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Thursday, October 5, 2017
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
“Tell me what I want to know and I won’t hurt you again.”
Andi Carter stared into the deep green eyes of Richard Thomas as she tried to collect enough saliva to swallow. Pain had dulled her senses, and her throat was raw from screaming. She wasn’t sure she could speak, or if she did somehow manage to utter a few words if they would be coherent. “I don’t…I don’t know what you want…to know,” she whispered.
Thomas sighed as he followed her gaze to the door leading out of the basement. “Still think Jerry is going to barge through that door and save you, Andi? He isn't, you know. In fact, dear old Jerry is the reason you're here. He's the one who told me what you were up to.”
A burning river of rage flowed through her, much like the sensation from the whiskey he kept feeding her, but instead of dulling her senses it cleared her mind. He's going to kill me anyway. “Jerry Palano is a good cop. Scum like you would never understand that. If he told you anything it was because he was your partner and he trusted you.”
Even white teeth flashed, but the green of his eyes darkened. “That's my Andi, spirited and loyal to the end. Would you like a drink?” He reached for the bottle of whiskey on the table. “If you spill it, you know it’s going to hurt.” He inserted the tip of the bottle between her lips. “Drink up now, like a good girl. Then we’ll talk some more.”
Andi tilted her head back, guzzling the alcohol. Tears ran freely down her face as a tiny stream of alcohol dripped from her chin onto the raw blistered flesh of her legs. The pain was excruciating and she struggled not to scream as she continued to drink, praying for oblivion.
Only when the bottle was empty did Thomas pull it away and pick up the scalpel. “Tell me what I want to know and I won’t hurt you again.”
“Gambini! Gambini was running young girls. I was going to expose him.” Her words began to slur, and came from a long way off. “Please. Please just kill me.”
Thomas began to laugh, his roar filling the damp, musty room. “I can't believe that crap actually works.” He leaned in close, his breath hot on her cheek as he whispered, “I'm not going to kill you, Andi, but you're going to wish I had.”
His threat seeped through the alcohol induced fog as bile rose in her throat. A tiny pinpoint of satisfaction surged through her as she opened her mouth and spewed vomit on both of them.
“Son of a bitch.” Thomas leapt up, knocking over his chair. “You'll pay for that, Carter.”
Andi tried to smile, but the acidity of the vomit had reignited the pain from her cuts and burns. She began to tremble, her breath coming in short gasps as she watched his hands clench and unclench. Three days as his captive had convinced her of one thing—Thomas was crazy. His moods swung from euphoric enjoyment of torturing her physically and mentally to angry depression and occasionally to apologetic sympathy for having caused her pain. I don't really want to die.
Thomas pushed the table bearing his torture instruments into her view and lit the blowtorch. “You shouldn't have done that, Andi. I was going to let you go.”
“Please don't, Richard. I told you what you wanted to know. You promised you wouldn't hurt me again.” She struggled against the ropes binding her arms and legs.
He studied her, tilting his head to the side. “I did, didn't I?” His lips puckered as he turned off the torch. “Perhaps I'll give you some time to think about your apology.” He leaned in close, staring directly into her eyes. “Your punishment will depend on just how well you can beg.”
Sobs shook her body as she watched him leave, the heavy steel door slamming behind him. The alcohol had dulled the pain in her body, but not the emotional devastation of realizing Jerry wasn't going to save her. He betrayed me.
Time passed as she drifted in and out of consciousness until a scraping noise at the door jerked her wide awake. The door slowly swung open and Stuart Gambini peered inside.
“Jesus.” He crossed the room and knelt in front of her grabbing the scalpel on the table and quickly cutting the ropes around her wrists and ankles. “I'm gonna get you out of here. Can you walk?”
“Why? You’re just going to kill me anyway. Do it here.” Andi croaked out. Her mind was still fuzzy, but she was pretty sure Gambini was the reason she was here.
Gambini frowned, took off his jacket and lifted her from the chair. “We can talk about that later. Here, wrap this around you. Patrick is waiting for us at the top of the stairs.” He slipped her arms through the sleeves and pulled the coat up around her shoulders.
“How did you find me?” Andi leaned against him, taking a step toward the door, a small trail of blood dripping from her swollen feet.
“I've had my girls watching Thomas. This is the only place he kept coming back to.” Stuart placed an arm around her and half lifted, half dragged her toward the door. “We don't have a lot of time.”
Placing her right foot on the first step Andi took a deep breath as she raised her left foot and placed it on the second step. “Where are you taking me?”
“Put your arm around my neck.” Stuart tightened his hold around her waist, placed an arm under her legs and picked her up. “We'll hide you at the boarding house for the time being.”
Andi leaned into him and placed her head on his shoulder. “I need to call the Tribune. I was on a case and they must be going crazy wondering what happened to me.”
“You're old news. They gave up on finding you after the first three weeks.”
“Three weeks? I've only been missing three days.”
Stuart grunted as he took the last step. “Honey, you've been missing for over a month.”
Darkness closed in around her. A month? What the hell did Thomas do to me before he tortured me?
Sunday, October 1, 2017
As promised, here's a sneak peek at the Prologue and Chapter 1 of Innocent Blood. Enjoy your Sunday, and happy reading!
Loki Redmond woke to the sound of a door softly closing. She tossed off the covers and made her way to the window, welcoming the reprieve from her dark, disturbing dreams. At least it wasn’t a vision.
Her brother Jules stood outlined in the moonlight, his fists clenched at his sides. A well of sadness opened up inside her at the sight of him standing there with his head bowed. If her dreams were dark and disturbing, his would be a thousand times worse.
Loki rummaged through her chest and donned shorts and a T-shirt. It was already warm, and the day ahead promised to be blistering. Since they were both awake, they might as well talk about what was bothering them. She tiptoed down the hall, through the kitchen, and out the back door. If he woke, Jake would demand to know what was bothering her, and she didn’t honestly know. Her dreams were most likely the product of her grandfather’s call for help with an issue on the reservation. He’d reminded her of her duty to her people.
Her people. Strange that Grandfather should put it that way. He’d constantly criticized her and her brothers and shouted more than once that they weren’t true Choctaw. He’d belittled their mother right up until the day of her death. Loki shook off the emotions churning in her gut. Grandfather was an old man now, and hating him would only hurt her.
“Hey.” She approached Jules slowly, aware that at times he walked in his sleep. “Bad dreams?”
Jules picked up a rock and threw it into the trees that surrounded the back of the property. “Horrible.”
“Want to talk about it?”
He shook his head. “I’m sorry I woke you.”
Placing an arm around his waist, she stood with him, just watching the beauty of the early morning breeze gently swaying the trees. “You didn’t wake me, but even if you did, I’m glad. My dreams weren’t very pleasant, either.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t go to the reservation today. After the way they treated us, you don’t owe them anything.”
Loki sighed and dropped her arm. “Is that what’s bothering you?”
Frustration overwhelmed her. For years Jules hadn’t said a word, trapped in his own mind with a horror he didn’t know how to express. All that had changed last year when she’d brought Jake to Grandpa Zachery’s farm to heal after his wife’s murder. What was supposed to be a vacation turned into a fight for their life against a madman and his mother, but for Jules it had been a miracle of sorts. They’d managed to save Grace, a thirteen-year-old who had been kidnapped and abused by the serial killers, and her month-old baby, Hope. And Grace had helped Jules heal. The two of them shared a bond that few people would ever understand. “I can’t help you, Jules, if you won’t talk to me.”
“Talking won’t change it, Loki. You and I both know that.”
“No, but sometimes it helps to share things.”
“Why do we call this the Redmond Farm?”
Loki chuckled. “Because Grandpa loved our mother so much that when she married our father, he changed the name of the farm. Sometimes I think he did it just to piss off Grandfather Redmond.”
“There’s something evil about Grandfather Redmond, Loki. Don’t trust him.”
“I didn’t before, and I’m not going to now.” She studied Jules’s face, looking for clues about what was truly behind his pain. “If there’s something you know about what’s going on at the reservation, you should tell me.”
“Have you ever known something was wrong but you didn’t know what it was or how to stop it?”
Loki dropped to the ground, hugged her knees to her chest, and patted the spot beside her. “You know how my visions work. I get images or feelings, and it’s always after something horrible has happened. I can never stop it.”
Jules finally sat beside her. “Some of the spirits are angry. Some are very sad. They say innocent blood has been shed, and the blood of more innocents will be shed in the coming days.”
“Have you talked to Grace about this?”
“She feels the same thing. I think she knows more, but she’s not ready to share it yet.”
“Do you know when this is supposed to happen?”
Loki shuddered. She and Dadron were leaving for the reservation first thing this morning. The sun began to rise, but it did nothing to dispel the chill sinking into her bones and encompassing her. “Does this have anything to do with Grandfather?”
Jules stood, brushed off his jeans, and walked toward the forest. His voice was sad and filled with pain. “No, but you should tell Jake you love him before you leave.”
The early morning sun blazed down on the small ravine as Jake Savior knelt beside Jules Redmond and studied the ground. In a few more hours the heat would be unbearable. “Anything at all?” Jake asked.
“Nothing.” Jules stood and wiped the sweat from his brow. “A child couldn’t have gone into that brush pile without leaving some trace.”
Jake removed his neckerchief and wiped his face. “So I guess it was a spirit or ghost or whatever it is you guys see that the rest of us don’t.”
“Loki doesn’t see spirits.”
“Well, she certainly saw something, and it’s happened three times now.” Jake started the slow climb to the road. It had been a long shot, bringing Jules here, but Jake felt helpless when it came to the things Loki experienced. This one had upset her more than usual.
“Maybe it was a vision.” Jules followed close on Jake’s heels.
“Water or beer?” Jake lifted the hatch on the Highlander and pulled out the cooler. “Is it always this hot here in April? It’s not even eight o’clock yet.”
“Water. It’s too early for beer.” Jules took the bottle, splashed half of it on his face, and drank the rest. “The winter was strangely cold, and no, it isn’t normally this hot in April. Doesn’t bode well for the summer months.”
Jake popped the top on a can of beer and took a long drink, his eyes scanning the terrain. “There aren’t any houses anywhere near here in either direction. If this is a vision of something destined to happen in the future, where would a child come from?”
Jules shrugged and grabbed another bottle of water. “Loki’s visions usually come after something has already happened.” He pointed at the ravine. “But there are no spirits here. We could have Grace search the computer databases and see if there were any car wrecks where a family was injured or died and a young girl survived and ran away. ”
“Sounds like a plan.” Jake slammed the hatch. “It’s too hot to stay out here any longer, and I’m hungry. You want to drive?”
The young boy’s face lit up. “Really?”
Jake tossed him the keys. “You’ve got your permit, and you have to learn sometime.” He held up the beer and grinned. “And I’ve been drinking before breakfast.”
Jules adjusted the seat and mirrors, waited for Jake to buckle up, and started the car. “So what exactly did Loki see?”
“A young girl, maybe five or six years old, running across the road. Loki thinks she was Choctaw, but she can’t be sure.”
“And you didn’t see her?”
“Nope. The first time she screamed stop, I almost flipped the car in the ditch. Loki ran after her, but she disappeared into that cluster of brush we just searched.”
“And is it always the same time of day?” Jules’s eyes locked on the road in front of him.
“I never really thought about it, but yeah, it was close to the same time all three evenings. Dark enough to have the lights on but not totally dark,” Jake said.
Jake leaned back in the seat and closed his eyes. In the past year, he’d accepted Loki’s visions, as well as the fact that Jules and Grace saw things no one else could. For Loki, the visions were simply part of her Choctaw heritage. Grace’s ability was brought on by trauma and loneliness during the years she was held captive by a madman and his crazy mother. Jules’s abilities were probably a combination of his Choctaw heritage and trauma. Jake had learned firsthand what trauma and grief could do to the human psyche. His friends’ abilities might be preferable to the insanity that had seized him after his wife’s murder. His heart still ached for Cara at times, but with Loki’s love, he was healing a little more each day and building a new life in Mississippi.
“Have you heard from Loki and Dadron?”
“She called to say they had arrived. I don’t expect to hear anything else until later. Cell service out there isn’t the best in the world. She said she’d call if they were staying overnight.” Jake shot a glance at Loki’s younger brother. Worry lines wrinkled Jules’s forehead, replacing the earlier gleeful face, and he gripped the wheel tightly. “Something bothering you, Jules?”
“Grace says the spirits are restless, and something terrible is about to happen. She doesn’t know what, but it has something to do with innocent blood.”
“And you think that has something to do with what’s going on on the reservation, or the kid Loki keeps seeing?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think so, but there are those in the tribe who love and respect Loki, and those who hate and fear her.” Jules’s voice faltered for a moment. “The hate is because of me.”
“She only promised to listen to what her grandfather had to say. Besides, Dadron is with her. He’s not going to let anything happen to her.”
“I still don’t think she should have gone there.” Jules turned in to the driveway leading to the farm. “This is not her fight, and she doesn’t owe Grandfather anything.” He parked in front of the house, turned off the motor, and handed the keys to Jake. “Thank you. Tell Grace not to set a place for me.”
“Where are you going?” Jake exited the vehicle quickly, but Jules was already disappearing into the forest behind the house.
The door to the farmhouse opened, and Grace came out on the landing. “Let him go, Jake.”
“Any idea where he’s headed?”
“He built a sweat lodge yesterday. He’s gone there to fast and pray for those who are about to die.”
~ ~ ~
Loki Redmond grabbed the door handle and held on tight as the vehicle hit a pothole. “With all the money pouring in from the casinos, can’t they do something about this section?”
Tim “Bearclaw” Whitefeather jerked the wheel to avoid another hole. “Politics.”
Loki glanced in the rearview mirror, meeting Dadron’s angry gaze. She understood his anger as they passed another section of clapboard houses, the yards littered with empty liquor bottles and piles of trash. They’d left the more prominent sections of the reservation over an hour ago and were now traveling through the parts hidden from tourists. She also understood Tim’s comment about politics. Even here, miles from what was referred to as civilization, the rich got richer and the poor continued to suffer.
Tim pulled into a section of trees and parked. “The basin is about a half mile through the forest. We’ll walk from here.”
Loki motioned for Dadron to hang back as she rushed to catch up with Tim. “Why did Grandfather want to meet out here?”
“You’ll have to ask him.”
Grabbing Tim’s arm, she turned him to face her. “I’m asking you. You haven’t said ten words to us since we got here. We were friends once. And you know how Grandfather feels about us. Please, tell me what this is about.”
“You can’t be serious.” Loki laughed and shook her head. “Nalusa Falaya is a myth. Like the boogeyman, something made up by parents to keep the children inside after dark.”
“We have two missing hunters, Loki.”
“That doesn’t mean anything. If they’re unfamiliar with the area, they probably just got lost out here.”
“We found the third hunter.”
Dadron joined them. “Dead or alive?”
Tim’s jaw set in a hard line, and his eyes darkened. “Mostly dead. We’re wasting time, and your Grandfather doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”
Loki hung back to walk with Dadron. She really didn’t care what her grandfather liked or didn’t like. Tim had been her cousin Harry’s best friend all through childhood. They’d gone through the police academy together, and Tim had joined the tribal police when Harry had moved to Corpus Christi and joined the police department there. Living on the reservation kept some of the old myths and culture alive, but no one believed in Nalusa Falaya. “What do you think he means by ‘mostly dead’?”
“Grandfather asked you to bring Jules with you, didn’t he?” Dadron asked.
“Maybe.” Loki watched Tim’s back as he stalked away from them. Grandfather hadn’t asked her to bring Jules, he’d demanded she bring Jules. He’d wanted all three of them here. “Don’t worry, Dadron. It will be a cold day in hell before they get their hands on Jules again.”