“Bobby?” Kayleigh wiped the sleep from her eyes and sat up in bed. Glancing over at the LED clock on the dresser, she saw that it said 1:15 a.m. “What are you doing?”
Her boyfriend Bobby, the man she met in high school and knew right then that he would be the love of her life, stood a few feet from the bed. When she’d woken up, he looked like he was headed for the door, but now he turned back toward her. He was dressed, in a pair of jeans, a long-sleeved t-shirt, and boots. He had his jacket in his hand. “Go back to sleep, babe. I’ll be back soon.”
Kayleigh sat up further and reached over and switched on the light. “Back from where? What’s going on?”
Bobby sighed, but almost imperceptibly. Suddenly, there was a smile on his face, that gorgeous smile she’d fallen in love with six years earlier. She’d given up a lot to be with Bobby. Her father hated him and none of her friends liked him, but Kayleigh spent years telling herself they just didn’t understand him. Sure, he wasn’t perfect, but who was? Lately however, she’d had cause to worry that maybe some of the things they’d all said about him were true. On more than one occasion he’d come home hours after he was supposed to. On two occasions while he was out, strangers…scary looking people…had knocked on the door looking for him. Bobby always had some kind of “logical” excuse for everything, but Kayleigh was starting to wonder if her dad had been right all along, and she was just too naïve for her own good.
Bobby sat down on the bed and reached for her. Kayleigh stiffened, but didn’t pull away. “Kevin called,” he said, running his hand over her hair and down her back. Even when she was upset with him, his touch brought her body alive. “He and Daisy had a fight and she left him at the bar. He needs a ride home.”
“Seriously?” Kevin was Bobby’s best friend, had been for even longer than she and Bobby had been together. Kayleigh wasn’t crazy about the guy. It seemed like he was always getting himself into trouble and pulling Bobby down with him. “Why can’t he take an Uber?” They lived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The party scene was not as wild as their neighbor, New Orleans, just about an hour and fifteen minutes southeast of them, but it could get wild. The capital city drew thousands of tourists a month, and the “Red Stick,” as the locals fondly called their city, not only offered some of the best hotels, restaurants, bars and clubs in the state…but they also offered ample amounts of public transportation.
“She didn’t leave his phone so he can’t call one. He used the phone at the bar to call me, and he’s waiting, Kay, so I have to go.” He kissed her on the forehead and stood up. “Now just go back to sleep, baby, and I’ll be here when you wake up for work in the morning.”
Kayleigh didn’t say anything else as he went out the door, but as soon as he was gone, she jumped out of bed and pulled on a pair of yoga pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt. She pulled her long, dark hair up into a messy bun on the back of her head and then slipped on her running shoes. On her way through the dining room she grabbed her phone, purse, and keys. The sound of Bobby’s car leaving the street they lived on was fading by the time she reached the garage. That was okay though, she wouldn’t need to tail him in order to find out where he was going. Kayleigh’s father was the assistant chief of police in West Baton Rouge Parish. He’d been a police officer her entire life, and although the idea of invading Bobby’s privacy, or following him around in the middle of the night, had never occurred to her until the past few weeks, when it did, her law enforcement connections came in handy.
Kayleigh grew up with one of her father’s favorite young officers. They’d been best friends all the way up until Kayleigh started dating Bobby in high school. Unfortunately, Jason and Bobby couldn’t stand each other, so she and her best friend had drifted apart. She felt guilty the day she’d called and asked him to meet her for coffee. He hadn’t seemed surprised when he found out she’d only reached out because she needed help. But he hadn’t said no, probably because he was hoping she’d catch Bobby having an affair and finally dump him.
The day after they had coffee, Jason came by one of the job sites where she was working. Kayleigh had her own little landscaping business. There was nothing she loved more than working with her hands and being outside. He had brought what she asked for, what the men and women in law enforcement referred to as a “slap and track” device. It was a GPS monitor that was no more than the size of a fifty-cent piece and attached anywhere underneath a car. Jason had sworn to her that he wouldn’t tell her father, but even now as she got into her own car to find out once and for all where her boyfriend went in the middle of the night, she worried about that. If her father found out that she thought Bobby was cheating, or up to something equally as disturbing, it would only add fuel to the already raging fire that burned between the two men.
Kayleigh brought up the device on the app she’d downloaded on her phone and started driving. The first thing she noticed was that Bobby wasn’t headed for the downtown district where he and Kevin liked to party. It looked to her like he was headed for the marina where he worked, but that wouldn’t make any sense at one o’clock in the morning. The warehouse never opened before 4 a.m., and Bobby worked the afternoon shift.
Kayleigh drove for almost an hour, and sure enough she found herself pulling into the dark parking lot behind the Shamrock Marine/Baton Rouge Warehouse where Bobby worked as a laborer. Bobby’s family was rich and the first few years they lived together, he didn’t work at all. But Kayleigh found it hard to respect a man who didn’t want to earn his own living, so he’d finally given in and gotten a job loading and unloading boats and barges. He didn’t make much, but it was honest work. Kayleigh was sure that his mother still gave him money too, since he always seemed to have more than he should. But she’d learned to pick her battles, so she’d left that one alone. She wondered suddenly if maybe he’d been working overtime, and for some reason he didn’t want to tell her. That made her feel almost guilty enough to turn around…almost.
She spotted Bobby’s car in the parking lot. Other than his car and a handful of shiny Harley Davidson motorcycles, the lot was empty. She drove around to the far side of the warehouse and parked a way away and then slowly and quietly, she made her way over to the side of the building and the small, dirty four-paned window. She peeked inside, but the window was so dirty that it was hard to see anything other than lights and shadows inside. She pressed her ear up against the tin wall and she could hear voices, but not what they were saying. So, growing bolder, she snuck around to the front of the warehouse and positioned herself behind the open door.
“That’s all I got right now but give me a few days…” Bobby sounded nervous.
“You’ve been given more time than most,” an unfamiliar male voice said. “Most people are dead the second we find out they’re stealing from us, you stupid cunt. You should appreciate the fact that you’re still breathing.”
“I wasn’t stealing, I swear…”
“Shut the fuck up! Nothing but lies come out of your mouth! You’re a junkie and a fucking thief…and worse yet, you got us into a fucking war with a street crew thanks to your lies!”
“I didn’t, man, I…” A sound like a boot crunching into soft flesh, and a loud grunt from Bobby. There were seconds of nothing but the sounds of Bobby trying to control his breathing, and then, “I’m sorry, man.” Bobby’s voice was infused with pain. “I’m really sorry. I’ll fix this, I promise. I just need twenty-four hours, man. You know my family has money. I’ll get it…” Kayleigh flinched when she heard the sound of flesh against flesh and a loud grunt.
“That’s the same fucking thing you said last time. That was over a week ago.”
Bobby’s voice sounded desperate now and Kayleigh’s body was shaking all over. She didn’t understand what was going on…what did Bobby steal, and why? He didn’t need to steal anything. All he ever had to do when he wanted or needed something was ask his family, his mother in particular. She never said no.
“Okay,” Bobby said, breathlessly. “I have some of the cash at the house. I was going to turn it all in, I swear I was. I just had a big-ass sale all at once and…” She heard one of the men say something in a low, threatening voice, but couldn’t make out the words. Bobby’s voice had a definite quiver in it when he said, “I’ll get it for you now…”
When Kayleigh thought about that night later, this would be the part she played over and over in her head. It was surreal, and yet she was listening to it play out in real time, so she knew she wasn’t dreaming. The man chuckled and said:
“Nah, we’ll get it ourselves.” And then the sound of a gunshot rang out and echoed off the walls of the warehouse. Kayleigh was so startled by it that it literally knocked her off her feet. Panicking, she scrambled back upright and almost ran inside the warehouse to check on Bobby…but what then? She’d be a witness, and they’d shoot her too. She didn’t even realize that tears were already streaming down her face when she heard another man say, “Let him bleed out right there, I don’t give a fuck. Howie, get over to that house and find that money he was talking about. Take Snake and Granite with you.”
“He’s got an old lady,” another man’s voice said. “What should we do with her?”
“Again, I don’t give a fuck. Just make sure you take her somewhere that no one can hear her scream…now go on.”
Kayleigh hadn’t meant to gasp out loud before she took off running, but she had. Before she turned the corner around the side of the warehouse, she heard another shot and the sound of it bouncing off the metal wall of the warehouse, only inches from her head. That one elicited a scream from deep in her throat, but she kept running. When she got to the car, her sweaty, slick palm slid off the door handle at first. The torrent of tears flooded her face and made it hard for her to see, and her shaking limbs were making just standing upright difficult.
The man who had taken a shot at her was running in her direction now and she had to get out of there. She finally got a grip on the door handle, pulled it open, and without even closing it she stepped on the brake and pushed the starter button. As soon as the V8 engine in her Dodge Charger growled to life, she hit the gas and pulled the door closed while the tires were spinning and filling the night with the smell of burning rubber. The man with the gun was about six feet in front of her car then and taking aim. Without thinking about anything other than self-preservation, she pulled the steering wheel hard to the right and saw his eyes go wide. The thud of his body against the front end of the car was sickening, but she ignored it. More men were coming toward her now, and several had climbed on their bikes. Kayleigh’s car reached upwards of sixty miles per hour before she even hit the road that led out of the warehouse lot. She pulled the wheel to the left and felt the car take the turn on two wheels. As soon as she was back on four, she accelerated again, leaving a cloud of dust behind her as she headed for the main road. She had to go to the police, or call 911…Bobby was dying, or dead. But those men knew about her, and they didn’t seem to have any qualms about killing her too…or worse. With a shaking finger she pressed in 911 and kept her eyes on the road in front of her.
“911, what’s your emergency?”
“There’s a man at the Baton Rouge Warehouse who has been shot. Send help, hurry!” She ended the call quickly, sure that it would take them a fair amount of time to trace that call back to her. By then, she planned on being long gone. She could go to her father, but after he finished saying “I told you so” about Bobby, he’d lock her down like a criminal in order to keep her safe. She could go to Jason, but he’d only try to force her to tell her father. No…she had to get somewhere that these guys couldn’t find her and think. Once she’d had time to do that, then maybe she’d call her dad.
Kayleigh finally hit the paved road with the back end of the Charger fishtailing as she did. She was thankful for the time of night and lack of traffic, and she raced toward her house. The men behind her knew where Bobby lived, which meant they had her address, but they didn’t know who she was, yet. She just had to make sure she lost them on the way and got the hell in and out as quickly as possible. Kayleigh lived in Baton Rouge her entire life, so she knew the streets like the back of her hand. She spent the next half an hour making sharp turns and racing through residential districts, down back alleys, and changing direction every few minutes until she no longer heard the loud rumble of the bikes behind her.
It took her another hour to get to her own street. Once there, she drove by the house twice, making sure there was no sign of the bikes, and all looked quiet in and around the house. The only light on shone from her bedroom from the lamp she’d turned on before Bobby left. She went around the block and left her car parked on the street that ran behind her house. She didn’t look at the front end when she got out; she didn’t want to see what the man’s body she’d hit had left there.
She left the car but took her keys and purse and jogged the block back to the house she had shared with Bobby for the past four years. She didn’t bother unlocking the front door, but instead slipped through the back gate and through the door to the garage that they almost always left unlocked.
She made her way through the dark, not taking out her phone, or turning on any lights, listening as she moved slowly, making sure there were no sounds in the house. When she made it to the bedroom, she went to the closet and took down the locked box where Bobby insisted on keeping what he called their emergency stash of cash. He kept one key on his keychain, but Kayleigh had watched him hide the other one in his dresser drawer one night when he thought she was asleep. She’d never looked inside the box, and suddenly she was beginning to realize, naïve was exactly what she’d been. She took the box over where the light was still shining and set it on top of Bobby’s dresser. Sliding open his top drawer, she tossed out his neatly rolled socks until she saw it, a small, single gold key, taped to the back corner of the drawer. Kayleigh pulled it out and because she was still shaking so hard, she had to fumble with it several times to get it into the lock. Once she finally had it there, she turned it to the right and heard it click. Taking a deep breath, she opened the lid, and gasped.
The first thing she saw was a 9mm handgun and a box of ammo. The next thing her brain tried to process were the two neatly stacked and bound piles of one-hundred-dollar bills. What the hell had Bobby gotten himself into?
The sound of motorcycles suddenly penetrated the quiet that surrounded her. She felt like she was going to be sick and told herself how stupid it had been to come back there. But she couldn’t run if she didn’t have money for essentials at least. She scooped one pile of the cash out of the box, and then deciding what the hell, she took the other one as well. She grabbed a tote bag hanging on the wall and shoved the money into it, then remembering how close she’d just come to getting shot, she grabbed the gun and ammo, and shoved them in the bag as well. Kayleigh knew how to shoot; her father made sure that she learned everything about guns as soon as she was old enough. She didn’t have any idea if she could shoot a human being, but the bikes were so close by then that she didn’t have time to ponder that. She hooked the bag over her shoulder and ran out of the room and back down the hallway, and then out the door she’d come in through.
Instead of going back out through the front gates, where she could now hear the bikes turning into her driveway, she tossed the tote bag and her purse over the neighbor’s back fence and then climbed over and dropped to her feet on the other side. A motion light came on as soon as she hit the ground, and a dog started barking from inside. Kayleigh didn’t wait to see what might happen. She hit the neighbor’s gate running, coming out on the other side where she’d left her car. The street was dark, but she didn’t need more than a porch light or two to make out the large shadows of two men, and the gleaming of moonlight bouncing off the shiny chrome of their motorcycles. There was absolutely no way she was getting to her car without being seen. Kayleigh suddenly wondered if this was what her cop father had in mind when he told her that her infatuation with Bobby Lee Ramsey would someday lead to her waking up in the center of a landfill, and wondering how in the hell she’d gotten there.