It must have been 90 degrees in the shade, and humid enough that not ten minutes after we’d arrived at the Great Minnesota Get Together, I blew right past sweat-covered into full-fledged swamp ass. If I didn’t love my girlfriend Alex, I’d be chilling at home with the air conditioner set to sixty-five and a cold bottle of Summit in my hand. Instead, I was sweltering at the top of the iconic State Fair Giant Slide—a five story, 150-foot, green and yellow behemoth. The coarse burlap in my hand was scratchy, but that was the only vehicle from here to solid ground.
“Cailin!” Alex’s sharp tone startled me. “Look!” Her arm was outstretched and her finger was aimed somewhere vaguely ahead, toward the throng of people that milled below.
“By the tree across the road from the slide.”
The bright light made me squint. A tiny lady of a certain age, wearing a huge, floppy hat, was playing shoulder bag tug-of-war with a much younger, very bleached-blonde woman. It was obvious the yank-fest wasn’t of the friendly sort. Blondie whipped something out and waved it at Granny. Granny jerked the sack toward her. Blondie released it and stumbled backward. A corndog went flying and a kid hit the deck. Blondie steadied herself, and the sun caught the object she’d pulled.
Oh crap. A freaking knife. I glanced around for Fair police, then realized they’d never hear me anyway.
“Be back.” I shimmied between hot bodies, and to the slide attendants’ dismay, launched myself headfirst over the edge. I managed to catch most of the burlap under me, and by sheer dumb luck didn’t run anyone over on my swift descent. In about two seconds, I skidded sideways across the landing area, popped up, and rushed the chest-high fence that enclosed the slide. The drone of the fair faded and I hopped the chain-link with singular focus. I charged across the street, past the kid who was still sprawled, screaming for his fallen dog.
The blonde had disappeared.
“Which way?” I hollered, and a few people pointed, mostly in the same direction. I took off again. Two steps forward, three steps back. I finally broke through the crush into an opening, and glimpsed platinum hair disappearing around the corner of Ole and Lena’s Deep Fried Hot Dish stand. I doubled down and caught another rare gap in the surging masses. I hauled ass past Ole’s in time to see my quarry dart into the horse barn. Muscle memory kicked in and my hand fell to my waist. With a curse I remembered I’d left my gun at home. Oh well, not a good idea to bring a gun to a knife fight anyway.
I was almost flattened by a team of glossy, black Percherons clomping out of the barn. I managed to squeeze between them into the relative cool of the huge structure. Stalls to my left, stalls to my right, and a wide walkway dead ahead. A number of horses stood patiently in the aisle in various stages of show prep. About halfway down, my would-be-thief was playing dodge ’em with a burly cowboy. Blondie outfoxed him, and hoofed it to the open door at the other end of the barn. Luckily my legs were longer, and I was closing in.
“Stop, NPI!” I hollered.
Of course she didn’t. She hit the exit. I barreled after her. Now just scant feet separated us. Adrenaline pounding, I dredged up a burst of speed and leaped. The Vikings would be proud. My momentum carried us both down, skidding across straw-strewn gravel. It wasn’t going to be a pretty clean up.
The tussle lasted less than fifteen seconds. I sat on her butt, chest heaving, holding her arms pinned behind her back. Gawkers circled, and then two Fair police pushed through the crowd.
“Jesus, McKenna,” Manny Martinez said. “What did you get into now?” He was a Minneapolis cop and a friend of mine who was apparently working a little OT.
I shrugged and sucked more air.
He shook his head once and handed me a pair of cuffs. I hooked her up and Martinez pulled me to my feet. Between breaths, I gasped, “She’s all yours. Had a knife. Don’t know where it is.”
Martinez said, “Only you could get in trouble at the fricking fair.”
Martinez’s partner grabbed Blondie and tugged her upright. Her shirt and shorts were straw-covered and skid-marked with what was probably horse poo. Good thing she’d cushioned my fall.
I dusted my hands on my pants. “Can’t get past the long arm of a National Protection and Investigation Agent.”
Martinez rolled his eyes.
Alex came ripping around the corner of the barn door. She pulled up fast. “Cailin, you got her! I’ve never seen anyone take a header down that slide. After you give them a statement, I owe you a footlong, you hero, you.”
Yup. Just another day in my boring life. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
You can read more about Cailin in Operation Stop Hate, the first book in the NEW “Operation” mystery series, published by Train Wreck XPress.
GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern on June 25 for the chance to win either a print or an e-book copy of Operation Stop Hate–winner’s choice. The print giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. The e-book giveaway is open to everyone. Two lucky commenters will be randomly selected. Winners will be notified within 48 hours after giveaway closes and you will have three days to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected. Make sure to check your SPAM folder.
About the author
Jessie Chandler lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her wife and two mutts, Fozzy Bear and Ollie. In the fall and winter, Jessie writes, and spends her summers selling T-shirts and other assorted trinkets to unsuspecting conference and festival goers.
The first book in Jessie’s new National Investigation and Protection Unit Operation series, Operation Stop Hate, launched March 2015. Lesbians on the Loose, Crime Writers on the Lam, a mystery anthology co-edited with Lori L. Lake, just released in May 2015. Blood Money Murder, the fifth book in the Shay O’Hanlon Caper series, will be out late 2015, and the first book in Jessie’s new Art Thief series is slated for 2016. Learn more at www.jessiechandler.com.