Friday, July 16, 2010

The Gifts, - Prologue


Corrine Larson bit her lip, stifling a scream as she turned slightly, struggling to open her eyes. She couldn’t remember if he’d beaten her for one hour or six, but she knew she was dying. Her body begging to shut down. She’d never heard the death rattle, but she recognized it now, deep inside her chest, with each shallow, painful breath.

Managing only a narrow slit with her left eye, she stared at him, conveying her hatred. He’d used her, and because of her, others would die. A small whimper escaped her lips before she could stop it. It wasn’t for her. She didn’t mind dying. Except for. . .

Corrine fought the thoughts threatening to overwhelm her, concentrating on the new pain caused by the salty tears coursing down her face. Her tortured mind honed in on her one satisfaction. That one ray of light in the darkness: She hadn’t told him everything.

Drawing in one last ragged breath, she closed her eye, allowing the feel of the cool damp concrete to soothe her burning body. It was almost over. He whistled softly, a haunting rendition of I Saw the Light, as he loaded the gun.

Corrine turned her thoughts to Sarah and her child. He would kill them. Or worse. Another whimper escaped her lips. Why? Why hadn’t she just left it alone? Sarah had been safe. Her child had been safe. And now, because her reporter’s nose had sniffed a story they were all going to die.

Emotional pain washed over her in waves, drowning out the physical pain. Hurting even worse. There had to be something she could do. Some way to undo the damage she’d done.

She sifted through her memory, searching, rejecting and searching again. She’d written an article once about a psychic who believed your dying thoughts could travel across time and space, influencing the outcome of events to come. Maybe the psychic was right. Maybe if she tried hard enough she could reach across time and space. Warn Sarah.

Rough hands jerked at her hair, raising her from the bloody warehouse floor. She felt the cold steel pressed against the back of her head, heard the sound of the gun cocking. She’d always thought her dying thoughts would be of Rob or Gavin; instead, she honed on in the image of Sarah and her child. As the bullet shattered her brain, she held the image in her mind and silently screamed, He’s coming Sarah. He wants to destroy you.

# # #

Murder is a sin. You’ll go to hell.

“It wasn’t murder—it was self defense.”

He hated the voice in his head. She was always bitching at him. Always butting in. Preaching. A cruel smile twisted the handsome features. Today it didn’t matter. Today was a day of celebration. Soon he’d have what was rightfully his. All the years of waiting would be over. Whistling softly, he pulled away from the dumpster and parked the car. Just a few little things to finish. Pulling the police cap down low he entered the apartment building.

“Evening officer, can I help you?”

“Just delivering some luggage to Ms. Larson.”

The security guard checked the register. “Looks like Ms. Larson is out this evening.”

“Yeah, I know. She gave me a key and told me to set it inside the door. Working on some big story and needed to meet the mayor or somebody. Don’t know why the city wants to waste the taxpayers’ money and use me as her damn courier, but here I am.”

The guard grinned. “Yeah, I know what you mean.” Shrugging in sympathy, he turned his attention to the crossword puzzle. “Go on up.”

He walked slowly, taking his time. The bitch had been tougher than he’d thought. She’d cost him a whole fucking day. He wouldn’t rush things now, though. Everything had to play out just right. All he had to do was make it look like she’d never left town.

What if she told someone?

The thought enraged him. He cursed softly as he slipped the key into the lock. That was the trouble with women—they talked too damn much.

And she wouldn’t scream, would she?

He clenched his fists. The bitch just wouldn’t scream. A deep ache started inside his groin. No screaming and no satisfaction. Too old. He liked them young, breasts just starting to bud. Like the one he’d glimpsed in the alley on his way in. Maybe she was still there. Maybe. . .

Unclenching his fists, he ignored the voice. It didn’t matter. He had what he wanted. Setting the luggage inside the door, he relocked it and pulled out the faded snapshot from his shirt pocket. He felt it then. Joy. Pure unadulterated joy. She would scream. Scream for every one of the six long years he’d wasted searching for her.

Laughing he placed the photo back inside his pocket. Time could be cruel, but not this time. He’d been given a bonus. Oh, yes, a definite bonus. Maybe he’d let Sarah live and just take the child. He liked that idea.

The throbbing in his groin increased, reminding him he had a mission to complete. Checking his gun, he screwed the silencer into place. The cameras had seen only what he wanted them to see, but the guard would have to be dealt with. He chuckled. Everyone knew about the corruption in the police ranks. The bitch had actually written an article on it. By the time they stopped chasing that lead, he’d be long gone.

The security guard glanced up as the elevator doors opened. “Everything okay, buddy?”

“Everything is just fine now,” he said, raising the gun. He chuckled again at the look of surprise that crossed the guard’s face, right before the bullet pierced his heart.

Murder is a sin.

“I told you, it’s not my fault. She’s the reason I have to kill.”

You like killing.

He whistled as he exited the building and glanced at the dumpster. He didn’t like killing. He was just cleaning up the trash.

Clouds hung low in the sky, threatening to open up any minute. He listened to the whimpers coming from the alley. She was still there. An omen. It really was his lucky day. He approached her slowly, his voice low and gentle. “Aren’t you a little young to be out this late at night?” The girl stopped her whimpering and looked at him. He saw the fear reflected in her deep blue eyes slowly dissipate as she looked at the uniform. She nodded. Smiling, he held out his hand. “Come on, I’ll take you home.”

Excitement coursed through his body as she placed her small hand in his. This one would be a screamer. Whistling softly, he buckled her in and brushed the blonde curls away from her face. “Did you know tomorrow is Mother’s Day?”

The Gifts, A Jacody Ives Mystery

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