The Scam (Fox and O'Hare #4) by Janet Evanovich, Lee Goldberg

Kate O’Hare bought her Ford Crown Vic at a police auction for abused cop cars. The dented, Bondo-patched four-door beast wasn’t the kind of ride that usually appealed to attractive, professional women in their early thirties. Of course, most of those women didn’t accessorize their wardrobe with a Glock, an FBI badge, and a small belly scar from a knife fight with an assassin.

Kate liked used cop cars because they were cheap, low-maintenance, and had options that weren’t available on a Prius. Options like Kevlar-lined doors that were great for cover in a gun battle, monster V-8 engines that were perfect for high-speed chases, and steel ramming bars on the front grill that came in handy for pushing cars out of her way.

She’d been heading north on the 405 freeway through the Sepulveda Pass when her boss, Special Agent in Charge Carl Jessup, called. Nicolas Fox, fugitive number seven on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, was trying to make his way up to number six.

“I’ve been thinking that maybe it wasn’t such a bright idea for us to help a world-class con man and thief escape from prison,” Jessup said in his amiable Kentucky drawl. “And an even worse idea to give him access to the money we secretly plunder from bad guys and use to pay for our covert ops. Both Nick and a million dollars of our money seem to be unaccounted for.”

“I’m sure there’s an innocent explanation,” Kate said.

“There’s nothing innocent about Nicolas Fox.”

Kate knew that better than anybody. She was the FBI agent who’d chased Nick for five years before she finally put him in prison. Unfortunately, to Kate’s horror, Jessup and Deputy Director Fletcher Bolton had Fox back on the street in record time. They had a plan. Fox would work undercover for the FBI. And Kate would partner up with Fox to keep him honest. Together they were tasked with going after major-league criminals who couldn’t be caught through legal means. So Nick remained a major-league criminal himself, secretly working for the FBI, and Kate remained a top FBI field agent, secretly working with an international fugitive.

And that’s why Kate was currently taking the curves on Sunset like it was the Talladega Superspeedway. She was hoping to catch Nick in his Sunset Strip penthouse. Technically, the penthouse wasn’t Nick’s. The IRS had seized it from a rapper who’d neglected to pay his taxes, and then the IRS had left it unoccupied pending sale. Nick had posed as the listing agent and quietly moved in. Thanks to rich tax cheats, Nick could always find a swanky place to stay that didn’t require him to show a credit card or his face to a desk clerk.

Kate skidded to a stop in front of the fifteen-story building, jumped out of her car, and ran to the locked lobby door. She rang all of the tenants, held her badge up to the security camera, and looked into the lens with as much authority as she could muster.

“FBI! Open up!”

A tenant with a sense of civic duty, and too much trust, kindly buzzed the door open. Kate charged into the lobby only to come face-to-face with an “Out of Order” sign taped to the elevator.

Just her luck. She dashed into the stairwell and sprinted up the stairs. In a training exercise, it had taken her and a dozen other elite military commandos in full assault gear twenty minutes to rush up to the eighty-sixth floor of the Empire State Building. Kate estimated it would take her three minutes to get up to the penthouse in her sensible shoes.

Her cellphone rang between the fifth and sixth floor. Kate touched the Bluetooth device in her ear and answered the call as she climbed.

“O’Hare,” she said.

“Where are you?” It was Megan, her younger sister. “Dad’s waiting for you to take him to the airport.”

“I’m on my way.”

Their father, Jake, lived with Megan, her husband, Roger, and their two grade-school-aged kids in a gated community in Calabasas. That was where Kate had been headed when she received the call from Jessup.

“I told you two weeks ago that the kids have a big soccer game today and it’s our turn to pass out the sliced oranges at halftime,” Megan said. “You promised me that you’d take him.”

“Relax, Megan. I’ll be there.”

“Why are you huffing and puffing?”

The stairwell began to rumble with the unmistakable sound of a helicopter closing in overhead. Kate felt a pang in her stomach, and it wasn’t from the exertion of climbing twelve stories in two minutes. It was a powerful case of déjà vu and the dread that came with it. Kate had once chased Nick across a rooftop just as his accomplices were lifting off in a helicopter without him. As the chopper flew away, Nick had leapt off the building and grabbed onto a landing skid to make his triumphant escape. Her fear now was that he was going to try to repeat that death-defying performance.