House of V (Unraveled Series) (23 page)

BOOK: House of V (Unraveled Series)
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“I think around midnight, but I can
give them a call,” Sanchez said as he pulled out his phone.

“My point is that he was in
Appleton sometime this morning. Let’s say around two or three in the morning.
He snagged a copy somehow and then brought it back to wherever Sister Josephine
is and shot the video. Then he brought the video back here by eight o’ clock.
Paid the kid, and voila, the disc is at the police station,” I said.

“So he’s close by,” Sanchez said.
“Somewhere maybe within thirty minutes of Appleton.”

“Maybe or maybe
not.
Maybe that’s what he wants us to think,” I said slowly. “What I do
know is that it has something to do with the C. Maybe the name of the town he
is in starts with a C.
Or maybe the location?
Or maybe the convention?
The HP League
convention tonight?
They called it the “convention” on the website. That
could be it.”

“Maybe.”

“Whatever it is, he wants his
revenge, but he wants me to come and find him. He wants me to play his little
game. He wants to drag me a long to suffer.”

Sanchez nodded his head. “Okay,
then what game is that?”

“I don’t know yet, but I’m going to
find out.”

***

Agent Allen agreed, reluctantly, to
escort us on our little trip to the cabin on Lake Michigan. He had urged
Delaney and James to stay back, arguing that he didn’t want to create some
traveling circus, but in the end, agreed to let the owner of the property,
Delaney, and her lawyer to accompany the search. After all, the FBI had no
warrant to search the cottage, and it would be much easier to bring Delaney
along than to file the paperwork to get one.

Sanchez had obliged to let us go as
well with no real hope or conviction that we would discover anything. But we
agreed to be back to Appleton by mid-afternoon. Sanchez was staying back to
lead the investigation and to strategize the plans for the convention.

We had all agreed that I would go
in first, wired and alone, to scope out the situation with back-up surrounding
the house. If the man who had taken Sister Josephine was there, I would be
there, alone and ready for him. In the meantime, the house was going to be
surrounded by a slew of officers ready to arrest the fifteen individuals for
breaking-in. Their arrests would lead to questioning and hopefully, a
confession to the murder of Fred Sullivan and whereabouts of Sister Josephine.

So here I was
,
riding in the passenger seat of Agent Allen’s government issued FBI sedan with
Delaney and James in the back when I asked Agent Allen to pull over at the next
exit only thirty minutes into our trip.

“We’re only thirty minutes in,” he
complained. “What could you possibly need to stop for?”

I looked up at the orange logo and
silo protruding from the building off in the distance to our right. Anyone from
America’s Heartland would recognize that building.
Fleet
Farm.

“I need new clothes. This dress
doesn’t fit me,” I said. “Besides, they’re expecting a little something
different from me tonight, and I would like to play the part. Anything I can do
to convince them that I am still in the game and on their side is important.”

Agent Allen pulled the sedan off
the highway and into the parking lot, mumbling under his breath. I turned back
to give Delaney a smile, her face reciprocating the same look.

“I’ll help you,” she offered.

“Don’t think for one second that I
am going to let you two alone,” Agent Allen warned.

“I’m not letting either my wife or
my client out of my sight,” James added, placing his hand on Delaney’s leg.

We all walked into Fleet Farm like
a group of misfits, none of us really belonging together or in the sporting
goods and farm retailer. I lingered at the hunting section for a second too
long, and Agent Allen moved me along with a forceful nudging. But I got what I
came for, sort of anyway. It turned out that Fleet Farm didn’t carry any black
dresses like the one I wore the day I killed Holston. Instead, I bought a pair
of black cargo pants and matching t-shirt. I held my rubber combat boots up to
my nose before putting them on with a smile, my fingers lacing quickly from
memory. And when Delaney held up a faux leather jacket, I couldn’t resist. She
turned it around to flash the large G logo that was plastered on the back.
The Green Bay Packers.
I grimaced, but it was close enough
so I put it on.

All Agent Allen could do was shake
his head and look at his watch.

As much as I wanted to find Sister
Josephine right now, I knew we weren’t going to find her until after the
convention tonight. And I knew I had to make my appearance worthwhile.

Evie
Parker was on.

***

A little less than two hours later,
we were pulling up the driveway to the cottage on Lake Michigan. The evergreens
flanked the long driveway as we pulled closer to the expansive cabin where the
yard was trimmed and kept up.

“Are you still paying Hector to
maintain the yard?” I asked as I peered through the window.

“Through the summer to keep the
neighbors happy before we put it on the market,” Delaney answered. “It’s such a
beautiful place. I hate to see it go to hell.”

“If it did, it would be right there
along with its previous owner,” I replied.

I couldn’t help envisioning the
trees as I’d last seen them. They had been covered in dense snow and ice when
Ethan and I had come here. I closed my eyes, listening to his voice choked with
blood and the last bit of life. He was sputtering for me to run. To do what I
was best at. I laid my head against the window, wanting nothing else than to
feel the heaviness of Ethan’s hand on my leg, but I knew when I looked over
that I wouldn’t see Ethan behind the wheel. That it would be Agent
Allen,
and it killed me.

Ethan hadn’t deserved to die.
Neither did Elizabeth. Seth. Owen. Joe.
And now Father
Haskens
.
All of them had vanished into the wind, and
I would, no matter what it took, put an end to it all. I wouldn’t let Sister
Josephine’s life end the way Elizabeth’s had. I couldn’t.

I walked up the steps to the
sweeping front porch and grazed my fingertips along the familiar rail with each
step.

“Are you ready for this?” Delaney
asked as she slid the key into the lock and opened the solid front door with a
push.

I exhaled, feeling the heavy gazes
of all three of them before I stepped forward and through the threshold. I felt
it then, the tingling sensation of hate course through my body. The cottage was
just as I had remembered it last. It was the day that I retrieved the picture
of Ann Jones.
The day that Ethan saved me.
I thought,
for a fleeting moment, that I could still see Holston’s silhouette on the couch
in the living room where I had sliced his hand open.

I glanced toward the kitchen and
half-expected to see the bullet holes in the wall, but they were patched as if
it had never happened. Every intricacy of the house was the same; each wall
hanging, chair and lamp was in its perfect spot.

I walked through the living room
into the kitchen and ran my hand along the wall where the bullet must have gone
through. Smooth as silk. My chest constricted as I looked up at the glass door
that was shattered the last time I had seen it. The door had been replaced, new
and unscathed.

I closed my eyes and tried to shake
Ethan’s face that screamed on the other side. I covered my ears and moved
forward to reach for the knob. It was close, an explosion hurtling through my
body that threatened to spill over. And at once, I needed the fresh air against
my skin. I pulled open the door and saw a pristine deck where Ethan’s body had
once laid. I crumbled to the deck on the spot where I had heard his last words.
His last breaths.

Then it finally came.

My shoulders shook with each sob
and the tears streamed down my face as I let the pain overcome me. The hot
saltiness dripped down onto my shirt until I put my hands over my face and
frantically swiped away the heaviness that poured through each tear. Returning
back to this place was forcing me to deal with what Holston had done; what I
had done. No amount of running was going to take me away from the anguish I
felt and the deep hole that Ethan had left in my heart.

I hated who Holston Parker had made
me.

A warm arm wrapped around my
shoulder, and Delaney’s painted toenails appeared in the haze of my wet eyes.
“Ethan?” she whispered.

I nodded as my throat was unable to
make a sound. She waved her hand at James and Agent Allen, and a muffled sound
of shuffling feet disappeared through the house. I let her comfort me, resting
my cheek against her shoulder, wondering how many times I had missed out on my
older sister holding me like this. My shoulders finally relaxed, and I inhaled
deeply, feeling the burn in my lungs before I released the breath.

“Let’s go down to the beach.”
Delaney guided me up to my feet. My tears were now only coming in small,
occasion rolls.

We walked through the lawn and
underneath the overhanging trees that created a shadowy canopy before they
opened up to the beach. Delaney slipped off her sandals and carried them in her
hands as we stepped onto the white sand. I followed her lead and quickly
unlaced my boots then rolled up my pants. I felt the warm sand sift between my
toes and watched as the gentle waves cascaded onto shore. The blue-green water
expanded into the horizon, disappearing into the sky.

“I’m sorry.” Delaney finally broke
the silence between us.

“There’s nothing to be sorry about.
You weren’t the one that put the bullet in Ethan,” I replied.

“I know, but I’m still sorry that I
can’t do anything to take the pain away or bring Ethan back.”

“You and me
both.”

“And I’m sorry that he took you
instead of me,” she said, turning toward me. The
corner of
her eyes were
wet with tears that were dangerously close to spilling
over. I saw it then, a face filled with love and regret that was my sister’s.
It felt like we had never been separated, and that we were here together, right
where we belonged.

“I’m not. Better me than you,” I
said. “And don’t you cry on me. I think I’ve done enough crying for the both of
us.”

Delaney broke out into a smile and
let out a small sigh. “Okay, Mom.”

“Most cases, I should probably take
offense to that,” I replied. “But right now, I guess I’m okay being compared to
our mom. I never had a mom to be compared to before. So I’ll take it.
This time.”
I gave her a crooked smile as the dried tears
pulled my cheeks tight.

“And for the record, I never really
apologize.” I stopped, releasing another breath before I finished. “Once we
find Sister Josephine, I want to put this all behind us and move forward.”

“I’d like that,” Delaney said.
“Sisters?”

“Sisters,” I repeated, looking back
at Lake Michigan, feeling an odd sense of being home. For once, I didn’t want
to run from it. “As much as I hate this place, it is beautiful, isn’t it?”

“Disgustingly so,” Delaney agreed
with a nod. “Do you think we’ll find anything in the house?”

“I don’t know. It’s a long shot,
but we have to try. Maybe we’ll find something that will narrow down the
fifteen people in the club. There have to be some clues that will help to
understand who would be after me,” I said, trailing at the end of my sentence.
“By the way, I’m really happy for you and James. Despite everything, it did
bring you back together.”

“I know,” she said. “Everyone keeps
saying it’s a blessing. And it is, but I just wish getting us back to each
other would have been a little easier.”

“You and me both,” I whispered,
feeling like a little more blessing was needed to get us closer to Sister
Josephine.

***

“Find anything yet?” Agent Allen
popped his head into the spare bedroom. I was lying on the floor with my cheek
against the carpet to look beneath the bed. Empty. Just like the other four
bedrooms that we had already gone through.

“Did your team check the basement
the first time you went through?” I asked, jumping up to my feet.

“Yes, but there
wasn’t anything that I remember.
I think there was only a small bag of
belongings that they took from this house.
Nothing
incriminating.”
Agent Allen pulled his pants up with a quick tug before
leaning his arm against the doorway to block my path out.

“How about the
garage?”
I asked, studying his response. I didn’t trust Agent Allen yet,
and by the looks of it, the feeling was reciprocated.

“Checked.
My team is thorough.”

“Garden shed at the very edge of
the property?”

“No garden shed that I remember.”
Agent Allen’s face was blank.

“There’s one at the edge of the
property. It looks like it would belong to the neighbor’s since it matches
their house and everything, but it’s not. Holston bought it from them to use
for the landscaping crew,” I replied.

“The neighbors weren’t here when we
went through the house,” Agent Allen said as he finally took his arm down from
the doorway. He knew I had him. I was already ducking underneath it and moving
through the hallway before he continued. “I think we should check it out.”

“Sounds like a good idea. Hey,
Delaney and James,” I called out as I entered the living room. “Agent Allen had
this really great idea to check the garden shed on the property. Let’s head out
there.” I smirked, telling Delaney to grab the keys as I passed her and opened
the door to the deck. My chest tightened as I looked at the same spot on the
deck, but this time, I wasn’t reduced to tears.

BOOK: House of V (Unraveled Series)
9.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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