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 6 – Crossed Paths
By RANDI ROSSMANN
Tyler slid the last of the crates into the back of the old Chevy while Cruz stood to the side, baseball cap pulled down low over his forehead, arms folded over his coveralls. He looked furtively over at the neighbor’s ranch.
“Dude, there’s no one watching us,” said Tyler, as he closed the tailgate. “You know Kenner. We’ve been careful. And I’ve been sending the universe positive energy about us. “
Cruz’s look said, You are an idiot.
“Ok. Whatever. Let me know when you see a man with binoculars behind the potting shed,” Tyler sniped, as they got into the cab. “But seriously, take some deep breaths, man. Maybe take up yoga.”
Cruz hit the gas. The truck jolted down the driveway, knocking the kid’s sunglasses onto the floorboard.
“Whoa dude. Chill,” said Tyler, reaching down. “What if you scratched them?”
“Ask your universe for new ones,” growled Cruz. “I’d feel better if your uncle hadn’t killed that guy. Did you read the newspaper? The cops said today they have leads. What leads? They could be after us right now!”
Turning left onto Petaluma Hill Road, Cruz turned the radio to news. “You are tempting the universe to give you bad news, man,” said Tyler, who pulled out his iPhone and opened his Facebook page.
While listening for crime news, Cruz watched for police. He paid no attention to the motor scooter behind them.
The pickup truck and the scooter soon passed Sonoma State University. A year earlier a student from there had been killed, his body dumped in the center of nearby Cotati at the town’s accordion man statue. The man on the scooter, Mark Pointer, was smiling at he passed the campus.
In Penngrove, Cruz turned into the parking lot of a small commercial center. He parked in front of Sandy’s Produce. The two men made their delivery to the store and then walked next door for breakfast at the Denman Diner.
“Don’t confess to the waitress,” joked Tyler. “Oh man, smell that bacon.”
As they disappeared inside, Pointer rolled up on the scooter and stopped beside the pickup. He reached under and stuck a high-tech tracker to the frame rail, barely pausing before moving to the other side of the lot. He strolled to the diner and sat at a window with his back to the two guys from the farm truck.
Two doors down, at Ingrown Hydroponics, Det. Zach Brown was talking to owner Merle Rossiter.
“We’re just trying to figure out how these guys are finding their targets,” Brown said to the elderly man, who was shaking his white head, clearly angered.
“I run a clean shop here,” he retorted. “I certainly am not passing on information about my medicinal marijuana customers to criminals.”
“It’s not just dope robberies, it’s murder. And somehow they know who has a lot of dope and when,” said Brown, leaning across the counter, using his best Dirty Harry face. “Anyone helping them would be a conspirator to murder.”
Placing his business card atop some drip tubing, Brown left.
The detective stopped just in front of the cafe window. For a moment it looked as if he might step inside. Just then a siren blasted. Brown looked up as a Penngrove fire engine pulled out of the station across the street.
The siren almost kept him from hearing his cell. Abby. He smiled.
“Hey babe. What’s up?”
“How’s it going? Getting anywhere?” asked Abby.
“You know I am beginning to wonder if it’s really me you like or if you are a murder-case detective groupie.” He was half kidding.
“You’re hilarious. But listen, I just learned something about Pointer that I thought you should know, just in case you don’t,” she said. “His parents died in a mysterious car crash and fire, off a cliff! Kind of weird, right?”
“Yes Abs. I already know. I checked with Rick Scott at CHP,” said Brown. “It was ruled an accident, but he said he’d look at it. So yes, we’re checking that out. Hey babe, I gotta go. Four more hydroponics shops in the south county waiting. But maybe tonight you could offer me some more detective tips while wearing that little…”
Abby hung up. Brown laughed.
Mark Pointer, realizing that Detective Brown was just outside the cafe, ducked behind his newspaper as the cop turned his way.
Cruz finished his coffee. “I have to drop off some produce at Rossie’s shop,” he told Tyler as he exited the cafe.
Outside, Brown nodded to a man in coveralls who walked over to an old Chevy pickup. The detective noted the Three Trees Farm logo on the side of the vehicle, but really his mind was on Under the Roof Hydroponics, his next stop in east Petaluma. Well that, and Abby.
Cruz, meanwhile, grabbed a CSA box and carried the order of tomatoes, onions and peppers into the hydroponics store. “Hey Rossie, I’ve got your taco sauce fixings,” he yelled. “Got you some hot ones.”
The older man appeared from the back room, looking angry.
“Que paso?” asked Cruz.
“There was a detective here just now. He thought I could be helping those pot robbers, those killers!”
Cruz’s eyes bulged. “That’s loco. That guy, the one in the Camaro, was a cop? Asking about those pot robberies?”
“He’s checking hydroponics shops for a connection between the robbers and their victims,” said Rossiter. “Me, a criminal! Wait till Annie hears…”
Cruz waved goodbye and returned to the cafe. “Tyler. Vamos. Now.”
Tyler left a $20 under his plate and walked out to the truck. Across the lot he spotted a black Camaro Z-28, with what he assumed was a businessman sitting inside. “Dude, nice car,” he noted as he climbed into the truck.
“That guy with the nice car is a cop. After us, ” responded Cruz, through clenched teeth. “Your universe isn’t listening, amigo. We almost had a cop collision.”
Still inside the cafe, Pointer folded his newspaper, stood, stretched, and paid his bill.
He looked calm as he stepped outside, pulled out his smart phone and opened a special app for his tracker. The detective in the muscle car went south toward Petaluma and the red dot on his small screen showed the Chevy pickup heading north up Petaluma Hill Road.
Oh Sandra, Pointer thought, revving the little engine of his scooter before he followed. What I do for you.
Randi Rossmann is a 30-year Press Democrat news reporter. For most of those years she has covered the police beat and breaking news, including the Ramon Salcido slayings and the Polly Klaas kidnapping, two of the county’s most infamous crimes. The married mother of two is a life-long Sonoma County resident and Piner High School grad. To read her stories, click here.
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Edited by ROBERT DIGITALE and FREDERICK WEISEL
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