Jackpot (Frank Renzi mystery series)

BOOK: Jackpot (Frank Renzi mystery series)
13.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub



"Everyone's a winner in their own mind."



Susan Fleet

Music and Mayhem Press



is a work of fiction. All names, characters, businesses, including the Boston Pops Orchestra, incidents and events, are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


Copyright © 2013 by Susan Fleet

All rights reserved.  Published by Music and Mayhem Press

Excerpt of
Natalie's Art
, © 2013 by Susan Fleet


No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission except in the case of brief quotations in articles or reviews. For information and permissions contact the author at:


ISBN-10  0984723552



Cover photographs used with permission:

Illustration of slot machine showing jackpot  © stockshoppe at Fotalia

Bullet Holes © andrew7726  at Fotalia

Back cover author photo by Pete Wolbrette

Printed in the United States of America



For R. A. L.




Tuesday, April 25, 2000 — Chatham, MA


Florence peered out her living room window. What a dismal day. No sun, just sullen gray clouds like yesterday. And no sign of the cable company van. At 9:30 a man from the cable company had called and said they were having problems in her area. As if she didn’t know.

Wavy lines filled the forty-six-inch screen of her new TV set, and static was hissing from the speakers. The man said he’d be here soon to fix it, but that was twenty minutes ago. Where was he? If he didn’t hurry up, she’d miss Regis and Kathie Lee. Poor Kathie Lee. Her husband had a roving eye.

Florence and Chuck had been married forty years, and she was certain he hadn’t so much as looked at another woman until the day he died.

She looked at the lumps of dirty snow on the driveway across the street. Ginny was in Florida and wouldn’t be back until Memorial Day. She sure did miss Ginny. This had been a long lonely winter, terrible storms, the snow piling up in huge drifts. Ever since Chuck died, she had to hire a man to plow her driveway so she could go out for groceries and visit her son.

Her heart skipped a beat as the cable company van stopped in front of the house. Halleluiah! Maybe she'd get to watch Kathie Lee after all. A short chunky man in a blue uniform got out and came up the walk lugging a big metal toolbox. Goodness, why didn’t he wear a jacket? It was chilly today.

She opened the front door, then the storm door. A gust of cold air made her shiver. “Thank goodness you’re here. Regis and Kathie Lee are on at ten and I’d hate to miss them.”

The man glanced at an order form on his clipboard and smiled at her.

“Don’t you worry, Florence. I’ll have it fixed in a jiffy. You don’t mind if I call you Florence, do you? My boss says it’s friendlier. We like to keep our customers happy.”

What a nice young man, thick blond hair, chubby round cheeks. But beads of sweat dotted his forehead. Strange. “Your name is John. It says so on your pocket. Come in. It’s cold out there.”

The man went in the living room, walked past her new recliner and set the toolbox down on the carpet in front of the television set.

“What’s wrong with the cable connection?” she asked.

“Just a little glitch. Don’t worry, I’ll fix it.” He knelt beside his toolbox and gazed up at her.

His blue eyes had an odd look in them, like a cat about to pounce on a bird. Why was he looking at her like that? It made her nervous.

“Could I have a drink of water? My boss sent me out early this morning because of the problems. I already helped three customers and I’m behind schedule.”

Florence hesitated. She wanted to keep an eye on him while he fixed the TV, but she didn’t want to be rude. “Goodness, here I am thinking you’ve got such nice rosy cheeks and you’ve been hard at work all morning. Wait a minute and I’ll get you a glass of water.”

She went in the kitchen and stood at the sink. She didn’t like being alone in the house with a stranger. Gary was worried about her. He said people might try to take advantage of her. Two days ago the ADT man was here, but he couldn’t install the security system until next week. Maybe she should call Gary and tell him a repairman was here. But what good would that do? Her son was miles away in a rehab facility. Her darling boy had come home from the Gulf War with both legs amputated above the knee.

Now Gary was hooked on drugs. Her throat thickened and tears filled her eyes. Half the time when she went to see him he hadn’t even shaved. Overcome with sadness, she bit back a sob. Freckles still dotted Gary’s cheeks, but now his face was gaunt. It seemed like only yesterday that her smiling six-year-old had gazed up at her with his gap-toothed grin after he ate one of her chocolate chip cookies, put his skinny arms around her and said: “You’re the best mom in the whole world!”

With a heavy sigh, she turned on the cold water. Lord knows she couldn’t change what happened to Gary. She’d give the repairman his  glass of water and get him out of the house. That odd look in his eyes made her uncomfortable. But she was probably worrying over nothing.

Still, her hand trembled as she filled the glass with water.



Now that the old biddy had left the room he felt better. On his way to the door he’d put on a big smile. The smile was important. Reassuring. Before he rang the bell he’d made sure his name showed on the flap of his pocket. Then he’d delivered his bullshit lines to Florence. She let him in right away, but she’d been watching him like a hawk ever since.

He hated that. His mother watched him too, whenever she could.

He glanced around the room. Florence had money, but she had shitty taste. Her blue pantsuit was hideous. But she’d used her winnings to buy a sleek leather recliner and a big flat-screen TV. He assumed the beat-up sofa with the ugly blue-striped upholstery was headed for the dump.

So was Florence. His lucky winner.

He heard water running in the kitchen and opened his toolbox. Inside were the tools he needed to fix the cable connection. And the other items he brought along for his lucky winners. He took out a yellow plastic bag, spread open the drawstring cord and hid the bag behind the TV.

Footsteps sounded in the hall. His heart thrummed in anticipation. He mopped his sweaty face with his shirtsleeve. His uniform shirt stuck to his back, damp with sweat.

The old biddy came back and handed him a glass of water and gave him a prissy smile, a smile that disappeared when she saw the latex gloves on his hands. He gulped some water, made his eyes go wide with innocence and beamed her a big smile. “I’ve got eczema. My hands bleed sometimes. I wouldn’t want to mess up your carpet.”

“Oh. Well, that’s thoughtful of you. It’s brand new and so is the television set. I wish my husband were here to enjoy it with me. He passed on three years ago.”

“Pretty exciting hitting the jackpot, huh? Lucky you.”

She bit her lip, frowning at him now, a stooped old woman with wispy white hair tinged yellow. Why didn’t she go to the hairdresser? She had plenty of money. He set the empty water glass on the table beside the recliner. “I’m about done, but I need you to help me finish.”

“You do? Why?”

“I need you to unplug the TV and plug it in again when I tell you.”

Her frown deepened. “I don’t know . . . It’s hard for me to bend over. I’ve got arthritis.”

He gazed at her silently. Made his eyes go cold.
Do as I say, you old biddy

The flesh on her cheeks quivered and her shoulders slumped. He loved it when they realized he had the power. She was old and weak. He was young and strong. Alone together in an isolated house. Exquisite. A shiver racked him and he felt himself grow hard.

With a heavy sigh, she went to the electrical outlet on the wall. To steady herself, she held onto the table that held the TV set, got down on her knees and bent over the plug. Intent on her task, she didn’t hear him creep up behind her. Wisps of yellow-white hair curled over the collar of her blouse, and he could smell her perfume, a disgusting lilac scent.

He plunged the plastic bag over her head, pushed her facedown on the floor and yanked the cord tight around her neck. She screamed, but the bag muffled the sound.

She put up a struggle, thrashing violently. It took him by surprise. Before he could react, she rolled onto her back and lashed out at him, flailing her arms blindly. Her forearm slammed against his ear and sent pain shooting through his head.

Enraged, he punched her face. Even through the plastic bag, he felt her nose crunch.

She let out a muffled squawk and thrashed her legs, kicking at him.

How dare she fight him? He couldn’t hold her down! He pulled his toolbox closer, grabbed a heavy wrench and slammed it down on her head.

Her body went still. Moments later blood seeped out of a rip in the plastic bag. Disgusting.

He yanked the drawstring tighter.

Still she fought him, groping at the bag with both hands and moaning.

How dare she fight him! Enraged, he yelled, “Stop fighting me!”

With a mighty heave, he rolled her onto her stomach, pinned her arms behind her back and sat on her. She made grunting sounds and kicked her feet, thump-thump-thump, against the carpet.

Blood soaked the carpet beneath her head. He pulled the cord tighter, trying not to look at the blood. He couldn’t stand the sight of blood. He studied the wavy lines on the TV screen instead, counting the seconds.

Her struggles grew weaker. He pulled the drawstring tighter, savoring the power he had over her, feeling the ache build in his groin.

At last she lay still.

Aglow with triumph, he rose to his feet, unzipped his fly and stroked himself. His breathing grew ragged as the power swelled and intensified. The power and the glory.

He shuddered as the spasm coursed through him. A glorious release.

But there was no time to savor the moment.

He rolled her onto her back. Blood had seeped into the carpet in a widening stain. The sight of it sickened him. But she’d brought it on herself, fighting him, making his head hurt.

From his toolbox he took out the nip bottle of J&B with the red letters and the red cap. His autograph.

In her desperate attempt to breathe, her mouth had sucked a deep hollow in the bag. Just like the others.

He shoved the J&B nip into the hollow.

“I guess you weren’t so lucky after all, right, Florence?”

Now it was time to tidy up.

It took him less than a minute to reset the cable connection. He checked the television screen. The picture was fine, Regis and Kathy Lee joking about something.

Florence was lying face up on the floor with the yellow plastic bag over her head. He folded her arms over her chest and noticed the bracelet on her wrist, tiny oval scarabs in a gold setting.

Beautiful. She’d want him to have it, he was sure.

He undid the clasp, removed the bracelet and shoved it in his pocket.

His eyes swept the room. The water glass!

He put the glass in his toolbox and grabbed his clipboard.

Everything was perfect. He blew Florence a kiss and left.

Tonight he would look for his next lucky winner.

BOOK: Jackpot (Frank Renzi mystery series)
13.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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