25 December 2014

Jerod's Fifth Tale - Part 2

I glanced at my watch. “Time to get the munchkins inside. I’ll grab them. Their godfather is due.”

Tania nodded and settled into her favourite chair for the show. We both enjoyed watching their godfather interact with our children.

I went outside and found Toby first. He was easy. He just let me pick him up. Lana was in the sandbox and not in the mood to go in.

“Time to go in, Lana.”

“Don’t wanna,” she sulked.

“Come on, or don’t you want to see your godfather?” The sudden shrill scream of delight pierced my ears.

“Teddybear, teddybear,” Lana shrieked as she toddled inside.

The first time I’d heard Lana call her godfather ‘Teddybear’, I thought she was asking for a toy. It didn’t take long for me to realise that it was my daughter’s nickname for Ted.

Ted Ginger neither looks nor acts like a teddybear. He’s lean, clean shaven, a red head as well as being the local crime boss. Yet, my daughter calls him Teddybear and he answers. I do sometimes wonder what Lana is going to be like as she gets older. I have a feeling that she’s going to be running this town.

Ted distributed hugs and a couple of pieces of candy to each child. Then he stood up, looked at Tania then spoke to me. “Well?”

“Yes, Ted, we’ll go. I was wondering, can I hire Kane for the trip?”

Very few things actually surprise Ted. This one did, I could tell. “Hire Kane? What? Why?”

“I think he could teach Tania a lot about what he does. If she wants to attend meetings, she has to go as muscle because…”

“Because it takes a devious bastard to be the negotiator,” finished Ted.

“Ted, language! My children do not need to hear that,” Tania snapped.

“Sorry, Tania. I do try to keep it cleaner around the kids,” replied Ted. “At any rate, I don’t see you hiring Kane, Shrimp. Simtastic Imports is funded by The Company. No real point in you spending dough that you got from us in the first place.”

“Is that a yes or no?”

“I don’t have any operations running or about to run so it’s fine from my point of view. He may have plans of his own, you’ll have to ask him.” Ted pulled out his phone, tapped at the screen a few times and handed it to me.

I glanced and saw that Ted had set it to dial Kane with a tap. I pushed the button. He was admirably quick to pick up. Or perhaps bored out of his skull.

“Hey, boss, gotta job for me?”

“It’s Shrimp, not Ginger. I do have a job if you can leave town for at least a week.”

“Hey, other boss,” he replied cheerfully. “Leave town? Why?”

“I’m going as part of the export business. You would be going to help teach my backup a few tricks of the trade.”

There was a pause then finally an answer of sorts, “I need to pass this by Jade. But I’m sure I can. What town we going to? Or is this an interstate trip?”

“International, we are going to China, but I don’t know the name of the town. We are supposed to leave in three days, so be quick. Ginger will set up the travel arrangements.”

“Ring back this number?”

I looked at Ted. “Yeah, ring this number. Ginger will let me know.” Ted nodded at me. “Later, dude,” I said as I hung up the phone.

“He has to check with Jade but I think he’ll manage.”

“I’ll set up the third ticket now. Accommodation is easy, all tourists stay in the same complex just outside of the city walls.”

“City walls?”

“Yes, Tania. It’s an old city, the original part has walls as protection against invasion.” Ted looked as though he was about to say something more when he was interrupted.

“Teddybear, could you read me a story?” Lana held out her favourite story book.

“Don’t your parents read to you?” he demanded with an accusing stare at me.

Lana blinked, the very picture of innocence. “They don’t do the voices like you do.”

“Your parents neglect you shamefully. Would you like to live with me?”

“Would I see Mummy and Daddy again?”

Ted gave Lana his best evil grin. “Oh no. Can’t have that, can we?”

“Mummy!” my outraged daughter shrieked.

“Lana, if you tell fibs to your godfather, he is allowed to tell fibs back.” She glared at Ted. “He would not dare take you away from me.”

“No ma’am, I would not,” said Ted. I had to leave the room before I started laughing. Ted should know better than teasing my girls. They don’t respond well and Ted wouldn’t want to upset them.

The next day, someone pounded at our door at 6:30 in the morning. “Try not to make too much noise when you kill him and dispose of the corpse,” muttered my wife as she rolled over.

I forced myself out of bed, thought briefly about getting dressed and decided I better get the door before the noise woke the toddlers.

“I thought I’d brief you on the new contact,” said Ted cheerfully.

“Go away. Come back when it’s a reasonable hour. Like noon or later,” I replied with a yawn.

“But I brought Kane for the briefing as well.”

“I have been authorised by Tania to kill anyone who knocks on our door at this hour as long as I do it quietly. Come back later.” I started to close the door when I heard footsteps behind me.

“Ted,” said Tania as she came up behind me. “Just this once, I won’t have Shrimp murder you. But don’t tempt me. Now do you want coffee or whiskey?” Somehow, she’d managed to dress and brush her hair in the time it had taken me to open the door. Magic, I swear. I was just in skivvies because who needs more to sleep in than that?

“Nothing, thanks. I’ll be turning in soon so definitely no coffee.”

Ted’s brief was, well, mercifully brief. “I have it all here. The name of the new contact is Chin Kai Taw. We’re looking to import generics for a few of the standard heart medications. And Tania?” he looked at my wife. “I checked, they truly are the medicine, just from a small local manufacturer.” He handed me a thumbdrive, “You’ll find the other details on this. The address, contact numbers, all that.”

I sighed. Trust Ted to give me this when a piece of paper would have done just as well. He is such a computer nerd. “Right, fine, I’ll boot up the computer.”

Ted glared at me for a moment, “Have you been updating it?”

I shrugged, I didn’t know anything about that.

“Hand it over, I’ll want to test everything before you take it overseas.” I handed him the computer.

He’s the one who understands security, I just used the fucking thing.

“So, I’m training your backup,” Kane stated as Ted started checking the machine.

“You all right with that?”

He shrugged, “Sure, boss. I get a trip to China and money. Nothing wrong with that.”

We had to hustle our preparations but mostly it was to do with the kids. The sitter we had last time wasn’t available so we had to find someone willing to stay and watch the kids for a few days. I wanted to leave them with Ted but Tania wouldn’t hear of it. Ted was still living with Marta and her pregnancy was getting noticeable. She didn’t need the stress of more toddlers in the house. She had one of her own.

23 December 2014

Jerod's Fifth Tale - Part 1

“Shrimp, I need your fucking answer. Are you going to China?” the red head snarled at me. He hit the table hard enough to rattle the now empty glasses. The bartender heard it, and glanced in our direction.

“Ted, you fucking bastard, I just don’t know,” I shouted at him. It’s only been a couple of days since my family had been under threat. Before you get the wrong idea, Ted is actually a good friend and the godfather of my children. But he is a pushy son of a bitch, and I’m under enough pressure. I took a deep breath. “Look, I’ll talk to Tania. But she’s only just found out so many things about my history. I don’t want to push her.”

“Why the fucking hell did you have to marry an angel?” Ted growled.

I snarled back. “Don’t give me that, Ginger. I remember when you were sniffing around her. I won her, fair and square.” Ted is the local boss of the thugs and villains around town. I had that position before he did but stepped down from it when I got serious about Tania. The idea that I won Tania’s heart fairly is unusual to say the least, but it’s one of those things. My love does have a thing for bad boys, so Ted and I both had a shot.

He rubbed his temple, his eyes squeezed shut. “Look, I have to know by tomorrow. If you can’t go, do you think your employee would?”

I shook my head in vehement denial. “Howie is still under the impression that Simtastic Imports is completely legit. I couldn’t possibly tell him tomorrow that it’s not and expect him to cope with whatever might happen on an overseas trip. Not if he only has two days to prepare.” Howie was very smart, but in a nerdy kind of a way. Running a legit business, he does perfectly. But so far, my overseas trips are never routine and I don’t think Howie has the right stuff. That could prove fatal.

Ted grimaced. “Shrimp, seriously, if I had anyone else I could send, I would. The problem is that my crew is muscle, I need to send someone with brains.”

I nodded. The local talent was very short on brains. Great bunch if they have exact instructions but not good to go solo without. “Why don’t you go, Ted?”

He frowned in thought. “I did consider that idea but I don’t trust the crew without me.”

I was about to ask why until I glanced at his cane. A couple of his more ambitious thugs tried to take over and shattered his leg as part of the deal. Going away would give someone in the crew a chance to set up something. Ted is paranoid but he has reasons.

“All I can promise is that I will talk to Tania,” I stated flatly. “I am not going to force her. She has the final word on this trip.”

I was still feeling guilty. It was because of a murder I had committed a few years ago that Tania ended up tied to a chair as bait to trap me. The tactic worked, I went in. But I owed Tania a lot. Everything else in this world can rot to hell, my family is everything.

“I’ll be by tonight before work. Try and have an answer by then,” said Ted.

I nodded and left the pub. I walked fast, I didn’t want to talk to anyone else. As I walked home, I tried to calm myself and relax. It didn’t do any good. I’d been dreading this question since I gave Tania a choice. I didn’t know what her answer would be, or even if she were ready to answer yet.

“Hi, honey, I’m back,” I shouted as I entered. I didn’t see Tania but Lana toddled her way over to greet me.

“Daddy! Daddy! Hug?” She held out her arms to be picked up.

“All right, you little munchkin. But you better not get much bigger or I won’t be able to do this,” I said as lifted her up for a big hug. Then tickled her tummy. “Now where’s your mummy or I’ll do that again.”

I could see the cogs turning in my daughter’s head. She nearly decided in favour of not telling just for another tickle. I tapped her nose. “Come on, munchkin. Tell me.”

“Mummy wif Toby.” Lana pointed out toward the back garden. I nodded. That explained why Tania hadn’t answered when I shouted. She might not have heard. I hope that’s why she hadn’t answered.

To be honest, ever since there had been that issue with my past, Tania and I haven’t spoken much. I’ve been trying not to push her, to give her the time and space she needs to think. But I’ve run out of time, now that Ted is demanding an answer.

I slide open the door. “Tania, sweetheart?” I put Lana down and she ran for her new sandbox.

My heart stopped when she smiled at me. I could die happy in that smile. “Yes, Shrimp?” I hadn’t realised that I was still just admiring her until she asked, “What is it?”

“Tania, if it were entirely my choice, I’d wait a lot longer. But it’s no longer my choice.” I took a deep breath and looked deep into the eyes of the love of my life. “I asked you before, do we stay here and live life as we have been? Or do we change our names and disappear from view?”

“Jerod, are you really giving me this decision?” She eyed me suspiciously.

“Yes, sweetheart. The future of this family is entirely in your hands.” I knelt in front of her, lightly holding both her delicate hands in mine. “If I wasn’t willing to listen to your decision, I never would have asked you to start with. Can you make that decision now?”

“Why now?” Tania had stopped smiling.

“Ted needs to know if I will be going to China in three days. If I can’t, he needs to make other arrangements.”

Tania tugged her right hand from my left. Her hand gently combed through my hair. “You promised me that if we move, you’d be good. That you would give up schemes and plots.” I nodded. I had promised and I couldn’t expect my sweet angel of a wife to put up with my plots forever.
Her fingers moved to under my chin and gently lifted it. She leaned over and kissed me. “When I married you, I knew you were a bad boy. If I had given it any thought, I should have known that trouble would stay near you.” She kissed me again with a passion that we hadn’t shared since Toby was born. “I can’t ask you to sacrifice the things you love most, Shrimp. I can’t ask you to suddenly stop plotting. It’s a part of who you are. It’s the man I fell in love with.”

“I would try if that’s what you want.”

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you, you goof.” Tania motioned for me to stand. “I want you. Some goody-goody man who happens to look like my husband but acts entirely differently isn’t you.”

“So, we stay?”

She nodded. “We stay. You keep yourself busy and doing just enough mischief to keep your soul happy. But Shrimp?”

“Yes, Sweetheart?”

“Don’t murder anyone, please?”

I shook my head. “I’ll try. Truly. But if I had to murder someone to save you or the kids or myself, I will. Make no mistake about it, I will.”

She nodded. “I guess that I couldn’t expect less. You did try to warn me back when you proposed that I should look for someone more like me. Shrimp,” she paused again to touch my face, “there has never been anyone else. I was shocked to hear you had once killed someone but you did have reasons.”

“Does this mean I’m going to China in a couple of days?” I asked quietly.

Tania shook her head, her blond curls bouncing as she did so. “No, it means we are going to China in a couple of days. I told you that you don’t travel without me.”

I nodded. “I just wanted to give you the option. I don’t..”

“You don’t believe that I want to be there, do you?”

I reluctantly replied, “Well, I’ve wondered if it’s really your line. Helping when I’m basically am one of the bad guys.” Our trip to France included blackmail and deceit. Since she was pretending to be my muscle, she had to act like she could hurt anyone who threatened me. She also helped shepherd a target and bring in the local media.

“I can understand why you enjoy it. Once it was all done and over with, I realised what a buzz it was.” I pulled her into a hug.

A sudden brainstorm hit me. “Sweetheart, would you mind if we travelled with one more? I have an idea.”

“If that idea even vaguely includes me not staying with you while you work,” she started her eyes narrowing dangerously.

“Actually no. You’ve made that sufficiently clear. You remember the dude who was with me when I rescued you from the Pesces?”

She closed her eyes for a moment. “I was mainly focussed on you. But that was a big guy, black hair with dreads?”

“That’s him. I think it might be good for you to spend some time with him. He’s properly trained as backup.”

“Does that mean you were improperly trained?”

I laughed. “That means I did a brief stint but being muscle wasn’t really my forte. Kane specialises in being the muscle. I could ask Ted if we can take him with us. He can teach you some of the tricks of the trade.”

“You won’t take him to a business meeting without me?” Tania asked with suspicion in her voice.

“I will not. Either you both go or there is no meeting. What do you think?”

“Well, it might be reassuring for me to know more. Did he impress you that much?”

I nodded. “He was doing everything that was needed when he was my bodyguard. I did have a bad moment when I had to sleep and remembered that he’d once tried to kill me. But he needed work and guarding me was the first job Ginger offered.”

“All right, Jerod. I’ll trust you, even if I don’t know why.”

“It’s because I’m the best husband you have,” I smirked.

“Not like I have a lot of others to compare you to,” she smiled.

03 May 2013

Absolute Beginners (Jerod's Fourth Tale - Part 10 - Finale)

“I’ve done the research, and found no trace of Sophie after a trip to Egypt in *his* company,” Ethan pointed at Kane glaring. “I also found that the last time she was seen, you were carrying her.” He glared at me. “It’s suspicious that you’re keeping company.”

“Let Tania go and I’ll tell you everything,” I said.

“I’m not getting near that hellcat,” he replied. He pointed at a set of scratches on his face, “She’s dangerous. She stays exactly where she is until we’re done.”

“Tania?” I said softly.

“It’s fine, Shrimp. I won’t leave without you.” I tried to think of a way to warn her that might not be an option.

“What do you know about your sister’s profession?” I asked.

Ethan puffed with pride. “She’d worked her way up to international sales rep, she’d been all over the world. She usually sends us a postcard from each place. The one from Egypt was her last.”

“When you met Mr Kane here, does he look like a sales rep?”

Ivy looked up at Kane, “Sophie told us the company usually sent along a bodyguard because some places could be rough for a woman. He’s obviously a failure.”

I sighed. I was going tell them truth but would they believe? “Sophie lied to you from first to last. She worked for a criminal organisation called The Family. She worked as an enforcer, an assassin.”


“I worked for a rival group, The Company. Sophie’s nickname there was “The Eliminator” as she was suspected of killing a number of members.”

Kane cleared his throat. “She told me your death would make it an even dozen.” Ivy’s eyes grew wide as she processed that.

“I’d been sent to Egypt to sort out a problem for The Company. I contacted a few people and went back to camp. Accepted a drink made by Sophie and woke up trapped in the Great Pyramid. I was meant to die there. I managed to escape, and found out more about who set me up.”

“So, you and that traitor over there killed Sophie?”

“God no, Kane was Sophie’s muscle. I removed him before I went after Sophie.”

“Why is he alive?”

“I got him sent to prison. He wasn’t dangerous to me. When he got out, he’d have a new assignment. Sophie was the dangerous one. If she found out I survived her first attempt, she’d try again. As long as Sophie lived, I was in danger.” I paused to see if Ethan had anything to say.

“What was Sophie like to work with?” he asked Kane.

“Do you want an honest answer?” Kane replied.

“Of course,” said Ivy. I’d nearly forgotten she was there.

“Frankly, Sophie was a bitch. She was verbally abusive to all of her partners and no one worked with her twice. I hadn’t worked with her and that’s why I was sent to Egypt. I’d already told my superior that I was never working with her again. Getting called shit-for-brains all the time gets old. The prison was vile but it was almost worth it to be away from her.”

“Sophie had drugged a drink and given it to me. Once Kane was gone, I drugged her lunch before giving it to her. I took her back to the river near camp, put her on a wood raft and pushed it out into the water.”

“She might be alive in wilderness?” asked Ivy.

“The river is infested with large crocodiles and one of them flipped over the raft. She’s dead.” I stopped and looked directly at Ethan then at Ivy. “I am responsible for what happened. My wife only found out a few days ago and Kane was on his way to prison. Let them leave and you can do what you like to me.”

“Our sister killed 11 people?” asked Ivy. Kane nodded.

“How many have you killed, Mr Shrimpton?” asked Ethan.

I held up a single finger. “Just Sophie and only after she’d tried to kill me.”

“Ivy?” Ethan asked his sister.

“I’m still puzzled. Why is Mr Kane with you if he works for a different organisation?”

Kane replied. “I was kicked out of The Family after Sophie disappeared. I moved here, asked the local boss for a job. He told me to guard Mr Shrimpton.”

“The boss has a current manpower shortage and a terrible sense of humour. He’d think it was funny to give me a bodyguard who had once helped try kill me,” I said.

“You know,” said Kane to me, “I’m not going to leave. If I fail, I’ll never get another job. I’d be better off dead.”

“I won’t leave either. We leave here together Shrimp, or not at all,” declared Tania. It wasn’t what I expected but I could tell that Tania was determined.

I looked at Ethan. “So, here we are. You’ve heard my side of the story, you’ve also heard that my wife and my bodyguard aren’t leaving. This ends today. What’s it to be?”

“You’re not what we expected,” started Ivy. “You’re not pure evil.”

“Oh, I am evil. I’d happily cheat, steal or blackmail to get what I want or need. Murder is a last resort, though obviously…”

Ethan nodded at Tania, “You do inspire love.” He looked at Kane, “And loyalty, would you stayed for Sophie?”

“I can’t imagine Sophie rescuing anyone but Sophie. She’d never give the option like he has.” He looked toward me, “I’d work as his muscle again, if asked.”

“So, what was the point of all of this?” I asked.

“We wanted to know what happened to Sophie,” said Ethan slowly.

Ivy said, “We wanted to know why something happened to Sophie.”

“Our monster hunt led to you. You threaten us after we had threaten your family. You offer yourself to save others.”

Ivy points at Kane, “You tell us that Sophie was horrible to work with and killed eleven people. She really was a monster.”

“So what’s the next part of the plan?” I asked.

Ethan just shook his head.

“Amateurs,” said Kane.

Ethan looked a little annoyed by that. “I’m a professional accountant.”

“He has a point. You’re not a professional in our terms. They would have come, done the business and left,” I said.

“The business?”

“Assassination, Ethan. Our organisations don’t fuck around. Are you prepared to kill me?” I spread my arms and stood still. “Then make it quick.”

Ethan picked up a large knife and started toward me. Kane also moved, ready to block him. “Travis, no,” I said softly. “Trust me.” Kane’s eyes narrowed for a moment, then he nodded and stepped back.

I stood very still and waited. When the blade was nearly touching my throat, I said, “My daughter’s name is Lana. She is four and a half. She looks just like her mother. If I die today, she may have some vague memories of her daddy when she’s older. Toby is my son and he’s only two. He thinks anything his big sister can do, he can do. He can’t but he tries. He’s too young, he’ll never remember me. There are pictures and stories but he won’t remember his daddy.” I stared straight at Ethan. “If you do kill me, then you have to choose if you will kill both my wife and Kane. If you don’t, they are witnesses to your crime. If you do, you have the blood of three people on your hands. It’s difficult, which will you do?”

It took a very long minute before Ethan looked at Ivy and they both shook their heads. Ethan backed away, knife still in hand. “I thought I could for Sophie’s sake. But I can’t. You deserve it, he may deserve it but I just can’t.” He put the knife down.

“Not many people can,” I said.

“Will you kill us?” asked Ivy.

I picked up the knife and walked over to cut the ropes off my lovely wife still tied in a chair. “Tania, you have the biggest grievance. Should they die?”

Tania shook her head as she stood up. “They’ve done no real damage and I don’t approve of murder. Let them go.”

“You heard her. Go home, don’t come back. The next time our paths cross, you might not be this lucky.” They nodded and began packing their gear.

“Let’s go talk to Ted. I owe him a long explanation. And by now, he’ll need to be rescued from Lana,” I said.

“Rescued? From a four year old?” asked Kane as he started the car.

“Ginger adores Lana and she takes advantage of it,” I explained. Tania happily nestled against me. “Sweetheart, are you really all right?”

“Yes, just fine. Thank you for letting them go.”

I kissed her. “You said to.”

We arrived home and went next door. Tania collected the kids while I had a long chat with Ted.

“What the fucking hell was that shit?” he complained. “Dumping your children off and bolting without any explanation.”

“Our amateurs were Pesce’s siblings. They had Tania and had arranged a meet. They wanted revenge for Sophie but we convinced them to just leave town.”

“Too soft, Shrimp, you should have killed them.”

“Tania said not to. I’m sure they won’t try again.” I pointed at Kane standing to one side. “I was right about him after all.”

“You’d recommend him?”

I nodded. “Definitely. If I need muscle, I’d work with him again.”

Ginger walked up to Kane. “Good job on the first assignment. You can go home, tomorrow you’ll get your pay. You’ll be up for the next job, though I don’t know when that will be.” They shook hands and Kane left.

“I better go. Thanks for looking after the kids.”

“You know I’ll look after my godchildren when you ask,” replied Ted.

I nodded and headed for home. Where my family was safe and sound, at least for now.

“Tania,” I said. “There is no way I can promise this will never happen again unless…”

“Unless, Shrimp?” Tania stroked my cheek.

“If we move away, change our family name, never contact anyone in Twinbrook again. We would have to start over.”

“Do you think that would really work?”

“It should, if we live quietly. Be like everyone else,” I replied. “If we stay here, this might happen again.”

“We’d have to leave behind everything?” Tania asked. I nodded. “You’d be good for the rest of your days? No schemes, no plots?”

“I’d have to, for you, for the kids.”

“Where would we go?”

“I dunno. Open a map and point? If we end up in Sunset Valley, you could met my family, become part of the family clan. Remember though, no contacts with anyone from here.”

“I have to think…”

01 May 2013

Thursday's Child (Jerod's Fourth Tale Part 9)

I threw some cash on the table, and headed outside with my phone. I walked a bit away from the building while waiting for the reply.

“Shrimp?” I expected Tania to be near tears, but her inner bitch was in control. She sounded angry. “Don’t forget that you promised toys for the children.” So the kids were hiding, I wondered when someone could go and get them. It would have to be soon, Toby might wander anywhere.

“Sweetheart, are you all right?” I asked.

“Yes, dear, I’m fine. Just a bit tied up at the moment. Don’t worry about me.”

I nearly laughed at that. Of course I was worried about her. They were after me, not Tania and I’d rather die than have her hurt. While that is usually a figure of speech, it seemed likely to be literal all too soon.

The unknown male voice was back. “Right, Mr Shrimpton. TV shows suggest that this is when I tell you not to involve the police but I doubt you would.”

“Damn straight, I won’t tell the cops,” I replied. “My associates, on the other hand, already know that there is something up.”

“Dang and drat.” Dang? Who the fuck says dang? “Still, come unarmed and alone to 15 Bayfront Road.” There was a pause. “Actually bring your goon. Just be warned, if I get nervous, your wife gets it.”


“In about half an hour, at 3 o’clock. Ivy should be back from looking for your kids by then.”

Fuck no. No fucking way. “You had better ring Ivy and tell her to stop hunting my children. Because I’m on my way there and if she is there, I will be hunting her. And I won’t be gentle if I find her,” I growled into my phone. “Whatever it is you want, I’ll be more cooperative if my children are left alone. Understood?” They had Tania but Lana and Toby were off limits.

“We have your wife. You hurt Ivy and you may not have a wife.”

“Are you listening to me at all? I said I’d hunt Ivy if she continued to hunt my children. If she stops, I’ll walk unarmed where ever you like. Hurt Tania or my children, you are a dead man. I will kill you myself, even if I have to come back from the grave to do it. You and Ivy.” I took a deep breath then exhaled. “You have 5 minutes. If I find her when I get there, she will get hurt.”

“Your wife counts for nothing?” he asked.

“Tell her what you’ve told me and she’d agree. The children are a priority. Do you understand?” I was still virtually growling. “Last warning, call Ivy off. I’ll be Bayfront at 3.” I savagely hit the hangup button.

I looked around for Kane. He was standing a few feet back, maybe for my privacy or to be out of my way if I lost it. “We are hitting the road. Now. Hollowlog Springs is the first stop.”

He nodded and started the car. I got in and we were off.

“Is this where your family was hiding?” he asked.

“Yes, and you would have gathered that they have my wife and are threatening to grab the kids. Do *anything* you have to if there is a child being taken out of this park. Clear?”

“Absolutely. You were very intense on the phone.”

I nodded, “This situation is going very bad. You want to bail?”

“I’m still in, I don’t quit when things get tough. What was that about Bayfront?”

“Before he mentioned the kids, he set up a meet at 15 Bayfront. He said I should bring my goon, so you are supposed to be there. No weapons, you do any martial arts?”

“A little but I’m more a boxer. I throw a mean punch.” He slowed the car as we pulled into the small turnoff for the park. I was pleased that there were no cars.

I got out and looked around. No sign of the kids but Lana was a genius at hide and seek. “Chook, chook, come home to roost,” I shouted. No response and I had a panic moment. I walked much further in while Kane stayed near the car. “Chook, chook, come home to roost!” I shouted again.

This time I heard rustling in the vegetation and Lana popped into view. “Daddy, daddy!” she shrieked as she ran toward me.

I picked her up and hugged her. A few moments later then Toby appeared. He still preferred crawling so it took him a little longer to get anywhere. I grabbed him and hurried back to the car. “Let’s roll. Marta’s house, I hope either she or Ted happens to be home.”

We arrived 10 minutes later. I knocked on the door. Fortunately, Ted was home and answered the door.

“Take care of your godchildren. I’ll either be back in a couple of hours to explain or never return.” He raised an eyebrow but I didn’t give him a chance to ask a question. I handed Toby to him, made sure that Lana was out of the car and left.

“Dude, under normal circumstances, I’d be telling you to chill. But,” he glanced over at me then back at the road, “I guess not until this is done.”

“You got that right. I think that dude watches too much TV and too many movies. He sounds like he’s straight from some cheesy detective show.” I still hadn’t a clue what he wanted, fuck I hated going in blind. My phone chirped at me, I saw it was Ted and diverted the call to voice mail. It wasn’t a nice thing to do to a friend but when I did have a chance to catch up, he’d understand. “If you see an opportunity to get my wife out, do it. Doesn’t matter what’s happening to me, just get her safe.”

“Boss, I don’t like it. I’m your bodyguard, not hers.”

I sighed. “I don’t like it either but Tania doesn’t deserve this. Her survival is more important than mine. You call me boss, those are your orders.”

The address did turn out to be in the swampy section of town. Well, I would have looked here eventually. Especially since the shack was on Ted’s list. We arrived, I checked my watch and found it was 3. We stepped up to the rickety ancient building and I cautiously knocked on the door.

“Come in, hands up in the air,” called a light female voice.

“Shrimp, no. It’s a trap,” shouted Tania.

“Of course it is, sweetheart,” I replied. “That won’t stop me from walking in so you can walk out.”

I walked in slowly, hands held high. As I entered, I did my best to assess the situation. Tania was tied to a chair, a quite young woman standing near her. The man I’d been talking to was waiting not too far inside. He patted me down, but frankly, if I had a small weapon, he’d never have found it. He gave Kane the same treatment, Kane looked vaguely disgusted by it. I would have recognised either of them from the sketches Kane did - was that just yesterday?

“Lana and Toby?” asked Tania.

“Safely with their godfather,” I replied. She nodded, relief plain on her face. “Bad luck?”

She sighed. “Lana found a new toy. She got in the car and blew the horn while I was busy with Toby. I heard a car approaching and sent the kids to hide. That’s when they got me.”

I turned my attention to the others and spent a few seconds deciding how to play this. They were nervous and very likely to be twitchy. Much as I wanted to vent, I decided that quiet reasoning would serve better. “You know my name already, and you’ve met my associate here, Travis Kane,” Kane nodded toward them. “I assume that is Ivy but I don’t know your name,” I said to the guy, “or why you are so interested in me. Though I do have a theory about that. Would you enlighten me?”

“I’m Ethan Pesce and Ivy is my little sister. We want to know exactly what happened to my twin sister, Sophie.”

24 April 2013

Dead Man Walking (Jerod's Fourth Tale Part 8)

I woke to being poked in the shoulder. “Yo, boss, your watch.”

“Huh,” I blinked. After a moment, “What fucking time do you call this?”

“Two am, boss.” I blinked again and Kane came into focus. “I assume you’ll want an early start so wake me at 6.”

“Give me a minute, I’ll find fresh sheets,” I pulled myself reluctantly out of bed.

He shook his head. “No thanks, sleeping in your bed is too weird for me. I’ll just doss on the couch. Don’t go outside, don’t do anything stupid and don’t get yourself killed in the next few hours, ‘k boss?” He headed out of the room.

I pulled some clothes on, then tried to decide how to spend the next 4 hours. I finally walked out of the bedroom, picked up the laptop and went back in. Kane was already asleep and snoring.

I checked email, put in a few bids in online auctions and then went to SimBook. A couple of hours past easily as I went looking through albums from my friends, checked some recommended links, and played truly mindless stupid games.

It was about 5:30 when my laptop flickered as it changed from the power supply to batteries. I closed the laptop and left the room. Light was flooding in the windows, in spite of the hour. I heard Kane stir as I walked past to look out the window.

The light was coming from some emergency flood lights mounted around Marta’s house. I assume Ted didn’t like being left in the dark last time and enough light angled toward my place that my front was fairly well lit.

“S’up, boss?” asked Kane rubbing his eyes.

“Our amateurs cut the power for the second time this week but next door has installed emergency lights. So they don’t have the cover of darkness this time.”

“For fucking god’s sake, get back from that window. Suppose they start shooting?”

I moved back a few paces. “I wish they would. That I can understand.”

He shook his head. “I’d just as soon they didn’t. Harder to guard against.”

My cell rang. “Yes, Ted, we are awake.” “No, we haven’t seen anything.” “I don’t think my body guard would appreciate it if I wandered outside to see if anything was happening. He’s already ordered me back from the windows once.” “No, I’m not going to tell him to go look either. I’m pretty sure that your lights would have ruined their plans. We’ll have a look around before we go and pick up the list you promised me.” “Around seven thirty, give or take a little.”

I turned to Kane. “If you think you can sleep more, I’ll wake you around 7.”

He nodded, “Worth a shot for more shut eye. I don’t think the amateurs will do anything now. Wake me if anything suspicious happens, right?”

“All right.” I watched as he settled back on the couch. I went and grabbed the laptop again. I kept busy until nearly 7. At that point, I went into the kitchen area and starting making pancakes. I didn’t have to wake Kane, the aroma of the pancakes woke him.

“Breakfast? You cook?”

“Cook, clean, and take care of the kids.” I laughed. “I have my faults but caring my for family isn’t one of them. Pancakes, coffee and juice, take what you need to get you through the morning.” He nodded, then grabbed a plate and a cup. We ate quietly. Tania rang me at precisely 10 past 7. No news of note, for which I was thankful. News, in this case, simply couldn’t be good.

“Time to go pick up the list. I’m sure Ted’s finished with it by now.”

“Let me go start the car.”

“No need, Ted’s just over there.” I nodded in the general direction of the house next door.

“I thought you said Marta lived there?”

“Marta took Ted in after his leg was broken. I don’t know if they have a relationship beyond being friends but that’s not my business. They are both friends of mine and good people as long as you aren’t their target.” I shrugged at Kane. “Probably true about a lot of people in the profession.” It seemed true about Kane, thankfully.

We walked next door and Ted gave me his printout. “I’ve organised the list by their map locations.” He spread a map on the table, each location circled in red. “I’ve done a complete list but it seems unlikely they’re in one of the houses in town. The odds of a neighbour noticing something would be very high. We are very nosey around here.”

I studied the map. There were more red circles on it than I would have believed given the size of town. Then again, a lot of people left when they finished school, hoping for a better life somewhere bigger. “Thanks Ted, I knew I could rely on you.”

“You better be fucking careful. Your family needs you.” Ted glanced over at Kane but made no comment. We had survived the night and were still in each other’s company. That alone said a lot.

I circled part of the map with my finger. “We should start with these as they are closest to the house, quick to get here. If that proves fruitless, we can search the lots over here,” I circled another area, “in the direction of the amphitheatre. If that doesn’t work out, we can search on the other side of the river. I hope to hell that’s not where they are, there is a lot of swamp and hiding would be simple. It would take a week to do a half decent search.” Kane and Ginger nodded.

Kane pointed at the map, “You’ve left out this bit.”

“True, but that’s our wealthy section of town. It’s hard to imagine that people could camp out there without being noticed and having the police summoned.” I looked at Kane then Ginger. “We can look but it doesn’t seem worth it.”

They nodded and I gathered up the map and list. “Later, Ted.” He just waved vaguely as we left.

As we walked toward my car, Kane said, “I’m not really sure about this plan. If they are following us, it won’t take long for them to work out what we are up to.”

“I don’t know. It seems as though they mostly watch the house for opportunities to do something annoying. Us being out of the way may just suit them.” I looked back at our modest home. “Besides, right now, I can’t stand being there. I need to be doing something.”

“Right, boss,” he said as he shrugged at me.

Taking the car only turned out to be moderately useful. We parked a safe distance away from each target and walked the rest of the way each time. Which meant we did nearly as much walking as we would have without a car.

At each location, we’d check for signs of recent activity. Mostly looking for if there had been a car around and if it looked anything around had been used. Three out of four places we checked had no sign anyone had been there for months. The fourth would have tyre marks or enough of a path to warrant a closer look. But none looked currently occupied.

It was both a tense and tedious activity. Tense as you approached a vacant house, lot or park - not sure of what you might find. Tedious as you check the area, slowly and carefully. After finishing each one, I’d tick the location off Ted’s list.

We had just looked at the eighth location for the day and were returning to the car when Kane coughed quietly. “Boss, can we have a break?” he asked.

I was about to say no when I glanced at my watch. It was already 1:45 and we’d not stopped for even a short break yet today. My feet hurt and I was hungry. “Yeah, we’ll have lunch and give our feet a rest. I hadn’t realised it was this late already. You hungry?”

“Yes, boss, but if you want to keep going I will.”

I shook my head. “Why the fucking hell wouldn’t Sophie cut you a break? You seem like an ideal partner. Yet I saw her rip into you several times in just a few hours. I actually thought you were going to hit her at one point.”

“I wanted to tear her into pieces but that’s not what I was paid to do. It was tempting though.”

We drove over to the local diner. Kane ordered their largest steak. I had grilled chicken. The food at the diner wasn’t the best but it would do.

We were nearly finished when my phone rang. I glanced at the display as I opened it up. “Tania? Something wrong?”

“So, the hellcat does have a name,” replied a male voice. “I assume you want your wife back, Mr Shrimpton, in one piece and not several. If you do, you will listen very carefully to what I tell you to do.”

My heart started racing. They had Tania. He hadn’t mentioned the toddlers but I wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad sign. “If you hurt her, you are a dead man.” Kane’s focus snapped to me, his eyes wide. “Let me talk to her.” Fucking shit, this was not part of my plan.

10 April 2013

Ashes to Ashes (Jerod's Fourth Tale Part 7)

We walked along a little used path that went behind the homes on my street. “Not bad,” said Kane. “I’ll have to remember this.”

“Twinbrook has a lot of small paths away from the roads. It’s useful to explore, wander around the back ways. But don’t wear good shoes.”

“Why not?”

“There are a lot of small boggy patches around, and some of the paths just go through them. I was walking along fast one afternoon and went into a bog. One foot got wet, and the next step, I tripped over a tree root. Face first into the muck.”

“Dude, seriously?”

“Yep, and getting wet wasn’t the worst of it. The water stank. I swear it took three days and god knows how many showers before I knew I didn’t smell like swamp.” I laughed and Kane joined in. It wasn’t funny at all at the time but it’s hilarious now.

“Anything you care to tell about the locals in The Company?”

“I’m not really up to date with the crew. Marta Tomasi leads the thieves. Ted Ginger organises the other operations. They both run the important stuff in other towns, so the cops don’t see much crime here. Just enough petty crimes that it’s not entirely quiet but nothing big. You’ll be part of Ginger’s crew. Don’t screw him over, he is a bastard. Follow orders and you’ll get a fair share. He’s a demon on the computer, if it’s anywhere online, he can get it.”

“That’s it?”

“Ted’s more than a bit paranoid about someone trying to take over his position. His limp is from the last try. Don’t give him any reason to think you might be ambitious or hanging out with someone ambitious.”

“Sounds fair.” We arrived at Red Rendezvous and stopped in the small entryway. “You wait here. If I’m not back in a minute, it’s safe for you to come in.”

I shrugged. Kane was doing his job and I couldn’t fault him for that. Though even amateurs should know better than taking someone out at one of the neighbourhood bars. There would be witnesses. I waited, doing my best to look like I was waiting to meet up with someone. I let a couple of minutes go by before I wandered in. I walked to the bar, straight past Kane who was sitting at a dimly lit table facing the door. The drink in front of him looked like a soft drink.

“Hey, Trey, I need a drink.” The bartender started pouring me my favourite brew then brought me the mug.

“Tania was by, I tried to get her to played a few numbers. She didn’t though. We need to set up a gig, been too long since her guitar brightened up the joint.”

I nodded. “I’m supposed to fly to China next week, but maybe the week after? I think we might be able to set up something then.” Assuming that all goes well. He handed me my drink and I nodded my thanks.

I drank the first quickly then called for a second. Trey brought me another and this one I sipped slowly.

I started with the positives. At least I had a bit more knowledge and some professional backup. But I still didn’t know enough about the enemy motives or their ultimate goal. They knew some things about me, but how much?

Fucking damn it. I can’t make a proper plan with so little to go on. I finished the brew and called for another.

“One more and I’m going to have to take your keys,” warned Trey.

“Don’t worry, there’s someone here who can drive me home if I’ve had too much,” I replied. “He won’t mind.”

As I sipped at the mug, I realised part of my problem was that I hadn’t a clue where I could find them or how I could contact them. I’ve never had that as a problem before. How to contact them was going to stay a mystery until they told me. But where to find them was something I could work on. There were several vacant properties around and a number of parks big enough to camp in.

Oh my fucking god, I hadn’t thought of that before. That they might be camping, suppose they were using the same park as Tania and the kids? I reminded myself that I’d called them earlier and all was fine. They weren’t after my family, they wanted me. I just had to be sure they could find me. Better though would be if I found them.

I pulled out my cell. “Hey Ted? Could you print me a list of all the vacant homes in town?” “Yeah, but if you wanted to stay in a town for a few days, would there be a better place?” “Well, yeah. That’s actually what I think Kane and I will be doing tomorrow. Checking to see if anyone is camping in either a park or a vacant house.” “So far, he’s fine. I don’t think he’s planning on murdering me in my sleep but if I don’t pick up the list tomorrow…” “Seriously, he still seems very sincere.” “Hey, I learnt to trust you, didn’t I? Eventually.” I hung up after a promise to have the list of vacant homes by early tomorrow.

The only other possibility that I could see was that they were staying with someone in town. That seemed remote but why not ask a bit? “Hey Trey?”

“I warned you, another drink and I need your keys.”

“Nah, I’m good. Just wondered what the gossip around town was. You heard anything good?”

So for the next ten minutes, I heard an earful about who is definitely cheating, who is suspected of cheating, who has been promoted recently and other local gossip. I made the appropriate noises as Trey told me the various things.

“Anyone new in town?”

“Actually, there’s a dude sitting over there, he’s pretty new. I hear he married one of the Greenwood girls,” Trey nodded toward Kane and I glanced that direction.

“Big dude, wouldn’t want to make him angry, would you?” I commented as I turned back.

“You got that right. Mind you, making people angry is bad for business so I try not to.” Someone further down the bar called for a refill and Trey went to serve them. I dropped a decent handful of coins on the counter and slowly ambled outside holding my car keys loosely in one hand.

“Which car,” said Kane softly as he snagged the keys while walking past.

“Blue one, just across the street.”

“Wait till I’ve started it, then get in.” He moved quickly while I ambled on. The only reason he’d want to start the car without me would be…fucking hell, that’s insane. The only reason I can think of is car bomb and he’s just taking that risk.

Or maybe he’s being devious? Back in the day, I would have assumed any ‘threat’ Ted found was one he had created. Well, my gut still tells me that Kane is playing it straight. He’d started the car, so I popped into the passenger seat.

“Dude, what you just did. Would you classify that as brave, thorough or just plain dumb?”

“If those are the only allowed options, then thorough. I’m supposed to be keeping you breathing. So I will do what I have to.” He glanced over at me as we drove up the street. “Any conclusions from the thinking?”

“Tomorrow, we are going to hunt around very cautiously and see if we can find their base of operations. There are some vacant houses and several parks that have facilities for camping.”

“I like the word cautiously,” he pulled the car up outside the house. He got out and went inside. He was back in a minute. “As far as I can tell, it is safe but…”

I found out the ‘but’ the moment I entered. My house stank, something partly decomposed and partly burnt. It didn’t take long to find the source. There was a still smouldering pile of rotting fruit and veg just outside of the back door. I found the shovel Tania used for the garden and buried the pile at the corner of the yard. Kane stayed inside, opening all the window to let fresh air in.

“See what I mean? Minor harassment. Annoying as all shit but not actually painful in any way.”

“I hate fucking amateurs,” he growled. “Give me a pro any day.”

“So, if we search for the culprits tomorrow, we need sleep tonight. Do you want to sleep now or later?”

He looked me over. “You sleep now. I don’t like the odds of you waking me up for my turn. And you going without sleep for a day is not going to help anyone.”

He was probably right about that. My mind kept going in circles and I might not wake him under the general theory that at least one of us was sleeping. “I’ll try but it’s probably not going to work.”

“You mean to tell me that you don’t have some sort of sleeping pill, knockout drop or anything else around here? You shock me, boss.”

I had to smile. “You know, there’s a good chance I could find something like that. Just never anticipated using it on myself.” I took a couple of pills and hit the hay. What does it say about my life that I’m going to sleep when I know damned well the only other person around was involved in an attempt to kill me?

30 March 2013

Life on Mars (Jerod's Fourth Tale - Part 6)

It didn’t take long to buy the replacement cameras. I found what I needed, paid and walked toward Kane. He nodded as I past, then started walking behind and off to one side. When we were close to the car, Kane moved faster so he could open the door. He casually glanced in but since Ted had never left the car, it wasn’t much of a look. He held the door for me again, then climbed in beside Ted.

“Aren’t you so posh now that you have hired help?” Ted asked laughing slightly.

“None of that backtalk, just drive home, Jeeves,” I replied with my best posh accent. Ted flipped me the bird and set off for home. I leaned back against the seat. There was so little point in worrying about the future just now.

A few minutes later and Ted was pulling up outside my house.

“Locked it?” asked Kane.

“Yep, I always do,” I replied.

“Keys then. Let me check before you go in.”

“Kane, these are obviously amateurs. What do you expect to find?”

He gave me a strange look. “I don’t know. They are fucking amateurs. Professionals, we’d have some idea of what they might do. The two I saw, who the fucking hell knows what they might do?”

He grabbed the keys and disappeared into the house. A minute later, he motioned for me to come in.

“Where’s the family?” he asked as I came in.

I shook my head. “Not your business. I’ve moved them out for the time being. They are hiding. They should be safe.”

Kane nodded. “Fair enough. It will be hard enough for me to keep you safe. Add in more people and the job would be impossible.” He suddenly looked at the ground. “I appreciate you giving me this shot. I know it can’t be easy for you, given Egypt. I really do want to stay in this town and staying here means coming to terms with The Company.”

“Assuming I survive, I’ll make sure that The Company does right by you. If I don’t, well, that’s no longer my problem.” I pointed at him. “If you fail, you will have to deal with my widow, children and their godfather who happens to be Ginger. I suspect they will be very peeved.”

“Seriously dude, I will do what I can. If I’m the only bodyguard, there will be times when I’m asleep and you have no protection.”

“I should be able to protect myself when I’m awake. But Ginger is right, I will need sleep. I will need to eat. And there’s no telling how long they plan to just do small stuff.”

“Small stuff? What have they done so far?” Kane pulled a small pad of paper and a pencil out of a pocket. He started scribbling quickly on the pad. I told him about the note, the paint, and the broken easel. He stopped scribbling on one page and flipped to another.

“Fucking amateurs, I hate them,” he growled. “Why send you a fucking note to let you know someone hates your guts? What’s the fucking point about that easel?”

“The heads up was useful from my point of view. I don’t know why they want me to stew over their threats but at least I knew something was coming. But why bother with all this harassment? Painting the house might get the attention of the neighbours, I will grant you. I don’t think anyone noticed besides my poor wife and next door who happen to be Company too.”

Kane stopped scribbling and flipped back to the previous page in the notebook. He then tossed it at me. “They are really rough but those are the two that asked me about Pesce.”

The first picture was a male, youngish but not too young. The second was a younger looking female. “Not bad work. You have some talent in drawing.” I flipped back and forth between the pages, memorising the two faces.

“No fucking talent, just a lot of fucking practice. My mother was an artist and demanded we do a certain amount of it every damned day. By the time I left home for good, I’d done one fucking hell of a lot of drawing.” He shrugged, “It does come in useful from time to time.”

“I appreciate this,” I said tapping on the notebook. “Now I have a clue who to look for.”

“That should actually be completely unnecessary. I have seen them after all,” he replied. “So, could you tell me how the fucking hell you got out of that pyramid? Sophie had me drag this big arse statue to block the door. I don’t see how you managed to move it.”

“I didn’t go out that way. It was the Great Pyramid, damn thing is riddled with hidden doors, secret passages and traps. Oh my fucking god, does it have traps.” I shuddered at the memory. “The room you left me in had concealed door which I eventually found. It took me two damn days to find a fucking way out. I nearly died of thirst and from springing a couple of traps. So that plan had very nearly worked. I’ve been a lot more cautious when I travel since that.”

“You definitely do not want to end up in prison in Egypt. That was the most disgusting fucking place I’ve ever been.”

“I don’t plan on prison ever. I’m not officially a member of The Company. Around here, I’m a legit business man, specialising in importing foreign goods. When I’m overseas, my contacts may not be quite as legitimate. So I’m a bit more flexible about how to get things done. But I am always careful.”

“How can you not be Company? Like, isn’t that Ginger dude the local head?”

“Yes, and he took over that position when I quit. My business has ties to Company, but they’d be hard to trace. Ginger makes certain of that.”

“Why the fucking hell would you quit?”

“Believe it or not, to avoid shit like this. I thought once I quit The Company, I wouldn’t have to spend my life watching my back. Then Pesce makes it necessary for me to go to Egypt to straighten things out. I get back and get an offer that I couldn’t turn down.” I sighed. “Now my family is in hiding and I’m waiting to find out who exactly is responsible for this.”

I looked at my watch and found it was time to ring Tania. Damn, I forgot to remind her to leave the phone on vibrate. I punched the button to speed dial her and walked into our bedroom shutting the door behind me.

“Hey Sweetheart. Everything going okay?” I listen to Tania explain how hard it was to settle the kids once the tent was set up. “I wish I could help. Hell, I wish that all of you were home. I’m sure that the kids will adjust soon.” She sighed then asked me about how I was coping. “No, don’t worry about me. I’m a big boy, I can take care of myself. Ted is lending me a guy as a body guard so all should be well.” “I miss you so much. You ring me tomorrow morning 10 past 7. All right?” She agreed. “Love and kisses to you and the kids. Be careful.” Then we hung up.

I came out of the bedroom to find that Kane was on the phone. From the sounds of it, he was talking to Jade. I went back into the bedroom, leaving the door slightly open. I waited until all was quiet before I came back out.

“Kane, time to head to the Red Rendezvous. I need a drink.” He shot me a look. “Hey, I think best with a drink. Or walking around which would be even riskier than the pub.”

He nodded. “Right, fine. How the hell do we fucking get there?”

“My car should be parked outside the joint. We’ll have to walk there, unless you want to do the cab thing?”

He sighed loudly, “You are fucking determined not to make this easy for me, aren’t you?”

“Look, honestly, I’ll try not to make it that hard. But I need to think. My first plan didn’t include the possibility of having someone else around. And you would really hate that one.”


“The plan was approximately, ‘Neh, neh, you can’t catch me.’ Really deliberately try and draw the opposition into action. Making damn sure that they went after me and didn’t go looking for my family.”

“A quiet drink at the pub does sound better,” said Kane. “But can’t you get a drink here?”

“Without my family, it’s too quiet. I need some buzz to distract me. Just one other person won’t do.”

He shrugged and started to head for the front door. I shook my head, “Let’s not make it that easy for them. I know a back way.”