By: Dana Marton

Chapter One

The worst time for a police cruiser to fly off a bridge was when you were handcuffed in the back. Joe Kessler braced as the Hummer crashed into the cruiser from behind for the final time and sent the brand-new Crown Victoria over the railing.

The two Philly cops up front—the driver Irish-looking, the other one black—yelled all the way down, “Hang on! Hang on! Oh hell, dammit!”

Joe and Lil’ Gomez, free-flying in the back, swore more colorfully than that as the car hit the Schuylkill River with a bone-rattling crash. Joe smashed into the metal screen that separated him from the scrambling officers, Lil’ Gomez on top of him, the kid’s pointy elbow slamming into Joe’s cheekbone.

God, he hated undercover work.

Then the rear end of the car slammed down, and they dropped back into their seat, Lil’ Gomez still swearing, the driver shouting into his radio unit, “Officers in the water! Men in the water! We went off the bridge!”

Joe pushed the scrambling kid aside. “Hey! Let us out!” He kicked hard at the door that didn’t budge. “Let us out, dammit!” But the officers paid no attention to him as the cruiser began sinking.

The river churned in the dark night around them, swollen from the spring rains. The cop in the driver’s seat jabbed at the window button by his side, his partner doing the same, grunting, hurrying to roll the glass down before the water could short out the electrical system.

“Hey!” Joe banged against the back door in vain; everything was controlled from the front in a police cruiser.

He glanced at Lil’ Gomez as the scrawny teenager beat against the glass on his side, cussing at the cops, his brown eyes filled with panic. Then the front windows were down at last, the cops tearing at their seat belts.

Oh hell.

“Undercover officer.” Joe gritted his teeth. A month of undercover work down the drain. His gaze met the driver’s in the rearview mirror, and he shouted louder. “I’m an undercover officer!”

But the kid’s yelling and the loud rush of the raging river drowned out everything else.

The ice-cold water was up to their knees in a second, then up to their chests. Ho-ly fuck. Joe had to catch his breath as he adjusted to the shock.

He twisted to kick the wire mesh divider to draw the cops’ attention, but the officers were focused on getting out, paying no mind to the panic in the backseat.

The car filled up in seconds, only a two-inch air pocket hanging on stubbornly under the roof where Lil’ Gomez was sucking air, quiet for the moment. Underwater, the headlights’ eerie glow provided maybe a foot or two of visibility; nothing but murky river beyond that.

Joe rattled the door as he watched the driver wiggle out of the car, then kick away, disappearing in the dark water in seconds. The cop on the passenger side was squeezing through his own window inch by inch. He was rounder than his buddy, but he heaved himself through at last, glancing back.

Joe banged his cuffed hands against the rolled-up window in the back, holding the man’s gaze.

Indecision mixed with desperation on the officer’s face. Then he reached back in, his dark hand barely visible against the car’s black interior. He pressed the button and waited three seconds for the glass in the back to slide down most of the way.

Then he pushed away and faded into the roiling water.

Joe grabbed Lil’ Gomez and shoved him out, then drew a deep breath from the air pocket under the roof. He grabbed the window frame and forced himself through, paying no attention to the skin he was scraping off, thinking only about escaping a watery grave.

His lungs were bursting by the time he freed himself, the car shifting as the water rolled it. Zero visibility. Which way up? The side mirror dragged against his leg from hip to knee. Okay, the car would be going down. He kicked at it for leverage and tried to move in the opposite direction.

He kept his hands stretched in front of him, palms pressed together, kicking as hard as he could, up and up. And barely made headway. His lungs ached.

He was going to drown. Shit.

The image of a pair of laughing, gray eyes flashed into his oxygen-starved brain, mysteriously beautiful eyes and the hot model who went with them—Wendy.

He refused to drown, dammit.

Kick. Kick. Kick.

He toed off his water-filled shoes so they wouldn’t drag him down, wiggled his body for all he was worth, his legs moving, scissoring without break.

His ears rang by the time he breached the surface, but he did reach it, the Schuylkill River filling his mouth with dirty water on his first gulp for air. He choked and tried again. This time, he succeeded in drawing a full breath.

“Help! Hey!”

Unforgiving cold and darkness surrounded him.

He couldn’t swim with his hands cuffed—the best he could do was try to ride the current, angling himself toward shore. But that strategy wasn’t going to be enough. The current was too fast.

“Hey!” he called out again. “Hey! I’m here!”

No response came.

Without being able to use his hands, he’d been slower coming up than the two officers, less able to fight against the river. The current had separated him from the cops.

The lights of the Schuylkill Expressway glowed high above, the bridge now several hundred feet from Joe, the distance growing by the second. The water was rapidly carrying him downriver.