Blind Vengeance: Final Justice - A Damien Kaine Thriller
What do a stripper and a multi-millionaire have in common? Murder. Theirs.
When two seemingly unrelated murders are connected to a state-run orphanage, Damien must scramble to figure out why the murders occurred and who might be next.
As the investigation expands, it points to a heinous and sinister reason behind the brutal killings. Secrets from the past emerge and threaten to bring down one of the highest-ranking state officials. This case has far-reaching political connections, making Damien wonder if his past mistakes are about to make him the sacrificial lamb.
Damien's mistakes have put a wedge between him and Dillon and nearly cost her life. Now, faced with the possibility that solving this case may tear him and Dillon apart, Damien must make a decision that goes against the very reason he became a law enforcement officer. But for his sanity, and to save his relationship with Dillon, he will do something he has never done before. And it may just be too much.
If you like police procedurals that mimic real life investigations, then this book/series is for you.
Buy Blind Vengeance today.
All books in this series:
Confession of Sin
Web of Malice
*Each book is a standalone story and can be read out of order. However, you will get more character insight reading from book 1. This series has adult themes, adult language, and graphic descriptions of crimes and crime scenes. It is intended for over 18.*
Victoria M. Patton combines forensics and police work with just enough humor and sizzling romance in her books. Her unique way of writing will have you on a roller coaster ride of emotions and keep you turning pages well past your bedtime. Visit VictoriaMPatton.com to learn more about her and sign up for sneak peaks of her books, what murders she's plotting, and what whiskey she is currently drinking.
Release date: September 1, 2019
Publisher: Dark Force Press
Print pages: 355
Content advisory: Violence, sex, cursing, and graphic descriptions of crime scenes.
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Blind Vengeance: Final Justice - A Damien Kaine Thriller
Victoria M. Patton
Late Thursday Evening
Shards of pain reverberated against Chase Humphry’s skull. He struggled to open his eyes. “What the hell…?” he groaned. His breathing came in short hot pants as his heartbeat sped up. He attempted to lift his hand and remove whatever covered his eyes. “What the hell! What’s happening?” He licked his lips, cringing as his sandpaper tongue scratched their surface.
“Shit.” He wrestled against the restraints. “C’mon. This can’t be happening.” The itchy fabric tied around his head, pinched his eyelids closed. “Hello? Where am I?” His voice quivered. Every breath he took became more labored. The more he yanked against the leather straps around his wrists and ankles, the tighter they became.
His chest constricted. Each breath harder to take than the last. He curled his fingers into a fist as he concentrated on remembering what happened. His mind flooded with fragmented visions. He’d left his office around five p.m. and stood at his car, finishing a conversation with his girlfriend. “Jacey,” Chase whispered. “Jacey,” he said again as he focused on the phone call, on her sultry voice. He couldn’t recall anything after that moment, past the conversation, or even the conversation.
His lips and chin trembled. “I don’t know what kind of game this is, but it isn’t funny. Doug? Chris? If this is a joke, haha…now fucking untie me!” He shifted in the chair. “Fuck,” he said, yanking against the straps. “This isn’t funny anymore.”
Chase’s throat burned. He swallowed what little saliva he had trying to stop the searing pain. He sweated profusely causing his linen shirt to stick to him. “Hello? Hey, what the fuck is going on?” He screamed out, twisting his head from side to side. “Anyone here?” Yanking against the restraints, he hoped the chair would move around and loosen the straps. The chair didn’t budge.
“What the hell is going on? Someone fucking answer me?” he screamed as he wrenched on his restraints. Starbursts erupted behind his eyes. A wave of nausea crested over him. He breathed in through his nose and hissed it out through his mouth, wanting to keep the vomit at bay. A heater kicked on. Goosebumps erupted on his arms when the warm air clashed with the sticky coating of sweat on his skin.
Chase dropped his chin to his chest. The vomit hovered at the back of his throat. The caustic bile eating away the already raw tissue. As his pulse slowed the thumping in his head subsided. He swallowed gagging on the thick mucus.
“Please. Someone, please help me.” His posture straightened when he heard a faint motorized hum. Within moments, a familiar smell wafted around him. He lifted his chin, sniffing the air. He cocked his head to the side, inhaling deeply through his nose. “I know that smell.”
Keeping his excitement in check, he waited for the chimes. With no sense of time, he had no idea when or if the old grandfather clock would fill the room with his favorite sound. When the first chime echoed, he blew out the breath he didn’t realize he held. “I’m in my home.” A slight giggle escaped as relief washed over him.
“That you are my friend. That you are.”
Chase’s body stiffened as the sound of heavy booted footsteps walked towards him. He angled his head in the direction of the intruder’s voice. “Who are you? What are you doing in my house? I demand you let me go.”
Kerry threw his head back and laughed as he stood in front of his captive. “You really are an ass, aren’t you? I don’t think you’re in any position to demand anything.” Kerry walked around the chair, pulling on the restraints making sure they hadn’t loosened. He placed a second pair of latex gloves over his hands, giving him another barrier of protection.
“Why are you doing this? Is it money? I can give you money. Tell me what you want.”
“Chase, you always thought money was the answer to any problem. Even when we were kids. I have my own money; I don’t need yours. I have quite a bit actually.” He leaned down next to the man’s ear. “I made a killing in the tech market.”
Chase fixated on the man’s voice. “What do you mean when we were kids? How do you know me?”
“I can’t believe you don’t recognize my voice. You and your delinquent friends heard my screams enough.” Kerry dragged a chair from the other side of Chase’s living room, placing it in front of the pathetic man. “Hmm, sorry. I think I scratched your wood floors. It’s too bad, they’re exquisite.” He glanced around at the flooring. “Brazilian Walnut. I bet you dropped a pretty penny on these.”
Chase squirmed. “I don’t think you’re here to discuss my wood floors. What is it you want?”
Kerry ignored the man’s question as he moved to the table positioned against the wall for easy access. He lingered in front of it, analyzing his choice of tools. “I think this will start us off nicely,” he said as he picked up the ice pick.
“Who are you?” Chase lowered his voice, trying to hide the quiver. He angled his head towards the sound of the intruder’s footsteps.
Kerry sighed, sitting in the chair. He placed the ice pick in his lap as he crossed his legs. “I’m sure it will all come back to you shortly. However, before we take a trip down memory lane, let’s discuss what you’ve accomplished in your life up to this point. You definitely capitalized on the whole misfortunate kid thing.”
“I didn’t capitalize on anything. I worked hard to get to where I am. No one handed me anything. I earned it.” Chase lifted his chin as he puffed out his chest.
“I guess we all tell ourselves a few good rationalizations to help us get through the day.”
“What are you referring to? I don’t have to rationalize anything.” Chase clenched his hands into fists.
“I understand your company recently went public. That had to boost your bottom line tremendously. Seems to have given you a lot of options.”
Chase tilted his head to the side. “I still don’t understand what my company has to do with this. Why are you here?” He jutted out his chin.
Kerry raised an eyebrow. “Do you think if your past ever came out your company would have had such success? I think if the public knew who you really are and what you did, I bet your company would tank in a heartbeat.” Kerry stood pushing his chair back a few inches. He stuck the ice pick in his back pocket.
“There is nothing in my past I have to worry about.” Chase sucked in air, holding his breath. He began coughing. The more he coughed, the more his throat burned. Swallowing, the metallic taste of blood made him gag.
“I think there is.” Kerry reached down next to the leg of his chair and picked up a two-liter bottle. “Where are my manners,” he said. “I bet you’re thirsty. The drug I injected you with has a nasty side effect of making your throat feel as if you are gargling hot coals.” Unscrewing the top, Kerry grabbed Chase by his hair and yanked his head back. “Here you go. Have a drink.”
“What—what are you doing?” Chase asked before his assailant pinched the sides of his jaw forcing it open. He writhed under the man’s firm grip. “Stop, please. What are you doing?” Chase screamed before a rush of liquid ran down his throat. He struggled to swallow the onslaught of the caustic fluid. He shook his head from side to side, but his assailant’s grip was too firm. His gag reflex kicked in as he coughed vomiting some back up.
Pain erupted along the entire length of his esophagus. Chase sucked in air, coughing it out. Saliva drooled from his mouth, dripping off his chin. His coughs turned into hacks as droplets of blood spewed from his mouth. Tears streamed from his eyes, dampening the fabric covering them. The opening of his throat felt as if it had constricted down to the size of a straw. Chase wheezed, his lungs felt as if they were filling with fluid.
The corners of Kerry’s mouth tugged upwards at the edges as he watched the man’s discomfort. “As unpleasant as that was, it won’t kill you. At least not immediately. I still need answers from you.” Replacing the cap, he set the bottle on the floor. “I remember when I begged you and your asshole friends for something to drink, you guys thought it would be fun to piss on me. Do you remember that?”
Chase panted, dry heaving. Thick strands of mucus ran from his nose, dripping down his lips. Every breath in through his mouth felt like the flame of a blow torch. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” The slight swelling of his tongue distorted his speech.
“Come on. You don’t expect me to believe that, do you?” Kerry pulled the ice pick from his back pocket, pricking his finger on the tip. He smiled at the sharpness of the point.
“I don’t care what you believe. I would never do something so disgusting.” Chase coughed. He tasted blood. He spewed out the nasty, thick bloody mucus, gagging.
“You’re such a liar.” Kerry stood moving towards the blindfolded man. He rechecked the straps. Chase jumped at the contact. “My, my, my, a little touchy aren’t we?”
“Please tell me what you want from me. I’ll do whatever you want,” Chase whimpered as full body tremors engulfed him. He squeezed his eyes shut behind the blindfold.
“When I begged you and your band of assholes to stop your near-daily torture of me, you never did,” Kerry said.
Chase twisted against the man’s grip of his wrist. The pressure from the hold forced his palm flat against the arm of the chair.
“Do you know how long I smelled like piss? No matter how many showers I took, I could never quite get rid of the smell.”
Chase shook his head in denial. “That wasn’t my idea.”
“Oh, so now you remember?”
“Patrick was the one who thought it would be funny.” His voice high pitched as his breathing came in quick pants.
“You were the one who pissed on my face. When I threw up, you laughed at me.”
Chase’s nostrils flared. The sound of his heartbeat thrashed in his ears. “We were kids, teens. I would never do those things now. I would never condone that now.”
Kerry chuckled. “You knew what you were doing.”
“Please, please, let me go,” Chase begged.
“I want you to suffer as I did.” Kerry dragged the tip of the ice pick across the top of Chase’s hand. “I want you to suffer as Sierra did.”
“I—I didn’t have anything to do with her.” Chase jerked back pressing himself against the chair. He shook his head. “I swear. We did what he told us to do.”
“You gave Pops a big donation a few weeks back. You knew what kind of man he was. You know what he did to the girls in his care. How could you give him money?” Kerry applied more pressure to Chase’s wrist.
Chase flinched back. “I didn’t have anything to do with what Pops did. We were all scared of him.”
“Only recently, as a grown man, you gave him money, why?”
“I can’t…” Chase stuttered. “I…I….”
“C’mon Chase. You’re going to have to do better than that.”
“I’m sorry. I was a kid. We were stuck in that place. I wanted to survive and get out. I didn’t know any better.” His chin and lips trembled.
Kerry raised the ice pick. “You’re a liar. And it’s time for you to reap what you sowed all those years ago.” He jammed the pick through the back of Chase’s hand. The tip of the weapon stuck in the wood of the chair. He had to yank with force to get it out.
Chase’s scream echoed throughout the house.
Kerry raised the ice pick and stabbed the hand again. And again.
Chase screamed, throwing his head back. “Please, please, stop. I’ll do whatever you want. I’ll tell you whatever you want.” He gulped in air through his sobs.
Kerry smiled as he jabbed the pick into the mutilated hand. He used such force the hilt of the pick, broke several bones in Chase’s hand. The man’s screams sounded like a mortally wounded cat. He left the eight-inch pick stuck there as he reached around the man’s head and grabbed the blindfold. Yanking it off, he stepped back waiting for Chase’s eyes to adjust.
Chase blinked, squeezing his eyes tight. The tears stung, and the brightness from the glaring overhead lights made it hard for his vision to focus. He sobbed at the blood oozing from the holes in the back of his hand. The sharp pain from the broken bones brought back the nausea. “Why? Why are you doing this?” His gaze focused on the man in front of him. “I don’t remember what happened. Why do you care so much about her? I didn’t have anything to do with what happened to Sierra.”
“You’ll say anything to cover your ass. You did whatever Pops wanted. And he let you and your friends have extra privileges. You didn’t have to do anything to survive.” Kerry walked over to the table. He picked up a pair of pruning shears and the ball-peen hammer.
Chase turned his head; his gaze following his attacker. “I promise. I don’t know what happened to Sierra. I wasn’t there.”
“You helped Pops cover it up. I want to know where she is. I want to find her.”
“Patrick. He was older. He did whatever Pops told him. He made me and Maggie help him.”
“You both benefitted, though.”
“Pops was a mean man. He had his favorites, and if you weren’t on his list, you suffered. We did what we had to.”
Kerry walked back to his captive. “I need something from you, Chase. I need some answers from you. And ‘I don’t know,’ isn’t going to work.”
Chase’s eyes bulged at the pruning shears. “I’ll answer anything you want me to.” He wriggled in his chair. “Please, stop, let me go. Please don’t hurt me anymore.”
A malicious smile spread across Kerry’s face. “Chase, I’m going to do more than hurt you.” He lifted Chase’s right forefinger and opened the hand-held pruning shears placing the finger between the blades. “First, you’re going to tell me what I want to know,” he said winking at him as he squeezed the shears together, cutting off the finger. Chase’s shrill cries of agony made his smile broaden. “Then, I’m going to kill you.”
Early Thursday evening
After the three-hour drive from Chicago to Davenport, Iowa, the sun was beginning its descent. Damien turned on the road leading to Dillon’s grandparent’s farm. His breath hitched as the edge of the farm’s property came into view. The glow from the early February amber sky cast a golden hue on the dusting of snow blanketing the property. The entire farm had a 3D look as if it popped off a movie screen.
The farm had remained closed to the public. The townspeople showed their support by placing flowers and stuffed animals along the entire length of the fence line. Various cards hung by nails and twine affixed to the cedar posts.
Damien glanced in the rearview and saw Joe and his girlfriend, Taylor, staring in Dillon’s direction, waiting for her reaction. Damien reached over and lifted Dillon’s hand from her lap, kissing the back. “Hey baby, how are you holding up?”
He waited for her to respond. She stared out the passenger window. Her long honey blond hair hung forward, blocking her face from his view. He watched her struggle to find the words. Dillon shrugged before turning towards him. Damien’s heart stopped for a split second at the sight of her tear-streaked face. “Honey, we shouldn’t have come so soon.”
She wiped her face with her sleeve. “No. I had to come and talk to the lawyer. I have to make decisions impacting the farmhands. I wasn’t ready at the funeral. It can’t wait any longer.”
“Dillon, we could’ve done this by phone.” Damien slowed the vehicle.
She squeezed his hand. “I’ll be okay.” She peeked over her shoulder at the two love birds snuggled in the back seat. “Having all of you with me will make this easier.” Looking in Taylor’s direction, she continued. “Although I think you two should’ve taken a vacation while Joe and Damien are suspended from work for three weeks.”
Taylor reached over the top of the seat and touched her shoulder. “We would never let you do this alone. And we can take a trip any time. This is way more important.”
Gunner, the big chocolate Mastiff, who had been quiet for the last twenty minutes, let out a howl as if he agreed with Taylor.
“See, even Gunner wouldn’t let you do this alone,” Joe said as light laughter filled the SUV. “They gave us the suspensions to save face with the higher-ups at Division Central. I actually only got a two-week suspension, and it was with pay. Your boy here took the hit for me.”
“You shouldn’t have been suspended in the first place. I was in command, and I was solely responsible. At least they listened to me when I said to take my pay and leave yours intact,” Damien said.
“I’m your partner and your best friend. I would never have let you handle that op without me,” Joe said squeezing Damien’s shoulder.
“Who the hell said you were my best friend?” Damien asked winking at Dillon.
“Man, I’m the only friend you don’t have to pay—to be your friend. Which qualifies me as the best friend.” Joe smirked at him in the mirror.
“Look at all the flowers,” Dillon said as they pulled up to the gate. The entry of the driveway was filled with potted plants, flowering plants, and bouquets of flowers. Lumps swelled at the back of her throat. She swallowed, trying to shake off her emotions. “The key code is 5954.”
Damien rolled down his window and punched in the security code. The new electronic gate opened up. His father installed it after Dillon’s grandparents were murdered. The Martins, the couple who were caretakers to her grandparent's farm, had been so grateful for the security system, they sent a fresh fruit basket to Damien’s father’s company, Kainetorri Securities.
Entering the gates, Gunner sat up in the very back of the SUV gazing out the window and whimpered softly.
Damien looked in the rearview mirror and saw a glimpse of sadness in the dog’s expression. His droopy jowls seemed to sag a little bit more than usual. Gunner had barely survived the attack the night of the murders. Had it not been for the fast-acting paramedics, Dillon would’ve had to bury the dog as well as her grandparents. Damien’s weighted chest made it hard for him to take a deep breath. Not sure how either the dog or Dillon would react to seeing the inside of the house for the first time since their death.
Damien tightened his grip on Dillon’s hand. “The crew I hired to clean, sent me photos. Everything from the dining room has been removed. The Martins put in a dining table they had. It’s not the same one your grandparents used.”
Dillon remained silent. She barely managed a nod. Blowing out the breath she held, she glanced over at Damien. Looking away before she caught his deep blue eyes. They always bore through her as if they could read her thoughts.
Dillon loved him, his family, and the Shermans. They were all she had left now. Her heart sank at the thought. She wondered if Damien had done anything different, would the outcome still have been the same. She pushed those feelings aside telling herself none of this was his fault.
Damien drove down the long drive. Following the curve, he stopped in front of the porch steps. Damien patted her leg. “Let’s get the dog and cat inside, then we can get our luggage. Okay?”
“That’s a good idea,” Dillon said.
Damien went to the rear of the SUV and lifted the back. He watched as Gunner jumped out and ran to Dillon’s side, who stood frozen at the passenger door of the vehicle.
Taylor grabbed Coach’s portable cell.
The cat bellowed out a long meow.
“I bet you’ll be glad to get out, huh?” Taylor asked as she looked at him through the crate door. She walked over and stood next to Dillon.
Damien leaned into Joe, who lifted the bags from the SUV. “I still think this is a bad idea.”
“She needs to do this. You’re going to have to let her, Damien.” Joe peered around the edge of the vehicle, then turned back. “She’s the strongest woman I know. She’ll be okay.” His Irish accent taking on a reassuring tone.
Damien wasn’t as sure. It had only been two weeks. Her physical wounds hadn’t even begun to heal. Her psychological wounds would take far longer. And he worried this trip would set her back. He left Joe and took Dillon by the hand. “The Martin’s have stocked the fridge. The bedrooms are made up and ready to go. Are you ready?”
Dillon nodded. Her eyes never left the front door. She wrapped her fingers tightly around his. They walked together up the stairs. Her heartbeat thrashed in her ears. She blew her breaths out through taut lips. Her body trembled, making her legs feel like rubbery noodles. She leaned into Damien, glancing over her shoulder, she noticed Taylor and Joe had lingered behind at the truck. She hated the feelings of vulnerability. She hated herself more for allowing it to drape over her.
At the front door, Damien stopped and took both of her hands in his. “It’s going to get easier as we stay here. If it is too much for you to be here, we can leave.”
She shook her head. “No. I want to stay here. Promise me you won’t make me leave. Do you promise?”
He angled his head down before looking her in the eye. The beautiful whiskey color always made his stomach flutter. The golden ring surrounding the iris gave them a fiery glow. “Dillon, as long as you can handle this, I will not make you leave.”
Gunner nudged her leg with his head.
She smiled as she reached down and scratched his ears. “You ready boy?”
He barked at the door.
“Let’s do this.” Damien pulled open the storm door and used the key. He stepped in first and switched on the lights. As they entered, they were hit with the smell of a clean and sanitized house. Rounding the corner as they walked towards the dining room where both of her grandparents had been murdered, he reached out and pulled Dillon into his side. “You okay?”
She blew out a shaky breath. “Yeah.” The video David had made her watch of him killing her grandmother and grandfather, flashed in her mind. Her body stiffened, as she squeezed her eyes shut, blocking out the horrible images and cries of her grandfather. The opening of the front door brought her out of her trance. She shook it off, turning towards the sound.
Joe and Taylor entered, carrying Coach and the luggage.
“Which room gets what?” Joe asked, carrying all the bags.
Dillon smiled. “Put our stuff in the room on the right. You and Taylor will have the room at the other end of the hallway. Before you get to the room at the end.”
Taylor put the pet carrier on the floor and opened the door. “There you go handsome,” she said as Coach sauntered out meowing. Taylor swooped him up and nuzzled him. “Oh, you sweet boy. This is your new home for a few days. Are you hungry?” She glanced over at Joe as he walked back into the living room. “Will you text Jenkins and make sure Muffin is doing okay?”
Joe smiled. “Yes, I will. You realize it’s been like four hours, right? That old cat probably doesn’t even know you’re gone yet.”
She squinted at him. “I know how long it’s been, and I want to make sure she is okay. Jenkins said he would check on her during his lunch.” She stood with Coach purring in her arms.
Joe pulled out his phone and texted Jenkins, one of the detectives in the Vicious Crimes Unit where he and Damien worked. When they weren’t suspended. “You know he will be there until we get back. I told him to sleep at our house.” Joe looked up with a scowl. “Which means he will probably fuck someone in our bed. You know we will have to buy a new bed.”
Taylor giggled. “I doubt we have to buy a new bed. We can throw away the sheets.” She stepped over to him and wrapped one arm around him while still holding Coach. “That’s why I put our oldest set of sheets on the bed.”
“I like your thinking, woman.” His phone pinged. “I think Muffin is fine.” He held his phone out. The hundred-year-old cat was snuggled up next to a cute pink teddy bear, her front paw draped over the belly of the small bear.
“Awe!” Taylor clutched Coach tighter to her chest. “She looks so happy.”
Joe rolled his eyes. “Yes. He says he sprayed the bear with some of your perfume. He didn’t want the cat to be anxious.”
“I love Jenkins. We need to buy him something.” Taylor beamed a big smile at him.
Joe frowned, shaking his head. “We don’t need to buy him anything.”
Taylor waved him off as she went back to her previous task of feeding Coach. The cat meowed nudging and kissing her. She carried him and the bag holding his cat food, small litter box, and supplies into the kitchen. Setting him on the floor, he danced around in circles as she put a can of stinky wet cat food in his dish. When she placed the bowl on the floor, the cat growled as he ate. Taylor giggled at the creature. “Do you have to prove how tough you are by growling at your food, Coach?”
Damien looked on in feigned disgust. “He likes to think he killed it.”
Taylor placed some dry dog food in a bowl and set it on the floor opposite of Coach.
They all turned at the sound of Gunner whining. He had laid down on the spot where Dillon’s grandfather had died a few weeks earlier.
Dillon knelt next to him, rubbing his head. Tears rolled down her cheek. “I know this is hard Gunner. I promise, you and me, we’ll get through this.”
Gunner raised his head, licking her face and nuzzled her.
She kissed him, then rose. She turned to find everyone staring at her. “Stop looking at me. I’m okay. I promise.” She wiped her cheeks with the palms of her hands.
“Okay, then.” Joe glanced at his watch. “It’s almost time for dinner. You guys want to see what is in the fridge and we can make something?”
Taylor clapped her hands and squealed. “Ooh, sounds perfect. I can cook something.” She spun around, heading towards the fridge.
Joe glanced at the fireplace. “I’m going to get the chill out of the air.” Loading up the last of the fresh logs onto the fire rack, he used some of the kindling from a basket set to the side of the hearth, and got a fire going. Stepping back, he admired his work.
Damien sniggered at him. “What a boy scout.”
“You’re jealous of my skills,” he said, flicking his shoulder.
Gunner ran from the room and slid into the door at the end of the hallway. He barked at the closed door.
“What’s up with him?” Damien asked, turning towards Dillon.
She smiled. “His room is down the hall. It’s not big enough to be a bedroom, so my grandparents made it his room. He’s probably looking for one of his old chew toys.” Dillon walked down the hall and opened the door, returning to the living room.
Gunner ran in, grabbed his big bed, and dragged it out to the living room.
Everyone stopped what they were doing and watched as he growled, dragging the bed alongside him. Even Coach watched as the dog weaved his way around the furniture.
“What is he doing?” asked Taylor.
Dillon couldn’t hold back the giggles. “I guess he wants his bed out here.”
Gunner ran back to the room.
Damien watched as the cat meandered towards the big oversized pillow. Spinning around several times until he got the right spot. He snuggled into Gunner’s bed, in front of the fire. Damien laughed. “This isn’t going to end well.”
Joe laughed at the expression on the dog’s face as he bounded around the corner and stopped dead in his tracks, carrying one of his chew toys. “Umm, poor guy. All that work and a fat cat took your spot.”
Gunner whined as he slinked over to his bed. He dropped his toy and walked around it, stopping and staring at Coach. He nudged Coach towards the edge. When the cat didn’t move, he growled at him.
Damien looked over at Dillon. “What do you think he will do?”
She shrugged. “I don’t think he will hurt him. They haven’t had any trouble at the house.”
Taylor moved next to Joe and wrapped her arms around him. “Coach, can’t you share the pillow?”
Coach looked up and huffed, snuggling in deeper, ignoring her question.
Gunner barked and then stepped onto the pillow, spinning around several times as Coach had done earlier.
Coach didn’t budge. He cracked open one eye and went back to sleep.
“See. I told you there was nothing to worry about.” Dillon smiled at Damien.
They all followed Taylor back into the kitchen.
“I took a quick inventory of the fridge and the cabinets. The Martins did a good job stocking this place. How about if I make some chili and cornbread?”
Joe opened the fridge. “Sounds fantastic. Is there any beer to go with the chili?”
“Yes. Out in the mudroom is another refrigerator. It is usually stocked with beer, wine, and soda pop,” Dillon said.
“Woohoo!” Joe bounded into the mudroom connected to the back of the kitchen. “You want a beer, Damien?” He called back over his shoulder.
“Sure. Grab several for the fridge in here, and a bottle of wine.”
The phone on the wall rang. Dillon walked to it. “Hello?”
“Dillon? Is that you honey?”
Dillon smiled into the phone. “Yes, Agatha, it’s me.”
“I wanted to make sure it was you guys I saw over there. How was the trip?”
“It was good. Thank you for buying all the groceries.”
Agatha sighed on the other end. “I hope I got what you guys wanted. I remembered many conversations with your grandfather about Joe and Damien and how much they can eat. Especially Joe. I made sure to get lots of stuff. Ralph made sure I got plenty of beer and wine too. He said there was some whiskey in one of the kitchen cabinets.”
Dillon giggled. “You did a great job. The lawyer is supposed to be here tomorrow at ten a.m. He has requested you guys be present.”
“Yes. He contacted us. We will be there.” There was an awkward silence before Agatha spoke again. “Are you okay, honey?”
Dillon leaned against the wall. “I’m okay.”
“You know we love you, Dillon. We’re here for you.”
“I know. Thank you, Agatha. We will see you tomorrow at ten.”
“Okay. You call me if you need anything.”
“I will.” Dillon hung up the phone. She paused as her hand rested on the receiver. Block out the memories. She took a deep breath before turning around. “What can I do to help, Taylor?”
Taylor tossed her an onion. “You can chop.”
“I can do that,” Dillon said.
Damien took the beers from Joes arms and placed them in the refrigerator before he grabbed the keys to the shed off the wall. “Joe, come help me get some extra wood for the fire,” he said walking through the mudroom to get to the backyard.
Joe took a quick sip of his freshly opened beer, setting it on the counter. “You got it, boss.” He kissed Taylor on the cheek.
Gunner ran out with them the minute they opened the door.
The light covering of snow crunched under their feet. The last of the sun had disappeared below the horizon filling the night sky with stars and blackness. The shed was located at the back of the grounds. Not too far from the mudroom. A motion sensor light kicked on flooding the back yard with a bright white light.
Joe looked up. “Is that one of yours?”
Damien nodded. “My dad set them on all the buildings, even the Martins’ house.” He pointed to the house located about a half-mile to the right from where they stood. The dim lights of the house were noticeable in the dark of the night. “He made sure this whole place was loaded with a new system. Everything can be tracked from the main farm building,” he pointed to a large structure off to the left, “and from this house and the Martins’ home.”
“That’s good. I know it makes the Martins feel safer.” Joe noticed the tightness in his friend’s face. “Don’t do that to yourself. That asshole would have still found a way to get to them. Your security systems aren’t foolproof. They aren’t a guarantee they would still be alive today.”
“I know. I still think she blames me. On a deep level, I think she blames me.”
Joe grabbed Damien’s shoulder as he reached out to unlock the shed. “No, she doesn’t. I’m not saying she might not go through a stage where she lashes out at you. It’s part of the grieving process. But no way she blames you. And you need to stop blaming yourself.”
Damien’s head hung. He dragged a hand through his black wavy hair. “I’m trying, Joe. I really am.”
“Well, try harder.”
Gunner ran through the yard, sniffing every inch.
“I bet he’s glad to be back here,” Damien said.
“I wonder if it’s hard for pets. You know coming back to where something awful happened.”
Damien watched the dog scamper through the snow. “I don’t know. I do know the paramedics found him barely alive laying with his head on Dillon’s grandfather. You know, I think if he hadn’t caused the damage to David he did, I think he would’ve killed Dillon before we got to her. I owe Gunner a hell of a lot.”
Damien unlocked the shed and pulled the string for the hanging lightbulb. The soft glow of light cast swaying shadows across the interior.
Joe rummaged through the shelves. “This has got to be the cleanest woodshed ever.”
Damien chuckled. “Between the Martins and Dillon’s grandparents, this farm is well run. I bet the Martins came through and cleaned this place after the murders.” He followed Joe’s lead and inspected the shelves. “You and Taylor should’ve taken a nice vacation.”
“No way. We can go on a trip at any time.” Joe picked up a jar from the back of one of the shelves. “Holy shit, I can’t believe anyone would eat this.” He lifted the jar.
Damien’s brow wrinkled. “They don’t waste anything on a farm. I personally wouldn’t eat pig’s feet or snout.” He picked up another jar. Holding it up to the light, he glanced over at Joe. “What the hell is this?”
Joe leaned in, peering at the unidentified object in the jar. “I don’t have a damn clue. Who were these people?”
Damien laughed. “I have no idea what this is. I don’t want to know either.” He replaced the jar. “How are you and Taylor?”
Joe leaned against the shelving unit. “We are fine. Why do you ask?”
Damien smirked as he inspected another jar. “I keep waiting for you to get cold feet. This has been one of your longest relationships.”
Joe shrugged. “True. But my heart and head are thinking this time. Not my gooter.”
Damien laughed. “Jesus man, where do you come up with these words?” He chuckled some more. “I remember when your girlfriends had a shelf life of three months.”
Joe shook his head. “Those were the good ole’ days.”
Damien glanced around the shed once more. “I don’t see much of anything of value. Most of the tools are kept in different buildings. It looks like can goods and stock for the main house are kept here.” He reached down and grabbed a few logs. “Quit stalling and grab the wood. I don’t want to have to come back out for a few days.”
“You are such a slave driver.” Joe picked up several logs, pulling the light’s string as he and Damien exited the building.
Damien fumbled with the wood in his arms as he locked the shed.
Gunner stood next to the back fence. His ferocious barking echoing through the blackness past the yard.
“What’s got him riled up?” Joe asked.
“I have no idea. Gunner! C’mon boy.”
The dog turned and bounded towards them. Running around in circles, occasionally stopping to glance back at the woods.
Before entering the mudroom, Joe looked back over his shoulder, staring at the dark area behind the farm. “Maybe a monster is out there waiting to pounce.”
Damien opened the back door of the house, entering the mudroom. “I hope he gets you first.” Damien placed his logs on the floor next to the door leading into the kitchen.
“Some friend you are,” Joe said as he put his logs down next to Damien’s stack.
As Damien opened the door, they were greeted to the sound of soul music and the delicious smell of chili. Damien and Joe glanced at each other then back at the two women who danced around the kitchen. Coach sat on the counter, waiting patiently for scraps.
“Do you have our dinner ready, or have you been dancing all this time?” Joe asked as he lifted the lid from the pot on the stove. He grabbed the beer he had left on the counter a few moments ago and chugged it down, letting out a loud burp.
Taylor swatted him before he could taste the chili. “Yes, we did. We’re waiting on the cornbread.”
Dillon picked up Coach and snuggled him. She cradled him like a baby, stroking his belly, still swaying to the music.
“Quit that. It’s disgusting,” Damien said as he took a beer from the fridge. “Plus, look how jealous Gunner is.” He pointed to the dog who watched her, staring at the cat in her arms.
Dillon smiled. She kissed Coach and placed him on the floor. She knelt next to Gunner. Grabbing his cheeks, she kissed him on the nose. “You know I love you.” She smooched him again. “You’re my baby, too. You’re just too big to hold.”
Gunner nudged her chest with his big head, wiggling his butt bumping into her. His massive bodyweight knocked her from her perch. He straddled her, showering her with kisses.
“Okay, okay,” she said, laughing as she pushed him away. Damien reached down and grabbed her hands, hauling her up to her feet. She wrapped her arms around his waist. “I love you most of all.” She stood on her tippy toes and gave his lips a whisper-soft kiss.
“Sometimes, I’m not so sure,” Damien responded as he tightened his arm around her waist.
“Can we stop the smooching and eat already?” Joe asked as he grabbed another beer.
Taylor removed the cornbread from the oven. “Everything is ready.” She turned towards everyone. “Get some bowls and plates and dig in.” She lifted the lids off the chili and pot of white rice. On the counter sat a bowl of shredded cheese, a bowl of sour cream, a jar of salsa, and a bowl of chopped onions, along with a bag of Fritos. “We will do this buffet style. Help yourselves.”
Dillon removed a bottle of wine from the refrigerator and grabbed a corkscrew from the utility drawer. Once the bottle was opened, she poured Taylor and herself a glass. She set them on the table and then filled her bowl with chili loaded up with all the fixings.
Once they were all sitting at the table, a comfortable silence filled the room as they devoured their food. After a few moments, Gunner broke the solitude with a loud bark. Dillon jumped startled by the booming noise. She clutched her chest. “Dang, Gunner.”
Damien looked at the dog. “What’s his problem?” he asked as he looked in the dog’s direction. He stood in the kitchen facing the door leading into the mudroom. “He was barking at something out past the back fence when Joe and I were getting wood.”
“I’m telling you, it’s a monster.” Joe grabbed another piece of cornbread.
“It isn’t a monster. At the most he sees some of the wildlife living around here,” Dillon said as she took a sip of her wine.
“You’re wrong, lassy. It’s a monster or maybe Jason or Michael Myers. You watch.” Joe wiggled his finger at them.
“You watch way too much TV,” Damien said.
Taylor took a sip of her wine. “He had a Friday The 13th movie binge night the other evening. He then checked the apartment three times before bed.”
“Jason lives. I’m telling you.”
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...