Read House of V (Unraveled Series) Online
Authors: Raen Smith
Focus on Sister Josephine.
“Yeah, two first names
weird,” I said, thinking about what Jeremy George had
said about me.
That I had been “groomed” according to
I was far from groomed, but
instead, largely ignored as a child. I had never even had to worry about
Holston coming to any of my events after school because I wasn’t
to participate in any sport or
organization. Girl Scouts hadn’t even been muttered in our house. Not that I
would have been a good Brownie anyway. It was me and
with the occasionally assigned non-English speaker that would check on me. The
only exception was church on Sundays when he allowed me to participate in
Sister Josephine’s program for abused children, and to that, I say irony is a
bitch. I would have reveled in his attention when I had been a little girl, but
I now realized, that I was fortunate to not have been groomed. I was
that I didn’t have the attention
of the sadistic man that I’d grown up with.
Ann and Michael Jones would say.
“So what’s the deal? Do you think
that guy has Sister Josephine?” Mark’s question snapped me back.
“No, I don’t think he does. He
seemed genuinely surprised to see me. In awe, actually,” I said as I looked out
the passenger window again. The landscape was quickly changing as the downtown
vanished behind us. I closed my eyes, envisioning the rolling waves of the sea
to my right, however I wouldn’t hear the soft crashes of the water lapping to
shore here in Appleton. Instead, I opened my eyes to the flat landscape filled
A landscape without Ryan.
“You take a lot of men by
surprise,” Mark said, interrupting my thoughts.
“I guess you could say that,” I
replied. Mark’s banter edged into our conversation with ease even though I
hadn’t wanted it to. I listened to Mark’s small taps on the wheel as I thought
of Ryan. How he would never take me back. How I would never see him again. How
much better off he would be without me.
How much I wanted
nothing else than to be with him.
“So what’s the plan?” Mark asked as
his fingers finally rested against the wheel
“I thought you didn’t want to be
involved at all?” I mused.
“You’re right, I don’t, but I do
want to know what the hell you are going to be doing tomorrow. I don’t want you
trying to drag my pregnant sister into all this,” he said.
“That club is holding a convention
tomorrow night, and I was invited as a guest of honor,” I said with a slight
bow of my head, ignoring his comment about Delaney. I wasn’t going to stop her
from getting involved; it was her decision, not mine. We both knew that.
“Congratulations. How did you pull
“Just did. So I’ll be going to
that, but I’ll have to talk strategy with Sanchez in the morning. I don’t know
that they can hold every single person there for questioning, but we’ve got to
try something. One of those sick bastards has to have Sister Josephine. I think
we’ll have to do some investigative work in the morning, make a few stops.
Delaney mentioned the cottage wasn’t sold yet,” I said. The beautiful sandy
beaches of Lake Michigan popped into my head. It wasn’t quite Norway, but Lake
Michigan did have its own vastness that I
to love. That memory was now tarnished with the vision of Ethan taking his last
breaths to protect me. Everyone around me suffered because of me. I couldn’t
let that happen anymore.
“No, not yet.
We haven’t even really touched it, to be honest. We needed a break,” Mark
replied. “With Delaney being pregnant and all, it was time to hold off on a few
things. It’s been a pretty difficult year.”
“That’s a gross understatement.”
“But we’re moving past it,” Mark
said softly. “Are you?”
“I was. I thought I was doing
pretty well until that pregnant sister of yours brought me here. By the way,
you have her to thank for your special house guest,” I said, throwing the hat
on the seat between us.
“I’ll be sure to do that. You
should keep the hat. It looked good on you,” Mark replied.
“I’m not really a Packer fan.” I
shrugged it off and tried to avoid the game that I didn’t want to fall into.
Mark was making it difficult, but I had a job to do. I hated that he was edging
in on me like this.
“You can’t live in Wisconsin and
not be a Packer fan. It’s impossible. A mortal sin, probably,” Mark laughed.
“Have you ever been to
“No, and I don’t plan on going.
How’s the company? Tell me more about it. As much as I hate to say this, I
actually miss my old job,” I said, changing the subject to avoid the likely
suggestion that I should go to a game with Mark. I didn’t need to spend any
more time with Mark than I already was. “But I don’t miss my old boss, if you
know what I mean.”
“I know what you mean,” Mark
replied, his voice softer again. “We miss having you there. Frank took your
position, and he’s doing pretty well.”
“Old Frank is a softie, but one
hell of a guy,” I said. I had always liked Frank and had promoted him to
Manager just a few months before I’d left. If there was anyone that was going
to take over my job and do it well, it was Frank, and I was genuinely happy to
hear that he had taken my position.
“Not like you, though,” Mark said.
God, Mark was making this hard.
“You just always knew what to do.
It’s almost as if you knew what was going to happen before it happened. Since
you left, we’ve had more security breaches than I’d like to admit.”
“He’ll figure it out. Plus, it’s
not like I can come back or anything. I don’t think killing the boss was
exactly the reputation I was looking for. Anyway, I’m not staying in Wisconsin.”
“James said something about you
having to stay here, I thought,” Mark said, sounding doubtful.
“Just a year then I’m out,” I said.
“I can’t stay here. There’s no place for me to go. I won’t be able to stand the
stares and pointing. You know, anonymity is a beautiful thing. It really is.”
“I’m sure it is,” Mark replied,
pausing. The silence hung like a sweeping fog before he added, “But you can’t
keep running forever,
I wish Mark would have told me
something I didn’t already know.
I crawled into Mark’s bed, feeling
the cotton sheets rub against my bare skin, and inhaled the smell of
. It was different than Ryan’s, and
it made me miss him more than I ever thought I would. I didn’t feel good lying
in another man’s
however Mark had insisted that I
take his bed while he slept on the floor in his office. He had turned the room
into a workspace only weeks after Delaney had moved out to live with James. As
I said good night, he had shut the door reluctantly.
“Never going to happen,” I had said
“I know,” he had said. “But a guy
can dream, right? We’re not related, you know.”
Believe me, I knew. Despite the
pull of old feelings from Mark, I knew that as long as Ryan was still out
there, I wouldn’t ever be able to let go of the hope that we could be together.
I wanted him in my life, yet I couldn’t say the same about him. Like the coward
I was, I had left him standing in the kitchen without telling him how much I
loved him. Loving someone didn’t come easy to me.
Delaney and James were already
asleep in his spare bedroom, and Hobart was still wide
awake on the couch flipping through channels. He had just completed a perimeter
check after my insistence. He was on his second energy drink and had at least
moved on from the bag of chips to an apple. I had eyed his holster and 9mm
before I had wandered off to bed. He gave me a look any idiot could decipher,
even think about it
What was everybody’s problem?
I stared at the ceiling fan as its
blades went round and round on the slowest speed. I wondered how I had found
myself here, in Mark’s bed, the last place I’d envisioned myself to be just a
few days ago. My life in Norway had been normalizing, as normal as you could
get while being a fugitive. I had been blending in, and Ryan and I had been
making a life together.
I cursed myself for leaving and for
coming to do what I had to do, but it was in my blood to take care of what
needed to be done. I needed to make things right. Besides, I wondered if I was
being called to be a guardian angel for Sister Josephine. I listened again,
waiting to hear a voice that would guide me. Instead, the whirring of the fan
lulled me. My now blue eyes grew tired until I couldn’t fight the heaviness
Then I found myself in a wheat
field, the summer sun beating against my back. Something urged me to turn
around, a feeling of being pulled behind me. I looked down to see my black
boots laced well past my ankles. I wanted to reach down to touch them, the
rubber so comforting and soothing to me, but I resisted and succumbed to the
urge behind me. My black dress fluttered in the wind as I turned and felt the
familiar cotton against my skin.
The bold sun shone in my eyes as I
squinted to see the outline ahead of me. I put my hand up above my eyes,
shielding the rays just enough to make out the house in front of me. It was a
farmhouse exactly like the one Holston had built in
except it was older and smaller and not as vibrant or modern as the one he had
built. Still, it was a faded white with a sunroom in the front of the home.
The sound of laughter called me
toward the house. I stepped through the wheat as it brushed against my skin. I
held my hands out and let the tops of the wheat tickle my fingertips as I
neared the house only a few feet away. Two identical toddler boys tore around
the side of the house wearing the same exact jean overalls and plaid shirts.
They laughed and poked at each other. Their warmth and energy revitalized me, calling
me to come closer, and as I did, the boys turned toward me.
Now I was only a few feet away.
Their faces were so beautiful, unblemished and innocent, that I wanted to reach
out to touch them. I watched my own hand extend toward them. I was closer now,
only inches away to that peach skin when they suddenly disappeared. My hand
fell forward into the empty space where they once were. I blinked my eyes and
rubbed them hard, hoping that the boys would reappear.
Instead, the sound of the front
door shutting pulled my attention away from the beautiful boys. A woman bounced
down the steps with curly blonde hair, her face hidden from me as her head bent
down to move down toward me. Her dress was a flowing crimson that blew in the
gentle breeze. And as she lifted her head, my heart pounded at the thought of
seeing her face. A sweet voice echoed through the air as if she was almost
singing. It was her. I would recognize that voice anywhere.
I wanted to run to her, but my legs
wouldn’t move. They were planted firmly in the grass, my boots as heavy as
rocks. I reached my hand out again, desperate to touch the red fabric.
Elizabeth’s eyes looked at me, her face a golden white.
“You better find him fast before
Sister Josephine ends up the same way I did. Think,
Who still wants you? Who wants you dead? Who wants revenge?”
I reached my hand further as my
fingers stretched as far as they would reach. I looked out at my own hand to
see that my fingernails were a deep crimson, the same color as her dress. I
glanced up to see her dress, but it had disappeared, just like the boys had.
Soon, I was standing in the wheat field again, alone in the darkness of night.
It dawned on me then, that the color that had soaked through Elizabeth’s dress
and my fingernails was the color of blood.
I woke up in a pool of sweat, my
hair drenched and stuck to my neck like wet noodles. My eyelids flashed open to
see the ceiling fan blades still spinning the methodic rotation just as they
had been when I’d first fallen asleep. I pulled my hands from beneath the
covers to check my fingernails, half expecting to see the bright flush of life
on them, but instead, they were clear and unpainted. I let them fall back down
on the blanket when I heard a startle from the other side of the room. My body
shot up and the gasp caught in my throat as I saw Mark standing by the door.
“It’s only me,” he said, holding up
his hands as if I’d pull a gun from beneath the covers.
“Jesus, Mark,” I said, falling back
onto the pillow.
I was in Mark’s bed.
“You sleep okay? You were thrashing
around a lot. I thought I heard something, so I came in here to check on you.”
“I’m fine,” I said as my thoughts
chased the images in my dream. The two perfect little boys in their overalls
stayed with me; their laughter still rung in my ears. And Elizabeth in her
beautiful dress looked at me with her sad eyes. Her words rolled through my
“A guardian angel,” I answered in a
whisper as Mark moved forward to sit on the edge of the bed. He sat gingerly,
as if the bed wasn’t his own.
“You could use one of those
about now.” Mark smiled.
“You’re telling me.” I turned
toward the soft glow that exuded from the navy curtains. I wondered who had
helped Mark pick them out. He definitely didn’t do it himself. “What time is
“Almost seven,” he answered,
following my eyes to the curtains.
Well, not exactly ex-girlfriend, more like a friend,” he admitted with a sheepish
“Is Sanchez here?” I asked,
diverting the attention away from the girlfriend talk. Mark deserved to have a
girlfriend, and that someone definitely wasn’t me.