The phone call couldn’t have come at a worse time. Frank finally indulged the urge to kiss Marka. Somehow, Penwarren has eluded the men watching him and escaped from his room. Duty calls, so Frank reluctantly leaves.
Frank shuffled toward the door. Fighting the need to leave, he kissed her one last time and dodged out the door without looking back. He knew if he did, he’d stay with her instead of doing the job he was paid for.
Marka watched him jog down the hall toward the elevator. She wanted to call him back, but knew she didn’t dare. If they hadn’t been interrupted when they were, she was sure they would have gone to bed together. As much as she wanted that, now was not the time.
Once the door closed, she leaned against it, sighing happily. She could feel his lips on hers, his arms around her, the pulse of his excitement. . . Humming, she cleaned up after their dinner, imagining what her future held.
Frank ran to the elevator, mashing the up button. He got the foyer as the others finished assembling. Dividing the men and the flashlights, he gave instructions. Each pair had at least one cellphone among them. His was plugged in at Marka’s, so he paired up with one of the orderlies who had a new iPhone. They all had the contact numbers for the others.
“If you find him, call the cops, then call me. In that order. Clear?”
“Yes, sir,” they chorused.
“Let’s go find us a douchebag,” Frank said.
He and his partner headed to the nearest stairs. They were starting on the top floor of Penwarren’s building and working their way down the back staircase. From there, they would go outside and canvas the lake area. Frank’s partner, Matthew, was a chatty type guy, but soon learned that his boss wasn’t in the mood for idle talk.
“So, who is this guy?” Matthew asked.
Frank explained to him who Ralph Penwarren was.
“Oh, him! Yeah, what a prick. Friend of mine was out for a smoke. The old, fat guy’s out there, right? Wouldn’t give him a light. Like butane’s gold or something. Billy went most of his break without a smoke. Had to hotbox it.”
“Yet another reason I gave up smoking,” Frank replied. “Has he completely alienated the entire staff?”
“Just about. I’ve heard people bitching about him all day. I’m on a double, Matt explained.
“I wish I knew how he got out. I can’t believe no one spotted him.”
“Prolly waited until the guard left and took off. I know you had a guy outside, but a man’s gotta piss sometime, dig?”
“Yeah. He should have had someone relieve him first.”
“Well, if the fat guy was bribing other people, maybe he bribed the guard too? I mean, it’s possible, right?”
“That had crossed my mind. I hate to think one of my people would do that.”
“Dude, we all have a price. I gotta admit, some guy offers me a hundred bucks to look the other way so he can sneak out, I’d think about it.”
“What if he offered you another hundred to get him in his mother’s room?”
“No, man. I wouldn’t want my kid going through my shit. Hell, I don’t want my mom going through my shit, dig?”
Frank chuckled, nodding. “I dig. Me either, as it happens.”
“You worried about your porn stash?”
“I got some interesting books when I was in India. I don’t think she’d appreciate them much.”
“How about your girlfriend?”
“Don’t have one of those at the moment.”
“I heard you were seeing the new shrink.”
“I took her to lunch.”
“And breakfast and she fixed you dinner. So, you tap that?” He held out his knuckles for Frank to bump.
Frank gave him an evil eye. “You in the habit of taking a woman to bed that you just met?”
“No, man. . . .”
“Neither am I.”
“Sorry, dude. That whole ADHD problem, makes me talk too fast for my brain to keep up.”
“I have the same problem sometimes.” Frank stopped walking at the end of the hall, just before they started down the stairs. “If I were a mean spirited, antisocial, sociopath, where would I go for fun?”
He looked left and right, shrugging exaggeratedly. “Oh, I dunno,” he said in a high, kid type voice. “Gee, whiz, Unca Frankie! I think I’ll go to Disneyland!”
The young orderly laughed. It echoed down the stairs. “Come on, boss. He’s not that bad, is he?”
“He’s a murder victim waiting for a killer,” Frank replied as he headed down the stairs.
“Damn. I thought he was just some mean, old, fat guy.”
“He’s Satan’s Hell Spawn.”
A strange sound filtered up from the ground floor. Frank held up his fist, using battle signs instinctively. He gestured to the kid to stay where he was and headed down.