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.

Fourteen chapters.
Fourteen writers.
One thriller.


Click here to read Season One: The Sonoma Squares Murder Mystery.

PREVIOUSLY: Sandra and Abby are kidnapped at the Gran Fondo.

Chapter 12 – The Deal


A vineyard rolled over the hillside in even rows. Her blindfold pulled away, Sandra winced at the sunlight. “You’ll never get away with this,” she said. An aluminum barn stood under the shoulder of an ancient oak. The Zip-tie that bound her hands was cut. She moved her fingers in front of her face, her wrists still bearing two tiny plastic bracelets. “You’re going to end up in a cage.”

Kenner held out Sandra’s cell phone. “I’ll get away with it. Watch me.” Sandra had never met a man with such a powerful sense of self-discipline. Zero body fat, which should have been a warning sign about the larger flaws in his character. “Now, you know what to do. Nod your head. Good. Mess it up and your friend dies.”

“Where are we? Didn’t drive far. Middle of a vineyard.” Abby’s pupils were wide as saucers. “Not Healdsburg. There the grapevines just go on forever. I see an abandoned chicken coop, which might mean Petaluma. No…”

In the car Abby had struggled, desperate and crying. Kenner had administered something— a needle, a pill? Blindfolded, Sandra couldn’t see. Whatever it was, Abby went from frantic to giddy.

“West up Highway 12, I bet. Not Petaluma.” Abby’s hands were still bound. “Forestville? Occidental? No. The trees are wrong. Sebastopol has vineyards, used to all be apple orchards. Remember Mom’s Gravenstein applesauce? No? I’ve got it. Graton. Or close to it.”

Pollak looked stung by Abby’s accuracy, but Kenner didn’t react at all.

“What did you give her?” Sandra asked.

“Nothing you need to worry about,” said Kenner. He gave a hand signal, a wrist shake at belt level like a baseball manager in a dugout. Pollak nodded and stepped away from Abby.

Sandra didn’t understand any of it. “Is it time for us to dig shallow graves?”

“No. Nobody dies if this call works. And if I kill you, your body goes in the trunk.” Kenner handed over the phone.

“He’s the last honest man in Sonoma County,” said Abby. “Like Linus, in Peanuts. Bound by the truth.” She tried to take a step, staggered, then stood unsteadily. “Of course, in our present circumstance, Linus would be a user.”

“What if he doesn’t answer?” Sandra asked.

“I’ve got you. He’s got the cash. He’ll answer.” Kenner watched her dial. “Do not screw this up.”

In the car, blindfolded, Sandra had argued with Kenner. No, she wouldn’t call the man who had robbed him. No, she didn’t keep the numbers of sociopaths on her phone. Besides, the robber used victim’s phones and made quick calls, powering down so the police couldn’t track him.

“Pigpen would grow pot. Organic. No question.” Abby sat in the dirt, looking down the hillside. “Grapevines lined up like soldiers. Soldiers fighting sobriety. Schroeder has ADHD. Ritalin.”

In the car Abby, drugged, openly admitted to stealing Gerald Pointer’s number from her boyfriend Detective Brown. Pointer was the police’s lead suspect, and Sandra now dialed his number not knowing which way to hope.

A voice answered on the first ring. “Yes?” Dead, absolute calm.

“The man you stole from has me and my friend, and wants to make a trade.” Sandra spoke slowly, Kenner standing inches from her face. “He wants his money back, this afternoon. Then he lets us go.”

“And in this deal I get what?”

“Peppermint Patty is a dealer. Snoopy, too. Out of his doghouse.”

Any doubt Sandra had harbored was set aside by Pointer’s voice. She shivered. It was the same voice from the phone a year ago, the man who threatened her. Brown might need evidence, but this moment was enough for Sandra. Pointer was the Sonoma Squares Killer. This entire enterprise would only end one way. She spoke to Kenner. “You think you’re playing chess here, and the pieces are drugs and guns and people’s lives. What happens when you’re not as smart as the guy on the other side of the chessboard?”

“Sandra, who would Charlie Brown be?” Abby lay back in the dirt. “Lucy? Head of the cartel.”

“Tell me what he wants,” Pointer said.

Sandra imagined that the inhumanly calm voice in her ear had a plan ready for every situation. She listed Kenner’s demands. “Two hours. The money in a car you leave running, tank full. He’s driving it away. It’s a gravel road in a vineyard. Stop where it’s blocked, get out and back away. They leave and you’ll be able to find us. Drive Highway 12 west to Highway 116, and call this number for directions. Two hours.”

“I’ll need four.”

“He needs four.” Sandra told Kenner. “Crap. He hung up.”

“Why?” Kenner asked.

“To fill out a withdrawal slip at the bank! Want me to call him back?”

Kenner, if possible, became more compressed, as his mind worked it over. When he shook his head ‘no,’ Sandra fell to her knees beside Abby.

“Was Charlie Brown ever happy with the Little Red Haired Girl?”

“I don’t know,” Sandra answered, although she pretty much did. The Little Red Haired Girl was the larger metaphor for Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown’s foot. The Little Red Haired Girl proved you never got what you wanted, and you usually didn’t really know what you wanted in the first place.

“We’ll know in four hours,” Kenner smiled down at them, and for the first time Sandra was sure they’d never make it out alive.

TOMORROW: “Attract. Then Kill,” by Press Democrat Copy Editor Heather Chavez. The killer and the robbers face off, with Sandra and Abby’s lives hanging in the balance.

Andy Gloege is a former news writer for CBS. He lives in Petaluma with his wife and son, and is working on a novel about a killer in the forests of Washington.





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