The Candy Shop

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CHAPTER 44

The temporary cell phone Kira had been using was lying on the kitchen table next to the Taser and her 9mm. Peters was checking with the FBI to see if they could find out how to reach the undercover agent who was working in The Candy Shop, aka the Cher-look-alike; but it was a long shot. Undercover identities weren’t easily disclosed, not even to the police.

Rocco was busy trying to assemble a team to storm The Candy Shop and rescue Audrey before it was too late. If he could convince the other officers that the people holding Audrey were the same ones that had killed Officer Downing, rallying troops would not be a problem. So far, he was having trouble making that connection.

Kira’s phone rang and a man’s voice whispered. “I’ve got Audrey, her hair is red and because of you she’ll soon be dead.” He disconnected the call and Kira dropped the phone, her hands trembling. She told them what he had said and Peters jotted it down on a piece of paper.

“Did you recognize the voice?” Rocco asked. “Was it Ian or Landon?”

It wasn’t either of them but Kira had a feeling she had spoken to this man before. She just couldn’t put a face on the voice. “He sounded older,” she said, “and his voice was a little gruff, like gritty sounding.”

“He was probably disguising it,” Leon said. “Are you sure it wasn’t Lucas?”

Kira pursed her lips and tightened her jaw. “It wasn’t Lucas.”

Rocco narrowed his brow, bit down on his lip and exhaled loudly. “The call makes no sense. Why would he call to tell us he had Audrey when we already knew he had her?”

“I was thinkin’ the same thing, man,” Peters chimed in. “He already told us we had twelve hours to get there or he’d kill her.”

“Unless it was one of his men that didn’t know Ian had already made the call,” Leon suggested.

“Or someone else entirely,” Rocco mumbled and chills darted up the back of Kira’s neck.

“You mean the killer?” Kira asked and silence filled the room. That prospect was terrifying.

“Give me you phone,” Leon blurted, extending his hand toward Kira.

“You gonna try to run a back-trace?” Peters asked. “’Cuz that’ll be a waste of time.”

Kira handed Leon the phone and Leon opened up two of the laptops he had brought with him, set them on the coffee table and went to work. “I want to see if I can get satellite coordinates.”

“He’s probably bouncing the call off of twenty different sites, man,” Peters scoffed.

“Yeah, if he’s smart, but not everybody is smart,” Leon retorted. “If this was the killer, then he’s already strayed from the program a couple of times. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that panicked people make stupid mistakes.”

Peters sat down next to Leon and began keying in access codes to tap into the satellite surveillance system. “If you can get me coordinates, I’ll try and zoom in and see if we can get a picture of our guy.”

Time was running out and Kira could feel the stress in the room intensifying. They were all on-edge. Leon’s and Peters’ fingers flew across their respective keyboards with lightning speed, tracing, tracking and searching for anything that would help them track down the caller.

“Could you search Ian’s or Landon’s phone records and get the killer’s phone number that way?” Kira posed. “I mean, they’ve got to be keeping in touch somehow, right?”

“I already ran those searches. The records are on the on the precinct database under my key code,” Rocco said. “Peters, you can pull them up.”

“No need,” Leon blurted. “I got him!”

Peters leaned over so he could see Leon’s screen and copied the coordinates, plugging them into the surveillance database. He zoomed the feed until he could see a close up street view. “This place looks strangely familiar,” Peters quipped and Rocco leapt up and rushed across the room to take a look at the screen. Kira moved in close to Rocco and peered over Peters’ shoulder, while Leon leaned left to see.

“That’s your street,” Peters said.

“That’s my street,” Leon repeated.

Peters zoomed the feed again, backing up the time frame and playing it forward in fast motion. They saw the green Oldsmobile pull onto the street and stop and then watched as Ben moved Audrey to the sidewalk and left. “That’s Ben!” Kira blurted. “Why would he dump Audrey on the sidewalk?”

They watched Audrey crawl down the sidewalk and encounter the police officer, who walked out of Leon’s house, lifted Audrey into the squad car and drove away. “What was he doing in my house?” Leon barked.

Kira breathed a sigh of relief. “Well, at least we know now that Audrey is safe. I’m sure that cop must have taken her to a hospital so maybe we should start our search there. Barnes Jewish Hospital is not too far from Leon’s neighborhood.”

Peters zoomed in on the front windshield of the squad car. “Number twenty-seven,” he muttered. “Same car we saw on surveillance the morning Natalie Wild was killed.”

“Can you zoom in on the Officer’s face?” Rocco asked and Peters searched for an optimal angle and position and then paused the feed again and zoomed in close.

“That ain’t possible, man,” Peters gasped. “He had a heart attack. I saw him drop like a bowl of Jell-O in your office.”

Rocco’s jaw clenched tighter and he swore aloud. Moving quickly past Kira, he slammed his fist into the side of the kitchen wall and grunted. “He faked the heart attack,” Rocco seethed. “Son of a bitch!”

“You can’t fake a heart attack, man. The EMT’s took him away. I watched them wheel him out,” Peters rebutted.

“Check his hospital release date,” Rocco ordered and Peters quickly switched screens, tapping into the St. Anthony’s Hospital patient database and searching medical records for Richard Barkley.

“He had motive, opportunity and was able to stay one step ahead of us because he was one of us,” Rocco muttered. “Somehow he must have altered the forensic lab results which is why he complained about my requesting more DNA analysis. It was more work for him to cover his tracks.” Rocco’s jaw tightened. “I should have seen it.” He shook his head. “I should have known.”

“How would Barkley have gotten mixed up with the Coronado’s? Kira questioned.

“Not the Coronados,” Leon interjected. “His connection was through Landon. Remember, they were brother-in-laws.”

“That’s right,” Rocco added. “And Landon convinced Barkley that had I not been involved with Adrienne, she would never have gone out to meet me the night she was killed.”

“She was going to meet you?” Kira spun around to face Rocco. “Is that true?”

Rocco momentarily closed his eyes and the opened them with a sigh. “Yes, we were supposed to meet, but she obviously never showed up.”

“Holy cow, man,” Peters interrupted. “It says here that Barkley was released less than two hours after he arrived in Emergency. It says the patient suffered a bout of indigestion.”

Rocco paced the floor. “Just before he collapsed in my office we were discussing the fact that Miranda’s neighbor had given a statement to the police. He faked a heart attack so we would think he was out of commission and he could easily kill her.”

“He also knew about The Candy Shop!” Peters snapped his fingers.

“Put out a city-wide APB right away on car number twenty-seven and on Officer Barkley. List him as armed and dangerous,” Rocco told Peters, who jumped up, taking his cell phone into the kitchen to make the call.

“Don’t you want a state-wide search?” Peters asked.

“He won’t leave the city,” Rocco responded confidently. “He’s already planned Audrey’s murder and Kira’s for that matter. He won’t stray from his plan.” Rocco checked the clip on his .45 and the 357 Magnum and then slid on one of the Kevlar vests and covered it with his black jacket. “Leon, I need to know where he’s taking her and I need to know now!”

Leon picked up the laptop Peters had been using and fast forwarded the feed, watching as Barkley drove up Pennsylvania and headed toward the freeway. “He took the highway into the city,” Leon said.

“I’m gonna need more than that,” Rocco quipped. “I’ll head that way. Call me with specifics.” Before Kira could open her mouth to speak, Rocco was gone and her heart sank.

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