Read All the Blue-Eyed Angels Online

Authors: Jen Blood

Tags: #Mystery, #Suspense, #Contemporary, #Thriller

All the Blue-Eyed Angels (25 page)

BOOK: All the Blue-Eyed Angels
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This was hardly surprising.

“So, what’s the plan from here?” he asked.

“I just need to try and get a few final answers from Kat, but she’s on her way out of town after that.” I looked around at everyone typing madly at their desks. “I’m guessing tonight’s another late one around here?”

“Between the fire and this whole Hammond’s-been-murdered thing, we’ll definitely have our work cut out for us.” He eyed me guiltily. “Sorry. I wish I could be there for you a little more than I have been. This job…”

“Don’t worry about it, I’d be doing the same thing in your shoes.” I stood when Diggs’ office door opened and Kat emerged. “I’ve gotta go. I’ll give you a call later?”

He nodded.

Kat didn’t give either of us so much as a glance before she swept out the door, and she was already in the driver’s seat with the car in gear before I caught up to her. As it was, I had to stand in front of the car to get her to stop; if I hadn’t had Einstein with me, I’m pretty sure she would have just run me down. Instead, she waited with obvious impatience while I put the dog in the back and got in the passenger’s seat yet again. I was barely buckled in before she was barreling down the road.

“What did you tell Finnegan?” I asked.

“The truth. Noel and I spoke a few times over the past few days, but I didn’t see him and I sure as hell don’t have a clue who killed him.”

“Matt Perkins is still missing. You think it could have been him?”

She glanced at me. “Well, he’s always been a few Froot Loops shy of a full bowl—it wouldn’t surprise me. I don’t know how he could have overpowered a man like Noel, though.”

“Unless Matt got the drop on him when he wasn’t expecting it,” I said. She didn’t look convinced; I didn’t blame her. It didn’t add up for me, either.

We were closing in on the road to Diggs’ place, and I knew Kat wouldn’t stick around once we were there. If I wanted answers, it was now or never.

“The secret Rebecca knew about Dad—what do you think it was?”

“I don’t think there was a secret,” she said, like she’d been expecting the question. “Based on Joe’s description, she sounds like just another lunatic who allied herself with the Paysons—but this time, she may have been more nuts than even they could handle.”

“Do you think Isaac was sleeping with her?”

“Wouldn’t surprise me. He and Mae always seemed happy when I was out there, but things change.”

I waited a couple of seconds before asking the question that had been burning a hole in my brain for the past twenty-four hours.

“Is Dad really dead?”

She didn’t look at me. She gripped the steering wheel more tightly, a flicker of something—regret, pain… guilt?—crossing her face before it was gone.

“Of course he’s dead. For Christ’s sake, Erin, you’re not a kid—this is a conversation I might’ve expected when you were ten or eleven, but not now. He’s gone. Stop wasting your time on something that will only bring more pain.”

She pulled up in front of Diggs’ place, threw the car in park, and got out without waiting for me. I let Einstein out and ran after her.

“You’re lying—I talked to him. I heard his voice.”

She stopped dead in her tracks and turned. I’d never seen Kat afraid before, but if I had I was willing to bet this was what it would have looked like.

“What are you talking about?”

“I found a number. Going through Noel’s place, I found a bunch of paperwork and a telephone number with Dad’s name on it. I called. He answered.”

It took a few seconds before she schooled her expression back to its usually impassive mask. She shook her head.

“When was the last time you actually talked to your father? You were, what, twelve? We hear what we want to hear; we see what we want to see. Your father is dead.” She turned on her heel and left me standing there.

“Why should I believe you now? Until I started digging up your old secrets, everything you ever told me about the fire was a lie. What makes this any different?”

She kept walking. It was dark, but Kat didn’t bother to turn the lights on when we got inside, using some kind of half-human, half-doctor stealth radar to move from room to room without bumping into anything. The rain had started. The house was empty, but the sound of wind lashing against the windows and raindrops beating on the roof made it anything but silent. She wouldn’t answer me.

I caught up to her in my bedroom and grabbed her arm. She wheeled. Her eyes were cold, hard in a way that I’d almost forgotten. I stepped back.

“Why did you take me from him?” I asked. It wasn’t the question she’d expected. To be fair, I wasn’t really expecting it myself—and I definitely wasn’t expecting the tremor in my voice when I asked it. “We were happy out there. Why would you take me away, when you never wanted to be a mother in the first place?”

“You think you would have been better off on the island?” she asked. She was the ice queen now—not a trace of emotion to be found. Kat was bred to be a surgeon, but for all her healing ways, she never could stand personal weakness. There was no doubt in my mind that she’d rather have me bleeding from the eyeballs and fingernails than the emotional wreck I’d become. That certainly would have been my preference.

“This mythic childhood you created, this community of people who loved and cared for you, this perfect bond you had with your father? I think it’s time you face the fact that most of that’s a fantasy, a story you created to comfort yourself after the fire.”

I thought of all the images that had been running through my head in the past few days: Isaac’s need for control, the beatings I witnessed, the singular devotion he demanded from his followers.

“You weren’t there,” I said. “You left before I even knew who you were. You don’t have a clue what my childhood was like out there.”

“I was there for a year before you came along—I knew Isaac Payson, Erin. Trust me, that church was no place for you. ”

“And you thought you could do better? Leaving me alone while you screwed every man in town, dragging me out to your calls and then sitting me at the bar ‘til closing to drink root beer and wait until you got your shit together enough to drag us both home? That’s a better life than Dad could have given me?”

We were both shouting, inches away from each other. I knew exactly what would happen the second I pushed too hard—I’d seen it before. For the first time in my life, my own anger outshone even my mother’s controlling hand.

Her eyes flashed. When she spoke again, her voice was quiet, her eyes cold and still.

“If I hadn’t taken you, you both would have died along with everybody else. Believe me, I know that for most of your childhood with me, that’s what you would have preferred. But has your life really been so shitty that now, twenty years later, you would’ve rather died at ten years old in a fire with a church of zealots?”

My eyes burned the way they used to when I’d stared too long into the woodstove, focused on the flames.

“Why did you take me?” I asked again.

“Because your father asked me to,” she finally said. Everything slowed. She kept her eyes on mine as she delivered the killing blow. “He called me in Boston and told me he couldn’t handle you anymore—he couldn’t keep you safe. I would have left you there, let you grow up with Isaac and the rest of his shiny happy fucking cult.”

When I didn’t say anything, she sighed. I looked away from her, focused on the floor when she continued.

“Maybe I should have told you sooner. If I had, you might not have clung so hard to all these delusions about your life on that island. I came for you because I had no choice. Your father didn’t want you, Erin.”

 

Chapter Twenty-Four

After Kat left, I got a bottle of wine and started a fire in the fireplace, then sat in the dark with Einstein for a long time, thinking about what she’d said. Trying to remember more details of a shitty childhood that I’d apparently painted in shades of blue and gold—a fairytale I had told myself because the facts had been too much for me to handle.

So, what were those facts?

Someone set fire to the Payson Church. That was a fact. If Isaac really had been screwing Rebecca Ashmont, would he have gone over the edge if someone threatened to take her away? Would he have taken the lives of his entire congregation, just so no one else could get to them?

And what about my father? Kat may have tried to minimize what I’d heard on the phone, but her reaction just reinforced what I’d already known in my gut the second I heard his voice: my father was alive. Noel Hammond had known it. My mother knew it. The question was, why had they gone to such great lengths to convince me—and the world—that he was dead?

When I got nowhere with that line of thinking, I returned to the Payson fire. I thought of the body that had been found outside the church that day. The prevailing theory, at least according to Hammond, was that that had been Isaac. The preacher had locked the congregation inside the church, set the fire, and then waited there to die with them. There was no proof of that, though—Isaac’s body had been recovered at the scene, but thanks to Kat there was no way of knowing if his was the body Hammond had photographed. And no one had even known Rebecca and Zion were out there, so their remains had never been identified.

I thought about that for a few minutes before another question popped into my head. What if the reason Joe Ashmont’s wife and son weren’t found with the other remains wasn’t because no one was looking, but because they simply weren’t there? And if they
hadn’t
died in the fire, where the hell were they now?

And what about the man chasing me that day? What about this mysterious secret Rebecca had been holding over my father’s head? What part had my father played in the whole thing?

“This is what we call a giant cluster fuck,” I informed Einstein. He looked at me sagely and whined.

I sat there thinking that over, wine bottle still in hand, until Stein shattered the stillness with a bark that nearly sent me into orbit. He raced for the front door. Headlights shined through the living room window, coming to rest on the far wall. The engine went off; the light vanished. I waited by the fire.

 

Juarez came in a few minutes later and sat down on the floor beside me without turning on the overhead light or saying a word. I handed him my half-full bottle of merlot; he tipped it back and took a long pull. He had a full day’s beard growth, shadows beneath his eyes, and his shirt was rumpled. His sleeves were rolled up, and a tie hung loose at his collar—silk, gray with a black diamond pattern. He removed it, and for a second I thought he might toss it into the fire.

Instead, he folded it carefully in half and set it aside.

He scrubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands.

“Diggs should really get some fuckin’ furniture,” he said. It was so unexpected that I laughed out loud.

“We should spring for some before we leave. Nothing fancy—just a deck chair or two, maybe.”

“Or one of those free-standing porch swings,” he said. “We could set it up in front of the fire.”

We fell silent, meditating on that.

“So, I take it you’ve had no luck finding Matt?” I finally asked, when it became awkward not to.

He shook his head and took another pull from the wine bottle. “I looked in all the old spots—everywhere I could think of. Somebody said they saw him get in a red pickup when he left the hospital, but no one’s seen a trace of him since.”

I thought of Ashmont, and the conversation on his island. “Joe…” I began.

“I know,” he said. “…Has a red pickup. I talked to him earlier. He said it wasn’t him.”

“And you believe him?”

“I don’t know what to believe anymore,” he said.

He looked at me. His eyes were rimmed with red, any trace of humor gone from his face. I thought of what he’d told me about his childhood, and tried to imagine having no memory of my past. My family was clearly fucked up, but those early days with my father—whatever they had or hadn’t been—had shaped me, given me a sense of self that remained to this day. What would it be like not to have that to hold onto?

I put my hand on Juarez’s denim-clad knee. It was cold and damp, like he’d been out in the rain for a while. I scratched lightly at the fabric, feeling the muscle and bone beneath, the power and tension of his body. His eyes were on me when his hand fell to mine, stilling the movement. I inched closer.

“Where’s Diggs?” he asked.

“Work. With the fire and Hammond’s death, he’ll be late. If he makes it back at all.”

He hadn’t moved his hand from mine. He traced the lines on my palm with a fingertip, as attentive as a fortune teller.

“And your mom?”

“Came and went. We’re not much for long visits.”

More silence. Our fingers twined, his hands long and fine and masculine. When I looked up, I realized he was watching me—his eyes dark and sad, as though something heartbreaking was happening. I didn’t know what that something might be until I noticed the tan line on his ring finger.

“You’re married,” I said.

He pulled his hand back, staring at it like he expected the ring to magically reappear.

“Not anymore,” he said. “Not for a while.”

He leaned in before I could ask any follow-up questions. Unlike with Diggs, there were no remonstrations when our lips met. No hesitation. Jack’s hand moved to the back of my neck to pull me closer; the kiss deepened. He leaned back and pulled me with him until our bodies were flush. Outside, the storm was getting worse—I could hear tree limbs creaking as the rain fell in torrents against the double-pained windows. His hands were on my face, in my hair, moving over me with a desperation that matched my own. For the first time in weeks, my father and the Payson fire weren’t the first things on my mind.

After a few minutes of heavy petting, during which my bra mysteriously came undone and Juarez’s jeans visibly tightened, I summoned enough self control to pull away.

“Do you want to take this someplace else?”

I held my breath, waiting for him to explain all the very valid reasons why sex right now wasn’t a good idea. Instead, he stood. Our eyes caught. If we were going to have that whole horrible Should We Or Shouldn’t We talk, now would be the time. He held out his hand.

BOOK: All the Blue-Eyed Angels
6.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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