Crawling in the dark

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The scene was chaos. Three men lie dead on the sidewalk, and a bystander wounded but alive. A trail of blood ended at the street where Tomas’ men rushed him away from the mayhem.

Stan watched from across the street. Sirens wailing, but not able to cut through the crowd. He was surprised that more people hadn’t fled from the carnage.

A few of the stragglers were Sampas crew, scanning the area for the shooters. Shielding his eyes against the sun, he looked over his shoulder to the roof top where he was only minutes before. A shadow fell across his face when a crew member leaned over the edge. A loose brick, the one that threw off Stan’s aim, broke free and tumbled to the ground.

Jumping out of its way, he took it as a sign to find Pauley and Lenore. Turning away, he forced his way through the crowd, trying to follow the flow of the others finally moving out of the area.

The polícia and ambulância arrived, stirring the mob to clear away from the casualties. While the attention was on the fallen, Stan looked back once then took off in a slow run.

He had only gone a few blocks when the traffic thinned out and he could resume a normal pace. A dark sedan, with heavily tinted windows, parked across the street drew his attention. A door opened a fraction, and he crossed over to slip into the back seat.

Inside Pauley sat slouched in the front passenger seat talking on her cellphone, and a stoic Lenore was behind the wheel.

“I don’t know what went wrong, but he’s coming for you.” Pauley’s voice was raspy and tense. “He’s hurt, and he’s pissed off.”

Stan couldn’t hear the other side of the conversation, but guessed she was warning Vivian Tomas was coming for her.

“Lenore thinks at least two are with him, and he has a five-minute lead on us.” Pauley sat up slightly as Lenore pulled away from the curb. “We’re on our way, just get under the porch crawl space and wait for us.”

Running her fingers through her disheveled hair, Pauley was on the verge of panic. “Don’t do anything stupid, we’re coming! Millie, goddamnit! You can’t take on three of them alone. I can’t keep saving your ass! If you screw this up, if you can’t wait for me, that’s it. You’re on your own, and I’m gone for good.”

Turning in her seat, her eyes pleaded with Stan for help. He knew Pauley was scared and desperate if she was reverting to Vivian’s real name.

Pauley jumped when she heard a crashing noise on the other end of the call.

“Millie? Millie!”

Pauley threw the offending phone in the backseat when Vivian hung up, burying her head in her hands.

Lenore took advantage of the sparse traffic to race through town toward Vivian’s estate.

“Você deve permanecer calmo para ajudar a senhorita Vivian.” Lenore’s fingers white from gripping the wheel, her jaw clinched in anger. “We will be there in two minutes. Do not worry, I will kill Tomas with my own hands if I have to.”

Spread out in the back seat, Stan ran scenarios through his mind, trying to decide their best approach to the house.

“Did you bring the handgun case Lenore?” Stan sat up, leaning between the front seats. He grasped one of Pauley’s hands. She squeezed his fingers in response, looking out the side window without saying anything.

Lenore nodded, but remained silent.

“We’ll each take a gun and an extra clip.” Stan thumped his fist against his forehead, trying to think. “Our advantage will be knowing the layout of the house and grounds.”

*Catch up with the adventures of Pauley and Vivian, beginning with “Dead Money.” The second chapter in this week’s installment is “In for the Kill,” written by published author, Lance Burson.

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