Before he could finish his thought, Shotgun aimed his Glock at Stark’s head and squeezed the trigger, sending him flailing back into the flames. We all stood there, waiting and watching, and when a second man stumbled by the window, I raised my weapon and fired. After him, there was no further movement. Just the flames burning bright. We were all standing there silently watching the smoke billow into the night sky when Country grumbled, “Damn, that was a little disappointing.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” I argued. “We just blew up a fucking building.”
“Yeah, but I was hoping I’d get to at least put a bullet in somebody, but nooo, you and Shotgun had to go and beat me to it.”
“Really, Country?” I shook my head. “You need therapy, brother. Lots and lots of therapy.”
“I know. Killing somebody was gonna be my therapy!” He threw his hands up as he fussed, “I mean, come on. We just blew up my memory lane!”
“Why don’t you step a little closer and see if you can singe some of that stupid out of that thick skull of yours.”
“It’s a good thing you’re a brother, or I might just have to kick that ass.”
“You could try.”
“Could you two knock it off for two fucking seconds,” Shotgun barked. “We have a job to do here.”
“Yeah, Rafe.” Country nudged me with his elbow. “We have a job to do.”
I might’ve countered once more but decided against it when another loud explosion erupted, making it look like the Fourth of July as the building was consumed with fire and smoke. Once we were certain there were no survivors, we headed back to our SUVs and made our getaway just before the police and firemen started to arrive. We left there knowing the deed was done. Soon, Stark would be nothing more than a distant memory.
After leaving Kate at the bar, I went home and waited for some word from Rafe. Sadly, there was none. In fact, there was no word from anyone. I went to bed having no idea what had happened with Eric and the ledger I’d given him. I hated to think something terrible had happened, but after all the terrible threats Eric had made, it was impossible to keep my mind from drifting to the worst possible outcome. I was a wreck. Tension filled my entire body, making it impossible to get comfortable. I spent the entire night tossing and turning, and when I finally pulled myself out of bed the next morning, I felt like I’d been hit by a Mack truck.
I needed coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. On my way to the kitchen, I turned on the TV, and with the news blaring, I shuffled over to the counter and started my coffeepot. I was zoned out, my mind fogged from exhaustion, and was fighting to keep my eyes open when something on the TV caught my attention. I made my way back into the living room and was surprised to find a reporter standing in front of what used to be Crockett’s. Smoke and ash billowed behind her as she said, “Investigators are saying last night’s explosion was the result of a gas leak.”
I couldn’t believe my eyes. The place I’d once loved was now nothing more than a pile of rubble. I was completely stunned as I stood there listening to the reporter say, “This once mom-and-pop bar called Crockett’s was recently purchased by Joseph Stark, the owner and developer of Stark Realty.”
My jaw dropped with surprise when a photograph of Eric was displayed across the screen. “It is uncertain if Stark or his associates were on the premises during the explosion, but investigators have uncovered the remains of at least four individuals. Check back later tonight for more information on this unexpected tragedy.”
Before I even realized what I was doing, I’d changed out of my pajamas and into a pair of jeans and a hoodie. I grabbed my keys and purse, then ran out the door and to my car. For whatever reason, I had it in my head I needed to see Crockett’s for myself. I guess I hoped I might find some answers there, but with all the yellow tape and police scurrying around, there were none to find. My heart sank as I looked at all the destruction. Crockett’s was a place that had once meant a great deal to me. It was where my new life had begun.
I guess I owed that piece of luck to my biological father. Turned out, I owed more than that to him. If he’d just stayed out of my life and left me alone, none of this would’ve ever happened. But then, without him intervening like he had, I would’ve never met Gladys or Country. And without them, I would’ve never crossed paths with Rafe. That was something for which I’d be forever grateful.