The Iron Tiara:A Nine Minutes Spin-Off Novel(2)

By: Beth Flynn

"Uncuff him," Anthony demanded.

Less than ten minutes later, X was left with a mess to clean up and a body to dispose of.

"He's dead," X announced after checking Denny’s pulse. Even after Anthony inflicted more pain during his nonstop interrogation, Denny never gave up Van’s whereabouts. He probably didn’t know. Poor slob, X thought.

"That's unfortunate," came Anthony’s sardonic reply as he headed for the sink.

"What do you wanna do now?" X stood and stared down at Denny's lifeless body. He inhaled the sharp metallic stench of fresh blood and shook his head.

"I'm getting a lawn crew and heading to Chapman's house," Anthony called over his shoulder as he washed up and stared out the window. He gazed out over the camp yard and let his brain mull over his next course of action. The roar of two motorcycles rolling in interrupted his thoughts. "I saw on this week's schedule that they're not due at his house for two more days, but Chapman moved himself up the work roster." It was to Anthony’s advantage that Chapman happened to employ Native Touch to take care of his lawn.

After drying his hands and putting the shirt back on that he'd removed for Denny's questioning, he walked over to where he'd thrown his machete. He picked it up and used Denny's body to wipe it clean. "When you're finished here, make some calls. Put some feelers out. See if you can find Van discreetly." He turned to look at X. "We have no way of knowing if what Denny told us about Van being out of town is true. If other sharks are looking for him, I don't need to tell you that I want to make sure we find him first."

X nodded.

Anthony then looked at what he'd left lying on the floor beside Denny. "Toss that on the grill. It’ll be a reminder to the crew what happens to anybody that steals from me," he said as he strode out the door and slammed it behind him.

If it was true that Van was gone, Anthony would use the time to learn more than the little he already knew about the man and his family. If there were weaknesses or vulnerabilities, Anthony wanted to know what they were now so they could be used against Chapman later. His anger at himself started to intensify, but he tamped it down. He'd already blown off enough steam. It was time to get to work.

The smell of fresh cut grass drifted through the air, and Anthony inhaled deeply as Denny's beating and death already became a distant memory. He didn't make a habit of working with his landscaping crews, but he wanted to use the time at Chapman's house to observe. Besides, he didn't consider riding the lawnmower work. If anything, he enjoyed the solitary chore as it gave him time to think.

An annoying fly now interrupted those thoughts. He swatted it away, and then quickly used the rubber band on his wrist to secure his long black hair off his shoulders. Returning both hands to the mower, he went back to mulling over the current situation.

Anthony had met Van once, and only as a formality to let him know who he would be dealing with. A lot of loan sharks tried to hide behind their front men. Not Anthony. He wanted people to see who would be coming after them if they didn't pay. Showing them the man behind the money had always been a useful tool. Until now. And he could almost see why Denny fell into a comfortable relationship with Van. After one brief face-to-face, Anthony knew Van was a typical car salesman. His expensive silk business suits and smooth talking had helped Van move up the corporate ladder and into the bed of a wealthy heiress. Anthony wasn't at all surprised that Van had been able to swindle Denny as well.

Anthony swung the mower around again and gripped the wheel tighter as his knuckles whitened, determined that he would get what was owed to him regardless of the cost. He was in the money business, not the mercy business, and Anthony had no intention of showing mercy to a slimeball like Chapman.

His thoughts were disrupted when he noticed a red convertible Corvette slowly creeping up the long drive. He couldn't tell from that distance who was behind the wheel; all he saw was blonde hair. He purposely steered his mower to the car's obvious destination. He watched the auto curl around the circular driveway, pass the ridiculously large front entry doors and come to a stop on the other side of the ugliest fountain Anthony had ever seen.

As he got closer, he saw a petite, curvy, fair-haired female get out of the car and approach one of his men who'd been weeding along the stone pavers. Anthony brought the mower to a halt, climbed off and walked toward them. The woman's back was to him, and he clenched his jaw when he recognized her body language. He'd mowed enough lawns as a kid on the other coast to know exactly what kind of broad his employee, Lester, was dealing with. She radiated an air of misplaced superiority. Another privileged princess. His jaw was still tightly clenched when Lester stood and laughed at something the woman said. As Lester looked past her, his smile faded when he saw Anthony's expression.

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