Careful little eyes an a.., p.19
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       Careful little eyes: An addictive, horrifying serial killer thriller (7th Street Crew Book 4), p.19

           Willow Rose
 
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  Chapter Seventy-Seven

  July 2016

  “What do you mean you need to do one last thing?” Joey asks.

  He has pulled me into the hallway so we won’t wake up Salter with our loud talking. I sigh and smile. I still have the book in my hand.

  “There is something I haven’t told you. On the day after we brought Salter to the hospital and while he was in intensive care fighting for his life, I received a book. This book.” I hold it up so he can see it.

  “A book?” Joey looks confused. “From who?”

  “You know how the media was all over the story about there not being any attacks by the Axeman on that same night?”

  “Yeah, sure. They said they believe because everyone played the music, he didn’t kill anyone. Some even believed the jazz rebuked the demon or something.”

  “It’s a lie. There was an attack,” I say. I reach into my pocket and pull out a letter. “Inside the book was this letter from the woman who wrote the book. She tells me she was attacked that night. In her home in Carrollton.”

  “But…but there was nothing in the news about any attack.”

  “She survived the attack with minor injuries and so did her husband, but they didn’t go to the police. She doesn’t explain why, but they didn’t go. She got hurt, but not enough to demand hospitalization. Maybe they didn’t want the commotion; I don’t know.”

  “Okay and so what? What does that have to do with us? Why did she even write to you?”

  “She met us. Earlier in the day, we knocked on her door and showed her a picture of Salter and Blake. She saw our story on the news when we had found him and figured I’d be at the hospital.”

  “But why did she give you a book?” Joey asks. I can tell he is growing annoyed with this story.

  “I am guessing because she wanted me to read it, and I have.”

  “So? What’s it about?”

  “I don’t have all the dots connected yet, but apparently it’s about this case that she was involved in back in 2005. It was a case that shocked the entire nation and that’s why they wanted her to do the book. Peggy Dixon, the woman who wrote the book and sent it to me, was apparently a social worker at DCF here in New Orleans at the time. There was this case about a child that was kidnapped and Peggy Dixon was later on charged with trying to cover up her own role in it, by misplacing important paperwork and falsifying documents. She was facing six counts of official misconduct. She was acquitted of all of them, but forced to retire, since the trust in her was gone, the DCF said. In the book, she explains that she was innocent, that she never falsified anything.”

  Joey shakes his head. “Okay, but what does that have to do with us? Our son is in there and he needs to go home. Why can’t we just go as soon as he is discharged? I want to take him home.”

  “So do I; believe me. And we will. I just need to go see this lady first. I have to talk to her.”

  Joey gesticulates wildly. “Why? Why?”

  “Because all the victims names are in the book.”

  “What?”

  “Every single one of The Axeman’s victims is in it. All of them. They’re all connected to this case. To the girl. Peggy was her social worker, Lisa her substitute teacher, Cindy her aunt, and Debra was her grandmother.”

  Joey looks surprised.

  “I know. It’s odd, right? I have to know more and then give my theory to the police. That’s all. Then we can leave.”

  “So, you’re saying you no longer think Blake is The Axeman?”

  “Exactly,” I say.

  “So I was right, then?”

  “You were right.”

  Joey smiles. “I just had to hear you say that.”

  Chapter Seventy-Eight

  July 2016

  Blake is zigzagging between cars on the highway, running his motorcycle to its max. The engine roars, other cars honk, some give him the finger or yell out their window. Blake doesn’t give them the time of day. He will never stoop to their low level.

  He has seen on the news that Salter has survived, which pleases him. He likes the kid and wanted him to live. Maybe they’ll get together one day later on in life and Blake can teach him how to be a real man. Not like his weak dad who lets Blake’s sister trample all over him. That Joey chose to sleep around doesn’t exactly surprise Blake. The guy must have needed it. Being married to a bitch like her.

  Blake makes a quick stop at a gas station and buys a sandwich. On the screen above the lady taking his money, he sees his own picture, and the text says he is wanted and dangerous. Blake is still wearing his black helmet and the woman can only see his eyes. She doesn’t even think twice as she looks into them.

  She has no idea.

  “Have a nice day, sir,” she says and hands him the receipt.

  Blake chuckles and winks. “You too, gorgeous.”

  The girl blushes. They all do that when Blake turns on the charm. He walks out to the bike and eats the sandwich standing up. He drinks his soda and when he is about to leave, he spots the girl, the same girl with the blonde hair, as she walks out of the back door of the building. Blake watches her as she walks to her car.

  It’s almost too tempting…

  She gets in and drives out of the parking lot. Blake follows her on his bike. He keeps his distance so she won’t be suspicious, and when she stops at a bar and gets out, he parks a little away from her. He watches her walk inside, then walks inside as well, helmet in his hand. He spots her sitting in a booth with a girlfriend, then sits at the bar, just close enough to be able to watch them.

  They order beers, and so does he. He listens in on their conversation and laughs when they do. He watches them finish their beers and walk out, still laughing happily. Blake pays for his beer and leaves as well. He heads towards his bike, watching out of the corner of his eye, when they say goodbye and the blonde woman gets back in her car. He starts up his bike, then follows her back to a small house not far from the bar. She parks in the driveway and walks up to the front door.

  Small house. No other car in driveway. No bikes or toys in the yard. As suspected, she is alone.

  He waits till she is inside before he parks the bike and walks up the driveway. The door isn’t even locked and he walks straight in. The woman is sitting in her living room reading a magazine when she sees him. She jumps up from the chair. Blake has kept the helmet on and she can’t see his eyes.

  “Hey! Who are you? What are you doing in my house?”

  Blake walks closer. The girl gasps and recoils. He opens the visor and she can see his eyes. He can smell that delicious scent of fear coming from her.

  “You?”

  “Yes, me,” he says.

  The girl screams, then turns and runs for the back door, but Blake grabs her by the ponytail and yanks her forcefully backwards till she lands on the floor. He stands bent over her as she tries to fight him.

  “That’s it, my girl. Fight for it,” he says, feeding off of the anxiety in her eyes. “I love myself a good fighter.”

  Chapter Seventy-Nine

  July 2016

  The next day, we get to bring Salter home. I am beyond excited that he is doing so well already. We still have the same suite at the hotel and I can tell it pains Salter a little to have to go back there to the same place where he was kept for so long. But it’s where we have all our stuff and the people at the hotel are so nice to us, and have made all kinds of excuses for not having realized he was in that room, being kept as a hostage. We are, of course, staying for free and won't have to pay anything once we choose to leave.

  “So, when do we go back to Cocoa Beach?” Salter asks when we enter the room.

  The suite is packed with flowers from the hotel staff and tons of people who have seen our story on TV. Well wishing cards and balloons are everywhere, and it is hard for Salter to find a space to sit down. He lies on the bed. I look at Joey. I know he is angry with me for wanting to finish this up before we leave, but I can’t help myself. I can’t just leav
e without telling the police what I know so they can solve the case and put this Axeman, or woman, behind bars. Even if he doesn’t understand it, Joey will have to live with it. Besides, I hardly think Salter is ready for an eleven-hour drive right away. He needs his rest.

  “In a day or two,” I say, and Joey’s eyes meet mine. “You gather your strength first. It’s a long drive. You might be fever free, but you’re still weak, remember?”

  “I’m fine, Mom,” Salter says.

  “He’s fine, Mary,” Joey says. “We could go now and he’d still be just fine.”

  “And we will go…soon,” I say and grab the car keys. “As soon as I have finished this, all right?” I walk to Salter and kiss him. I don’t like leaving him, I have to admit. I have been by his side for four whole days now, and the thought of not being able to kiss him or hold his hand at any time I want scares me.

  “I won’t be long,” I whisper.

  I kiss Joey and notice that Salter is looking at us, a smile spreading across his face.

  “What?” I say.

  Salter laughs. “Nothing. It just makes me happy to see you two kiss again. That’s all.”

  “Well, then we’d better do it some more,” I say and kiss Joey again. He holds my face between his hands.

  “Now go. Do what you have to,” he says. “We’ll be here waiting.”

  I leave them with a heavy heart and hurry to my car that the valet has already picked up for me. I drive to Carrollton and find the small white house with the cozy porch again. I park in front of it, then look at the book with a deep sigh.

  Is it worth it? Is it worth being away from your family? Is Joey right? Should I just forget everything about this and hurry back to Cocoa Beach?

  “I can’t do that,” I mumble to myself. “I can’t live with myself if this killer hurts any more people. I simply can’t.”

  I check myself in the rearview mirror and decide I shouldn’t have done that. The past weeks have worn on me. I look old now too. Fat and old.

  I grab the book and get out of the car. I walk up to the porch and knock on the screen door. It opens and Peggy appears in the doorway. I lift up the book in my hand so she can see it properly.

  “We need to talk,” I say.

  Peggy exhales deeply. “I had a feeling you might stop by. Come on in.”

  She steps aside and I walk into the house. She tells me to sit in the living room while she makes us some coffee, which she brings in on a big tray along with a bowl of cookies. I grab one and sip the coffee, while Peggy sits down across from me.

  “Now, tell me. What do you want to know?”

  I swallow the cookie and wash it down with the coffee. “The girl,” I say. “What exactly happened to her?”

  Chapter Eighty

  December 2005

  Robyn’s heart is pounding as she drives up the street. Her house is lying dark and quiet, while the condominiums across the street are filled with people in the yard outside. They have lit a bonfire. People are drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. Dogs are running loose.

  In the center of the yard, sitting on a chair, covered by a blanket, she spots Suzy’s mom, Melissa. Jamie is standing next to her talking to someone. As they park the car and turn off the engine, they can hear the music playing.

  Robyn draws in a deep breath. “This is it.”

  Suzy’s eyes are lit up. She smiles as she spots Melissa. “Mom! I can’t wait to show her what Santa gave me. She knows I always wanted a Tamagotchi.”

  Suzy grabs her teddy bear and puts her hand on the handle, then hesitates. She is wearing the Tamagotchi around her neck.

  “You’re not coming with me?” she asks.

  Robyn smiles and shakes her head. “I better not.”

  Suzy leans back in her seat with an exhale. “Then I’m not going either.”

  “But you have to, Suzy. She’s your mother. You belong with her,” Robyn says.

  It’s painful. She wants to start the car and drive away with Suzy again, but she knows it is wrong. For once, she needs to do what is right.

  “Do you think she might be mad at me?”

  Robyn bites her lip. She doesn’t know what to answer. She can see fear in Suzy’s eyes. She knows her mom better than anyone. Robyn realizes she doesn’t know how Melissa will react, and suddenly she is struck by a fear that she might be angry and take it out on Suzy.

  You can’t let that happen to her. Not again.

  “How about I go with you and explain to her it was all my idea to go on a road trip, huh? Then she can be as angry as she wants to at me, not you. Okay?”

  Suzy nods eagerly and they both get out of the car. Robyn holds her breath as she walks towards the bonfire, her heart slowly climbing up into her throat.

  Melissa spots her first and gets up.

  “Mommy!” Suzy says and waves eagerly.

  “What the he…” they can hear Melissa yell.

  Jamie sees them too now and he walks fast towards them, Melissa right behind him, limping.

  The rest of the crowd is murmuring between themselves, someone yells out: “You get her, Jamie!”

  Robyn looks into the eyes of Jamie as he approaches her, and that is when she spots the gun being pulled out of his pants. Robyn stops. She is shaking her head.

  “No, no, please. I’ve brought her back. I don’t want any trouble.”

  But Jamie doesn’t care what she says. He lifts the gun and points it at her while yelling “Crazy bitch! Think you can just steal a child, do you?”

  “No, no. I’m sorry.”

  Melissa comes up to Suzy.

  “Mom, look at what Santa gave me!” the girl says and shows her the Tamagotchi. Melissa looks at it, then at Robyn.

  “You think you can buy yourself a child, lady?”

  “No, please. I…I’m sorry, all right? I am really sorry…”

  As she is speaking, Melissa raises her hand and slaps Suzy across the face, so she falls the to ground with a shriek.

  Robyn gasps. Tears spring to her eyes.

  “What have I told you about running away from home, huh?” Melissa says, standing bent over the little girl.

  “Please.” Robyn is sobbing. “Please, don’t hurt her. It wasn’t her fault. It was all mine. I am the one you should be mad at. Not her. Please.”

  “You bet it is your fault,” Jamie yells, waving the gun in front of her face. He slams it into her cheek and Robyn falls to the ground. In the distance, Robyn can hear sirens. Someone must have called the police. She stays down, praying and hoping Jamie won’t pull the trigger.

  Just stay down till the police arrive. Stay down.

  “You rich people always think you can just do whatever you want to,” Jamie is yelling at her. He spits on her as she lies in the grass, blood running from her cheek where he hit her. “Well, now I’m in charge. And I say you die for what you’ve done.”

  Robyn closes her eyes as the gun comes closer to her. She thinks about her life and how she is happy she ran away with Suzy and at least she had that. She thinks about John and the baby that never lived and how she was never happy in that house.

  In the second before Jamie pulls the trigger, Robyn is pulled back to reality as she hears the most terrifying sound in the world. It’s coming from Suzy.

  “Robyyyyn!!”

  The sound of the gun going off drowns out everything else. Robyn hears screaming, she feels something fall on top of her and then there is something else. A warm liquid is running into her face and it soaks her clothes. She opens her eyes and realizes it is blood.

  Suzy’s blood.

  Chapter Eighty-One

  July 2016

  “So, you’re telling me the girl, Suzy, tried to protect her kidnapper and ended up paying for it with her life?”

  I stare at Peggy Dixon, who is looking into her coffee cup. She is struggling to keep the cup still.

  “Yes,” she whispers. “Suzy tried to protect her and ended up getting shot instead. She died immediately.”
>
  I lean back in the couch, an overwhelming feeling of deep sadness drowning out everything else.

  “And this Robyn character, she stole her? In the book, you say she kidnapped her from her mother and took her to California?”

  “Yes, she did. She just took the kid. Later, she told the police that she believed the girl was being abused, but there was never any evidence.”

  “But she came to you, right?”

  “Yes, she came to me and told me she had Suzy. She told me Suzy had been hiding in her basement, that she was beat up, but I never saw the girl.”

  I frown. Something isn’t right about this story. “In the book, you write that she didn’t tell you she had the girl,” I say. “That she came to you because she was concerned about her.”

  Peggy looks up at me. I see great remorse in them. “I lied. I was later charged with falsifying the paperwork and trying to cover up that I knew she had the girl. I should have called the police on her before she had the chance to leave, but I didn’t. Maybe this would never have happened if I had. Maybe she would still be alive. It was my job to protect her, and I failed. That’s what I have to live with. I could hardly write the truth in my book, now could I?”

  “And that’s why you didn’t go to the police either when you were attacked the other night. It makes sense.”

  “I built my entire career as a writer upon being innocent. If I go to the police with all this, I’d have to tell the truth…why I am being targeted. Now they want me to write more stories from my time as a social worker. I’ve already spent the advance. You’re sitting on it. I can’t go back. Not now.”

  “So, you thought if you sent me the book, then maybe I would put two and two together and help the police find the connection between the victims.”

  “I guess I knew you would probably come back, but I felt like I had to do at least something before more people were killed. Hopefully, you could catch this killer before I am attacked once again.”

 
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