While having a quiet chat with Marka, Frank gets a call from Sue at the front desk. She’s clearly afraid and tells him there are friends of his at the desk asking for him. She knows good and well they aren’t, but she cleverly disguises the conversation so that she doesn’t let them know. Frank rushes to the front desk, coming up a back staircase so that he can sneak up behind the men in the lobby.
Easing back from the stairwell window, Frank took a deep breath. Whoever these guys were, they were trained, running hot and ready to rumble. He only hoped they wanted to talk to him, not kill him in front of a lot of witnesses. Saying a silent prayer, he took a deep breath and yanked the door to the stairs open, purposely announcing his presence.
Three pairs of eyes in three stone cold faces, snapped around, focusing on him. None of them pulled a weapon, but hands went to concealed holsters.
Frank smiled. That mistake told him a lot. Two right handed, one leftie.
He took a step toward them, hands at his sides, when the front door slid open. Clark came in, arguing with Phil. Phil was dressed in faded, paint spattered jeans and a sweater. Clark wore a three piece suit and looked like a lawyer.
“Why are you doing this?” Phil demanded loudly. “Mr. Wall Street doesn’t think his brother can handle Mom’s care?”
“You’re an artist, a dead beat. You’re only living with Mom cause you can’t make it on your own.”
They stopped about halfway through the lobby, shoving and arguing like brothers. After a couple of blows each, they headed toward the desk, skirting the men on either side. Phil’s fingers flickered in a battle sign to Frank, low and behind him, out of view of the thugs.
“What’s eating you now?” Clark yelled. He launched himself at the nearest thug, pinning his arm behind him.
Phil was on the other side doing the same thing. Frank rushed the third, grabbing his weapon hand as he tried to draw and fire. Frank was glad he knew the man was a leftie or the outcome would have been dangerously different.
All three men were face down on the carpeted lobby as plain clothes officers moved in to cuff, search and disarm them. Police cars pulled up outside, lights flashing, sirens silent.
“Need me?” Frank asked.
“Later. We got it. This is gonna be fun.” Phil’s eyes sparkled with enthusiasm, making Frank shiver.
“Doing our job,” Clark replied, dusting his hands on his pants.
“Swear to God, if you were a girl, I’d kiss you,” Frank said with relief.
“Kiss your own, it was her idea.”
Marka appeared outside, Shay at her side. Frank ran to her, lifting her off the sidewalk as he kissed her.
“Brilliant plan,” he complimented.
“Let’s get out of here,” Shay suggested. “The boys have this in hand.”
They got in an unmarked car and drove off campus. After a short circle tour of the town, they headed back to the blue house by a circuitous route. When Shay was sure no one was following them, he pulled into the back driveway and into a detached garage.
From there, they entered a mudroom. Shay tapped in a lengthy code and submitted to a retinal scan before opening the door. Frank and Marka followed him in.
The modular home was the size of a double wide mobile home. It was predictably, though comfortably, furnished. Marka was surprised at how totally ordinary it seemed.
“That was impossibly easy,” Shay said with a worried frown.
“They were testing our resources,” Frank said. “Otherwise, they wouldn’t have come at us head on. Makes me wonder what else they have planned. Oh, my family!”
Shay put a calming hand on his arm. “It’s under control. Would I leave them unprotected, Frank?”
“I’ll have to pull in Clark and Phil, they’ll have been identified by now.”
“Keep them around, though,” Marka asked quietly. “For some weird reason, I trust them, even if they are spooks.”
Shay laughed loudly. “We need to upgrade your vocabulary, young lady. Spook is so last century.”
Marka giggled as they followed the Colonel into the kitchen. A professional grade coffee machine glittered on the counter like a hungry metal beast.
“Latte? Espresso? Name your poison. We take our caffeine seriously around here.”
“Red Eye for me,” Frank said.
Marka settled on a latte. Armed with their drinks, they followed the Colonel to the living room. A bank of video screens greeted them, flashing interior and exterior shots of Sheltering Oaks. To their right, seven computers stood with their backs to the wall.
Several technicians sat in front of flatscreen TV’s watching surveillance footage. They looked ready for anything in their leather easy chairs, each sporting a cup of coffee or glass of tea.
“Still looking for someone who went in your office,” Colonel Shay said with a frown. “And still no joy.”
“How could you miss it?” Marka asked.
“No one unusual was in the corridor,” a tech replied. He was fresh faced, like he was right out of college. “We’ve checked everything and everyone who went near it that night.”
Marka sat on the arm of his easy chair, leaning toward the screen, squinting. “What about people who belong there?”
© Dellani Oakes