Careful little eyes an a.., p.14
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       Careful little eyes: An addictive, horrifying serial killer thriller (7th Street Crew Book 4), p.14

           Willow Rose
 
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  “Can I get you anything?” Joey asks.

  “You know what? I actually have this craving for chocolate. We ran out in the minibar. Maybe you could go and buy me some? No. It’s silly. I really shouldn’t. I’m getting too fat. I’ve gained so much weight since Salter disappeared it’s disgusting. I am disgusting.”

  Joey hates when she talks like that about herself. He gets up. “You know what? I am kind of in the mood for a little sweet myself. It will do me good to get some fresh air too. Let me see what I can find.”

  “You’re the best. Thank you,” Mary says, as he kisses her before he leaves the room.

  He closes the door behind him, walks to the elevators, and punches the button. While he waits he can’t shake the eerie feeling that this hallway gives him. Knowing someone was killed right down that hallway gives him the creeps. He can’t wait to leave this hotel…or this town, for that matter.

  As soon as he has his son.

  We should be handing out fliers with pictures of Salter at every hotel instead of chasing some stupid Axeman. What if all this work doesn’t lead us to Blake at all? What if they just leave town again while we run after this guy, whoever he is?

  But he can’t say that to Mary. She needs to cling on to this small hope right now, it’s what keeps her going, keeps her sane.

  The elevator arrives and he takes it to the lobby, then walks out in the big marble hallway. The chandelier still hangs heavily under the high ceilings. Joey has never been in a hotel like this before. Standing in the hallway, surrounded by all these people wearing hats and suits, he feels quite uncomfortable. Did he ever really fit into Mary’s world? He never felt like it. She comes from this wealthy home and never had to struggle for anything. At least not financially. Joey is more working class. Blue collar. His father was a carpenter, so he became a carpenter. His parents never asked him what his dreams were. What he wanted to be. He was supposed to work with his hands, like his dad. There was no question to it.

  “So, did you figure things out?”

  Joey turns and sees the bartender from the other day standing behind him. He feels a prickle of sweat forming on his brow.

  I still can’t remember her name!

  “Did you?”

  Joey smiles and nods. “Yes. Yes, we did. We’re good now. Well…better at least.”

  “I am glad to hear that,” she says. An awkward silence occurs and she points towards the bar. “Well, gotta get to work.”

  “Sure. Have a good day.”

  She winks, then nods and turns away from him. He hopes she doesn’t see how much he blushes. Shaking this awkward experience, Joey walks towards the double doors. Some uniformed guy holds it open for him and wishes him a good day, when Joey suddenly spots someone rushing by in the street across from the hotel.

  It’s Ian Marks.

  Chapter Fifty-Five

  July 2016

  Ian Marks is in a hurry. He is walking fast. He hasn’t got much time. He has left Mia with Annie, another of the tourist guides in New Orleans, but she said she would only take her for half an hour.

  Ian walks past the old Hotel Monteleone, thinks for a few seconds about all the stories he usually tells people when passing it in his carriage, then shudders. The hotel has so much history; he, for one, will never go in there. Not willingly.

  He turns another corner, then arrives at the small alley behind a building where Carl said he would meet him. It wasn’t that hard to track him down. Ian just called all the hotels in the French Quarter, one after another, asking for Carl Hamilton, and soon he was directed to his room.

  Ian stops and looks around. No one is here, but he is also early. He feels the gun in his pocket. He bought it yesterday from a guy he knows. He needs to be able to defend himself, and Mia if necessary. He has only tried to shoot it once, and he hopes he won’t have to use it.

  “Ian.”

  The voice comes from behind him, and Ian turns with a gasp. There he is. Carl. Looking a lot different from last time he saw him. Long beard and a bald head. His eyes are behind a pair of sunglasses, but he recognizes the voice. Ian grabs the handle of the gun and holds it tight.

  “Sorry I couldn’t meet you in a more public place, but I’m trying to keep a low profile. So, what do you want?” Carl asks.

  Ian pulls out the gun. It is shaking between his hands. Meeting in an alley suits him perfectly for what he has in mind.

  “You killed Cindy,” he says. “You made Mia an orphan and you took my ear. Don’t deny it. I know it was you.”

  Carl looks confused. “What’s that?” He walks closer shaking his head. “What are you talking about, Ian, come on. We’re friends here, right?”

  “Was it because of the money? Huh? Was it because we scammed you out of the five hundred last year, huh? Did you kill her over five hundred dollars?”

  Carl’s expression changes. “Listen, Ian. Yes, I was mad about the money. It pissed me off, to be frank, but you’ve got to know I could never touch any of you. You’re my friends, remember? I discovered that thing with the money, but I let it go. That was a long time ago. I knew you guys were in need, so I didn’t do anything. That is the truth. Honestly.”

  “I don’t believe you,” Ian says, his voice shaking. “I don’t believe a word you say. Not one.”

  Carl is still moving closer, slowly, but steadily with a smirk on his face, looking almost like he is enjoying himself, like he thinks it’s amusing. It makes Ian nervous. “Stay where you are,” he says.

  Carl smiles. “Come on, Ian. You don’t want to shoot me, do you? I don’t think you do. Now, if you kill me, you’ll go to jail. Who will take care of Cindy’s kid, then? What’s her name again?”

  “M-M-Mia. Her name is Mia; don’t come any closer…I swear I’ll shoot. Carl, or whatever your real name is, don’t come any closer.”

  “What was that?” Carl asks.

  “I know Carl isn’t your real name.”

  Carl takes a step closer. Ian notices he has his right hand in the pocket of his pants; the other is holding a small bag from CVS.

  “What’s in your pocket, Carl?” Ian asks.

  “No, no, let’s get back to the name part. Why would you say that?”

  “Because I had a visitor. A woman came to my house. She showed me your picture. And then she told me your real name was Blake. Is it true what she told me? Are you The Axeman?”

  Barely has he finished the words before Carl pulls out a knife from his pocket and throws it through the air. The blade of the knife goes straight through Ian’s left upper arm and stays inside. He screams and drops the gun. Less than one second later, Carl is in front of him, holding the gun, grinning from ear to ear.

  Chapter Fifty-Six

  July 2016

  Joey can’t believe his eyes. He has followed Ian Marks to a small alley, and watched him meet with none other than the man they’re searching so desperately for themselves, Blake. And now Blake is holding a gun to Ian’s head, while Ian has sunk to his knees, a knife through his arm, crying, begging for Blake to not kill him.

  What had he expected? The fool. Meeting up with a serial killer in an alley. Did he really think he could take him out?

  Joey is watching the scenario and isn’t too late to take action, since Blake is about to pull the trigger. Unarmed himself, he storms into the alley and jumps Blake from behind with a loud roar.

  So many emotions are driving him right now. All the anger and frustration that have been kept inside of him for so many months come out in this one second of his life as he grabs Blake by the neck from behind and starts to strangle him.

  Blake drops the gun and the plastic bag from his hand, lets out a loud grunt, and tries to grab Joey, but Joey isn’t going to give up so easily. Blake pulls his hair and scratches him on the face, but Joey holds on with all the strength he has in his arms, fueled by loads of anger.

  “Grab the gun,” he yells at Ian, who is slowly realizing what is going on.

  With his good hand, Ian
grabs the gun and points it at Blake’s head. “S-s-should I just shoot him?” he asks.

  Joey wants to say yes; oh, boy, how he wants to.

  “If you do, you’ll never find Salter,” Blake groans.

  “Tell us where he is,” Joey says.

  “First let go of my neck,” Blake yells with difficulty.

  Joey does as he says. Blake is on his knees, gasping for air, the gun pointed at his temple.

  “Now, tell us where he is. Then maybe we’ll give you to the cops. Otherwise, we will kill you. We’ll find a way of finding Salter.”

  “Ha. You fool. It will be too late.”

  “What do you mean?” Joey says.

  “Look in the bag. The boy is sick. I had to go to CVS to get something for his fever. Now, it might just be the flu, but—oh, no, the horror—what if it’s not? What if he needs antibiotics? It’s pretty bad. His fever had reached a hundred and four before I left. Maybe it’s even higher now.”

  “You’re lying. You’re just saying this so we’ll let you go.”

  “Oh, really? Check the bag.”

  Joey grabs it. Children’s ibuprofen. He hands it to Blake, who is smiling from ear to ear.

  “With a fever that high, he needs to see a doctor,” he says.

  “And I will make sure he does, but you’ll have to let me go, now won’t you? And I’ll have to ask you to not follow me, because if I see you trying to, I will not go back to our hiding spot for days, and who knows what will happen to Salter while I’m gone? And no police. Tell my dear sister that as well. No police involved or Salter dies, you understand?”

  Joey swallows hard. He wants to hurt Blake so badly, but he can’t. Salter’s life might depend on it. He looks to Ian, who understands and lowers the gun, even though it is a little reluctantly. In the second he does, Blake jumps to his feet, grabs the gun, presses it into Ian’s stomach, and fires. Joey gasps loudly, then runs for the street while the gun is fired again, this time in his direction.

  Chapter Fifty-Seven

  July 2016

  I wonder what is taking Joey so long. The research is getting me nowhere, and I am really in the mood for a little comfort.

  Does it take that long to get some chocolate?

  I grab my phone to see if he has texted, but there is only a notification from Facebook telling me someone left a message on my wall one minute ago. I swipe it and it opens on my screen. I read the words, while sipping the rest of my cold coffee, then almost choke on it.

  In the same second, I hear a keycard being swiped and the door opens. In comes Joey, his face scratched, his hair a mess and…is that blood on his shirt?

  “What happened to you? You look like you’ve been in a fight.”

  “I…I…Ian…followed…alley…Blake…Salter…Salter is sick, Salter is sick, Mary. I had to let him go, I had to let him go, he shot…shot…”

  I walk to him and grab him in my arms. “You’re not making any sense right now. Who shot whom and what is that about Salter being sick?”

  I help Joey to the couch and he sits down. He is so pale I am thinking it can’t be healthy. Something is really wrong here and it scares the crap out of me. “Talk to me, Joe. What happened? What is wrong with Salter? Is that blood on your shirt? Talk to me! Please, Joe, you’re scaring me here.”

  Finally, he looks me in the eyes. “I met Blake.”

  I gasp. “You met Blake?”

  “Yes. I followed Ian Marks. I spotted him walking across the street from the hotel and…well, I don’t know why I followed him, but I did. It was a hunch, I guess, maybe I just wanted to do something instead of sitting here…”

  “All right, Joe, get to the point.”

  “I followed Ian Marks as he walked into an alley not far from here, behind this old building, and that was when he came.”

  “Blake?”

  “Yes. Blake. They had set up a meeting. Ian Marks asked him lots of questions and pulled a gun on him. He believes Blake was the guy who attacked them that night when Cindy died. Probably mostly because we told him so,” he says. “He mentioned to Blake that he had spoken to us. Blake didn’t seem surprised.”

  “I am sure it is all part of his little plan.”

  “But he said he wasn’t The Axeman, when Ian asked. He seemed genuinely surprised that he would ask him that.”

  “He’s good actor and an even greater liar. I won’t take his word for it,” I say. “But what was that about Salter?”

  “We had him, Mary. We had Blake at gunpoint, but then he told us that Salter was sick, and that if we didn’t let him go, Salter wouldn’t get the treatment he needed. He has a hundred and four fever, Mary.”

  “Oh, my God. He should see a doctor, then. In case it’s an infection. Oh, my poor boy.”

  “I said that and he promised to take him to a doctor, but only if we let him go and didn’t follow him.”

  “So you let him go.” I sigh, relieved, and kneel in front of him. I grab his hands in mine and look him in the eyes. “It was the right thing to do, Joe. You did good. You shouldn’t be so angry at yourself for making that decision.”

  Tears well up in Joey’s eyes. “But I am. I am so mad at myself, Mary. Because of that, he shot Ian. He killed him, Mary. Right there in front of me. And all I could do was run. Like the coward I am, I ran.”

  “Hey. That’s not being a coward. That’s smart thinking, Joe. I need you alive, remember? It was Ian’s stupidity that killed him. He never should have tried to take on Blake alone.”

  “He was also the only one who knew how to find Blake. So now we’re back to square one,” Joey says. “He’s just playing with us, Mary. I was so close. I could almost feel Salter. So close. And now we’re clueless again.”

  I sigh and hug him, then look at him again. “Not completely clueless. I’ve gotten another one.”

  “Another what?” Joey says with sniffle.

  “Another letter from The Axeman.”

  Chapter Fifty-Eight

  November 2005

  It is three o’clock and Robyn is standing on the porch as the school bus drives by. She sees Suzy as she gets out and the bus drives away. Robyn sighs deeply as she waves to the little girl and she waves back, before she hurries to her condo and disappears inside. It’s been like this for about a month now. Robyn hasn’t talked to the girl at all, and Melissa has kept her at the condo. Suzy hasn’t even been riding her bike.

  The frustration and the feeling of loss is wearing on Robyn, and she has lost a lot of weight. Seeing Suzy for a few seconds every morning when she gets on the bus, and again in the afternoon when she comes home, simply is not enough. She misses her like no one she has ever missed before.

  She didn’t go to the police about the car. Robyn thought about it for a long time, especially since she was so angry that she wanted to punish Melissa, but then she decided against it. She went to DCF and spoke with a caseworker there, and she felt that was more than enough.

  She doesn’t really care about the car or the money, but she does care about Suzy. A lot. Even if it means she might be taken somewhere else and Robyn won’t be able to see her again, then so be it. Anything is better than having her grow up in that environment. All she wants is what’s best for Suzy.

  Robyn sighs as she stares at the condos and the closed door, then walks back inside. She wonders what to do with her life now. She should be starting dinner soon, but she doesn’t really want to. Not when there is no one to share it with.

  Robyn sits down on her couch and turns on the TV. She watches it for a few hours, then falls asleep. She doesn’t wake up till there is a heavy knock on her front door. As she opens her eyes, she realizes it is dark out. She looks at the clock; it’s almost ten p.m.

  Who knocks this late at night?

  She goes to see and spots Melissa on her front porch, accompanied by the alleged fiancé of hers, Jamie.

  What the heck do they want?

  “Open up, rich lady. We know you’re in there.”

 
Robyn thinks about it a few seconds, then decides to open the door. “You have some nerve coming here,” she says.

  Melissa laughs. “Listen to her. She still sounds like she is in some movie, the fancy lady in her big castle, huh?”

  Jamie laughs goofily. He has a cigarette hanging on his lip. Makes him look even dumber, Robyn believes.

  “What do you want?” Robyn asks.

  “I want my daughter, that’s what I want,” Melissa says.

  “What do you mean you want your daughter?”

  “Don’t play games with me, lady. I know she’s here.” She stops to smoke, then yells. “Suzy!?”

  “She’s not here,” Robyn says. “I haven’t seen her in a long time.”

  “Oh, come on. Don’t you think I don’t see you on that porch every morning and afternoon when the bus comes? Don’t pretend you don’t have her. I know she’s here, come on.”

  “I don’t have her. I swear I don’t. I thought she went home. I saw her get off the bus and walk inside.”

  “Well, she’s not at our place,” Melissa says, blowing out a heavy cloud of smoke. “We might have had a little fight and then, well…she ran out.”

  “So you think she ran to me; well, she didn’t. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get to bed. It’s late. Goodnight.”

  Once the door is closed, Melissa knocks and yells, “Don’t try and trick me, lady. I know you have her. Don’t think for one second that I will just let you steal my child. Money can’t buy everything, lady. Do you hear me?”

  Robyn does hear her, but she stays quiet behind the door till the hammering subsides.

  “Let’s get back, babe,” she hears Jamie say.

  “I’m calling the cops!” Melissa yells as the last thing before Robyn hears their footsteps walk away.

  Robyn feels troubled. Not that she is afraid Melissa and Jamie will actually call the police. She knows they will never risk getting the police involved, but she is worried and anxious for Suzy. It is dark and too late for a little girl to be out on her own.

 
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