No one knew her here. no one she knew would show up at this joint near LAX where the music was loud enough to muffle the roar of jets. There were usually no cops here. She could make a cop no matter how good the cover. She was an attractive female alone in a strip club but no one would bother her. Her uniform, gun, and badge repelled that sort of nonsense. A guy she figured for the manager asked if he could be of assistance. She said she was waiting for someone. She would only be there a couple of minutes. Thanks. He retreated to his stool at the bar and was giving her a dirty look. A police officer had a chilling effect on business. A female cop was especially vexing. Frankie Lynde enjoyed the power she had to disturb this tough guy and she kept on her game face, her take-no-prisoners face. It was fun. A prelude to the night of fun ahead.
It was midnight. She had finished her shift, letting the last guy she could have collared for solicitation go home with a warning because the arrest and the paperwork would have made her late. That was okay with her team. One was taking off the next morning for the Colorado River with his family. The others were just plain ready to resume their lives. The john was scared out of his wits anyway. He was a clean-cut family man kind of guy who probably had a job where people looked up to him. Frankie doubted he’d ever again seek action along that stretch of Sunset near Gower.
In the station locker room, she’d taken off the silver wig and leather miniskirt. She’d unzipped and peeled off the over-the-knee boots she’d bought at Frederick’s purple flagship store on Hollywood Boulevard. She didn’t have to go to such effort to costume herself. The other female undercover cops who posed as streetwalkers wore tight jeans and belly shirts, looking as if they could be waiting for their boyfriends to pick them up to go to the movies, like many whores working Sunset’s east end. For the whores, their sexy-but-regular-girl clothing bolstered their innocent excuses when cops questioned them about why they were loitering. “My car broke down over there.” “I had a fight with my boyfriend and he took off and I’m gonna see if he’s at his mom’s house over here. Around the corner. Up there.”
Frankie liked to dress like a hooker. She had a dozen wigs and outfits. She told the other vice detectives that by changing her look, the hookers and johns wouldn’t make her. She told about having picked up the same john three times, wearing three different wigs. There were rumors around the department that Frankie got into her role a little too much. She didn’t deny it. It was pointless, made her look weak, and gave the rumors credibility. Her numbers spoke louder than talk. Any night she was on the street, she made three times as many collars as the other female officers. She knew how to stand with her legs apart, moving her hips back and forth as if she had an itch.
She was tall and good-looking. Too good-looking to be standing on a street corner. If she were a hooker for real, she’d be a highly paid call girl, not a streetwalker. The johns never put that together. They saw. They wanted. They pulled over. When they started talking specific fees for specific favors, she’d lean toward their car to give them a glimpse of her cleavage and yank the hem of her skirt with both hands, the signal for her backup to move in for the arrest.
Bottom line, she roped them in, that’s all they needed to know at the station. They had no idea how much truth there was to the rumors. That was for Frankie to know and the others never to find out.
At home, she’d peeled off the metallic tube top that she had not removed in the locker room in front of the others. She didn’t want glances and whispers about what she was hiding there. She’d scrubbed off the heavy makeup and shampooed and blow-dried her long, blond hair. She’d pinned it into a tight bun at the back of her head and applied conservative makeup. She wasn’t conservative in her choice of earrings, selecting the diamond studs. He’d asked her to wear them. The large diamonds seemed to have inner life, radiating when touched by light. Most definitely not regulation.
She’d strapped on her Kevlar vest. One never knew. The last thing she needed was someone with a cop grudge taking a potshot at her. Finally, she’d put on her uniform, crisp and fresh from the dry cleaners. Flying the colors while not on police business was in violation of department policy. If caught, she’d be formally reprimanded and possibly suspended. It was worth the risk. She wasn’t going to get caught.
Even with the bust-flattening vest, hip-obscuring slacks, and waist-eliminating equipment belt, Frankie knew she still looked hot. It was common cop knowledge that if a female managed to look hot in uniform, she’d look three times as hot in street clothes.
“What’ll you have?” The bartender’s surgically enhanced breasts ballooned from her tight, low-cut top.
“Diet Coke.” That was part of the game. There would be plenty of drinks later.
From his seat at the end of the bar, the manager watched the bartender shoot cola into a glass from a nozzle.
Frankie set a five-dollar bill on the bar and turned to watch the stage, an oval set in an arena of chairs and small tables. Three women wearing only G-strings gyrated around poles, spinning, hanging upside down. Their enlarged boobs defied gravity. It was Friday night. The club was crowded with businessmen, guys with buddies, guys alone, and a few couples out to spice up their sex life.
Two men wearing dress shirts with the top buttons undone and no ties entered the club. They were loose and loud. They had started drinking somewhere else.
“Hey, hey . . . Lookie here. A po-leece woman. Howya doin’ lady cop?”
“Fine. How are you?”
“Never better,” reciting the mantra of the party guy.
The other one, unsteady on his feet, pointed at Frankie’s chest, nearly touching her. “You wearing a bulletproof vest?”
“Please step away, sir.”
“Oooh . . . Hey. Okay, officer, okay.” He held up his fists, wrists together. “Arrest me.”
That started them guffawing. The goofball closest to Frankie did not comply with her request. He looked like the kind of guy who took crap all week long. On the weekends, he got drunk and dished out some of his own. Some cop, some time, somewhere had done something to piss him off and now Frankie had to deal with the residue.
She gave him her dead-eye gaze.
“You’re kinda cute. I could maybe have a thing for a woman in uniform.”
In the blink of an eye, she pulled her nightstick from its ring on her equipment belt, flipped it by the handle, and assumed an aggressive stance. The polished cherrywood was an old-time weapon passed to Frankie from her father, who’d received it from his father. It did the trick. If party boy moved an inch closer, she’d shove the rod into the soft spot below his rib cage.
He made a motion as if to grab the nightstick.
“Sir, I asked you to step away.”
She kept her eyes on him as he tentatively backed off, reaching to slide his beer from the bar. Saying “Let’s beat it” to his buddy, he moved toward the stage. She heard him mutter “Bitch” under his breath.
Frankie resisted smiling as she picked up her Diet Coke.
Customers eyed her uncomfortably. The manager dropped a foot from the stool rung and was about to step off when a young, attractive woman darted into the club.
She stopped short when she saw the nearly nude dancers, even though the club’s giant sign, visible from the 105 freeway said “XXX Marks the Spot.” She let out a yelp of surprise as she pressed the back of her hand against her mouth and whirled around. She spotted Officer Lynde.
“Oh, Officer, Officer. Help me, please.”
She ran to Lynde, wringing her hands.
Frankie stepped forward, her feet shoulder distance apart in a ready position. “What’s the problem, ma’am?”
The woman’s demeanor was as oddball as her appearance. She was wearing a masculine pantsuit, a white button-down shirt, a rep tie, polished wingtips, and a billed chauffeur’s cap. From beneath the cap, a platinum blond braid dropped to the middle of her back. White frosted lipstick set off a deep tan. Heart-shaped, red plastic sunglasses obscured her eyes.
“My boss was robbed. He was robbed,” she wailed in a high-pitched voice. “A man, with a gun.”
People turned their attention from the dancers to watch this show.
“Outside. In the parking lot. Please help us. Please.”
“Just now. Come out. I’ll show you.”
“Is the man with the gun still there?” Frankie’s stoic demeanor cracked and she appeared bewildered.
“No, no. Just come out.” The chauffeur didn’t wait but bolted out the door.
Frankie jogged after her, quickly catching up. “My boss was robbed. What kind of crap is that, Pussycat?”
Still running, one hand holding her hat on her head, the other cradling her large breasts to keep them from bouncing, Pussycat let out a squeal. “Your acting stinks.”
“I thought we were meeting inside.”
“Change of plans.”
Pussycat’s voice was airy and her speech rapid.
Frankie couldn’t see her eyes behind the heart-shaped sunglasses. “How high are we?”
Pussycat gave her a big, open-mouthed grin. “I’m having a real good time.”
“Maybe a little over-amped, huh? You’d better check yourself.”
“Oh, Officer Lynde. You just can’t stop being a cop, can you?” She squealed as they approached a limousine that was parked in the farthest corner of the lot and laughed with abandon when the passenger door dropped open.
Panting from the run, Pussycat resumed the ruse. “He’s in there, Officer. My boss is in there.”
Frankie climbed into the back of the limo and the chauffeur, giggling, closed the door after her.
“Good evening, Officer Lynde.”
He was immaculate in a white tuxedo with tails, a red rose in his lapel.
His wife climbed behind the wheel and pulled the limo into the street. The entrance to the 105 was less than a block away. She got on heading east.
He took Frankie’s breath away. He always did, but tonight . . . Something was different tonight. Something was special. He had requested that she wear her uniform. The only other time she’d been with them in uniform was when they had first met.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from The First Cut by Dianne Emley. Copyright © 2006 by Dianne Emley. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.