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Jack Ryder Mystery Series: Vol 4-6

Willow Rose

  Jack Ryder Mystery Series: Vol 4-6

  Willow Rose




  Black Jack

  Girl Next Door

  Her Final Word


  Books by the Author

  About the Author

  What Hurts the Most

  Order your copy today!

  Copyright Willow Rose 2019

  Published by BUOY MEDIA LLC

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission from the author.

  This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead is purely coincidental. The Author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.

  Cover design by Jan Sigetty Boeje

  Special thanks to my editor Janell Parque

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  Black Jack

  Jack Ryder #4

  Important message from the Author to Kindle Unlimited readers

  Before you begin…Are you reading this book in Page Flip mode? If you do, I won't be paid. The way things are right now in Kindle Unlimited, Amazon pays the author per pages read, so every time you flip a page, I will get a small amount of money. But not if the Page Flip mode is turned on.

  So could I ask you to please turn it off, or just don’t use it while reading my books? Then I can continue to write the books that you love so much.

  Thank you for your support.



  BLACK JACK: A card game in which the player attempts to approach twenty-one, but not exceed it.

  August 2010

  Having a baby was by far the greatest thing to have happened to Susan Murray. She knew it would be, since they all said so, literally everyone who touched her stomach told her that it was the biggest thing she was ever going to experience in life.

  And she believed them.

  But they hadn’t told her the entire truth, had they? They hadn’t exactly told her how hard it was going to be, nor had they mentioned the many endless sleepless nights. Well, that’s not exactly true, her friend Marley had said she would lose sleep, but she had added that it would be totally worth it.

  She hadn’t mentioned the fact that Susan was going to constantly feel like she’d been run over by a dump truck. Nor had she mentioned that she and her husband, Bob, were going to be yelling at each other in the middle of the night because she simply couldn’t take being woken up, yet again, because the baby had to eat.

  And so far it had been only twenty-one days.

  Susan sighed and looked at her husband sitting across the table from her, while shoveling in granola and yogurt. In front of her lingered a bowl of cereal that she was way too exhausted to eat. She had Chandelle in her arms, as she was still breastfeeding and had been all morning.

  Doesn’t this baby ever take a break?

  Susan knew she was supposed to sleep whenever the baby did, but so far she had hardly slept at all. Not more than an hour here and there.

  “Try and eat something,” Bob said flatly, leftover milk in his beard. “You need the strength.”

  Susan grabbed the spoon in her one free hand and leaned over to eat. But as she did, the baby started to fuss.

  “She’s doing it again,” Susan said with a deep sigh and dropped the spoon back in the bowl. She gazed, frustrated, at her husband, even though she knew he couldn’t do anything about it. “It’s like she can’t suck properly.”

  Bob sighed and looked at his watch. “Listen, babe, I have to get to work.”

  Of course he did. For the first time in their marriage, Susan was actually jealous of him. She used to be a teacher, but when she married Bob and became pregnant, he told her it was time to quit, that now she was becoming a mother and had to take care of their child.

  Susan had loved the idea. She wasn’t very fond of teaching. It hadn’t quite lived up to her expectations. Kids could be monsters from time to time.

  But right now she would take a day with her second-graders anytime over this. The thought of spending yet another day alone with this small baby, doing nothing but breastfeeding and changing diapers all day, was devastating. She missed leaving the house; she missed talking to her colleagues at the school.

  She even missed the kids.

  Bob got up from his chair, grabbed his car keys, and kissed Susan on the forehead. That was the most intimate they had been for weeks.

  “It’ll get better,” he whispered. “I know it’s hard right now, but that’s to be expected, right? Everyone goes through this, but they all say it’ll get better.”

  Susan nodded and closed her eyes while thinking easy for you to say, you don’t have to stay inside all day while someone is literally sucking the life right out of you.

  “I’m really proud of you,” he said before he closed the door behind him and left her alone once again.

  Chandelle fussed in her arms, struggling to get enough out of her breast. Susan hushed her and stroked her head gently.

  “There now. Just take it easy. It’ll get better.”

  And just as she said the words, Chandelle reached out and grabbed Susan’s finger in her hand and held on to it. The emotion rolling through Susan’s body was overwhelming, overpowering, and soon she found herself crying, sobbing in happiness, completely forgetting the sleepless hours and the loneliness. At least for a few seconds.

  Yes, having a baby surely was the greatest thing that had ever happened to Susan. And even though it was tough right now, she was going to long desperately to have this time back for many years to come.

  August 2010

  “I think something is wrong.”

  Susan held the phone close to her ear, her heart pounding in her chest, Chandelle in her arms, fussing and crying. Susan tried to swing her from side to side to calm her down, but it didn’t work.

  “You always say that,” Bob said from the other end.

  “No, this is different. Something is off with her. She’s burning up,” Susan said, flustered.

  “So, she has a fever? Well, that’s normal in babies. They have to get used to the environment outside the mother’s womb. Babies get sick and they can endure a much higher fever than adults.”

  Susan nodded quietly while her husband spoke. He was, after all, a doctor. He had his own practice close to where they lived in Savannah. He saw many worried mothers come in with their babies.

  “It’s probably just a virus,” he said. “There’s a lot of that going around these days. We’ll monitor it. She’ll probably snap out of it in no time.”

  “Okay,” Susan said.

  She hung up and took Chandelle to the living room, where she sat down and tried to breastfeed. But Chandelle suddenly wouldn’t eat.

  “That’s not normal,” Susan mumbled to the baby, who was
now crying louder than before. “You usually always eat, almost all day long. What’s wrong with you, baby girl, huh?”

  Susan tickled Chandelle on her stomach. When that only made her cry louder, she checked her diaper, but it wasn’t even wet.

  That’s odd. She hasn’t peed since last night.

  “It’s probably just a virus,” Susan repeated her husband’s words, while trying to calm the baby down.

  But nothing worked. Soon, Susan felt the frustration rise in her body and she started to walk around the house, swinging the baby in her arms, hushing her, but still nothing worked. She tried putting her down for a nap, thinking the virus and fever were probably making her exhausted and she probably needed a nap, but putting her down made Chandelle scream even louder.

  Susan let her stay in the bed for a few minutes, sneaking out of the room, thinking it would be easier for Chandelle to fall asleep if her mother wasn’t in the room, but after ten minutes of standing outside the door to the nursery listening to the baby scream her lungs out, Susan couldn’t take it anymore.

  She stormed inside and grabbed Chandelle in her arms and held her close. The baby suddenly stopped crying.

  Susan took in a deep breath.

  Finally. Finally.

  But the joy only lasted a few seconds before Susan realized there was a reason the baby had stopped crying.

  She had become unresponsive.

  The baby wasn’t looking at her at all. She wasn’t crying, she wasn’t babbling, she was hardly breathing. But she was burning hot. Susan let out a small shriek.


  Oh, my God, oh, my God!

  August 2010

  Bob was held up at his practice and arrived at the hospital an hour after Susan and Chandelle did. He rushed into the room where Susan was sitting, holding her baby’s small lifeless hand. As her eyes met his, Susan stood up.

  “What did they say?” he asked.

  “She has an infection. Apparently, she swallowed fluid during delivery and that caused it,” Susan said. “She had a one-hundred-and-four-degree temperature when we got here. They hooked her up to antibiotics.”

  Bob breathed a sigh of relief. “Good gracious.”

  “We barely made it,” she said between sobs. She had been holding her tears in for so long now, there was no holding them back anymore.

  Bob grabbed her in his arms and hugged her. “Hey. Take it easy. She’s going to be all right. The antibiotics will help, and before you know it she’ll be back home with us again.”

  “I just can’t…I was so scared, Robert. I was terrified.”

  Susan only called her husband by his birth name when she was troubled or if he had done something she didn’t approve of or hurt her somehow. Otherwise, it was always Bob, or Bobby, or Babe. She did it because she wanted him to know she blamed him a little for this happening. Because he didn’t react when she asked him to in the first place. Because it could have gone really wrong if she hadn’t walked back into the room and picked Chandelle up when she did. What if she had waited a few more minutes outside the door? What if Chandelle had gone quiet like she did and Susan had believed she had simply fallen asleep? Then what? Just because he kept telling her it was a virus, a simple virus that she would beat in no time.

  “I know, I know,” he said. “But it’s all over now. She’s in the best hands here. I know the pediatrician, and he is excellent. She’s getting the treatment she needs and she’ll be better in no time.”

  Susan couldn’t help feeling angry with him. How could he be so casual about all this? Didn’t he realize their baby almost died?

  “Look at me,” he said and grabbed her by the shoulders.

  Reluctantly, she obeyed.

  “Chandelle will be just fine. I made a mistake. I’m sorry; it won’t happen again. From now on, I will take you seriously every time you fuss, all right? Could we focus on our baby now and the fact that she’s still here?”

  Susan’s sobs subsided. She looked into the eyes of her beloved husband, who had known her since they were both in high school. “You’re right,” she said with a deep exhale.

  “Now, why don’t you and I go downstairs and get something to eat?” Bob said with a gentle smile.

  “I can’t,” she said.

  “You have to eat, Susan. You need your strength.”

  She sighed and looked at her baby. “But can we just leave her?”

  Bob chuckled. “Well, of course we can. All the nurses are here and the doctors too. She’s sleeping right now. She needs all the rest she can get. Plus, all these machines right here will go off if anything is out of the ordinary. She is in the safest place in the world.”

  Susan looked at her girl, who seemed so peaceful. Her small chest was heaving up and down as she breathed.

  “I still don’t feel like…”

  “How about you and me go down there and buy a couple of sandwiches, then come back and eat them here, huh? Would that do?”

  Susan nodded. “All right. I am kind of hungry.”

  August 2010

  She slept in the baby’s room. Bob went home to get enough sleep to be able to go to work the next day, since they knew Chandelle was going to be fine. It was hard to sleep in a chair, but, if she had learned anything these past twenty-two days, it was to get by without much sleep. She kept waking up with a start, looking at the baby, then realizing that Chandelle was still fine before she fell back asleep again.

  Every hour a nurse would come in and check on Chandelle. They tried to do so without waking up Susan, but not with much success.

  It wasn’t until they were changing shifts around two a.m. that Susan gave in to the pressing feeling of having to go to the bathroom. She only stayed in the bathroom for a few minutes. Once she was done, she opened the door to the room and looked at the crib with Chandelle in it, then at the instruments monitoring her progress. She looked at them for a few seconds before it sunk in.

  They are all turned off!

  Susan ran to the crib and looked inside. It was empty.

  Where’s my baby?

  Frantically, Susan looked around the room, as if expecting to find Chandelle on the floor or somewhere else, before she stormed out into the hallway. Hyperventilating desperately, she approached the nurses’ room. The door was locked, as usual, during changing shifts.

  Susan knocked. The panic made her hands shake.


  The door was opened and a nurse looked at her. She was about to get angry, but seeing the desperation on Susan’s face made her change her mind.

  “Did anyone take Chandelle?” Susan asked.

  “Excuse me?”

  “My baby,” she continued, finding it hard to say the words. “Chandelle Murray. She’s…she’s not in her crib. I thought maybe something happened, maybe you took her for some examination or something.”

  The nurse’s eyes stared at Susan, scrutinizing her. “I…I just got here. Let me just check with the others.”

  The door was closed in Susan’s face. The wait was unbearable. A million thoughts ran through her mind until it was opened again. The nurse shook her head. “No one in here knows anything about it. Are you sure she’s not in her crib?”

  Susan stared at the small woman. Was she kidding her?

  “You think I would make something like this up?” she asked.

  The nurse shook her head. “Of course not. But maybe you dreamt something. Let me come with you and check.”

  “I’m telling you she’s not there!” Susan cried after her, as the nurse took off towards Chandelle’s room.

  Oh, my God. They have no idea where my baby is!

  The nurse opened the door and trotted inside, Susan on her tail. “That’s odd,” she said, as she saw the empty crib and all the shut off instruments.

  “I was just in the bathroom. When I walked in there, she was still in the crib, sleeping. When I came out, she was gone!”

  “She was given antibiotics, right?” the nurse asked.
  “Yes,” Susan said, her hands sweating in anxiety.

  “Well, those are gone too,” the nurse said. “One of the other nurses must know something. A baby doesn’t just disappear from a hospital. Wait here a minute.”

  Part I

  HIT: To ask for another card.


  May 2016

  Oddly enough, no one noticed her. Not one single head on the streets of Savannah turned to look at the little girl as she strolled across the historic part of town. Tourists were everywhere, staring at the beautiful old houses, talking about the Spanish moss falling from every tree, telling each other the old scary stories about how the moss was filled with small critters, the chiggers, that would make you itch, or even crawl under your skin and spread all over your body. Or about frogs and snakes and spiders that liked to hide in it.

  “Spanish moss was given its name by French explorers,” a tour guide told a flock of tourists, as the girl walked unnoticed past them. “Native Americans told them the plant was called Itla-okla which meant “tree hair.” The French were reminded of the Spanish conquistadors’ long beards, so they called it Barbe Espagnol, or “Spanish Beard.” As time went by, Spanish Beard changed to Spanish moss.”