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.
Click here to read Season One: The Sonoma Squares Murder Mystery.
PREVIOUSLY: Sandra gives the killer the robbers’ demands: the cash in exchange for her freedom.
Chapter 13 – Attract. Then Kill
By HEATHER CHAVEZ
As the night grew dense, Mark Pointer pulled the van onto a side road, gravel crackling beneath his tires. Grapevines marched along hills to the north, reaching in the dark toward him, and Pointer was reminded of the carnivorous plants he’d seen on a field trip in the seventh grade. Some snagged their prey with hinged lobes that snapped shut; others trapped with sticky surfaces or obstructed pathways. But though the deadly plants worked in different ways, they all shared a common goal.
Attract. Then kill.
His headlights sliced through to a clearing where a dark BMW was already parked. Pointer killed the engine but left his lights on. Their glare found the faces of the three robbers, and Abby and Sandra.
Pointer studied Sandra’s light-washed face. Her eyes were wide with fear, but her chin tilted in defiance. He willed his heartbeat to slow and the pressure to drain from his head. His anger could wait until Sandra was freed.
He climbed out of the van and composed his face into a neutral mask. He hoped his expression read: “I’m a reasonable guy.” Or at least “I’m not fantasizing about snapping your necks.”
Attract. Then kill.
With the open door providing cover, Pointer pulled the device from beneath the seat. The plastic casing felt slick with the sweat of his palm.
“Good of you to show,” one of the robbers said. He was tall, lean. Probably the group’s leader. His jaw clenched as he spoke. “I don’t know how much longer my patience would’ve lasted.”
One of the younger men – a muscular guy in a hooded sweatshirt – moved closer to Sandra. He looked down at a gun he held in his hand, then at Sandra, then at Pointer. A threat.
“I have boxes of cash in the back of my van that say your patience would’ve held out,” Pointer said. He chanced a glance at Sandra. “Did they hurt you?”
“I’m fine.” Her words were clipped. Certainly, she couldn’t be blaming him for the situation? After all he’d done for her? He had an image of a firebombed sedan, a flash from that first killing. The one even Sandra didn’t know about.
No, Pointer thought. He was her savior here. She had to know that.
The youngest of the robbers spoke, moving next to Sandra and Abby. He yanked Sandra’s arm, pushing her in front of him. “Get away from the van,” he said. “Let’s see your hands.”
“And our money,” the leader added. “If it’s not all there, I guess we’ll only give you back part of this lovely reporter here.”
The anger was a living thing inside of Pointer. It was getting harder to ignore its throbbing.
Pointer stepped away from the van’s open door, wires trailing from the device in his hand to the boxes of cash still inside.
The youngest robber cursed in Spanish.
Pointer held up the device. “This is equipped with a dead-man’s switch.”
“Appropriately named,” the head robber snapped.
Pointer ignored the interruption. “My finger slips off the button, it triggers a charge that will ignite the boxes holding the money,” he said. “And paper burns quickly. By the time you take your first step toward the van, fifty thousand will be gone. A hundred grand more before you get to the door.”
The head robber pointed his short-barreled shotgun toward Sandra. “Double ought buckshot goes even faster,” he said. “What do you want?”
“You have me. You have your money. So let the women go.”
Pointer actually couldn’t care less about Abby, but he included her for Sandra’s sake.
The leader narrowed his eyes, considering the offer. While he did, a sudden wind blasted dirt from the ground and pasted it to the sweat along Pointer’s neck. The youngest robber blinked to clear debris from his eyes. Pointer saw what was coming.
No, no, no.
Abby made a move for the gun. But she was slow – Pointer thought she might be drugged – and the guy pushed her, sending her to the ground. Sandra’s eyes flashed.
Don’t do it, he thought
Sandra was smarter than that. Though she glared at the robber who had assaulted her friend, Sandra quickly turned her efforts to helping Abby stand.
But the guy was young, stupid and angry. Most importantly, he was armed.
Trying to divert attention, before Mr. Young and Stupid could give in to impulse, Pointer quickly prodded, “Do we have a deal?” He held up the device. “My finger’s feeling a little twitchy.”
The silence was thick with the grit of disturbed earth and the scent of redwood. The leader finally spoke. “Show me.”
Pointer kept his eyes on the robbers – and on Sandra – as he circled to the passenger side, lifted out one of the boxes, and opened the flap. He pulled out a stack of cash, waved it, then dropped it back in the box.
The head robber smirked. “The women were only bait anyway,” he said. He turned toward Sandra and Abby. He motioned for the other men to release them.
Sandra and Abby started to back away, but Pointer called out, “Wait.” He reached into his pocket with his free hand, pulled out his cell phone and held it out toward Sandra. “Take this.”
She hesitated. Pointer was suddenly unsure if the robbers were really going to let the women go. But the other men made no move to stop Sandra as she approached.
This close to her, knowing it was likely the last time he would ever see her, Pointer thought of all he wanted to say to her. Finally, he settled on the one admission he knew would best let her know how he felt.
“I killed my parents for you.”
Sandra tried to cover it when she cringed, but Pointer saw it. For a moment, the rage surged back. She didn’t understand. Calm down. You gave it to her. Once she’s safe, she’ll look and figure it out soon enough.
As Sandra walked away, he called after her: “Guess I’ll never get that call from you on my car phone.”
She turned. He searched her face, wondering if she realized what he was secretly hinting at, the words he’d first mentioned that day at the winery.
She hurried away, grabbing Abby by the elbow as they left. Yes, Pointer thought. She understands.
Pointer turned his attention to the robbers just as their leader leveled his shotgun in Pointer’s direction.
“Guess we’re both going to retire now,” the leader said. “Only difference is, if you’re lying about my money, your retirement might be a little more permanent.”
Pointer didn’t have any illusions. He knew even though all the money was there, neatly boxed in the back of the van, he wasn’t making it out alive. He just hoped Sandra would make it clear.
TOMORROW: “Never Die,” by Healdsburg author Gabriel Fraire
A native Californian and Sonoma County resident for more than 25 years, Heather Chavez has a bachelor’s degree in English from UC Berkeley. Heathercurrently works as a copy editor/page designer for The Press Democrat and contributes to the TV blog at pressdemocrat.com. When she’s not working, spending time with her family or watching “The Good Wife” or “Breaking Bad,” Heather enjoys writing suspense novels.
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