LET ME GO (Eva Rae Thomas Mystery Book 5)Willow Rose
ONE YEAR LATER
TWO WEEKS LATER
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THREE WEEKS LATER
THREE DAYS LATER
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New Orleans, Louisiana
“We’ve set up the perimeter, boss. Team’s ready. They’re just waiting for your go.”
Reed nodded. His pulse was pounding in his ears as the adrenaline rushed through him. His hands felt clammy, and he had to wipe them on his shirt to get them dry enough. He couldn’t let slippery hands interfere with what was about to go down. He really didn’t want to have to do this.
“I just shot my dad in the head.”
That was the message that dispatch had received and passed on. A hostage situation, they said. A young kid who told them his name was Peter was in there, in that two-story house in front of Reed. With him were his mom and younger sister.
An argument had made the boy shoot his father. The boy had then called nine-one-one. He said he was standing inside the house with the firearm and that his mom and sister were hiding in the bathroom, that he had poured gasoline all over the house, and that he’d kill himself and what was left of his family.
“Please, don’t do that,” Dispatch had told him. “There’s no need. Stay on the phone with me.”
But the boy had hung up. Reed and his men were sent out to prevent a tragedy from happening. Reed wasn’t going to lose any more lives tonight.
Not on his watch.
The boy had told dispatch that it was an accident, that he didn’t mean to kill his dad, but Reed also knew that the guy was desperate and capable of anything if he was capable of killing his own father.
Reed wasn’t taking any chances. In his fifteen years as leader of the SWAT unit, he had seen his share of desperate young men. And one thing was certain; you never knew what they might do next. The fact that the boy had poured gasoline all over the house showed him that they had to be very careful with this one.
“I see movement behind one of the windows,” Harris said to him.
Harris had been with Reed’s team for almost ten years now. The two of them had been through hostage situations like this many times.
Not all of them ended well.
“Is there any way of getting in contact with the boy?” Reed asked and looked through his binoculars.
“Negative,” Harris said. “There’s no landline, and we don’t have any cell phone numbers. It’s gonna take a while to get them. Too long if you ask me. We don’t have time. We need to act now before he lights a match or shoots any more of his family members.”
Reed sighed deeply, but he agreed.
“All right.” He grabbed the radio and spoke into it: “Team is a go.”
Reed saw the silhouette of a person bobbing up and down in the window and wondered if the kid was performing CPR on his father. On the call, he had said that his dad was lifeless and not breathing. Was he trying to resuscitate him?
The shadow disappeared.
A pack of officers was creeping up toward the front porch. Three others came from the east side. Reed grabbed his PA, ready to try and address the boy, ask him to come out and surrender himself, giving him a last chance to end this peacefully.
But before Reed could place the PA against his lips, the door to the house cracked open. A figure appeared and emerged through the screen door and walked onto the porch.
Peter James was in the living room when he heard the noise coming from outside his windows. Thinking it was just some of the neighborhood’s kids, he chose to ignore it at first.
He stared at the computer screen in front of him, where he was making a new gaming video for his seven-hundred-thousand followers who tuned in every week to see him play. He was in the middle of a huge battle when the noise disturbed him again.
“Give me a second,” he said to his viewers. “I have to go and see what’s going on. I’ll be right back. Probably just some neighborhood kids messing around.”
He let the video run and paused the game, then rushed to the front door and opened it. A white and extremely bright light met him outside the screen door, and he had to use his hand to cover his eyes. He did so while taking a step onto the porch. Suddenly, he was met with loud voices yelling from multiple angles.
Desperate and frantic yelling.
“Don’t move. Put your hands in the air.”
Peter froze. The yelling continued.
“Hands where we can see them!”
Peter felt confused. The light was still blinding
him, and it was like a surreal dream. What was happening?
“Raise your hands!”
“Excuse me?” Peter turned his head very slowly to the left and realized that there were about half a dozen police cars, lights flashing, and more officers pointing firearms in his direction, including a shotgun and a semi-automatic rifle.
“Raise your hands NOW!”
Peter did as he was told. His arms shot straight up, his heart pounding.
“Face the house, back down your front steps, and walk backward toward us.”
Peter blinked, trying to get the information right and not make a wrong move. As he did his turn, the light blinded him so much he instinctively lowered one hand toward his waist.
That would prove to be fatal.
The shot came from behind the white light and blasted through his chest with such force his body was slung backward, back through the screened door. The bullet ripped through his heart and killed him instantly.
He didn’t even hear his mother’s terrified screams coming from inside the house.
ONE YEAR LATER
Books-A-Million, New Jersey
“He refuses to do it.”
“Let me talk to him.”
Liam overheard them talking and smiled secretively as his agent, Ben, came toward him. He could see Ben was grinding his teeth as he walked. Liam pretended to be listening to the dolled-up woman in her high stilettos and pretended to not feel sick from her overpowering perfume or her thick layer of make-up. He considered commenting on it, putting a little insult into some sarcasm or a joke and seeing how she reacted.
Just for fun.
Here comes the smile. Come on, Ben; put on the smile.
And there it was. Ben clenched his fists one more time, then looked up, and as his eyes met Liam’s, he smiled.
A smile so phony that Hollywood should be calling soon.
Liam chuckled and shook his head. Sensing that she was being ignored, the dolled-up woman slipped away quietly.
“You do know that a genuine smile doesn’t show the bottom teeth, right?” Liam said and sipped his champagne. The bookstore had provided it for him as he had demanded they did like he demanded every bookstore did if they wanted him to come to their insignificant place and attract a crowd.
“You’re a son-of-a-gun, you know that, right?” Ben said, speaking with a low voice.
“I do,” Liam answered as he lifted his glass at a woman who made eyes at him while passing by. “It’s part of my charm, remember? It’s why they love me so much.”
“Don’t sleep with anyone here,” Ben said. “And please…for Christ sakes, just do what they expect you to. The publishing house wants you to do this tour, and it’s the last God darn book signing. We’ve been all over the country for the past several weeks. Just sit in the stupid chair, smile at the nice housewives, flirt a little, and sign their books. It’s as simple as that.”
“I won’t do it,” Liam said.
Ben sighed resignedly and threw out his arms. “And why the heck not?”
Liam nodded at the area where they had put his chair and table. It was surrounded by his books on both sides. A full-body-sized cardboard figure of Liam stood next to it, and a poster was hanging behind it, showing a picture of him in his chef’s uniform with a big knife in his hand. He looked ridiculous. But that wasn’t anything new. Everything about this entire charade was absurd. It was, however, his life now, and he had made an image and a career of it. They expected him to cause trouble, to act like a diva. That’s why they called him the Rockstar of Cooking.
“What’s wrong with it this time?” Ben asked. “Is the chair too low again because I can get you a new one. I know you don’t like to look small in front of people.”
“Look to the right of the table,” Liam said. “Look at what they have placed next to me. On the wall behind me. I refuse to sit there with his books glaring down on me.”
Ben took an extra look, then nodded. “All right. I get it.”
“You know how I feel about that imposter.”
“I do know that, but still, don’t you think you’re overreacting a little here? The guy did say he was sorry for the things he said about your food.”
“I just can’t stand him,” Liam said. “And don’t let me get started on his use of truffle oil. It’s preposterous.”
Ben exhaled. “All right. I’ll have them remove his books from the shelf behind you, but then…then you promise me you’ll go ahead and sign the books, right? Because people have been waiting for hours now. We all want this done so we can go home after a long book tour, right?”
Liam nodded and finished his glass. He was looking forward to going home more than anything, even if it was to a teenage son who hated his guts and hadn’t spoken to him in months.
I had been waiting for hours in the line outside in the freezing cold and finally made it inside the warm store. I was surrounded by housewives wearing heavy makeup and low-cut shirts, puffing themselves up to meet him. They were all waiting to have fifteen seconds with the guy who had written the book under every arm in the line in front of me. The closer we got to him, the more mouths were pouting and hair was being corrected.
I felt like an outsider in my flat white sneakers, jeans, and a leather jacket. My red hair was in a ponytail, and I was wearing absolutely no make-up whatsoever. I saw no need. I wasn’t here to flirt with the guy or even to see him because I had read his book. To be honest, up until now, I had thought it was just a cookbook. But, apparently, it was a book about him and his childhood growing up in the streets of Philadelphia before making it as a famous TV chef and household name. The first African American to have made it in the world that was mostly dominated by British and French chefs.
If I stood on my tippy toes and stretched my neck, I could see him. There he was, smiling at a woman in a tight red dress, then glaring at her behind as she turned around and walked on.
The Rockstar of Cooking all right.
“What am I even doing here?” I mumbled as the line moved forward.
But I knew very well why I was there, and it wasn’t a social call. This was important enough to embarrass myself if I had to.
As soon as it was my turn, I slid my book across the table to him.
Liam Berkeley looked first at my fingers, holding the book, then up at me.
“You bite your nails,” he said.
I shrugged. “So? Is that illegal?”
That made him chuckle.
I gave him a fake smile. That made his chuckle turn into a laugh. “You do realize that a genuine smile doesn’t involve showing your bottom teeth, right?”
“Whatever,” I said and dropped the smile. “I don’t usually smile a lot.”
“Oh? Why is that?”
I shrugged again. “Because I don’t think there is a lot to smile about.”
“What do you mean?”
I threw out my arms. “Have you seen the world we live in?”
“You’re fun,” he said and pointed at me with the pen. “Now, who should I make this out to?”
He opened the page to sign it, and I bit my lip. This was it. This was the moment that I had waited hours in a line for, freezing outside those doors, knowing it was the only way I could get my message to a guy like him.
He read the message I had scribbled on the blank page, then looked up at me, eyes suddenly serious.
“What is this?”
“Just do as it says. You’ll know more when you get there.”
And after that, I ran out, elbowing my way through flocks of ladies in high heels and cocktail dresses who were making Books-A-Million seem a heck of a lot more glamorous than usual on a Tuesday night.
“Nine-One-One, what’s your emergency?”
“Yeah, hi…uhm, my name is Brady. I just want to say that there is a…uhm bomb.”
“There’s a what?”
“A bomb? Where?”
“At Lincoln High School.”
“There’s a bomb at the high school, you say?”
“And how do you know this?”
“I placed them there.”
“Them. So there is more than one bomb at the high school?”
“Seven bombs at the high school?”