Darlene L. Turner
“You both need to hide.” Raelynn turned from her apartment peephole, heart hammering. “He’s here.”
Her frantic whisper propelled the two Canadian constables into action. They had requested use of her small dwelling to spy on the dry-cleaning business across the street in the section of Vancouver once known as the red-light district.
“Where?” Caleb’s cornflower blue eyes widened before collecting their surveillance equipment. His muscles protruded through his black shirt.
And she noticed.
They had connected instantly and his non-judgmental attitude toward her softened her hardened heart of men. She had never felt such a strong attraction toward anyone so quickly. They had spent hours chatting about everything as the constables gathered intel on the money laundering ring.
Caleb grabbed her arm, yanking her back to the present. “Raelynn?”
She cleared her throat. “This apartment is over a hundred years old. There’s a hidden room behind the back wall of my bedroom closet. I’m not sure what it was used for then, but I hide certain keepsakes there. Things I don’t want the other girls to see.” By girls, she meant her fellow women of the street who took advantage of Raelynn’s kind heart.
“Hurry, Josiah. Have you finished uploading the evidence from their system? Denmore can’t find us here.”
“Almost there,” the redheaded constable said.
The pounding increased. “Love, I know they’re in there. Give them up or I’ll shut down your business. Permanently.” Denmore’s words boomed through the door.
Raelynn cringed at his use of “love.” He had served as her pimp for years, but she’d never known the extent of his money-laundering business. Until Constables Caleb and Josiah knocked on her door three months ago. She glanced at the progress bar of the flash drive’s upload. 75 percent. She needed to buy them time.
“I’m not decent. Give me a couple minutes.” She raced into her dingy bedroom and banged drawers and doors to stall, pretending to get dressed. After a few minutes, she moved back into the living room. “How much longer?”
Josiah yanked the drive out. “We’re good.”
“This way.” Raelynn pointed to her bedroom.
Moving her clothes, Raelynn ran her hand down one side of the wooden panel and pushed hard. It popped opened to reveal a small door.
“You’ve been warned,” Denmore yelled. The front door crashed open with a resounding thud.
Raelyn turned the knob. “Quick, get in!” Heavy footsteps thudded in the outer room. “They’re coming!”
Caleb and Josiah ducked and entered the tiny compartment. She closed the door, pushed the panel back into place, and walked out to face the angry mobster-pimp.
She rustled up courage and fisted her hands on her hips. “What’s the meaning of this?”
“Where are they?” Denmore’s gruff, burly presence overpowered the small room.
“Who are you talking about?”
“The cops you’re hiding.” Denmore moved into her personal space and grabbed her arm. “I have it on good authority they’re using your apartment to spy on us.”
Raelynn’s jaw dropped, mocking disbelief. “Whoever told you that is off their rocker. The only men I have in this apartment are my johns. Do you see anyone?”
Denmore shoved her into the worn sofa, waggling his finger in her face. “Stay there! I’ll check for myself.” He raced through her apartment, upheaving everything in his path.
Raelynn did something she hadn’t done since childhood. She prayed. Prayed God would keep the men hidden from this monster.
Moments later, Denmore hauled her from the sofa. “Where are they?”
She yanked her hand free. “I told you. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You’re lying!” He struck her face. Hard.
She stumbled backward, sucking in a ragged breath. “I’m telling the truth.” Would God forgive her fib? Tears threatened, but she held them back. She wouldn’t let him see the fear punching her in the gut.
“If I find out you lied, I’ll be back and you will get more than a slap on the face!” He stomped out.
Raelynn released the breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding, her pulse still thrashing. She waited five minutes before reopening the secret door. “He’s gone.”
The men crawled from their hiding place.
Caleb dabbed Raelynn’s cheek. “You okay? We heard the slap.”
Their gaze locked.
Josiah cleared his throat. “We need to get the team ready for the raid.”
“Give me a few minutes,” Caleb said.
Josiah nodded and rushed from the apartment.
“Raid?” Raelynn’s pulse elevated not only from Caleb’s touch but news of danger.
Caleb took her hands in his. “Raelynn, you are a brave lady. Thank you for helping us. This will all be over tonight and Denmore will never hurt you again. He’s going away for a long time.”
She sucked in a breath. Could it be true? “Promise?”
“You mean, I can finally get out of this business without fear of him killing me?” Her tense shoulders relaxed as peace washed over her body like a soothing swim on a hot day.
Caleb smiled. “Yes, and I will be around to reassure you.”
Hope for her future sent flutters to her stomach. “I’d like that.”
Caleb inched closer and fingered the red scarf around her neck. “Me too.”
Her cheeks flushed. “Coffee tomorrow?”
He placed a gentle kiss on her lips. “It’s a date.” He left without another sound.
Tears of joy cascaded down Raelynn’s cheeks. Thank you, Lord.
Darlene won the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense twice and an ACFW Genesis award. She’s represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. Her debut book, Border Breach, released in April 2020 with Love Inspired Suspense. She has two books releasing in 2021: Abducted in Alaska (March) and Lethal Cover-Up (August).
Darlene met her husband Jeff at the turtle races in Ontario, Canada. She loves flavored coffee and plaid shirts. You can connect with Darlene at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Bookbub, Pinterest, and Instagram. You can also find her at www.darlenelturner.com where there’s suspense beyond borders.