The Street King

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LONNIE GERTZ wasn't the sort of guy who killed people or blackmailed people or had a lot of time for intrigue. But then he saw the list and he knew it was pure gold.

Bunch of names. Guys in town who'd been out to the farmhouse. Guys who took their wives or their girlfriends and went out there to drink and schmooze and then maybe try one of the bedrooms, even some single guys who were young and attractive and who didn't mind paying the fee.

All the rules were spelled out, right there in the file, right there in Jonathan Leasure's desk. Gertz could tell right away what he was looking at, because of the pictures. Different women, different guys. Mixing and matching. Smiling, sharing a cocktail. Or a beer. A glass of wine. Naked as the day.

And the list. Next to the names, their email addresses, whether they'd paid up front.

And then he heard that creak on the stairs.

It was the oak tree had that clinched the deal. He'd seen it from the river, its branches stretching wide over the patio and much of the yard. And one enormous limb, sweeping its personal invitation to the upstairs balcony, like God reaching out to Adam.

He used it to come through a second-floor window into the back of the house. He would leave the same way.

Gertz paid enough attention that he knew when folks were out of town… the Mercedes still in the garage, newspapers canceled.

At least, he thought he knew. Truth was, it was stupid to carry a gun. Really stupid. Somehow, he thought it might keep him out of trouble.

Upstairs, at the front of the house, Jonathan Leasure, sound asleep, nestled among a raft of pillows in his oversized mahogany and leather sleigh bed.

Perhaps it was a scratching that woke him, a slight rustling downstairs. Leasure sat up, struggling to sense what might have lifted him from sleep. It was probably nothing. He'd just get up and look around, satisfy himself, grab a sip of milk from the kitchen.

He put on his slippers and his robe. He reached into the nightstand and there, underneath his bedtime reader, he found the one decent thing his wife had left him, her Ruger .38.

Padding down the hall, hearing little noises now, enough that he knew for sure. A drawer closing softly. A footstep. Still Jonathan kept on. It was his house. Down the stairs, across the foyer, turning on lights as he went, slowing as he got closer. Then he reached the doorway

And in that moment, Lonnie Gertz, the guy who never lost his cool, plunged into the abyss. Gertz grabbed that gun from his backpack, held it steady, fired one shot. Dead center. Jonathan Leasure fell onto his back with a thud muffled only slightly by his girth. He sighed, eyes begging for another chance.

For a moment, Gertz just froze, listening. Hearing nothing, he stepped over the body, took the stairs two at a time, searched quickly and found the safe -- one of those Fireproofs -- in the bedroom behind the picture over the bureau. It was the first place he looked.

Gertz popped it out of the wall with a crowbar, then smashed a hole in the back of the safe with a little sledge. Two things he always carried, a sledge and a Wonder Bar.

Inside, cash. Piles of it. He stuffed it into his knapsack along with the book he'd taken from the desk in the downstairs office… stuck it all in there.

Gertz wore gloves, didn't touch anything with his bare hands. Pair of New Balance. Those, he'd dump in the river, along with the gloves. He left the body where it lay, left everything else, the Rolex and the rings.

He climbed out the window the way he'd come. It was a dark night. He'd probably be OK.