Cold Hearts(4)

By: Sharon Sala

He was giving the bolts a last check to make sure they were tight when he heard the bell jingle on the front door. He frowned, thinking he’d locked it, then realized that when he’d come back from getting the oil pan, he’d probably left it undone. It was odd that anyone would come in, though, because all the lights were off except the one here in this bay, so he watched the doorway, a bit uneasy.

But when he saw who was walking into the garage, his uneasiness disappeared.

“You’re out pretty late, aren’t you?” Paul asked.

“So are you,” the man said.

Paul glanced back up at the oil pan.

“Give me a second and I’ll be right with you.”

“Don’t hurry on my account.” The moment Paul turned his back, the man hit the control switch to the lift and dropped Melissa Sherman’s car on top of Paul’s head.

Paul was caught off guard by the initial blow and staggered a couple of steps back, unaware that the lift was still coming down. He didn’t realize what was happening until the next point of impact cracked his skull. His legs buckled as the car came down on him, crushing the rest of his body.

The killer never flinched. The ease of the whole process reinforced his belief that this had had to be done to get where he needed to go.

The silence afterward was as gripping as it had been the day he’d hanged Dick Phillips. He hadn’t planned on doing this tonight, but first driving by and seeing Jackson working late, then parking in the alley and finding the door unlocked, it had seemed as if fate had lent him a hand. The opportunity was too good to pass up. He was surprised by how easy this one turned out. He didn’t even have to get his hands dirty. No muss. No fuss. No noise. Only one thing left to do. He wiped his prints from the lift release and the doorknobs, and made a quick exit as the blood began to run out from beneath the car.

* * *

Lissa hitched a ride to the station to pick up her car with fellow teacher Margaret Lewis. They were bemoaning how muddy the playground would be as Margaret pulled up to the station to let her out.

“Thanks for the lift, Margaret. I’ll see you at school.”

“I’ll wait just to make sure Mr. Jackson is through. Otherwise you’ll still need a ride. Leave your things here until you know for sure,” Margaret said.

“Okay, give me a minute,” Lissa said.

Margaret grinned to herself as she watched Lissa hurry toward the station. That girl never walked when she could run. She saw Lissa enter the station, then move through the door leading into the garage. A couple of moments passed as she lost sight of her, and then she saw her running back.

At first she thought Lissa was only coming back to get her things. It took a few moments for her to realize her friend was screaming. Margaret jumped out on the run.

“What happened? What’s wrong?” she yelled, as Lissa came flying out of the station.

“He’s dead! Mr. Jackson is dead. Oh, my God, my car fell on him! Call an ambulance! Call the police!”

Margaret gasped and ducked back in her car to get her phone, while Lissa sank to her knees and covered her face, too shaken to stand.

* * *

Police Chief Trey Jakes was already on his way into Mystic when he got a call on his cell. When he saw it was from the dispatcher, he wondered why he hadn’t used the radio.

“Hey, Avery. What’s up?” Trey said, as he topped the hill just outside town.

“You need to go straight to Jackson’s gas station. A customer found him in the garage. Car fell on him. He’s dead.”

Now he understood the need to keep this news off the radio and as quiet as possible for the time being.

“Oh, hell. Who’s on duty?” Trey muttered.

“Earl had just clocked out, but he’s there now.”

“Tell him to secure the scene and not to touch anything until I get there. Did you call the coroner?”

“Yes, sir. They said it will be a couple of hours.”

Trey turned on the lights and siren. “I’ll be there in five, maybe less. Keep radio traffic vague.”

“Yes, sir.”

Trey disconnected and accelerated. This was going to be one hell of a hard day. Paul’s only son, Mack, was a friend. And with that thought came another that made the skin crawl on the back of his neck. Paul was his mother’s old boyfriend and one of the survivors of a bad car crash his mom had been in when they were teens. The investigation into the death of Dick Phillips, who’d been in that same wreck, was still ongoing. First Dick, now Paul. Trey had been a cop too long to be a big believer in coincidence.

He hit the city limits of Mystic running hot. The early hour automatically ruled out excess traffic, but as he pulled up at the gas station, it appeared by the size of the gathering crowd that word was spreading anyway. He sighed. The joys of small-town living.

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