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Chapter 2

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"What the fuck!" Jake yelled as fought to regain his balance.

Jake's other friend, Bobby frowned. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"Nothing." Jake shook free of Bobby's grip. "I was just trying to clear my head."

"Did it work?"

"Not really."

Bobby nodded. "I wouldn't think so. Come on. There's nothing here for you. He's in a better place."

"I know," Jake agreed. "How did you find me?"

"Lucky guess." Bobby shrugged. "When I found my spare bedroom empty, I figured that you'd come back here."

Was it really his fault that he was having a hard time saying good bye? Feeling only a little guilty, Jake said, "Thanks."

"No problem. We have to stick together. Speaking of which ..."

"What?"

"If you want to do some good today, we should check in on Mary and the kids. I bet they could use some company. After the funeral is over and all the people are gone, is the hardest time. I can call into the garage and tell them that I'm taking another day off."

"Good idea, but do you really think they'll be up for company?"

Bobby slung an arm over Jake's shoulder. "We're not company. We're family."

Bobby led Jake to his car and followed him in his own vehicle to Tom and Mary's house. They parked on the street and made their way up to the house, but Jake stopped short of the front door.

"Can I have a minute to put on a strong face?" Jake moved to the porch railing. He rested his elbows on the wooden surface.

Pulling at his shirt collar, Bobby made room for one of his extra chins. "Take your time."

The big man came to stand next to Jake. He leaned against the handrail. It groaned under the strain.

The size mismatch between the two men was almost comical. Bobby outweighed him by a hundred pounds, not that Jake was a small man. Jake and Tom had met Bobby on their high school football team, along with their other friend Rick. Rick had been the hot-shot quarterback with a rocket for an arm. Bobby was the gentle giant who protected his blindside. Jake had been the tough running back who pounded defenders like a battering ram, and Tom was the wily receiver who could always get open. They'd won a league championship together which only cemented their deep friendship.

"Should we call Rick?" Jake asked, thinking about their other friend.

Bobby scratched the dark stubble on his cheek. "No. I doubt that he can get off work."

"What? It's his landscaping business. He's the boss."

Perspiration beaded on Bobby Andollini's olive-skinned forehead. "Grass doesn't stop growing, and he already lost two days with the funeral."

Jake sighed loudly. "That sucks."

"I know. Forget him." Bobby shrugged. "Hey, I forgot to ask you, did you talk to the detective?"

Jake had visited the station before the funeral yesterday. The conversation with Noles hadn't sat right with him. The man's detective skills appeared less than impressive, and he'd tried to discourage Jake from assisting in any way. He pushed off the railing and paced along the long porch.

"Yes. I talked to Detective Noles. He still believes it's a random act of road rage. But he wasn't very forthcoming with details, even when I brought up my history in law enforcement."

"That's bullshit."

"I know." Jake paused, looking around the empty yard. "I don't think I like him. He looks fat and lazy."

"Hey!" Bobby stood up, a hurt look on his face.

"You're not lazy."

"I get it, ya bastard. I'm big and fat while you stayed in shape." Bobby sniffed. "Brooding little Jake can still get any girl he wants."

"That's where you're wrong."

"You could if that witch of an ex-wife hadn't' ruined you?"

Jake didn't take the bait. "But seriously, I think Noles is going to screw up Tom's case."

"How?"

"He's worked one murder case before. A murder-suicide where a husband killed his cheating wife. How simple can you get?"

"Really?" Bobby shifted his weight. The back of his blue work shirt pulled free of his pants and flapped in the spring breeze.

"Really."

"So what are you going to do?"

Jake rubbed the back of his neck. "What do you mean?"

"Come on man, you know what I mean ..."

"Yeah." Jake bit his lip. "I was thinking I'd poke around."

"You should." Bobby smiled. "Heck, weren't you the guy who caught the silkworm rapist?"

Jake insides twisted at the mention of that terrible case. He pushed those bad memories aside so he could focus on Tom's murder. Shaking his head, Jake turned to look at the yard one more time before going in.

Jake had always been jealous of the beautiful two-story house with its welcoming wrap-around country porch. Pausing, he turned around and leaned against the porch's white railing to admire gorgeous landscaping on the nearly acre-sized lot. The payments on this place must be steep; he hoped Tom had good life insurance. Otherwise, Mary and the kids would have to move to a crappy apartment similar to make ends meet.

Mary deserved better than that.

A darkness fell over his face and darker thoughts followed.

Bobby rested a hand on Jake's shoulder. "What are you thinking about, buddy?"

"Nothing."

"Come on, tell me."

Jake looked down at his feet. "I was thinking about Pulp Fiction."

"Great movie." Bobby stepped away. "I got it on DVD. We can watch it tonight."

"Maybe." Jake agreed. "But I was thinking, if I could get my hands on Tom's killer, he'd wish he was never born. What kind of asshole kills someone over nothing? At worst, you trade a couple of punches and move on. I swear if I find him before the police, I'd like to get medieval on his ass."

"Definitely."

"We could get a couple of wrenches and a blow torch from your garage."

Bobby cracked his scarred knuckles. They were the strong hands of an experienced mechanic. "I'm with you. We'll –"

Someone touched the back of Jake's arm.

He leaped a foot in the air. Cursing under his breath, he turned to find Mary behind him. He hadn't even heard the screen door open. Traces of mascara streaked her pale cheeks. The strain of the last few days was evident by the deep lines in her beautiful face.

She looked at Jake with one eyebrow arched. "You're jumpy. What are you talking about? I heard something about a wrench and a blow torch."

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