It was almost seven by the time I was ready to leave. The area behind the stores was well lit, but even so, I didn’t see them until I reached my car. I had noticed a car in the parking lot but hadn’t really thought anything about it. There were often cars around. This one looked a lot like Jenny’s so I didn’t give it a second thought until the doors opened, and two men got out.
They were both dressed casually in jeans, t-shirts, and jackets. The younger one walked toward me with the swagger of youth. He was trying hard to be menacing. The other man didn’t have to try. He was a couple of years older than I was, and I had a bad feeling I was about to become acquainted with the Cantono family. The kid was probably young Mike that Griggs had mentioned. It was obvious he thought was in charge, but when I looked at the other man, I knew who the real threat was.
He was tall, thick, and very well built. He had jet-black hair that he wore a little too long and a couple of days of stubble on his classically handsome face. Even at a distance, I could see startling blue eyes. His jacket was a soft black leather, not the short bomber jacket, but the longer style that hit just below his butt. He looked like the type of man you would not want to meet in a dark alley. Unfortunately, it appeared I didn’t have a choice. At least about the alley part. Thank God for lights!
I casually slipped my hand into my purse. Although I don’t carry my gun much anymore, every purse I have own since I was thirteen had a gun holster embedded. They had to be special ordered, and there had been a time or two when I considered just purchasing off the rack, but now I was very grateful that I hadn’t. The feel of the gun in my hand helped quell the turmoil in my stomach. I didn’t draw but edged closer to the car door.
“Hey, bitch,” the kid said. “You have been butting into things that ain’t none of your business.”
He was still several feet away and hadn’t advanced any closer so I waited. The older man simply leaned on the side of their car and watched. When I didn’t reply, the kid reached back and pulled out a knife. I stiffened, wondering what I should do. If the kid had a knife, did the older man have a gun? I kept an eye on him. The kid was closer, but the man worried me. As well as I can shoot, I couldn’t shoot both of them at the same time. I hoped I wouldn’t have to shoot anyone.
“You ain’t got nothing to say?”
My heart was pounding and my breathing shallow. I swallowed and took a deep breath trying to calm my nerves. I started to pull out the gun but hesitated. I wasn’t sure I could do it. I had never pointed a gun at a human being. My father had taught me everything I knew about guns, and he had told me to never point at anything that I wasn’t willing to shoot.
“Mike,” the older man said softly. He voice sent a shiver down my spine and not in a good way. “Just deliver the message.”
A flash of anger crossed the kid’s face. He took a step toward me and that’s when I pulled the gun. I was pleased but surprised to see that my hand was steady. I didn’t say anything but just stared.
Mike halted, unsure for the first time. The man behind him pulled away from the car and stepped closer but didn’t pull a weapon. He studied me a minute and then gave me a nod of respect.
“I don’t want to hurt anyone,” I said, “but I will if I have to. I got your message. It would be best if you leave.”
The kid had recovered. The swagger was back, but so was the anger. He took a step toward me. I aimed the gun directly at him, praying fervently that I wouldn’t have to use it.
“You heard the lady,” came a voice from the right. “I’ve called the police. I doubt you want to be here when they arrive.”
I breathed a sigh of relief that was quickly followed by panic as Daniel Thompson stepped out from behind the dumpster. The shotgun he held in his hands wasn’t quite steady. I stepped toward him as the two Cantonos whipped around. Once they realized that they now had someone armed on either side, they moved back toward the car. I continued making my way toward Daniel while keeping an eye on the men.
“You think we’re afraid of the police?” Mike said. “How do you think we know about her snooping?”
“Mike!” the man said harshly. “Get in the car.”
“Now,” he growled. The look he gave Mike would have made me pee in my pants. Mike didn’t do much better. He paled and quickly walked around to the driver’s side and got in.
The other man watched him before turning back to us. He didn’t seem concerned. He was relaxed and confident. He did have a scowl on his face, but I think it was left over from the look he had given Mike. His expression smoothed out as he studied us.
By now, I had reached Daniel. As the man wasn’t armed as far as I could see, I didn’t aim my gun at him although I keep it in front of me. His eyes traveled down and back up again, and I could tell he noticed. He looked me in the face, and when I raised my chin and looked back, he suddenly grinned. I gasped softly. He was gorgeous, even better looking than Trent. I hadn’t noticed before because I was so scared, but I certainly noticed now. He might be the best-looking man I have ever seen. He was also the scariest. He raised his hand to his head and gave me a small salute. I could hear sirens in the distance. He stared at me a moment longer and then winked. “Night, Ms. Norwood.”