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Scarlet Angel: Chapter 11

LANA

If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?

—William Shakespeare


Shakespeare was one of the few philosophers who believed in revenge. Then again, he was a romantic. Romantics always believe in revenge, because romantics love harder, suffer loss more painfully, and hold onto a grudge that has shattered their hearts. Their hearts are of the greatest importance, above all else—body, soul, or mind.

My body grew stronger and my mind turned calculated when I lost my soul to avenge my heart.

I guess that makes me a romantic.

I’m in the middle of texting Jake, who is also a romantic, when there’s a knock at the door, interrupting me.

Logan wouldn’t knock.

Warily, I go to the peephole, and I spot a very distinguishable redhead with her back turned.

I open the door, wondering what she’s come to say this time. But when she turns, there are tears in her eyes.

She walks by me, shouldering her way in.

The burden of my secret is apparently weighing on her too much. Fuck.

I’m so close now.

Silently, I shut the door, and she takes a seat on the bed, while I lean against the door.

“Sixty-nine pictures and seventy nails,” she says, confusing me for a brief second. “Something tells me you’re not one to miscount.”

Realizing her meaning, I take a seat in the corner.

“This is about Ferguson?”

“I finally had the courage to look at the file today. I got up early to go in and look at it, then some things happened afterwards that we need to talk about. The point is, there were seventy nails and sixty-nine pictures. What’d you do with the other picture, Lana?”

My lips tense. She knows it was her picture I took. I don’t know how she’s going to react now.

“I burned it.”

“Why?” she asks without a flicker of emotion.

“Because the mind is a fragile thing. Your friends would have seen it; you’d have seen it too. It would have been the thing that broke you. Hearing it existed isn’t as critical as seeing yourself as that child who was exposed and vulnerable, then knowing proof existed all along. Hearing it is processed differently than seeing it. The mind is more delicate to sight than it is to sound. I didn’t want you broken. I didn’t want him winning from the grave. So I burned it.”

She wipes away the few tears that have managed to trickle down her face.

“I’m with you,” she says quietly. “Whatever you need, I’m with you.”

That…confuses me even more.

“Why?”

“Because a psychopath wouldn’t care about someone, who by my own admission, has made your plans so much more difficult. You show genuine compassion. It’s an obvious confliction with a psychopathic personality.”

“I have psychopathic tendencies, but I’m not a psychopath,” I say on a sigh. “I’ve told you this.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t believe it until I saw sixty-nine pictures and seventy nails. Now you have my trust that you’re really just someone who is avenging only the wrongs. And if anyone can relate to needing to kill the demons in the world that won’t die otherwise, I can.”

I blow out a weary breath, not realizing until this moment how much her indecision has been bearing down on me.

The string has been glued into place now, no longer threatening to be the unravelling of this entire thing.

“Then SSA Miller Johnson shows up today, as if more of a sign was needed.”

Just his name has my back stiffening, and she notices it.

“He covered this up, didn’t he?” she asks, ciphering my reaction too well.

“He did more than cover it up.”

“What else did you not tell me?”

“I told you everything that happened before. I didn’t tell you anything that happened after. You’ll need to learn it with the rest of your team.”

“Why? Why not just tell the story to them in a note or something?”

I lean forward. “The mind is a fragile and delicate thing,” I repeat. “Hearing it from a letter or from a killer has less of an impact than hearing it from someone who has been dying on the inside from holding in the secret. Several people know the story, Hadley. Find one to tell it. Not to mention, I need that town to feel haunted. The longer it takes for the story to be told, the more questions you and your team will ask. And the more people will start to tremble in fear.”

“You want that fear,” she states, studying me.

“I can’t kill them all,” I say with a shrug. “But terrorizing them will remind them to never hold their silence again when the innocent are screaming for help.”

She nods once, trying not to show how uneasy that thought makes her. She’ll change her mind when they finally get to Delaney Grove.

“I convinced Logan to ask you to come to Delaney Grove with us,” she says, shocking me.

“What?”

“You can’t just walk around a town and not be noticed by our team. Your face was all over the news after the brush with the Boogeyman. People will know you, and it’ll be suspicious if you’re in town and you’re not with him.”

I had thought of that, but was just going to show up and surprise Logan.

“He’ll be out a lot, working on the case. We’re apparently staying in cabins the sheriff rents out.”

My stomach twists. “Those cabins are at the edge of the town, right against the woods. If he thinks you’re getting too close to uncovering all they did, he’ll come after one of you and try to pin it on me. Well, on the other me,” I tell her.

“We’re smarter than that. We’ll know if it’s the Scarlett Slayer. And no one from our team will die. I’ll make sure of it somehow, even if I have to hack all the feeds from the town cameras and watch continuously, living on coffee to stay awake.”

“There aren’t any cameras.”

She shakes her head. “There has to be some.”

“You’re right. There are some. They all face parking lots and the insides of stores. There are no cameras anywhere else. The streets have zero visibility from those few camera angles. Trust me. I’ve studied this town since I decided what I had to do.”

She slinks back.

“Why no cameras?”

“Because the mind is a fragile thing,” I say once again. “It’s easier to pretend the words you hear are just rumors or lies. It’s not so easy to ignore something you can see. And the sheriff has plenty he doesn’t want anyone to see.”

She releases a shaky breath.

“Was the sheriff the man who killed those women? The ones your father was framed for?” she asks me, and my stomach clenches.

Before I can answer, Logan steps in, pausing when he sees us. “You already told her?” he asks, narrowing his eyes at Hadley.

Unlike the last time we were in this situation, Hadley doesn’t turn into a babbling fool. She flashes him a taunting grin. “Maybe.”

Logan rolls his eyes, then he faces me, and a look softens his gaze.

“I’m on my way to deal with a few things, but you’re okay with going? You’d have to stay in at night. You’ll feel more like a prisoner, but I’ll be able to come see you more.”

Why does he look like he’s so worried about me?

I flash a look to Hadley, but she blinks innocently at me. My gaze returns to Logan.

“I’d rather be with you than be here without you. You could be gone a while, or so Hadley says.”

He nods grimly, and I stand as he starts walking toward me. As soon as he reaches me, he wraps his arms around me, holding me as though he feels I need comfort. I hug him back, glancing past his bicep to see Hadley smirking at me.

What’s going on?

“You should have told me you didn’t like being alone right now. You’re still going to be alone there too, though. I don’t really know what to do,” he says, sounding truly guilt-ridden and exhausted.

I glare at Hadley, who merely beams at me.

“I’ll be okay,” I assure him, hugging him tighter, plotting the ways I’m going to hurt Hadley. “Promise.”

He pulls back, lifting my chin so he can see into my eyes. I feel like I’m playing him, and I hate that.

“Get packed. We’re leaving tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow?” Hadley asks as my eyes widen. “I thought we had a few days.”

“SSA Johnson decided we should leave sooner after he got off the phone with the sheriff. Maybe we’ll get some answers when we get there,” Logan tells her. “Go pack. Give us a minute.”

Hadley climbs off the bed, and I try not to curse the day she played this part. How am I going to slip away and kill two more people before returning to town?

They still haven’t found Kevin or Anthony.

I guess I’ll have to pick one and save the other for another day. Morgan was worse than Jason. Jason will die when the time comes. Just not in the order I planned.

“If we’re leaving tomorrow, I should go get some things from my house that I need. I also need to speak with my partner and get some business things in order. I should be back tonight,” I say, letting him hold me closer.

“You really should have told me you were struggling. And I should have noticed. I’m a profiler, for fuck’s sake. It’s my job to see things like that.”

I’m killing Hadley. No, not literally. Well, maybe a little.

I hug him closer, kissing his chest through his shirt. He smells so damn good.

His blond hair is always tousled these days, mostly from the way he’ll run his hand through it when he’s frustrated. It’s a tell I’ve noticed about him.

“Logan, I’m fine. I really am,” I say, soothing his guilt. Regardless of her intentions, Hadley had no right to make him feel guilty, and it really pisses me off.

He runs his lips over my forehead, and I lean against him, soaking in that warmth he seems to radiate. It always feels like he’s sharing his soul with mine, helping it be restored, whenever he holds me like this.

He did what no one else has been able to do in ten years—he made me start healing.

I’ll die before I let anything happen to him, and I won’t leave him alone in that town, unguarded against dangers he doesn’t know exist. He hasn’t yet seen the depravity, and won’t believe it. Not yet. Not until he’s reached the point of being desperate for answers.

That’s when it’ll register the most. That’s when it’ll hit home with a knockout swing instead of a simple jab to the stomach.

“I really do have to get back, but get packed. I’ll probably be back late, but call me if you need me, and I’ll be here as fast as I can,” he says softly.

I kiss him to shut him up, letting him feel how good he makes me feel. I kiss him for so many reasons, all of them tangled around one simple, innocuous little four-letter-word that holds more power than I ever imagined.

I now know why my father could never move on after my mother’s death.

He was a romantic.

And a true romantic would never recover from losing his love.

Logan’s hands slide down to my ass, but before we can get things going, his phone rings. Groaning, he looks down at the screen and rolls his eyes.

“One more reason to hate this son of a bitch,” he says, confusing me before he brings his phone up and answers. “SSA Johnson, miss me already?”

I force my body not to tense upon hearing that name. I force myself to keep my face hidden to hide any micro-expressions that might give me away. I continue to kiss his chest, and his free hand strokes my back affectionately, a gesture absent of thought and packed full of feeling.

It’s become natural to him to touch me and hold me, to comfort me even when I don’t need it. I never thought I’d have that easiness with anyone. I never thought anyone like him even existed.

“What I do doesn’t concern you, SSA Johnson,” Logan says curtly, a smirk etching his lips. “Don’t forget you’re no longer my boss.”

My stomach tilts, but then I remember he’s only been with the FBI for seven years. He wasn’t involved.

I relax again.

“I’ll let you know when I’m back in. I’m about two inches taller than you with dirty-blond hair. I’m hard to miss.”

I grin into his chest, not letting him see it. I love that he’s not a sheep like the others were.

Even though I still hear someone talking, he hangs up his phone, and I continue to hide my smile. Logan’s arms go back to embracing me, and he holds me for a moment longer.

“Can I ask you something?” he says quietly.

“Yeah.”

“Why don’t you ever speak of your past? I keep waiting on you to open up, but I’m worried you’re going to keep shutting me out if I just let it go.”

My blood chills in my veins. “Not now. Not today. Not like this,” I say hoarsely. “But one day, I can promise you’ll know everything.”

And I hope against razor sharp odds that he’ll still love me when he does.

He squeezes me tighter, and I ignore the pang in my chest.

“I need to get back. One of the guys may kill Johnson if I don’t come to run interference.”

I realize I may need to ask questions, to appear as though I don’t know anything and seem suspicious and all that.

“Johnson?” I muse, playing coy as he sighs and pulls away.

He kisses me swiftly, careful not to linger, knowing it will escalate quickly if he does. As he walks back toward the door, he says, “Long fucking story. I may get to finally have more time to spend with you when this case is over.”

“What does that mean?” I ask, genuinely confused.

He turns and gives me a grim smile. “Going against Johnson to keep him from covering something up will probably cost me my career.”

With that, he disappears out the door, leaving that cliffhanger behind like it’s okay to do.

I have someone to kill much quicker than I intended, so I hurry up and get changed, pulling on some tennis shoes I’ll replace with my big boots soon—if I have to.

I charge down to Hadley’s room and bang on the door, and she swings it open, smiling at me.

“What did you tell Logan?” I hiss, stepping into her room.

“That you were struggling with the whole Boogeyman trauma. It was the easiest way to get him to ask you to come along.”

I glare at her. “I’m not struggling.”

“Yeah, and a normal girl would be. Hell, I’m still scared to go home and sleep in my house, and it wasn’t even my house he broke into. I still feel violated.”

“He feels guilty now. I haven’t faked struggling because I don’t want him feeling guilty. I’d rather endure suspicion than hurt him by making him carry an unnecessary burden.”

Her smile falls. “I didn’t mean to do that,” she says seriously. “Shit.”

Rolling my shoulders back, I check the time on my phone. “I have something to do, and when I get back, you’re going to explain why Logan’s career may be in jeopardy.”

Her lips turn into a thin line, meaning she does know.

I decide killing Morgan can wait a few more minutes.

“What?”

“Miller Johnson is the Godfather of the unit. That sort of infamy has granted him some extra juice with some higher-ups. They wouldn’t fire him when he fucked up so much, but they did move him to another department. The director is bypassing tons of protocols to blatantly have him continue to cover up whatever happened in your town. But if Logan doesn’t play ball, he’s going against a lot of very high-ranking officials who will destroy his career with the FBI.”

I’ve always hated corruption. It’s why I started this journey. No one would do anything.

No one but me.

“You can’t go killing off every member of the FBI who would go against him,” Hadley immediately points out after studying my face.

I don’t see why not.

“Sure I can’t,” I say patronizingly.

I start to leave, but she grabs my elbow. My eyes drop to the contact, and she releases me immediately, some of her fear of me still present.

My eyes meet hers. “What happens when this is all over?” she asks timidly.

“In a perfect world, Logan never knows this side of me. In a more perfect world, Logan learns the truth but understands all of this, despite the fact his moral compass isn’t skewed like mine. But in reality, he may be the one to put me away, because I’d never hurt him, Hadley.”

Her eyes continue searching mine, like she’s actually looking for something in particular.

“The research shows that almost all revenge serials die at the end of their crusade, Lana. Usually suicide by cop, or taken down by cops to save lives, because the revenge is all they focus on.”

“I’m aware of the statistics,” I tell her, keeping my tone and expression devoid of all emotion.

“Don’t you dare make him the one to have to do it if that’s your endgame. Do you hear me? I’ll do it myself before I make him have to live with that,” she warns, reminding me which side of the law she’s used to standing on.

“I’d kill myself before I made him do it,” I say in a rasp tone I can’t mask.

She clears her throat.

“But that’s not your goal? To die and immortalize your message?”

I shake my head slowly, unsure of what I should say.

She visibly relaxes.

“You should know something before going into the pits of hell,” I say, regarding her, watching as her loyalties truly shift to me.

“What?”

“The sheriff? He owns everything in the entire county. You want cable? You can only get it from the local provider—his business. You want internet? He owns the only local provider, and no ‘outsiders’ are allowed to do business there. It gets nasty when they try. You want water? It’s his reservoir that provides it; not the city’s. Not the county’s either. You want food? He owns every grocery store in the county. You want gas? Well, you get the idea. He also owns the hospitals in the county. Hence the reason my brother got us the fuck out of that county, knowing we’d die if it took too long, or die if we stayed in Delaney County. The county is named after Delaney Grove. He had it changed the day he took office, went through all the proper channels to make it official.”

“So you’re saying he holds a monopoly on basically everything but the air, and no one has stopped it?” she asks incredulously.

“I’m saying he has friends up high too, and he makes those friends a lot of money. It’s not just Delaney, Hadley. I just know this one personally. He has his hands in every little pot there is. He’s their boss and their sheriff. To them, he’s untouchable. You won’t find many to turn against him because of that. Especially since he boasts righteousness to cover his sins.”

“Why Delaney?” she asks, confused.

“His ancestors were the original settlers there. His last name might be Cannon, but he came from the most influential originals there were. And he uses that to his advantage, wants to remind everyone how deep his roots are when they stand against him. And Kyle? Kyle’s the monster he created in his image.”

She looks thoughtful for a moment. “Why is Kyle’s last name Davenport instead of Cannon?”

I cock my head. “Because the sheriff wouldn’t ever give Kyle his name. Even his son wasn’t good enough. Only one person ever was.”

“Who?” she asks as I turn, heading toward the door.

“A girl,” I say, looking back as my feet pause. “His daughter. She’s the reason my father was convicted.”

“Why?”

“You’ll just have to see, Agent Hadley.”

I turn again, finally leaving as she huffs out a frustrated breath.

“Where are you going?” she asks as I jerk open the door.

“To buy some lube.”

“Too much information,” she grumbles as I walk out.


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