Finn Donahue’s break at Burlie’s Jazz Club was about to end.
Familiar lyrics from the sultry tune floated through his mind long after
the saxophonist stopped playing. Hold on like leaves and fall to what is
left. Like the song, Autumn Leaves, he spiraled downward, failed to
identify the chicken shit stealing his company’s cash. For three damn
years, ten percent of the monthly deposits were sucked into a mysterious
thief’s cash cow.
The crowd wandered out. Time for him to return to gloom and doom. He
pressed a hand over his throbbing forehead with enough force to leave
marks. Had the thief hired a colleague? The colleague was not a
car-stealing, knee-smashing, fire-setting knucklehead. His mouth went
dry at the fuck’s covert method and zest for cheating him. He’d
question his snake of a partner, Les Kelly, if he weren’t already
Across the room, a female patron gathered her belongings. As her ankle
boots tapped toward him, a pair of shapely legs came into view.
His head snapped up. Amy Kintyre, the late Les’s girlfriend, in the
running for his bookkeeping job, spotted him.
“Finn.” She swerved his way. “What a coincidence!” This chick
lacked a pick-me-up line.
“Hello, Amy.” He didn’t offer her a seat.
She tilted her head to one side, studying the expression on his face.
“Are we still on for nine?” She spoke with an annoying squeak.
“We are.” He watched her lips form a tight smile as she fumbled with
her little purse. Turning away, she headed for the pink-windowed door to
the ladies’ room.
His stomach did a quick, discomforting twist at the thought of working
with Les’s former girlfriend. As time went on, karma between the
partners slipped. Les held back. Enigmatic people had motive to protect
inconsistencies. He assumed Amy hid a few. He sighed and gazed blankly
around the club.
Pendant lights offered a fuzzy softness except for the bar. Behind it,
opaque glass shelves were lit with violet light. The warm personality of
the owner gave the establishment a comfortable feel. Burlie was closing
up. With more oil to burn at his office, he stood to cross the mosaic
tile dance floor.
The front door opened. “Sorry, we’re closed.” Holding a broom,
Burlie swept behind the bar.
Finn stepped closer. Drunken merrymakers, they were not. His heart
hammered like it was stuck in overdrive.
“We offer protection.” Speaking with a Spanish accent, the shortest
of the trio dressed like the others, and donned the ISIS-style black
“I have protection.” Burlie’s big mouth nailed his coffin.
A second thug grabbed the bartender’s hand and pulled out clippers.
“You’ll change your mind, one finger at a time.”
“I just paid the Irish.” Panic burrowed into Burlie’s high-pitched
cry. He thrashed his arms as he tried to pull his hand back.
“Us you pay.” His utterance with the object in the first position
identified him as an Arab speaker. Light glinted off shiny metal. The
thug pulled a combat knife, grabbed Burlie’s arms, spun him, put the
blade to his neck. Finn dialed 911 and then shouted, “Finn Donahue
here. Gang trouble. Burlie’s Jazz Club.” To grab their attention
even more, he heaved in a breath and released a long whistle. His
Burlie broke from the hold, and Finn thanked God for the curious.
“Where are you?” Heavy boots pounded toward him.
Finn’s phone vibrated, but he killed the call and darted into the
first door he saw, the one with the frosted pink window. He spotted Amy
at the sink and pointed his index finger up.
He took off his coat and wrapped it around his fist. After rapping on
the glass, he wound up and threw a hard punch through the window. Glass
splintered as he connected with the thug’s nose. Prepared to jump
aside, he opened the door.
Amy followed and jumped over the guy spread on the floor, holding a hand
over his bleeding nose.
He struggled to stand. Finn patted him down, took his gun, and pointed
it at him. After the guy stood, Finn walked him to a chair. “Don’t
“I’ll phone the police.” A high-pitched squeal came from the back
of her throat. “Never mind. Police are here.”
From the street, the blue light of a cop car radiated across the
club’s interior like a strobe. Uniforms burst through the door.
The first officer made radio contact with homicide, and the second, much
younger, rushed to the nearest thug and pulled out flex-cuffs.
“Stand over there, Amy.” Finn motioned toward a corner.
She rolled her eyes and dashed toward Burlie who wrestled with the Arab
and tried to keep him from moving toward the young rookie. Amy pulled an
item from her purse. A Swiss army knife? Out came a miniature cork
The rookie cop turned the Arab around to be handcuffed and leaned him
against a wall. The thug used the hard surface as leverage to throw
himself against him.
Finn saw it coming. A switchblade sprung from the Arab’s sleeve. In a
split second, he drove it into the cop’s shoulder, but Amy stabbed him
in the back with the wine opener.
The Arab spun and pulled a knife from his jeans’ pocket. Amy dodged,
but he thrust it into a cop’s gut before running.
Finn waited for an opening and shot him in the hip.
Howling about uncivilized barbarians, he dropped.
Up from his chair, the loser with the broken nose swung his fists,
raining blows and a kick to the nuts which Finn deflected.
“Don’t make me shoot you.” Finn stunned him with a chop to the
neck, caught him in a headlock. With a gun at his back, he marched him
Amy broke into the center of the room and turned around, taking in the
menacing scene. The girl-next-door had street smarts, competency with
the corkscrew, and fearless determination.
He walked over and touched her weapon-holding hand. “You didn’t have
pocket-knife experience on your resume.” It didn’t make her
invincible. Nor did it mean he should hire her.
She shook her head. “Never used it this way. It’s handy when hiking
She looked at her pocket knife, folded and stuffed it in her pocket.
Her eyes blinked in frenzy in spite of her bravery.
Fifteen minutes later, with the injured cops heading to Bear Valley
Hospital and three unfriendlies loaded into the sheriff’s
prisoner-transport vehicle, Burlie signed a complaint and then gushed
over Finn and Amy. “You’re good people.” After saying it several
times, he asked Finn to serve as his third-party witness and then turned
to Amy. “My Lord, Amy. You came to my side. Thank you.”
When Burlie handed her a gift card, she accepted it with a smile. “I
saw a lot. If you need a second witness, I can run through all of it.”
“If you’re willing, yes.” His voice was tight.
She offered him a reassuring smile. “Of course, Burlie. The idea of
mobsters coming in and offering protection? This makes me mad.”
Sheriff Byron McGill stood in the center of their ring. “The Irish mob
has their fingers in rentals, not to mention the Harp Hotel. Burlie,
I’m glad you’ll stand up.”
Finn said, “This is new, Byron. I heard them talking. Spanish and
Arabs are partnering up.”
McGill said, “This odd blend exploded in Chicago.”
“They exist for mutual, financial benefit. Together, they’re pushing
the Irish.” Finn placed a hand on Burlie’s shoulder.
The older man sighed, dragged his palms down his face. “I was damn
“An Irish mobster visited the Arrowbear Café earlier. The owner
didn’t want to report it.” Amy sucked in a hard breath and turned to
Adrenaline spiraled through Finn’s system, leaving him jittery and
pumped to high-alert; this was gangland in his backyard, not Iraq. He
turned to the sheriff. “What’s your strategy, McGill?”
“We’ll pull out the stops.” McGill raised a brow. “Keep me
posted, will you? We’ll arrest these motherfuckers when they come
within yards of your business.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Burlie was not convinced. “If you harass them, they
lash out on us.”
“Take the initiative. We’ll combat this together.” Sheriff McGill
Finn handed Burlie a twenty.
The owner put up his hands, refusing his money. “Finn Donahue.
Investment guy. I never pegged you for a force of nature.”
He patted Burlie’s shoulder. “The situation required it.”
“If heaven is the way I saw it tonight,” Burlie said, “count me
in. Again, thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” Finn went outside and caught up with Amy on the
other side of the street.
Her gaze dipped to where his fingers wrapped around her elbow then
bounced up. “Our species is flawed.”
“Sometimes. Can I drive you home?”
“No, I’m taking that taxi.” She blinked her eyes several times
before a hearty attitude clicked into place.
He whistled for the cab.
“That cab isn’t going to drive itself. I’ve got the keys.” She
held them high and jingled them.
As she hurried away, he tracked her khaki jacket as she scurried along
rows of cars to the taxi. After her car door shut, he headed toward his
office where a long night awaited him.
A car revved behind him. At the sound of a double beep, he turned and
waved at Amy’s taxi.
Excerpted from "Deadly Alliance" by Kathleen Rowland. Copyright © 2016 by Kathleen Rowland. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.