The Candy Shop

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CHAPTER 49

Kira sped down the highway, weaving in and out of traffic. Rocco wasn’t answering his phone and she feared he had already walked into a trap. She crossed the Mississippi River, heading toward East St. Louis with red flags waving. This was not a part of town in which a woman should be wandering around by herself, night or day. Kira followed the instructions, turning left onto North Front Street and began scanning the road for the next opportunity to make another left. It wasn’t long before she saw several barges along the riverbank and Rocco’s rental car. She killed the lights, pulled to the side of the gravely dirt road and made sure her doors were locked.

She dialed Rocco’s phone one more time but there was no answer. Reaching into the duffle bag, Kira retrieved a box of ammunition and reloaded the 9mm clip. She then took out the .22 pistol, loaded the chamber and slid it into her waistband. She didn’t have a plan; in fact, she had no idea what she was going to do except find Rocco.

Sliding out of the BMW as quietly as possible, Kira stayed low and made a dash for Rocco’s car, which was parked approximately fifty yards away. She hadn’t wanted to pull too close and risk being seen but now, making the jaunt on foot in the dark made her wish she had parked a little closer. Rocco wasn’t in his car and she ducked down by the back tire to catch her breath and decide what to do next. Part of her thought to call the police, but after what happened to Downing and learning that Barkley was a killer, she didn’t trust them. For all she knew, there were several cops on Landon and Ian’s payroll.

Kira surveyed the layout. Straight ahead on the riverbank were several barges connected to a towboat. Since this was the only structure within eyesight, she surmised that it must have been where Rocco headed. Tightly clutching the 9mm, Kira began her trek down toward the river. When she got within thirty feet of the towboat, she saw a figure pass one of the towboat windows. She couldn’t tell whether it was Rocco or someone else, so she crouched low to the ground and quietly inched closer. The figure passed by the window again and this time she could make out his silhouette. It was Landon.

As she got closer she could hear voices coming from inside the towboat. It was Ian, Landon and Frank. They were all there, but where was Rocco? Had they killed him? Kira crept closer so she could eavesdrop.

“The great Detective Sterling,” Landon seethed. “Not so mighty now are you? Seems ironic that you should die in this place, a short distance from where Adrienne died.”

“How romantic,” Ian spewed and then chuckled.

Kira climbed onto the towboat and leaned against the outer wall. “I’m gonna give you one more chance to tell me where Audrey and Kira are,” Landon uttered.

Rocco didn’t respond, at least not that Kira could hear.

“Just kill him and get it over with,” Frank blurted and Kira could barely believe her ears. When had her husband become a murderous monster? Anger boiled in her veins and Kira clutched the 9mm tighter. The element of surprise was on her side, so if she could get a couple of shots off before they shot back, she might be able to give Rocco a fighting chance. Then again, she couldn’t guarantee that she wouldn’t accidentally shoot him too.

“We’re not gonna kill him,” Landon chided. “We’re going to make sure he goes to prison for the rest of his life, labeled a serial killer, bunking with all of the killers he’s put behind bars.” Landon passed by the window again. “I don’t want to take his life,” he hissed. “I want to ruin his life.”

Kira’s heart was pounding. She wished she had a real cell phone that would record video or audio instead of the stupid temporary one with no apps. “You already destroyed my life the night you killed Adrienne,” Rocco said sternly and Kira’s breathing quickened as she strained to hear every word. “There’s nothing else you can do to me. If you want to frame me, then frame me, but end this now. You’ve already murdered innocent women, seven counting Adrienne….”

“Innocent? Ha!” Landon clucked. “They were whores. They were all whores!”

“Audrey and Kira aren’t whores,” Rocco said. “Let them live. Leave them alone and you do whatever you want to me.”

No! Kira felt enraged. No sacrifices! No deals! This ends now! She was smart enough to know that men like Landon and Ian and evidentially even Frank, weren’t honorable. They would never keep their word. She knew That she and Audrey would be hunted down,if Audrey was still alive, which seemed like a long shot at this point, and killed out of spite.

“Audrey’s the biggest ho going,” Ian sneered. “She screwed Landon, she screwed Frank, she screwed me and she even had her claws into Lucas.”

You liar! Kira gritted her teeth and inched her way closer to the door. She was mentally preparing herself to attack, when she heard something that sounded like a footstep. Kira peeled her eyes, scanning the ground between Leon’s car and the towboat. She couldn’t see anyone, but she distinctly heard footsteps against the ground.

Turning back to face the towboat door, Kira took a deep breath. It was now or never. Just as she raised her gun to burst through the door, a black leather glove smacked over her mouth, followed by hands that gripped her feet and her shoulders, lifting her off of the ground and carrying her quickly away from the riverbank. Kira tried to kick and squeal and even bite as she looked at the ski masked faces, one at her feet and one at her head. She kicked and thrashed, but to no avail. They took the 9mm and the .22 from her, and threw her in the back of a black, unmarked van, where the driver, whose face was also covered by a black ski mask, held her at gunpoint.

From inside the van she heard gunfire, but she didn’t know what was happening. “Let me out,” she begged the driver. “Please let me go,” she said again, but he didn’t acknowledge. Moments later, the two men returned to the van, released Kira, handing her the 9mm and the .22; and then they climbed in the van and slid the door closed. The driver stuck his left arm out the window, pointed toward the towboat and then sped off.

Kira rushed toward the towboat, stopping abruptly in the doorway. Nothing could have prepared her for the sight she beheld. Landon and Ian had been shot in the head and their brains were splattered all over the walls. Frank had been hit in the chest and blood was gurgling in the back of his throat. Rocco was taped to a chair, stained with blood from all three men, but otherwise unscathed. Kira started toward Rocco when she heard Frank trying to speak. Sobs rose in her throat and she froze. He was a monster but she had loved him for twenty years. He was Michael and Mallory’s father and as much as she hated him for what he had done, she didn’t want him to die. Kira felt her pocket for her phone, intending to call for an ambulance, but it must have fallen out when she was carried to the van.

“Go to him,” Rocco said quietly and Kira dropped to her knees next to Frank.

Placing his hand in hers, she brought it to her lips and kissed it. “Don’t die,” she whispered. “Please don’t die.”

A tear escaped from his right eye and rolled down the side of his jaw. “I don’t…deserve…to live,” he mouthed, the words barely audible.

“Don’t say that,” Kira wept.

“I’m so…sor…sorry,” he managed and then Frank was gone.

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