Authors: Kimberly Readnour
Copyright©2014 by Kimberly Readnour
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference.
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I scanned the cramped quarters of the van until my gaze landed on the flat monitor screens hanging against the sides. Below them, a narrow table housed a computer and various electronics. An agent, Bill Larkin, sat in front of a monitor typing information into the computer. My mouth dried, and I forced a swallow. This was real.
“Remember, we need that confession,” Detective Tanner said.
I focused my attention back toward Tanner and nodded.
Peering directly at me, his mouth flattened into a thin line. “Heather, be careful. I would never intentionally put you in danger, but it’s the only way.” Tanner’s shoulders dropped as he sighed.
He had promised my mom he would keep me safe and not put me in danger. This assignment bordered on breaking that promise, but my safety wasn’t
being jeopardized. Right?
“Don’t worry, we’ll get him,” I said, running my sweaty palms along the side of my jeans. “I’ll be fine.”
My head jerked to the left from the rattle of the van door sliding open. My eyes widened as another agent stepped inside. He nodded at me and Tanner and strolled to the empty chair in front of the monitors. Once settled next to his partner, he placed the headset on and adjusted a few dials.
“Okay, we’re set,” Agent Larkin said.
I took that as my cue and stood, glancing one more time at Tanner.
“Remember, we’re only two blocks away,” he said.
I stepped out of the van and brought my hand up to shield my eyes from the bright sunshine. I felt exposed with the sunrays shining down like a spotlight.
Here I am, come and get me.
I quickly scanned the area and let out my breath. Other than a white–haired gentleman with a slightly crooked back, the sidewalks were empty.
I walked past the glass doors of the corner pharmacy and turned left, immediately sidestepping an approaching couple. “Excuse me,” I said with a polite smile. I waited for them to pass before continuing down the sidewalk. A few steps and I halted again. My destination, The Mole Hole, was straight ahead, separated only by a single highway. I sucked my breath in and my pulse spiked. It all came down to this moment—a make–it or break–it point for bringing the man down. And oh, how I wanted to bring him down.
My fingers wiggled back and forth in an attempt to release the nervous energy flowing through me. Was I really going through with this? I fought the urge to look behind me. A simple thumbs–up from Tanner would have helped calm me down, but he was hidden inside the unmarked creeper van. Regardless of my fear, this needed to happen. I had to make this work somehow.
I tugged the bottom of my shirt and peeked down to make sure the camera–button was in place. Satisfied, I clutched my purse and resumed walking. The only thing left to do was go inside and finagle a confession out of the creep. Everything up until now had led to this point and backing out wasn’t an option. This guy had ruined too many lives, including mine, through his greed, and he would not get away with it.
I looked to the left and let a car pass before stepping into the street. A few more feet and I would finally have my answer.
Ten Days Ago
Why didn’t I catch a ride with Barry, my boyfriend?
My stomach churned. The ceremony for the new playground equipment had concluded, but not without complications.
“Fine job, guys. Fine job indeed,” the mayor said.
The mayor stepped away from the podium and approached Barry and me. He reached to shake Barry’s hand and rested his other one on my back. I immediately stiffened at the slight pressure, and everything went black as the mayor’s praises faded into a vision. I gulped. Change was coming, I just didn’t know what kind.
Barry leaned closer after I snapped back to reality, and I tried telling him what occurred. With the steady flow of people approaching us, that moment proved impossible.
After the last person had walked away, I scanned the area to make sure we were alone. “Barry, you’re not going to believe what I saw...” I began.
“Well, that went well,” Mom said, her voice sounding from behind.
My mouth clamped shut. She definitely didn’t need to know about my new vision. Our opportunity lost, Barry leaned in and whispered that he would meet me at home. My eyes flashed to his. His taut expression left little doubt about his curiosity, but he’d have to wait.
Which makes me ask again:
didn’t I just leave with him?
Trying not to arouse Mom’s suspicion, I tried to sneak a peek at Barry, but the scattering crowd made finding him impossible.
Darn, there were a lot people here today
. My mouth drew into a frown as I hurried to match Mom’s pace. We’ll be home soon, then I could tell him.
My uneasiness only increased the farther we walked. Mom’s silence wasn’t helping either. Half afraid she’d overheard what I started to tell Barry, I shifted my gaze toward her. My shoulders relaxed from the extra swing in her arms and widened smile. She was happy, lost in her own thoughts. I looked ahead and sighed.
Mom’s maroon Chevy Impala sat about twenty feet away.
“Let’s go out to eat,” Mom spoke, breaking my concentration. She started digging in her purse for the keys.
My gut tightened. I just wanted to get home. I approached the passenger door and gripped the handle tightly.
“Um…” My mind scrambled for something to say. I didn’t want her to know why I wanted to get back to Barry, and I didn’t think she’d buy the “
I miss my boyfriend”
“Yeah, let’s celebrate,” Mom said. She unlocked the car and opened her door. “There’s this café I’ve been wanting to try.”
I pulled the handle a little too hard, knocking myself off balance. Her idea of celebrating differed from mine, but it didn’t make any difference. The vision I incurred back at the ceremony blew any chance at being festive.
“All right,” I said, peering over the car roof.
The twinkle in Mom’s eye caused me to pause. She slid into her seat, and a twinge of guilt for not sharing her enthusiasm nudged my conscience. I couldn’t recall the last time I had seen her this excited.
More cars than usual clogged the streets as we putted along. Mom didn’t seem to mind. She kept droning on about the quaint restaurant where we were headed. I guess she really did want to go.
“Suzy, my manager, told me this is the best café in the county, and my coworkers agreed,” Mom said her words rushed.
I half–listened as I typed a text to Barry explaining my absence. Mom’s exasperated huff broke my concentration and I looked at her.
“I’m glad we get to spend some time together. It’s been too long,” she said, her tone serious.
What could I say to that...?
“Okay, that’s one chicken tortilla soup with a turkey club, one plain cheeseburger, and two sweet teas?” the waitress asked.
“Yes, thank you,” Mom said.
I nodded, wishing she’d rush the order. The clang of the dishes being scraped across the metal kitchen shelf, along with the endless chatter of the patrons, had made ordering a challenge. At least she had gotten our order correct.
An image of Barry’s anxious face flitted across my mind as I took a sip of water. His concern about what I’d seen worried me. I should be with him now, not here. He deserved an explanation. Plus, I was dying to share the details.
“Well, what do you think about this place? Think the food will be as good as they let on?” Mom asked. Crinkling her face into a grimace, her gaze darted around the diner.
“I’m sure the food’s fine, Mom,” I said, trying my best to reassure her.
Hmm, I wasn’t the only one with doubts.
When we had pulled along the curb out front, I about choked. Had her coworkers played a joke? My first impressions was not positive. The place looked like a dive, making me lose what little appetite I had. Sandwiched between two quaint, older structures, the building itself was a hole in the wall.
The heavily pitted stonework encasing the storefront showed the wear and tear of Mother Nature. The weather–beaten sign displayed a barely legible name, The Mole Hole. I chuckled at how appropriate the name was, considering the place was a hole. I bit my lower lip to keep from laughing and reminded myself not to judge by appearances. Sometimes, these small dives served the best food.
“What’s so funny?” Mom asked.
Another giggle slipped out. “This place is named appropriately.” I lowered my voice. “It
Mom smiled widely while nodding. “I see your point.” Her shoulders relaxed as she released pent–up tension. That was all it took for the verbal flood gates to open wide, allowing words to flow from her.
While we waited for the chef to prepare our food, she asked, “Wasn’t the memorial for Johnny nice?”
“Yes,” I sighed, trying my hardest to discourage this conversation.
The effort was futile because she kept babbling. I ground my teeth together and took a deep breath. With a fleeting look toward the kitchen, I willed the cook to hurry. Maintaining a neutral expression proved harder to do, and her nonstop chatter about Johnny wasn’t helping.
Why did she keep bringing up this subject?
Johnny’s chapter had closed a few months ago, and I so didn’t want to relive that experience. Today’s ceremony had been taxing enough. But Mom kept talking, dissecting the ceremony like a lab experiment. She was proud of me. The privilege of having a prestigious daughter had eluded her for many years, so I understood her enthusiasm. But I didn’t want to be here listening to her, I wanted to be with Barry, telling him about the vision.
“…And the cheeseburger for you, dear,” the pleasant tone of our waitress rang out.
I reached for my glass and moved it out of her way as she placed my meal in front of me. My stomach growled in approval, betraying my desire to leave.
“Looks good,” Mom said, eyeing her food.
Six bites and the burger disappeared off my plate. So much for wondering if they had the best food, I hardly tasted it. Clearly not in the same rush, Mom took her sweet time eating her sandwich, and her pace did not improve as she moved on to her soup. With each agonizing slurp, I was on the verge of pulling my hair out. The minutes ticked by, my eagerness to be with Barry increasing by the second. My legs shook, and I kept glancing at the door. Mom slurped away. I shifted my hands under my thighs in an attempt to keep from grabbing her bowl and pouring the remains in the nearby plant.
God, hurry up.
When she finally finished and went to pay the bill, I wasted no time in heading toward the door. I didn’t want to risk Mom changing her mind and ordering dessert.