The scheming killer is back, still fixated on the young woman reporter.
But this time he isn’t prepared for how his murders will put her in harm’s way.
Chapter 3 – Home Invasion
By FREDERICK WEISEL
Kenner parked the BMW on the shoulder of the gravel road a hundred yards from the rural house and turned off the headlights.
“Dark back here,” Pollak said.
Kenner looked out the window. “New moon. Harvest night.”
From here, they could see the front door and a large-paned window lit with a diffuse glow.
“Somebody’s awake, watching a big screen,” Pollak said. He fitted a new magazine into the gun on his lap.
In the back seat, Cruz pushed his fingers into a pair of latex gloves. “Good. Means we’re not waking up a bunch of huevones, lazy bums.”
“T.J. says two guys stay here,” Kenner said. “When he saw them, they had semi-automatics. We go in, first thing, we keep them away from their guns.”
Pollak looked at the farmhouse. “Big place. Where’re we going?”
“Kitchen’s on the left, living room’s on the right. Mateo, through the living room, there’s a hallway. First door’s an office. They keep the bank in a filing cabinet.”
Kenner pointed to the far side of the house. “Steve, see the attached garage? The weed’s in there. Shrink-wrapped, pound bags stacked on a pallet. T.J. saw about forty.”
“I lost track,” Pollak said. “We do this house, is it number six or seven?”
“Seven. Three more, we’re done.”
The men pulled on ski masks. Kenner turned and faced the others. “No talking. No names. We’re back here in eight minutes.”
At the door, they heard the din of the TV. Pollak aimed the pneumatic ram under the knob and swung it into the wood. On impact, the lock ripped out of the frame and the door flew open. The two men on a sofa had time just to turn before they saw Kenner coming toward them with a short-barreled shotgun.
Kenner motioned the men away from the sofa, toward the kitchen. From the TV came the screaming sound of motorcycles wound up high and a car crash. Behind it somewhere, Kenner heard another sound. What was it?
While Kenner aimed his Mossberg at the two men, Cruz put chairs back to back and guided the men into the seats. He took a length of rope out of his duffel and tied the men together. Then he duct-taped their mouths.
Cruz ran to the hallway to find the office. The TV went quiet for a moment. Kenner heard the sound again: running water. He headed down the hallway. In the first room, he saw Cruz loading the cash. The next room was empty. Suddenly emerging from a doorway at the end of the hall was a twenty-something man, wrapped in a towel and dripping wet. The man stared at Kenner’s ski mask with a look of puzzlement. In his right hand, he held a nine-millimeter handgun.
Who’s this? Kenner thought. There were supposed to be two. He nearly said it out loud.
“Put down the gun,” Kenner told the man, showing him the shotgun. “Let’s not be stupid.”
The man stood in place, as if awaiting an explanation. Then, without warning, he raised his gun and fired. The round went wide, past its target, into the wall behind. Kenner felt the shotgun in his hand buck and saw the man crumple backward.
He ran down the hall to where the man lay. His ears rang with the shotgun’s explosion. He played it back in his head and tried to see it ending differently. The man lay still. Behind Kenner, Cruz approached. Seeing the man on the floor, Cruz made the sign of the cross.
By the time they reached the front door, Pollak appeared with the two marijuana duffels. Kenner looked at his watch. Seven minutes, twenty seconds. It seemed to Kenner as if hours had passed.
Kenner and Cruz drove in the Three Tree Farm truck down the drive to Kenner’s house. They had taken the marijuana duffels, guns, and the BMW to the storage unit, and had dropped off Pollak at his car.
At the house, Cruz left Kenner and walked around the side of the house to his apartment. Kenner found the front door unlocked and Tyler sitting on the floor, playing “Call of Duty” on the sixty-inch. Automatic gunfire roared out of the speakers.
“What’d I say about locking the door?” Kenner yelled above the sound as he carried Cruz’s duffel inside.
Tyler worked the console. “You said, always keep the door locked, Tyler.”
“Why’s that such a hard concept?” If he wasn’t my sister’s worthless son, he’d be gone, Kenner thought.
“Don’t worry. I’m ready.” With his left hand, Tyler held up a handgun that had been lying on the floor beside him, while he continued to operate the console with his right hand.
In the dining room, Kenner turned the duffel upside down and emptied the loose bills onto a table. Tyler joined him, and the two men sorted the denominations. Once they had the bills stacked, Tyler ran them through an electric counter, and Kenner wrapped them in currency straps.
“What’s wrong with you?” Tyler asked.
“Guy at the house pulled a gun,” Kenner said.
“You shoot him?”
Kenner looked at his nephew. “He was just a guy, your age. Wasn’t supposed to be there. Bad for him, bad for us. All sorts of law enforcement will be interested now. The whole point was for this not to happen.”
“Hey man, sometimes the universe makes you pay a high price.”
Kenner went back to the money. He was in no mood for stoner wisdom.
When they finished, Kenner made a note in a ledger. Then they loaded the bundles into a box and carried it to the hallway, where Kenner unlocked a closet door. In front of them, filling the room, were packs of currency, several rows deep, from the floor to their chests.
For a moment, they silently took in the sight—the even piles of pale green bills, packed like bricks in a thick, high wall.
“Money’s not everything, you know,” Tyler said.
“This room is,” Kenner said. “This room’s everything.”
“It is cool, man. I’ll give you that. You ought to call it something.”
“I do,” Kenner said. “Retirement.”
Frederick Weisel is a mystery writer living in Santa Rosa. His first novel, Teller, which was set in Sonoma County, was described by Kirkus Reviews as a “smartly written debut mystery.” He is currently writing a second novel, called Elise, about a team of Santa Rosa homicide detectives investigating a series of murders. See www.frederickweisel.com .
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Edited by ROBERT DIGITALE and FREDERICK WEISEL
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