After tossing back one last vodka shooter, DeAndre Moore tore through the crowded strip club, certain that the knee breaker who was hot on his heels would send him to the hospital if he didn’t get lost—and fast. He’d come early to have himself a couple of drinks and try to calm down. Tonight was the night. Either she would leave with him or … or what? Would he really turn her over to the cops? Did he have that right?
As soon as Sabrina stepped onto the nightclub floor and saw him, she walked straight to one of the goons stationed at the front door, pointed back at DeAndre, and said a few quick words. Time to bounce, he thought. He’d catch up with her later.
He took off running, dodging this way and that around the tables, thinking that if he could just put some distance between himself and the hired muscle he could make it to the kitchen, where he knew there was an exit out to the alley. Making a mad dash for a pair of swinging doors, he pushed inside. One of the line cooks thrust a knife at him and shouted, “Get the hell out of here.”
DeAndre plunged out the back door into the frigid night air, hearing a click as the door shut and locked behind him. That would be enough for the knee breaker. He merely wanted him out, with as little fuss as possible. The front door, his only way back in, would be barred for the rest of the night.
Standing in the dank, narrow alley, trying to catch his breath, he cursed himself for ever coming to Minneapolis. He should have stayed in St. Louis, minded his own business, let her sink or swim on her own. Yet when it became clear what she’d done, he couldn’t let it drop. He loved her. She’d always looked out for him, and now it was time he returned the favor. Even more, Sabrina held the key to his past. She’d been dangling it over his head for years, and he was sick of it. He’d come for an answer. One way or the other, he intended to get it.
Passing several Dumpsters, he moved to the edge of the sidewalk. The snow was coming down so hard that he could barely make out the buildings across the street. For the last four nights, he’d been staying in a downtown hotel, an outlay of money he could ill afford. It had taken him months to track Sabrina to Minneapolis. Checking out the local strip bars had been the next logical step. He’d found her at GaudyLights, persuaded her to meet up for lunch the next day. Though they talked easily, just like old times, she refused to open up. He came back to the club that night, and the next, and the one after that. He’d smiled a lot, tried to talk to her when she was not busy. Drinks flowed freely.
Just before closing last night, she’d whispered in his ear. “You want to know what happened? Why I left St. Louis in such a big hurry? Here it is. I did it. He deserved it. And I’m not done.” She walked away from him and left him sitting there, stunned. He’d been so sure she would offer an explanation that would somehow make it all right. Instead, she’d admitted to a cold-blooded murder.
Now he was here, standing at the edge of a dark alley, unsure what to do. Removing his cell from his jacket, he fished inside his shirt pocket for the business card his uncle had given him. He held it up, tipped it this way and that until he could read the number at the bottom. Punching it in, he waited, hoping the call would be answered by a real live human. Instead, he was put through to voice mail.
Fixing his eyes on the driving snow, he said, “This message is for Jane Lawless. You don’t know me. My name is DeAndre Moore. I need to talk to you. I can meet you anywhere you want, just name it. So you know, my uncle is Alf Nolan, your partner. He told me that if I ever needed any help and he wasn’t around, that I should call you. Since this is a … a private matter, and he’s family, I need you to keep this quiet.” Here, he paused. “I’m desperate, Ms. Lawless. There’s someone I know … someone I love … who’s in bad trouble. I’m trusting you, okay? I need you to help me figure out what’s going on before someone else gets killed. Anyway, that’s enough over the phone. Hey … what—”
DeAndre felt a sudden fierce sting in his shoulder. Dropping the cell to the concrete, he whirled around, only to feel a second sharp thrust enter his gut. He doubled over, pitching backward against the bricks. A warm, sticky liquid oozed into his hand. In the darkness, he could barely make out the face of the person standing over him. “You’re—”
His thoughts began to scramble. “Why?” he whispered.
“You stick your nose in where it don’t belong.”
“No,” he repeated, feeling suddenly weak.
“At least you die like a man. That’s more than you would give me.”
Copyright © 2012 by Ellen Hart