SUCH A GOOD GIRL: An urgently timely gripping mystery with a heartbreaking twist (Eva Rae Thomas Mystery Book 9)Willow Rose
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A pretty face can take you places you don’t wanna go.
Right Next to the Right One
Something was off. Officer Dana Marshall, with Washington Metropolitan P.D., couldn’t put her finger on precisely what it was that stirred up this unease inside her, but that was how she felt when stepping out of the apartment complex on New York Avenue with her partner of three years, George Parish. There was something in the air and a pinch in her stomach that told her something awful was about to happen.
“You wanna go grab a bite from that pizza place down the street?” George asked as they reached their cruisers parked on the street.
They had been called out to a domestic disturbance in an apartment building. A couple in the middle of a nasty divorce had been fighting when the man locked his wife out in the hallway and refused to let her back inside, even though she was only in her underwear. The neighbors called for help after she had been screaming at him and hammering on the door for about an hour. Dana and George had managed to get the husband finally to let his wife in and then spoken to both of them, taking their statements for the report and trying to mediate and make sure it wouldn’t happen again. It was part of the job sometimes to have to act like a psychologist to keep the peace—at least for long enough to make it through the night without them having to be called out there again.
Dana nodded and corrected her belt. “Sure. I liked what I got there last time, the one with the garlic.”
“That is a good one,” George said. “Maybe I’ll have that too.”
Dana exhaled. She couldn’t escape that odd sensation inside her that something was about to go down, something awful. She approached her cruiser and was about to get in when she paused.
Without knowing why, she lifted her gaze and looked toward the tall building across the street from them. It had a big glass façade and a rooftop penthouse terrace. Dana had never been inside the building but often admired it from the outside when driving by on patrol. She knew it was among the most expensive apartments in the D.C. area, and it was rumored that one of them was owned by Bruce Willis, even though it was never confirmed. But she did know that they were popular among the high society elite of the area and that you couldn’t get an apartment in that building for less than fifteen million dollars. Dana had often wondered what it was like to be so rich you could afford to buy something like that.
“You okay?” George asked, pulling Dana back to reality. “You kind of disappeared there for a second.”
She smiled and turned to look at her partner. “Yes, of course. I’m just hungry, I guess.”
“It is getting late,” he said and clapped his stomach. “Let’s go.”
Dana nodded and reached for the door when a sound made her turn her head and look toward the expensive glass building once again.
And just as she did, something moved on top of it, on the penthouse terrace. A woman screamed, and Dana let go of the car door, then took a step forward.
“What in the…”
She glared up toward the top of the building just as the girl screamed again, then tipped over the railing and fell from the sky.
Dana held her breath as she watched the girl fly through the air. It felt like hours went by as she stared at the body floating in the air, but it could have been nothing but seconds if even that.
The sound of the body hitting the pavement below made her stomach churn. Biting back bile, along with the urge to scream, she ran across the street to the body—or what was left of it—smeared on the asphalt.
Startled and barely breathing, Dana lifted her gaze again, looked toward the top of the building, and saw a man standing on the terrace, looking down at her from the exact spot where the girl had fallen.
Then she grabbed her gun and stormed for the entrance.
Four days later
Delta Airlines flight 5703 was circling the city below, and the captain announced that we had begun our descent into Washington-Dulles. I gazed out the window with a deep sigh, leaning my head against it. This had once been my favorite sight, back when it meant coming home—when it meant the end of a long journey and me getting back to my babies.
Today, it meant something completely different.
The plane began its descent, and the city below came closer like it was reeling me in, pulling me back.
“Coming home or visiting?” the elderly gentleman sitting next to me asked. He had been sitting very still during the entire flight and not uttered a word until now. I didn’t mind. I was in no mood to chat with a stranger.
“Just visiting,” I said.
“Oh, I see. And for how long do we have the pleasure of you staying here?”
That made me sigh as the plane bumped and landed on the runaway. “Should only be for a few days.”
“Well, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it here. Washington D.C. is a wonderful city. I should know. I’ve lived here all my life.”
I smiled. “I’ll take your word for it.”
I pulled my carry-on out of the overhead bin, which was my only luggage for the trip since I wasn’t staying long. I had a four-month-old child to get back to as soon as possible.
Why am I here again?
The newsstands on my way through the airport told me the reason. I couldn’t escape it no matter how much I tried not to look.
MEDIA TYCOON RICHARD WANTON OUT ON BAIL: I DIDN’T KILL HER
MURDERER WANTON A FREE MAN
WANTON: I’M INNOCENT
I closed my eyes briefly, then shook my head, rushing past the headlines, wondering what kind of idiot judge sets a one-million-dollar bail for a guy like Richard Wanton. It was peanuts for a powerful guy like him, and, of course, he’d be able to post it.
The trial was set for May fifth, three weeks from now.
I walked out into the arrival hall and saw FBI Director Isabella Horne standing there, holding a sign with my name.
That made me laugh.
“You thought I wouldn’t recognize you?” I asked as I approached her and gave her a big warm hug. “We worked together for ten years at the bureau?”
She looked down at her sign, then shrugged. “It was meant as a joke. Guess it wasn’t very funny after all. How was your flight?”
I wrinkled my nose. “Bumpy and annoying. You know I hate to fly. It better be worth it. Dragging me away from my family at a time like this isn’t exactly popular, just so you know it.”
Isabella nodded. “It’s important. You know I wouldn’t have made you come if it weren’t.”
“I just don’t understand why you couldn’t tell me why you needed me on the phone?”
Isabella sighed, then placed a hand on my shoulder and pushed me to move forward. “All in due time. All in due time, Eva Rae.”
“The interns usually sit in the middle over there, by the round table.”
“Right there in the center? Where everyone can look at us?”
Samantha stared at the huge newsroom. It was her first day at WBC News, the place she had always
dreamed of working as a child. She had only been there for about an hour and already met two of her favorite anchors and a war correspondent she admired. It was all a little overwhelming.
“Yes,” the assistant producer said. His name was Walter.
Samantha smiled and nodded shyly. They approached the round table in the center, and Walter pointed at a computer. “You can sit here. This is Jacob. He’s also an intern. He’s been with us for three months now. Jacob, this is Samantha.”
The young guy looked up from his screen and nodded. “Welcome.”
Walter left, and Samantha logged onto the computer with the login they had given her, using her initials as username and then a password she created herself.
She leaned back in the chair as two journalists rushed by, coffee cups clutched between their hands. She recognized their faces from TV and felt a pinch in her stomach. Some of these people had been there for ages and were big names in the business. Sam could only aspire to be half of what they had made of themselves. Yet, she had big dreams for herself. She was going to be the next Barbara Walters or even Oprah with her own network. She wanted to be the biggest, but the road was so long and windy, and not many made it far. Yet her parents had always taught her it was important to dream big.
“You’re better off dreaming of getting the world and getting half than dreaming of nothing and getting it all,” her dad would always say.
“So, is it always this quiet here?” Samantha asked, looking at Jacob.
He didn’t look at her. “What’s that? Quiet? Yeah, sure, I guess so. Everyone is out on assignment. The closer we get to broadcast, the tenser it’ll get. You’ll see.”
Sam turned her head and spotted the studio at the end of the room. The lamps were shut off and made the desk look way smaller than on TV. Sam couldn’t believe that, in a few hours, she’d be sitting inside the newsroom while they aired the news from over there.
It was almost too much to take in at once.
Samantha grabbed her phone and texted her best friend, Natasha, whom she had known since Kindergarten. She had been the one to keep pushing her to reach for her dreams through the many times Sam was about to give up. As a person with dyslexia, school had been hard on Sam, and becoming a journalist was far from the natural choice. But if anyone could do it, it would be Sam. That’s what Natasha had always said.
I AM SITTING IN THE NEWSROOM NOW. CAN LITERALLY SEE THE NEWS DESK FROM TV. CAN’T WAIT TO TELL YOU EVERYTHING
She put the phone down and looked at the screen. Today was all about getting acquainted with the new workplace. She had been on a course to learn their newsroom computer system and already knew her way around it, the shortcuts, and so on. Now, she logged into it and looked at tonight’s rundown, the stories they were going to bring at the five o’clock news. It felt exhilarating to scroll through it—like she had access to the holiest of holies. She could see that one of the star reporters was doing a story about a leadership crisis at the University of Maryland and within D.C.’s Catholic Archdiocese after claims of abuse. At the same time, another name that she recognized was on the story of the brutal and senseless slaying of a ten-year-old boy on his way home from school.
It was insane to be able to look at this and know that in a few hours, it would all be on everyone’s TV.
Sam smiled secretively while scrolling through all the stories, feeling her heart beat faster in excitement. Then she lifted her gaze, and her eyes met with those of a man who was standing at the other end of the newsroom, where he had just entered. He was flanked by several other men in suits and blue shirts, talking to him, but he didn’t seem to be listening. He was staring at Samantha, and as their eyes locked, she felt a pinch in her stomach, then lowered her eyes shyly.
It was Richard Wanton. The Richard Wanton. CEO of the news department. And he was looking at her.
Is he still looking?
Cautiously, Sam lifted her gaze once again to see, and as she did, her eyes met his again, and now he smiled, blissfully, like he found her amusing or even charming. She wanted to lower her eyes again when he suddenly began to move.
Oh, dear God, he’s coming over here!
She watched him slide toward her while his entourage followed closely behind him, clearly frustrated that he wasn’t listening to them anymore.
“And who do we have here?” he asked and stopped by her desk.
Sam could barely breathe. She had read about Wanton in the newspapers and seen his picture a million times in magazines, but now he was standing right in front of her, looking down at her, smiling, asking her who she was.
Was this guy for real?
Wanton tilted his head, waiting for an answer. Sam rose to her feet. She was fiddling with her hands. She could barely find the words to say since she really wanted to impress him. Somehow, she managed to stutter:
“I…I’m Samantha Durkin. I…I’m a new intern. It’s actually my first day here.”
That made him laugh. Sam didn’t quite understand what was so funny, but his entourage laughed along with him.
“Okay, Miss Durkin. Welcome. We are pleased to have you.”
He nodded again and sent her one last smile, then turned around on his heel and left, his people following him, trying to keep up with him. Samantha felt her heart knock against her ribcage and could barely breathe as she watched him walk away.
“I can’t believe that just happened,” she said as she finally managed to sit down again. “I can’t believe that was Richard Wanton. He’s a lot more handsome in real life.”
Jacob barely lifted his head from his computer.
“Wow,” Sam said, blushing. “I think I need to call my friend and tell her. She’s never going to believe that I actually met Richard Wanton.”
Sam grabbed her phone and left the desk with it pressed against her ear.
“Nat. You’ll never guess what just happened.”
There was a light knock on the door, and a head poked inside Isabella’s office. I had thrown my weekend bag in the corner and sat in a chair, waiting for her to reveal to me what was so darn important that I had to come all this way.
“I thought I heard rumors you were in town,” the voice said.
I turned to look up and spotted my old colleague, Timmy Gardner. I smiled widely and got up to hug him. He held me tight and lifted me slightly off my feet. Timmy was a big guy, six feet four and packing two hundred and fifty pounds, and next to him, I felt small for once.
“How the heck have you been?” he asked, grinning. “It’s been forever.”
“Yeah, I heard about the divorce and that Chad passed away,” he said. “I am so sorry for your loss.”
I nodded. “Thank you. How’s Virginia?”
“Just fine and dandy. We decided to separate last year during Covid lockdown. She still lives in the house with the kids while I got a small place downtown.”
I placed a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
He shrugged. “What can you do? We had grown apart and being together full-time during the lockdown reminded us of that. It was probably for the best.”
“It still hurts.”
He nodded. “Yeah, well…has Isabella given you the details?”
Isabella shook her head. “Not yet. I was just getting to it.”
I gave him a look. “You’re on this case?”
He nodded, smiling. “Yup. But I’ll let Isabella fill you in. I’ll come back later. I just couldn’t wait to say hi.”
That made me smile. Timmy was such pleasant company; I was almost looking forward to working with him again. Only almost because I wasn’t quite sure what this was all about. Isabella was being so secretive; it made me slightly nervous. There was something she was hiding, or at least hesitant to tell me. The question wasn’t as much what it was, but why.
“I’ll meet you in the interrogation room,” Timmy said. “As soon as you’re
“Is the subject ready?” Isabella asked.
He nodded, and they exchanged a look. Timmy’s eyes grew serious.
“You haven’t told her?”
“As I said, I was just about to when you came in.”
My heart started to pound. “Tell me what?”
I stared at Isabella, whose eyes avoided mine. Timmy gave her a look.
“She’s gonna find out at some point,” he said. “Just say it, for crying out loud.”
“Tell me what? This is getting very old. Isabella?”
She nodded, then finally looked up and met my eyes. “Maybe it’s best if you see for yourself.”
Isabella rose to her feet, grabbing the file and putting it under her arm. “You better come with me.”
I followed her out the door and down the hallway of my old workplace, beginning to feel annoyed with her.
“Why do I have a feeling I am about to regret ever coming here?”
Rachel McBeal stared at the TV in her kitchen, barely breathing. The sound was muted, but it still had her full attention. On the screen was the face of a man who had kept her awake the past few nights. Beneath his handsome smile, it read:
RICHARD WANTON LEAVING PRISON TODAY
Rachel stared at those piercing blue eyes on the screen until they cut to a live feed. A female reporter was standing in front of the courthouse downtown, her colored lips, which had recently been filled, moved weirdly as she spoke and pointed at the building behind her, just as someone walked out. The reporter now rushed toward the entrance, holding out the microphone just as Richard Wanton walked outside, flanked by men in suits. He covered his head with his jacket, and the cameras flashed, and reporters crowded him, only held back by the police officers protecting him.