Chapter 7

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MARK HIT THE BUTTON on the BMW’s key fob and opened the car door. He started to get inside but stopped when he saw a white envelope lying on the leather seat. He glanced around the parking lot. Someone had been inside his car. How did they get in? Who? Why?

He checked the lock, window, and the door. No evidence of tampering. He walked around to the passenger door. No dents or scratches on that lock or doorframe.

After another scan of the cars in the police lot, he picked up the envelope and settled into the seat. The paper looked and felt expensive, probably linen. Frowning, he ran his fingers across the letters embossed in large print on the front. WJA. What does WJA stand for? Finally, he opened the envelope and pulled out a single sheet of paper. He unfolded it.


No accident? What was that supposed to mean? A sickening feeling washed over him. Was someone telling him the explosion was not an accident? That it was planned, an attack of some kind?

He crumpled the note and shoved it into his pocket. He wondered if he should show it to the detective, but he didn’t have the energy to go back in and talk. Whatever it meant, he didn’t have the willpower to think about it now. All he wanted to do was crawl back in bed and dream about his family.

* * *

KIRK BIT INTO THE juicy cheeseburger, which dripped sauce down the front of his blue T-shirt. He cursed. “This is my favorite shirt!” Holding the burger in one hand and steering with his wrist, he swiped at the drip with a napkin. The car swerved. He grabbed the wheel with the napkin and returned the car to the correct lane.

He looked down. His cleaning job was only making the stain worse. It was hard to get a shirt to fit these days, with his abs turning into a one-pack. He had once been a gym rat, but then things happened, like life, marriage, divorce. Now he couldn’t see his belt for the belly that hung over it.

The road turned to the right, just like in the pictures he’d printed from the e-mail Mooch sent him. He wanted to see the old mill for himself. He probably wouldn’t find anything more than dusty tire tracks, but it was all part of being thorough.

He could see the dilapidated building standing out against the horizon, a sleeping giant. It looked like the entire building had been constructed of plywood and old, tired planks. He slowed the car, popped the last fry into his mouth, and burped in satisfaction.

After parking his Charger in the front of the mill he turned off the ignition and pulled out his .45 from its shoulder holster. Pulling the action back, he checked the chamber. It made a clicking sound as it snapped back into place. He holstered the weapon, checked the perimeter one last time, and got out of the car. He checked his watch. One o’clock. He had some time to check the place out.

He walked to the front of the rotted building. Chains and twisted boards crisscrossed the front doors. Most of the windows on the two upper floors were broken. A washed-out sign across the side of the building read: LAKELAND MILL.

He pushed through the weeds to the back of the property and found what he was searching for. Multiple, wide tire marks, which wound around the back of the building. He followed the tracks to the corner, where he stopped, leaned against the wall, and drew his weapon.

He listened for a moment, then slipped around the corner, stopped, and scanned the area—the doorways, the windows, the adjacent out-buildings, and the trees behind the buildings. He’d been in too many situations to assume he was alone. He lowered his gun. The area was clear, with only a few tumbleweeds stacked against the side of the structure like bums in an alley.

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