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Authors: William Casey Moreton

Tags: #Mystery, #Suspense, #Thriller

The Stranger Beside You (30 page)

BOOK: The Stranger Beside You
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Sadie liked to drift out to the patio when everyone else had gone to bed and sip coffee under the stars.  It became her evening ritual.  She would sit in a patio chair and just enjoy the peace and stillness.  The alone time was clearly important to her.  One night, a couple of weeks after everything had settled down, I slipped out of bed, put on a robe, and eased outside to join her. 

“You look like you could use some company,” I said.

“Have a seat.”

I pulled a patio chair over beside her.

“I love it out here,” she sighed.  “Look at all those stars.”

“How are you holding up,” I asked.

She shrugged.  “Taking it one day at a time.”

“The boys have loved having you guys.”

“We can’t thank you enough.”  She put her head back and stared up into infinity.  A few lightening bugs blinked on and off along the top of the fence separating our lawn from the neighbor directly behind us.  The night was humid but cool, and the sky was clear.

“I was thinking about something,” I said.

She cocked her face slightly toward me.

“It was just something Marcus had mentioned to me in passing a few days ago.  For some silly reason it stuck in my head.”

“Oh?” she said.  “What’s that?”

“It was something that was bothering him.  And when he told me, it got me to thinking.”

She straightened her head again so that she was facing up at the heavens. “Hmm.”

“It had to do with that day at the cabin when the boys disappeared.”

“The worst day of my life.”

“Marcus said he awoke and the boys were gone.  All of the rest of you were asleep.  He said he woke you and showed you where the intruders had forced open the front door of the cabin.  Then he ran out to the car to drive out to the highway and have a look around, and said he had to rack the driver’s seat way back because it was too far up for him to fit.  Said he couldn’t drive without moving it back.  You know, because of those long legs of his.”

She was quiet for a minute.  “The man certainly has long legs,” she agreed.

I let the moment linger.  “So that got me thinking about a few things.  Like how the seven of you managed to sleep through an intruder busting through the locked door of that cabin and abducting my boys.  I mean, surely Josh and Ashton would have made a fuss.  But I think they were still asleep when they were hauled off, even though Josh is quite a light sleeper.”

Sadie listened without acknowledging my comment.

“And, of course, there is the fact that only Josh and Ashton were abducted, and not any of your three.  That little detail really had me stumped.  But I figured, hey, you guys were broke and Mr. Z knew it.  Why would he want to waste his time  holding kids ransom when their parents can’t even pay their bills?  That would be idiotic.”

I could see the rising and falling of her chest as she breathed.  I continued.  “Not to mention the fact that no one knew where you were going.”  I sat and listened to the crickets for two or three long minutes.  When I glanced over, Sadie had her eyes closed.  “So anyway, those are the pieces of this little puzzle I’ve been struggling with.  Most of it might have been explained away any number of ways, but when Marcus mentioned the car seat having been adjusted to suit a shorter driver, the rest of the details began to come into focus.”

I waited.  Minutes passed.  Sadie did not say a word.  Perhaps she had fallen asleep.  But I sensed that she had listened to every word.

“I took a drive out to that cabin yesterday,” I said.

I saw her eyes open.

“Thought I would take a look around.  It’s peaceful out there in those woods.  I found the key right where Marcus told me it would be.  I went inside.  Walked through the rooms.  Checked out the kitchen.  You forgot to empty the trash.  Did you know that?  So I picked through it.  And I found this.”

I reached inside my robe and pulled out a sleeve of prescription sleeping pills.  About half of the foil tabs had already been punched out and those tablets were missing.  I leaned over and dropped it onto her lap.  She didn’t react, though I could see the whites of her eyes moving against the dark of the night.

“Trazodone.  Those are 100 milligram tablets.  I called a pharmacist when I got home to ask about that stuff.  He told me those are heavy duty.  He suggested a dosage of only half a tablet at bedtime.  Said a whole tablet can knock you out for a full twelve hours or more.  This is your personal prescription, Sadie.  And this was filled just two days before your trip to the cabin.  This prescription holds thirty tablets, but nearly half are gone.  That’s fifteen doses of Trazodone in three days.  That’s enough to put an elephant into a coma.  I think I know what you did with them, Sadie.”

“You…don’t…know…anything,” she growled.

“I think you got nervous and screwed up.”

“Shut your mouth, Brynn.”

“You ground the tablets into powder and mixed it into the food.”

“You’re just looking for someone to blame.”

“You drugged your own family, Sadie.  And you drugged two innocent little boys.  How does that make you feel inside?”

I heard her suck in a lungful of air.

“What if the dosage had been too much and those five children had never woke up?  You would have killed them all.  But you never stopped long enough to consider that.  You doped them all, and then while they slept, you loaded my boys into that car and drove back into the city and handed them over to Mr. Z.  You let that monster take my babies, and for what?  What did he give you?  What did he promise you?”

There was a moment of hesitation, and then she sighed.  She spoke slowly.  “He gave me his word that they would leave us alone and our debt would be forgiven in exchange for your children.  He knew there was still a chance to get money out of you.  All I was trying to do was protect my family.”

“Even if that meant throwing my children under the bus.”

“You don’t know what it’s like to lose everything!  The humiliation of it!”   

“Save it,” I said.

“Don’t tell me what to do!”

I rocked forward in the patio chair and stood.  I glanced down at her.  Her eyes were closed again, and tears shined on her face.  She was sobbing.

“I want you packed and out of my house in the morning.  And I want you out of my life.”

I left her and went back inside.  I eased quietly up the stairs, stopping at each of the boys’ rooms and peeking in through the door.  Both of my angels were sound asleep.  Then I slipped into bed with my husband, careful not to wake him.  I pulled the sheet up, resting my head against his chest, and drifted off to sleep listening to the sound of his heartbeat.

Table of Contents

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Chapter 1

BOOK: The Stranger Beside You
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