I’m confident that everything you are about to read is what the first two chapters will be in the book. I hope you enjoy and look forward to reading the rest of it.
She believed God hated her.
Her best friend Vick called a couple of hours ago and said he needed a ride from his parents’ summer home before the storm hit because his car died and he couldn’t reach his parents. Her mother worried about her quick departure, but Bella hadn’t hesitated to leave, and believed she could beat the onslaught of wind and rain. Except Vick didn’t stand on the other side of the door. Jeremiah, stood in front of her. They hadn’t really spoken since he walked out of her hospital room. She didn’t count the arguments or text. Her stomach churned all the emotional ramifications she’d worked to bury over the past few months. Yep, God really hated her. She crossed her arms over her chest, and spun around on the porch and moved toward the steps.
“Bella, where do you think you’re going?” Jeremiah followed after her.
He pulled her arm and she almost toppled into him. “Absolutely not! No way you’ll make it back before this thing hits.”
“Not if you stop me from leaving!” She yanked free of his grip with a sudden sense of de ja vu.
“Are you insane? Look at the sky! I know you’re not stupid. You’re smart enough to know that you’ll get stuck and being in a car in a storm is suicide. Come on, there’s a storm cellar over there. We should head that way.”
She snickered. “You must think I’m crazy if you believe for one second I am going to get holed up in a shelter with you to wait out this damn storm!” No way in hell is he getting me in there! Her plan for the day did not include her ex-boyfriend. She’d spent two and a half months away from Jeremiah, which included a month with someone else, and it had been good for her soul or so she’d tried to convince herself. Realistically she couldn’t avoid him. They went to the same school and church. She no longer attended the Tuesday night Bible study group her parents hosted since… Unfortunately in a small town, every godforsaken person knew what happened to her. She couldn’t stand the look of pity a lot of the town people wore on their faces around her. Few people treated her normal and forgot that night ever happened, the two things she wanted. She’d kill to beat the vivid memory into submission and bury it six feet under, but that hadn’t happened.
“No! But I will think you’re crazy if you keep pushing to drive in this storm,” Jeremiah quipped.
She crossed her arms over her chest again and looked at the sky beyond him. As much as she refused to admit it, she knew she wouldn’t make it back before the storm.
“You have two choices. One, you walk nicely with me to the storm cellar or two, I toss you over my shoulder and carry you.”
She maintained her stance and narrowed her eyes. “You wouldn’t dare.”
He grabbed her by the waist and threw her over his shoulder.
“Jeremiah! Put me down!” She hit him on the back and kicked her feet doing whatever she could to get out of his grip. Angrier than before she yelled again, “Put me down!”
Jeremiah remained silent as he carried her into the storm cellar. Once inside he placed her on her feet and put some space between them. He walked over and locked the door, then found a spot at the end of the stairwell, leaned against the wall, crossed his arms and ankles and dropped his gaze.
Too angry for words, she started to pace the shelter. She couldn’t walk out the front entrance because Jeremiah strategically perched himself between her and the door. What the hell is he thinking? What is wrong with him?
While she huffed and puffed around the room, he just watched her beneath hooded eyes. “Bella, talk to me.”
One month earlier…
Bella looked at the door marked “New Mexico Rescate County Chief of Police.” She hated being there. She sighed and walked over to the door. It was halfway open. She knocked. “Chief Detrone?”
“Hey Bella. Come on in. You know you can call me Jamar.” The man rose to his feet and stepped around the desk.
“I know, but it doesn’t feel right.” She headed over to one of the chairs and took a seat, while he closed the door. She despised seeing her boyfriend’s father. Bella liked the man. He’d always been nice to her. Chief Jamar Detrone reminded her of the guy who ignored and avoided her. Jeremiah looked a lot like his father. She practically saw Jeremiah in his face whenever she came to see Chief Detrone.
“If I call you Jamar then I have to think of you as Jeremiah’s dad and not just the man handling my case.” She desperately wanted to separate the two.
Chief Detrone approached and sat in the chair opposite her. “You’re his girlfriend. You should think of me as both.”
Chief Detrone leaned back in the chair. He frowned. “If things have changed, he hasn’t said anything to me.”
“That makes two of us.” Bella shook her head. “Look, I don’t want to talk about Miah. My mom said you needed to see me.”
“Yes. I needed to clarify some things regarding your case.” Chief Detrone stood up and reached over his desk and grabbed a couple of files. Then he returned to the chair across from her.
“Okay. Fine.” Bella sighed. She couldn’t count the number of times she’d been in the police station over the past six weeks. Just when she thought all the questions that could possibly be asked had been, another one would pop up. It probably wouldn’t be so bad if she didn’t have to deal with Jeremiah’s dad every single time she came in. At this point, she would rather speak directly to the prosecutor.
“On October 2nd, when you and Jeremiah arrived at your house, where did you find your mom?”
“She was in the living room with a couple of paramedics.”
“What did she tell you happened?”
“She didn’t remember much. Just that she had gotten inside the door when she felt something hit her on the head. The neighbors were the ones who called the cops. Mrs. Sanford had come over to see if my mom had seen Pugsie. The trunk of my mom’s car was open and the front door was too. Mrs. Sanford called for her husband. Mr. Sanford found my mom crumpled on the floor of the main hall.”
Chief Detrone notated a couple of things and then continued on. “How did you find out what Mr. and Mrs. Sanford saw?”
“When Jeremiah and I stepped out of the house for some air, they were still there. They told us what happened and asked if my mom was okay.”
“You and Jeremiah were the ones who walked the house?”
“Yes. Detective Russell wanted me to see if anything was missing and I didn’t want to go alone.”
Chief Detrone nodded and closed the file before he moved onto the next. “Now let’s go to October 9th.”
“Do we have to?” Bella never liked talking about the night of her attack.
“I’m sorry Bella. I know this is difficult, but we do. I’ll try to make it as short as possible.”
She sighed. “Fine, let’s just get this over with.”
“The men that attacked you, had you ever seen them before?”
Bella shook her head. “No. And I only saw the one man’s face. The other kept his face covered.”
“And there were no distinguishing marks on the second man? Anything that stood out?”
“Not that I remember.” If there had been, Bella still wouldn’t remember. She’d used all her power to block that night out.
“The first man we identified as Quincy Harlem. Did he say anything to you?”
“A lot. Can you be more specific?”
“I need you to tell me everything he said Bella.”
God, why? Bella sighed. “He called me his honey bear. Told me that he wanted to make sure I could see his face to know who he was. He said that I was my father’s payment.”
“Payment? Did he say for what?”
“Not until the shooting at the Fall Harvest Production.” Another day Bella wanted to forget. Eleven days between the two events, but they were linked by a never ending nightmare. Her bruises had healed by that point, but her arm had been in a cast and her ribs cracked. She had been determined that Quincy Harlem would not take her life away. She’d refused to relinquish her position as producer to the Halloween event her church put on every year. The town people always came and enjoyed the festivities. She hadn’t expected Harlem to show up and shoot both her and Jeremiah.
“What did he tell you then?”
“I was payment for his brother.”
“Did he explain what that meant?”
Bella nodded. “My dad is the Youth Pastor at the juvenile detention center his brother was sentenced to. I guess my dad counseled his brother and led him to God. From what my dad told me, Quincy’s brother Jeffrey decided he wanted out of the gang. He said Jeffrey told him Quincy considered him as good as dead. Since my dad took something from him, Quincy said he was returning the favor.”
“Do you think that’s why he marked you?”
Bella glared at Chief Detrone. Of all the questions he had to ask, he had to ask that one. Among all the pictures of her bruises and broken bones had been one of a brand she had on the back of her neck. A pair of crisscrossed scythes had been the only thing to link the crimes to the gang, The Twin Reapers. She got up to her feet. “And we’re done.”
“Bella –– ”
“Bella nothing. I can’t answer that question and you know it. Now, I’m done.” Before the Chief had another opportunity to ask anything else, Bella walked past him. She had half a mind to slam his door shut behind her, but somehow found the composure to leave the office as if nothing happened.
“I don’t care what you have to do, just take care of the problem.” A man in an orange jump suit stated into the phone. Even though a piece of flexi-glass stood between Quincy Harlem and the kid on the other side, the kid still winced.
“I understand sir. We just wanted to clarify any limitations.”
“Whatever it takes. I can’t be any more clear than that.” He snarled.
“Yes sir. I’ll report back in a week.”
“No! Come back in two. I don’t want to see you before then. Do you understand?”
The kid nodded.
“Good. And Swifty?”
Quincy reached into his pocket and pulled nothing out. His gaze honed in on Swifty as a sinister smile spread across his lips and pronounced the jagged edges of the scar on the right side of his face. “There’s a piece of paper under your seat. Pull it out.”
Swifty did exactly as told and reached under the seat. An envelope had been taped to the bottom. As he pulled it out he looked across the way. “What’s this?”
“Something you need to make sure my honey bear gets. That is your first assignment.”
“But sir, can’t they sample the writing?”
“Don’t you think I thought of that?”
“Well, yes sir.”
“Then make sure it’s delivered.”
“Yes sir. Is there anything else?”
“No. That is all.”
“You may go.” Quincy finally dismissed the kid. He watched as Swifty returned the phone to its placeholder. With business settled, Quincy hung up his phone as well. Time to return to his cell. “Guard.”
Disclaimer: This is an original work and is not intended for duplication.