What keeps either of the Decko boys out of jail is a puzzle.
I slowed, then came to a standstill, waiting for that BMW to pull away. That’s when I noticed the open back door in a two-story cement block building. Okay, I noticed it because it wasn’t simply open, it was shredded, hanging sideways on broken hinges.
The younger Decko, Rock, is a smash wizard, the only one in the city because smash wizards are territorial and competitors disappear. His skill is limited. Rock isn't the brightest bulb, but he has that smash thing down pat, all except the self-control part. He can hit a board with the side of his hand and the board doesn’t just break in two, the way some athletes do it, it actually disintegrates into a million pieces.
If he hits a door too hard, it ends up looking like the door in front of me.
Decko car in the alley, Decko damage to a building, gee, I didn’t need to be a fortuneteller to figure out that the two were connected. As Rock wasn’t the brother who scared me, I went to the broken door and took a step inside to a short, dark hallway that faced two more doors, one intact, the other not.
Something exploded, not fire cracker size. Major. It sounded like somebody’d been lugging a refrigerator up a staircase and it got away from him and went crashing. If the building were twenty stories taller, the crash could even be a broken elevator cable.
“Rock?” I called softly. When I didn’t get an answer, I shouted. “Rock? Hey, Rock, you in here?”
Have I mentioned that seven years ago, when I was sixteen, I dated Rock Decko?
No, I did not know that he had an older brother who was involved in a lot of illegal stuff, and I wouldn't have cared. Rock in black leather and chains was, uh, hot. And I was sixteen. Which I hope explains why I thought he was hot.
He was a couple years older than me. That made him a big man, plus he was into motorcycles, and really, really, really wanted to be a bad boy but had no special skills. Magic has its late bloomers, and at that time, neither Rock nor anyone else knew that in a year or two he would be a smash wizard.
He can smash, all right, but even now, years later, he hasn’t learned to control his strength. Be just like him to break a door by accident and then stamp in frustration and blow a hole right through the floor. That would explain the explosion noise.
It also might explain why he wasn’t answering. Was he lying under a pile of rubble in the basement? Not wanting to join him in a crash to the center of the earth, I didn’t go dashing in, but I did walk in slowly, looking all around for weakened floor boards before putting a foot down.
“Rock? You in here?”
Dead silence. I glanced around the room I’d entered. At one end was a large desk. The rest of the space was filled up with file cabinets. Nothing on the walls. Some sort of office but there weren’t diplomas on the walls or anything like that, so I couldn’t figure it out. And that’s when I noticed several little red lights flashing on a metal panel about the size of a circuit breaker box by the door.
“Uh, Rock?” I’d seen those things in enough TV shows to suspect I recognized them. “Hey, Rock?”
“Doll?” He poked his head around a doorway on the other side of the room. “You shouldn’t be here.”
“Neither should you,” I said, because I had this sinking feeling that things were not going well. “You’ve set off a burglar alarm.”
When he came into the room, he had a canvas bag in his hand, the kind used for bank deposits. Rock has dark hair and olive skin, an arched nose and eyes the color of copper pennies. Those eyes were tracking from side to side. Something had him in a sweat. I guess I don't have to say that he was wearing black jeans and shirt, because that's all Rock ever wears.
“I don’t hear anything.”
“That’s because it’s not going off here. It’s going off in some security company’s office or maybe at the police station.”
About that time the phone on the desk rang and Rock nearly went straight up through the ceiling.
“Are you expecting a call?” I asked.
Okay, I was playing him. Sometimes I can’t resist. From the look on his face, I knew that deposit bag in his hand wasn’t his. What I didn’t know was the how or why. Oh right, the why was simple. The guy’s a thief.
“You think I should answer?”
“Only if you know the password,” I told him.
“Rock, there’s an alarm going off. And a phone ringing. That means the alarm is hooked to a security company and somebody in an office across town is calling to ask for a password. If you don’t know the password, they send out the cops.”
“What happens if we don’t answer?”
“Same thing that happens if you don’t know the password. I think I’ll be gone when they get here.”
And that’s what I did, turned around and left with Rock right on my heels.
“Hey, doll, I’ve got my brother’s car. Come on, I’ll give you a ride.”
“You mean you’ve got your brother,” I said as we hurried out the back door to the alley.
It was hard to imagine sleek and slippery Darryl Decko playing getaway driver. Didn’t care. He wasn’t someone I wanted to run into. I started to turn back toward the other end of the alley figuring I’d circle the block and wait for the bus.
“No, I don’t. Darryl isn’t with me.”
“Well, there’s somebody in the car,” I said.
He gave me a funny grin and caught my elbow. “Yeah, there is. Come on. You’ll like her.”
Her? Okay, I didn’t hear any sirens. It would take a few minutes from the time of that security company phone call to the arrival of the police. If Rock had a new girlfriend, I wanted to see her because, gotta admit I am incurably curious.
When we reached the car, instead of opening the door, he pointed through the side window.
“That’s Skippy,” he said.
Weird name for a girlfriend. And then I leaned toward the window and she pressed her nose on the other side and I must say, and did say, “Oh, she’s so cute!”
A large scruffy dog with floppy ears started bouncing up and down and slobbering all over the window, and then she did a regular doggie dance, circling, jumping over the console to the driver’s seat, jumping back, jumping over.
“When did you get a dog?”
“Yesterday. I decided I need a watch dog and she’s a big one.”
A watch dog to protect a thief’s house? Maybe he had better stuff in his house than I did. Living on my miniscule salary, gotta tell ya, I don’t own anything anyone would want to steal.
While I watched and laughed at Skippy’s antics, the car let out a BEEP! and a HONK, HONK! followed by a whole lot of those other horrible car alarm noises.
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