Deceptions (The Mystical Encounter Series Book 2) (17 page)

BOOK: Deceptions (The Mystical Encounter Series Book 2)
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Past nine? One eye popped opened and I groaned. My face felt puffy and my eyes stung from crying so much the night before. I sat up and ran my hands over my face, trying to rub the grit from my eyes. I sighed. I needed to pull it together before Tanner called. I withdrew my hands from my face and noticed that Mom was wearing jeans and a t–shirt. “Why aren’t you at work?”

“I called in, and they let me take a vacation day. My supervisor’s nice. Understanding.”

“Mom, I hope you didn’t do that because of me,” I said, sitting up straighter in bed.

“Well, yeah. I didn’t want you to be alone today. I realize how much Barry meant to you, so I have an idea how bad you’re hurting right now.” She turned toward the window, her eyes growing distant as she stared out. “It hurts when the person you cared for deeply walks away.”

Just hearing her mention Barry’s name brought a pang to my heart, but my intuition told me she wasn’t really talking about him. After my father walked out on us, she had never said one word about him. It was if he’d died. All this time, I thought she hated him‌—‌the love she must have had for him never once entered my mind. How did I miss that? My hand clutched my throat as I tried swallowing.
God, if Barry’s like my father, he’ll never come back to me.

“Mom, he’ll never forgive me,” I said, my voice cracking.

“Ah, sweetheart, don’t count him out yet.” She turned back towards me and frowned. “I won’t lie, it will take some time for him to work this out in his head. First, he has to sift through his mother’s actions, then come to terms with them. Once he realizes that you weren’t at fault for anything, he’ll come back around.” She pointed to the cup of coffee, indicating it was mine.

Without hesitation, I picked up the cup and took a sip. “Mom, it’s the deceit he’s mad about, not the fact I helped get his mother arrested. He thinks I purposely kept stuff from him, which is true.”

“It may seem like that, but eventually he’ll come to his senses and realize you never had a choice. The consequences were too great for you to keep the visions to yourself.” She wrapped her arm around my shoulders, squeezing me tightly. “Either way, you’ll come out strong. You always have.”

Words of encouragement were few, coming from Mom, so the rare ones she dispensed were appreciated. “Thanks, Mom. It just sucks.”

“Yes, it does.” With a sigh, she gave me another squeeze before standing. “When you’re ready for breakfast, I thought we’d discuss colleges. I’m sure there’s a few you’d like to visit soon,”

College? What is up with the sudden college talk? I only have enough space in my brain to think about Barry. “Mom, I can’t discuss college plans right now.”

She frowned. “I understand. I just thought maybe you needed the distraction.” She picked up my half–empty cup of coffee and turned toward the door.

I winced and stared down at my hands. Blinking several times in a row, I tried to stave off the tears that threatened to resurface.
Shouldn’t I be cried out by now?

I walked into the kitchen, and skidded to a stop. College pamphlets were spread across the table in a nice, even arc.
Really
? My mouth fell open. How long had she been researching? There must have been at least twenty different college brochures.

Mom glanced over at me and said in a rush, “I know this seems like a lot, but when you break them down it’s not that much. I have them arranged from smallest campus to largest, so depending on what campus style you were—‌”

“Mom, please stop,” I begged. “I can’t do this, not now.”

She paused and then nodded. “Of course. I’m sorry. I just hate seeing you go through this pain.”

“I know, Mom. But I have to prepare myself mentally to see Tanner today, and that’s about all I’m capable of thinking about at the moment.”

She gathered up the brochures and placed them in the drawer. “We’ll talk about it another day then.” She bent down and dragged a small skillet out of the cabinet. “Do you want me to fix you some eggs?”

Since Mom worked so much, it was rare that I had food prepared for me anymore. I had become creative with the microwave and crock–pot, because if I hadn’t learned how to cook for myself, I would probably have starved. One of my favorite meals was breakfast, so her offering should have been a treat. Except it wasn’t. I just wasn’t hungry. But Mom had taken today off to cater to me and I didn’t want to disappoint her. “Sure. I’ll take them scrambled, thanks,” I mumbled as I made my way over to the toaster. After shoving in a couple of pieces of bread, I refilled my coffee cup and went to sit at the table.

Mom kept talking, but I had a hard time focusing on her words. The constant ache in my chest tightened with every thought of Barry. I was barely holding it together. The toaster popped and Mom placed the pieces in front of me. I glared at the innocent browned bread as if they single handily were at fault. I shoved them away and placed my elbows on the table, resting my head in my palms.

Mom came over and rubbed my back in a circular motion as if that could erase my pain. The plate of eggs was in her other hand, but she didn’t hand it over until the microwave dinged. “Take this and I’ll grab your bacon out of the microwave.”

“Thanks Mom,” I said, glancing at her. Her lips rose into a sad smile and her eyes glossed over. Since moving here, our relationship had grown stronger. At least I had that.

She let me eat in peace, or at least nibble in peace. With a little food in my stomach, my strength returned, but that burning sensation in the pit of my stomach wouldn’t go away. I wondered if it ever would. Tears threatened to spill out again, but I squeezed my eyes shut, willing them to disappear.

After a few moments, once I had my emotions under control, I gathered up the dishes and brought them to the sink before scooting off to my room. The last thing I wanted to do was get ready, but I couldn’t mope around the house in my pajamas all day‌—‌that would be even more pathetic. I opted for my sweats instead.

As I made my way back into my bedroom, the buzzing of my phone vibrated across my desk. The hope that sprung inside my chest was quickly quashed when I saw Nicole’s name flashing across the screen. I didn’t want to talk to anyone today, so I pressed “ignore.” A twinge of guilt raced through me, pressing me to call her back. I didn’t though. While I stared at the phone, a text message appeared.

Call me ASAP.

Nicole must know something about what had happened at Barry’s house. I guess that wasn’t too surprising‌—‌Caleb had witnessed that awful scene, so he naturally would have told her about it. They talked to each other more than they let on, I think. But still, I couldn’t help but wonder if she already knew about Barry breaking up with me.
Had she talked to him yet?

As badly as the break–up hurt, my concern for Barry ran deep. It tore me apart knowing he was only twenty yards away, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do for him.

I stared at my phone as if it held all the answers, and then suddenly turned it off, tossing it onto my desk. Biting my lip, I sat there contemplating my next move. I squeezed my eyes shut, and drove my hands into the mattress. Here, on this very spot, I had poured my pathetic life story to Barry, which he taken in stride, never judging me or acting shocked. He was so caring and attentive that day. I wished we could go back to that time. As complicated as those days were, they seemed simple compared to the mess nowadays.

Upon opening my eyes, I glanced around the room. The four walls seemed to shrink, closing in on me as my pulse spiked. The warm, creamy color became nothing but suffocating as my anxiety level rose with each rapid breath.
I need to get out of here.
With a deep inhalation, I held my breath, forcing it to stay in my lungs for a moment while I calmed down. Tanner’s warning about his impending call flashed through my mind. I needed to hurry. I picked the phone back up and turned it back on before rushing off to my bathroom to get ready.

~19~

The Mission

“Okay, Heather. Now the plan is simple. You’re only to go inside, walk up to the counter, and order some fries to go. We’ll see if he approaches you. Do not approach him first under any circumstances. Got it?” Tanner asked while positioning the camera in place. Small in size, it blended in with my button.

Our eyes connected and I nodded. With my bravado being tested, I tried to come across as a confident woman, but I was sure he saw through my façade. I was petrified. Too many variables were stacked against us. The main thing the agents counted on was my presence provoking Bart into an admission of guilt, and not just any admission, but one that also implicates the mayor.

Tanner had called me at 10:30 with a tip that Bart would be eating at The Mole Hole that afternoon. When he came by to pick me up, he gave me instructions: go inside, order fries to go, and let Bart approach me. Unfortunately, there was a crucial weakness in our plan. If Bart didn’t approach me, then we had nothing, and how could I instigate a meeting without being obvious? I felt like the carrot being dangled in front of the horse. But if I remembered correctly, the horse chased after the carrot. Perhaps it would work out.

“All right, we will be two blocks away, listening to your every word,” Tanner said.

He held up a small black box with a wire extending out of it, something he had called a “portable surveillance transmitter.” Whatever it was called, I was just glad it fit inside my purse and I didn’t have to wear anything taped on my body.

“If you feel threatened at any point, simply speak out and we’ll swarm in immediately. Don’t compromise yourself in any way. Got it?”

“Yeah, got it.”

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 one monitor typing information into the computer. My mouth dried, and I forced myself to 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
actually
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.

I approached the building, and my stomach fluttered when I saw Bart’s profile sitting at a table along the window. His presence reminded me of how serious the situation was. Desperately trying to keep my face neutral, I harnessed Nicole’s acting skills. Her talents would come in handy right about now.

The door chime rang out as I pushed open the door. I felt his eyes stray toward me, but I continued strolling up to the counter, fighting the temptation to sneak a peek at Bart. I settled on one of the barstools lining the counter and grabbed a menu, pretending to read it. I grabbed my water glass, but my hand shook so much water splashed over the side onto the table. I bit my bottom lip, trying to control my nerves.

“What can I get you, honey?” The pitchy voice of the waitress pierced through my thoughts.

My gaze shifted toward her, and the hairs on the back of my neck tingled. Bart’s beady eyes penetrated straight through me in the mirror behind the waitress. I stared for a moment, unnerved, before automatically saying, “I’ll just take an order of fries to go, please.” I had definitely caught his attention, and he didn’t look very happy.

With a roll of her eyes, she half–smiled before turning away.
Hmm, I’ll have to leave her a good tip for such a small order. It’s Tanner’s money anyway.

BOOK: Deceptions (The Mystical Encounter Series Book 2)
5.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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