“Call Dean Cranston,” Stephen gruffly instructed the Blue Tooth. The telephone only rang twice.
“Where are you?” Stephen’s gaze followed the line of cars to his right. “Fine. Be at the cab stand in seven minutes.” From the gear shift, his right hand silenced the earpiece as he whipped the car through the line.
Dean slipped out the French doors in the solarium just after Tara left. She was going to the store for food and wine since Margo was on her way to spend a few days. He knew he would be back before she returned.
Reaper screeched the roadster to a halt three minutes shy of the seven. Before Dean had the door closed, the car flew away from the curb. “Talk.”
Dean licked his lips and took a deep breath. He knew Stephen would not interrupt. “I found the guns and the drugs. And I know where the bodies are buried. I found out the sheriff is just a puppet. He is bought and paid for by the two runners. The money is all being laundered through the casino two counties over. I can connect them all by family.
“I got pulled in over a routine cleansing of underlings. During the dress out, I got goosed and popped the guy. Turns out, he was the sheriff’s son. Bev did what he always does and left town the night before I did. He told me come back here straight away.” Dean took a breath and held it.
“But you did not do that, did you?” Icicles hung from Reaper’s words. Dean did not grasp the reason for the stoniness.
“No, Reaper. I went to see Tara first.” Wheels spun in his head, refusing to gain purchase.
“I sent him to look for you.” Stephen never took his eyes off the windshield.
“The wreck was my fault?” Dean could not believe Reaper would lay Bevan’s death at his feet.
“No. But you will find the ones who killed him.” Reaper stopped the car back in front of the cab stand. “And you will do it before I do.”
Dean silently slid from the passenger seat. “Yes, Reaper. I will.” He softly closed the door before Stephen fishtailed into the intersection and disappeared into the waning lunchtime traffic.
A quick glance at his watch announced he had eight minutes to be back at Tara’s before she returned. He wondered how long he had before Reaper took to the task himself.
Dean was sitting on the couch with Chloe pacing back and forth across his lap. She purred louder when he did not place his hand appropriately for her to rub her head across because he was looking at his watch. He dumped her onto the cushion when he heard Tara’s key in the lock.
He wrestled the bags from her and carted them off to the kitchen. He attempted small talk asking her about who she saw at the store. His lack of eye contact gave him away.
“Dammit, Dean. You left here. Who did you talk to? Reaper? What are you going to do?” She stood beside the island with her left hand on her hip. The frustrated anger knitted a knot in her brow.
Dean closed the cabinet and leaned heavily against it. He sighed, hoping the release would take the stress with it. Turning to face her, he felt the stress jump back from his heart to his throat as he began, “I have to do this.” His eyes belied the certainty of the statement.
Tara’s expression flattened. She had heard this speech before. She retreated into her mind, and his voice became an echo against her thoughts. He is not back 24 hours, and already he is on his way back out the door. How could I believe he was on the level? He is a professional liar.
A few of Dean’s words broke through. After a few more statements, she realized this was not his standard spiel.
“Bev was my best friend. I have to find out who killed him. If I don’t, Reaper is going after them, and I have no idea what he is really capable of. Tara, I mean, I have known him since high school, but I don’t think we have ever seen his true colors. I have never been afraid of him, until now.”
Dean had Tara’s undivided attention. “I have seen him angry, Tara, but this is…is scarier. If you could have heard him, you would have heard the emptiness in his voice. He is a powerful man. He is wicked smart. He is a deadly shot. After today, I am not so convinced he has a soul any more. He would not even look at me, and I think he blames me for Bev’s death.”
Tara felt like her brain was saturated. Not all of what he said was soaking in because there was just so much she did not understand. She searched his face, but only could come away with more questions at his expression, which was one she had rarely ever seen. “Why are you afraid? I have seen some of the demons you have faced. Reaper is one of your best friends. I don’t understand.”
Dean stared at a crack in the grout between two of the floor tiles. “I have always been able to feel the genuine concern Stephen has for all of us. Hell, he even gives a damn about perfect strangers.” He shook his head slowly, “He has lost that compassion. I know we tease him about being the Grim Reaper, but talking to him today…” Dean looked Tara directly in her eyes with fear in his, “…for the first time, I was convinced he is going to kill someone.”
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