Prison Excerpt
Toni V. Lee
Spreading Truth Through Fiction
“You know why. You’re a pest.”

Max tsked and wagged his index finger at her. “That’s not nice.”

Their sergeant interrupted the banter. “As you know, we’ve had Johnny Stone, a.k.a. Rock,
under surveillance for the past three weeks. We haven’t been able to get anything on him. We
know from our informant that he’s still pushing. He’s either become nervous, or he’s been
tipped off.” A heavy scowl settled on the sergeant’s face. “He’s pushing bad stuff to the users
he wants to punish. He’s killed at least one person with this stuff, and there have been a few
close calls. I want this menace off the streets.”

His scowl cleared. “I believe our luck’s changing. We picked up a suspect yesterday, who’s
trying to bargain his way out of a lengthy sentence. He ‘volunteered’ some information that
makes us believe Stone has relocated some of his business to Prayer Tabernacle.”

Sonja gasped.
He’s dealing drugs out of my church?

Max whistled softly. “He’s either very bold or very, very stupid. If we don’t get to him first,
the Man upstairs will.”

Sonja flushed with outrage. “Oh, he’s both and deserves whatever’s comin’ to him.

“I could save the tax payers some money and just take him fishin’,” offered Officer Stevens.
“He’d make great fish food.”

Despite her anger, Sonja chuckled with her colleagues. Stevens was a six-four softy who was
a stickler about doing things by the book. The only time she’d ever seen him get tough was
when he’d had to stop a perp who was assaulting an old lady. He’d brought the assailant
down hard and showed no mercy.

“I’ve decided to plant some undercover detectives in Prayer Tabernacle’s congregation.
Those detectives will be Trent and Grey. Grey, I understand you’re already a member of that
church. I’ll leave it up to the two of you to decide how to integrate Trent unobtrusively into
the congregation. You’re undercover as of the conclusion of this briefing.” He paused for a
few seconds. “Don’t take any unnecessary risks with this guy. I want you two and the people
of that church to stay safe.”
                                                 * * *
Sonja was gathering her things from her desk when Max walked over and leaned against it.

Why did this man needle her so much? She got along fine with the other officers, but this guy
seemed to go out of his way to push her buttons. Sometimes, just a look from him had her
hackles on the rise.

“Don’t come bothering me, Max. I’m not in the mood for any of your nonsense right now.”
She slammed her desk drawer shut. “I can’t believe it! That thug has the audacity to sell
drugs in the Lord’s house—in my church—of all places.” She shook her head in disgust and
dumped a file into her tote bag.

“It does boggle the mind. The sad thing is it’s not a new or unique concept. This kind of thing
has been going on since the Bible days.”

She sat back in her chair and gave Max her full attention. “What do you mean?”

“Remember the financial corruption at the temple in Jerusalem, and how the people were
cheated when they went to offer sacrifices?” Max ran his hand over his beard. “How many
reports have you heard through the years about preachers swindling their congregations out of
money?”

Sonja pursed her lips. “There’s sin, and then there’s
sin. How can Rock possibly believe he
can get away with selling drugs at Prayer Tabernacle?” She thumped her desk with her index
finger. “That’s just downright disrespectful.”

Max nodded. “But Grey, wrong is wrong. Sin is sin. We put degrees on sin, God doesn’t.”

Why am I even humoring this man? “Since when did you become an expert on church and
biblical matters?”

Max smiled. “You think you have me all figured out, but you don’t.” His smile widened, and
he gave her a slow wink. “I’m a man of many depths.”

Sonja rolled her eyes. “You’re about as deep as an inch of water.”

Max crossed his arms, causing his muscles to bulge.

She wished she could ignore his smug look. “I’ve never heard you talk about attending
church. For someone who doesn’t normally go, our assignment may be a bit taxing.”

Max shook his head and made that annoying tsking sound again, then picked up a pen and
started clicking it “There you go again, judging me all wrong. When I’m not working a case, I
attend Sunday services and Bible study on a regular basis.”

While he spoke, her eyes traveled over his low-cut, neatly trimmed black hair, down to his
medium-brown face. The muscles in his arms flexed as his thumb worked the pen’s clicker.
Flashes of appreciative interest danced . . .
Nah, that can’t be right. Something was dancing
around in his dark eyes. The man was just too good looking for his own good. Her eyes
continued their journey down to his mustache. He was an impressive package when you
threw in his air of self-assuredness and self-confidence, his muscular build, his . . .

I wish he’d stop clicking that pen! It’s . . . It’s . . . Well, it’s distracting! Just look at him,
sittin’ there looking like Blair Underwood!

She mentally shook herself and refocused on what Max was saying. Seriousness had crept
into his voice. “Grey, when are you going to accept that you don’t know me? When you look
at me, you see only what you choose to see.”

“Well . . .” she began, but trailed off because she had no idea what to say.

“Mm-hmm, exactly. So tell me, why’d you agree to work with me on this case?”

Sonja folded her arms across her chest. “I’ll probably regret telling you this, but I agreed to
work with you because you’re very good at what you do. You’re one of the best.”

He gave her a satisfied grin. “I’m going to remember this day for the rest of my life. I actually
received a compliment from Sonja Grey.”

“Man, sometimes you just pluck my
last nerve. See, you’re already gettin’ started.”

Max laughed. “I’ve been thinking about how I should be integrated into your congregation,
and I’ve come up with a plan that’ll work.”

She leaned forward, placing her folded arms on the desk. “Okay, let’s hear it.”

His twinkling eyes warned her she wouldn’t like what he was about to say. “Ms. Grey, you
just got yourself a boyfriend.”

Her eyes widened.
Friday morning, Sonja Grey walked into the
conference room and quickly surveyed the
faces of the people sitting around the table.
She hesitated when her eyes halted on the
occupant sitting next to the only vacant
seat—Max Trent.
Why did it have to be
him?
She sighed her irritation as she sat
down.

The group—with the exception of Max—
greeted her with nods and smiles.

He leaned over with amusement glittering in
his dark eyes. “You don’t look too pleased
to see me. Why’s that?”
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