Authors: Natalia Hale
It Takes a Killer
Copyright 2015 by D. Miles
All rights reserved
It Takes a Killer
It takes one to know one.
The classic childhood taunt has become a haunting reminder to Hannah Best. After killing a man that attempted to mug her, Hannah is labeled a killer, even if it was an accident. The small town she grew up in now sees her in a new, deadly light, as does someone else.
Hannah’s recent ascent to infamy in Garnet’s Lake has attracted the attention of someone in town, someone just as dangerous as she is. The people that have wronged her in the past begin to show up dead, with notes that hint there’s more to her than even she knows, and someone plans on showing her a dark new world.
The police begin to investigate Hannah for murder, treating her more like a hostile suspect than innocent victim. She starts to wonder where she stands on the line between good and evil, and if her loyalties lie with the police that want to convict her, or the killer that wants to help her.
Table of Contents
Books by Natalia Hale
It Takes a Killer
About the Author
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Cover photography copyright Aleshyn_Andrei/Shutterstock.com
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
It Takes a Killer
Hannah wasn’t breathing. Her mouth was open, her lungs and brain were aware of the lack of oxygen moving through her system, but she wasn’t breathing. She wasn’t thinking. Her muscles had moved on their own, an instinct had taken over.
And she did. Hannah survived, as did her closest friend, Mariana, who still lay on the ground behind her. But someone didn’t survive.
The nameless man that no longer had a face. Hannah’s eyes fell to the blood the splattered across the brick wall beside her and the long red trail that dripped towards the ground. She looked into the large hole she had just created in the man’s skull, and then to the gun in her hands.
gun, originally, that she had someone gotten hold of in the scuffle. All she wanted to do was make him let go of Mariana and yet…
“Hannah?” Mariana mumbled. There was a gash on her head.
Hannah sucked in a sudden breath and let go of the gun. It was black and heavy, heavier than Hannah thought a gun would be. The weapon hit the ground with a loud clatter, one that barely registered in Hannah’s mind. The light from the nearby streetlamp cast shadows all around them, and the gun seemed to disappear inside them.
“Hannah what did you do?” Mariana questioned. Her eyes squinted at the man, slumped against the side of the building. The very hotel Hannah worked at.
“I just…I just…wanted him to let go,” Hannah stammered. The more she thought about what had just happened the more she realized it had only been a matter of seconds. It had felt like a century between the time the man grabbed Mariana’s arm and demanded their paycheck to when Mariana said Hannah’s name. “I didn’t mean…” Her words trailed off as she looked back at the man.
Mariana nodded and blinked rapidly. Her mouth moved up and down as she scooted backwards in the alleyway grime before it snapped shut, her lip quivering.
A loud bang erupted in the alley, exactly like the one that Hannah had just caused when she pulled the trigger. Hannah leapt backwards and fell to the ground as two men came out of the kitchen. Their coats were a pristine white, and all Hannah could think about was how blindingly good they looked compared to her black, now bloodied, coat. The good guys wore white and the bad guys wore black…that’s how simple it was at that moment to Hannah. Even Mariana was wearing a long white trench coat to keep the misty evening from ruining her dress.
Hannah blinked up at the men, unable to recall their names even though she’d worked with them for years.
“What happened?” one asked. The head chef, the one that saved the Lux Hotel from going out of business.
“Dane,” Mariana said. Her voice was quivering just as much as her bottom lip.
Dane came forward, a strand of his normally perfect hair falling out of place. He didn’t seem to care that he’d just stepped into scattered drops of blood, and that there was more beginning to seep towards him from the body. “Mariana, Hannah, what happened? Who did this?”
Mariana looked towards Hannah, eyes wide.
Don’t say it,
Hannah begged silently.
Don’t say it out loud
“Hannah did,” Mariana confirmed. Her voice cracked. “Hannah shot him when he pushed me.” She broke into tears, covering her face with dirty hands. The other man that had come outside rushed to her side but Dane only turned towards Hannah.
His grey gaze weighed a thousand pounds on her shoulders. Of all things, of all nervous, panicked habits Hannah could have, she had the worst of all. She laughed.
A smile was on her lips as Dane tilted his head at her.
She said, “I guess I did, didn’t I?” She looked at her unknown assailant. “I did do that.”
By the time Hannah made it home the next morning the world had already heard of what she’d done. And while her name was kindly kept out of the papers thanks to her uncle being the editor, it didn’t stop mouths from moving. She didn’t know who talked, but someone did, and they were talking all about her. She hadn’t made it into her apartment before her neighbours were asking about what had happened.
“You’re all right?” Mr. Denali asked, Pomeranian in hand as he shuffled towards Hannah. Her keys hung in the lock, but her hand wouldn’t turn. The weight reminded her of what had happened earlier and it made her freeze. Or maybe it was the way Chuckles growled at her. Mr. Denali gave the dog a bop on the head before turning to her. “He must be able to smell it.”
“Smell what?” Hannah wondered.
Mr. Denali squinted through his thick glasses. He looked her up and down, the previous worry he had gone. The paper clothes she’d been given felt like a beacon, a bright flashing warning light. “Why the blood, of course, silly girl. I’m sure the police took your clothes but that kind of thing doesn’t leave a person. It sticks to them—stains them.” He took a step back as Chuckles snapped his jaws at her. Hannah flinched even though she could punt the dog like a football.
Without another word Hannah turned the key and rushed inside, slamming the door behind her. She heard Mr. Denali do the same, the chain rattling as he shoved it into place. Hannah sunk to the ground, eyes closed.
The image of the man, Pierre Belleveau, sinking in the exact same way flashed in her mind. Her heart thumped hard against her ribs at the memory, the way the alley smelled of smoke and thrown away leftovers. How the sky was dull but illuminating…how strong she felt holding that gun.
Hannah shivered and stood.
, she thought,
. She felt safe because Belleveau no longer had the gun. Because he no longer had the weapon that was threatening her friends
. Hannah nodded affirmatively, but there was a voice nagging at the back of her mind. A voice she wasn’t going to deal with today. Quickly standing, Hannah all but ran to her room and fell into bed, choosing to sleep away her nightmare. If anything she was the victim, and she knew that’s what everyone would think. As much as she hated the idea that people would pity her, it was better than the alternative; thinking she’d killed Belleveau on purpose.
But Garnet’s Lake was a small town, and small towns were filled with people that didn’t like anything considered “big city”. And a mugging gone wrong, even if the assailant was the one wronged…that was big city. Hannah clutched her pillow to the paper shirt she was given after the police took her clothes. It crinkled, reminding her of the hospital gown she’d had to wear when she had her wisdom teeth removed. Of course when that had happened Mariana was at her bedside talking about all the benefits of surgery—and happily eating Hannah’s bowl of ice cream. Mariana couldn’t even look at her before the police arrived to take them both away—Mariana to the hospital and Hannah to the station.
There was a moment that Hannah thought if she went to visit Mariana that she wouldn’t be allowed to see her. Not because it was only family allowed to visit, but because Mariana didn’t
to let Hannah see her. Hannah let out a heavy breath, tickling the light brown strands that had fallen in front of her face. Slowly her eyelids fell, and a sense of calmness overtook her. She hadn’t felt so calm in a long time, and she didn’t know what to make of it. She assumed it was exhaustion flooding through her body at everything—at a hard day at work, at the fact that her car still wouldn’t start, at the fact that she’d just killed a man.
Eventually it all melted away as Hannah sank into her bed.
The next day Hannah awoke to a banging on her front door. It was authoritative, impossible to ignore. She would have thought it was the police if she hadn’t grown up listening to the same sound.
Hannah climbed out of bed and shuffled her way to the door, eyes bleary and all thoughts of yesterday out of her mind. It had felt like she’d only been asleep for five minutes, but as the sun crept across the carpet she knew it was mid-afternoon. Another bang on the door made Hannah jump, the sound of a gun going off in her head.
“Hi Dad,” Hannah said as she opened the door. Jonathan Best stepped into her apartment with his usual sneer. While he looked around her home for the fourth time since she moved in, Hannah was too distracted to care. “Mariana? You’re here?”
“They let me out an hour ago,” she said. “I wanted to check on you.”
“She tried calling you to pick her up but you weren’t answering your phone,” Jonathan stated.
“The police took it,” Hannah said.
“Why?” he asked. He turned to her, his sneer fading and slowly being replaced with worry for his daughter. It was common for him to get angry first, and then grow more and more concerned as he calmed down.
“Do you really want to know?” Hannah questioned. She thought he could have guessed the reason.
Jonathan’s non-questioning ways took over then, and he kept his mouth shut. Like his parents had always taught him, asking questions led people down dark roads—roads they didn’t want to go down, roads they shouldn’t go down.
Roads that led them to Hell.
Mariana stepped inside and Hannah shut the door. She was tempted to put the chain over the frame but she thought that might give the wrong idea. Garnet’s Lake was a safe town, filled with safe people that could leave their doors unlocked. Hannah could still remember when she’d been willing to accept a ride home from literally anyone that asked, and when she showed up on her doorstep both her parents thanked the kind person with a plate of cookies. When had it changed to the kind of place you got mugged heading home from work?
“The police don’t think you did anything wrong,” Mariana told her, drawing Hannah out of her thoughts.
“Oh?” Hannah mumbled.
“There were camera’s,” Mariana went on, clutching her purse to her side. Her knuckles were white as she spoke. “So they saw everything. I thought they would have told you.”
“They did,” Hannah replied. “Kind of. The detectives said they could tell what happened…but they still had to take everything I had on me.” She looked down at the pale green clothes she’d been given. Hannah held up one finger before walking away, painfully aware of the crinkling her clothes made and the fact that her father must have known what that meant; that she’d been covered in another person’s blood.
That his little girl had taken a life. Hannah didn’t need to wonder why her mother wasn’t with him.
When Hannah finished changing into a fresh pair of jeans and a long-sleeved shirt she noticed something in the mirror. It had been hidden beneath her bangs well enough, but as she pulled her hair back into a ponytail she could feel it—the drops. The dried, cracking spots of blood that had infiltrated everything she thought about for the past twelve hours. She’d thought after she gave up her clothes, after she’d washed her hands and face at the station, that she was clean, for lack of a better word. But there they were, scattered throughout her shoulder-length hair with a kind of obviousness in every children’s
book. Once she saw them they were all she could see.
Hannah licked her lips and looked at her closed door. She couldn’t hear her father’s echoing voice, or Mariana’s obnoxious laughter at all of his jokes. It was as if they were both still standing in the exact places Hannah had left them, tall statues that would never speak again. Her heart skipped a beat and she turned back to the mirror.
Using her nails Hannah picked out what blood she could see. She let it get stuck beneath the cherry polish Mariana had picked out especially for her, and the fact that the flakes fell to her navy blue carpet didn’t bother her. She’d vacuum them up later, she promised herself. It wasn’t like dried blood would stain a dark carpet anyway. A nervous smile was on her lips the entire time.
Stepping back into the hallway with fresh clothes and her hair tied back made Hannah feel like a new person. Refreshed and in a way, better. Stronger, more secure. She felt as if things would be okay now that she wasn’t wearing that ridiculous paper outfit. But when she walked back into her living room, she knew that wasn’t the case.
The photos of flowers and family and friends still hung on the walls, and though the sunlight had dimmed considerably in the few minutes she’d been gone, it was still there. The old magazines she’d been meaning to throw away were still scattered on her glass coffee table, the medical journals and horror novels still sat happily on her bookshelves on either side of the television. But the fact that something hadn’t changed in her absence was exactly what bothered her.
Mariana and her father really
in the same place as before. Mariana stood near the door with her bag clutched even harder in her hand, and Hannah’s father, though his sneer gone, was still beside the couch, hands in his pockets. If it weren’t for the fact that his hair had been smoothed, and Mariana had grown paler, Hannah wouldn’t have even thought they could breathe.
“How about I make some tea?” Hannah suggested. She smiled, trying not to make her teeth show, but she kind of wanted to. She wanted to smile as wide as she could, because she was still alive. Her best friend in the universe was still alive because of her actions. How could she be unhappy about that?