The Candy Shop

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Kira had cried herself to sleep on the couch and was startled awake by a pounding on the hotel door. Fumbling for her gun, she leapt up and rushed to the door, peering through the peep hole. Upon seeing Rocco, she opened the door. “Where’s Peters?” She asked.

“I got him a room next door,” Rocco answered, gliding inside and locking the door behind him. “Freddie is a damn cat and I can’t stand cats,” Rocco said. “No way I was going to be able to sleep with that cat roaming the room. I told Peters if that damn cat got on me in the middle of the night I was going to shoot it, so he opted to get his own room.”

Kira grinned. It was amusing to see a big, strong man afraid of a little cat. “What took you so long? I thought he was being dropped off right up the street.”

“We had to make sure we weren’t followed,” Rocco explained, and then sat down on the couch and exhaled a big sigh. He looked exhausted.

Sliding onto the couch next to him, Kira held up her timeline. “Do you feel like going through some things or do you want to go to bed?”

Rocco rubbed his eyes. “I won’t be able to sleep anyway, so show me what you’ve got.”

Kira told him about the emails she had read and showed him the timeline she made and also about Frank’s phone call to their son, Michael. “That call proves that Frank is working with Landon or at least knew Landon was kidnapping me,” she said.

“That’s not surprising,” Rocco uttered. “I get the feeling Frank is working more than one angle here.”

“What do you mean?” Kira studied his face.

“I don’t know, but it seems to me that Frank’s motive in this isn’t to live happily ever after with Audrey. I get the feeling he’s trying to save his own ass, but from who? That’s the question.”

“I don’t know,” Kira chided. “It sounds like he can’t wait to get rid of me and spend his life with her. He can’t wait to see the sexy things she’ll be wearing.”

Rocco leaned forward and took a sip of his wine and then licked his lips. “Frank’s correspondence with Audrey came on strong three weeks ago. Something had to have happened to drive that interaction.” Rocco explained.

“I think we both know what happened,” Kira sarcastically quipped. “He screwed her.”

Rocco squeezed her knee. He knew better than anyone how difficult it was to learn that the person you loved hadn’t been faithful. He was a mere three days from the alter when he found out his fiancée had slept with one of his close friends. He had been devastated. Over time he learned to view it as a blessing, but regardless of the spin he put on it, it left a scar. “I think this is about something greater than sex,” Rocco said.

“Love?” Kira mouthed. “Do you think he loves her?”

“That’s not what I meant,” Rocco clarified. “You told me that Frank couldn’t stand Audrey…”

“He couldn’t,” Kira interrupted. “Or at least he acted like he couldn’t.”

“So, what changed? And why did it change all of a sudden?” Rocco gnawed on his bottom lip. “Or did it really change?”

A pounding on the door made Kira jump and Rocco placed his hand on her knee, as if silently telling her to stay put. Drawing his gun, he approached the door and peered through the peephole. “It’s Peters,” he said and pulled open the door.

“Sorry to bug you man, but I found something interesting,” Peters said, walking briskly into the room, carrying a laptop. He set it down at the kitchen table and Kira and Rocco gathered around. “Nice to see you again, Mrs. Sullivan,” Peters said with a nod.

“What do you got?” Rocco asked.

“After Miranda’s neighbor was murdered, you told me to get the surveillance feed from outside her apartment building,” Peters began.

“Right,” Rocco acknowledged.

“Well, here’s the feed.” He clicked a few keys and brought up a video feed of the street in front of the apartment building. “This is the view from the highway department cameras located here,” he pointed at the screen, “and here.” They all stared at the screen. “Forensics estimates that Natalie Wild’s TOD was around 5:00am Wednesday morning.”

“TOD?” Kira interrupted.

“Time of death,” Rocco and Peters answered simultaneously.

“There aren’t many vehicles in this area in the wee hours, but at 4:28am we show one car passing the building, turning left and parking directly behind it.” Peters pulled up surveillance feed from another camera angle. “See, you can see the car pull in on this feed and then turn and go behind the building on this feed.”

“That’s a squad car,” Rocco said.

Peters zoomed the feed. “I think that’s squad car number twenty-seven.”

“It’s probably just someone making a routine check. That’s not exactly the best neighborhood. I’m sure the city precinct has a lot more check points and random drive bys than we do out in the suburbs.”

Peters looked up and stared at Rocco. “What if it’s not a routine check?” Peters’ eyes lit with excitement. “What if the killer is one of us?”

“One of you?” Kira gasped.

“Not one of us,” Peters pointed at himself and Rocco. “But one of us as in a cop.”

Rocco shook his head. “I’d say it’s highly unlikely and you’re grasping at straws.”

“Fine,” Peters uttered, “but no one else shows up in a car or on foot.” Rocco exhaled and walked into the living room. Peters followed. “Okay, explain this to me,” Peters taunted. “Miranda’s body is found Sunday night. It takes Forensics a couple of days to identify her and on Tuesday our guys get a statement from Natalie Wild, who mentions that Miranda worked at The Candy Shop. Wednesday morning Natalie is killed. Are you telling me that’s a random coincidence?” Peters was gawking at Rocco.

“No, I’m just saying I think the idea that one of our guys did it is a stretch.”

“Then who else knew what Natalie told the cops?” Peters blurted. “No one knew except those with access to the police report.” Peters jumped up and down in front of Rocco. “I’m telling you, man, there’s an insider and he’s one of ours.”

Kira sat on the couch, quietly listening to their banter. “That’s how Landon knew to find me at the station,” she mumbled softly.

Rocco leaned forward. “I thought you called Landon because Frank was out of town.”

Kira shook her head. “He just showed up, claimed to be my attorney, and took me out of there.”

Rocco was on his feet now, pacing back and forth. “Okay, let’s go with your theory even though it’s a stretch,” he said to Peters. “Who would be working with Landon and Lucas, and better yet, why?”

“What about Captain Jameson?” Peters posed. “Everyone knows he can’t stand you and all he talks about is how funds have been cut. Maybe he’s cut a deal with Coronado in return for a substantial donation?”

“Unlikely,” Rocco grunted. “He may be an asshole but he isn’t a criminal.”

“Well, what about Barkley? He has reason to hate you and would probably love to help set you up to look like a killer,” Peters said.

“Barkley was the one who took me to the station,” Kira added.

“Yeah, but Barkley had a heart attack in my office on Tuesday, remember?” Rocco raised his eyebrows at Peters. “He’s in the hospital and couldn’t have murdered Natalie Wild early Wednesday morning. Besides, I don’t think Barkley has the stamina to run around murdering women and throwing them into dumpsters.”

Rocco plunked back down onto the couch. “The fact is, the squad car in the video feed could have been driven by anyone, and anyone could have followed Kira from her house to the station and reported it to Landon.”

Kira could see Peters deflate.

“We can’t discount the possibility that the killer could live in Natalie Wild’s apartment building as well,” Rocco added. “Let’s get some rest and reconvene in the morning.” He unlocked the door and ushered Peters out. “I think we need to go back to the very beginning and start with the relationship between the firm of Parker, Sullivan & Bates and Lucas Coronado.”

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