Harry Hunter Mystery Box SetWillow Rose
Harry Hunter Mystery Series
ALL THE GOOD GIRLS
“I don’t like it, Robert.”
Robert didn’t even look up from his laptop. It was late at night, and he was still working, as usual, even on a Friday night.
“I haven’t heard from her in hours,” Valentina said. “She hasn’t responded to any of my texts.”
Robert sighed and glared at her from behind the laptop. He was still every bit as handsome as he had been when they met twenty years ago at the annual Vizcaya Ball, which anyone who was anyone in Miami’s high society attended. She had been in her early twenties, and he had been ten years older. Still, it seemed like she was the one who looked the oldest these days. He kept himself in shape to a degree that Valentina often worried he might have other women on the side. Robert traveled a lot and was often gone for weeks at a time. Who knew what he did on those business trips?
“It’s a dance, Valentina. It’s prom. It’s a big deal around here, and it is to your daughter too. She won’t be keeping an eye on her phone all night, waiting for your texts. Frankly, I would be more concerned if she had answered.”
Robert always said stuff like that condescendingly like she wouldn’t understand because she wasn’t from around here. Because she was from Colombia…because she had come here when she was in her late teens and never attended an American high school. It was something in the way he said it that made her cringe like she wasn’t good enough because she wasn’t fully American and never would be.
“Well, she promised me she’d text me,” she said with a small snort. “And now it’s getting really late.”
“She’s seventeen; she knows how to handle herself.”
“I’m not so sure. Those kids at her school, I don’t trust them.”
That made Robert laugh. “You don’t trust anyone, Valentina. It’s in your nature.”
And there it was again. Always making sure she knew she was different from him. It was something that had grown in their marriage over the years, coming between them…a disdain toward her. Valentina found it to be odd. Living in Key Biscayne, they were surrounded by people from South America…wealthy people who had nannies and drove expensive cars but spoke Spanish. Living there, Robert felt surrounded, invaded almost, and slowly, he had begun to fight to conserve his sense of being a white American. It was important that his daughter knew she was American, he would suddenly say, and he wouldn’t have her speak any Spanish, so Valentina had to teach her when he wasn’t at home.
“Well, I don’t,” she said, lifting her nose toward the ceiling in contempt. “They have never been good to Lucy.”
Valentina grimaced when saying the name. It was something they had discussed endlessly when she had become pregnant…what to name their daughter. Valentina wanted to name her a Colombian name; she wanted her to know where she came from, whereas Robert believed she needed to be as American as possible. In the end, Valentina had put her foot down and said she was naming her Luciana after her great-grandmother, and Robert had given in. But over the years, Luciana had become Lucy, and influenced by her father, their daughter insisted that everyone call her that.
Valentina looked at her Rolex, then felt a pinch of deep worry in the pit of her stomach.
“It’s eleven-thirty now, and we still haven’t heard anything,” she said with a slight whimper. “The prom ended at eleven. She was supposed to text us to pick her up.”
“They’re probably just hanging out after the party,” he said, calming her down, or at least attempting to. “You need to relax.”
Valentina stared at her phone, checking if there was a signal, then put it down just as the screen lit up. Relief washed over her as she saw her daughter’s name on the display. She opened the text.
“They’re going to the beach to make a bonfire,” she said with light laughter. “She’s asking if it’ll be okay that she stays out a little later. Guess I won’t be going to sleep anytime soon, then.”
“Well, there you go,” Robert said. “Your daughter is just having a good time for once. High school has not been easy for her, but now she finally seems to be enjoying herself. Don’t ruin it with all your worry, please.”
Valentina stared at the clock on the wall. It was past two o’clock now, and still, there was no news from her daughter. She was getting tired now and wanted to go to bed soon. Robert had turned in, and Valentina had also been dozing off on the couch, waiting to hear from Lucy.
She looked at her phone again, wondering if she should call her and tell her it was time to come home. It wasn’t like Lucy to stay out all night like this, and by now, Valentina feared the girl might have been persuaded to drink alcohol or do something worse. Lucy was a good girl and had stayed away from all that stuff, so Valentina didn’t understand why she’d start now. She usually wasn’t interested in partying, and it had actually taken some effort to persuade her even to go to this dance. Valentina had bought her a beautiful lavender dress, but still, the girl had told her she didn’t want to go. But then some weeks ago, she had come home and suddenly told Valentina that she had changed her mind…that some kids from the school had asked if she was going and had been friendly toward her. There was also a boy, she had admitted, who had told her he thought she was cute. Valentina had thought it was wonderful and hoped that things were finally shaping up for her like her mother had wanted for so many years. They had gone through so much bullying and so many bad times with no friends in school that Valentina had thought this was an answer to her prayers.
But she hadn’t expected her daughter to stay out so late.
Now, she didn’t know what to do. She did know, however, that two o’clock was way too late, and it was time to put a stop to it. She walked up the stairs to her bedroom and woke Robert.
“She hasn’t texted yet. I fell asleep, but now I think we need to get her home. It’s two o’clock,” she said.
Robert sat up in bed and cleared his throat. “Really? That is too late. Call her and tell her I’m on my way.”
Robert rose to his feet and found his jeans, then put them on. Valentina was about to call Lucy when Robert’s phone on his nightstand rang. They shared a brief look; then, he grabbed it.
“It’s her,” he said. “It’s Lucy.”
Valentina breathed, relieved. But the feeling was soon replaced by anger over her daughter’s reckless behavior. Lucy knew this was way too late. She was being very irresponsible.
Robert picked up the phone and held it against his ear. A voice could be heard on the other end and was yelling loudly, so Valentina could hear it vividly even if she couldn’t make out what was being said. But she did realize the voice didn’t belong to her daughter.
Robert’s smile froze, and his eyes became steel gray.
“Who is this? WHO is this?”
Robert looked at the display as the connection was lost.
“Who was that?” Valentina asked fearfully. “What did they say? Robert?”
But Robert was unreachable at this point. His nostrils were flaring, his eyes ablaze with anger.
“Robert? Who was that?”
He grabbed his shirt and put it on while running into the hallway and down the stairs without uttering a single word to his wife.
“Robert?” she called after him, but he just continued, rushing out the front door, which slammed shut behind him.
ONE YEAR LATER
“Hey, you! Yes, you, I’m talking to you!”
approached the guy in the alley. I couldn’t see his face or the young girl’s face enough to see their eyes or their features, but I didn’t have to.
I knew exactly what was happening.
“This girl is no more than a teenager, and you’re selling crack to her?” I said. “What kind of a monster does that?”
The lanky guy stared at me in the darkness. The girl saw the chance to take off and ran out of the alley and into the street. I knew she would probably just run around the corner and find another creep who would sell her whatever she was craving, whatever they had her hooked on. I knew I couldn’t save her, but I was doing my part to try and clean out the availability.
“W-what the…?” the guy said. His hand slid back inside his hoodie with the small white rock in it. He puffed himself up in front of me.
I stared down at him. It was one of the advantages of being six-foot-eight. Not many felt superior to you, especially not lowlife drug dealers in Overtown Miami. The guy was about to pull out a weapon; I saw the movement of his hand behind his back, where he probably kept it in the waistband of his jeans. It was most likely a knife since most of these Haitian dealers in this part of town couldn’t afford a gun. They were also often searched by the cops patrolling the streets and finding a gun on their body would be excuse enough to shoot them.
We all knew the drill around here.
As his hand moved toward the knife behind his back, I moved my arm just enough for my zip-up hoodie to open up so he could see the gun in my holster inside of it. The sight made him let go of the knife. It also made him realize I was a cop if he hadn’t already.
“Hand over the goodies,” I said. “I’m confiscating them. You’re not selling to any more young girls; do you hear me?”
“No way,” the guy said with a sniffle, then wiped his nose. He was edgy, and his hand was shaking. It would soon be time for him to have his next fix. He had to sell to other poor souls in order to keep up with his own demand. It was the circle of life around these parts. And it was a never-ending story.
“That girl is someone’s daughter; do you know that?” I asked and reached for his hoodie. I grabbed him by the collar and pulled him upward, closer to my face. “Did you get her hooked, huh? Did you introduce her to crack, giving her the first ride for free, so she’d become a lifelong customer, huh? Don’t look at me like that; I know your type. Scum of the earth.”
I reached into his pocket and pulled the rock out, still holding him by the collar with the other hand.
“Hey, that’s mine!” he yelled.
“Not anymore,” I said and put him down.
As I did, he took a swing at me. I wasn’t expecting it, and it took me by surprise. His fist slammed into my right eye with such force that I fell backward. The little kid was a lot stronger than I had given him credit for. I roared in pain while the kid jolted forward, trying to get away.
Another awesome part about being this tall, by the way, is that I have very long arms. So, as the kid leaped forward, thinking he’d be able to get away, I simply reached out my right arm and grabbed him by the hoodie, then pulled him backward. His legs were in the air as I pulled him back and threw him down on the pavement with a thud. I then leaned over him and placed my massive fist on his nose, breaking the bone. Blood gushed from it, and he looked at me, confused. I gave him another blow to his face, then reached into his jeans pocket and found another rock that I took before letting him go.
“Might be a chance for you to try something new, make a career move,” I said as I let him go. Above me, the warm Florida night was threatening to end in a storm, and I heard thunder in the distance.
“Hey,” the kid yelled after me as I walked away. “You can’t do this to me.”
“I can’t?” I said when I reached the end of the alley. “I think I just did.”
“It’s police brutality!”
That made me laugh out loud as I walked away with both rocks.
“Yeah? Well, good thing I’m off-duty tonight.”
The Serenity followed the current with its prow facing the open sea, pushed by a gentle landward breeze. They had turned off the engine and lowered the anchor just outside of the marina. Behind them glittered the Miami lights in the dark night, and they could no longer see the yacht club.
The four girls listened to the music the waves made when gently kissing the sides of the boat. It was so quiet out there in the open ocean, one of them, Sandra, thought to herself. She, for one, had longed for such peace of mind for a long time. Her friend, Katelyn, was drinking a soda.
“Should we be heading back?” Georgiana said. It was her father’s boat they had borrowed, and she was always so worried her dad would get mad at her. They had told him they were going fishing, even though they had no idea how.
“It’s getting late.”
“No,” the fourth girl, Martina, said with a light laugh. “We’re eighteen now. We can do as we please. Our parents don’t get to boss us around anymore. I wanna stay out a little longer, please?”
Katelyn watched Sandra finish her soda. Martina gave them a look. “I can’t believe we’ll be graduating in just a few months, can you?”
“I sure can believe it,” Katelyn said and lifted her soda. “I can’t wait to…”
Katelyn stopped talking when they all heard a noise coming from behind them. They turned simultaneously to look and spotted someone standing in the stern of the boat, wearing a black diver’s wetsuit.
“Who the heck is that?” Georgiana said and rose to her feet, pushing Martina away. “Hey, you! What are you doing on my boat?”
The person remained eerily still and just stood there like it was the most natural thing in the world. Sandra couldn’t see a face or make out if it was a man or a woman.
Could it be someone who’s lost? Sandra thought to herself for a brief second while Georgiana rushed toward the person. Maybe this person thought it was his own boat? Maybe he couldn’t find his way back in the darkness? Maybe he’s in some kind of trouble?
“You can’t just crawl on board my father’s boat,” Georgiana yelled as she almost reached the diver. Too late did she see the harpoon in his hands, not till it was fired and speared through her chest.
Sandra stopped breathing when she saw what happened. Shock rushed through her body in waves, and she found herself completely unable to move. Martina started to scream and instinctively rush toward Georgiana’s lifeless body, but as she did, the diver pulled out a knife. It cut through the air with a hiss, cutting into her skin. The blade penetrated her throat, splitting it open, and she too fell to the deck, landing right next to Georgiana.
Seeing this happen to her friends, Katelyn tried to make a run for it, but the diver had by then pulled out the spear from Georgiana’s heart, reloaded the gun, and fired it at her, hitting her in the leg. Katelyn screamed and fell while the diver rushed toward her. Sandra crawled up on the edge of the boat and looked into the dark water beneath. While the diver slit Katelyn’s throat, she made the decision.
She closed her eyes and plunged in.
As she landed in the water, she swam for the surface as fast as she could, then spotted the lights from the yacht club. Sandra screamed while trying to swim.
Then she heard the plunge coming from behind her, and panic set in as she realized the diver had jumped in after her. She swam for her life, screaming for help, desperately flapping the water, but feeling like she was going nowhere, like in those awful nightmares she always had where she ran and ran, but never moved. She lifted her head above the water and gasped for air when she felt something grab her. Arms reached up from the ocean beneath her and pulled her downward forcefully into the deep darkness below.
“You should have seen her; it was like that time when we told her she couldn’t start horseback riding because we couldn’t afford it. Do you remember that? Of course, you do. How could you forget? It almost broke your heart, having to say no to her. It was embarrassi
ng to her since Amelia, her best friend, got to go. That’s the only time I remember you being embarrassed by us not having much.”
I reached over and took Camille’s hand in mine. It was so delicate, and I was reminded of the day of our wedding when I had put the ring on her finger. I had held her hand in mine and thought it was such a responsibility to have to take care of another person, someone so fragile.
I had no idea how right I had been.
“Anyway, I told her she was grounded for a month, then took it back and said a week instead. But then she started to bargain, and we ended on two days. I know what you’re thinking; don’t give me that look,” I said and chuckled, then leaned back in my chair, running a hand through my hair. My face was still pounding from the beating I had received the night before. “I am weak; I have to admit it. I have a soft spot for our daughter. I never can be mad at her for more than a few minutes. It’s those eyes, you know? I can’t resist them.”
I sighed and looked at my wife. She was still beautiful, so gorgeous. And those eyes, they still had me locked in. Even though they weren’t exactly looking at me, but down at the floor while her head slumped to the side and slid downward toward her shoulder. I grabbed it and pushed it back in place on the pillow. I had bought her one of those elevation beds so she could sit up straight from time to time, but her head kept falling, so I lowered it slightly. Her eyes stared right past me as I looked at her beautiful face and caressed her cheek. I leaned over and wiped drool from her chin, then kissed her cheek gently, closing my eyes, envisioning her when she had still been well.
Before the drugs caused her brain damage.
People usually thought that if you overdosed, you either died or you would be okay. But that wasn’t always true. Not for Camille. She had been a drug addict when I met her through my job as an undercover cop at Miami PD, infiltrating the underworld of crack, especially in Overtown, the Haitian part of town. She had been hooked back then, and I had taken her to a rehab facility, taken her off the streets, paying for it out of my own pocket. I had visited her every day while she was there, and soon, we fell in love. When she was released, she moved in with me in my townhouse, and the year after, we were married, and she had our daughter, Josie. For years, she stayed clean; at least I believed she was clean. Until one day three years ago, when I came home from my shift and found her. Her head rested on a pillow on the couch, her wrists were bent and fingers contracted into fists. She was rocking back and forth as if to stand up but then collapsed into the sofa. That was when I knew something was terribly wrong. She had taken heroin and fentanyl and that had caused her to stop breathing. I rushed her to the hospital, and they managed to get her to breathe on her own again. Her kidneys had failed and they had then recovered as well. But her brain had been starved of oxygen for so long that it was left severely damaged. Now, she lived in the bedroom upstairs in her new bed, while I slept on a mattress on the floor next to her, making sure I’d wake up in case she needed me.