Midnight Owl (A Joe Leverette Mystery, Book 1)

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CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

They arranged for the women to meet them at a restaurant. The same one Billingsley and Leverette had gone to for breakfast. The owners were told about the two female officers who were going to be there shortly to take the womens’ places.

Carole and Amy arrived and parked in the back like they were told. Marsden was already there so they loaded their suitcases in the trunk and put Bud in the backseat. They weren’t going to be but a couple of minutes and there was a blanket for him to curl up in.

Hanz, the owner, was waiting by the back door and let them in. He was excited about being part of this ‘operation’ and was sworn to secrecy. His wife, Trudy, took a little more convincing but finally agreed. He led them to a back room for the meeting.

Billingsley and Leverette were already waiting for them inside.

“Okay, this is what happens from here,” Billingsley said. “You two are going with Marsden, and Leverette will follow closely behind,” he stopped to be sure the women were understanding him. He hadn’t wanted to tell them too much about his plan until now.

“Will our cars be safe here?” Amy asked.

“They’re not going to stay here,” Billingsley told them. Just then two women walked in through the back door. Again Hanz was smiling at his part in this.

“Ah, they’re here,” Billingsley said, “These two officers are going to be taking your place so please give them your house and car keys. We’ll also need you both to exchange your coats, hats, gloves and purses. This is Mary Angelique and Sue Harker, they’re close to your sizes and should fool him.”

“I’m not going to be thinking too much about what we’re doing just in case he is a sensitive himself,” Carole said.

Mary looked confused. “So sensitives can read minds?” she asked.

“No but we can see spirits, or what they want us to see,” Carole said, “Somehow I think he’s tricking them so he can find me.”

“Do you think this will fool him? After all you’re not going back to the house, we are.”

“I’m planning on thinking that I’m back at the house instead of going to the detective’s house. That should help.”

Mary looked at Billingsley, wanting confirmation that this would work. He nodded his head and she was satisfied.

“Okay, let’s get going,” Billingsley said and Hanz led the two officers to the back door, watching that they got to the cars safely. Satisfied he went back to the others.

Once they pulled away, the women followed Marsden out to his car. Bud sat up when he heard them coming toward the car.

“Now I know it’ll be a bit uncomfortable, but the two of you need to squeeze in back with Bud and keep down until I pull into my garage.”

They both nodded and got Bud to lie on the floor of the car. Then they stretched out on the seat and lay next to each other.

Marsden saw that they were all situated and started the car, then pulled out heading toward his home.

Carole had pictured driving to her house the whole time, as if she were driving her car, hoping like hell that this was going to fool him.

*

“Okay Joe, you head over to Carole’s like you always do,” Billingsley said to Leverette.

Leverette started to say something but Billingsley held up his hand.

“I know you’ve been there every night and that’s not here nor there. He probably knows you were, or has seen you, there. We don’t want anything to change in that respect.”

“Okay Chief,” Leverette said, glad he wasn’t going to get a reprimand. “I’ll head right over.”

“Good, let me know if anything happens,” Billingsley said and headed outside with his order for dinner.

Leverette grabbed his own order and a cup of coffee and followed right behind.

*

The ride to Marsden’s was a little bumpy and he tried his best not to jostle his precious cargo. He heard a couple groans coming from the back and felt bad.

He pulled into his drive and opened the garage door with his remote then pulled in. Once the door was closed completely he breathed a sigh of relief.

“Okay ladies we’re here,” he said as he opened his door. He opened the back door on his side and helped Amy up first, then Carole. Bud jumped out the minute it was clear. Amy took out the blanket Bud was lying on and shut the door.

They walked to the back of the car and got their suitcases out while Marsden took Bud out the back door to his business.

He unlocked the door to the house and the three went in. He would let Bud in thought the French doors off the kitchen.

“Okay, I have two bedrooms down the hall and an extra bathroom,” he said and motioned down the hall. “I’m down here on the other end.”

“We’ll get freshened up and put our things away,” Amy said. Carole was trying hard not to think about where they were. At times she wished the spirits would help her.

Marsden was starving. Unlike Billingsley and Leverette, he hadn’t thought to order dinner for him or his house guests. It wouldn’t be safe to go out for takeout but it was still early enough to get a pizza delivered.

“Ladies, I’m about to order pizza for dinner. Any requests?”

They both walked into the dining room and said no. Amy walked over to the French doors and let Bud in.

“Where can I set up his food and water dishes?”

Put them closer to the inside of the kitchen. That way he won’t be as visible to prying eyes.”

Amy set him up and walked back into the dining room. She was impressed with how neat Marsden was, you’d never guess he was a bachelor. She remembered going to her brother’s house and seeing the mess. Clothes everywhere, dirty dishes, empty pizza boxes, she smiled to herself remembering.

She saw Marsden look at her. “You have a beautiful home,” she said hoping he wasn’t going to ask what she was smiling about.

“Thank you,” he said. “I’ll order the pizza. It usually takes about twenty minutes. I have beer if either of you want one. Or I could put coffee on.”

“Beer sounds about right,” Carole said, “That’s what I’m having at home right now.”

The three chuckled as Marsden went to get the beers from the fridge. Once he got back to the table Carole started the conversation.

“I think I want to paint this year,” she started. They all knew she wanted to have her house in her mind.

“I’m thinking of doing a soft peach on the walls and trim with a pale turquoise.”

“That sounds pretty,” Amy said. “And your living room furniture will match so well.”

“Yes, they’ll set it off just right,” Carole said, “I saw some drapes that would be perfect, too.”

Marsden decided not to join in the conversation and sat at the furthest part of the table. He figured that would be a distraction for Carole so he just enjoyed the women’s company.

They continued on about curtains, throw rugs and such until the pizza came. He went to the door and got the pizza.

Amy shushed Bud when he started growling in his throat. She figured this was all new to him.

“Eating kinda late?” the delivery man asked.

“Had a busy day,” was all Marsden said to him. He gave him a tip and closed the door.

Amy noticed a concerned look on his face and went into the kitchen to help him with plates and napkins.

“What’s wrong?”

“He was new,” Marsden said.

“Maybe he just started working for them,” she said.

“It’s a family owned pizzeria and very authentic. Only family works for them. I don’t know him.”

Carole screamed.

Marsden and Amy quickly ran into the dining room to see what was wrong.

Before they could ask, she looked at Marsden.

“Did he ask you ‘Eating kinda late?’?” she asked Marsden.

Marsden sat down next to her and in a low voice said “Yes”.

“He knows I’m here! That was him!” Carole was frantic. Amy, who was on the other side of her, put her arm around her shoulders.

Marsden pulled his cell from his pocket and called Billingsley.

“Fuck! How the hell did he know?” Billingsley was pissed.

“I have no idea, Chief. Carole knew it was him, though.”

“Call Leverette and have him stay with you tonight just in case he shows up again.”

“Okay Chief,” Marsden said and hung up then called Leverette and told him what was going on. He said he’d be there as soon as possible. Marsden told the women what was happening but this didn’t do much to calm Carole down. She was scared shitless!

Marsden, who was used to this kind of stress, sat down and ate a piece of pizza. He was starving.

Amy and Carole were each nibbling on the slice they each took. They were hungry but just couldn’t bring themselves to eat.

Leverette arrived twenty-five minutes after the call and pulled into the driveway. He drew his gun and walked around the house to be sure it was clear. When he got to the back of the house he almost jumped out of his skin when Bud barked at him from the kitchen through the French doors. He continued around to the front of the house then, seeing that nobody was around, went to knock on the door.

Marsden was already there and opened it just before he knocked, making him jump.

“Getting jumpy in your old age?” Marsden teased.

Leverette just glared at him, making Marsden chuckle.

After Leverette was in the house Marsden locked the outside and inside doors.

“They’re in the dining room. There’s some pizza if you’re hungry.”

“Thanks,” was all Leverette said. When he walked into the dining room he saw Carole with tears streaming down her face and Amy trying to console her. How he ached to have her in his arms telling her she’ll be safe with him.

He sat next to Carole and looked up at Amy.

“Does she have something to take the edge off?” he asked, “Besides the beer?”

“Yes, but she doesn’t like to take it. It puts her totally out, even if she takes half a pill.”

Marsden had gone through the house checking that the windows are locked, which he knew they were, but this case was weird and he had to check them. The garage door to the house was locked, the French doors were locked. They should be all right.

“Well, we should take shifts through the night,” Marsden said to Leverette as he walked back into the dining room.

“I don’t know if I can sleep,” Amy said.

“Knowing Billingsley he’ll have a patrol car in the area. It’ll be all right,” Marsden said knowing they’d be safe because the killer had said Carole was going to be his last murder.

Carole wiped her eyes with her napkin and finished her beer. She was trying so hard to calm herself down. Marsden noticed she was done and offered her another beer, hoping it would help her sleep.

“If it’s no trouble,” she said in almost a whisper.

“No problem. Ms. Lang would you like another?”

“Sure,” she said. She was so worried about her friend.

Carole didn’t tell her about the note he left at the first murder about her being the last. Amy was probably going to be the one he killed just before her.

Leverette turned the beer down because he wanted to be alert for the night. One beer, especially with him so wound up, would make him sleepy.

When Carole and Amy finished their beers they decided to go to sleep.

“We’ll be in the bedroom on the right,” Amy said, “Neither of us wants to be alone tonight especially now.”

“Okay,” Marsden said. “Good night. One of us will be awake throughout the night.”

“Good night,” Amy said. Carole just nodded and let Amy lead her to the bedroom.

“I’ll take first watch,” Leverette said, “I’m pretty wired.”

“Okay, my room is down this way,” Marsden pointed to the other side of the house. “You already know where the bathroom is.”

“I’ll get you up in four hours,” Leverette told him. This was always the best length of time for this kind of situation.

“Good night,” Marsden said and headed to bed.

Leverette sat at the dining room table. He knew if he sat in the chair or sofa in the living room he’d fall asleep.

Bud lay down at his feet instead of staying with the women. It was as if he wanted to help protect them.

Time was passing relatively fast which made Leverette nervous. This always dragged on and on but not now.

He’d get up and look out the windows then sit back down. He wondered what this fucker was up to.

Carole was dreaming, maybe, she couldn’t tell when she was asleep until she woke up. In the dream a man driving a car was laughing hysterically. His face was in shadows so she didn’t know who he was.

Suddenly she heard the blast of a semi’s horn and a terrible crash. Then an owl hooted once.

She sat straight up in bed scaring Amy.

“What’s wrong?” Amy asked trying to stifle a yawn.

“He’s dead!”

“Who?”

“The murderer!” Carol said and got up running the dining room. Amy was quick on her heals.

Leverette had just sat down from checking outside. He heard the footsteps and jumped up.

“He’s dead!” she said with the first real smile Leverette had seen on her face.

Marsden heard the commotion and put his robe on, heading down the hall.

“What happened?” he said, his adrenalin flowing and fully awake.

“She said the murderer is dead,” Leverette said.

“Yes, I saw him die. It was a horrible vehicle accident. He’s dead!!!”

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