After a near accident and a fruitless trip to another location, Shay, Clark and Marka head back to Frank’s house. Marka is certain that he must be there.
“Okay, but we aren’t simply going to walk in. We need a plan. Here’s what we’re going to do.”
They took a few minutes to discuss their plan of attack, then got back in the car. Clark got out fifty yards or so from the house. Shay followed when they got a little closer. The two men flanked the house as Marka drove up to the door. She cut off the engine and took a deep breath.
Giving the men a couple more minutes, she forced herself to sit still. Her eyes took in details, though her mind was slow to sift through and sort them out. The police lock was off the door. The drapes were shut, though she remembered they’d left them open the last time they were there. She could see footprints in the snow, but they were rapidly being covered by a heavy layer of damp snow. There were at least three sets, but that was all she could tell from her vantage point. Taking another deep breath, she let it out slowly and opened her car door.
Her shoes sank into the thick, wet snow, leeching through the nylon webbing. She promised herself she would buy boots at the soonest opportunity as she squelched through the freezing moisture to the porch. Trusting the men to be in position, she tried the door. It drifted open as she pushed on it. Fumbling for the light switch, she turned on the lights.
* * *
Frank knew it wasn’t Clark who’d called him, but he let Marka believe that it was. He suspected a trap. He was afraid she’d insist on coming along. If it was true that he’d been manipulated, he could be made to harm her. He couldn’t trust himself to protect her.
A dark blue sedan pulled up in front of the building. Frank let himself out, nodding to the woman at the front desk as he left. A glance at his watch told him it was just after 9:00. The bitter cold wind bit through his jeans, snaking down the neck of his heavy jacket. The warmth of the car’s exhaust reeled him in invitingly.
Phil sat behind the wheel, gazing at the road. An attractive blonde sat behind him. Phil didn’t respond as Frank greeted him. He put the car in gear, pulling out even before Frank had his door closed and belt on.
“Did Shay need to see me?” Frank asked the woman.
“Of course. Why else would I be here?”
Why indeed? Shay rarely traveled without Sergeant Elizabeth Tynan, his personal assistant. But this time, he’d come without her. Why was she here?
“Good to see you, Liz. It’s been too long, sweetheart.”
Her lips twitched upward. The greeting was as much as he would get. Liz was chilly, driven. She used sex like a weapon. Frank found that out during a brief, erotic affair. It left him bruised and breathless, but satisfied.
They headed up the road and out of town toward his house.
“What brings you to Ohio, Liz? I thought you hated the cold.”
“Unfinished business, Frank. Something I should have taken care of long ago.”
“Don’t you hate when life gets messy?” He lit a cigarette and lowered the window a couple inches.
“You quit.” Her voice held an accusation.
“Started up again. Stress.” He shrugged, flicking ashes into the night.
Liz coughed lightly. Frank opened the window more and turned up the heat. He smoked casually, trying to keep his expression bland and his hands steady. He knew he’d walked willingly into a trap. With a little luck, he’d figure out what they wanted from him before he was caught in it.
Seeing Liz had set off an alarm in his head. Confusing visions flashed past his eyes. Her face, surrounded by bright lights. . . . Her tall, voluptuous body standing over him with something shiny in her left hand. . . .
“Really, Frank? Another one? You’re a chain smoker now?”
One cigarette finished, he’d automatically reached for another. Her sharp words brought him back.
“Sorry.” He closed the window and lowered the heat as the car turned up his long driveway.
His little house looked ominous in the silvery moonlight. The surrounding trees cast an elaborate latticework of shadows across its face. The blue halogen headlights in the falling snow, gave it an eerie, ghostlike aspect.
Frank shuddered, unable to conceal it from the woman behind him. A cool, bony hand rested on his shoulder. As she leaned forward, her breath tickled his ear.
“You alright, Frank?”
“Let’s go inside.”
“I don’t have the code.”
Her laugh was strangely ominous. “That never stopped you before.”
Phil put the car in park and turned it off. He sat until Liz spoke to him. It wasn’t a word Frank recognized, but the tingle at the base of his skull warned him that it had significance. Phil followed, docile and silent. Frank’s eyes met his and he could see pain and frustration behind the complacent expression. That, more than his own self-preservation, made him wary.
Skin pricking unpleasantly, hairs rising on his neck, he examined the lock. It was coded. A closer look showed that this lock wasn’t new, nor was it particularly clean. It had been handled with greasy or sticky fingers at some point in its long life. The substance left on the keys provided Frank with a clue. It looked like a simple, four number code. The number of permutations was limited.
© Dellani Oakes