Gone Too Far by Debra Webb



Saturday, April 17

7:15 a.m.


The rear passenger door slammed, and she was alone in the back seat of the car. The driver glanced at her in his rearview mirror.

She looked away. Pretended she wasn’t afraid. But she was. She had never been more afraid in her life.

This neighborhood was one she’d been to before but only to this one house. The house where bad things were kept secret . . . where empty eyes stared out from the walls and something evil lived.

Her body began to shake. She tried to stop it. Couldn’t.

No one else is going to die. No one. Not again.

She told herself these things over and over. Today it would end.

No more hiding the truth. No more secrets.

Her gaze shifted to the bag on the floor. She’d never seen this bag before. Plain. Black. Like something for carrying a laptop.

She glanced beyond the car window to the house. This might be her only opportunity to look inside. Snooping in other people’s bags wasn’t a very nice thing to do. She’d been taught better. But she had to be sure.

After leaning forward, she unzipped the bag with shaking hands, then pulled the sides open wider.

The shiny blade of a big knife reflected the sun streaming through the windows. Duct tape and a large crumpled garbage bag were stuffed beneath it.

A new blast of fear rushed through her veins.

No. No. No. She shook her head. No!

No one else could die.

I don’t want to die.

Turning fourteen hadn’t made her as brave as she’d thought. She had to run . . . she should never have taken that call. She should have stayed home and not sneaked out of the house.

She had to find a way to contact her mom and . . .

The car’s rear passenger door opened once more.

It was too late.


Five Days Earlier

Monday, April 12

10:30 a.m.

Leo’s Tobacconist

Oak Grove Road


The two victims were secured to chairs and then shot execution style—in the back of the head. With no exit wounds, the weapon was likely a .22. Something small caliber and intended for up close work. The typical MO for these types of kills. The medical examiner and the Crime Scene Unit had been summoned.

Detective Kerri Devlin turned her full attention back to the responding officer as he described the events that had occurred before she and her partner received the call.

“Tara McGill arrived on the scene at nine thirty to prepare for opening at ten. She entered through the rear exit.” Officer Eugene Franklin gestured to the door at the back of the stockroom. “According to McGill, all employees come and go this way. Once inside, she discovered the owner, Leonard ‘Leo’ Kurtz”—Franklin pointed his notepad to the older victim, sixty to sixty-five maybe, seated nearest him—“and the other male victim just as you see them.”

“You ID’d the other guy yet?” Luke Falco, Kerri’s partner, asked.

Franklin nodded. “This is where things get interesting.”

Though the second victim looked vaguely familiar, Kerri couldn’t place him. Young, late twenties or early thirties maybe. Unlike the older vic, who wore dark-blue trousers and a lighter-blue button-down open to the center of his chest, where gold chains dangled, victim number two wore a business suit—the kind that wouldn’t be found on some rack in just any department store. Frankly, the man didn’t actually look like the type to drop by a smoke shop, but then you never knew. With all the bad press about vaping, maybe some millennials were turning to custom-made, organic tobaccos. In any case, Leo’s was the place to shop in the greater Birmingham area. The oldest tobacconist in the state, in fact. Everyone who was anyone who had a fetish for tobacco, cigars, pipes, and/or fine liquors came to Leo’s. The city’s elite, mostly the old guard, kept the business thriving.

Kerri lifted her gaze to Franklin’s. “How interesting?”

“As in”—the uni’s eyebrows reared up his forehead—“he’s that new DDA everyone’s talking about. The rich one from up north.” He indicated the dead guy in question. “Detectives, meet Asher Walsh, deputy district attorney, Jefferson County.”

“Well I’ll be damned.” Falco shot Kerri a look that said: So this is why we’re here.

“That’s pretty damned interesting,” Kerri agreed, surprised she hadn’t recognized him. Then again, with his head dropped forward, the mask of death had bulged and discolored his facial features.