Home > Paint It All Red (Mindf*ck #5)(11)

Paint It All Red (Mindf*ck #5)(11)
Author: S.T. Abby

“Just who the hell are you?” a man’s voice asks.

Everyone wants my name. There’s a Rumpelstiltskin joke in there somewhere.

Again, it’s someone I don’t recognize. I catch a vague image of him through the reflection of the picture glass on the wall.

The guy I was fighting with is staring at me with contempt in his eyes as he cradles his broken nose.

“Who cares? Kill that bitch,” the bleeding one growls.

“My name now doesn’t really matter. But once upon a time, people called me Victoria Evans.”

I may not know them, but judging by the audible breaths and the surprise in the bleeding one’s eyes, they know me.

“In case you haven’t heard…I don’t die too easily.”

I spin just as a shot is fired, with the diluted sound sparing my ears. I feel the heat of the bullet as it grazes my cheek, burning just barely. In one swift move, I slam the knife into the man’s throat behind me, and grab his gun, firing it twice without even having to look.

I hear a pained cry from behind me, knowing the original man is now in a heap, as the man in front of me gurgles on his own blood, choking on it. The knife is still planted in his throat like a gruesome piece of artwork.

I finally turn my head as I jerk my knife out, and I see the two shots hit directly into the other man’s chest.

I’d brush my shoulders off, but that seems a bit cocky.

“You know them?” I ask Cheyenne, who is clawing the corner she’s in, shaking fiercely.

“Yes,” she rasps, her lips trembling. “The Durham brothers,” she says a little stronger, trying to stand on unsteady legs. “They play poker with the sheriff and…sometimes they handle things he doesn’t want his deputies involved in.”

“I guess they came after my time,” I muse, watching them both slowly die.

They did good to escape my interest in the town as well. I really hate surprises.

“Yes,” she says, her voice trembling again. “Are you… Are you really Victoria?”

Her tone is reverent, hushed, and somewhat fearful. I look around at the bloody mess and hope Alyssa stays upstairs.

“Is your daughter safe?” I ask instead of answering, looking over at Cheyenne.

She nods timidly. “Alyssa?” she calls out.

When the child doesn’t answer, Cheyenne rushes by me, racing up the stairs. I’m covered in blood, looking every bit as scary as Jason Vorhees, so I stay down here, listening, deciding to spare the kid some unnecessary nightmares.

In a few moments, Cheyenne comes back down, her shoulders easing. “She likes to go under the water during her baths. She didn’t hear anything.” She stares at me, then at the men at my feet. “It’s been you, hasn’t it? The one who has been killing all those men from…from that time?”

She swallows against the knot in her throat, and I cock my head.

“The one who killed Greg?” she goes on, her voice cutting out.

“The one who killed a child abuser, a murderer, and a violent, sadistic man in general,” I amend, studying her curiously.

She runs a hand through her hair, her eyes intentionally not dropping to the gory mess in her living room again.

“I thought it was all a horrible urban legend, something to make the sheriff and Kyle seem all the more untouchable. I came to town after you were gone, and I barely heard whispers about anything. Then one night, Greg got drunk. It was the first time he hit me. I always stepped between him and my daughter, but I couldn’t leave. He wouldn’t let me—told me the sheriff would help him hunt me down, and he’d kill me and take Alyssa away.”

She chokes back a sob, shaking her head. “I wanted him dead. I even went to the sheriff, hoping Greg’s threats of Cannon helping that abusive bastard were all a bluff. But they weren’t. The sheriff listened to all I had to say, then he called Greg right in front of me. I dealt with a broken jaw as punishment. That’s when he told me he had all the evidence he needed to keep the sheriff in line, and that the next time I tried to run or get help, he’d slit my throat in front of our daughter.”

I wish I’d come sooner for Greg now.

Surprisingly, his wife does know about the evidence, after all.

“He has a safe. I’ve never seen what’s in it, but I know he keeps the combination in his favorite shoes. He’s always had a terrible memory with numbers, so he had to write it down. I’ll get it for you.”

I step in front of her, and she stumbles back. “Save it for the feds. SSA Bennett, to be more precise. Don’t give it to Johnson.”

More lights draw my attention, and I peer out the window, hissing out a breath when I see a SUV stopped beside the abandoned car just down the road. Logan walks in front of the lights, and my stomach somersaults. Shit!

I lift my phone, cursing when I see that I have a text I didn’t know came through.

HADLEY: Logan is going to the widow’s house. The deputy’s widow, that is. Not the judge’s.

Obviously Jake gave her my burner phone number.

I put my phone away, and look back to see Cheyenne is pale and shaking.

“Who are they?”

“The good guys. They’ll be who you give the evidence to.”

“But you look scared. Why are you scared if they’re the good guys?” she demands.

I gesture to my bloody appearance, then the dead guys in her floor. She doesn’t have a speck of blood on her.

“I’m not the good guy,” I remind her, and she exhales like that’s a relief to hear.

What a twisted town…

I grab a piece of paper from the table, and I scribble down an address as fast as I can, trying to get out of here before Logan makes it to the house.

“Have him escort you out of town. Tell him you never saw me, only knew I was in here because you heard the commotion. You were in the bathroom with your daughter the entire time, okay?” I ask, careful not to touch her with my bloody hands.

She nods, her throat bobbing with nerves.

I hand her the piece of paper.

“You can’t go anywhere there might be family or friends. They’ll track you that way. Leave your cell phone. Go to this house. It’s my Connecticut home, and a woman named Olivia lives there. She’ll give you the funds to replace anything you need.”

Her eyes water as she looks over the paper.

“Why would you do this for me?”

I watch her eyes as they lift back up. “I’m doing it for your child more than I’m doing it for you. This town doesn’t care if it’s a child. They planned to not only kill you, but to kill her tonight as well. Keep that in mind. And the evidence won’t be somewhere as obvious as his safe. Think of somewhere he goes daily. He would have been paranoid, always checking to make sure it was still there, but discreet enough not to do it in front of you.”

I peer out the window again, and curse, immediately dropping the curtain when I see the SUV moving this way now.

She looks lost in thought, then finally her eyes widen. “I know where it is.”

“Good. Have him escort you there, get it, and then leave. Make sure he follows you out of the town, just in case the sheriff gets wind of your retreat. And don’t stop driving until you absolutely have to—for gas or whatever.”

She nods vigorously, clutching the paper like it’s the anecdote to life. The door to the front is still open from it being kicked in earlier, so I don’t dawdle with racing to the back when I hear approaching footsteps.

But just as I reach the back, I catch a glint of blonde hair at the door, through the window there. His eyes are down, so he doesn’t see my cartoonish slide to a stop. Internally cursing, I spin back and dart into the broom closet, hating myself for being so reckless.

Please don’t let there be a blood trail. Please don’t let there be a blood trail.

I should have known he wouldn’t be alone.

Just as I silently get the door shut, I hear the back door opening without so much as a knock.

I can’t see, only listen.

“Logan, we have bodies,” Leonard’s voice announces.

Logan doesn’t respond. My stomach sinks to my toes when his shadow interrupts the stream of light coming under the door. This shallow closet isn’t going to hide me if he opens the door.

The door knob starts to turn, and I hold my breath, waiting for the inevitable. I’ve planned for everything except him, and the waters keep getting murkier. What will he do if he finds me? Shoot me? Arrest me? Hurt me? Hate me more?

I don’t have to find out right now, because he apparently changes his mind, leaving the door shut as the sound of footsteps move away from me. I expel the painful breath I’ve been holding, and I listen as he talks to Cheyenne.

She tells them the story I crafted on the spot, and I hear the little girl’s voice calling for her from upstairs. “Stay there, sweetie,” Cheyenne says with a broken voice. “We have people down here right now.”

“I’ll be right back,” Cheyenne tells them, as I try to think of a magical way to get myself out of the damn closet without being seen.

“She’s right. We have to get her out of this town,” Leonard tells Logan.

“We just can’t let anyone know that’s what we’re doing, considering that’s against protocol.”

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