CURVE BALL

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Chapter Seventy

Billy Dee’s wife had duck tape across her mouth and was tied to the couch.

“Janine, baby, are you okay?” Billy Dee lowered his gun and went to her.

She made a muffled noise that stopped him. Was Majuski still in the house? He went into a crouch and clutched his gun with both hands. “Come on out you bastard.” He raised his voice. He went room to room. There was no sign of him. He went back to his wife. “Baby, he’s gone. Billy Dee is here and will take care of you.” He came towards her and again she made a soft noise. He looked closer and realized what appeared, as ropes were wires that went from his wife’s neck down her shoulders to behind the couch. He went to the end of the sofa and got on his hands and knees. He saw a cylinder dangling and more wires that ran to a box. Holy shit his wife was attached to a bomb. Lord have mercy. He stood up. “Baby, I don’t know how, but it’s going to be alright. Don’t move. I’m going to hit the lights. I need to have a better look. If Majuski is still here, having light won’t matter. The explosive will blow all of us to hell.” He flicked the switch and froze. He looked around the room. Nothing blew up. He moved slowly to his wife and dabbed the perspiration from her face. She sat very still. “I know you’re scared baby. I’m going to take a look.” Her eyes twitched. “Take deep breaths,” he said, “concentrate on the breathing.” If she only knew he had no idea what to do. He was making it up as he went along. He gave her a quick glance then leaned over the back of the couch and peered into the space. The red cylinder was suspended by wires and hung midway from the floor. He studied the object. Chinese writing appeared on the side. He was stunned. Could it be? “Holy fuck’n shit.” His laugh began slow and grew. His hand was about to pound the back of the sofa but his wife’s high pitch sound stopped him.

“You’re okay,” he said and went to her. He gently took the wire collar from her neck and laid it on one of the cushions. Her gaze was like beams of light ready to explode.

“I’m going to take the tape off. I’ll do it quickly, but it may hurt. Here it goes.” She yelped when the tape came off, and then fell into his arms.

“He was going to kill me. Why were you laughing?” she said in between sobs. Her hands balled into fists. “What’s wrong with you? He told me you were dead. Billy Dee. I was so scared I couldn’t move.” She wrapped her arms around her body to stop from shaking. “I’m so cold.”

“No one’s going to hurt you, Janine, not while I’m around. He held her until she calmed. “Let me get you a drink. We all can use one.

He went into the kitchen and found a bottle of bourbon. “You ain’t going to believe it, Janine, but you weren’t hooked up to an explosive.” He brought her a glass.

“What? I don’t understand.”

“Drink some of that. It will do you good.” He watched her take a couple of sips.

“That cylinder is some kind of Chinese firework.”

She looked up. “No!”

He shook his head. “Sure is. The son-of-a-bitch didn’t want you to call the police. He wanted to buy time. If I hadn’t come along, oh dear Jesus, you would have sat there forever.”

She burst into tears again. “This is a nightmare. Who? Why? What does all of this have to do with you…us?”

He took a deep breath. “Janine, I stumbled into one hell of a mess. I’m so sorry.” He took her hand. “Tell me what happened. How did Majuski get in? What did he say?”

“He rang the doorbell and held up a badge. I thought…well, who knows…something happened to you. I let him in. We started talk’n. He asked if I knew… Billy Dee I don’t…wait, it was a woman’s name.”

“Melissa? Did he say Melissa Stone?”

She put her head between her arms. “I’m sorry, I… who is that?”

“It’s okay, baby. Don’t you worry.” He gathered her in his arms and gently patted her back. He stared into space and silently thanked God for their lives.

She lifted her head from his shoulder. “Billy Dee whatever happened to that prisoner who went missing?”

“Prisoner?” His mind came back. “Jack Rakow.”

“I think that’s the name. He was a baseball player?”

He stared at his wife. “ Rakow, Jesus, that’s it.”

“What’s it?” she asked.

“Jack Rakow. Are you ok?” He got to his feet.

“Yes, I think my heart is back to first gear. What is your little head up to?”

“Lock the doors and don’t let anyone in unless it’s me.”

“Billy Dee, after all we’ve been through?”

“I know,” he let out a sigh, “but I’m in too deep to let go. I’m going to surprise one mother...”

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