The Candy Shop

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CHAPTER 25

As the phone records started coming in, Rocco quickly realized he needed more manpower and that meant a visit to the Captain’s office to request additional help. Rocco and Captain Jameson had had run-ins before. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that they tolerated one another at best, so Rocco wasn’t surprised when his request was curtly denied.

“You’ve got Peters and Barkley. That’s enough,” Captain Jameson barked.

“Barkley is in the hospital,” Rocco clarified and I need someone to replace him.

“Don’t try to pull the wool over my eyes, Sterling. I wasn’t promoted to running this shin-dig yesterday,” Jameson growled. “Everyone knows you and Barkley don’t get along. You screwed his sister and you both need to get over it.”

“It isn’t about that,” Rocco argued.

“Yeah? Then what’s it about?”

Rocco squinted at Jameson. “I need someone with a little more enthusiasm for the job, at least until Barkley is released to come back to work.”

Jameson’s jaw tightened. “You know we’ve had cutbacks. I’m running a thin operation as it is. I don’t have anyone to give you, so do what you have to do to make it work.”

Rocco stormed back to his office. As soon as he solved this case he was seriously considering putting in for a transfer. He didn’t like the fact that everyone knew about his relationship with Adrianne. He didn’t like dealing with the tension between he and Barkley and he didn’t like the fact that Jameson would never lift a finger to help him. He needed to move somewhere where nobody knew him and the past could no longer control his life. He needed a fresh start. A do over.

He had promised Kira he would contact Frank first thing and let him know she was okay. Putting in a call to Parker, Sullivan & Bates, Rocco asked to speak with Frank Sullivan. “I’m sorry but Mr. Sullivan isn’t in the office right now. Can I put you through to his voicemail?” Asked the snide sounding receptionist.

“No. When do you expect him to return?” Rocco asked.

“I’m not sure sir, but I can connect you to his voicemail where you can leave him a message,” the woman said as if she was annoyed by his question. “He checks his messages even when he’s out of the office.”

Rocco hung up.

Perusing the record of incoming and outgoing numbers listed on Kira Sullivan’s cell phone bill, he jotted down reoccurring numbers and plugged them into the department recognition program. He was able to identify Audrey’s cell phone number, Frank’s cell phone number, and both of their children, Michael and Mallory. He then requested phone records for Audrey’s cell. An hour later, he sat analyzing the data from her phone and was intrigued by his findings. There were seventeen calls between Audrey and Frank within the last three weeks. He knew Kira and Audrey were friends, but he didn’t realize Audrey and Frank were so close. What could they possibly have been discussing with that frequency?

Rocco dialed Frank’s cell and listened to the voicemail message. “You have reached Frank Sullivan of Parker, Sullivan & Bates. I’m sorry to have missed your call. Please leave me your name, number and reason for your call and I will get back to you at my earliest convenience.” Beep.

Rocco opened his mouth to speak and then decided against it and hung up. Leaving a message prematurely could bring a barrage of unwanted attention to him and to the department, and he didn’t need Jameson breathing down his neck for pissing off high-powered people at Parker, Sullivan & Bates. He needed more information before he contacted Frank directly. He needed to have some kind of leverage, and he had a hunch that Audrey was exactly what he needed.

Peters knocked on Rocco’s door and then popped his head in the office. “I gotta talk to you,” he said in a hushed tone, scurrying into Rocco’s office and shutting the door behind him. “I gotta hunch somethin’ ain’t right.”

“Yeah, ditto,” Rocco mumbled, jotting down Audrey’s address and heading for the door. “We’ll talk on the ride,” he said and Peters sped up to keep stride.

“Where are we headed?” Peters asked and Rocco hushed him until they stepped outside and he surveyed the parking lot. Was he paranoid or were his senses so keen that he could feel someone watching them? This was the fine line between crazy and good-at-your-job, and Rocco straddled it.

Rocco immediately turned around and walked back inside the precinct and all the way back to the supply room. He plucked two Kevlar vests from the wall and tossed one to Peters. He then checked the clip on his 9mm Beretta with an eye roll. Rocco’s opinion of the 9mm Beretta was well known on the force. In a heated argument with Captain Jameson last year, Rocco had yelled throughout the precinct that Jameson was as weak and pathetic as the puny 9mm he made his officers carry. Rocco was an obvious advocate of arming officers with heavier firepower, like a 40 or 45 caliber firearm, but Captain Jameson would hear none of it.

Peters followed Rocco back to his office, where he slid open his bottom drawer, unlocked and lifted a hidden bottom and retrieved two 45 caliber pistols, a Glock and a Colt. He handed Peters the Colt and noticed his eyes bulging from their sockets.

“Where the hell are we goin’, man?” Peters gasped. “If the Captain catches us with these, it’s the end. No promotion. No career. It’s over, man. Over.”

“Then don’t let him catch you,” Rocco quipped, tucking the Glock into the back of his pants and covering it with his shirt. Peters nervously followed suit, un-tucking his uniform shirt to cover the gun sticking out of the back of his pants.

Peters followed Rocco down the stairs to the underground parking garage that housed all of the squad cars. “We’re not taking your Hummer?” Peter’s asked.

“Can’t,” Rocco uttered, taking a set of keys from the lock box and heading toward a random squad car.

“I thought you hated cop cars,” Peters said. “At least, that’s what I’ve heard.”

Rocco exhaled. “You can’t believe everything you hear.”

They climbed in and Rocco sped out of the garage, across the lot and into traffic, keeping his eyes on the rearview mirror to see if they had a tail.

Peters gripped the dash. “Whoa, man! What the hell are you doin’?”

Rocco didn’t answer. He swerved through traffic, took a few last minute turns and then spun the car to a stop in a Schnucks parking lot. In one fluid motion, Rocco pulled a 38 Smith & Wesson from beneath his pant leg and took aim at Peter’s head. “What are you doing?” Peters gasped, throwing both hands into the air.

“Can I trust you?” Rocco blurted and Peters nodded his head rapidly up and down. “Because if I find out you’re one of them I’m going to plant a bullet right between your eyes.”

“What’s the matter with you, man?” Peter’s voice shook. “I ain’t never done nothin’ to betray your trust.”

“If I find out you can’t be trusted, I’ll kill you. Got it?” Rocco gritted.

“Yeah, man, I got it. I got it.” Peters slowly put his arms down as Rocco lowered the gun. “Man, you about made me shit myself! You gonna let me in on what’s going on?”

Rocco started at the beginning and detailed everything he knew. He told him about Adrianne and his belief that Landon murdered her. He told him about the trial and conviction of Lucas Coronado’s son, the Iceman, and his suspicion that Landon and Lucas were working together. He explained how both of these men had reason to hate him and obviously a desire to seek revenge.

“Do you think they’re going to frame you for the murders?” Peters questioned.

“Maybe.” Rocco hit the steering wheel. “My prints have got to be on every one of those women. I only had sex with Christine, but I talked with and was close to the others. I hugged them goodnight, kissed the top of their hand…” Rocco’s voice tapered off. “I’m being set up.”

“Okay, man, calm down. We’ll get to the bottom of it,” Peters encouraged. “So far Forensics hasn’t listed your prints on any of the victims.”

“I know,” Rocco exhaled. “I’ve been checking every day. I don’t get it. There’s no way that’s possible.”

“Well, our killer is clean, super-clean, so maybe he’s wiped off your prints while cleaning off his own?” Peters posed, but they both knew that wasn’t believable. It would be almost impossible to remove every print, every skin cell and every hair follicle unless you showered the body and went over it with microscopic detail.

“So, how does Kira Sullivan fit in the picture?” Peters questioned and Rocco shrugged.

“That’s what we need to find out, and I think her friend Audrey has the answer.”

“Let’s go talk to Audrey,” Peters quipped. “You got the address?”

“Yeah, but I’ve got a feeling she won’t be there.” Rocco started the car and pulled back into traffic, heading toward Audrey’s home. “According to Kira, Audrey sent her a strange text message several days ago and hasn’t responded since. The morning she found the finger and note in her trashcan, she was headed to Audrey’s house, and Kira said that one of the dancers at The Candy Shop told her that Audrey hadn’t shown up for work.”

“You think Landon and Lucas killed her?” Peters asked and Rocco gnawed on his bottom lip.

“I hope not. She might be the only one who can explain Kira’s involvement.” Rocco sped up. The sooner they talked to Audrey, the safer Kira would be.

“Did you run a trace on her cell phone?” Peters asked.

“Yep. The last place shown is on the Riverfront, but the signal is no longer live. My guess it’s probably at the bottom of the Mississippi river.”

Peter’s eyes widened. “Do you think it’s on her body? Should we get some divers to check it out?”

“Not yet,” Rocco uttered. “I got a hunch that would end up being a waste of money and I don’t need Jameson breathing down my neck.”

Rocco pulled into Audrey’s driveway and they knocked on the front door. He wasn’t surprised when no one answered. Circling to the back, Rocco pulled out his special lock-picking tool, rammed it into the lock and twisted until the lock popped open. “That’s breaking and entering,” Peters whispered.

“I didn’t break anything,” Rocco chided. “I entered but I didn’t break.” Pushing the door open, Rocco stepped inside Audrey’s kitchen with Peters right behind him. “Close the door,” he ordered Peters. “And lock it.”

“That’s ironic,” Peters huffed, following his instructions.

A quick scan of Audrey’s home rendered the conclusion that Audrey wasn’t kidnapped against her will, at least not from her home. There was no evidence of a struggle and nothing to lead them to believe that anyone had broken into the house. “If she was taken, it was probably from The Candy Shop and not from here,” Rocco mumbled.

“You think she got wind of something bad going down and just disappeared on her own? Like she’s hiding out somewhere?” Peters questioned.

“I don’t think so. If that were the case she’d have tried to contact Kira and warn her…” his voice trailed off as he approached a built in desk off the kitchen, upon which sat a laptop. “Also, she probably would have taken her laptop with her.” Rocco ran his fingers across the keyboard. “I wish we could tap into her email,” he uttered to himself.

“Why can’t we?” Peters said, scooting past Rocco and sliding into the desk chair.

“It’s illegal for one, but mainly because I don’t know how,” Rocco quipped, which made Peters guffaw loudly.

“It ain’t no more illegal than breaking and entering,” he snipped. “And I just so happen to have super-human hacking skills.”

“Really? Well, by all means, impress me,” Rocco grinned.

A few clicks across the keyboard and Peters had opened Audrey’s email account. “Where do you want to start?” He looked up at Rocco with a smile that spread from ear to ear.

“Look for any emails to or from Frank Sullivan.”

Moments later, Peters pulled a flash drive from his shirt pocket and downloaded all of the email correspondence between Frank and Audrey. “Do you always walk around with one of those little drive thingies?” Rocco teased.

“I never leave home without it,” Peters answered with an air of pride. “I may look like a badass but beneath all this lies a computer genius.”

Rocco smirked. “You don’t look like a badass.”

Peters continued to copy files from Audrey’s laptop, while Rocco searched the rest of the house. “There’s a bunch of emails from a guy named Leon,” Peters mentioned when Rocco came back into the kitchen. “Do you want me to copy those too?”

“I’ve got a better idea,” Rocco said. “Let’s take the laptop.”

“That’s stealing,” Peters scolded with his eyebrows raised.

“It’s borrowing,” Rocco clarified. “As soon as we find Audrey, we’ll give it back to her.” Rocco grinned. “Besides, we’ll need to clean your grimy prints off of it.”

Peters shook his head. “Working with you ain’t gonna be boring.” He unplugged the laptop, wrapped the cord around it and they left the house the same way they had entered, being careful to close and lock the door behind them.

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