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Rosie, to please her dying mother, agreed to marry Ken Latham, the handsome, rich boss she doesn’t love, but who has been regularly proposing to her. She rationalizes that she’ll have a good life with him and true love is only a fairy tale anyway. But that promise of a good life turns into a nightmare when Ken is mugged, has amnesia and breaks their engagement. Can they survive long enough to build their attraction into love?
She could break her engagement now, Rosie realized as she packed away her mother’s crystal. Relief surged and a weight seemed to lift from her heart with the thought.
In the next moment, she bit back a sob at the traitorous thought and pushed away the bitter thought that her mother’s death had a happy silver lining for her. She could tell Ken she’d never loved him and didn’t want to marry him. But that wasn’t fair; she couldn’t do that.
She held up a lovely crystal goblet to the sunlight and admired the way it sparkled, then wrapped it in newspaper and packed it into the carton. Closing her mother’s apartment had brought out more painful thoughts than she’d anticipated.
The worst of them was the realization that she’d been so willing to do anything, even marry a man she didn’t love, just to please her mother. Shame slid over her.
But then, hadn’t she been willing to do anything to make her mother’s last days on earth more pleasant? She’d had so much pain fighting the cancer in the past months, Rosie had felt nothing was too great a sacrifice. Though how getting her daughter married and settled had become an issue was still a mystery. Somehow it had just happened when she’d commented that Ken had asked her to marry him again, which he’d done on a regular basis for months. If only she hadn’t mentioned it. But she had, and her mother had pounced on the idea and run with it. Ken was delighted when her mother congratulated him and had taken her comments to mean Rosie was saying yes.
And she hadn’t been able to say no and disappoint her mother. What a mess. Thank goodness the wedding hadn’t happened. Praise God for small favors, at least. Even if she didn’t deserve them.
Ken might fire her, and she really needed her job as his assistant at Latham Building Supply. But so be it. She was good at her job; she’d have no trouble finding something else, either here or in another town. With her mother gone, she could go anywhere.
~ * ~
Kirk Latham added his laptop to his suitcase, more out of habit than necessity. There probably wouldn’t be internet access at their northern Minnesota family cabin where he planned to spend his well-earned month’s vacation. He hadn’t been there in years and it was high time he got his share of pleasure out of that property. He’d loved the place as a kid and was really looking forward to going back. He had a couple hours to kill before his flight to Minneapolis.
When his cell phone rang, he debated whether or not to answer it. He should have turned it off earlier. He glanced at the caller ID number. It was the Latham home office, probably Uncle Lester’s secretary with more problems. Damn.
With a grimace, he answered it. He’d guessed right.
Miss Livingston said, “Lester wants to see you ASAP.”
He sighed. He liked Miss Livingston and couldn’t ask her to take the brunt of Lester’s anger if he refused to appear. “I’ll tell him ‘no’ myself along with my goodbyes.”
Kirk climbed into his Mercedes and drove down Okay to The Loop.
Twenty minutes later, Lester’s tall, thin secretary showed him into his uncle’s plush office. Kirk thanked the middle-aged woman, and her stern face managed a smile for him before she closed the door.
Kirk moved to the black leather chair opposite his uncle’s desk, eyeing Lester and trying to gauge the man’s mood. His uncle was in his fifties, a heavy man with beefy hands and a will of iron. “You wanted to see me?”
Lester frowned at him and moved some papers on his desk, then nodded. He leaned back in his chair, eyed him for a long moment, and then said abruptly, “We have a problem that can’t wait. I need you to investigate a lot of missing money at the Minneapolis branch office.”
“Minneapolis?” His brother’s branch office? “You’re joking!” Kirk shifted in the leather office chair and stared at his uncle.
“I never joke about family business.”
True, Kirk thought. He ran a hand through his hair in frustration. Lester was a cold SOB and a hard-driving boss. He didn’t joke much about anything. He definitely wouldn’t joke about investigating someone in their own family.
Kirk had only recently transferred here to the Chicago home office of Latham Building Supply from the Cleveland branch. He’d expected a new assignment after his break, but not something like this. “You mean it’s a family internal affairs problem? You suspect Ken is involved?”
Lester nodded, his face grim. “I don’t like to think so, but you know your brother has a gambling problem. It could happen.”
True. Ken and he had identical looks, voices and mannerisms so alike that people rarely could tell them apart. But their personalities and habits were quite different. Ken was a perfectionist, a clothes horse, had always liked casinos, and believed in lady luck. Kirk liked to dress casually and disliked gambling, believing in making his own luck.
Kirk swallowed and stared at the large landscape painting on the wall behind Lester’s desk as he listened to Lester ramble on.
“I thought he’d conquered that problem. Your mother was so determined that I give him another chance after he screwed up before. And I love the both of you like my own, so why shouldn’t I do like she asked? She’s gonna be so hurt if he’s gambling again.”
Kirk knew Lester was right. His mother would be heartbroken. But he couldn’t live his brother’s life for him. Ken had to learn from his own mistakes, didn’t he? He didn’t want to get involved in Ken’s problems. Been there, done that, with nothing but hard feelings to show for it. He didn’t want to do it again. It hurt too damn much. The closeness he and Ken had shared as boys had all but been destroyed because of it.
His uncle knew that, and his proposal was unnerving, to say the least. Kirk shot a glance at him. Lester didn’t look in a mood to be crossed.
Still, Kirk had to object. “I’m leaving today for the cabin to enjoy the month’s vacation I have coming. Besides, I’d rather you sent someone else on this job.”
“No. I need someone I can trust. I suspect someone’s embezzling. If it’s true, and especially if your brother’s involved, we’ll need to hush it up and keep the information in the family. It can’t wait another month. We’ve lost too much already.” Uncle Lester frowned and puffed on his cigar, releasing a cloud of smoke.
“What’s the matter, Kirk? I know it’ll be uncomfortable for you to investigate your twin. But someone has to do it.”
“Yeah, I know, but this is different.”
He raised a bushy eyebrow. “A job is a job. You’re good at uncovering business fraud and you know it.”
Kirk shrugged off his uncle’s praise. Uncle Lester rarely passed out compliments and Kirk knew he did so now only to manipulate him. He focused on the original oil painting on the wall, idly wondering how much that seascape had cost Latham Industries. Naturally, his uncle would have written it off as a business expense. Lester didn’t mind a few perks himself, but didn’t want anyone else dipping into the treasury. Was that all it was in Minneapolis, Ken’s helping himself to a few luxuries that he felt entitled to have? Or was it more?
Kirk tried again, even though he knew he might as well be talking to the wall. “Sending me to investigate my twin brother is asking too much.”
Lester’s heavy brows dipped. “You haven’t been close to each other since grade school, Kirk.”
Kirk winced. That was true. Their parents had sent them off to separate schools, after listening to a psychologist’s advice about encouraging the twins’ individual development. He and Ken had grown apart, developing different friends and interests. And some of Ken’s friends had been the wrong kind.
But he still loved him. They’d been inseparable as children. And had enjoyed vacations at the cabin and holiday weekends at their parents’ house in the Twin Cities. They’d once been close enough to finish each other’s sentences. Once.
“He’s still my brother. What the hell am I going to say when I see him? ‘By the way, Ken, Uncle Lester sent me here because he thinks you or someone in your office is a crook?’”
Lester’s mouth twisted and ash from his cigar sifted down. He ran thick fingers through his thinning brown hair. “You don’t need to let him know his office is being investigated. He’s been complaining that computer problems are delaying his reports to me. I think he’s stalling, which is why I think he knows something’s not right there.”
Kirk’s stomach knotted. Damn. If Ken was really stalling about sending his reports in, maybe he was involved in something. Or at least knew about the problem and was covering up for someone.
“I sent him a message saying I’m sending someone to help him straighten out his computer problems.”
“And I’m that someone?”
Lester nodded. “Yes. That’s your cover.”
Kirk bit his lip. “Did you tell him I was the one you were sending?”
Uncle Lester looked away. “No. I thought he might object or get suspicious and start covering up. There was always a little rivalry between you.”
Kirk laughed wryly. Uncle Lester had never married or had kids, but he understood his nephews pretty well. “That’s a bit of an understatement.”
Uncle Lester grinned, showing his first bit of levity. “You’ll be fine. Just do your job.” Then he sobered. “If I’m right about what he’s up to, it doesn’t matter what Kenneth likes or doesn’t like. He won’t deserve our sympathy, family or not.”
“I suppose not.” A chill ran over Kirk at that possibility. He hoped Uncle Lester was wrong this time. Ken was going to see through that cover immediately. Ken knew Kirk was the company troubleshooter, not just a computer techie. They’d be at each other’s throats in no time. How could he investigate when Ken would be upset and he’d be feeling guilty at having to suspect Ken? Impossible.
“All the same,” he said firmly, “get someone else to do your dirty work this time. I’m off to the cabin for some fishing. I’ve earned my vacation.”
He got up and walked out without a backward glance.
“Kirk!” Lester called.
Kirk kept walking.
His mind in turmoil, he stopped at a restaurant for a late breakfast. He stewed over the conversation with his uncle as he filled up on a ham and cheese omelet, toast and coffee. He watched the other customers as he ate, wondering what Ken was up to.
If he was embezzling, why? He made good money as head of the branch office. He was even engaged, the last Kirk had heard. Why would he risk it all? He certainly must know he’d be found out and lose everything. The Latham empire didn’t tolerate crookedness. Ken wasn’t stupid.
With a sigh, he made up his mind. He’d have to do what his uncle wanted. If the problem wasn’t serious, maybe he could convince Ken to make it right. He owed his brother a second chance. Another investigator wouldn’t give him one.
Kirk drank the last of his coffee, then paid his bill and drove back to his apartment for his luggage. He’d need a few business clothes, along with jeans and swimming trunks. He called his uncle’s office to tell him he’d changed his mind. Lester was out, but Kirk left a message saying he’d take the assignment they’d discussed.
Kirk really had no choice. Ken was still his brother and had always claimed to be the unlucky one of the twins. Maybe so, though Kirk believed a person made his own luck. Unlucky or not, Kirk refused to believe Ken was a thief. They shared blood ties making him feel obligated to find out the truth, whether or not he liked what he found. And digging out the truth was something he did well.
He left his car in his garage and called a taxi. At Chicago’s O’Hare airport, Kirk Latham boarded a flight for Minneapolis, stowed his carryon and settled down to catch a few winks to make up for a sleepless night.
When Kirk arrived in Minneapolis, he’d check into the hotel, dump his luggage and then take a cab to the office. If he was lucky, Ken would still be there and they could talk. Maybe he could solve the problem fast and go out to the cabin in a few days. But, no matter how long it took, he’d get to the bottom of the problem at that branch office. He always did.
Had Kenneth believed his uncle’s story about sending computer help? If not, how would Ken react when he saw Kirk, the company’s trouble-shooter? Kirk tried to imagine how he would feel if he were the one suspected of wrong-doing.
Wouldn’t he be angry? Outraged? If he was innocent, of course. If he was guilty, how would he fight back? Deny it? Run away? Kirk sighed and closed his eyes, listening to the soft drone of the plane’s engines. He’d deal with Ken’s reaction when he got there.
~ * ~
Kenneth Latham sat at his computer at his office desk. As manager of the Minneapolis branch of his family’s chain of building supply stores, he had complete control over the finances, just the way he liked it. But over the past few months, everything had started to go wrong. Now it was all going to hell fast. Yesterday, it had been Lester’s message; today it was the loan sharks.
He sat with his head in his hands, still shaking from the latest phone threat. Now they were threatening not only him, but Rosie. Somehow they’d learned of his fiancée and their big wedding plans. He couldn’t let them hurt her!
His luck at the casinos had been great for quite a while. Then it had soured. He’d maxed out his credit cards, and gone into debt trying to win back his losses, always counting on the next turn of the roulette wheel to get him out. It hadn’t.
So he’d borrowed from the store for months, intending to return it when his luck changed. He’d been so sure it would.
Now the loan sharks wanted their money. He had no choices left. He had to disappear, and that required “dying” so Rosie could collect the million dollar life insurance policy he’d taken out, with her as beneficiary. Thank goodness he’d had the foresight to take out that insurance policy as a back-up plan in case his luck remained bad. Which it sure had.
After Rosie collected, he’d call her and convince her to come to him in the Cayman Islands. She loved him. She’d be so happy he was still alive; she’d do that. They could start over on a million dollars.
He sat up. He had to leave now. By the time anyone figured out how he’d cooked the store’s books, he’d be well outside their reach. His uncle’s cryptic message about sending someone to help with his computer problems hadn’t fooled him. Ken had understood, but not acknowledged, the real message. He could no longer fool the home office with falsified or late and missing reports. It was time to wrap this up.
Luckily he’d prepared for such an emergency. After he disappeared, they’d never find the missing money.
Yeah, Uncle Lester was gonna scream. But the fat old coot had been taking the lion’s share of the profits for himself for too long. Ken was only claiming his rightful inheritance a little ahead of time. Well, maybe a lot more than his share, but what the hell? He had to have something to live on while he waited for Rosie to claim his life insurance and join him, didn’t he?
Besides, it was the only way, now. If the loan sharks thought he was dead, they’d write off his debt and leave Rosie alone, too.
He went on the internet and accessed his online banking account. After moving the last of the store’s available money to his account in the Cayman Islands, he ran a back up zip disk and put it into his briefcase. Then he deleted all the tell-tale financial info from his hard drive, leaving only those files he wanted left on it.
He had back-up copies on disk as well as duplicates on his new laptop, so he didn’t worry about forgetting any of the account numbers or other information he needed.
Weeks before, he’d bought a new identity. Last night he’d bought a ticket under that identity, using cash so he couldn’t be traced. He’d taken his luggage to the airport and stored it in a locker. It would be waiting there for him. He’d even bought his new laptop, briefcase and luggage with cash, and was taking almost no clothes or personal possessions with him. He wanted his office and apartment to look the same as always, with nothing substantial missing that might make them doubt he was dead. He’d left no clues as to his new whereabouts.
He’d also prepared his fishing boat the night before. He sighed, hating to lose that favorite toy. But it couldn’t be helped. Besides, later he could afford a new one.
Changing out of his business suit, he slipped into his swimming trunks, and then put on the casual set of clothes he kept in the office for his leisure time. He’d often left his Minneapolis office for an afternoon of golf or boating, so no one would think his actions unusual.
Picking up his laptop and briefcase, he left. He’d given Rosie the afternoon off, telling her he was going fishing, so they would look for him at the lake when he didn’t show up for his dinner date with Rosie at the Country Club. She loved him and would grieve for him until he told her he was still alive. He regretted causing her pain, and especially hated to hurt Rosie so soon after her mother’s death, but it was too late to prevent that now.
Rosie was sure to be upset when he didn’t show up for the meeting with the guy from the home office tomorrow, too. She’d have to deal with Uncle Lester about that. But she’d be okay. She was tough and could practically run the place without him anyway.
Briefly, Ken wondered who his uncle would send to run the Minneapolis branch in his place. Or would he let Harry Nelson move up to his job? Ken hated that idea, mostly because he didn’t like Harry. Harry had made no secret he wanted his boss’ job. Well, it wasn’t his worry any more.
The weather was gorgeous for late April in Minnesota with only a light breeze. The sun shone and the temperature hovered in the seventies--a perfect day to go to the lake.
At Landers, the small town near his family’s cabin an hour north of Minneapolis, Ken stopped at the small grocery store. He’d made sure the owner and his wife would remember him by calling ahead to order one of the smoked chickens that Oscar was famous for. Oscar only did them on special order, so Ken’s name would be on his list. He also paid with a credit card, to leave a paper trail.
Then Ken bought fresh minnows at the bait shop and took his time choosing new lures. He asked the crotchety old clerk how the fish were biting.
The heavyset man grinned, showing a gold front tooth. “Not too much happening yet, Mr. Latham. We’ve caught a few crappies and sunnies. Everyone’s waiting for the Walleye season to open in a couple of weeks. Then we’ll get busy.”
“I suppose you’re right about that.” Ken signed the charge receipt with his usual flourish.
He moved on to buy gas and coffee at the little filling station, once more with his credit card.
At Long Lake, he pulled into the cabin’s driveway and parked at their private lake access, making sure his car could be seen from the lake. He sat there for a long moment, admiring the peaceful scene. Sunlight shimmered across the blue water. Tall pine and fir trees lined the banks, almost hiding the various cabins surrounding it. Most of them were year around homes, rather than cabins and belonged to moneyed people from the Twin Cities.
Back when he was young, he and his twin brother had often played and swam here. Ken didn’t see his brother or his parents much these days and liked it that way. They probably did, too. His parents had moved to Arizona years ago, vowing never to return to ice and snow. The Cayman Islands would also be warm, and he’d never return either.
As usual on a spring weekday afternoon, this end of the lake was deserted. He left his clothes in his car and took his small fishing boat out onto the lake.
He glanced around to be sure no one was watching and then dove into the chilly water. Shivering, he capsized the fishing boat and swam back to shore. The water’s natural current would do the rest. The boat was designed to float, even upside down, so someone was sure to find it within a day or so. They would assume he’d fallen overboard and drowned. People drowned in fishing accidents every year. It wouldn’t seem unusual. Both he and Rosie would be safe this way.
The damn lake was icy cold. The breeze chilled him as he stepped onto shore and ran back to his car. He quickly toweled off and got dressed again.
Weeks before, he’d bought an old car with another false identity, paid cash, and parked it at the family cabin. Now he left his Cadillac behind and drove back to Minneapolis in the old car, left it in a large parking lot in a shopping mall and took a cab to the airport. When they towed the abandoned car later, no one would think to connect it to him. He’d be safely in the Cayman Islands with lots of money to live the high life.
~ * ~
Rosie Kapp carefully held the last of her late mother, Kate’s, crystal goblets, tears making her work of packing them away difficult. She wiped the tears away angrily. She’d cried too much in the past few weeks. She’d thought she was ready to finish this, but found cleaning out her mother’s apartment a soul-wrenching thing.
But she had to do it. There was no one else. She had a brother, but Lee wasn’t much help with domestic chores, and she knew he would especially hate this one. She’d asked him if he wanted anything from Kate’s apartment and he’d looked appalled.
She raised the cut crystal to the sunlight streaming in through the window, admiring the rainbow of colors that sparkled off it. This goblet had graced her mother’s table for so many of her parents’ family dinner parties. They’d had such a good marriage. If only she could… but there was no use wishing for the impossible. Their marriage had been the exception that proved the rule. She couldn’t hope for a fantasy love like that. Her fiancé and boss, Ken Latham, would give her security and that would have to be enough. A lump formed in her throat at the thought, but she ignored it.
She carefully wrapped Kate’s last lead-crystal goblet in newspaper and then tucked it into the cardboard box with the others. Mom won’t be there for my wedding. She dreamed of that wedding and planned it for me for so long. Then when I get engaged at last, she gets cancer and dies. It all happened so quickly, I can hardly believe it yet.
Rosie wished she could be grateful for small favors. At least her mother’s ordeal had been a short one.
She wiped a dusty hand on her jeans and looked around, seeing nothing more she wanted to save. A sofa, chairs, some bookcases, now empty, filled the room. Without her mother’s handmade pillows, doilies and the family photos, the room looked forlorn and lonesome.
She’d packed a few framed photos, her mother’s neatly labeled photo albums, her mother’s music and book collections and some dishes and glassware. Not much to show for a long and productive life. But her mother had spent her time and energy raising children and giving them wonderful memories of her love, not accumulating things. She’d never owned expensive furniture or jewelry. Had she ever missed having those luxuries? If so, she hadn’t mentioned it.
A charity truck had promised to come tomorrow to pick up the well-worn furniture and whatever else Rosie didn’t want. Rosie had boxed the smaller items for them. Next week she’d come back and give the apartment a final cleaning before she turned in the keys.
Grief tightened her chest. She and Lee were the last of their family now, unless they had children someday. Lee was wrapped up in his career as a police officer and didn’t even date. She tried to imagine having children with Ken and shuddered. Not anytime soon. Children would be way too messy for Ken. She couldn’t imagine him being in the same room with spilled cereal or dirty diapers. She’d never seen him with even a hair out of place.
She frowned. Yet he’d gone fishing today, hadn’t he? And he’d said he fished often. But she couldn’t help wondering if he’d ever really caught or cleaned a fish. After all, you could hardly do either without getting dirty, could you?
She locked up, carried the box of crystal out to her Buick Skylark and packed it in with the rest of the boxes.
Glancing at her watch as she got behind the wheel, she saw it was almost five. She’d better hurry, or she’d be late for her dinner date with Ken.
She sighed. It was sure to be a boring evening. They were going to the Country Club where they’d mingle with his business acquaintances. Not that she didn’t like most of those people. But she dreaded these dinners and the long-winded speeches. She always managed to do something to irritate Ken and he would politely point out her errors on the way home. “For future reference” as he so coldly put it. So she wouldn’t make the same errors again and embarrass them both. Ha!
Arriving at her own small house in northern Minneapolis suburb, Rosie carried everything inside. Scamp, her golden retriever, barked a welcome and she stopped to pat him and let him out for a run. Scamp raced around the house to the backyard, and then returned to follow her as she moved back and forth from her car to the house.
She stacked the boxes from her mother’s apartment in her spare bedroom to be dealt with later.
As she finished, Scamp whined and lay down on the carpet by her sofa. Rosie filled his food and water dishes and laughed as she rubbed his soft fur. “You know I’m going out, don’t you, Scamp? Don’t worry, I won’t be out too late.”
Then she hurried to her bedroom. She had to shower, shampoo her long hair and get dressed. She must not keep Ken waiting.
Most of her friends envied her for dating her rich boss. He was always so punctual and mannerly, so smooth about everything. But then, when wasn’t he perfect? Even her best friend, Gloria Haverson, called him “Mr. Perfect”. Gloria didn’t like him very much.
When he’s in a critical mood, Rosie thought, I don’t either. But Ken was very nice to her most of the time. He took her to expensive restaurants and told her often how much he loved her. How many men had done that? She should be in love with him, but she wasn’t.
Now she angrily rinsed the shampoo out of her hair and put on conditioner. She’d felt trapped, when Ken and her mother had assumed she’d accepted his proposal, but what had it mattered if she didn’t love Ken? Love like her parents had was impossible nowadays. No one she knew stayed married for long. Ken claimed to love her, so she would be making him happy by marrying him, wouldn’t she?
The wedding hadn’t happened, thank goodness, only because of her mother’s illness. But Kate had been happy, so Rosie had put aside her doubts about Ken. Now those doubts surfaced with a vengeance, as did her conscience. She wasn’t being fair to let Ken think she loved him, when she didn’t. What if he found someone he really loved later? What if she did?
She could break her engagement now, she realized again with a sudden light feeling in her stomach. Yes, she could. This time, she didn’t push the thought aside. She’d rather stay single than try to live a lie.
The thought of marrying Ken had grown less attractive each day. She’d have to live with the man she chose as her husband. She shouldn’t feel guilty about changing her mind.
“Sorry, Mom,” she said aloud. “I know you really wanted me to get married. But it’s not what I want. Not yet, anyway. ‘Mr. Perfect’ is not who I want.” She turned off the water and grabbed a towel.
The problem was that she’d still have to work with Ken after she broke up with him. Breaking their engagement could get sticky. Would he fire her? Even if he didn’t, how could she work with him every day afterward?
Rosie sighed. She loved working at Latham and had worked her way up to the top office. Now she felt as though she really made a difference, even made managerial decisions often. If she broke up with him and had to quit, Ken was just the kind of guy to refuse her a good reference.
What a mess. She should never have accepted that first date or gotten involved with him in the first place. It had been a stupid thing to do.
But it was time to fix that mistake. Tonight, after the dinner, she’d tell Ken she couldn’t marry him and return his ring. If he told her to look for another job, so be it.
~ * ~
After his plane landed at the Minneapolis airport, Kirk found his way to the baggage claim, picked up his bags, hailed a cab, and went to the motel where he’d reserved a room and dropped off his luggage, telling the cab to wait.
It was after seven, but he wanted to stop by the office. If Ken was there, they could talk. If not, anyone who saw him go up to the office area after hours would assume he was Ken. And, since Uncle Lester had installed the same security system for all their stores and offices, his master key would let him inside. He could get a look at the computers before Ken knew he’d arrived.
He sighed. He hated being so sneaky, but this situation made it necessary. He’d confront Ken in the morning at his office. He was anxious to see how his brother would defend his missing reports.
It had been years since Kirk had visited the Minnesota branch, but he remembered the office was on the west side of the large retail building and told the cab driver, “The side door will be fine.” He didn’t want to have more employees mistake him for Ken than necessary. This way he wouldn’t have to walk through much of the sales floor to gain access to the offices on the second floor.
The driver pulled into the company parking lot. Despite the late hour, there were quite a few cars in the lot. Business seemed to be doing okay, so why was Ken claiming financial problems?
As he stepped out of the cab, the wind blew an empty shopping bag against his leg. Kirk frowned at it, noticing more garbage strewn about the blacktopped lot.
Uncle Lester would have a fit if he knew Ken had allowed such a mess on Latham property. An older man was gathering shopping carts to return them to the store. At least Ken made some attempt at neatness.
Kirk paid the driver and started toward the building. The cab drove off. A group of teenagers laughed uproariously near a pickup at the end of the lot. The lights of a car leaving the lot illuminated them clearly as he glanced at them. One of the boys kissed a girl while the others hooted. He grinned. Oh, to be that young and carefree again.
“Yes?” Kirk turned in surprise when he heard someone call his name. An employee must be mistaking him for Ken.
A large man wearing a nylon stocking mask stepped from beside a van, and raised his arm.
Kirk understood the danger too late to ward off the blow. He felt a sharp pain in the back of his head, and then fell forward as everything went black.
No. of Pages: 247
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