Tinny's anger had propelled her for the first two or three miles of her journey, but the longer she was walked, the more tired both she and her feet got. Maybe she should have asked Rose if she could drive her, but that would have required explanations she didn't want to give, at least not yet. If all went well, this would be the end of the matter and she could just forget about it all, including Steve Travis.
Steve was one year ahead of her at school and for a while now, he had shown an unwelcome interest in her, texting her, asking her out and even notes and small gifts for her inside her own locker. Not that it wasn't flattering on some level, but the guy was simply creepy. He gave her a bad feeling and no matter how often she rejected his advances, he never seemed to get that she simply wasn't interested in him. Last week, she had found a red rose inside her locker, so when a whole bouquet of red roses had turned up at her home, it didn't take a private investigator to make the leap and arrive at Steve as the culprit.
She knew that he worked part time at a movie theater in town, after all he'd often enough asked her to go see a movie there with him. She had texted him after leaving the house, asking to meet. He had replied that he was currently at work, but she was more than welcome to drop by.
That was exactly what she was going to do, only that her intentions were as far from romance as possible. She was going to give him a piece of her mind and once and for all make it clear that she wasn't interested in him. His attentions had school she could have ignored but when he had come to her home to leave the flowers, he had crossed a line with her and she wasn't going to tolerate it any longer. Not least because the flowers were bound to invite questions from her over-protective grandfather and uncle. She didn't exactly trust them to not go and beat up Steve if they learned of what he'd been doing. No, she was going to handle this herself without outside help.
Finally the building housing the cinema came into view. Tinny quickened her steps, until she stood in front of the entrance to the tall building. She took a deep breath, steeling herself for the confrontation to come. She pushed the door open and stepped into the entrance area of the cinema. A bored looking woman in her early twenties was sitting behind the counter, engaged in the process of painting her fingernails. There were no customers about that Tinny could see and neither was Steve. Strange, she had thought that he would be waiting for her eagerly. Tinny stepped up to the counter. The woman either hadn't noticed her or was ignoring her. Tinny cleared her throat. The woman, whose name a tag on her shirt proclaimed was Stephanie, looked up, an impression of irritation on her face.
"The showing's already started," she mumbled around the gum she was chewing.
"I'm not here for that," Tinny said. "I'm looking for Steve Travis."
Stephanie's face softened. "You and me both," she declared, fanning her hand in an effort to dry the fresh nail polish.
"He didn't show up for his shift?" Tinny asked.
"Oh yes, he did. He went to refill the vending machines, but that was over half an hour ago," Stephanie replied with a careless shrug.
"Could you maybe have a look?" Tinny asked, feeling silly for asking. She wasn't going to run around after Steve, but now that she had come all the way here on foot, she wasn't going to leave until she'd once and for all made it clear to him that his attentions weren't welcome.
"Sorry, can't. Someone needs to keep an eye on the register," Stephanie replied, not sounding the least bit apologetic.
"Would it be okay, if I had a look to see if he's somewhere round."
"Why not? Do me a favour, if you find him, tell him to get his ass back to work or he can start looking for another job."
"Will do," Tinny replied. "Hm, where are the vending machines?"
"Down that hallway?" Stephanie pointed to indicate a hallway extended beyond a glass door. Tinny thanked her and made her way down the hallway. She dialed Steve's phone as she went, but it went straight to voice mail. There was no sign of Steve anywhere in the hallway. The vending machines clearly hadn't been refilled. Tinny continued walking until she came to the end of the hallway where a door with an exit sign above it was slightly ajar. She pushed it open. It led into some sort of back alley behind the cinema. Tinny had just stepped outside when she heard a moan coming from further down the alley. With no idea what to expect, she continued on, passing a pair of overflowing dumpsters on her way. Suddenly, she heard her name being spoken in a low, rough voice.
She whirled around, and spotted Steve. He was curled up on the ground between bags of trash next to second dumpster.
"Steve?" she asked somewhat unnecessarily. Then, a few seconds later, she added "What happened?"
Steve pulled himself up to his feet. "As if you don't know!" he spat angrily. Clearly he had been beaten up. He had split lip, blood wad dripping from his chin and down his forehead for a wound near his right eyebrow, one of his eyes was rapidly swelling shut, Tinny was taken aback, but not lost for words. "I have no idea what you're talking about!"
"Your crazy uncle happened!" Steve said. "What the hell's wrong with you? You text me that you want to meet and then you sic your uncle on me? That's assault, you know. And I will be pressing charges."
Tinny stared at him in disbelief. "That's insane," she said. "My uncle had nothing to do with this." Tinny pretty sure that was the truth anyway. Besides, as far as she knew Jake was still in hospital. Although, she had to admit, he usually didn't stay there very long, no matter what the doctors said. But this wasn't like him, Jake might have scared Steve a little, but he wouldn't have beaten him up that badly. At least she hoped that was true.
"Tell that to the police," Steve countered. "I'm done with you and your crazy family. Go to hell, all of you," He wiped the blood from his chin and stalked past her back into the building, leaving Tinny alone in the alley. Suddenly, her mobile phone rang. The caller ID proclaimed that it was Des. Tinny answered.
"What is it Des?" she said curtly.
"I was just wondering where you were? I asked Rose but she didn't know and I couldn't find you anywhere, so I thought I'd call but if it's a bad time I can always call you again later," Des rambled over the line.
"I'm in town, at the Romantica Cinema," Tinny replied. "Listen, do you know where uncle Jake is?"
"He's in hospital, as far as I know. But I really don't know very far since he never stays there," Des continued somewhat incoherently.
"Well, can you meet me at the cinema?" Tinny asked with some hesitation. She wasn't sure how good an idea it would be to involve Des, but right now she was feeling a little out of her depth.
"I sort of had plans," Des confessed.
"With Chandra?" Tinny asked sharply. She had not forgotten Des' doctor girlfriend from the other day.
There was pause, before Des answered. "Actually yes, but if it's urgent, I can you know reschedule. It's..."
"Forget it," Tinny said angrily, ending the call.
"Ow," Jake groaned, blinking open his eyes and seeing nothing but white. What the hell, he thought, but then he suddenly remembered. Leslie and he had been on their way to see Alonzo Sanchez when a black SUV had forced them off the road. The car must have overturned in the crash.
"Leslie!" he exclaimed as memory hit. There was no reply. He tried turning his head away from the whiteness blocking his view he'd belatedly identify as the airbag which must have deployed on impact, but a sharp pain surged from his neck, causing him to cry out. Damn.
"Leslie?" he tried again. This time he was rewarded with a faint groan coming from the direction of the driver's side. Before he could investigate however, the passenger side doors was wrenched open. Jake turned to see what was going on and found himself staring into the barrel of a gun. The gun was the first thing he noticed, the man holding it only registered a fraction of a second later. He wore dark clothes - black jeans and a leather jacket of the same color. His watery gray eyes had a malicious gleam to it. The fact that he seemed to have no compunction about Jake seeing his face worried the private detective immensely.
"Let me guess, you're a good Samaritan?" he tried nonetheless in an attempt to buy time. Tangled up as he was in his seat belt in the overturned car, he couldn't possibly reach Leslie's gun, but if he stalled long enough, she might get a chance to intervene. That was if she hadn't been too badly hurt in the crash.
"Out!" the man commanded, keeping his gun steadily at Jake's head.
"I'm kind of tied up here," Jake said.
"What's taking so long?" a second man came into view, or rather his darkly clad legs did.
"Out! Now!" the first man commanded. Jake fumbled for the seat belt release and after a few seconds managed to find it. As soon as the seat belt was no longer holding him up, he collapsed downwards into a heap. The impact jarred his injured shoulder and for a moment, pain was all he was aware of. He was still half dazed as the two goons pulled him out of the car and roughly dragged him to his feet.
"What about the driver?" the first goon asked.
"Finish her," the second one ordered laconically. "But hurry up!"
"Wait!" Jake cried as the goon with the gun made to round the back of the car.
"If you kill her, every cop in Newfoundland will be looking for you!"
That made the goon hesitate. Seeing an opening, Jake continued "Listen to me, she's a cop and you really don't want to kill a cop."
"Shit!" the goon holding Jake by the arm cursed suddenly. "Let's go!" he ordered and dragged Jake toward the SUV.
"Come on," he yelled to his comrade when the former hesitated.
Another car had pulled up on the shoulder, clearly having spotted the accident.
"Don't even think about it," the goon manhandling Jake hissed at Jake, as he half led half dragged the private detective towards the SUV where the second goon had opened the trunk. The barrel of the man's gun was painfully poking him in the ribs, forestalling any thoughts of trying to make a break for it.