I’ve already shared this on my Facebook author page, but thought I should put it up here, too. Keep in mind that this is the first draft. I still need to edit this scene, so it might be a little rough around the edges. Let me know what you think about it. 🙂
(I’ll be doing a cover reveal…of sorts…soon. It will actually be a few choices, because I can’t make up my mind which one I like best…so I’m putting it to a vote.)
Turning the key in the deadbolt that hadn’t been there when he’d moved into the apartment sixteen years before, Ed locked it anyway. He knew it wouldn’t keep anyone out who really wanted in, but It made his friends feel better to know it was there. He supposed it made him feel a little more secure, too. If nothing else, it might give him a few precious seconds to take cover if it ever became necessary. Getting to his gun wouldn’t ever be an issue, because he kept it with him at all times now, even sleeping with it tucked under his pillow.
He scowled at the small stack of mail he tossed on the table on his way to the bathroom. Technically it was only the letter from the stalker that caused his lips to turn down, but it was right on the top of the pile, almost like someone put it there on purpose. For all he knew, someone had. Whatever. He wasn’t dealing with the new threat until after his shower. He was tired, he was hungry, and in no mood to deal with more of this sick game right now.
Besides, it wouldn’t be different than the others. Another threat, another promise of his impending death, another wild goose chase to show him the creep was watching his every move…and those of his friends.
As he stepped under the hot steaming spray, he tried to figure out how the stalker seemed to be everywhere at once. Of course he couldn’t be. Nothing ever happened simultaneously, it was just that there were so many incidences between him, the guys, and their families, it felt that way.
It also appeared that they were all targets now. Or at least that’s what this lunatic wanted them to think. So far though, thank the Lord, Ed was the only one who had been hurt. He didn’t know if he could live with himself if someone close to him suffered because he’d managed to offend a criminal.
When the water started to cool, he jumped out, dried off, and threw on a pair of faded blue jeans and a white tee shirt, scowling at the letter again on his way to the kitchen. Once today’s frozen dinner was spinning away in the microwave, he finally sat down at the table and slit the envelope open with his pocketknife.
“Hmm,” he murmured, looking at the cobbled together note.
Coordinates. For what? The only other thing on the page was, ‘Take your time, cop. There’s no rush to find my surprise.’ What was that supposed to mean? If it had been anyone else sending him off on a scavenger hunt, he’d probably ignore it until after he’d gotten a good night’s sleep. But this was coming from a deranged stalker, one who had made a point to tell him there was no hurry. That made him wonder if there might actually be a reason to look into it sooner rather than later.
And the more he thought about it, the more it worried him. Was there something he needed to see right away? Or was this the moment the stalker had all been waiting for? The showdown.
With a sigh, Ed got up, turned the microwave off, slipped into a pair of socks and sneakers, and headed out to the parking lot.
“Evening, gentlemen,” Ed said, forcing a cheerfulness he didn’t feel into his voice as he slid the door of the van open, startling its occupants.
At first, he’d resented the presence of the goons Dan and the others had hired, but now he found it gave him a sense of security – no matter how false it might be – to know they were watching out for him. Settling in one of the bucket seats, and buckling himself in he said, “We’re going on a little adventure, fellas, and I’m too tired to drive.”
He gave them the coordinates to enter into their GPS system and sat back to enjoy the ride.
Dusk had fallen by the time they found the the right place. Ed immediately thought of Jon when he saw the ramshackle house and barn. He wasn’t sure he was even talented enough to save this mess. It looked as though no one had set foot on the property in years.
When they exited the van, the bodyguards turned to face him.
“What are we looking for?” This came from the taller man, the one who’d been driving. Ed thought his name might be Rick.
“I have no idea. Whatever it is could be anywhere. Inside, outside, I just don’t know.”
The passenger, Harvey, reached into the glove box and pulled out a handful of tiny, powerful flashlights. He handed one to Ed, another to his buddy, pocketed the rest, and said,
“I’m going to assume it will be obvious. Something that would be out of place here.”
“Exactly,” Ed agreed, closing his eyes for a moment. “We can probably just ignore anything that has twenty years of dust on it.”
They split up in the house, which Ed figured seemed a million times creepier than it would have in broad daylight. It didn’t help matters when he walked through what he hoped was a wall of cobwebs. Or when he saw a rat scurry across the hall a short while later. He knew he’d be showering again when he got home.
After about an hour, they hadn’t found anything, not even a footprint to mar the dirt and grime that covered the floor, and so they headed for the barn, spreading out in the thigh high weeds, just in case whatever it was had been hidden in the yard.
Ed’s breath caught in his throat as soon as he pulled the creaky door open. There, right in front of them – like a shiny trophy – sat Jenna’s car. With a hand that trembled, he pulled his cell phone from his pocket and pressed five on the keypad, the speed dial number for her. The car was just stolen, that was all, he told himself, a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. She was safe at home and didn’t even know it was gone yet.
“No,” he groaned, when the muted melody of a Beach Boys tune filled the cavernous space. “No!”
He ran to the driver’s side, shining the light in the windows, but there was no sign of Jenna – or her cell phone. One of the guards was looking underneath, and the second one was aiming his beam around the the rest of the barn, a beam that wavered when it hit the back of the car.
Ed heard him gasp, and could have sworn a fist tightened around his lungs. His heart felt like it might beat right out of his chest, and he couldn’t remember ever being this afraid. At first his feet refused to move, and when they finally did, they felt weighted, because he knew he wasn’t going to want to see whatever there was to see.
His eyes zeroed in on the closed trunk…where a bloody piece of fabric peeked out. Crimson drops seeped onto the bumper, and rolled off into the straw and dirt below.
Psst! Did you hear about my new secret group on Facebook? It’s so secret you won’t be able to find it no matter how hard you look. In fact, the only people who will find it are those who have subscribed to my newsletter (http://kristykjames.net/newsletter/), and who send me an email or Facebook message letting me know they’d like to join. That way I can send an email invitation.
Why a secret group? I thought it would be a fun place to just chat and get to know one another. Yes, I’m still a teenager at heart. I’ve always liked the secret clubhouse kind of thing. They always seemed so mysterious and exclusive.
Psst again. Did you know that you can get The Daddy Pact, Someday…Maybe, and The Romance Manifesto free at these fine online bookstores? Amazon.com, iTunes Bookstore, and Barnes & Noble. ***The Romance Mainifesto is no longer available at Amazon.com.***