Careful little eyes: An addictive, horrifying serial killer thriller (7th Street Crew Book 4), Page 2Willow Rose
She starts up the car and looks at him. She looks tired, he thinks. It’s like the past three months of Salter being gone have aged her ten years. Gray hairs are growing in at her roots and it is getting obvious she hasn’t cared to dye her hair for a long time. She has also gained a lot of weight and it saddens him to see.
Joey looks at himself in the side view mirror as she drives out on A1A and Downtown Cocoa Beach disappears in it.
Who am I to talk? I look like an old man too, he thinks, then looks away from his own reflection.
“So, how long is the drive?” he asks.
“Eleven hours. We’re trying to make it with no stops on the way,” Mary says, her eyes fixated on the road ahead of her.
“No stops at all?” Joey shrieks.
“Of course we’ll stop for bathroom breaks and eating,” she says, irritated. “I’m not a monster.”
“I didn’t say you were,” he says with a sigh.
They have always fought a lot, but the past three months have been worse than ever. Even worse than when she discovered his affair with Kelly from the coffeehouse back in New York. It is like they can’t even communicate anymore. Not even over the smallest things or the biggest, like their son, Salter, being kidnapped.
“Well, it sure sounded like it,” she says.
“Wow. Less than three minutes on the road and we’re already fighting. That must be a new record,” he says.
“Well, it would help if you didn’t always think of me as this horrible person out to destroy your life,” she says.
“I still don’t understand why we didn’t just fly there?” he asks.
She growls. She has done that a lot lately too. He can’t blame her for being upset and anxious. He is too, but he wishes she wouldn’t always take it out on him. After all, he is frustrated too. It is also his son who has been kidnapped for the past three months. By her brother, by the way. She should be the one who is humble and sorry. Joey shakes his head. He doesn’t really mean that, but sometimes it helps to blame someone. It takes the edge off of everything.
“Because I thought it would be better to drive,” she says. “That way we can follow him anywhere in case it is necessary.”
“Not if he is flying.”
“Well, he’s not, is he?”
“How on earth do you know that?”
“First of all, he is wanted all over the country; second, he sent me that picture of him on the bike, Salter sitting on the back, remember?”
“So what? He could have ditched it.”
“…Third of all, he doesn’t have any ID for Salter. There is no way he can fly with him.”
Joey grumbles and leans back in the seat. He knows she is right. He just feels so uncomfortable having to spend eleven hours with her, his ex, in an SUV, on the road, and he worries they’ll be fighting all the way.
“Besides, I like driving,” she says.
“Then maybe you should learn how to,” he mumbles, as she barely misses a car in front of them. It is no secret that Mary isn’t the best driver on the planet. At least not to Joey.
“What was that?” she asks angrily.
“Nothing,” he says, as his shoulders come down again. He is trying to avoid another fight. “Nothing at all.”
I step on the accelerator as we hit 528. I go a little above the allowed speed limit, but not too much. I know Joey doesn’t like my driving and I don’t want to freak him out. At the same time, I want to get to New Orleans as fast as possible. I am going to get my son. Finally, after three months of desperate searching, we have found a trace of Blake and him. Finally.
It has been the longest three months of my life. I can’t believe a man and a boy can be that hard to find in this day and age, but apparently they can be. I have no idea where they have been so far, or how they have managed to stay under the radar, but finally yesterday Blake screwed up. Chloe found Blake’s picture on a surveillance camera outside a bank in New Orleans that she hacked into. She and a team of people online, who live all over the U.S., have been tracking the surveillance cameras using some sort of face recognition tracking software that I don’t know how works. And finally there was a match. Chloe came running to my house this morning, her laptop in her hand, panting heavily because she is not at all well enough to be running yet. As she stepped into my dad’s house, she said those three wonderful words I will never forget for the rest of my life.
“We got them.”
I decided to bring Joey with me, even though we fight constantly. He is, after all, Salter’s dad, and I don’t want to do this alone. Chloe will be following us from home and trying to keep track of everything from her computer. We haven’t involved the police. Why? Well, after three months of being dragged through the bureaucracy and all their crap, we don’t believe they’ll be able to move fast enough. For all we know, Blake might be on his way somewhere else and we’ll lose them both if we wait too long. We can’t wait for warrants and whatever other kinds of paperwork they would need to go through. We need to move now. You might say we don’t really trust the police to not screw this up. And, yes, maybe we want to face him personally. I know I do. I want to kill him for what he has done to Sandra and to us. Well, maybe just hurt him. A lot. He is, after all, my baby brother and I feel very responsible for everything he has done. Once I have Salter and have had my way with my brother, the police can have him. If there is anything left.
Thinking about Blake and Salter makes me feel hungry and I look at Joey next to me. “Could you grab my purse from the back seat? There’s a package of Oreos in it and I am starving.”
He gives me a look. “Are you sure you should?”
“What the heck is that supposed to mean?” I growl. I know exactly what it means and it infuriates me because I know he is right. I have gained weight. A lot. I just don’t like to be reminded of it.
“Nothing. I just…” He turns to grab the purse, then hesitates. “You just have to…I mean, you have to be careful not to…I know it’s hard; it is for me too, but eating won’t make it go away, Mary.”
“Just give me the damn cookies,” I growl. “I’ll diet once I have Salter back. Right now I need comfort, all right? What I don’t need is you condescending to me or condemning me. You’re not too perfect yourself.”
Joey shakes his head, then pulls the purse up. He grabs the package of Oreos and hands them to me. I take a handful and start to eat, a knot building in my stomach, tears shaping in my eyes. I press them back while stuffing my mouth. Joey is about to put them back, when I stop him.
“No. Leave the pack out. Put it on the dashboard.”
Joey looks at me with a deep exhale. “Are you…don’t you think…”
I cut him off. “Now is not the time for a lecture. Now is so not the time for that.”
“So, how do you like it?”
Robyn Bovard looks at her husband and can’t hide her excitement. “How do I like it? I love it? I absolutely love this house.”
John smiles too. They’re standing in the empty hall of the colonial style house. Robyn has always dreamt of living in one of these houses with their iron-wrapped balconies and porches and the big trees in the yard. When John said they were going to move to New Orleans, she had told him that was all right with her as long as she got to live in one of those houses.
John puts a hand on her stomach. She is showing now and dresses to make sure everyone can see. “You think he will like it too?”
“He…or she…will love it here. Did you see the big magnolia tree in the back yard? Oh, and all the Spanish Moss falling from everywhere, making it a little spooky, but also cozy, don’t you think? I can just imagine a little tree house up on one of those thick branches. It’s perfect, John. It’s simply perfect.
They walk outside to the realtor who is waiting for them on the front porch. “The only issue is the condos across the street from here,” she say
She points at a small complex with about eight or nine small condos. It’s a two-story building. In the yard in front of it are old rusty cars parked along with bikes and several loose dogs are running around. Trash bins are overflowing and someone is sitting in a chair outside his condo, smoking a cigarette, and drinking a beer.
“They’ve tried to get the owner to sell, but he refuses to. The owner keeps the rent low and doesn’t background check, so there are all types living over there. It’s an eyesore in such a nice neighborhood,” she says. “But, on the other hand, it also keeps the prices low on the houses around it, so that speaks in your favor.”
“There is no way we could afford a house like this otherwise,” John says, an arm over his wife’s shoulder.
Robyn looks at the condos across the street. “I don’t care,” she says. “They’re just unfortunate people trying to get by in life.”
“My wife always has a heart for the unfortunate,” John says. “If I didn’t stop her, she would give everything we have to the poor.” He laughs at his own remark and the realtor laughs along with him.
“So you’re ready to put in an offer?” the realtor says.
John looks at Robyn. They smile again. Robyn can’t stop. Finally, at the age of thirty-nine, she is getting everything she ever wanted. They have tried for eight years to get pregnant, and when it finally happened, John also got his dream job, and now this house on top of it?
It feels like God is finally trying to make up for all the years lost in devastation, of failed pregnancy tests, fertility treatment, and so many endless nights crying, worrying if it would ever happen.
No, Robyn can’t stop smiling and she doesn’t plan on doing so for a very long time. Now it is her time to shine. For years all of her friends have given birth to these beautiful babies, even her own sister had three children before she did. It almost cost her her marriage.
“I think we are,” John says and removes a lock of hair from Robyn’s forehead.
She looks into his eyes and remembers the way he looked at her when they were married ten years ago. It is so wonderful to finally have him look at her the same way again.
Why would you make a remark about her eating? Why? You know how sensitive she is about that subject. You know she gets hurt. And then she eats even more. Idiot. You big stupid moron.
Joey looks at Mary as she gulps down another cookie. She hasn’t said a word for more than an hour. All she has been doing is driving and eating while sniffling. He knows she is struggling to hold back her tears. His stupid remark hurt her, when all he wanted was to…well what was it really? To make her feel bad about herself? No. But that was how it came out. He is just really worried about her.
“So…how’s Peter doing?” he asks, trying to break the wall of ice that has grown between them.
“Better,” she says.
“I can’t believe he regained so much feeling in his body. I didn’t even know that was possible.”
“Seventy-five percent,” she says, finally smiling.
Her dad’s recent progress is the one thing that can get her to smile. “Seventy-five percent of his body is working normally now,” she continues proudly. “He is even walking, still with crutches, but he is getting there. Now he has to rebuild his muscles, but they have very good confidence in that. He says his goal is to be walking crutch-free by Christmas. He wants to be Santa this year. You know, for Salter…”
Mary stops when she mentions their son’s name. It leaves Joey with a lump in his throat too. He misses him so bad it literally hurts just thinking about him. Joey wonders if Mary is thinking the same thing he is.
Will Salter be back with us by then? Will we be able to celebrate Christmas with him?
Joey shakes the thought. For the first time in many months, there is actually hope. He wants to grab on to that and hold it for a very long time.
“I’m glad that his physiotherapist could take care of him on such short notice,” Joey says.
“Jack is a trooper,” Mary says. “He has believed in Dad from the beginning. Even when I had given up hope that he would ever walk again, Jack always thought he could. It’s amazing.”
“I am happy for him. I always loved your dad.”
Mary scoffs. “No, you didn’t.”
Joey looks at her. Knowing she is right, he still says, “Yes. Yes, I did. He’s a great guy.”
“You hated the man when we first married. He always tried to talk me out of marrying you. Guess I should have listened.”
“That’s a rough thing to say,” Joey says.
“Yeah, well you haven’t exactly been the ideal husband, now have you?” she says while passing a car.
“And you were the perfect wife, huh? Always gone, Mary. You were never home. I was left to take care of Salter all alone.”
“So what? Tons of women do the same and they don’t go out and have affairs just because they feel a little lonely.”
Joey sighs and looks out the window. “Some do. Sandra is having one right now.”
“Yeah, okay, well…but she’s also…that is still no excuse…please just stop talking about this. I can’t let myself get all worked up about this stupid old fight again. Right now I need to focus on Salter and finding him.”
“And on the road…WATCH OUT!” Joey screams as she almost runs into a car trying to pass her. Mary pulls the car back in her lane. Joey is panting.
“See, that’s what I like about Tom, about being with Tom,” she says. “We never fight. He never comments on my weight and, oh…he never cheats on me!”
“Well, that’s what I like about being with Jackie too,” Joey grunts, his heart calming down again. “That and her great ass.”
Mary rolls her eyes at him. He doesn’t see it, but he knows.
“Just sit quietly and be pretty the rest of the way, will you?” she says.
I am boiling in anger when we stop for gas. We have reached Gainesville, almost three hours from Cocoa Beach. New Orleans is still many hours away. It is early afternoon and I am determined to keep driving into the night, if we have to.
“Could you put gas in the car while I go inside?” I ask and grab my purse. I take the empty Oreo package and get out. Joey hasn’t said anything for a very long time. I hate how we can’t talk to each other anymore, but I can’t deal with it right now. I don’t know how to make it better. Everything he says and does irritates me or hurts me. His words hurt me so much, even though I know he is just worried about me.
Inside the station, I use the restroom before I walk to the fridge and grab a Coke. I almost close the door, when I decide to take two so Joey has one as well. I grab a couple of water bottles, a couple of bags of chips and two-foot long sandwiches. I pay for everything, then walk back to the car and load it all in the back seat. Joey is done and already sitting inside. He looks at all the food. I ignore him.
“It’s not just for me,” I say and slam the door when I get in. “I bought some for you too.”
He doesn’t seem to know whether to smile or not. “That’s very nice of you.”
I start the car and grab my sandwich from the back and unwrap it. Joey grabs the two Cokes, opens one, and hands it to me. I take it and put it in the cup holder while he starts on his sandwich as well. The GPS tells me we still have eight hours to go. I know it will be evening and maybe later if there is a lot of traffic before we get there, but I am determined to look for Salter first thing. There is no way I can be in the same town as him and not try to find him right away. Not after all this time.
“All right. Let’s get back on the road again,” I say, sandwich in my hand, the other hand on the wheel as I drive back out on the highway and get up to speed.
“About what I said earlier,” Joey says. “I’m sorry if I hurt you.”
“Which time?” I ask, chewing.
“Well, all of it, but I wanted to let you
know that I always thought you had a nice ass too. Still do.”
I laugh. I know he is lying. He might used to like it, but it’s grown too big lately. But I appreciate the effort. “Well, don’t get any ideas. This thing is reserved for someone else now. You had your chance.”
He doesn’t laugh. He looks out the window while the vast landscape rushes by. I wonder why he goes quiet.
“So, this thing with Tom, is that getting serious?” he asks.
“You might say so. Is it getting serious with Jackie?”
“Maybe,” he says with a shrug. “I mean, we live together. That’s kind of serious, right?”
I chuckle. “Sure sounds serious to me.”
“I just…the past three months have been rough. I don’t…I’m not sure she fully understands how hard it is on me. I might have been a little uncomfortable for her to live with.”
“Uncomfortable? You mean you have been unreasonable and obnoxious, irritated and angry?”
He laughs. I don’t think he thinks it’s funny, but I have a feeling he thinks it’s more like spot on. “That’s one way to put it.”
“I should know,” I say and look at him quickly. Our eyes meet. “I have been exactly the same. I don’t think it has been a lot of fun for Tom, I’ll tell you that much.”
“What are you crying for, you little wimp? Boohoo, boohoo!”
Blake makes faces at the boy. He is getting fed up with all the sobbing. Why can’t he just enjoy this time hanging out with his favorite—and very cool—uncle? It’s been three months and still the boy is constantly moping around.
“Look at all this. Isn’t it great?” Blake throws his arms out to make the boy look at the huge double suite that he has rented for them for the next week. “I paid so much money for this place you have no idea. You better enjoy it. Now, how about we order some room service, then head for the pool afterwards, huh?”