Ember x, p.29
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       Ember X, p.29

         Part #1 of Death Collectors series by Jessica Sorensen
 
Page 29

 

  Finally, Detective Crammer enters the room, shutting the door behind her. She’s wearing a simple black pantsuit and her blonde hair is pulled back in a tight bun. She pulls out a chair across from me, sets a folder on the table, and puts on her glasses.

  “Ember Rose Edwards. ” A conniving grin ranges her thin lips. “So we meet again. ”

  I straighten up in the chair. “So we do. ”

  She eyes me over. “Rough night?”

  I stare at her with a vacant expression. “Nope. ”

  She explores the pages in the folder. “Where are your mother and brother tonight? You live with them right?”

  “Yeah… my mother’s working at the All Night Diner,” I tell her. “And my brother’s at a friend’s. ”

  “Do you need to call them?” She shuts the folder and overlaps her hands on it. “Someone needs to pick you up when we’re done here. ”

  “No, my friend’s brother will come pick me up. ” I cross my arms on the table. “My mom doesn’t need to miss work and Ian probably won’t answer his phone. ”

  She slips off her square-framed glasses and wipes the lens with the sleeve of her jacket. “Do you know why you were brought in tonight?”

  I shrug nonchalantly. “Because my car was found at a crime scene. ”

  “At a crime scene just like your father’s and Laden Miller’s,” she says. “What do you know about Mackenzie Baker?”

  “Mackenzie Baker?” Her shocking words throw off my game. “Is she the one that vanished tonight?”

  “I’ll be asking the questions,” she warns. “Now what do you know about her?”

  “I have a few classes with her, and she used to be the head cheerleader. That’s all I know really. ”

  “Were you at the party tonight? The one by the lake? A few people said they saw you there. ”

  “I was at the lake before the party started,” I answer. “But I left when people started showing up. ”

  She jots what I say on the top of the folder. “And how did you get home?”

  “I got a ride from a friend that I called to come pick me up,” I tell her and she scribbles that to her list.

  “Who did you drive out there with?” She writes a number on the corner of the folder.

  “A guy,” I say and her eyes elevate to me. “Cameron Logan. ”

  She doesn’t seem to recognize the name, but cops are good at playing dumb. “And who is he?”

  “He just moved here from New York,” I explain. “He lives on my street. ”

  “Was he part of the reason you left?” She puts her glasses back on.

  “Partially,” I say with hesitance. “He was flirting with another girl. ”

  She opens the folder and searches through her notes. “What’s the girl’s name?”

  “Mackenzie Baker. ”

  Her head snaps up. “You know lying is only going to get you into more trouble. ”

  “I’m not lying,” I assure her. “That’s the truth. ”

  She reluctantly returns to her notes and pens down a few more notes. Then she closes the folder and slips off her glasses. “Again, we’ll be in touch. I have no doubt about that. ” She sticks out her hand for me to shake. “For now, I’d say it‘d be best for you to stay in town. ”

  My muscles tense as I take her hand. A thick, vile sensation blasts up my arm. Blood and a thousand petals scattered across the dirt. An Angel stands in the center of a mob, stripped of its feathers, and beaten blue. Their face is curtained with a halo of black hair. She steps forward and raises a knife, but a black figure swoops down from the sky and snatches her by the shoulders. She screams as they fly up, up, up and then drops her to the earth.

  I jerk back at the X on her wrist. “Who are you?”

  She tugs the sleeve of her jacket down and turns for the door. “I’d watch out, Ember,” she says, opening the door with the folder tucked under her arm. “They say insanity is passed down through generations. And your dad was diagnosed with schizophrenia, which can surface at a young age. ” She slams the door behind her.

  It takes every ounce of strength I own not to jump up from the chair, pick the lock on the door, chase her down and hurt her.

  ***

  Thirty minutes later they release me. They have no real evidence that I did anything wrong, besides not reporting that my car was missing. I go to collect my things at the window and the big-haired lady with bright blue eye shadow hands me a plastic bag containing my bracelets. She turns her back to the window when I walk up and I bang my fist against it.

  She glances over her shoulder at me, looking annoyed. “May I help you?”

  I hold up a bag and jiggle it in front of the window. “Yeah, I had a necklace in here. ”

  She spins her chair around and stares at the bag skeptically. “One moment please. ” She rolls to the phone and takes her sweet time hanging up. “That’s all that was collected. ”

  Glancing at the bag, I shake my head. “No, I had a necklace with a big maroon jewel. ”

  “Well then, it sounds like you’ll be able to find it easily when you get home. ” She huffs out of her chair and walks out the side door.

  I dump the bracelets on the counter, fasten them on my wrists, and clasp my silver-winged earrings into my ears. “I know I was wearing my necklace. ”

  Raven and her brother, Todd, are sitting in the waiting room, which only has one other person in it, an older man eating an egg McMuffin. Raven runs up to give me a hug, but quickly stops herself. Stepping back, she zips up the suede jacket over her silk pajama set.

  Todd is twenty-three years old and is the spitting male version of Raven. He has spiky blue hair, a lip piercing, and tattoos all over his muscular arms.

  “Hey, troublemaker. ” He gives me a hug and I inhale through my nose until it’s over. “What the hell did you do this time?”

  We push through the glass doors and I bask in my freedom. The sun is awake, the sky a clear blue, and elderly couples stroll up the sidewalk and eat breakfast out on the patios. Pink flyers with Mackenzie’s face on them are plastered all over the street posts, doors, and walls of the surrounding buildings.

  “Well, apparently, it’s a crime to crash your car into a lake and then not tell anyone. ” I slide into the backseat of his 1980 Pontiac Firebird with a large eagle painted on the hood, and then Raven pushes the front seat back and climbs in

  “Wait? You wrecked your dad’s Challenger?” he asks as he climbs in, then he revs up the gas and the engine backfires. “Like, it’s gone?”

  Raven exchanges a look with me and I shake my head. She wants to know what really happened, but I don’t want to tell her in front of Todd. The first thing I need to do is talk to Asher. Because I think I’m ready to hear his answers now.

  ***

  Todd takes us to breakfast at Sherry’s Diner. It’s a seventies themed restaurant where they still allow people to smoke. Our waitress is Betty Lou, a middle-aged woman with big beehive hair, oval glasses, and a white apron over her pink dress.

  “Hi, y’all,” she drawls with an order book and pen in her hand. “What can I get you?”

  Raven and I are sitting side-by-side in the booth across from Todd, reading over the same menu. “Can we have just a second?” Raven asks.

  Todd hands Betty Lou his menu and tells her, “I’ll have eggs, scrambled, wheat toast, and a ham steak. ”

  Betty Lou jots his order down. “I’ll go put this order in and come back and get y’alls after. ”

  Once she’s gone, Todd gets up from the table. “I’m going to go use the men’s room. ”

  He struts toward the back area of the restaurant and Raven whispers in my ear, “He’s screwing the waitress. ”

  I pull a disgusted face. “Betty Lou?”

  She rolls her eyes and points her finger at a slender waitress with fiery red hair standing behind the serving counter. “That one… wait just a second and she’ll walk back toward the bathrooms
. ”

  We pretend to stare at our menus, but really our attention is on the girl. Her nametag says, Steph. She’s pretty, maybe a few years older than Todd, but other than that, she seems like his type. Sure enough, about a minute after Todd vanishes into the bathroom, Steph goes wandering back there.

  “How do you know about them?” I ask.

  She runs her finger down the menu along the list of beverages. “He’s been bringing me to either dinner or breakfast here almost every day for the last two weeks and it’s like a freaking routine. So are you going to tell me what’s up with the police?”

  Betty Lou appears at the end of our table and we hurry and give her our orders. She gathers the menu, walks behind the counter, and refills the glasses of water for the people at the bar.

  “Before I tell you,” I say in a hushed voice. “I need you to tell me about how that X got on your shoulder. ”

  She frowns and unzips her jacket to show me her shoulder blade. “It was just a scratch I got when I was making out with Laden. His stupid car had a wire sticking out of it. ”

  There isn’t anything left of the scratch. “Okay, then why were you acting so… happy after he died?”

  She puts her jacket back on and flips her bubblegum pink hair out of the collar. “Something really bad happened that night… Laden almost raped me. ”

  My heart literally stops, dies and withers. “What? Why didn’t you tell me?”

  “Because he disappeared right after it happened and I worried I’d become a suspect. ” She peeks over her shoulder and then drops her voice. “Besides, you have your own stuff to deal with, like death and your mom and Ian. ”

  “You could have told me,” I whisper. “I wouldn’t have told anyone. And I can handle more than you think. ”

  “No, you think you can handle more. ” She takes a sip of her water and sets the glass back down on the table. “But it’s okay. I talked to Asher about it and he really helped me understand. And that whole psychotic episode I was having was just my need to deal with what happened. ”

  “When did you talk to Asher?” My voice comes out sharp and I clear my throat. “I’m sorry, I just didn’t know you two had been hanging out with each other. ”

  “Calm down. ” She scoots the utensils out of the way and rests her elbow onto the table. “We’re just friends. And I was talking to him about it because he was the one who saved me from getting raped. ”

  “That’s… that’s not possible,” I stammer. “He was saving me that night. ”

  She thrums her finger on her lip. “Well, it was before or after he saved me then. ”

  I shake my head in denial. “There’s no way he could have made it to both places in time. ”

  “I’m not sure, Em. . . Maybe you should ask him because all I know is that Laden is a rapist and I don’t feel bad that he’s gone. And Asher was basically my Angel that day. ”