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Authors: Kathi S. Barton

Steele

BOOK: Steele
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, organizations, or person, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

World Castle Publishing, LLC

Pensacola, Florida

Copyright © Kathi S. Barton 2015

Hardback ISBN: 9781629892368

Print ISBN: 9781629892375

eBook ISBN: 9781629892382

First Edition World Castle Publishing, LLC April 3, 2015

http://www.worldcastlepublishing.com

Licensing Notes

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in articles and reviews.

Cover: Karen Fuller

Cover Model
:
Nick Defilippis

Photographer: Xie4to-graphy

Editor: Eric Johnston

Editor: Maxine Bringenberg

Prologue

 

“I really wish you would just leave me alone.” Steele looked at his twin sister and growled low when she laughed at him. “There are times I wish I was an only child. You’re the most irritating thing I’ve never known. Don’t you have anything else to do?”

Her laughter almost made him smile. It was infectious like that. Instead, he turned his back on her. But he should have known it wouldn’t make her go away. When his bed shifted, he turned to see that she’d flopped down on it and had picked up his book. Snatching it away from her before she could see what it was, he watched her face for any clue that she’d be leaving anytime soon. Steele should have known better.

“I wasn’t going to tell.” He knew she wouldn’t. It was one thing to bother him, but she’d never get him into trouble. “Do you still see them all the time?”

“Yes.” He opened the book he’d had mailed to a post office box he’d opened just last month. His parents didn’t need to know that things were still bad for him. Not that either of them would give a crap anyway. In fact, just the opposite. “It says in here that I must have had a brain injury and that I only think I see them.”

Aster snorted. “Yeah, right. Like our parents didn’t think of that one when they were trying to make you not see them. How many doctors have you seen in your lifetime? Fifty? A hundred? You could see them since we were little kids. I don’t think that’s it. What other hogwash does it spout?”

He loved her…most of the time more than he did himself. She was witty and sarcastic, understanding and loving. She irritated him to the point that he wanted to murder her, but he would kill for her too. Instead of answering her, he told her once again to leave him alone. He glanced over in the corner at the woman sitting in his rocker, and she smiled a ghastly smile at him. Steele looked away. It wasn’t that he was afraid of her, but their appearance did frighten him.

Steele had been able to see ghosts since he was a baby, just as his sister had said. But she didn’t know it all. No one did. Not only had he talked to them, and played with the children who’d come to see him, but there was just so much more. They’d never hurt him but only talked to him and asked him to do things, things that helped them.

His mother was the first to figure out he had a “problem,” as she called it. He’d left the house in the middle of the night to help a spirit and she’d found out.

“What do you mean, you see the dead? No one sees the dead, Steele. Now stop this nonsense this minute and go to your room.” He’d told his mom when she asked him about what he’d been doing, thinking she’d help him with a particularly hard chore with one of his friends. But she’d been so mad that he’d been slightly afraid of her.

“They are real. And all I need you to do is drive me over to the hospital. I have to find out what this person died of.” She slapped him then, hard enough to throw him back on the floor. He remembered starting to stand and Aster stepping in front of him and daring their mom to hit him again. It wasn’t the first time she’d done that, but it was the first time she’d threatened their mother.

“You are not a nice person. He’s trying to help them. And if you hit him again, I’ll never do a thing for you again. No more dances; no more parties either.” His mother had asked him if Aster saw them too. “We’re not talking about me right now. This is about Steele and his need to get you to help him with this. Are you going to help him or not?”

“I most certainly am not. And if you mention this to me again, either of you, you will not have to worry about parties, young lady. I’ll take care that you never see the light of day again.”

They’d both been sent to their room, and when their father returned two days later they were beaten…him harder than Aster, but she’d been hurt more by the fact that no one believed him. So at the tender age of ten, they both decided to keep everything from their parents. And now, now they were seventeen and things had gotten…harder, he supposed.

“Where is he?” He looked at Aster sharply. “I know you’re helping someone. Where is he? Tell me where he is, or where she is, and I’ll leave you alone. I promise.”

“You’ll leave me alone now.” He stood up and shoved her off the bed. “Go away, Aster. I mean it. I’ve had enough of you driving me crazy. Don’t you think I have enough to deal with? I don’t need you pestering me to death too. Just fucking go away.”

He’d never cursed at her before…never had a reason to. But his client, as he’d begun to call them, had needed him for several days to do something and was keeping him up at night to get it done. When Aster stood up, he could see the tears in her eyes. She cried so seldom that he wanted to tell her that it was all right, that he needed her. But he was afraid. Not that she’d tell, never that, but that on this job, she’d get hurt. Doing what he was for this woman was going to be dangerous. He had no idea why he thought that, but he had a feeling deep in his body.

He thought for sure she was going to tell him off. One thing about Aster, she could peel your skin right off your body with just her words. Instead, she turned on her heel and left him standing there. His door slammed shut and vibrated one of his pictures off the wall, and he heard her stomping for several steps down the hall. Then she giggled and he knew she was skipping the rest of the way to her room. Steele looked over at the woman who still sat in his chair.

“Where are you taking me? I’ll go, but I want some answers first.” She stood up and pointed out the window. He knew that going with her was going to get him into trouble, but he wanted to finish this up so he could find Aster and tell her how sorry he was. “I’m doing this for you and you’ll leave me alone?”

Her nod scared him. Everything about her scared him. Whoever had killed her had really done a good job of it. Not a good choice of words, but they really worked her over. Her body was a mess, her face—he supposed she might have been a beauty—was nearly unrecognizable as it was beaten in on one side. Blood and brain matter seeped from the large hole just above her ear. Her jaw was broken, which was the reason she didn’t speak, and it hung limply at her neck. It, too, had been ravaged. Shivering once, Steele looked at the door his sister had gone out and wanted to go to her. But the client stepped in front of him.

Gathering up his pack, he climbed out the window just as she moved through it. It didn’t bother him any longer when they walked through doors or windows. It did, however, give him the willies when they walked through people. It was one of his rules. They were never to walk through him. If it happened, even accidently, he was finished. They left behind a scent and a creepy feeling when they did that.

The place where she was taking him was pretty far; they’d been walking for a good twenty minutes now, and she didn’t look as if she was going to slow. He was going to take his bike, an old motorcycle that he’d gotten really cheap last year when he’d turned sixteen. But he didn’t want his mother to hear him leave. Instead, he ran after her, trying his best to keep Aster out of his mind.

Aster was his best friend, best ally, and she was also the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. She was special in that she didn’t care what she looked like either. Not like their mother, who thought it was a sin to not have your face on, whatever the hell that meant, before anyone saw you. And heaven forbid you went out into the yard with something less than a designer outfit on. Aster hated that about her as much as he did. And more often than not, Aster would be dressed in some of his toss offs rather than the things Mother picked out for her. He supposed she rebelled more than he did. Mother was forever telling them that with money came responsibilities. Neither Steele nor his sister seemed to be able to figure out what those were exactly.

They had money, or at least their parents did. His father was a surgeon of some renown. Mother was a chemist and had come up with several drugs that cured a great many things. He had no idea what they were, or even what sort of surgery his father did. It wasn’t that he didn’t care, he supposed, but they’d never had much to do with he or Aster, and they had grown used to them living their lives and he and Aster living theirs. They saw the staff more than they did their parents. But lately things had changed in that regard. He wasn’t sure what he thought about his mother retiring and his father taking less and less work at the hospital. Just the day before, their mother had started in on Aster about some things that neither of them had ever thought of.

“It’s high time you started finding a suitable husband.” He’d nearly choked on his soup when mother told Aster that. “And you, young man, will start to find a suitable wife too. One that your father and I will approve of, and not one of those people that you hang around with at that school of yours. We aren’t going to live forever, and we’re not leaving our money to the two of you and some deadbeat you find to shack up with.”

In her usual fashion, Aster snorted at her. “I don’t plan to ever marry, thanks. Having a man tell me what to do every ten seconds is for the birds.” Aster winked at him. “I think I’ll find me a lover and simply live off his money. Or find a job flipping burgers.”

Mother had hit Aster so hard she’d hit her head on the table as she fell from the chair. Blood poured from the wound and he was sure Mother had killed her. Instead of helping her up, or even seeing to her daughter, his mother stood over him with her hand drawn back. He’d never seen that particular look on her face before. It was something scary and insane.

“You have something flippant to say?” He shook his head. “See that you don’t. And starting on your eighteenth birthday, you’ll start doing what I tell you and not what you want. Don’t think I don’t know you sneak out of here every night. That, too, will stop.”

That had been three days ago, and here he was sneaking out again. When his client stopped by the fence that surrounded their property, he thought he was to jump over it. Instead, she pointed to the ground near him. Looking at the freshly turned soil then back at her, he shook his head.

“You can’t be buried here.” She nodded and pointed again. “I don’t believe it. There are security cameras everywhere. Had you been buried here, someone would have seen you when this happened.”

She pointed up behind him and he turned. There was a camera right there, but even he could tell that it had been disabled a long time ago. The thing was hanging limply on its holder, and the wires had been cut. Pulling out his camp shovel from his pack, he started to dig, but she stepped in front of him again. He asked her now what.

Moving over to something a little smaller, he noticed that the soil there was raw too. Taking a step back, he stared at it. He knew, just as surely as he was standing there, it was a child. When she pointed to it, then at her, Steele sat down on the hot grass and stared at her.

“Your child?” She nodded but didn’t move again. “Whoever killed you, they killed your child too? And then buried you both here? Am I going to regret this? Am I going to hate what I find here?”

Her nod had him looking at both graves. He had a feeling he knew who she was, and what terrified him the most was that he was pretty sure who had buried them both here as well. Steele felt a chill go over him, and he actually pulled his jacket tighter around him. Even with the sun beating down on him, he was cold.

A woman had come by the house several days ago with a little baby. He’d never actually spoken to her, but he’d gotten a glimpse of her when she asked to see his father. He’d looked at the little boy and wondered why she’d bring him to see his dad. Now he knew why her car had been parked in the back of the horse barn until today.

“Did he kill you?” He didn’t look at the client, not sure he wanted to really know the answer. “The baby, is it my father’s? And you came here to talk to him and he killed you both and buried you here?”

This time he looked, and she was nodding. Every part of him wanted to run and hide. He wanted to find his father and demand that he tell him it wasn’t true. But Steele also knew, way down in his heart, that it was true. And not only that, but he had a feeling it had happened before. Was nearly certain of it.

“I think he’s…my father isn’t a nice man. He might have hurt someone before this. Murdered them, I mean. Another woman, but no child. My mother…she left him for a time before that and when she returned, they were very…I guess very secretive. He never…I think that he murdered this woman and has been searching for the child for a long time. I know that there was an investigator that came to the house nearly weekly for a while.” He looked up at the woman. “I’m so sorry. I know that doesn’t help you much, but I am.”

Her nod had him looking around the large yard. There were more here, more women that had come to see his father over the years. He didn’t want to think about what he might have done to put them there, how he had killed them, but Steele knew as surely as he was sitting there that there were dead bodies buried in that spot.

He didn’t dig at the grave like he normally would, but sat there until the cold seeped into his bones. Then before he could change his mind, he pulled out his cell phone and stared at it. It was time to make things right. Time to make his father—and more than likely his mother—pay. But who to call first? Dialing his father, he waited for his service to pick up. But as usual, all he got was his father’s voice mail, which really didn’t surprise him. His father hadn’t answered one of his calls since he’d gotten a phone.

“I found her. The woman and her child that are buried in the yard, I found them just now. And as much as you hate to hear this, she led me to where she was. I’m going to call the police as soon as I hang up from this call.” Steele took a deep breath and let it out slowly before continuing. “You killed them. I know you did. And it’s not the first time either.” Ending the call, he sat there for several seconds. Then he took a deep breath and dialed the police.

BOOK: Steele
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