The Candy Shop

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CHAPTER 27

Rocco ordered a private car service to pick up Kira at the motel and drive her to the police station. He specifically requested a black Cadillac with tinted windows. He then ordered two more black Cadillacs and instructed the drivers to pull into the underground parking garage and wait amid the squad cars. As soon as the car with Kira arrived, he put her into the trunk of one of the squad cars and ordered the three black Cadillacs to exit the garage simultaneously and head in opposite directions. They were each instructed to drive to a different hotel and remain there for twenty minutes.

A few minutes after the cars left, Rocco slipped behind the wheel of the squad car with Kira in the trunk and pulled out. He hoped his diversion plan worked and that whoever Landon and Lucas had tailing him had mistakenly followed the Cadillacs. If anything, it would buy them some time to get away and find a safe location for the night.

Rocco took highway 40 toward downtown, stopping at the Residence Inn by Marriott on Jefferson Avenue. He had already arranged for a room under an alias, and parking outside of the building, he opened the suite door and then whisked Kira out of the trunk and through the door without uttering a word. “I’m going to unload the car,” he said. “Keep the door locked until I get back.”

Closing the door behind him, Kira stepped back and surveyed the suite. There was a main level with a kitchen to the left and a living room area to the right. A set of steps led upward to a loft which contained a king sized bed and master bath. When Rocco knocked on the door, Kira peered through the peephole, ensuring it was him, and then opened the door. He rolled in a luggage carrier filled with suitcases, electronic devices and bags of groceries. Kira immediately began unloading the groceries and placing items in the cabinets and refrigerator.

“I want to pay you for this,” she said. “I don’t expect you to endure the financial burden of taking care of me.”

Rocco chuckled. “You are going to pay me,” he rebutted. “Who do you think is going to cook all this food?”

Kira smiled. She may not prove very helpful in solving the case, but she could cook and keep him fed while he worked. “That I can do,” she said.

Rocco turned the coffee table into a computer work center, setting up a laptop from his office, Audrey’s laptop, a laser printer, and several cell phones and recording devices. He set a duffle bag in the corner by the fireplace and then carried two suitcases upstairs and placed them atop the bed. “I bought you some clothing and shoes,” he hollered from the loft. “I guessed on the size, so I hope they fit.”

Kira was still barefoot and adorned in his black t-shirt, so anything was an improvement. “What size shoes did you get?” She hollered back, curious to see if he was even in the ballpark.

“Eight and a half,” he answered, peering over the ledge as if to see her reaction.

Kira grinned. “Impressive. Very impressive. Let’s hope your investigative skills are as good as your ability to size up women,” she teased.

“Ouch,” he muttered. “That was uncalled for.”

Kira whipped up some spaghetti and meatballs and a salad, opened a bottle of red wine and set the table. After they ate, he helped her clear the dishes and then they carried their wine glasses to the couch and sat down.

Rocco had a distant look in his eyes and Kira had the feeling that he wasn’t telling her something. “Did you talk to Frank?” She finally mustered the nerve to ask.

“No, he wasn’t in the office and I didn’t feel this was something I should discuss on a voicemail,” Rocco answered without making eye contact. “Before we talk about Frank…” he began and then stopped to drag the duffle bag over by his feet. Rocco unzipped it and pulled out several handguns. “Have you ever shot a gun before?” He asked and Kira shook her head to indicate she hadn’t.

“Then this will be weapons training 101.” He picked up a .45 and handed it to her. It was heavier than Kira imagined it would be. “That’s a .45 and it’s loaded so don’t point it at me or at yourself.” Kira swallowed hard as she felt her hands begin to tremble. He took the gun from her hand and replaced it with a 357 magnum. It felt equally as heavy but the shape of the handle fit better in her hand. Since she had held Frank’s 357 several times, she was more comfortable with this style of gun. The third gun he gave her was a 9mm Beretta and that was Kira’s favorite. “I like this one best. It’s lighter,” Kira remarked and Rocco rolled his eyes.

“I told the Captain the 9mm is a chick gun,” he mumbled.

“What?” Kira asked, not knowing what his comment meant.

“Nothing. Long story,” Rocco quipped. “Do you still have your Taser?”

Kira nodded and retrieved it from the kitchen counter.

Over the course of the next hour, Rocco taught Kira how to load cartridges into the 9mm clip, snap it into place and put on and take off the safety. He also instructed her to keep both the gun and the Taser within her reach at all times. “If you go to the bathroom, you take them with you,” he emphasized. “Tomorrow I’ll take you somewhere and teach you to shoot.”

He refilled their wine glasses and then returned to the couch. “I need to ask you some questions and they’re not going to be…” he paused as if thinking of the right word. “Comfortable.”

Kira took a sip of wine and shifted her body on the couch. Nothing about this entire situation had been comfortable, so how much worse could it get. “I’ll answer what I can,” she agreed.

She could see the awkwardness in Rocco’s face as he scooted closer to her and lifted Audrey’s laptop from the table to his knees. He explained that he and Peters went to Audrey’s house that afternoon, how Peters managed to hack into her email, and their findings led Rocco to ultimately decide to borrow Audrey’s computer. “I wanted you to be able to see this first hand, for yourself,” Rocco explained.

“What did you find?” Kira’s curiosity peaked.

Rocco slowly licked his lips, hesitancy written across his face. Reaching into the duffle bag he pulled out a copy of Audrey’s cell phone record and handed it to Kira. The calls between Audrey and Frank were highlighted. Then he opened Audrey’s email and showed Kira the correspondence between Frank and Audrey. Kira shook her head. “I don’t understand,” she said.

“I think Frank and Audrey may have been having an affair,” Rocco said hesitantly.

Kira laughed. “Frank can’t stand Audrey. He refers to her as, ‘the bitch.’ He’d never sleep with her.”

“I’m sure he made it appear that way,” Rocco consoled, “but seventeen phones calls is a substantial amount of talking with someone he supposedly hates.”

“Seventeen phone calls…” her voice faded.

“In the past three weeks,” Rocco added. “There aren’t any calls between them before that time, well at least not within the prior six months.”

She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. She couldn’t believe Frank would cheat on her, much less with her best friend; and she was equally amazed, if not moreso, that Audrey would betray her. “There has to be a reasonable explanation,” Kira remarked.

Rocco put his hand on her knee and gave it a tender squeeze. “I know this is hard for you, but I need to get your insight on some of these emails.” He leaned closer and continued. “You said that Audrey was the one who told you about The Candy Shop and you also said that Lucas told you that no one finds out about The Candy Shop except for those he chooses, right?”

Kira nodded.

“This leads me to believe that the person who told Audrey about The Candy Shop has got to be working with Landon and Lucas and probably instructed Audrey to bring you along.”

“That would make sense,” Kira shrugged. “But why?”

“That’s what I’m trying to find out and I’m hoping you can help me.” He opened an email thread between Frank and Audrey, dated two weeks prior and handed the laptop to Kira.

Kira read the thread, beginning with Audrey’s letter to Frank. It read:

FRANK, I DON’T THINK I CAN DO THIS. WHY DO I HAVE TO BE THE ONE TO TELL HER ABOUT TCS?

“TCS is short for The Candy Shop,” Rocco interjected.

“Thanks, Sherlock,” Kira teased.

To which Frank had responded:

AUDREY, YOU HAVE TO DO IT OR SHE’LL FIND OUT ABOUT US.

Kira’s stomach felt as if it hollowed out completely and she didn’t know whether she would burst into sobs or throw up. “You don’t have to continue reading,” Rocco said quietly.

“Yes I do,” Kira whispered and scrolled down to the next email. It was dated last week.

AUDREY, I’LL ARRANGE INTERVIEWS AT TCS BUT YOU’LL HAVE TO TAKE HER. SHE WON’T GO ALONE.

To which Audrey had responded:

WHY IS THIS SO IMPORTANT? IMPORTANT ENOUGH THAT YOU’RE THREATENING TO TELL HER ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED BETWEEN US IF I DON’T DO WHAT YOU ASK? I DON’T GET IT.

To which Frank responded:

I’D BE HAPPY TO GIVE IT TO YOU (NUDGE, NUDGE, WINK, WINK).

To which Audrey wrote:

YOU’RE SO BAD! OKAY, I’LL TAKE HER BUT YOU OWE ME BIG TIME.

To which Frank wrote:

FOR YOU I’M BIG ALL THE TIME. YOU NAME THE TIME AND PLACE.

Kira stopped reading. She couldn’t take any more of their playful and flirty banter. It felt surreal. How had she not seen it? How had she been so blind? She had convinced herself that he was just a workaholic, that that was the reason he was always gone and emotionally distant. Was he with Audrey every night that she thought he was working late?

“I’m sorry,” Rocco uttered.

“Who does this?” She spat. “Who sleeps with their wife’s best friend and then convinces his lover to take his wife to a whore house?”

Rocco shrugged. “It does seem a bit strange,” he admitted. “Which is why I think there’s more to it than just that.” Kira gulped down her wine and extended her glass toward Rocco, in a gesture asking for more. “Why don’t I open another bottle?” Rocco raised an eyebrow and headed for the kitchen. “Or two,” he mused.

Several glasses of wine later, Kira finished reading all of the emails from that thread and sat staring blankly at the coffee table. She was trying to force herself to look at the situation logically instead of emotionally, which was damn near impossible. One of the temporary cell phones rang, startling Kira from her thoughts. “That’s Peters,” Rocco said. “He’s the only one with this number.”

“They blew up my car!” Peters yelled as soon as Rocco answered. “They blew up my mother-f-ing car!” He panted.

“Calm down,” Rocco ordered. “Where are you?”

“I’m with Freddie, man. I was scared to stay at my place. Whoever we’re dealing with knows where I live!”

“Who’s Freddie? Can he be trusted?” Rocco asked.

“Yeah, man, but I need a place to go.”

“All right.” Rocco gnawed on his bottom lip and paced back and forth. “Call a cab and have him drop you at the Conoco station on Jefferson and Market Street. Call when you’re there and I’ll pick you up.” He hung up the phone and filled Kira in on the details.

“Is he going to be staying here?” Kira asked.

Rocco’s lips started to form the word yes and Kira deflated. She wanted to be alone with Rocco, now more than ever. She tried to hide her disappointment, but she knew Rocco had already seen it in her eyes. Sitting back down on the couch next to her, Rocco took both of her hands in his. “If you’re uncomfortable with Peters staying her, I’ll get him a different room,” he said. “Just say the word.”

Kira didn’t know what to say. How could she ask him to spend more money on a separate room when they had a pull out couch and plenty of room here? It would be silly. Besides, they were probably safer together. “Whatever you think is best,” she uttered, looking down and fiddling with her fingers on her lap.

Rocco gently took her chin and guided it upward so that he could look into her eyes. “For reasons outside of our control, you and I were brought together. By all rights you’re supposed to be dead and I’m certain that I’m supposed to be framed for your death. I don’t know why.” He drew in a deep breath. “What I do know is that we were both set up by the same people; me, out of revenge and you…” he paused and narrowed his brows. “I don’t really understand why Frank sent you to The Candy Shop. I don’t know what he gains from it.”

“Maybe he gains Audrey,” Kira said quietly, tears forming once again in her eyes. “Maybe I was supposed to be murdered and then he was going to live happily ever after with my best friend.”

“Maybe. But he loses you and I can’t think of a greater loss.” Rocco wiped a tear from her cheek. “I don’t understand all of the motives yet, but I can promise you one thing. I will not let anything happen to you.”

Without thinking, Kira leaned forward and planted a tender kiss on Rocco’s lips. There was something alluring in his honesty. She let her lips linger against his, unsure if she was more afraid to pull them away or lean in. He ran his fingers up the side of her neck and tenderly drew her closer, deepening their kiss.

The phone interrupted their moment of intimacy and Rocco apologized as he took the call. “I have to go get Peters,” he explained, heading for the door. “Keep your gun and Taser close and lock the door the moment I leave.”

Kira followed him to the door. “You’re coming back, right?” She didn’t want to sound desperate but the prospect of being alone in all of this was terrifying.

Rocco smiled. “I promise.”

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