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Authors: Andy King

McKuen’s Revenge

BOOK: McKuen’s Revenge
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Books by Andy King

 

Illusion

The Greatest Game

Control

McKuen’s Revenge

Coil’s Cold Justice

Annie’s War

Carla’s Mission

Annihilation

 

This book is the first in a series of five books, all thrillers with dynamic suspenseful conclusions.

 

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Mission Development

 

The Control Series at Amazon.com

 

 

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,

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Control, Book 1

McKuen’s Revenge

(A serial killer vigilante justice crime thriller)

 

Andy King

 

A Thief is in for a Surprise

When Steve McKuen's wife is threatened, his best friend's wife is kidnapped and a rare keepsake his soul mate left him is stolen, he has no choice but to track down his hidden enemy.

McKuen risks all to force his adversary to pay.

 

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1

 

A helicopter thundered, spotlight cutting through the crisp, clear night. McKuen stared through the windshield at a shimmering star.

He looked over. “We don’t need anything else, just the phone?”

“Timer starts when somebody picks up,” Dennis said.

McKuen took the burner phone and looked down the block. Stencils on a storefront advertised
Albondigas
and
Menudo on Sunday
. He sighed and pressed the keys.


¿Qué pasa?

“You killed my wife.”

BOOM!
Corner windows exploded into the street. A fireball burst from the back of the store and consumed two trucks.

It blew out the roof and shot thirty feet in the air scorching the concrete block wall across the alley. The ceiling collapsed, barbecuing anything that survived the first five seconds.

Fire and burglar alarms sprang to life. Sirens started and a pink mist drifted.

A dark SUV rumbled away. It turned at the first left, traveled a couple of blocks and pulled over. Dennis killed the headlights, but let the engine run.

He jumped out, a short, muscular blond man carrying two license plates. No motion wasted with quick turns of a screwdriver, he swapped out the plates and climbed back behind the wheel.

The SUV edged up to Whittier Boulevard, a wide street in Montebello. McKuen and Dennis watched the burning building. Dennis turned right.

He glanced over. “There probably wasn’t anybody else nearby, Steve. Everything’s closed, it’s late and the hospital’s close.”

McKuen lowered his head.

“I had to do it, but it won’t bring back Mindy.”

He closed his eyes. Dennis drove down Garfield to the Santa Ana Freeway.

 

Later…

McKuen was trapped. He gripped a gun with both hands and peered around a corner. Slowly. Carefully. He saw only black, laced with fog.

Perspiration dripped down his side. He heard nothing but he knew they were there. Ghosts
.

Should he move? Or stay? Waiting always worked better but he felt like a target.

It wasn’t the first time. Cornered between warring factions of a cartel, he’d spent a night hiding out in the air conditioning ducts of a Beverly Hills building years ago.

But that was then. It shouldn’t be this way now.

Something shook his foot…

“Steve.”

He opened his eyes, still half in the dream.

Dennis was standing over him.

“Uh, musta drifted off,” McKuen said.

Dennis smirked. “Late night?”

McKuen shook his head and smiled. He pushed himself to a standing position and rubbed his eyes.

“You wanted me to see your new baby,” Dennis said.

McKuen gestured out the door. They took the hallway to the alley. By the time they reached the side street he was alert.

Dennis inhaled sharply. “It’s the latest, huh?”

“Brand new. Mighta got one of the first ones, don’t know.”

Steve McKuen and Dennis Reneaux stood next to Tony’s Cocktail Lounge, one of McKuen’s bars. Sun and shade dappled the cherry-maroon finish of McKuen’s Tesla Model X, the new falcon wing SUV. McKuen tapped the remote and the locks clicked. He was still getting used to the lack of engine noise, not even a faint purr.

“It’s really pretty.” Dennis ran a couple of fingers through his blond beard, then slid on a pair of sunglasses. McKuen pulled out shades, too. He reached for the passenger door.

“Want to take it for a spin?”

Dennis thumbed his chest. “I get to drive? Well,
yeah!
” He eased in, looked over the futuristic dashboard and whistled. “Nice ride, Steve.” Dennis pulled away from the curb.

“Don’t know if I can bring it to Tony’s much,” McKuen said. Dennis looked puzzled.

“Can’t park it in the alley,” McKuen said.

“Oh yeah, and how ya gonna get a space where you can see it?”

A couple minutes driving up Lincoln Boulevard in Santa Monica and Dennis was in love. He snapped through the turn to the frontage road, charged down the onramp and took them through the McClure Tunnel to Pacific Coast Highway.

If he was driving, they were going to the beach, by God! McKuen guessed where they were headed.

“The S-curves?”

“You bet!” Dennis boomed.

The two old friends shot the bull and talked business, admiring the scenery. Malibu’s colorful characters, fine women and gorgeous homes—what’s not to like?

Dennis blew it out, making it scream, banking the curves, passing like a maniac and laughing at near misses. He turned around at Pt. Mugu and ripped an encore heading south. McKuen lowered his sunglasses.

“How’s business?”

“Fine. Liv wouldn’t mind if I quit, though. I’ll sure be glad when we have the kid.”

McKuen smiled. “From what I hear, that’s when the fun starts. Sleep deprivation.”

“Oh, man.” Dennis went silent, concentrating.

He avoided a head-on collision. McKuen was stoic. Dennis was an excellent driver.

“She’s just worried something might happen,” Dennis said. “You know…” McKuen’s jaw went hard. He looked straight ahead.

“Anyway, I think she’s more worried about her figure.” Dennis chuckled. “You know her, The Bod.” McKuen relaxed, grateful for his friend’s empathy.

“Amy says she feels like a frog around Liv,” he said.

“What? Amy’s prettier.”

“But she’s shorter. All that time behind a desk, she’s got an app to remind her to sit up straight.” McKuen sighed. “I think she compares herself to Mindy. Don’t know if I can talk her out of it.”

“Mindy was a dancer, you love Amy for who she is.”

McKuen looked at the ocean sixty feet below. “Sure do.”

A few minutes later they passed Malibu Village.

“Want to run something by you,” McKuen said. Traffic had slowed. Dennis glanced over.

“You want to, or I guess Liv wants…look, I’ll just say it, then you tell me,” McKuen said.

“OK.”

McKuen looked down, considering his words, the dream an hour before weighing. “I’m ready to move on, man. Sooner rather than later, I want to sell the bars.”

“Oh.”

“Not a public sale.” Dennis’s eyebrows went up part way.

“Look, here’s what I’m thinking,” McKuen said. “I can make this good for both of us. Sometime in the next few months we’ll get papers drawn up. I’ll sign the whole thing over—the bars, the Laundromat and the car wash. I’ll take a serious cut every month and when you sell, I get a big slice.”

Dennis was pale. McKuen chuckled.

“Find a spot and pull over, I’ll drive,” he said.

“Jeez, Steve. That’s…that’s… No, I can drive. Damn!”

“There’s a lot to go over,” McKuen said. “It’s not gonna make you rich. When you sell, I want a righteous cut for not taking a down payment. You’re running everything anyway, might as well give you the headaches. So let’s keep talking, OK?”

“Hell yeah!”

Conversation ceased. A few minutes later McKuen looked over. A couple of creases poked above Dennis’s sunglasses. His eyes were on the road but it was obvious his thoughts were soaring. They rolled back through the Tunnel and took the Lincoln Boulevard exit.

“Let’s head to the house, switch cars. Seems like a waste to keep the Highlander, just to drive it to work,” McKuen rolled a finger, “but I wanted this baby.” Dennis laughed.

“Well Steve, you earned it. Kind of funny, you know, you can’t drive it much.”

“The trials of the affluent.”

“The woes of the one percent.”

“I’m nowhere near the top one percent.”

“You’re a multimillionaire.” McKuen smiled.

“Spending it could be a problem.” They collected his SUV and McKuen drove them back to Tony’s.

“Just remembered something else, got a few minutes?” he said.

“Liv’s gonna want me back home in an hour.”

“Won’t take long.” They trooped into McKuen’s office. Dennis settled himself on the sofa. McKuen shut the door and kicked back in his chair.

“The necklace of Mindy’s, the one she lost on Coast Highway?”

“Turned out John Christian had it.”

“Right.” McKuen pointed. “Thanks for getting it back.” Dennis shrugged like it was nothing.

“Anyway, I gave it to Amy,” McKuen said. “At some point she opened the locket and was checking out an old photo of Mindy’s grandparents.” He scrunched an eye.

“She was kind of playing with it, and the photo lifted up and popped out. Guess she was embarrassed to tell me about it, but eventually she did.” He raised an eyebrow.

“Check this. Behind the photo was a tiny folded piece of paper. Thin, like parchment? She showed it to me and we unfolded it, very carefully. There was a series of numbers and letters. Pretty mysterious, huh?” Dennis stared, his eyes ticking left and right.

“Christian’s money?” he said. McKuen nodded, glad Dennis thought so, too. A minute passed.

“So what’re you gonna do, Steve?” McKuen shrugged.

“Nothing, I guess. I looked at the paper a few times, tried to figure out what it all means. I don’t know, doesn’t seem complete.”

“Maybe there’s another piece of paper.”

“That’s what I’m thinking. Anyway, I put it in a safe place and told Amy not to worry about it.”

McKuen clapped his palms on his thighs and stood up. Dennis stood, raised his cap and smoothed his long, blond hair.

“That guy just won’t stay dead,” he said. “I better get going.” He shot McKuen a resigned smile. “Anything else?”

“I was saying to Amy we should take a drive out of town, like the four of us for a day.”

“That sounds cool, I’ll tell Liv. Take the Tesla?”

“Sure, it’ll hold the four of us.

“She’ll want to drive it.”

“Is that safe?” Dennis cracked a mischievous smile.

“For her or us?”

“Oh.”

“Remember, she was almost a pro skateboarder, hard core. Out on the road in my Ram she makes me look like a grandma.”

“I’m insured.” They grinned at each other. Dennis shook his head. He waved a goodbye.


Adios
.” The sound of cowboy boots clunked away.

McKuen sat down and flipped back his sandy hair. If he really wanted to quit operating, he should figure out the piece of paper and close that book.

Eyes shut tight as if that could shield him from the past, he knew he was lucky to get out. Going back would be like plunging into an inky black pool. But he needed to settle it, any shred of Christian’s legacy like a sore that wouldn’t heal.

Finally he stood up, face smooth. No more questions. He locked the office, walked out, slid into his SUV and turned the key.

____

 

She sounded sympathetic. “So this Christian guy put a contract on you?”

“Nothing personal, I think. Anyway, I punked him. He had this crazy ex-girlfriend? Got her to shoot him.”

“How’d you do that, babe?”

“She was one torqued-off little bitch. When Christian tried to split without her, she went nuclear. When he came back, just figured it was a matter of time.”

Eddie did a mental pimp roll every time he thought about it. His wife shook her head and chuckled. He pointed at her and grinned.

“We ended up with quarter million in bogus bills, baby. Took me a year to move ‘em. Just wish I grabbed that silver necklace.”

“Wish you did, too. Where was it?”

“An envelope next to one with the piece of paper. But look, that’s not important. Like I said, the numbers on the paper are the key. I just need to find the other piece of paper, with the missing numbers? It’s gotta be to be with the necklace.”

He closed his eyes and pressed on his forehead, trying to picture it. He’d only seen the necklace once. Was there a locket? He couldn’t remember. Her dark eyes gleamed. She licked her lips.


How
much you think is in those accounts?” She crossed her arms over her ample bosom. “If they exist.”

He gave her a sly smile. She acted like she could take it or leave it, but he had her full attention.

“A million bucks? Maybe two?” She inhaled.


¡Caramba!
Better find that necklace,
mano
.”

 

Eddie Sanchez squinted, remembering the conversation. Now in the office behind his Santa Ana repair shop, he stared at the small piece of paper, strings of numbers neatly printed.

He’d spent dozens of hours and a thousand dollars trying to crack the number code. Most of that went to a friend who worked at a bank. His friend was pretty sure they were bank account numbers. Eddie was certain the accounts belonged to John Christian.

For three years Christian employed Eddie to launder counterfeit bills. From the volume they moved, Eddie thought there had to be north of a million bucks in clean money, probably offshore. Patient and careful, Eddie had done well, but not like that.

His headache flared, pressure from the wife. Why did he have to go and tell her? Because he was a poor liar, at least when she grilled him, forcing him to account for his lost time and found money.

He jerked his arm away. Can’t get ink stains on the new jacket. He owned the shop. She told him to dress like an owner. He wore the pants, but she picked them out.

He stared at a yellow pad. At least he had a starting place. He wrote some names, drew boxes around them and connected the boxes with arrows.

Christian paid Eddie to arrange a hit on Steve McKuen, so Eddie cased McKuen’s bar, Tony’s Cocktail Lounge. He stayed long enough to see what McKuen and his main man, Dennis Reneaux, looked like. It had been over a year but he would know them if he saw them.

Eddie’s research revealed that somehow Reneaux arranged with the Santa Monica Police to give the necklace to McKuen. Why? He didn’t know. He made a note. And McKuen was now married to Amy Rosen, a music professor at UCLA. More notes.

Most promising was a lead on a guy named Zolo. Formerly in the drug trade and respected on the street, he was now a private investigator, working for Reneaux. Another note. Eddie hoped to talk to Zolo. Information was valuable, he’d get it.

There was no reason to think McKuen would negotiate with him to turn over the piece of paper. If Eddie was going to cash in, it would have to be by sleight of hand or force. He read through his notes again. It was obvious—hit the weakest spot first.

Sure, he’d been a criminal, but he wasn’t a bad guy. He just wanted more money. And the wife off his back.

Like a tow truck dragging a car out of a ditch, the fortune pulled him. It made his eyes ache, and it wouldn’t go away.

BOOK: McKuen’s Revenge
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