Alligator Alley by Mike Lawson: Featured Excerpt

In Mike Lawson's Alligator Alley, a young man working in the DOJ’s Inspector General’s Office is murdered in Florida’s Everglades, and it's up to bagman Joe DeMarco to get to the bottom of things. Read an excerpt here!

Chapter 1

The Everglades—at midnight—was the last place twenty-three-year-old Andie Moore wanted to be.

There was only a pale half-moon providing any light, and she could barely see where she was walking. She was also terrified of snakes and alligators, and there was no doubt that there were alligators all around her. She knew this because she’d parked her car on the Everglades Parkway, the highway that runs east-west across southern Florida. The Everglades Parkway has another name. It’s called “Alligator Alley”—and it’s called this because the damn alligators thrive on both sides of the highway.

About fifty yards in front of Andie were four people walking together, heading into the swamp. 

She was following them, praying they wouldn’t spot her. 

The four people were all thieves. 

There was Lenny Berman and his wife, Estelle, and two men named McIntyre and McGruder. The Bermans were in their forties, small, dark, and sleek; they made Andie think of two-legged ferrets. McIntyre and McGruder were big, beefy white guys. They were over six feet tall, over fifty, and overweight. There wasn’t anything sleek about them at all, but that didn’t make them any less dangerous. McIntyre and McGruder were walking behind the Bermans and prodding the married couple to keep them moving.

Andie had followed the four of them from Miami—they all went together in McIntyre’s Cadillac—and when McIntyre parked on the Everglades Parkway and they headed into the swamp, she decided to go after them. She knew she shouldn’t be doing what she was doing.

She knew she was risking her life. But she had no choice. Following them into the swamp was the only way to prove to her boss that she was right.

She was holding her iPhone in her right hand, about head high, videoing the people ahead of her. She knew what was going to happen—she was positive—but there was no way she could stop it from happening. She didn’t have a gun; she couldn’t yell, Stop or I’ll shoot. And it was too late to call 911; by the time the cops got there it would all be over with, and McIntyre and McGruder would be gone. But what she could do was be a witness and, with a little luck, film the crime that was about to be committed. The problem was that it was so damn dark that she didn’t know if the video would show anything.

She just hoped she didn’t trip. The group ahead of her could see where it was going because McIntyre was holding a flashlight in his left hand, guiding their way into the swamp, and the beam of his flashlight briefly illuminated the bough of a cypress tree dripping with a fragile curtain of blue Spanish moss.

In his right hand, McIntyre was holding a gun. McGruder had a gun in his right hand, too.



Andie could hear Estelle whimpering and Lenny saying something she couldn’t make out. He was most likely begging for his and his wife’s lives.

The gunshots—four cracks and four flashes of light caused by the muzzle blasts—startled her, and she had to clamp her hand over her mouth to keep from crying out.

She stopped the video, praying that the iPhone had at least captured the sound of the gunshots and the flashes of light. Now what she had to do was get away without being seen, or she’d end up as dead as Lenny and Estelle.

She was afraid that if she ran, they’d hear her, and when they turned around to leave the swamp, McIntyre’s flashlight might illuminate her. She decided the best thing would be to move a few paces off the path they’d taken into the swamp and lie in the grass and wait for them to pass—and hope that an alligator didn’t decide to make her its midnight snack.

She turned and took a step to her right, but when she did her foot snagged on something and she tripped and fell. Oh, shit! She knew the sound of her hitting the ground and her accompanying grunt had been noticeable in the otherwise silent night. She was certain the killers had heard her.

She got up and started running.

As she was running, the beam from McIntyre’s flashlight hit her and, for an instant, lit the way in front of her. 

She thought, I’m going to get shot in the back.

* * *


McIntyre heard something behind him and whipped his head around. He thought it was probably a big gator pouncing on something. He aimed the flashlight at the spot where the sound had come from—and saw Andie.

“Oh, shit! It’s that little bitch,” he yelled.

“We gotta get her!” McGruder said.

McGruder took off after her, knowing he probably wouldn’t catch her. McGruder had been an athlete when he was young, and if he’d still been young, he would have easily caught her, especially with his long legs and Andie Moore’s short ones. But at this stage of his life, packing all the extra pounds and wearing rubber swamp boots that were hard to run in, the girl was extending her lead on him.

* * *


Andie was running for her life—literally, for her life—thinking how foolish she’d been to follow them into the swamp. She sprinted toward the highway where her car was parked, hoping they wouldn’t be able to hit a moving target. She was also hoping that someone would be driving down the highway and the driver would see her fleeing in his headlights. A witness might stop them from killing her.

If she could reach her car, there was a good chance she’d be able to escape. She was certain that she was faster than McIntyre and McGruder. They were more than twice her age, and she’d been a sprinter in high school. She was thinking that there was no way they’d catch her unless they shot her—and that’s when her foot hit a fallen log she hadn’t been able to see in the darkness.

She fell hard, facedown into the marsh grass, and her phone went flying from her hand when she hit the ground. She didn’t even try to find the phone. She scrambled to her feet, pushed off with her right foot, then stumbled again—striking the log had done something to her right ankle. She got up but had taken only a couple of limping strides when she was shoved hard in the back and knocked to the ground.

She looked up to see McGruder staring down at her, breathing heavily.

He said, “What in the fuck are you doing here? Are you nuts?”

McIntyre joined McGruder. He was also panting and out of breath. He shined his flashlight on her face, blinding her. They stood there silently for a moment, the two big men looming over her, then McGruder said, “Give me the flashlight and stay with her while I finish taking care of Lenny and Estelle.”

McGruder headed back into the swamp. McIntyre jerked Andie to her feet, then stood in the dark next to her, holding her right arm. The guy was so much bigger and stronger than she was, there was no way she could break free of his grip. She cursed her luck, knowing that McGruder would have never caught her if she hadn’t hit the log.

Based on what she could hear, it sounded as if McGruder was pulling Lenny’s and Estelle’s bodies deeper into the swamp or maybe doing something to force them under the water. While he was doing that, Andie desperately tried to think of something to say to keep them from killing her. And there was no doubt they’d kill her because she’d witnessed them killing the Bermans.

She said, “I called my boss and told him I was following you tonight. Anything happens to me, he’ll know you did it.”

“Yeah, sure you did,” McIntyre said, obviously not believing her. “Goddamnit, why’d you have to tail us?” To Andie it sounded as if McIntyre genuinely regretted that he was going to have to kill her.

“I did call him,” Andie said. “I’m not bluffing.”

“Aw, shut up, kid. Just shut up.”

McGruder returned a minute later and said to McIntyre, “What are we going to do with her?”

McIntyre said, “We’re all going back to that rest stop we passed earlier to talk this over and see if we can work something out.”

“You sure?” McGruder said.

“Yeah, I’m sure,” McIntyre said.

Andie didn’t believe him—the part about them being able to work something out—but his words gave her hope nonetheless.

They walked back to the highway, McIntyre still holding on to her right arm, and when they reached McIntyre’s car, McIntyre said, “Where’s your car?”

“Down there,” Andie said, pointing with her small chin.

“Okay. I’m going to go with her,” McIntyre said, handing McGruder his car keys. “We’ll meet you at the rest stop.”

When they reached her car, McIntyre said, “You drive. And I’m telling you right now, you do something stupid, like try to cause an accident, I’m going to shoot you right in the fuckin’ head.”

They had to drive west a couple of miles to find an exit ramp where they could turn around and go east, back in the direction of the rest stop. Andie didn’t see a single car on the highway coming toward them or going away from them. At half past midnight, she might as well have been on the surface of the moon. When they reached the rest stop exit, Andie saw a sign saying that the rest stop closed at nine p.m., meaning that’s when the restroom doors were probably locked and any concession stands shut down. Her only hope was that someone might be parked, sleeping in a car, but she knew the likelihood of that being the case was small.

McIntyre ordered her to turn off her headlights as she drove into the rest stop parking lot, which was completely dark. Apparently all the lights were turned off at night to discourage folks from using the rest stop after it was closed. McIntyre told her to park in a space that was the farthest one away from the low cinder block building that contained the restrooms. A moment after she parked, McGruder pulled McIntyre’s Cadillac into the spot next to her car.

She turned to McIntyre and said, “Okay. Here’s what I’m willing to do.”

She’d been thinking about what she was going to say the whole time she’d been driving. And when she spoke, she tried to sound confident, as if she were actually in a position to make a bargain.

She said, “You give me part of what you and McGruder stole. Let’s say half a million, because that seems like a reasonable number. You do that, and that’ll make me an accomplice and I won’t have any incentive to testify against you. Plus, I never wanted this damn job to begin with, and with five hundred grand I can go do something else.”

McIntyre just looked at her, his face expressionless. She said, “You know you don’t want to kill me, McIntyre. You kill me and it won’t be some hick county sheriff doing the investigation. It’ll be the whole fuckin’ bureau because my boss will make sure of that. The smartest thing you can do is to give me some of the money so I’ll be an accomplice and you won’t get the death penalty for murder.”

McIntyre slowly nodded his big head. “You know something, kid, that might actually work. Because you’re right, I don’t want to kill you. But roll down your window and drop the keys on the ground. I don’t want you to try to take off while I’m talking to my partner.”

“Yeah, sure,” Andie said.

Did he really believe she’d be willing to cut a deal with them? Could he be that stupid? Could she be that lucky?

She rolled down the driver’s-side window, removed the keys from the ignition, and dropped them on the ground next to the car.

McIntyre reached up and turned off the dome light in the car so it wouldn’t come on when he opened the door. He got out of the car, holding his pistol in his right hand, the pistol that had been pointed at her while she’d been driving. By now McGruder was out of McIntyre’s car and standing in front of it.

McIntyre walked around the front of Andie’s car, toward McGruder, but then turned and walked to her open driver’s-side window.

And he shot Andie Moore twice in the heart.


Copyright © 2023 by Mike Lawson. All rights reserved.



About Alligator Alley by Mike Lawson:

Joe DeMarco likes to call himself a troubleshooter. It sounds better than “bagman” or “fixer.” With more than a decade of troubleshooting under his belt on behalf of John Mahoney, the Speaker of the House, DeMarco has seen his fair share of dangerous situations.

When Andie Moore, a 23-year-old working in the DOJ’s Inspector General’s Office, is murdered in cold blood in Florida’s Everglades, it falls on DeMarco to get to the bottom of things. Paired with Emma, an enigmatic, retired ex-spy with seemingly endless connections in the military and intelligence communities, they venture south to the scene of Andie’s murder: Alligator Alley.

DeMarco and Emma waste no time in identifying a two suspects—a pair of crooked, near-retirement FBI agents named McIntyre and McGruder. But as they keep digging, it becomes clear that these FBI agents weren’t acting alone, and that this goes much deeper than just the murder of an innocent 23-year old woman.

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