Monday, November 30, 2015

Hunted - 3

“Not very sociable is he,” Noah commented as he watched the red-haired man walk past the living room without acknowledging Kief’s ‘Hello’. 

Skye nodded in agreement. “Perhaps he’s just shy,” she said before she turned back to the television.

“More stand-offish I’d say,” Kief told them. “Like talking isn’t his thing. At least to strangers.”

“What I don’t get is why he’s in the attic. That smacks of something out of a horror flick.” Noah laughed as he made a grab for Skye. “I will drink your blood,” he intoned.   

With a roll of her eyes she ducked away. “Behave, I’m trying to watch this you nut.”

“And what is ‘this’?” Noah asked.

“The newest vampire show. It’s bad but the lead is like whew.”

The two men took a look and shook their heads. “Too fem,” Noah told her.

“And too short,” Kief added. “Vampires should be tall, dark and handsome with an air of mystery about them.”

“Yeah, but he’s still hot,” Skye protested.

“Whoa, who’s that?” Kief asked, his eyes now locked on the screen.

“That’s the werewolf. He’s the bad guy but yeah, sexy as hell.” Skye gave a passionate sigh. “I’d give my eyeteeth to meet him in person.”

“He’s probably a self-centered bastard. Most of those TV actors are,” Kief said.

Noah cocked an eyebrow. “And how do you know that?”

Kief chuckled. “I read the papers by the checkout line at the supermarket.”

“Which of course tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but,” Noah replied with a snort.

“Yeah, well, at least they’re amusing.” He leaned against Noah as he asked Skye to fill them in on the plot of the show.

* * * *

Across town one of the stars of the vampire show restrained himself—only because he was in public—as he looked across the restaurant table at his companion. “What the hell do you mean you’re moving out?” Brice Davies said with cold fury, his voice pitched low enough not to carry further than his companion’s ears.

“Just what I said Brice,” his companion replied quietly, “I’m over it. I got an offer for a good job in New York, and I’m taking it. I hate this city, I hate hanging around waiting until you decide to come home. I hate having to hide our relationship under the guise of friendship. Hell I hate…damned near everything right now. My things are packed. All that was left was to find a minute to fit into your busy schedule so I could let you know.”

“You don’t walk out on me,” Brice growled.

“Watch me.” His companion stood with a satisfied smile on his face, dropped his napkin on the table and strolled away without a backward glance.

Brice started to get up then sank back down in his chair. “He’s not worth it,” he said under his breath. He picked up his fork and continued to eat as if nothing had happened. "There’s plenty more where he came from. Tons of men dying to have me notice them," he muttered in a vain attempt to convince himself that things were all right. But deep down there was the fear it wasn’t really the truth.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Hunted - 2

“Need some help with that?”

Logan stopped long enough to look at the slender, dark-haired man standing below him at the foot of the stairs to the attic and shook his head. “I’m good,” he stated as he continued to wrestle the table up the narrow staircase. He’d have brought it in the same way he had the mattress if he hadn’t been afraid someone would see him in the process. It was the same reason he’d put the bits of furniture in the back yard in the first place. He didn’t need humans knowing that he wasn’t one.

The man apparently was not ready to take ‘no’ for an answer. “You can’t open your door with your hands full,” he pointed out as he walked up two steps.

Logan had to admit he was right. “Well, okay. If you can just keep it from falling back down for the moment.” The man took the other end and Logan dug into his pockets for his key, unlocked the door, opened it and flipped on the light. “Thanks,” he said as he took hold of the table again, backed into his room with it and set it down.

“Small but workable,” the man said from the doorway. “I’m Kiefer by the way, or Kief for short.” He held out his hand.

“Logan,” Logan replied shortly, ignoring the out-stretched hand. Kief withdrew it with a shrug. “Thanks for the help,” Logan added while he debated where to put the table so he wouldn’t hit his head on the angled ceiling every time he stood up.

“Sure. Welcome.” Kief turned to leave, paused and said, “Under the window would work.”

Logan nodded and moved it there, put the chairs he’d brought up earlier on either side and decided Kief was right—it did. He looked at him with a small smile. “Thanks, again.”

“No problem. I’ll leave you to it. If you need help moving anything else in I’m in room three.” That said he left.

With the furniture, all three pieces of it, now in place Logan decided the platform would be the perfect sleeping area. He set the mattress on it once he’d moved his bags onto the floor. It fit almost perfectly with just enough room between it and the wall that he could put in a low shelf to hold books and whatever else he needed. "Very low," he muttered with a bit of amusement. The slope soon gave way to the flat roof, giving him about eight feet of ceiling above most of the room.

“Pipe,” he muttered to himself. “Pipe and strong wire should do the trick for hanging my clothes. And some screws, and a screwdriver, and the hell with that until morning. Dinner however…” He shut off the light, locked the door and headed down the stairs.

Friday, November 27, 2015

New release - 'Off On the Wrong Foot'!

Off On the Wrong Foot

Simon Jarrett is a well-known mystery writer. A play he wrote, based on one of his books, has been accepted by a local theater. Daniel Lowe is the theater's costumer. The first time they meet--in the elevator of their apartment building--neither knows who the other is. Daniel thinks Simon is a snob, while Simon can only see Daniel as a clone of his abusive ex-lover, Carl--although a straight one, he thinks.

They meet again at the theater and both are appalled, to put it mildly, to find out they'll be working together. Slowly, they begin to accept each other, but it isn't until Allie, Simon's friend, reveals to Daniel why Simon is so stand-offish that Daniel finally tells Simon he, too, is gay.

Will the two men be able to become more than friends, or will Carl's coming back into Simon's life drive them apart--or worse?

"He wouldn't be right for you," Allie stated.

Simon glanced at her, shrugging. "When it comes down to it, no one is--at least in your opinion."

"Friends know these things."

"Uh-huh. So tell me, oh great and wise one, who would be?"

"Someone who's available? And who doesn't resemble your bastard ex, Carl."

"Maybe I like pining after the unobtainable."

"Simon"--she shook her head, taking another sip of her drink--"with that attitude, you're never going to find the right man. For sure, he's not it."

The he they were discussing was a new tenant in their apartment building. According to the label on his mailbox, his last name was Lowe. Tall, blonde, and muscular, Lowe was Simon's exact opposite--at least physically--since Simon was slender, dark-haired, and barely five-ten. To top that off, Simon would bet his bottom dollar the guy was straight. That didn't stop him from dreaming, especially since Lowe was seated on the other side of the coffee shop, directly in Simon's line of vision.

"Earth to Simon."

Simon chuckled. "I'm here. Are you ready to leave?"

"If you can tear yourself away from staring at him." She finished the last of her coffee, grabbed her backpack, and got up.

"I wasn't, you know."

Allie just snorted as they left.

* * * *

Daniel watched the couple leave. He'd seen them, on and off, at the apartment building he'd moved to a couple of weeks ago and couldn't decide if they were going together or just friends.
Not that it mattered. He had more important things to worry about. He returned his attention to the script he was reading. It was a new play, which would be receiving its world premiere at The Abney Theater, where Daniel worked as the costume designer.

The author was a fairly well-known local writer of mysteries set in the forties. The man had decided to try his hand at turning one of his books into a play. The result, in Daniel's opinion, was not bad. Not Miller or Williams by a long shot, but it would bring in the audiences and probably garner decent reviews.

Mainly because it was written by Mr Jarrett. 

As he took notes on the characters, he envisioned how he would dress them. The hero was a private detective, the heroine, a woman of easy virtue who needed the detective's help to prove she hadn't murdered her husband.

Pure film noir. I see lots of visits to shops carrying vintage clothes in my future. 

Not that he minded. He'd become a costumer for a reason. He loved the theater and he loved creating costumes--not what had been expected of him when he was in high school. At six-two, and built like a linebacker, everyone had figured he'd play football--especially his father.

Dear old Dad had visions of me making it into the NFL. 

His father had been somewhat dismayed when Daniel had joined the high school theater as an extracurricular activity, rather than trying out for the football team. Thankfully, his father had finally accepted the fact that Daniel had no interest in sports then supported him when he'd announced he was going to major in costume design in college. "Whatever makes you happy," had been his father's final words on the subject. "Just do it to the best of your abilities."

Daniel had--graduating with a BFA in costume design, then working at several small theaters until he'd ended up at The Abney two years ago. When he had been introduced to the staff at the theater, the initial reaction had been variations on "You're kidding me. You look like you should be playing for…" whatever football team happened to be the speaker's favorite. He was used to that by now and laughed it off--before going on to prove to them he was a damned good costumer.

Now, he read over his notes, checked the time and decided to go home to work on a few preliminary ideas to present to Tom, the show's director and one of the theater's owners. He could do it at his office, but the theater was dark on Mondays, so he'd probably be the only one there. Not that he minded the solitude, but he could get it done just as easily in his apartment--and fix himself some dinner rather than eating out.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Hunted - 1

Logan looked around the small attic room and decided he could make it work. It wasn’t as if he really had much choice in the matter at the moment. His funds were almost depleted, and—since he’d just arrived in the city just two days before—he had yet to find a job.

He turned to the landlady, who was watching him in question. “Would there be a problem if I got one of those small fridges to put in here?” he asked.

“You are allowed to share the kitchen with the other tenants,” she pointed out. “But I suppose that would be all right. No hotplate though. They’re too dangerous.”

“I understand completely.” Logan gave the area one more look and then said, “I’ll take it.”

Half an hour later he deposited his two bags on the low platform at one side of the room and muttered, “Home sweet home.”

The first order of business was to hit up the thrift store he’d seen a couple of blocks from the house. He made a mental list of what he needed---a mattress, a small table with a couple of chairs, a set of shelves—and hoped he had enough to cover that as well as sheets and towels. The refrigerator and a microwave oven could come later when he had a job, unless…

Logan looked out the small window at one end of the room with a nod. It was almost dark and in this area of the city there was a chance he could find some of what he needed for free if he checked out the alleys.

“Being broke sucks,” he muttered as he opened one of the bags to take out a pair of jeans and a dark blue hoodie. The rest of his clothes would have to stay in the bags until he found something to use to hang them on.

He took off his slacks and button-down shirt, carefully folded them, laid them on top of the other bag and put on the jeans and hoodie as well as a T-shirt. Then he left the attic room via the narrow flight of stairs that led to the second floor hall. As he made his way from there down to the first floor he heard voices coming from the community living room. The last thing he wanted right now was to have to introduce himself to the other people who lived there, so he quickly hurried past the archway to the front door and moments later was on the sidewalk outside the house. He turned right, walked to the end of the block, then right again until he reached the alley.

It took two hours to search several alleys in the neighborhood but in the end he had a small, battered table and two mismatched chairs to show for his efforts—which he had taken back to the house in stages, leaving them in the backyard for the time being.

A quick check of the time told him he could make it to the thrift shop before it closed, if he hurried. He got there with minutes to spare. The clerk looked as if she wanted to tell him he was too late, but when he told her all he needed was a mattress, if they had some, she led him to the back of the store. He chose what looked like the best of the three single mattresses, wrestled it down the cluttered aisles to the front counter then asked if she had sheets to fit it, as well as some towels. She did and after he made his selection he paid for his purchases and waited while she bagged up the linens.

“Is your car out front?” she asked when he was ready to leave.

“No car,” he said succinctly.

“You’re going to carry the mattress?”

“No choice. I have to.”

“I could call a cab for you. I’ve seen big ones that could hold it, I think.”

Logan debated for a moment then nodded. “Thanks. I’ll put this outside though so you can close up.” He maneuvered the mattress out the door then, after he checked to be certain she was on the phone and not watching him, he took it to the alley next to the shop. Seconds later he and the mattress were in his attic room.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Walt Murphy – Part Two – 50

Now Ricky is usually a bit restrained, being an accountant and all.

Okay, strike that. Restraint is not his thing, especially when he thinks I might have been hurt as part of the job I do.

I heard the front door open about half an hour after Tom had left. Yeah, I was still a bit jumpy from all that had gone down, so I was on my feet, ready to defend myself if necessary. It was, but only from Ricky as he practically bowled me over, hugging and kissing me as if we'd been apart for a month, not half a day.  

He finished his attack by stepping back, gripping my arms while he looked me over with a critical eye. "Two arms, two legs, one body, one head, no obvious damage except"—he lightly touched the bandages on my throat. "You made it through in one piece. I'm proud of you. Now…tell me again what the hell were you thinking when you set that up?"

"I missed you too," I said when I could finally get a word in edgewise.

He sagged against me, heaving a deep sigh. "It's over. Right?"

"Yep. Over and done and we can get back to our normal lives." Of course I didn't mention things like trials and the possibility that, with a good lawyer, there was always the chance at least Carlo might get off with a light sentence or probation. Ben? He'd probably end up in the pen, or in a psyche ward, depending on how his lawyer played it. No sense it telling Ricky that. He'd figure it out in time. He is a smart man. For now, well as I told him, it was time to move on.

He looked up at me and gave me that wicked grin that meant he was about to proposition me. "I suggest we start by heading straight upstairs to celebrate 'normal'."

I wasn't going to argue over that idea—so we did. Then we went out for lunch at our favorite restaurant, came home and celebrated again. After all, it's Sunday. What else would two red-blooded men do who have no interest in professional sports on TV? Screw each others brains out. Right? 

The End

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Walt Murphy – Part Two – 49

With a bit of effort, I was able to get my cuffed hands in front of me. Then, before calling the cops, I collected the gun and the knife, unlocked the car trunk, and disposed of them there.

As it turned out, I didn't have to call 911. The cop that Tom had assigned to watch me showed up, gun drawn, just as I wrestled my phone out of my pocket.

He took one look at the Donatis, shaking his head. "And Detective Sharp thought you might need my help why?" Then he apologized for not getting here sooner. "After sitting at the restaurant for ten minutes I figured maybe something had happened, so I beat it over here."

"Just in time to help with the clean-up," I said dryly. "Think you can find the keys to these?" I held out my hands. "Maybe in his pocket?" I nodded toward Ben.

He did, freed me, and then used them to cuff Ben, before putting his own pair on Carlo's wrists. Finally, he called in for a pick up and an ambulance. The ambulance showed up first, of course. I got checked out by one of the EMTs who said there was more blood than real damage from the cuts on my throat. He cleaned them, slapped on couple of bandages, and then went to check on Carlo, while his partner was dealing with Ben's broken nose and what turned out to be a cracked jaw.

Tom showed up by the time the EMTs were ready to transport Carlo and Ben to the hospital. After he collected their weapons from my car trunk and bagged them, we went into the house where he sat me down and made me give him a blow-by-blow of what had happened, while he took notes.
I finished up by saying, "The only thing Ben didn't do was admit to the murders."

"Unfortunate, but not too surprising. We have the knife though, and my bet is we'll be able to prove it was the one he used on the women."

"You know, I almost feel sorry for Carlo. Despite everything, he did his best to bring Ben up right and he succeeded—until Ms Engel got greedy again. I wonder when he finally realized that it was Ben who had murdered her, and the other women."

"Best guess, the next day, if he's the one who was watching your place and shot at you. Whether he figured it out for himself or Ben told him is still up for grabs."

"With Ben living right here in town, it's fifty-fifty which one did what," I said. "It's pretty obvious though that Carlo had no intention of turning Ben in. Pop psychology, but on some level he was probably glad she was dead and felt it was justified. If he knows about the other murders, and I'm betting he does, they still didn't factor in to his need to protect Ben."

"Or they made him even more protective." Tom shook his head. "From the outside looking in, he was almost psychopathic in his need to do that. I hope to hell I never get that way with my kids."
"Hopefully you won't need to. I don't see either of them turning into homicidal maniacs."

"I'm betting he didn't think Ben would—until it happened. I'm sure we'll find out in time, one way or the other." He got up, putting his notepad away. "You'll need to come down to the precinct to sign your statement, once I get it typed up. Now, I have to get to the hospital and question the Donatis, or"—he smiled dryly—"try to while their lawyer fends me off, if they've gotten one."

"Have fun with that. Oh, and where are you hiding Ricky so I can go get him?"

He chuckled. "You know that's a state secret, so I'll have one of my people bring him home."

We shook hands, he thanked me for my help, I thanked him for his, and he left.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Walt Murphy – Part Two – 48

"Don't think about trying anything," Ben said after his father left the garage. He was still behind me, but his hold on my throat had lessened somewhat. I found out why when he told me to put my hands behind my back.

"Hard to do when you're holding me like a lover," I muttered. "Unless you want me to feel you up."

That earned me another cut to my throat. Not deep, but enough to draw blood again. He gripped my bicep hard and stepped back, pressing the point of the knife between two of my ribs.  "Hands behind your back I said. Now!"

So I did. Quickly—even as I tried to move away—he snapped cuffs on one wrist then yanked my other arm hard and finished the job. Finally, he came around to face me.

"I know you," I said in surprise. "You go by Danny. At least at the grocery store."

"That would be me."

He was tall and slender like his parents. Other than that he didn't take after either of them—although as I studied him I could see traces of Carlo in the line of his mouth, and a bit of Ms Engel in the shape of his eyes.

"Why the bit with the food bank?" I asked.

"Those people need help and I can give it to them." He smiled dryly. "If I had to hold a menial job, the least I could do is make it worth while on some level."

"My client said you've been working for her for six months." Since he wasn't holding on to me any more I moved away from him, hoping to find an opening to attack if he lowered the knife, which he still held defensively. "That's would have been around the time your grandfather died."


"Carlo told me you'd grown up to be a fine young man. I took that as an implication you probably went to college and were holding a good job. Was I wrong?"

"No. I was all of that until after grandpa's death."

"What changed?"

I think on some level he wanted to tell his story because he actually replied to my question. "I'd taken time off from my job to be with dad and grandma for a while to help when they needed me to. About a week after the funeral, grandpa's lawyer called dad. He said a woman claiming to be dad's ex-wife had been inquiring about where to find him so she could, to quote, 'Offer her condolences'. He said he hadn't given her dad's address, but that didn't stop us from worrying, knowing my”—his mouth tightened—"mother." He practically spat out the last word and began to pace angrily. "We, well I, because it was my suggestion, decided I should quit my job and move here where I could keep an eye on her."

"You knew she lived here?"  

"She left her phone number with the lawyer. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to track a person if you have that. Something I'm sure you're well aware of."

I was, of course. I was also aware that I didn't have much time before Carlo returned to say he hadn't found anything. First, thought, he'd have to figure out where the safe was, since it was well hidden and somehow I'd neglected to tell them where. Luckily it hadn't occurred to them to ask, but eventually he'd locate if he was persistent. 

"So you found a place to live," I said to keep Ben talking, "and got the job at the grocery store."

He nodded. "After that, it was just a case of using my spare time to watch her." He scowled. "She was one busy bitch." By now he was so into telling his story he seemed to have forgotten about the knife. He was still holding it, but his hand was at his side as he paced.   

I took a quick glance through the window in the side door of the garage to be certain Carlo wasn't on his way back yet. I had one chance, and only one, to take Ben down. If I got lucky. I waited until he was within a couple of feet of me, talking about her job and the men she 'trained'. "Trained being a lose description of what she really was doing," he muttered.

Tensing, I charged him like a rampaging bull. The top of my head hit him squarely in the face and I heard something crack. Not exactly graceful but it did the job. He howled in pain as we both went down. I was at a distinct disadvantage as my hands were cuffed behind me, but I was also on the top of the pile. I heard the knife skitter away and prayed in had gone under the car or the workbench or anywhere else where he couldn't get to it.

The kid was strong and he struggled to push me off, but I had weight and experience on my side and he was bleeding badly from his broken nose. That, hopefully, would begin to weaken him. I shifted quickly, managing to set myself at an angle so I could bring my cuffed hands around and grab his arm. Then I rolled fast, trying to slam him against the car. Slam didn't happen, but he did hit it hard enough that he gasped in pain. I managed to sit up, drew back one leg and kicked him on the chin just as he was trying to get to his feet.

That was all she wrote for him at the moment, but I still had Carlo to worry about. Using the car as leverage I managed to stand. I made it to the hinged side of the door just as Carlo opened it. Hitting it with my shoulder, I knocked him back. He stumbled, fell, I rammed my foot against the side of his head and he was out like a light.

Me-2, Donatis-0. I could live with that.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Walt Murphy – Part Two – 47

I woke to an empty bed. It took me a moment to get it together enough to realize why. It wasn't that it hadn't happened before. Until a week ago when Ricky moved in, we hadn't spent every night together. Not by a long shot. But now… I guess I'm getting spoiled.

I got up and hit the bathroom to shower, shave and get ready to face the day. After putting on jeans and a tee, I was headed downstairs to make coffee when my cell rang.

"Ricky's safely stored away," Tom said when I answered. "The man I'm putting on you should be at your place in ten minutes."

"What's he look like?"

Tom described him then said, "He'll act like he's a friend who was in the neighborhood and decided to drop by to say hello. You can take it from there." 
"No. That's too obvious. Have him go to Annie's Kitchen. It's a restaurant a couple of blocks from me. He can follow me from there."

"Follow you?"

"To a couple of stores and then back home. That should give Ben enough options about when and where to make his move if he watching me."

"Okay. You're driving?"

"Yeah. I don't think he'll just come up to me on the street if I walk, but he might decide to wait for me at, or even in, my car."

"Or get into your house while you're gone."

"He's already had a run-in with my alarm system so I doubt it."

"Does it cover your garage?"

"Nope. So yeah, he might try that. Okay, let your guy know the plan. I should get moving."

"Let's hope this works."

"Tell me about it."

I hung up, decided to forego making coffee as much as I wanted some, and went to get my keys and wallet. Then, after arming the system, I locked the front door and headed to the garage. I used the side door as always, since I kept the remote for opening the overhead door on my car's dash. 

I realized when I got into the garage that I had company.

Yeah, I should have been more aware but in my defense I wasn't expecting them—and it was them, Carlo and I presumed Ben—to show up so soon.

Carlo was leaning against my car, holding a small gun, pointed at me. I didn't see Ben, but I felt his arm snake around my throat. He had a knife in his free hand.

"If you don't want another scar to match this one"—the tip of the knife touched the scar that ran from my left eyebrow to my cheek—"give me what you found."

Carlo added, "We don't intend to hurt you, if you do as he says."

"Uh-huh." I snorted in disbelief even as I tried to figure a way out of the problem I was facing. "I can't give it to you if you don't let me go back to the house."

"Tell my dad where it is, and the security code. He can get it while you keep me company here," Ben replied, not moving his arm or the knife even a fraction of an inch.

"It's in the safe in my study," I lied, "and no way am I giving you the combination."

I tried to move and Ben pulled his arm tighter around my throat. "Is it worth your life?" He pressed the tip of the knife to my throat now, just below the arm around my throat. I felt it pierce the skin and then dampness from a small trickle of blood.

I gave them the numbers they needed because Ben was right; not doing so wasn't worth dying for. Besides, with Carlo out of the picture I might have a chance to deal with Ben.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Walt Murphy – Part Two – 46

"We're both scared," I told Ricky softly, cupping his face with my hands. "But this is going to work and then we can get back to our normal life again."

"I hate to break up this tender moment," Tom said with a bit of a smile, "but Ricky should go pack some clothes and whatever."

Ricky looked at him in shock. "Now?"

"Yeah. The sooner you're safely away from here, the better."

"What about work?"

"Tomorrow's Sunday. If this goes into Monday, you call in sick."

"It's the middle of tax season."

"And? Would you rather call in dead?"

"Okay, you made your point." Ricky sighed and got up, heading upstairs to pack.

"Keep him safe, that's all I ask," I said as soon as he was out of earshot.

"It's you I'm worried about. What you did was beyond stupid."

"Can you think of another way to make Ben finally show his face?"

"Unfortunately, no. Wherever he is, whatever name he's using, he's managed to keep well hidden. And his father seems bent on protecting him no matter what."

"As I said, Ben is his life."

"I can understand loving your kid, but he's taking it to extremes, if we're right."

"And with luck we'll find out soon enough if we are."

Ricky came back downstairs at that point with a travel bag slung over one shoulder. Tom stood, waiting for Ricky to join him. Before he did, Ricky came to stand in front of me.

"You will be careful, and call me every hour, and don't try to lose the man Tom sends as your backup or whatever they call it and…"

Getting up, I wrapped my arms around him. "Not sure about calling every hour, but yeah, I'll be careful. I'm not stupid."

"Right now that's still up for debate," he said with a small smile. "Just remember I love you and I prefer you alive and kicking to the alternative." Putting his arms around my neck, he kissed me hard.

I returned it, savoring as I always did the taste and feel of him. Then, gently, I unwrapped his arms, telling him, "I love you too. Now go. Tom's waiting."

With a deep sigh, Ricky gave me another kiss, a fast one, before heading to the door.

"I'll be in touch in the morning," Tom told me. "And arm this." He tapped the alarm box.

With that, he and Ricky were gone. I watched until they drove away before closing the door, setting the alarm, and going into the kitchen to throw out our half-eaten sandwiches. Somehow with all that had happened, neither Ricky nor I had managed to take more than a couple of bites of them. Grabbing another beer, I went back into the living room. I needed to go over my plan one more time—what there was of it. I hadn't been lying when I told Tom the farthest I gotten with it so far was my phone call to Carlo. I had ideas floating around in my head, but nothing concrete—yet. So I drank my beer and plotted.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Walt Murphy – Part Two – 45

"Wait a minute. When did you tell him that? Oh hell. That's what you did to—how did you put it? Light a fire under Ben, figuring Carlo would tell him?" Ricky looked as if he didn't know whether to shoot me or just make me move to the farthermost corner of the world where I'd be safe.

"Yeah. And with luck it'll work."

Ricky appealed to Tom, saying, "Can you do something? Please. Give him some… I don't know… Protection maybe?"

"Walt might not be the one who needs it. One of the messages, if I remember correctly, threatened that someone would die if Walt didn't back off. And you were the only one here when Ben tried to break in."

"But he couldn't have known that," Ricky protested.

"If he was watching the house and saw Walt drive away, he would have."

"He did kill someone," I said quietly. "The woman at the Elite Gym. That happened the same night I got that message."

"It might be coincidental, if Carlo was the one trying to scare you off to keep his son safe," Tom pointed out.

"I wonder if Ben told him that he'd killed Ms Engel," Ricky said. "Or if Carlo just presumed it had to be him."

"We probably won't know until this is over," I replied.

"So, Walt, did you have a plan beyond telling Carlo you'd found something of Ben's?" Tom asked.

I shook my head. "More like a hope Ben would come after me to get it."

Tom nodded, looking at Ricky. "I'm putting you in protective custody until this is over."

"Just a minute now," Ricky said angrily. "Why me?"

"Because Ben might, probably will, come after you to get to Walt. With you out of the picture, he'll have to go directly to the source, so to speak."

"No way in hell," Ricky spat out.

I took his hands, gripping them tightly. "You have to, because Tom's right. Ben's crazy. He has to be to have killed the other women. He'd have no second thoughts about using you as a bargaining chip to make me give up whatever he thinks I found—and then killing you afterwards just to show me who's 'boss'. If that happened, we'd never catch him. He has to be forced to come straight to me."

Ricky swallowed hard. "I don't like this one damned bit."

"I'm not exactly happy about it either, but it's the only way. At least I can handle myself."

"Give him body armor," Ricky practically ordered Tom.

"That can be arranged."

"And protection?"

Tom nodded. "I can afford to put one man on him."

Ricky, being Ricky, of course had to say, "He better not be 'on' him." Then he quickly apologized, adding, "That was stupid, but I get that way when I'm scared."

I hugged him. "And when you're being silly, or have had one beer too many, or…"

"Okay. Yeah. Still…"

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Walt Murphy – Part Two – 44

I filled Tom in on everything I knew, or thought I knew, and gave him my notes to back up what I'd told him.

"Interesting," he said when he finished reading.

"That's it? Just interesting?"

"Since I've come to some of the same conclusions, yeah, it's interesting that you have too. It means I, we're, probably on the right track. Then only problem is finding Ben. Or whatever he's calling himself now. His father is being very tight-lipped."

"I wonder," Ricky said pensively. "Maybe Carlo thinks the same thing? That Ben's the one who killed Ms Engel?"

I nodded slowly. "It would explain why he's not willing to give me, well us"—I glanced at Tom—"Ben's name or where he's living. The best I've gotten out of Carlo is a hesitation when I asked if Ben lives in the area, before he said he didn't."

"Hardly conclusive," Tom pointed out, "but still telling."

"My thought exactly. He could be in Louisville, close to Carlo, or up here, or anywhere in between."

"Or in Timbuktu, but my guess is you're right. He'd have to be close by considering all he's done in the last week or so."

"Just because we are playing guessing games here, have you checked out Carlo Donati's whereabouts during the relevant times?" I asked Tom.

I could tell he was resisting rolling his eyes when he replied, "Of course. Mr Donati was back in Louisville on Sunday. That's confirmed by his pastor and two golfing buddies. Tuesday he had meetings with various clients at his business. Again, that's confirmed by the clients. The last meeting ended at approximately six pm. He'd have been hard pressed to make it back up here in time to kill the woman in the Elite Gym parking lot."

"Two hundred miles at sixty miles per hour would take approximately three and a third hours, and that doesn't take into account slower speeds in town," Ricky told us.

"The math whiz strikes again," I said, chuckling. "Still, if he's right and I'm sure he is, that would put Carlo here around nine-thirty pm if he left directly from work." Something else occurred to me. Something I should have checked. "Do you know if he owns a motorcycle?"

"He doesn't. He has two cars, a 2012 Chevy SUV that he uses for business, and a BMW sedan, presumably for personal use."

"What color?" I asked.

"You think I keep info like that in my head? Why do you care anyway?"

"Number two on my list."

Tom took a look. "Okay. Hang on." He made a call and asked whoever answered to go to his desk and check his notes on Carlo Donati. A couple of minutes later he hung up. "Medium green."

"So it could have been him," Ricky said. "Or Ben, if he borrowed the car, with or without Carlo's say-so."

I nodded. "Easier to use than the cycle for staking out the house. Presuming of course it was Ben and not just someone visiting the people across the street."

"What if…?" Ricky took a swallow of his beer.

"You gonna leave us hanging?" I asked.

"I just had a wild idea. What if it's both of them? They both had a reason to want Ms Engel dead."

"You're right, that is wild," Tom said. He turned to me. "You've talked with Carlo on a personal level. Do you think he'd be involved if it meant keeping Ben safe, or to muddy the waters?"

"Yeah, I can see that happening," I said after a moment's though. "I think Ben is his world and always has been. But—I don't think Carlo would kill anyone. Take a potshot at me and watch the house? Yes. Maybe even come up with the messages to try to make me back off. Especially if he thought Ms Engel's murder was the only one. He could have convinced himself she deserved it."

"What about someone trying to break in here?" Ricky asked.

"My best guess is, that was Ben. Carlo sounded surprised when I told him Ben had dropped something during his visit here."