Monday, June 1
If today is any indication, Police Captain Rob Porter is going to have a very good week. He smiles as he watches the sun sinking on the horizon, feels the light breeze on his face, hears the slap of small waves as they gently rock the fishing boat moored to the dock he’s standing on. Life is good. He’s had to do a lot to get here, but it’s all his—the cabin, the woods, this little lake. It’s true he doesn’t own it outright, but it won’t be long before he can mark that mortgage paid in full—provided his plans work out. And there’s no reason why they shouldn’t. He’s played his hand extremely well.
Just yesterday, things weren’t looking so rosy, but like they say, what a difference a day makes. Now, his Erin Harper problem is over. There won’t be any more threats, no attempts to undermine him, no “Me, Too,” bull coming from her either. He’ll be able to glide right into the Himmel police chief position when Mick Riley retires in the fall. He can’t help grinning when he thinks about his confrontation with Erin. She thought she had the upper hand, but Rob was ready for her. The look on her face was priceless.
And as if that wasn’t enough, he’s got Spencer Karr and GO News firmly in his back pocket. Sure, Rob caught a lucky break, but he knew what to do with it. Exploiting opportunities is one of Rob’s special talents. There’s only one thing he hasn’t taken care of yet, but her day is coming. The Himmel Times is still a pain in the ass. They’re always digging around, always putting a negative spin on his department. That bitch Leah Nash thinks she and her stupid newspaper are out of his reach because she’s best buddies with the sheriff. Let her think that. Rob will find a way to shut her up. He just has to be smart about it. And if there’s one thing Rob is sure of, it’s that he’s a hell of a smart guy.
Before he lowers the beer cooler into his boat, he bends down and opens it, checking to see if his wife Bethany remembered to put in a six pack. Damn! Just four cans of Bud. He told her six. And she forgot to tuck some jerky in, too, like he told her to. He shakes his head. It’s like she’s not even listening to him when he talks to her. Well, that’s going to stop. He’s got his professional life running smooth, now it’s time to get the support he needs at home. She’s gotten away too long with teary apologies and promises to do better.
He straightens up and reaches for his life vest. Lots of guys don’t wear them, especially on a small lake like this, but Rob can’t swim. Not even a dog paddle. He blames it on being raised on a farm in Nebraska. No lakes or ponds for miles. Not like Wisconsin where you practically can’t turn around without falling into one. He knows he should learn, as much as he’s out on his boat. But he doesn’t want to admit that he doesn’t know how.
He pulls the life vest over his head, but the straps get caught up with his shoulder holster somehow. Rob doesn’t go anywhere without his gun, not even fishing. He untangles the vest and sets it down. Then he takes his gun and shoulder holster off and puts it on the dock before trying the vest again. As he’s adjusting it, he hears a footstep on the dock and looks up.
“What are you doing here?” He’s surprised and irritated when he sees who’s standing there.
“You know why I’m here,” his unwelcome guest says.
“You know what? I don’t have time for this. And I’m not all that interested, either. You can see I’m busy, right? I’m about to go fishing. Try me tomorrow.”
“I’m here now.”
“And I said I don’t have time. You’re lucky I’m in a good mood. Otherwise, I’d arrest you for trespassing. I don’t know what’s got your undies in a bunch, and frankly, I don’t care. Quit wasting my time. We’re done.”
Rob’s voice is full of contempt as he turns his back and begins lowering items for his night fishing excursion into his boat.
“We’re not done yet, Rob! I say when we’re done!”
The words startle Rob with their force and anger. He straightens up and turns to see that his visitor is shaking with rage—and holding Rob’s gun. Rob takes a step forward. The gun fires, but the shot is wild, and the bullet goes wide over the lake. Rob reassesses the situation.
“Okay, okay,” he says, holding his hands up in a placating gesture. “You’ve got my attention. Put the gun down before you hurt somebody. Tell me what you want.”
“What I want? I want you to know I won’t let you do it. I won’t let you destroy me.” The unblinking eyes staring at him are shiny and hard, radiating barely controlled fury. Rob is no longer irritated. He’s afraid.
“All right, take it easy now. Calm down. We can work something out. Be rational about this. You don’t want to do anything foolish. If you think you’re scaring me, you’re not.”
Rob’s words are brave, but his throat is so dry he can barely get them out.
His visitor laughs, but there’s no humor in it.
“Calm down? You take what you want, you ruin lives, and you just go on like it’s nothing. Don’t tell me to calm down. I could kill you right now.”
His visitor speaks the violent words in a flat, steady tone that is somehow more frightening than an angry shout.
Rob’s eyes dart from side to side, looking for a way to escape. If he rushes ahead, he’ll get shot. If he jumps into the water, he’ll drown, or get shot, or both.
“Listen, you don’t want to kill me. You’re in for a world of hurt if you do. I’m warning you.”
“It’s too late for a warning. I’m already there. And you’re the one who put me there, because you think you can do anything you want and never face consequences. Getting rid of you would be doing myself, and the world, a favor.”
“Come on, let’s just talk about things. Put the gun down.”
But Rob’s words have the opposite effect from the one he intends.
“That’s why I came—to talk. But I don’t feel like it anymore. All I feel looking at you is hatred. I hate who you are, what you did, what you’re trying to do now. I hate everything about you, Rob.”
Rob can’t wait any longer. He has to make his move. He lunges forward. A flash of light explodes from the gun as a bullet leaves the barrel. Rob feels a fierce blow as white-hot pain explodes in his chest. He stumbles, falls off the dock and into the boat. His eyes close. He feels the boat rock from the weight of his killer stepping in beside him. Rob can’t breathe, he can’t speak, but he can still hear. And the last words he hears in this world are whispered in his ear.
“Now we’re done, Rob.”