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       Careful little eyes: An addictive, horrifying serial killer thriller (7th Street Crew Book 4), p.1
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           Willow Rose
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Careful little eyes: An addictive, horrifying serial killer thriller (7th Street Crew Book 4)


  CAREFUL LITTLE EYES

  7TH STREET CREW

  Willow Rose

  …WHAT YOU SEE

  Copyright Willow Rose 2016

  Published by Jan Sigetty Boeje

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission from the author.

  This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental. The Author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.

  Cover design by Sara de Ridder | de Ridder designs

  Special thanks to my editor Janell Parque

  http://janellparque.blogspot.com/

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  Prologue

  New Orleans, March 2016

  Mulder the Mule is exhausted. It has been a long day for him and for his owner Ian Marks. Come to think of it, it has been a lot of long days in a row this week, driving tourists around downtown. But it’s all good. Being busy is good. Busy means Ian is making money, and March has, up until this week, been slow. Actually, it has been slow since Mardi Gras in February, so it is great that it is picking up a little. Weather has a lot to do with it too. Even though it is a covered horse carriage he operates, tourists don’t like it when it blows cold or if it rains in from the sides.

  “There you go, old boy,” he says and pets Mulder gently as he lets him into his stall.

  For five years Ian has worked for Good Old Times Carriages, driving tourists across town, telling them stories about each and every house, pretending to be a local, even though he has only lived in New Orleans for the past six years. He came down here with his girlfriend back then, Trudy. Back in Atlanta he had been a carpenter, but here he couldn’t find enough work to make a living, and he had to find something else to make ends meet.

  Ian closes the door to the stall at the stables where the owner, Maryann, keeps all the mules. He gives Mulder some fodder, then grabs his bike and rides through town. He has come to love New Orleans. Everything about this city makes him happy. The people, the houses, and especially the music. No matter where you go, there is music coming out of some building or someone performing in the streets. It is so vibrant.

  The only thing he doesn’t like are the ghosts. All the stories creep him out. He has to tell them, since that is what the tourists come here for, but he can’t stand thinking about them.

  Before, when living in Atlanta, he never believed in ghosts, and old stories like that wouldn’t touch him. Because he didn’t believe in them. But ever since he moved into the small house downtown, he has seen things that make him shiver at the mention of ghosts.

  They are everywhere in this town. If you speak to anyone who has lived there for more than just a couple of years, they know. In the beginning Ian laughed at them when they started to talk about it, but once he started to renovate the small place he bought, because his girlfriend back then asked him to make it a little more suitable for human habitation, that was when the trouble began.

  Once he started to remove anything or tear anything down, things happened. Like his tools would suddenly disappear or be moved to another place, other than where he had put them. Even, at one point, a hammer flew through the air and hit a wall behind him. He didn’t see it happen, because it was behind his back, but he heard it and when he turned he saw the hammer buried in the wall.

  Trudy soon started to experience odd things as well. Like the feeling of someone blowing on her neck at night time, when getting ready for bed. Or doors closing when she wanted to go through them, and even sometimes, when wearing a dress or skirt, she felt it being pulled up without anyone being behind her.

  She only lasted a year, and then she left and went back to Atlanta. Now Ian has found a new girlfriend who is a native to New Orleans and isn’t so easy to scare.

  “All they want is your attention,” she always says, and Ian often hears other natives say the same. “They want you to recognize that they’re there. Usually, they don’t mean anything evil.”

  Ian listens to them. He hears what they say, but he isn’t so sure they are right. One day he came home from work early, on a slow day, and found that someone had moved in to his small shed in the back. A man was standing in the doorway, a big black man, dark as the night. Someone later told Ian that his place used to be a part of a plantation and the slaves would live in the small houses, like his shed.

  The man has never hurt him, but he looks like he wants to. And he steals his tools. Often Ian can’t find his tools and then he walks out in the back and spots the black man using them to fix something on the shed. There are some loose planks that the black man keeps repairing.

  The first time his tools were stolen, Ian ran there, yelling at the man to give him his tools back, but the man went inside the shed, and when Ian followed him, he wasn’t there. He couldn’t find him.

  New Orleans

  March 2016

  Ian Marks parks his bike in the front yard, then walks up to the house. He has grown to love this place and doesn’t believe he will ever move again. The house is small, but you can’t beat the location.

  He bought it with the money he saved back in Atlanta and doesn’t owe a penny on it. Trudy thought it was crap, but he saw the potential. His new girlfriend, Cindy, likes it and so does her daughter, Mia.

  Ian walks into the kitchen and finds Mia sitting at the table, drawing in her coloring book. At six years of age, she is as cute as they get. Ian doesn’t have any children of his own, none that he knows of, that is. He has never wanted any, but to his surprise, he likes having her around the house.

  “Hi, sweetheart, where’s your mom?” he asks and takes his hat off. He puts it on the table next to the girl.

  She giggles and grabs it. She puts it on her own head. She loves Ian’s high-hat that he always wears, mostly for the tourists. It goes well with his long beard.

  “In the living room,” she says, looking almost too cute with the big hat on her head.

  Ian nods, then peeks in and—just as he expects—finds Cindy knocked out on the couch, the TV running. Ian walks to her, grabs the remote, and turns off the TV with a deep sigh. It’s only five in the afternoon. A little too early to be passed out. He grabs the many bottles in front of her and takes them to the kitchen, where he throws them out.

  “She been out for long?” he asks.

  “She was fine when I got home from school,” Mia says and takes off the hat. She places it back on the table.

  Ian looks at her. He knows it isn’t easy for Cindy, just being fired from her last job as a waitress, but still he wishes she would try a little harder. It’s tough for a little girl to watch her mother go down like this. No child should see that.

  Ian exhales. It really isn’t his business, since Mia isn’t his, but he can’t help but worry about her and her future. They have been a part of his life for a little more than a year now and he is starting to see a pattern. At the same time, he doesn’t want to scare Cindy away by meddling in her life. She has more than once gotten angry with him for doing so, making it clear to him that
it is none of his business. He has grown to really like her, and especially Mia, so he is a little terrified of losing them. Besides, he has this idea that as long as Mia is here with him, living here in his house, then he can somehow look after her and make sure she is taken care of. Who knows where she will end up if Cindy decides to leave? He knows Cindy has had her share of abusive and crappy boyfriends over the years.

  “Okay,” he says. “So Mommy takes a nap.”

  She continues to color. Ian knows Cindy doesn’t mean anything bad, and he doesn’t mind that she drinks a little now and then; the good Lord knows he likes to drink as well, but he doesn’t have the same responsibility as she has. Hopefully, it will all be better when she finds a new job.

  If she finds one.

  It’s been almost eight months now and it’s getting harder and harder for her to find something new. Mostly because she has been fired at her previous three places because she showed up to work drunk. They only give you so many second chances in life.

  “So, what do you say I make us my famous mac and cheese?”

  The girl’s face lights up. “Yaaay!”

  It is the only dish Ian knows how to make, but it is a home run every time with Mia. If nothing else, the two of them can have a great evening together.

  New Orleans

  March 2016

  After dinner, Mia wants to play charades with him. Ian checks on Cindy once again, but she is still out. He grabs his second beer from the fridge, while Mia finds the game of children’s charades in her room. She got it from her grandmother for her birthday and loves that game. Maybe because it is the only one she has.

  “I want to go first,” she says with a big smile when she returns.

  “All right,” Ian says with a smile. He looks at the clock on the wall.

  Usually, he goes out after dinner for a beer at the place around the corner, but he can skip it for her sake. He has done that a lot the past several weeks, ever since Cindy’s drinking worsened. They were beginning to think he had moved, the bartender told him when he finally went again two days ago.

  He wouldn’t have thought he would ever skip his daily visit to the Rusty Nail, and especially not for a little girl, had you asked him a year ago. But right now, she is more important than him getting drunk and hanging out with his drinking buddies.

  Mia picks a card, reads it, then looks speculative for a few seconds before she puts the card down on the table, making sure Ian can’t see what it says. Ian is very impressed with the girl and how well she reads. She is doing really well in school, her teachers say, and he is proud of her for that. It’s quite the accomplishment with her background.

  “Okay, two words,” he says, guessing her signals. “Movie. A movie. Okay. First word. Small…tiny…little. Yes? Little? Okay, second word. What’s that? Hmm. A fish? A whale? A…a shark? Little shark?”

  Mia stops and looks at him annoyed.

  “What? I am a bad guesser, all right? Try again.”

  She does the same movement again.

  “Swimmer? Little Swimmer?”

  She sighs like she is giving up, rolling her eyes at him, but finding it hard to hide her smile.

  “What?” he says. “You were swimming, right?”

  Mia sits down next to him. “You give up?” she asks.

  He nods and sips his beer.

  “Mermaid,” she says with a grin. “Little Mermaid.”

  Ian laughs. “Argh. I should have guessed that.”

  “You really should.”

  Ian gets up. “All right. My turn.” He picks a card and reads it, when Cindy suddenly is in the doorway, leaning on the wall. She looks at Mia. “What are you still doing up? You have school tomorrow,” she says, her speech blurry.

  “It’s Friday,” Mia says.

  “Ah. Well…” Cindy tries to walk, but has to lean on the furniture and walls. She opens the fridge and takes out another beer.

  “Come, let’s get you to bed,” Ian says and grabs the girl’s hand. He doesn’t want her to see her mother like this.

  He lets her sit on his shoulders on the way up the stairs and tickles her stomach as he puts her to bed.

  “Is Mommy sick again?” she asks when she has brushed her teeth and Ian has tucked her in.

  “She is a little sick,” he says. “But she’ll get better. Soon she’ll get a lot better. We just have to be a little patient with her. It is tough on her, you know?”

  Mia nods. “I know. I’ll be good; I promise.”

  Ian smiles and kisses the girl on the cheek. When he shuts off the light, he hesitates for a second with a deep sigh, but he doesn’t see the figure standing outside the girl’s window, an axe leaned on its shoulder.

  New Orleans

  March 2016

  Ian drinks a couple of beers with Cindy before bedtime, and then helps her up the stairs and into bed. He helps her get her clothes off and finds the T-shirt she usually sleeps in. He helps her get it on. She is awake, but very drunk. She mumbles something and he kisses her before he puts the covers over her. He looks at her for a long time, wondering what to do. He has seen many alcoholics in his life; heck, he even was almost one himself, but he never let it go that far. He always manages to keep a job anyway.

  It has become clear to him that Cindy needs help. But how? He doesn’t have the money to send her off to a treatment center. He has tried to talk to her about it before, but nothing good ever came of it. She has made it very clear that she is not interested in giving it up just yet.

  Maybe he can call in a favor and help her get a job? Ian thinks about Marlo from the Cool Café. Ian helped him build a counter in the back some years ago and never received pay, called it a favor. Now might be the time to cash in that favor.

  Ian sits on the edge of the bed and takes off his socks, then throws them on the floor. He is a little tipsy himself, but he usually never gets drunk anymore. Not really drunk like in the old days.

  Ian lays his head on the pillow and turns out the lamp next to his bed. Cindy is snoring lightly. Ian thinks about other girlfriends he has had throughout the years. Many of them were drunks. He had thrown all of them out when he got tired of them. Why is it different with Cindy? Is it because of Mia? Is it an age thing? Because he is getting afraid of growing old alone?

  Whatever it is, he knows now that it is very different with Cindy. He can’t throw her out. He has to help her. And Mia.

  Tomorrow. Tomorrow, I’ll throw out every beer in the house. And I won’t buy new ones. From now on, this house is a sober house and that goes for me too. Mia deserves better than this.

  Satisfied with his decision, even though it isn’t the first time Ian has promised himself to stop drinking, he turns on his side and closes his eyes. He is almost asleep when suddenly Cindy sits up, screaming at the top of her lungs.

  “What? What?” Ian asks and puts a hand on her shoulder.

  “I saw someone,” she says and points at the window. “Right out there. I saw someone, looking in at me, at us.”

  Ian looks at the window. “I don’t see anyone,” he says. “It was probably just a dream.”

  She shakes her head. “No. No. I am sure I saw someone. Like a black figure.”

  Ian swallows hard. He has had the feeling too for a couple of days when going to bed. Like someone is watching him. But he often feels that way in this house, with the ghosts and all. It is like he is never quite alone.

  “Let me just check,” he says and gets out of the bed. He walks to the window, heart pounding, then looks outside. In the back. Down in the yard, he sees the black man sitting outside the shed, a tool in his hand, looking up at Ian. Ian gasps and pulls backward.

  “What? What is it?” Cindy asks. Her speech is still blurred, but she seems more sober than he has seen her all day. Being afraid can do that to you. Sober you up in an instant.

  “It’s the guy. He’s back.”

  “The black guy in the shed?”

  “Yeah. He always freaks me out. Do you think
he will disappear if I tear the shed down?”

  Cindy shakes her head, then leans back on her pillow. “No. Don’t ever do that. You’ll make him homeless and he’ll just move into this house. At least we know where he is when he stays down there.”

  Ian walks back to the bed. He really doesn’t know anything about how to tackle ghosts, so he decides to agree with her. “You’re probably right. Now let’s get some sleep.”

  Seconds later, Cindy is fast asleep while Ian is still very awake. It takes him about an hour to find rest. He dreams about Mulder for some reason. Mulder goes crazy all of a sudden and he can’t calm him down. He kicks Ian in the face and when Ian wakes up with a start, he sees a figure standing over Cindy, axe in the air, blood gushing out from her body, soaking the bed sheets.

  Part One

  O’ BE CAREFUL LITTLE EARS WHAT YOU HEAR

  Chapter One

  July 2016

  “You’re bringing all that?”

  Joey Wilson looks at Mary as he enters her SUV. Two huge suitcases are stacked in the back, along with two smaller sports bags. It looks like she has packed for a year.

  She shrugs, annoyed. “Well, we don’t know how long we’re gonna be gone. Is that all you’re bringing?” she nods at Joey’s small pink bag in his hand. It’s Jackie’s that he has borrowed.

  “I didn’t assume we were staying there for months,” he grumbles and throws it in the back, then buckles up in the passenger seat.

  “It’s our son, Joey. I am not leaving till we have him. If it takes months, then so be it.”

 
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