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Sidetracked: Chapter 10

LANA

Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.

—Confucius


Kenneth Ferguson weighs more than I expected. These details are usually sorted way ahead of time. This guy is an obese beast, and rolling him to the water’s edge proves difficult, especially since I’ve had to walk in the dirt and will now need to cover my tracks.

At least he lives near the water though—bright side.

Monsters can come in many forms.

A pretty girl who loves the color red, for example—the color her victims bleed when they are begging to be spared.

They can also look like balding, fat slobs who hang out in their briefs and wife-beater tanks. Yeah. Talk about stereotypes. I’ve seen more ass crack than I care to remember.

I wade out into the water, dragging the dead body with me under the cloak of darkness. I can remember a time that I was afraid of the dark. Now even the snakes fear me.

He confessed. His sins were wrung out, and he confessed it all.

Okay, I might have needed him to get to the nitty gritty that had me swallowing back my own vomit, so I tortured him. Just a little. He broke quickly.

He deserved so much more death. He deserved to die for days. But I can’t do that right now. It’s risky to be doing this at all.

I swim under the cold water, washing all the blood off me, ignoring the way my tired muscles protest the chill. Pushing that beast uphill was a struggle. Not to mention those effin’ stairs.

When I emerge, I watch him waver on top of the water. It holds him up with too much ease, despite his size.

The more body fat, the easier they float.

As soon as the current grabs him, I head back, picking up the hoe near the water’s edge, and start digging up my tracks with it. I take my route in reverse as I hold the small but bright flashlight in my mouth to see.

It’s two in the morning, but I had to wait until now to dump his body. The bastard has neighbors within earshot, so torturing him was a pain in the ass. Fortunately, he had a basement.

Hence the damn stairs I was referring to.

I also had to hose said basement down with bleach and water to get rid of the blood. Counter forensic measures were needed for once.

Killing is so much easier when it’s on my list. Less cleanup.

I want them found when they’re on the list.

Kenneth has too much trace evidence that has to be destroyed, so the large body of salt water will do the trick. Not to mention all the little critters in the sea will get a nibble before or if he’s found.

The pictures I found in his nightstand told the story before he could. Seventy small children were in those pictures, mostly naked. Polaroids are a terrible creation, and pedophiles love their pictures.

There was one picture out of all of those that I took. I’m not sure why I took it. But it was Hadley at age eleven. He labeled them. Marked their ages too.

For some reason I know she won’t enjoy her coworkers seeing her face on their board if his body is ever found and those pictures are discovered. She’s strong and prideful, and most likely felt like it really was in her head all this time.

They convinced her she was crazy. Her own mother convinced her she was making it up. Paid a professional to aide in this, simply because the woman couldn’t come to grip with the possibility she was married to a pervert who was molesting her daughter.

Hadley ran away.

She ran because she thought she was dirty and wrong.

So many good people in this world, and it took a monster to end the suffering of so many innocent children.

I have no reason to feel indebted to a girl who wants to take me down, but there’s something forcing me to feel as though we’re kindred. I’d have gone crazy or killed myself without Jake.

She never had a Jake.

Maybe Logan is the closest thing to Jake she has, which is why she came after someone she thought was playing him.

I’d kill a bitch for Jake.

Hadley doesn’t deserve to be broken, so she’ll never see that picture.

I change out of my clothes on the gravel driveway, carefully watching anything that falls off me. My hair is bound tightly to my head and covered with a plastic wrap under a beanie.

My clothes are nothing special—generic brand things bought at any local store. I’m careful to buy all things that are found everywhere, so as to have nothing special isolating me.

The nail falls from my pocket, and I lean over, picking it up. I’m not sure why I’m taking a nail from his house. He’s not on the list. Maybe it’s a habit. Or maybe I really have adopted the serial method of trophy collecting.

Where they die, a nail gets taken.

His nail will go beside the others, finding a home with other perverted sons of bitches.

Warm and toasty in my clean, dry clothes, I drive back to the drop spot, making one detour.

An old woodshed is twenty miles down the road, resting on private hunting ground. I open the door, and hear a scurrying of motion.

Scared eyes meet mine from the kid huddled in the corner. She’s dirty, scared, and all alone.

“I’m here to save you from the monster,” I say softly into the dark shed.

The shaking slowly stops as she peers at me, her eyes wide and hopeful.

“Are you an angel?” she asks, her throat raw and raspy, as though she’s dehydrated.

“Compared to him, yes,” I say honestly.

She slowly stands, warily looking at me. She can’t be older than eight.

“Do you know if he has anyone else?” I ask her, knowing he swore it was just her, but it could be more.

She shakes her head. “The other girl didn’t come back.”

My heart clenches. “Come on. I’m going to take you somewhere you’ll be safe.”

She nods, and even though she’s terrified, she comes to me, ready to face anything terrible I could do versus anything he could come back and do more of.

When she stumbles, I grab her, and she doesn’t flinch away. Brave girl.

She lets me help her to my car, and she slides in on the passenger side, tears already leaking from her eyes. Her hope was gone until this moment.

I jog around to the driver’s side, a risky plan forming. There’s one place she can go to be safe.

“You don’t have a family, do you?”

She shakes her head.

“I have a friend—a woman—I knew in another life. She’d be a good momma. She’d take care of you.”

She pushes her dirty hair out of her eyes. “Really? She’ll keep me safe from him?”

“I’ll keep you safe from him. I can promise he’ll never return. Okay?”

She studies me for a long time, more tears building in her eyes. I’ve scared the shit out of her now. Damn it.

“You really are an angel,” she says at last, causing my heart to flip.

I don’t say anything else as I drive toward Lindy May’s house. She’s one person who can see a ghost but not flinch.

“What’s your name?” I ask the girl who is relaxing more by the minute.

“He called me Pup. But my name is Laurel,” she says around a yawn, leaning against the window.

My grip tightens on the steering wheel, wishing I’d cut that dick off and sewn it into his mouth.

Lindy May’s house comes into view, and I debate this for a few minutes. She’s a good woman. Just like Diana. Both of whom tried to seek justice for me. Lindy suffered a terrible fate because of that. She was five years older than me the night they robbed me of everything.

 

“I’ll call the FBI!” Lindy shouts.

“Go ahead, cunt. The FBI didn’t give a damn about their father, did they?” Kyle taunts, smirking.

Dev holds her back, his face grim as she struggles to get to me.

“I’ll teach that bitch a lesson later,” Kyle mutters under his breath.

Dev starts pushing Lindy away, practically carrying her as she screams for me. She screams for Marcus. She screams for help that doesn’t come.

Music grows louder, the sounds permeating the air with no concern for the screams they’re trying to drown out.

“Now, where were we?” Kyle drawls. “Whose turn is it?”

 

Kyle did silence her. He didn’t just silence her; he ruined her. Lindy suffered a loss trying to save me, but puts flowers on my grave every year. She talks to that grave, saying she’s sorry she failed me.

She goes back to that hell to speak to a dead girl who she thinks she let down.

She’s a true angel.

It’s fate that she’s so close by. Fate tells me Laurel would forever be loved and cared for by Lindy. And I’m sure no one would take a homeless child away from a loving home after what this kid has suffered.

Leaving Laurel here though? Knowing this will tie Kenneth to the killer I am? It’s a huge mistake. But I can’t leave this kid just anywhere.

I pull into the driveway, and I see a set of eyes immediately peer through a crack in the blinds. All these years later, she still feels jumpy. She likely has a gun in her hand right now.

I know the feeling.

She suffered one monster. I suffered a town full of them.

As I get out, the crack in the blinds disappears, and I gently open the door, stirring Laurel awake.

“Are we here?” she asks, her voice still scratchy.

Shit. I should have at least gotten her some water.

This is why I can’t take care of her myself. Well, that and I’m sure it’s not wise for a monster to raise a child.

Lindy will make her loving. I’ll turn her into a knife-throwing killer.

“Yes,” I tell her gently, reaching down and taking her frail, light body into my arms.

She wraps her arms around me without hesitation, adorning me with trust she shouldn’t give so freely after what she’s suffered.

She’ll survive.

She’ll overcome this.

I know that now more than ever, because only the strong could handle touch after what she’s suffered.

Lindy opens the door, peering out as I carry the child toward her.

“Who are you? What do you want?”

“It’s me, Lindy. And I’m here to see if you’re still as good as I remember.”

Just the sound of my voice has her stumbling through the door, her eyes widening in shock. She clutches the doorframe, trying to keep from sinking to the ground as her body shakes.

“You’re—”

“I know. I know. I’m dead,” I say, tired of hearing that line.

“You really are an angel,” Laurel says weakly, her head against my chest.

Lindy’s eyes swing to the child as she flips a light on, and the color drains from her face as she sees the torn clothing, the dirty skin, and the matted hair.

“This little girl has suffered too much. I told her she’d be safe here,” I say to Lindy, watching as her eyes slowly come back up to mine. “Don’t make me a liar.”

She gestures us in, and I let her take Lindy from my arms. Lindy flinches ever so slightly, but she recovers just as fast.  Lindy rushes her to the couch, putting her there and covering her with a blanket.

I watch as the maternal instincts I lacked kick in for my old friend. She runs to the fridge, grabbing a bottle of water, and she rushes back. Laurel practically rips the bottle from her hand, so thirsty that she drinks it too fast.

“Slow down. It’ll make you sick to drink too much,” Lindy says with a soothing voice, running her hand down Laurel’s cheek.

Laurel leans into the affectionate touch, already growing trusting of Lindy. This girl is making me want to cry. I’m too emotional. This is too risky. But she deserves a chance at being safe, loved, and happy.

“I bet you’re hungry.”

Laurel nods emphatically, and even though it’s closing in on three in the morning, Lindy rushes to the kitchen, grabbing the bread and peanut butter.

“You like PB&J?” Lindy asks.

Laurel nods, still drinking the water.

I watch patiently, a little in awe, as Lindy makes a sandwich and grabs another bottle of water.

As she hands to small girl her food, Lindy looks up to me.

“What happened to her?”

Before I can answer, Laurel answers for me. “The angel saved me from the monster. He won’t ever hurt me again. The angel will keep me safe.”

I nod toward Lindy as she covers her own mouth. Tears spring to her eyes. That’s all she needs to know.

Laurel digs into the sandwich, and I gesture for Lindy to join me in the kitchen.

As soon as we’re in there, I check to make sure Laurel hasn’t followed us.

With barely a whisper, I tell Lindy, “When this breaks the news, you come forward. Tell them a little girl showed up at your door, but you don’t know who brought her to you. The man’s name was Kenneth Ferguson. I’m sorry to ask this, but it’s the only way they may find the bodies he has buried without me giving them the information myself.”

I hand her a piece of paper, and she swallows thickly, as though she’s going to be sick.

“Is he still alive?”

I shake my head slowly.

“Good,” she says quietly, looking over at the little girl. She stares at her, and I remain silent, studying her, trying to figure out what’s in her head.

“You’re really here. Alive. Looking so different.”

“It’s really me.”

She nods, her eyes still lost and not on me.

“You’re going after them, aren’t you?” she asks in a hushed tone, her eyes coming back to meet mine.

I nod once.

“I’ve heard whispers and rumors that some of them had died, but I haven’t found it on the news. I was hoping it was true. I was wishing it was me who had the strength to do it.”

My lips twitch. “You’re strength comes from somewhere different. Somewhere more pure. Mine? Mine is hollowed out and filled with darkness, Lindy. I’m taking a huge risk by coming here.”

“But you needed that little girl to be safe,” she says, filling in the blanks. “And you trusted me.”

“You lost a lot trying to get me and my brother justice.”

Her face changes, a coldness washing over her. “That’s not your fault. I tried to tell everyone, but no one wanted to listen. Kyle tried to shut me up. He…He…”

Her voice breaks, and my lips tighten. “I know. He’ll have his day, Lindy. He’ll suffer the worst.”

She nods, her strength renewing as she angrily bats her tears away.

“Antonio left me when he believed Kyle. Kyle said I had sex with him. I told my husband I was…raped. He believed my rapist over me. Just left me.”

I nod, already knowing this. Antonio is on my list, but not for death. He’s marked for penance. Should be fun.

Jake has already started the process of ruining him, starting with bankruptcy. With any luck, the bastard will kill himself within the year when he’s homeless, penniless, and pointless.

“No one cared. No one wanted to listen. No one wanted to be bothered with something so horribly, inconceivably evil. They wanted to pretend it just didn’t exist.”

A dark smile takes over my lips. “They’ll never keep their silence again. They’ll quake in fear every time the lights go off. They’ll be the ones scared for a change. The town will burn, Lindy. It’ll burn to the ground. Trust me. I have a plan. And no one innocent will get caught in the crosshairs.”

She blows out a shaky breath. “I can’t believe you’re alive.”

She bats away fresh tears, looking over at the little girl, who is eating gratefully, oblivious to our conversation. “I’ll do whatever you need me to.”

“Make Laurel understand she can’t tell the cops I’m a woman. Make her understand she can’t tell them anything, or else I can’t stop other monsters.”

“I won’t tell them a thing,” Laurel says from the living room, proving she’s not as oblivious as I thought. She swivels her head, steely determination in her eyes. “I want you to catch all the monsters.”

Maybe she’s more like me than I thought.

As she turns back around, returning her attention to the sandwich, Lindy whispers to me, “I want you to catch all the monsters too. Your secret is safe with me, Victoria.”

A chill runs up my spine. “It’s Lana now. They killed Victoria that night,” I tell her quietly.

She nods, understanding. “What about Diana? She tried to—”

“I know. They threatened her son,” I interrupt, waving off her concern. “She’s going to play a different part. My ducks are in a row. I’ve been patient. I’ve thought it all through. Now I just wait on the chips to fall in place, and while they play poker, I’ll be playing dominoes.”

She smirks, leaning back to grab me a bottle of water. As she hands it to me, I take one last look at Laurel.

“She’s strong. Make sure she turns out like you and not me,” I say to Lindy, whose eyes turn a little duller.

“I’m weak. I quit fighting and ran away.”

“You survived. You fought against a war alone. You’re stronger than you realize, and you’re exactly what she needs.” I sigh as I look into her teary eyes. I wish I could stay longer. “I have to go.”

I start to turn away, but suddenly she launches herself at me, and I wrap my arms around her, feeling a hug connect to so many dormant emotions. It’s the first time I’ve faced my past with a face I didn’t want to cut off.

It hurts as much as it heals.

She hugs me tightly, and I return the affection, though I’m not sure how long we stay that way.

As she pulls away, I hand her a piece of paper. She studies it, reading the directions, and nods at me, proving she’s ready to play her new role.

Just as I’m about to leave, Laurel stands on shaky legs and makes her way to me. I kneel just as she tosses her arms around my neck, catching me off guard.

Slowly, carefully, I hug her back.

“Kill all the monsters,” she whispers. “That way they don’t hurt anyone else.”

Lindy’s breath catches, and I frown. I hope her influence outshines mine in the long run.

“I’ll kill them all so you never have to,” I whisper back, even though it’s highly unlikely that it’s the right thing to say.

“Good.”

“You want a shower?” Lindy asks her.

She nods, tears coming to her eyes, as though she’s never wanted anything more.

Lindy swallows again, trying not to cry in front of the heartbreaking little girl.

“I’ll turn it on for you and give you privacy. I’ll even let you lock the door so you feel safe.”

She speaks from experience.

I used to lock my bathroom door too.

You feel vulnerable when naked and distracted by the shower. You feel like you’re too easily a target.

“I know the angel won’t let me be hurt. I don’t like locked doors,” Laurel says quietly.

My heart flutters, and Lindy swallows again. “I’ll start the shower.”

She moves down the hall, and I nod toward Laurel, letting her know she’s right; I won’t ever let anything happen to her.

She was locked up. Her scars are different from ours. She was held captive. She needs air like we need confined security.

Lindy’s scars don’t run as deep or painful as mine. One man ruined her.

So many more took a piece of me.

But the pain is just the same. Just as scary. Just as unrelenting.

She returns, and I see the bathroom door open. Apparently Laurel requested that.

“She has different scars,” I say quietly.

“I’ll learn to be what she needs. Thank you for trusting me with her. I’ve felt so pointless all these years, but if I can reconcile what happened to me by being what she needs…maybe it won’t all seem like it was pointless.”

I know the feeling.

“What do I say if they ask about Delaney Grove?” she asks quietly as the shower hums in the distance.

“Say nothing.”

Her brow furrows. “Why?”

A dark smile curves my lips. “Because there are so many more to kill. I’m not ready for everyone to know why.”

A cold look crosses her eyes.

“Then they won’t hear it from me. I’ll do whatever you need. Just make sure those sons of bitches never hurt anyone ever again.”

I hold up six fingers, and she cocks her head, confused.

“That many are already gone.”

Surprise flits across her eyes.

“Then you have a long list ahead of you.”


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