Title: Bishop’s Gambit
Author: McKenna Dean
Genre: Paranormal Romance/Suspense/Mystery
Newly minted secret agent Rhett Bishop would rather face down a horde of angry wolf shifters or her father’s former mob contacts than accept her current assignment: pose undercover as a suburban housewife, complete with a husband, slippers, and pipe.
But after the debacle of her previous mission, Rhett has a lot to prove.
To redeem herself in the eyes of Redclaw Security, and to carry out her mission without distractions, she must table her budding relationship with Peter Knight while the two of them uncover the secrets of Forest Grove.
Armed with her trusty ray gun, her unique little dog, and Knight’s brains, Rhett is confident she can handle whatever the suburbs can throw at her.
Until they lob a curveball.
“May I help you?”
Surrounded by mannequins sporting Maidenform and Playtex products, I almost blurted out a complete lie, but immediately thought better of it. Pressing my back against the stock case, I hunched down so I couldn’t be seen from the other side.
“Do you see a man looking for someone out there?” I asked.
With narrowed eyes, the saleswoman turned her head and then seemed to freeze for a moment. She continued her sweep of the store as though nothing untoward had happened, not quite facing me as she spoke out of the corner of her mouth.
“The guy who looks like an angry Jimmy Cagney?”
I nodded. Time for a partial fib.
“He’s following me. I think… I think my husband owes him money.” I turned a wide-eyed stare on her, letting my apprehension show on my face.
“Oh, honey.” She flicked a quick, sympathetic glance in my direction, then busied herself straightening out the merchandise stacked on the nearest table. “Do you want me to call security?”
Did I? That didn’t seem like a good idea. If this situation was related to Redclaw, Ryker wouldn’t thank me for bringing the agency to the attention of the police. But if this man had something to do with my father, going to the police wasn’t necessarily a smart move either. I shook my head.
“I’d rather not involve the police.” I gave the saleswoman a meaningful stare. “Is there another way out of the building?”
She didn’t look up but continued fussing with the girdles. “Yes, but you’ll have to wait until he moves on. He’s entered this section. Go on, slip into the changing room. I’ll tell you when the coast is clear.”
I crept around the end of the rack and hurried into the dressing room. The scent of flowers followed me.
After five minutes of strained silence, she tapped on my door. “He’s gone for the moment, but not far, I fear. Come with me. I’ll take you through alterations and out the back.”
I hurried after her.
“Go down these stairs to the basement. Once there, you’ll find the seamstresses in the alterations department. Customers aren’t allowed down here, but if you tell them Madge sent you, it will be okay. Get them to show you the way out. And good luck.”
I gave her the best smile I could muster, a little tremulous around the edges, and thanked her. The saleswoman went back through the door as quickly as she’d come. The stairs emptied onto a landing illuminated by a bulb in a wire cage with another door leading out of the stairwell. Behind the door lay a long shadowy corridor, lined with duct work. The air was chilly, and the walls shone with dampness.
The clatter of sewing machines lead to a hive of activity, where a double line of women bent over their assigned duties. Only one or two workers looked up when I appeared at the doorway, but all stopped working when a gray-haired woman turned around with a snap.
“What are you doing here? Customers aren’t allowed in here.”
The woman’s hostility made me decide not to invoke Madge’s name for fear of getting her into trouble.
“I’m sorry. I got turned around and lost. Is there an easy way out of the building? I’m supposed to meet someone and I’m already very late.”
With an exaggerated sigh, the manager swept toward me, grabbing my arm in passing and marching me toward the door. Tempted as I was to jerk back and land a solid punch to her gut, I painted a bright smile on my face and let her pull me along through the work area and out a door on the opposite end.
She pointed at a dark passageway that took a sharp turn to the left at the end. A single bulb shone at the juncture between corridors.
“Follow this to the outer door. You’ll be outside then, but not on 34th Street. Hope that’s good enough.”
I assured her it was and made for the exit as quickly as possible. I breathed a sigh of relief when I stepped outside into the bright, hot sunshine. This must have been how Allan Quartermain felt on escaping from the fictitious King Solomon’s Mines. Not wanting to waste another minute, I stepped to the curb and hailed a cab.
A yellow taxi pulled over to the side of the road. I’d just given my hotel address to the driver through his open window when I heard the sound of running footsteps behind me. My James Cagney follower pounded the concrete in a dead run toward me. Without waiting for the driver to let me in, I dove into the back seat and slammed the car door shut.
The cab driver let out an oath and gunned the engine, cutting the wheel hard and pulling into traffic as my pursuer wrenched open the rear door. The stranger’s mouth fell open in surprise as I pointed the ray gun at him, but then his expression hardened. Either he didn’t believe the gun was real or he didn’t believe I’d shoot. With a snarl, he reached for my hand as he ran alongside the cab.
A serious mistake on his part. I don’t bluff.
The ray gun let loose a concentrated beam of energy, not enough to kill, but certainly enough to injure. With a yelp, the stranger fell back clutching his hand. The car peeled away from the curb, and I leaned out to grab the door handle and pull the door shut before it banged into a newspaper stand on the corner. Breathless with the near miss, I settled my hat back on my head and replaced the gun in my clutch.
The driver met my eyes in the rearview mirror. “You okay back there? What was that about, lady?”
I looked thoughtfully back at the man on the street whipping off his hat and throwing it to the sidewalk in frustration.
“I wish I knew.”
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When Rhett Bishop and Peter Knight go undercover to investigate a series of inexplicable events in an upscale suburb, it’s Leave it to Beaver meets the X-Files!
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Runs August 10 – August 17, 2021.
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McKenna Dean lives with her family on a small farm in North Carolina, which she shares with dogs, cats, and various livestock. She likes putting her characters in hot water to see how strong they are. Like teabags, only sexier.
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