Authors: Raen Smith
“What is all this?” she whispered,
tracing her fingers lightly across my back where the crucifix tattoo had been
removed. “Don’t tell me he hurt you…”
“It’s not what you think. I just
had a tattoo removed. A big one,” I said.
“A crucifix to be
I got rid of it because it reminded me too much of him. I’ve lost
a little faith in God ever since I found out what he had been doing. There was
something about that crazy, old woman, Janet
really got me
going. She was insane and Holston was there right along with her. Plus, a huge
crucifix draws attention and could easily be matched to me. I need anonymity,
not a crucifix stamping.”
“That’s a relief,” Delaney said. “I
thought he abused you.”
“Nope, just emotionally scarred for
eternity,” I said with a sarcastic grin as I wrapped the towel tighter around
my neck. “Hey, by the way, can you find out who bought Holston’s house here in
“I already did,” Delaney said with
The shock displayed on my face as I
stared at her in the mirror.
“What?” She asked innocently. “You
didn’t think I would simply sit here and
while you were at the station, did you?”
“No, I guess not. It just surprised
“Well, it shouldn’t,” she replied.
“The guy’s name is Kevin Carpenter, but I don’t know anything else.
“Kevin Carpenter,” I repeated the
name as I tried to place it, but I definitely didn’t recognize the name.
“I’m having Kandy’s guy search for
orphanages, too,” Delaney said with a smile.
“Well, look at you.” I returned the
smile and shook my head. “Can we get back to this?”
“Are you sure?” Delaney asked as
she dropped the towel to cover my back.
“I can’t exactly go anywhere to get
a haircut around here, and I can’t do it myself. Plus, we only have about a
half hour before I leave. You went to art school, didn’t you? You have to be
creative and good with your hands.”
“Not even remotely close to being
the same thing. I’m going to botch this. I’ve never done this before,” Delaney
groaned as she picked up the scissors again. She opened them up and moved
toward my head. “Don’t blame me when it looks like hell. Here goes nothing.”
“Close to my
Maybe only three inches,” I reminded as she took my hair in her
hands and snipped off the first piece.
She held the auburn strip in her
hand. We exchanged grins before she started laughing. “I can’t believe this is
Mark appeared in the doorway of his own bathroom. His tie hung loose around his
neck. “I can’t believe you’re letting her cut your hair.”
“Have to play the part,” I said,
feeling more bits of hair release from my head. I wanted to give them
everything they were looking for. I wanted to look and feel as much like the
I remembered. I needed to play this right if I wanted
to get any closer to Sister Josephine.
“How was work?” Delaney asked as
away. She was getting more confident with
each slide of the scissors.
“Are you really asking me about
work when there is a missing person’s case and murderer out there to get
?” Mark asked as he leaned against the doorway. I felt
a twinge in my chest looking at his lean frame and concerned eyes. I didn’t
want Mark to get involved more than he needed to, and I definitely needed him
to stop looking at me the way he was. As much as I felt the easiness between
us, it couldn’t happen. I needed to get back to Ryan somehow.
“Just trying to have a normal
conversation so I can feel better about all this,” Delaney defended. “So I can
“This isn’t normal,” Mark said,
shaking his head. “Prepping someone so she can go undercover to find the
location of a missing person is far beyond normal.”
“Has anything in any of our lives
“It used to be until about a year
and half ago,” Mark replied, staring at me.
until I entered their lives. The heat flared in my body and
my hands clenched in my lap. After tonight, I would be gone from their lives
for good. I would spend the year in Wisconsin away from them, if that’s what
Away from everyone, where I belonged.
“That’s not true at all, Mark. We
just didn’t know what or who we were,” Delaney retorted. “Who knows what would
have happened if
wouldn’t have stepped in. It
could have turned out a lot worse.”
“I didn’t mean it that way,” Mark
replied as he stepped into the bathroom. “I just want all this to end. I want
the disaster of Holston Parker out of our lives.
I never even want to hear that bastard’s name again.”
“You’re not the only one,” Delaney
said as she stepped back to access her progress.
“Who are you going with tonight?”
Mark looked at me as he pulled the tie from his neck and began unbuttoning his
“No one,” I replied.
“You’re going by yourself? There’s
Mark stopped unbuttoning his shirt and
leaned against my chair.
“They’re going to follow me. I have
about fifteen minutes to see if I can get any information. I’ll be wired and
armed,” I said. “Then about twenty of them are going to surround the place.
I’ll be fine.”
“I’ll go with you,” Mark
“Not a chance,” I said. “I’ll be
fine. They were going to send Hobart with me, but I happily declined his
presence. They would never let you come with me. Plus, I thought you wanted to
stay out of this?”
“I do, but I think it’s too risky,”
Mark replied, turning to lean against the counter as he faced me. He searched
my eyes, looking to see if I would break, if I would let him in. I couldn’t let
him be a part of this though. I couldn’t let him get messed up any more than he
already had been.
“Me, too,” Delaney said. “Don’t
even try to weasel your way in. I already did, and I got shot down faster than
you did. You should feel honored this conversation has lasted as long as it
has. I just can’t believe that we have to sit here all night. Not knowing. It’s
going to kill me.”
“I’m doing this alone.” I met the
gaze of Mark and then Delaney before I moved to my own reflection. Maybe I was
always better off alone.
I pulled James’s SUV onto the
shoulder and silenced the music just ten minutes away from Holston’s rebuilt
Jones’s family home. I had left Delaney, James and Mark a little less than two
hours earlier in Mark’s living room with two officers. They would be safe, but
I knew they were worried about me. I had promised that I would call them once I
was out of the house, and I fully intended to keep that promise. I glanced up
in the rearview mirror to see Sanchez’s unmarked car pull up behind me. His
headlights beamed through the dusk. The neon light glowed 8:45 p.m.
The disposable phone’s ring cut
through the silence.
“I’m fine,” I answered, holding the
phone tightly to my ear. The smooth plastic felt good against my skin. Delaney
had done a pretty damn good job for never having any experience. A little
choppy, sure, but definitely passable, and I was sure the Vigilante League
would love it, along with my jacket, boots and pants. I was happy to please as
long as it got me closer to Sister Josephine.
“You sure you’re ready?” Sanchez
asked on the other end. I could see his cell phone glowing in his car behind
“Ready as I’ll ever be. I just want
to make sure I’m right on
. I want to kill a few
minutes,” I said.
“You want to go over the protocol,
again?” Sanchez asked.
“No, I got it.” We had gone over it
what felt like a million times. I had it down. No pulling the gun unless I was
in danger, no muffled talking or whispers and no forgetting the safe word. Yes,
we had a safe word in case I was in danger except we weren’t in a BDSM
situation. The safe word was dragonfly, and I had no idea how I would work that
into a conversation. I didn’t plan on using it anyway.
“Want to check your tap one last
“Remember, you’re supposed to trust
I trust you,” Sanchez replied.
“How’s the search on Cross and
Harris coming?” I asked. “Did you find either of them?”
“Not yet,” Sanchez said.
“Too many of them to filter through.
We’ve checked all the
employee records at Parker Enterprises, and we’ve gone through criminal
records, but we don’t know for sure
“If they have ever been arrested,”
I interrupted as the headlights of a van slowed first and then moved past us.
“Exactly,” Sanchez agreed.
“Well, I plan on finding Sister Josephine
tonight, so we shouldn’t have to worry about them,” I said, white-knuckling the
wheel. Sanchez knew I was going to do whatever it took to find Sister
Josephine, even if it meant putting
but he would never admit it.
The silence hung between us for a
second before Sanchez replied, “Good luck,
“I don’t need luck.”
I ended the call and put the phone
on silent before sliding it in my pocket. I drove the rest of the way,
listening to the soft hum of the road and envisioning the night before me. I
would find Sister Josephine and bring that bastard to his knees. She would make
it out alive, unlike Elizabeth and Ethan. I would put an end to all of this
madness and move on, hopefully, with Ryan. Life for me could - would - be
normal one day. I promised myself all of these things as I neared the house I
had killed my so-called father in.
Sanchez turned off just a mile
before I pulled along the road in front of the house. He would be back in a few
minutes, along with the other twenty officers. They had only given me fifteen
minutes even though I requested more. They had just wanted to storm the house
military style and arrest everyone for breaking and entering. Then they would
question them, but the drawback there was that they needed all of them to
I argued that if I could get any
information first, then we could pinpoint Sister Josephine’s captor and work on
only him to get to her faster. However, fifteen minutes wasn’t nearly enough
time to make my mark and uncover inside information into Sister Josephine’s
whereabouts in a group of fifteen people. I would have to turn on the
charm if I
wanted to get anywhere.
A deep chill shuddered through my
body as I soaked in the outline of the house. The driveway was filled with seven
vehicles, all lined neatly in a row. The house
the slightest hue, barely visible even though the night was now turning black.
It was only a minute until show time.
I closed my eyes and watched
Holston fall as I emptied the shot in his head. He was gone. Nothing left other
than distant memories of a monster I couldn’t associate myself with. Everything
would end tonight. I would bury it
whoever had taken Sister Josephine.
My hand pulled toward my holster
inside my bra, on loan from Delaney, and felt the unfamiliar grip of the
borrowed 9mm from the police department. I moved my hand over and grazed the
microphone taped inside my bra before I killed the engine. There was nothing
standing between me and the house. I pulled out my disposable phone one last
time, sending a quick “going in” text to Sanchez before sliding it back into my
Within a minute, I found myself
standing on the porch of the house with my hand held high, ready to knock. It
suddenly swung open to the man with neck tattoos and two first names, Jeremy
George. I quickly surveyed him; black pants and matching shirt with a red
plastic cup in his hand. My eyes moved down to his black combat boots before I
looked back up to see the wide grin on his face in the shadows of the soft
light glowing behind him.
“You alone?” he asked. He darted
his head out of the door and checked the perimeter.
I nodded my head with a quick jerk.
Parker, you came,” he whispered as he hesitated at the door for a second too
long before stepping back to let me in. “Come in, please. Come in.”
I stepped through the threshold and
the tightness of Holston’s presence consumed me. The white, clean lines and
design of the house screamed his name. The memories of him echoed off the
walls. I swallowed hard and tried to push the screams down into my gut.
Push. Push. Push.
“I’m so glad you came. I hope you
don’t mind that we’re technically breaking into the house,” Jeremy said as he
turned to me in the foyer. “I assure you that we will leave it as we found it.
No harm or damage will be done. The lock Fred picked to get in is totally still
functional. We only have one light on in the living room so we can see just
enough without bringing too much attention. The cars are kind of a dead
giveaway, but there aren’t too many people around this neck of the woods
anyway. Pretty secluded out here, don’t you think?
the perfect atmosphere.”
“Yeah, it definitely does,” I
replied coolly, returning his gaze.
Perfect atmosphere for
Worshipping my dead, so-called father?
“I like your haircut,” he added as
he pulled his hand out as if he was going to touch my hair. He pulled his hand
back at the last second, registering my look of contempt.
What was with this guy?
“Did you do it just for us?”
I nodded my head and looked forward
to the living room. Although Jeremy was really starting to
me out with his “
Parker” fascination, I knew he
hadn’t taken Sister Josephine. He was wasting the precious minutes I needed to
find the bastard that took Sister Josephine.