He was back to take care of some unfinished business.
September 18, 2013
A VG Serial: An Unlikely Arrangement
Cal Taylor watched the activity at the wharf intently. Even though he wasn’t allowed closer, he saw the stretcher when the draped body was brought out. A crowd of policemen and detectives obscured the view. His heart drummed harder, and breathing stopped.
He couldn’t stand it, he had to know. Impulse took over, he slid off the auto and ran toward the crowd.
A shout stopped him in his tracks. “She’s alive!” A minute later, the curly blonde head of Ella Adams bobbed up and down in the crush of people. His heart soared.
Peter jumped off the auto. “Can you see her? My God, that is wonderful. But who was shot?” He paused. “Cal, we have to find out who died. The kidnapper might still be out there.”
“You’re right, let’s try to get closer. We can sneak around the side of that building.”
Peter grabbed his arm. “Look…over there.”
About a block away, two women hurried toward them, waving, their voices ever louder as they approached.
“Cal, it’s Ruth, and Hattie is with her.” Peter broke into a run and scooped Ruth into his arms. “Is it really you? I thought I lost you forever.”
“Peter,” she breathed. “I thought you were going to marry Hattie. I couldn’t stay and watch. My parents sent me to boarding school, and…”
“Never mind that now. Ella was found alive, but the kidnapper might still be out there. We know he wanted you. It’s not safe here. We need to leave.” Peter guided her away from the wharf.
“Wait, look Peter. There’s a big commotion by the river’s edge.” Cal ran toward the abandoned building. No one paid attention as he inched around the building and wiggled his way into the crush of reporters and lawmen.
“It’s another body—looks like a man. We’ve got another murder on our hands.” A gruff voice announced.
Cal pressed closer. “Anyone know who it is?” He whispered into the crowd.
A loud shout pierced the air. “Hey, it’s that banker, Eric Horton. Looks like he was shot in the head.”
Cal pressed harder into the crowd. “I wonder if he’s the kidnapper. But who killed him?”
The reporter next to him answered, “That’s the question, isn’t sonny? We may never know.”
“Hey, do you know the other victim?” Cal took advantage of the reporter’s loose tongue.
“They say it’s Audie Zuckerman. Big mob boss in these parts.”
Peter shouted at Cal. “The women aren’t safe here, Cal. Let’s go.”
Cal smiled and waved back. “I’m coming.” It did him good to see Ruth and Peter, arms linked, not a speck of daylight between them. I just knew those two belonged together. A glint of light flickered in the upper story window of the run down building on the corner. He caught a glimpse of a man ducking past the open aperture and felt a pang of alarm. I must be jumpy. Nothing there.
“Did you find out anything?” Peter pulled Ruth forward to catch up to Cal.
“Uh, yeah. They said the man in the river was some banker. Horton, I think. The guy in the alley was a big mob boss, named Audie Zuckerman.” Cal looked over his shoulder at the empty window. “You’re right, let’s get out of here, this no place for the ladies.”
Ruth gasped and sank to her knees. “Eric Horton! Oh, my God…Audie was his driver. How could he be a mob boss?”
Peter grabbed Cal’s arm. “Did you say Horton? Eric Horton?”
“Didn’t hear a first name. Look Peter, I saw someone in the window up there. Looked like he could have a gun. Let’s go. We need to get Ruth and Hattie out of here.”
Both men pulled Ruth to her feet.
“Father is in the motorcar down the block. We need to make sure he’s okay.” Ruth’s voice was almost inaudible.
“Let’s go back to Ruth’s house. The killer might head that way.” Cal turned to Hattie. “Peter will take care of Ruth, Hattie would you mind riding with me?”
Hattie nodded and took his arm.
“What is going on down there, Ruthie? I heard the shouting. Peter it’s good to see you.” Robert Squire sat behind the wheel of his auto.
“Mr. Squire, we need to get back to your house immediately. Two men were killed; one of them is Eric Horton.”
Ruth’s father blanched white. “Peter, my wife is alone at the house. Hurry!”
Priscilla Squire sat in the darkened parlor drapes drawn, hands folded. What have I done? First Ruthie, and now poor Ella. I pray she is alive. Why oh why, didn’t I leave things alone? My life was good, and I was blind to it.
A knock on the door revived her from the abstraction. She waited for Sarah to answer it, but the knock continued, louder, and more forceful. Maybe it’s news about Ella. I should answer it.
The door swung open, and Priscilla Squire fought to stay on her feet.
In the doorway, stood an old adversary, disheveled…a wild gleam in his eye and a gun pointed at her heart. “Hello Priscilla, it’s been too long since we last met. I believe we have some unfinished business.”
The scream died in her throat as she whispered, “Alexander.”
Chapters of the novel appear on Monday and Wednesday.
You can learn more about An Unlikely Arrangement on Amazon.