A SCHEMING KILLER –
A REPORTER IN THE CROSSHAIRS
This is the last chapter in this series. To see all the chapters and writers, click here.
Previously: The killer kidnaps Abby.
Chapter 16 – Scared of Noise?
By ROBERT DIGITALE
The killer answered Sandra’s call. “Hold still,” he said. “Your friend’s life depends on you.”
Sandra heard a siren. A patrol car flew past her onto Morgan Street and stopped to block the entrance to the mall parking garage. “The cops just showed up,” she said. “I didn’t call them. I swear it.”
“I know you didn’t. Now listen to me. Your friend’s alive and stretched out in the trunk of her car. It’s parked on the second floor of the garage near the back of the old Mervyn’s store. The key is near the left front tire. You’ve got to go up there and pull her out. Now, Sandra, you’re not afraid of a little noise, are you?”
Sandra could hardly breathe. “No, I’m not afraid.”
“Good, cause there’s going to be a little noise downstairs. Just ignore it and do your job. Now I’m only going say this once. If you don’t save Abby in the next five minutes, she’s dead. Do you hear me?”
“Yes, just let me go to her.”
“Go, but keep your phone on. I’ve still got something big to say to you.”
Sandra raced to the garage stairwell, put her hand on the green metal railing and scrambled up. She reached the gray concrete space of the second floor and jogged toward the other side. Near her the parking stalls were filled with the cars of revelers who’d gone to the Handcar Regatta in Railroad Square. But the vehicles soon thinned out. She spotted a uniformed police officer coming toward her. Behind him was her editor, Doug Smith.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” the officer called out. “I need to ask you to exit the parking garage.”
“Right away, officer,” she replied “Doug, what are you doing here?”
“Your killer called and hinted that something big is about to happen,” Doug said. “Our photographer’s still on his way, so I’m here ready with my smart phone. What’s going on?”
“You’ll see in a moment.”
An unmarked police car sped up the ramp and swung the corner. Detective Brown slammed on the brakes and jumped out. “What are you doing here?” he called to Sandra.
She ran past him. “Saving a friend.”
“Abby’s up here locked in a trunk. I’ve got five minutes to get her out.”
“Slow down. This sounds like a trap. Give me a minute to check things out.”
Kaboom! An explosion went off downstairs near the back entrance of the mall. Screams echoed through the garage, followed by the wail of approaching sirens. Sandra didn’t stop. She knew Brown couldn’t be sure which car held Abby. She spotted the faded beige 2001 Toyota Camry two spaces over from a stairwell. The detective, meanwhile, kept looking around to see if the killer might be in the garage or up on the mall’s roof. Sandra neared the Camry, and at the last moment darted in between the parked sedans. She stooped at the left front tire, found the key on the pavement and made for the trunk.
Brown blocked her way. “Wait a minute. Let me get a bomb squad in here.”
“There’s no time for a bomb squad. He told me if I don’t get her out in five minutes, he’ll kill her. He already warned me about that explosion. You know he can kill her.”
Brown clenched his teeth. Sandra put a finger in his face. “Don’t let him kill my friend!”
The detective backed up a step and yelled to the police officer, “Keep everyone back!” Everyone was Doug Smith, standing awkwardly with smart phone in hand.
Sandra put the silver key in the trunk lock and turned the latch. Up popped the trunk. Abby lay inside bound and unconscious. Brown pushed past Sandra and scooped up the groggy woman. “Get to the stairs!” he ordered Sandra. To the officer, he yelled, “Get an ambulance to us down there.”
In the confusion, Doug ran forward to take photos.
Outside the garage, Brown led the way toward the mall’s back entrance. A fire engine was parked nearby, and firefighters with extinguishers were dousing a blown-up trash can. Soon an ambulance sped up the roadway that separated the mall from the garage. As it screeched to a halt, Brown raced forward. Paramedics flung open the back doors and the detective helped place Abby inside on a gurney. As he stepped back, Sandra hopped in. “I’m going with her,” she said.
“Don’t leave the hospital until I get there,” Brown said. “I’m sending a patrol car to follow you.”
As the ambulance departed, Abby’s ring tone chimed on Sandra’s phone. “What do you want?” she demanded.
“Exactly where are you?”
“I’ve got Abby. We’re going someplace safe.”
“Be right back.” He hung up.
Sandra got worried and called Doug. “Is everybody away from Abby’s car?” she asked him.
“Unbelievable!” Doug shouted. “Her car just blew up. It’s on fire. I’ve got to get a photo. Bye!”
Tears welled up in Sandra’s eyes. She turned to the paramedic tending Abby. “Is she OK?”
“Yeah,” he said. “She seems drugged but stable.”
The ambulance raced to Memorial Hospital in less than three minutes. As the paramedics removed Abby atop the gurney, Sandra’s phone rang again.
“Screw you!” she yelled at the killer.
“Listen up. I’ve got news for you. You can tell your readers I’m going away for awhile.”
“I need some help.”
“Tell me where you are, and I’ll send the police to help you.”
He laughed. “You’re funny. No, I need real help. You’ve gotten so much better. I need to get even better so that I can stay a few steps ahead of you.”
“You’ve grown so much. Someday you’re going to be a star. I know it. And I’ll be so happy for you.”
“What? Is that what this is all about? Do you think you’re making me some kind of star? Well, screw you! I don’t need you. And I’m not going to play your sick games.”
“You’ve already shown what you’ll do for someone you love. And have I ever asked you to do anything but your job? Have I? Now we both know you’ll do your job, Sandra. It’s in your blood. Hasta la vista, baby. Until next time.”
The killer turned off Abby’s old cell phone and threw it away in a nearby trash can on lower Fourth Street. He pulled out his own Android phone to check the time. The screen wallpaper showed a photo of Sandra and Abby, taken years earlier at a journalism school social, with him in the background – greasy, shoulder-length hair and two fingers flashing a peace sign.
He smiled at the photo, put a hand to his newly shaved scalp, and turned to watch another patrol car roar past on Morgan Street.
Sandra, meanwhile, put away her iPhone. She went inside the waiting area for the emergency room, curled up on a black plastic chair and let the tears fall. She waited an hour before calling Doug. “The doctors say Abby’s going to be OK,” she told him. “Can you bring a laptop to Memorial? I need to write some stuff down. You won’t believe this story.”
To Be Continued…
Press Democrat Staff Writer Robert Digitale conceived and edited the “Sonoma Squares Murder Mystery.” He is the host of the online blog “Digitale Stories” and the author of the fantasy novel, HORSE STALKER. Learn more/see the video at www.horsestalker.com.
TO SEE ALL THE SONOMA SQUARES WRITERS AND THEIR CHAPTERS, CLICK HERE.
Edited by ROBERT DIGITALE
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