A scene from Breaking Bread, Book Five in the Bucks County novels by Margaret Sorick. Find the previous excerpt here.
Despite my terror, I kept my grip on the two-by-four. I took a chance that in the darkness, the gunman wouldn’t see me lift it from the dumpster. I gently set it on the edge before slowly turning around. The man holding the gun was in silhouette —he wasn’t tall, but he was bulky– the weapon in the right hand of his outstretched arm. How had I missed the big black SUV parked in the shelter of the new addition?
“Sweetheart, you sure do have some terrible luck,” the gunman said. “A few more minutes and we’d have been outta here. Nothing for you to see. But now we got a problem.”
He kept saying ‘we’ but I didn’t see another person. I swallowed hard. “I didn’t see anything. Honestly. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
He laughed softly. “Maybe. Maybe not. But we can’t take the chance that you did.”
The driver’s side door on the SUV opened and a figure emerged. A woman. Slim, blonde, tall. She strode purposefully over to the gunman’s side. “Carlo, this is taking too long,” hissed Kiki Curtis-Stevens. “Hurry up.”
“Relax, Keek,” he said. “Nobody can see us back here.” Then to me he said, “Come on over here, sweetheart. We’re going to go for a little ride.”
A ride from which I would never return, undoubtedly. Taking the chance that they still couldn’t see me in the dark, I raised my hand to rest on the two-by-four. “You won’t get away with this, Kiki. You’ll be the first person they look at if anything happens to me.”
She laughed. “There’s nothing to connect me to you. Nothing. Just because I was friendly with your dear sister? That’s not a crime.”
“What about the money?”
“Cash, darling. And none of it from any of my accounts. There’s no way to trace it back to me.”
I had to keep her talking. Where the hell was Brad? “Why? Why did you go after my business?”
“There’s not enough room for two French cafes in Doylestown, my dear. If I was going to make a go of it, I had to eliminate the competition.”
“But you could have done something, anything else… why a cafe?”
She sighed. “I have to admit, hearing Tanya whine about your success and her dismal little failures, I felt some pity for her. My mistake. I never thought about the consequences of her taking things too far.”
“Her taking things too far? What do you mean?”
“It was all fun and games when she was calling in the exterminator and the health inspector. Releasing the mice in the cafe —that was a stroke of genius.” She shook her blonde mane. “But when she tossed the block through your front window and hurt herself, she blamed me. Said it was my fault she almost lost her baby. She was nearly hysterical. I gave her an extra ten grand just to calm her down.”
The gunman spoke up. “Unfortunately, money only goes so far. We couldn’t take the chance she’d come looking for more or that she’d decide to squawk to the cops.”
“Getting rid of Tanya and the cafe? Kills two birds with one stone. Well, it’s been nice chatting, Ms. Kaminsky, but it’s time to go. Move it,” Kiki said, turning to go.
“What about Cissy Landis?” I asked desperately.
She glared at her cousin. “That was a stupid move. Cissy knows nothing of consequence. Now come on, dammit!”
Carlo waved the gun at me. “Let’s go.”
Grasping the two-by-four with both hands, I stepped from the shadows. I swung the board like a golf club up toward Carlo’s gun hand, sending the weapon flying. He spat out a string of obscenities and clutched at his wounded hand. I shoved him hard and ran past him toward the walkway that led back out to Court Street. The sound of running footfalls followed me. With a cry of rage, Kiki tackled me from behind. I landed hard on the cobblestones, knocking the wind out of me and snapping a bone in the arm I used to break my fall.
Kiki got up quickly and grabbed me by the ankles to drag me back into the alley. I managed to yank one foot free and with it, I kicked with all my might, sweeping her feet out from under her. As she hit the ground, her head smacked against the hard pavers and she lay stunned. I scrambled to my feet and clutching my broken wrist stumbled to the street where red and blue flashing lights awaited me. Four police officers rushed into the walkway with flashlights raised and weapons drawn. Jack Staley stepped forward to put a supportive arm around me and lead me to where a furious Brad waited with Nicki Penske. I fell into his arms.
“Please don’t be angry with me,” I said. “I know it was stupid to go back there…”
He pulled me close. “Oh babe, I’m not mad at you. I’m just mad that I didn’t get back there in time to help you. Thanks to these guys,” he growled.
“Come on, Brad,” Jack said. “It was bad enough Maya got past us. If you hadn’t had to park the car…”
“What are you talking about?” I asked, confused.
“I’ve had a couple of my officers watching Kiki’s building since Cissy got shot,” Jack told me. “Just in the offside chance someone would show up. When you hopped out of the car and ran into the alley, my team was just about to go in after Kiki and her cousin Carlo.”
“Oh, shit, I screwed things up, didn’t I?” I asked.
Jack shook his head. “Almost. But alls well that ends well. Anyway, we were able to stop Brad from rushing into the mess at least. My guys were coming up the alley right about the time you tee’d off on old Carlo. I’m just sorry you got hurt, hon.”
“I thought you were going to be waiting for Kiki at the airport.”
“Yeah, they changed their flight home, got here earlier than we expected.”
“What was she doing meeting her cousin behind the building?”
Jack laughed wryly. “Looks like she was doing them a favor for a change. Carlo was giving her the gun to get rid of. Probably bury it under her new patio or something.”
We turned at commotion coming from the building across the street. Carlo Cassetori and his outraged cousin, Kiki Curtis Stevens were led from the walkway to the waiting police cruisers in handcuffs. Kiki was spouting off about police brutality, calling her lawyer and demanding to see her husband. “Don’t you know how I am?” she shrieked as they tucked her into the back seat and slammed the door.