Home > The Last Move

The Last Move
Author: Mary Burton

CHAPTER ONE

When love is betrayed, there is nothing to contain the demons.

San Antonio, Texas

Sunday, November 26, 12:35 a.m.

He’d been following her for weeks. Watching. Observing. Loving the chase. The hunt. But he wasn’t a monster, nor was he evil. He was a man with a narrowly focused plan that gave his life purpose and structure. Some doubted he had the backbone to see this new plan through. Some didn’t think he had the balls. The commitment. But he did. He sure as shit did.

He waited in the shadows and watched as the silver four door pulled into the convenience store lot. Closed car windows barely muffled “Amor Prohibido” blasting on the radio as the woman in the driver’s seat swayed, tapping her finger on the steering wheel.

When the song ended, she rose out of the car, moving to the pump and inserting the nozzle into the gas tank. This evening she’d chosen a black swing skirt, white silk blouse, and booted high heels. Her accessories were gold hoop earrings, a twenty-inch pearl necklace that nestled between her full breasts, bracelets on her wrists, and of course, her five-carat engagement ring.

She scanned the dark lot as if she sensed his gaze on her. She rubbed her hands over her arms, and then grabbing her purse, headed inside the convenience store.

She waved to the clerk behind the checkout counter. She’d seen him dozens of times before. His name was Tomas, and he owned the place. He had big dreams of building his business. She disappeared into the ladies’ room.

He grabbed his kit from the stolen van’s front seat and opened the door. The now-disabled dome light didn’t click on, leaving him shrouded in the safety of shadows as he left the door ajar. Nerves gripping his gut, he jogged across the lot.

Kneeling at her back tire, he removed an ice pick from his kit. He tightened his grip around the wooden handle and jabbed the tip into the tire’s tread, wiggling it side to side. When he pulled the pick free, the air slowly hissed out. She had maybe five to ten miles before the tire went flat and she would have to pull over. At this time of night, those extra miles on I-35 would put her farther south in a more isolated stretch of road, creating the perfect trap.

Light-headed with anticipation, he dashed not toward his van but toward the dumpster so he could blend into the shadows and watch as she emerged from the restroom into the glaring light of the convenience store. She had touched up her lipstick and fluffed her hair, and she was smiling as she paused by a display of chocolates. She never bought candy, only black coffee, but tonight she picked up a small bag of candies and clutched them close as if she were breaking a long-standing rule. She filled a to-go cup with her customary black coffee, paid as she joked with Tomas, and dumped several bills in a tip jar.

Outside, she ran long fingers through her dark hair. Gold bracelets, glistening in the gas station’s lights, dangled from her wrist.

After replacing the gas nozzle and the cap, she slid behind the wheel, started the engine, and turned up the radio. Instead of driving off as she always did, she ripped open the bag of candy and dug out a thick piece of chocolate. The beat of Latin music pulsated as she sat for several minutes simply eating. Finally she put the car in gear.

His attraction to this woman had nothing to do with the gentle sway of her hips or the tilt of her head. He wasn’t drawn to the shape of her ass in the dark skirt, the curve of her breasts in the white silk blouse, or the slender line of her calves.

That was all nice. But what made him really hard was the awareness that he was going to kill her.

Thoughts of leveling his gun at her heart made his erection pulse. He was in control of the last minutes of her life.

The power was intoxicating.

Her taillights clicked on, and she drove toward the I-35 south ramp. He dashed back to his van and followed, lights off until he reached the interstate ramp. He gripped the wheel as he trailed her, careful to remain several car lengths behind.

It was an unseasonably warm night, nearly moonless, and the stars were bright and clear. He turned on a country-western tune and rolled down his window, savoring the breeze on his face.

Three minutes of driving. The traffic around them was sparse. The tire was still rolling. Her car would soon slow. She’d drop back from the small herd of cars. They’d be alone.

Five minutes of driving. The taillights of the few cars had raced toward the dark horizon. Her car was slowing. The back right tire was already deflating. Seconds ticked by. He switched on his cell-phone jammer.

Seven minutes of driving. The tire was nearly on its rim. The car rocked awkwardly. Her right blinker flashed on, and she pulled to the side of the road. Gravel kicked up under her tires as dry Texas dust swirled up.

He pulled in behind her, killing his headlights quickly as more lights glared in his rearview mirror. He waited. An eighteen-wheeler blew past him, the rush of air slightly rocking the van. Cars stopped on the side of I-35 often enough that not everyone paid attention.

Still, he needed to get moving. No telling who would come upon them or how long they would be alone. He had to move fast. It wasn’t safe out here. But the risk of his own capture amped up the rush of adrenaline that snapped through his body.

His heart pounded as he checked his rearview mirror and saw only the dark stretch of highway. All clear, he clicked on a small camera sewn into his jacket and tucked the well-oiled Beretta into the waistband under his jacket. He got out of the van, his booted feet crunching against the fine gravel as he walked toward her car. His heart beat fast. His mouth was dry. His fingers tingled, and his gut tightened with eagerness he’d not felt in a long time.

Slowly he walked toward the driver’s side window, and when he knocked on the glass, the woman flinched.

He smiled, dispelling the tightness in his expression.

She met his gaze and smiled.

This was going to be more fun than he’d imagined.

The game had begun.

CHAPTER TWO

The pills make the days’ oppressive routines possible.

San Antonio, Texas

Sunday, November 26, 8:00 a.m.

Homicide Detective Theo Mazur parked on the side of I-35, twenty miles outside of San Antonio, behind the forensic van and the collection of Bexar County cop and rescue vehicles. Flares had closed the two southbound lanes, and a deputy was directing snarled traffic toward the access road that ran parallel to the highway. The morning sun cast a warm glow over the endless miles of brush, low prickly trees, and red dirt.

Mazur climbed out of his SUV, and immediately the midseventies temps reminded him he was far from home. No crisp bite in the air or scents of snow. No rumble of the L trains or the honks of cars in congested Chicago traffic. A transplant from the Chicago Police Department, he had joined the San Antonio force just six months ago.

Culture shock remained a daily annoyance, and today’s weather was simply one aspect. What had been automatic to him in Chicago—navigating the streets, eating at a favorite bar or restaurant, hanging out with friends, or hell, even knowing the names of the beat cops—wasn’t a given here. Every crime scene required a GPS. Every new uniformed cop was a test in name memory. What came naturally in Chicago took time here.

The move south came when his ex-wife, Sherry, had told him seven months ago she was moving with their daughter, Alyssa, to San Antonio. He and his ex had lost their son, Caleb, to crib death two years ago. They’d called him their bonus baby, a gift after years of infertility. The boy’s death had devastated them both and shattered an already shaky marriage. After Caleb, when he and Sherry weren’t with Alyssa, they were buried in their jobs. He’d made captain. She’d left city government for a law firm that paid mid–six figures—enough to set Alyssa up in private school and later for any college.

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