up.
Caleb locked eyes with his son. Took a half step back, as
if the air had been kicked from his lungs. But then his
initial composure returned. Sort of. If you didn't count
the tightening of his jaw or the way his eyes narrowed
with instantaneous rage. He'd just found out the baby
she'd told him she'd lost was alive and well and making an
airplane out of Legos.
"This is — no." The man Allie had loved with a sometimes
frightening intensity gave her a hard look, then shook his
head. "We're not going to do this now. Not here. In front
of…" Those gorgeous, all-too-familiar eyes of his welled
with tears. "How could you, Allie?" He pressed the heel of
his right hand against one eye, then the other, and
cleared his throat. "Your honor, my name is Caleb Logue.
I'll be heading your security team."
"Oh, Caleb," she said, fighting past her own wall of
tears. "I didn't mean for this to —"
"As soon as you and your boy are ready to head home, I'll
"Please, let me…explain." Too late. He was already out the
"Who was that?" her son asked. Your father.
CALEB COULDN'T BREATHE.
"Dang, Logue," his old pal from the Seattle office, Owen
Richards, said. "You look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow
Man — only whiter."
"Thanks." Caleb brushed past him toward the group of guys
still out in the hall, who were feeling up a snack machine.
"Damned thing stole my quarter," his younger brother,
"Stow it," Caleb said. "Everyone ready to rock?"
"Not without my quarter." Adam gave the machine another
thump, then switched tactics by sticking his hand up the
lady's metal skirt. "What bug crawled up your behind?"
What bug? Caleb snorted.
The one that came with finding out the woman he'd thought
he loved was a lying, conniving wench who's still as
freakin' gorgeous as ever and had bore him a damned good-
looking son she didn't even have the decency to tell him
existed! "THANKS FOR THE GRUB," Adam said.
"You're welcome." Allie stood at her black granite kitchen
counter, wiping grease splatters from the burgers she'd
fried for dinner.
Burgers, boxed macaroni and cheese, and frozen peas.
Her mother would report her to some government agency for
cooking such a lackluster meal. But then her mother had
been a stay-at-home mom. She also had never received death
threats. She had, however, had a policeman husband killed
in the line of duty. Meaning that though she wished Allie
had told Caleb about his son, she'd always been
sympathetic to her daughter's rationale for keeping Cal's
paternity a closely guarded secret.
Allie's dad had been shot when she was just twelve. For
years, she'd bitterly wished she'd never even known him,
rather than to have loved him so fiercely only to lose him
in such a useless, tragic way. Wanting to protect her son
from suffering the same kind of loss, she'd done Cal a
favor by never letting him get attached to his adrenaline-
Adam asked, "Got any idea what Caleb's so PO'd about?"
"None at all." Allie scrubbed harder, thankful for the
fact that while she'd always liked Adam, he'd never been
that big on personal observations.
"Got any ice cream?"
"Cookie dough and cotton candy." He winced. "Guess
She shot him a look. "You always this professional?"
"Give me a break. It's not like I don't know you. And
anyway, Caleb's loaded for bear. Trust me, ain't no one
gettin' through him."
"So he's out there, then?" she asked, grabbing a bowl and
the ice-cream spade on her way to the freezer.
"Yup. Right outside. Along with four other marshals."
"Nice?" He laughed. "Between them, they've got the
firepower of a small country. Ain't nothin' nice
"Sorry," she said, licking a sweet smudge of ice cream
from her pinkie. "Didn't mean to insult your arms supply."
She handed him the bowl and a spoon. "So, is um, Caleb
going to be inside at all?"
"Outlook doubtful — mmm, this is better than I'd expected.
"Sure. So, is there any time I might talk with him?"
Was Adam really this dense? Couldn't he see how much she
needed to speak with his brother? While she didn't for a
minute believe she'd done the wrong thing in shielding her
son from the certain disaster that was part of Caleb's job
description, she'd always felt wretched about her decision.
If only she could explain. To Caleb. To herself. "Okay,"
she said, hands on her hips, taking a deep breath. Time
for a more direct approach. "Might it be possible for you
to ask Caleb to come inside right now?"