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Scarlet Angel: Chapter 2

HADLEY

Hell is empty, and all the devils are here.

—William Shakespeare (The Tempest)


Earlier…

 

They say children see the magic in everything. The eyes peering up at me as I sit down beside her tell a different story. At such a young age, she’s seen some of the worst of the world’s depravity. There’s no magic in that. Only evil.

Lindy May seems to have jaded eyes as well, but I’m too emotional to think practically right now.

This man kept doing things because I let them convince me it was all in my head. The therapist. Him. My mother…

Because of me, this child is hurting right now. Because of me, so many other children are dead. So many other children suffered what I went through.

Because I was weak. So weak I let them manipulate me.

It’s a guilt I can’t bear, and I’m barely able to breathe as I force myself to sit by her. To distract myself from my own misgivings, I focus on the fact she knew Lana. There’s no doubt in my mind that the child who hasn’t waved at another soul waved at Lana because she knew her.

“You know Lana Myers?” I ask her.

Her eyes widen, and Lindy clears her throat. “No. We don’t.”

It’s an obvious lie, but I refrain from calling her out on it. She’s fidgeting, uncomfortable since the mention of Lana. Craig has already bailed to go tell the others, so I don’t have long to get answers.

Laurel frowns, glancing over at Lindy.

“This man that hurt you…he hurt me too,” I say, establishing a rapport with her, giving her something to bond with me about. It’s hard to detach myself…to not be emotional. But I manage it, because I’ve had years of training.

Laurel reaches over, tugging on my sleeve, and I lean down to let her whisper into my ear. I feel her cup her hands around her mouth, as though she’s ensuring none of her words escape the tunnel from her lips to my ear.

“My angel made sure he’ll never hurt us again,” she says, and a sickly coldness washes over me. “My angel saved me. She’ll always watch over me. She is right now.”

I lean up, letting her words process as Duke barges in. I’m not even sure what’s being said when I finally leave. Logan follows me out, caring too much.

Words fly from my mouth before I can stop them, and I’m sobbing, taking in the weight of my responsibility in all this.

I could have prevented anyone else from getting hurt.

The words spill from my lips like vomit, pouring out everything I’ve had trapped in me since the day I ran away. I’m not even sure what we’re saying to each other; it’s all a blur.

My mind is on auto-pilot, ruled by guilt and self-loathing.

He doesn’t stop me when I finally walk away, but my feet hesitate in front of the breakroom. Lana is casually propped up, watching TV as though she’s the most relaxed person on the face of the earth.

She looks over at me, her body attuned to someone’s attention being trained on her. That’s not an innocent person’s response.

She watches me, a small smirk on her lips, as though she’s daring me to say something here and now.

My angel made sure he’ll never hurt us again. My angel saved me. She’ll always watch over me. She is right now.

Laurel’s words slap me, and I slowly piece things together that don’t really fit. She. Laurel said she.

And she waved at Lana.

There’s no way I’m right.

There’s no way Lana killed and tortured him…I mean…right?

She arches an eyebrow at me, as if challenging me to speak first. If she killed a man and waltzed into this place…she’s a fucking psychopath.

No. I’m just too emotional.

I walk away, ending the staring contest, deciding to get some answers. She came with Logan, so she’ll be here for a while. No way is he leaving until he has answers.

But I plan to get some different answers.

I practically sprint to my car, and I’m on the road when my phone rings with an incoming call from Leonard. I start to not answer, but decide to. I’m sure it’s about the sick son of a bitch I let terrorize innocent children by never looking deeper than the surface once I became an FBI agent.

“What’s going on?” I ask seriously, clearing my throat from the sob that’s on the tip of my tongue.

“Our castrating mutilator killed Ferguson,” he says so calmly.

I almost drop the phone.

“What?” I ask in disbelief.

“He didn’t want us linking it to him, but he left the kid with Lindy May Wheeler, who, surprise surprise, once lived in Delaney Grove.”

“That doesn’t make sense. You guys profiled him to be a sadist, and a sadist wouldn’t—”

“We’re revisiting the profile. He’s a revenge killer. Not a sadist. Everything we thought we knew is about to change. We think he feels a kinship with you. He somehow knew about Ferguson and…your past,” he says, the last part spoken with regretful hesitance.

I squeeze the phone tighter, driving faster.

“Okay. Keep me updated,” I say stoically, my voice not betraying the whirlwind of emotions stirring within me.

As I hang up, I count the ways I’m losing my mind. I suspected Lana to be the one who killed that son of a bitch, but that’s insane. I’m too close to this case, not thinking rationally.

But he said the killer knew about my past, focused on it. I gave Lana a reason to focus on me when I stupidly alerted her to my suspicions. She was too calm. Too underwhelmed by my accusations.

It’s like she was prepared for those questions.

If it was Lana who killed Kenneth, then Lana would be our serial killer who has been killing men twice her size with psychical domination. There’s no possible way I’m right.

So why am I still driving to her house? Why am I still not convinced that she’s not the angel Laurel spoke of?

Logan will hate me forever if he learns I’ve gone crazy enough to accuse his girlfriend—that he finds perfect—of something so bizarrely impossible, not to mention grossly heinous.

The police are gone as I drive into her driveway, trying not to dwell on how insane this all is. It’s currently all-hands-on-deck for this case. The PD are looking for dozens and dozens of bodies left behind by a devil I should have killed.

The house is dark, and I carefully twist the knob, surprised to find it unlocked. I leave it unlocked as I head inside. Logan has been in her room, so I skip it, knowing she’d be smart enough to hide all her dirty little secrets.

I ignore the nagging part of my mind that is calling me crazy for suspecting her. She’s not even close to being capable of these things physically. Killing Kenneth would have been a hell of a job. First she’d have had to lug him out of the basement. Then push him up the hill that leads to the beach. There’s just no way.

But I continue on, letting my gut override my mind.

There’s something about her…something eerily composed that Logan doesn’t see. Something dark in her eyes when she looks into your soul.

But how dark can a person be if they save a child?

I’m so confused.

I find a door that’s locked, and instinct has me immediately picking it. My skills make it easy, and the door pops open in seconds. But it’s empty.

Why lock an empty room?

Only four bookcases are against the walls, and all four are empty.

Confused, I turn around, but a scream tears from my throat as a large body suddenly rushes me.

I grab for my gun, but it’s too late. The beast collides with me, slamming me into the wall, dazing me as an agonized scream leaves me again.

My gun is stripped from me, tossed to the ground, and another pained sound escapes me as I’m shoved against the wall, feeling my hands wrenched behind my back as a warm breath floats over my skin with a minty smell.

“Well, isn’t this a nice surprise, Agent Grace?” a man’s voice asks, eliciting a chill that runs up my spine.

“Two for the price of one,” he goes on, still keeping me pinned. “Too bad I’m waiting for another. You’ll have to wait your turn. I’ll even overlook your red hair.”

My breath seizes in my lungs as realization hits me hard and fast. With all the chaos, Logan probably didn’t even think about the cops being pulled off babysitting detail. There’s only one person who would be here right now.

“Tell me, Agent Grace,” he says, binding my hands tightly with my own handcuffs as I remain immobile, pinned as I struggle in vain, “are you afraid of the Boogeyman?”

My stomach lurches, and I try to scream again just as he throws me to the ground. He comes down on top of me, laughing as I scream for help. He laughs louder.

“Scream! Scream all you want!” he taunts. “This is the best place in the world to scream, because no one can hear you, Agent.”

My feet jerk up, and I realize he’s tying them to my hands, forcing my back to arch as he lifts off me to finish the process.

“But you can’t scream when my guest arrives,” he goes on, smirking in the darkness. My eyes have adjusted, and I see his bald head as he shoves something into my mouth.

I try to fight, but he digs his fingers into my jaw, wrenching it open. He ties the gag, securing it, then I hear the telltale rip of duct tape seconds before it covers my mouth.

I struggle again, fighting, but with my hands and feet bound together. He laughs again as he lifts me, carrying me effortlessly down the stairs, intentionally dragging my head against the wall.

I cry out, only hearing a barely-there, muffled sound through the layers of gagging he’s secured. My head slams against the side of the wall when he turns sharply.

“Oops,” he says, snickering.

He drops me to the ground, and I whimper, the sound not escaping at all as my elbow hits too hard, along with my hip. The creaking of two folding closet doors becomes noticeable as I see the doors swing open, and he slams his foot into my stomach hard enough to crack some ribs and kick me into the small space.

He kneels as he slides me in the rest of the way, and I twist my head away when he tries to brush the hair from my eyes.

“Enjoy the show, Agent Grace. At least you’ll know what’s coming next.”

With that, he slams the doors shut, and the small, blind-like centers let me see through the slats as his feet move away.

Music filters through the house, a soft, classical song. I can see the front door from here, and I watch, wishing I had never suspected her of anything.

A tear rolls from my eye, feeling like fire licking against my skin.

Logan will be with her. He’ll die right in front of me. And I can’t even warn him.

I can feel my phone in my front pocket, taunting me—so close, yet so far away. No matter how I twist, I can’t reach it.

It seems like hours later the door is finally opening, and I try to scream. Try to warn her. But the small sound I’m able to make is drowned out by the music in the house.

It’s just her as she shuts the door; no Logan. No hope of being saved.

It happens fast.

Plemmons blindsides her, punching her right in the side of the face. She drops the keys and phone she’s holding and slams into the wall from the impact, dazed and confused.

He throws his body against hers, and she cries out as he twists her hand that she tries to hit him with, while simultaneously choking her with his arm. Despite the music, I can hear every word he says.

“Feisty. I like that. And so pretty. Agent Bennett picks them well,” he taunts. “He left you all alone finally. Tell me, princess, are you afraid of the Boogeyman?”

He lifts off her and throws her into the wall across from him. She hits hard before bouncing to the ground.

What has my ears perking up is the sound of her laughter as she slowly lifts herself from the ground.

“Boogeyman,” she says, looking up at him. “Took you long enough.”

His footsteps pause as confusion mixed with anger crosses his face. He gets off on fear. On pain.

Yet she’s acting immune.

Did Logan coach her on how to act?

Or is she really that fucking stupidly unafraid?

He charges her, kicking her in the stomach, before grabbing her by the hair of the head, jerking her up to her feet.

A strangled sound of pain escapes her, and he pushes her into the wall with enough force to crack something. Her face is to the side, and she’s smiling as he comes in behind her.

“Not laughing now, are you?” he asks, reaching down with one hand to start pulling down her pants. “You won’t be laughing anymore tonight.”

“I think that’s enough damage to make this convincing,” she says before he can finish.

The weird comment has him pausing, while my heartbeat thrums in my ears.

She throws her elbow around, connecting with his face at such an impossible angle. I suck in air through my nose, shocked as he stumbles backwards.

She wipes her mouth, looking down at her fingers as she flips on a light with her other hand, revealing the bloody fingertips.

Her nose and bottom lip are bleeding, and her face is already bruising where he hit her. Yet she seems unaffected by the pain.

His eyes narrow.

“The Boogeyman isn’t so scary in the light,” she says, a dark smile turning up at the corners of her lips.

His nose is bleeding from the shot her elbow took, and he releases some sound of fury before charging her. She spins and ducks his fist, and her knee comes up, slamming hard into his ribs.

As he doubles over, she spins again, bringing up her foot, connecting with his back. He slams into the wall, and she grins broader as he whirls around, confused. Furious. Ready to kill.

“I can’t leave too many bruises. Don’t want them suspicious now, do I?”

My blood freezes inside my body, and I shake my head in disbelief.

He pulls a knife out, the same knife he’s killed so many others with. She eyes it carelessly.

“Oh, how I wish I could sit you down and take from you like you took from all those women. Make you feel the same pain and terror they felt,” she says, eyeing him with a smirk. “But I can’t. I can, however, strip you of all that pride you hold so dearly. All that power you think you have. Then I can kill you.”

He charges her with the knife, his feet rushing, but she dodges two swipes, almost too easily, as though she’s playing with him.

She grabs his wrist on the third strike, and she twists quickly, causing his hand to roll awkwardly as he cries out. The knife drops to the ground, and she spins, kicking his feet out from under him.

When he falls, she kicks the knife to the side, knocking it out of reach. He darts to his feet, rushing toward a table, but she drops and grabs the knife, throwing it into the drawer so hard that it sticks halfway through.

The drawer doesn’t budge as he jerks on it, and she laughs as she charges him this time. He tries to grab her, but she’s too fast, and her knee collides with his groin so hard that he topples backwards, sobbing as he most likely swallows his balls back down.

“They’ll believe a good knee shot to the jewels,” she says, jerking the knife out of the drawer before opening it and pulling out the gun. “Nice try, by the way. Too bad I know where I hide my own guns, huh?”

She’s the cat and he’s the mouse.

The man who has terrorized Boston for so long, and now DC, is just a toy on her strings.

Who the fucking hell is Lana Myers.

I don’t make a sound, scared for a whole new reason. I walked in and threatened a girl who has a sexual sadist sobbing on the ground.

“The big bad Boogeyman,” she sighs, circling him while holding the knife. “I’ve always hated the horror movies. You know why?” she asks as he cups his crotch, still rocking on the ground in pain.

“I’ll tell you why,” she goes on, turning her back on him as she walks toward the living room again. “Because they always portray the women as pathetic little screamers who can’t save themselves. The bad guy is always walking. The girl is always running. Yet somehow the big bad Boogeyman catches up to them regardless.”

I watch as Plemmons manages to get to his feet, and her back is still turned. My eyes are wide, and I don’t know who would be worse to face.

Two devils in one room.

How did this happen to me?

“I also hate how they paint them as the idiots with a stroke of luck,” she goes on, oblivious to his stealthy approach. “How the girls grab a knife at the last second, and the killer runs into the blade. So anticlimactic. He usually ends up disappearing when they finally run to call for help too. Then he makes one final attempt to kill them.”

He quietly creeps up behind her, then charges at the last second.

She grins, and my heart hits my throat as she drops to her hands, kicking her feet up so fast, and her ankles grab his throat before she flips him, all of it happening in one smooth motion.

Holy fucking ninja assassin.

He slams to the ground, and she chokes him, her legs now binding his throat.

“I like choking men the same way you like choking women,” she hisses, her tone so dark and sinister that it makes me sick, confirming my worst fears. “But I don’t prey on those weaker than me. I don’t prey on the innocent.”

She releases him and flips back to her feet with the same ridiculous, almost unnatural speed. Her words slowly sink in, and confusion rattles through me at their meaning.

Revenge killer. Leonard said it was a revenge killer.

Kinship.

All the little pieces try to add up.

Plemmons coughs, strangling on the air that enters his lungs. “Who…are…you?” he asks through labored breaths.

Her smile deepens. “I’m the girl who takes on the darkest of men. Men who’ve done things dark and twisted to the weak. Men who preyed on the innocent. Men who thought they killed me when I was weak. Just like the women you’ve killed.”

She crouches near his head, as he flops around on his back, still clutching his neck. It’s an act. He’s a horrible actor. Damn it! He’s faking it!

I try to warn her, finally choosing a side, but the words are drowned by the layers of the gag and the steady stream of music.

She brings the knife to his cheek, running the back of the blade against it. He stops struggling, going perfectly still.

“You’re like me,” he says, more surprise in his tone that fear or malice.

“No,” she says quietly. “I’m so much worse and better than you. I’m the thing the monsters in the dark fear. And now I’m even the Boogeyman’s nightmare.”

She steps away, and he rolls to his feet. When he’s facing her, she winks—fucking winks—at him. She’s enjoying every second of this.

She’s doing what she promised; she’s stripping away his pride and power, shattering the immortal feeling of being untouchable he had.

He grabs a lamp, chunking it at her head. As she ducks it, laughing, he picks up the end table, and throws it at her.

She dodges it, using that speed she has to her advantage. It’s like she wanted this to happen.

“You can’t even get it up like a real man,” she goads, grinning when his nostrils flare and fury creases all his features. “You need to cut women up, watch them bleed, just to get a good boner. You’re weak,” she says, walking across the room. “I shouldn’t even bother with you. The men I kill are strong, powerful men who can fuck a woman without forcing her. They only rape when they feel a woman needs to be put in her place.”

She’s saying all the right things to provoke him, to tear away the façade he’s built, and emasculate him. She’s so good at profiling because she’s studied it. She’s learned how to demean and debase all her victims.

The way they debased her.

She’s a victim. Or, at least, she was.

Her words add up, telling the story she’s yet to lay bare.

“You know what I take from them?” she asks, letting her eyes drop to his lap before looking back up to his face. My stomach roils. I know what she takes. “I take everything,” she says at last. “They have more to give.”

She turns, putting her back to him, acting as though he has no power over her, showing him he’s no threat. The gun is lying in front of the closet doors, but he hasn’t gone for it again.

It’d be too weak to go for the gun.

She’s playing him too well.

She’s playing a man who has played the world.

And she’s winning.

He lunges for her, ready to prove himself, and she spins, the knife at her waist as she faces him. He runs right into it, and I hold back the sounds, now worried about being heard.

She rolls her eyes as his eyes widen in shock, his features paling as he stumbles back, the knife sliding out as she jerks it away.

“And now I’ve gotten lucky,” she mocks. “Just like the horror movies. They’ll never suspect a thing.”

He drops to his knees, the wound in his abdomen bleeding profusely. There’s too much blood for him to survive if help doesn’t come right away.

I’d have been his next victim. Now I wonder what happens when she finds out I know it all.

She could have already killed me, though. No one would have suspected her.

Instead, she tracked down my stepfather, killed him, and then saved a child’s life. A child I let down by not being the hero a devil was.

Lana Myers, or whoever she really is, survived something so dark that she needs revenge.

But Logan is sleeping with her.

He’s falling in love.

And she’s a fucking psychopath.

My own guilt for my failures has me wondering what happens if I stop her. I don’t know enough about her victims to know if they’re hurting others the way I let Kenneth get away with.

I failed so many others by trusting the lies.

She brought his evil deeds to an end.

What happens if others are hurt because I stopped her before she finished? I’m barely living with the guilt I’ve yet to face.

I have no idea what to do.

As I agonize over the options, Lana sits down, watching him bleed out, holding onto the knife as casually as if it’s the TV remote and she’s watching her favorite show. He chokes and gurgles up blood, staring at her in disbelief.

He came to kill a weak woman, only to find he was really the prey who ran into the lion’s den.

“This is my favorite part,” she tells him softly. “The look of resignation. The moment the hope slips away and you know you won’t be saved. I’ve been there. It’s terrifying, so I know exactly how panicked you are right now. How helpless you feel. The difference is, you won’t get up and live to kill them all one day.”

Live to kill them all one day.

I file away each bit of information, deciding to make a list of reasons why I should or shouldn’t tell the world who she is.

“They took too much. Left too little. I had nothing to lose,” she whispers, the words barely making it to me. “Until him.”

My heart thumps faster. Logan. She’s talking about Logan.

“Then you wanted to kill him. He’s too good to die. He’s everything opposite of us. His light still shines. I hope they have fun with you in hell. You sentenced yourself there the day you targeted the only thing that makes me feel as though there’s still a soul inside me left to be saved. The only thing I love more than revenge.”

Just like that, I have my answer. And I watch with her as the Boogeyman dies by his own knife. At the hands of a woman.

The hands of a victim.

In a way, it’s poetic justice.


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