Jesus Saves, Chapter Fifty-Five

Don Portice pulled into his drive. He hadn’t noticed the utilities truck that had just pulled away from the curb and was moving on northward, away from his house. If he had, he would’ve remained in his car. As it was, the end was put off for about fifteen minutes as he talked on his cell to his bookie.

He hung up and gathered his bet sheets. If Sam knew, she would leave him. He wouldn’t let her get far, though. He would kill her if she ever left. He had told her so.

It was all that kept her under his control. Hell. She took every beating he gave her without uttering a word. He smiled sadistically. He knew he had her undivided attention.

He opened the door and entered the house. He noticed the gas smell, but didn’t think anything of it. He’d smelled it before. Maybe he’d left the stove on again. If he didn’t get it shut completely off, it tended to allow a slight bit of leakage. Damn old stoves, anyway.

He went and checked. He twisted each knob to make sure the burners were all off, then did the same with the oven. When he was sure, he went to his den. laying his betting sheets on his desk, he dug in his shirt pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. He needed to quit, but they soothed his nerves.

He needed to quit drinking and betting too, but what fun would life be then? He flicked a cigarette out of the pack to where he could take it between his lips. Digging out his lighter, he flipped it open to light the cigarette. The last thing he saw was a streak of fire spreading out before him.

The house erupted, rocking the whole neighborhood. Debris settled in a one hundred foot area. the house itself was afire. Every window had been shattered for blocks. The damage had been done.

***

Torkelsen looked up in the mirror in time to see the house explode. He smirked. He had claimed another victory. The police would be too late on this one.

There was only one problem. The high was already wearing off. The excitement was dying down. He needed another fix.

It was time to step things up. Time for him to strike at another target. He stopped briefly to look at the names he had selected. No longer in the phone book, he now looked at the names written in a notebook alongside their addresses.

Now picked at random, they only represented how much he resented being thwarted with his original targets. He frowned. His nemesis would pay dearly. He would see to that.

He resumed his course. His next target was on the south side. Near St. Bernard. From there, he would head west. Then back east. And finally midtown.

But, first, he had to get away from this one without being caught. Oh, the thrill. But he was a master at disappearing. Not to mention, reappearing when the police least expected it.

He turned off Lake Drive onto Delta Avenue. From there, he went to the causeway, then crossed to the other side of the lake. As he did, he began to ponder the idea of throwing a few unplanned explosions into the mix. After all, they wouldn’t be expecting him to do something outside of New Orleans.

A wicked grin flashed across his face. Yes. He would throw in a few unplanned moves. He would go through a few towns on the perimeter of the lake and find targets to gain moves. It was ingenious.

But, first, he had to get rid of the utilities truck. They might already know he had one. And besides. He would look strange driving a New Orleans Municipal Utilities truck in another town.

***

Michael knew that Torkelsen had chosen a different path out of the area. There was no sign of him. But he knew the madman had been nearby to witness his handiwork. That was a given.

Perhaps the man had taken the causeway out of the city. He couldn’t be on Interstate 10. He would have had to go back south. That would have forced him to pass them as they headed north. And he had not passed them.

fire sirens squealed angrily as they approached, answered by both ambulance and police sirens. The ambulance wouldn’t be needed. The victim was already dead.

Michael looked at the carnage. Poor bastard. Never had a chance. He turned the scene over to Reilly and the rest of the crew. He had to get the only witness out of harm’s way. He turned to head for the address he had found for her.

As he gazed down the sidewalk, he saw her approaching. He decided to wait for her.

“I am Tiffany Creed,” she introduced herself, “I am the one who called you.”

He nodded. “I know. You took quite a risk. He could have seen you. With any luck, he didn’t. Otherwise, he will target you some time in the near future.”

She went pale. “Is that how he usually works?”

He smiled sadly. “Yes. He hates having loose ends. Tried to kill two of his friends because they had been in the first attempt.”

“Oh God,” she moaned, “and I put my kids in danger.”

He put his hand on her arm. “Don’t worry. We will arrange for preventative measures. It’ll mean pulling your children out of school and going into hiding, though.”

She sighed heavily. “Whatever it takes to keep my kids safe.”

He looked away. “This is the only way I can think of. If we take you into custody with your children and place you at a safe house, you have a halfway decent chance of escaping his notice. At least for a while.”

She looked down. “I understand. Nothing is completely guaranteed.”

He looked up and motioned for Reilly to come over. His friend did as he was bid. Michael looked him in the eye. “Take Miss Creed to obtain her children from school, then get her into the protection program as quickly as possible. Can’t take a chance that Torkelsen didn’t see her. I think we know him well enough not to underestimate him on these kinds of things.”

Reilly nodded, then ushered Tiffany to the squad car. “At the precinct, we will change over to an SUV. It’ll be less crowded.”

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