Flower was only almost naked, not completely. The smidgeon of her stripper’s getup she paraded around in left little to the imagination. Alvarez, with a quick, practiced eye, estimated some parts of her would have been better off covered up in direct light. “You jes’ wait here in the kitchen, baby. Marco is piled up on his ass sleepin’, but he left your package in the bedroom.”

Alvarez could only partly hear Flower’s slurred voice over the ear splitting music. Stoned, barely able to stay upright and, wearing only a pink thong, she stumbled out of the room, her fried egg boobs insufficient to jiggle even slightly. The tattoo of a snake wrapped around her left leg, the head disappearing to the north at the vital junction, flashed like a multi-colored caution light as she turned the corner.

A Dallas cop seventeen years, nine in narcotics, Alvarez had underestimated Marco. When he’d flashed the cash the night before at the biker bar on South Lamar, Marco had quickly agreed to pony up the shit – California Brown, rare stuff to score. Alvarez was surprised that the sale was going down so easily – maybe too easy.

Then the hickey. Marco had demanded Alvarez come to Marco’s shabby Gaston Avenue apartment to close the deal. Alvarez had attended funerals of two fellow cops who’d been lured to places like Marco’s. Making the buy in a public place was the usual drill, but what the hell, Marco was a major player and Alvarez knew the game. He’d chance it.

So Flower had let him in and staggered out of his sight. Concerned they might pat him down, his Glock .40 was not as accessible as he preferred, stuffed under his shirt in his rear waistband. Hopefully, this dopey chick would come back with heroin and not a .45.

Then unexpected problem number two slithered out from under the trash littered kitchen table. Alvarez figured the huge Doberman was deaf from the acid rock playing at top volume in the place. Wearing a standard body mike, the music would drown out any chance of the cover crew outside had of hearing a damned thing. The dog was hostile, mobile, and seemed ready to bite off choice undercover narc parts as soon as he worked up an appetite.

The yellow-eyed monster brushed by Alvarez at crotch level, teeth bared, making little mini-feints, obviously sizing up which chunks to tear out first. Alvarez, hands on the kitchen stove behind him, instinctively knew a sudden move to dig out his pistol would be a blood bath – mostly his. If he opted to run, the beast would have a clear shot at his backside.

Then his hand brushed an iron skillet atop the stove. Cautiously, he managed a grip on the handle. The monster made another pass, teeth more ominous than before – if that was possible. So confident of ripping Alvarez a new ass at will, he turned away like a bullring matador, the back of his head arrogantly exposed to his intended kill.

Flower breezed back into the kitchen. “Peaches,” she shouted over the music. “Sleepin’ on the job. Marco’s gonna kick your ass.” She didn’t notice Peaches was lying partly on his back amidst the trash strewn about, a feeble stream of urine spouting upward. She was way, way too far gone to see the dent in the middle of the iron skillet on the stove. Peaches would live to bite again, but right now, he was temporarily on injured reserve.