Title: Rope Break
Author: Mike Fuller
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 3
Buy at: Rogue Phoenix Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble
Corporal Sam Deland leads his squad of state troopers on the hunt for ruthless killers, but personal tragedy pulls him off the chase and into even more danger a thousand miles from home.
He’s worried about being due in Federal Court tomorrow and trying to enjoy his day off when it turns ugly once again. Corporal Sam Deland is drawn into another mystery double murder in his usually quiet suburban community and Sam’s team of state police investigators have to dig deep into the gang and drug underground to find the shooters. The Oz, Calvin and Johnny are as different as could be but these tough, smart state troopers meld together their talents to work through the twisting trail of leads on this bloody case with Sam. But just as Sam sees the mystery starting to come together he is slammed in the face with his own family tragedy when Sam’s 18 year old son and his son’s beautiful Cuban-American girlfriend turn up missing and in danger over a thousand miles away.
"Let's go," Flathead ordered, nodding toward the stone farmhouse behind and off to the side of the pole barn. Debbie pleaded with her eyes to Hank and he started slowly through the aisles toward the house. Flathead switched the gun from her bloody nose to the back of her head and had her by the neck as he followed her and Hank.
Toby's heart was pounding so hard and loud he actually looked behind him to see what the noise was before he finally realized it was coming from him. He gulped in air and tried to tell himself it would be alright and this would soon be over. He followed behind Flathead along the dirt and gravel path until they came out of the barn and walked the twenty yards to the side door of the house.
"Stop there," Flathead told Hank at the steps. McCall turned quickly and told Toby, "Check inside."
Toby didn't want to go in by himself but didn't want to make Flathead any madder. He cautiously slid up the steps and in through the storm door to a small mud room. The kitchen door was closed but not locked, and he opened it slowly. The hinges creaked and he smelled something good cooking as he went inside. The oven was on and clicked as he passed, making him jump slightly. He went through the kitchen and into the dining room where he saw the register drawer sitting on the dining room table among papers and credit card slips. The drawer looked full and he hollered, "It's here, in here!"
Flathead didn't know at first what Toby meant, but jabbed Debbie in the back of her head with the automatic and said, "On up and in, folks. Let's get it over with." Hank trudged up the steps and went into the kitchen where Toby was standing with a hand full of bills.
His gun was tucked into his belt and a big grin was on his face showed under the goggles, "Lookey here what I got!" Toby burbled. Happy they'd found what he'd told Flathead would be here.
McCall stopped them in the kitchen and said, "Have a seat here on the floor up against the cabinets. Sit!" Hank and Debbie sat down next to each other and she put her hand up to his still bleeding scalp. McCall produced a half roll of duct tape from his jacket and tossed it to Toby, "Hog tie 'em."
Toby handed the money to Flathead and started wrapping Hank and Debbie's arms and hands with the tape. He looped it through their legs so that they sat bundled and unable to get up. Flathead engaged the safety and slipped his gun into the space between his jeans and the small of his back and started counting money.
In only moments, he was back in the kitchen with four scraps of paper and waved them in Hank's face. "Holdin' out on me, you little shithead. Where's the rest?"
Toby asked, "What's wrong? The money's there on the table."
"Couple a hundred is all," McCall waved the papers again. "850, 1100, 1050, and 1500. They pulled cash out and put markers in." McCall was turning red and purple between the anger and the greed. He pulled the pistol back out leaned over and shoved it up between Debbie's legs causing her to wince and cry out in sharp pain.
"Stop!" the young voice blurted from behind Flathead. In a quick turn, he rose and spun to his left, pulled down on the safety and fired two shots into the stunned face of Mattie standing barefoot next to the dining room table. The room shook from the packed in sound of the explosions and Mattie crumbled to the floor, shaking from muscle spasms and gurgling through the blood trying to breathe. Debbie let out a loud cry and burst into tears at the twitching shape helplessly convulsing and struggling to live.
McCall froze as he watched the kid drop and then looked at Toby and then bent down and pointed the pistol into Debbie's face. She stared into the orange plastic of Flathead's goggles and spit a glob square into the space between his eyes. He flinched even though the plastic blocked it and then brought the pistol down onto her face opening a gash on the bridge of her nose with the blow.
"Fuckin' bitch! Where's the rest of the money?" he reached forward and grabbed her right breast with his free hand and roughly twisted the soft flesh through her shirt and lightweight bra. She screamed again and tried to pull free, but he turned it harder, dragging her down to the floor where she started sobbing in pain.
"It's in the freezer, please just take it and stop hurting her," Hank managed to say between his own sobs. "It's all there."
McCall heard him but didn't stop. Toby hadn't moved from his spot near the door of the mud room and now quickly went to the freezer and opened it up. There he found four paper lunch bags sitting on top of plastic bags of meat and boxes of green beans. He looked in the first one and saw green bills and knew he had what they were looking for. In his excitement and the confusion of how quickly McCall had become so enraged and violent, he grabbed the bags and jumped through the door and back into the kitchen. "Flathead, I got it. Four bags of cash, let's go!" Poor Toby didn't even realize what he had done.
McCall let loose of Debbie and just stood up over the couple looking at Toby. "You dickhead. You got a big mouth." Toby couldn't see McCall's eyes and would have been very afraid if he had been able to. McCall swung the .45 down to Debbie and pulled the trigger. Before the roar of the shot died, she folded onto the floor from her half sitting position. Hank jumped at the sound and the concussion so close to him. When he realized that the big man had just shot Debbie, his mind went blank with rage. He struggled against the tape, screaming a guttural roar deep from inside. Flathead raised his pistol again but instead kicked Hank in the ribs, silencing him.
McCall shook his head and looked at Toby standing there with the frozen money bags. "Your fault, you shoot him." Flathead flipped the safety on his automatic and slipped it into his belt again. He walked out past Toby and took the bags from him as he passed. "Make sure he's dead, Turd," Flathead growled as he passed.
Toby thought he would piss himself right there. This was supposed to be quick and easy. No fuss, no problem. It finally hit him that he had blurted out Flathead's name and now things had changed. He turned to say something to McCall, but he was gone down the steps and into the pole barn. Toby looked back at Hank struggling to breathe on the floor next to the still shape of his wife. He gave it a quick thought to just leave, but then he would have to face Flathead.
Reluctantly he half stepped over to Hank and said, "I'm sorry. This wasn't supposed to be this way. I'm sorry."
Hank opened his eyes and saw the goggles staring down at him blankly. He thought he could see where the dark was worn off the gun the man with the goggles was pointing at him. Worn off around the muzzle.
Toby pointed the .38 at Hank's head and tried to stop the shaking of the front blade sight as it wobbled back and forth. He took another half step closer then turned his head to the side. He closed his eyes and felt the gun buck in his hand as he pulled the trigger twice, then again. When he opened his eyes, he saw Hank motionless and draped over Debbie. Toby simply turned and left, the image burned into his mind forever.