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Jack Ryder Mystery Series: Vol 4-6, Page 2

Willow Rose

  The girl heard the words as they fell, but she didn’t register any of them. She walked past the flock and continued down a broad boulevard with large trees and old houses on each side. People she passed in the street didn’t know where she was going or even care, but she knew. She knew where she wanted to go.

  What she didn’t know was exactly where to find what she was looking for.

  As she passed them, she felt like the big houses were staring back at her from the empty dark windows, and she hurried through the streets. With a chill, she imagined the Spanish moss was long arms and claws reaching out for her, trying to drag her back…back…back inside.

  The sunlight was very bright and hurt the little girl’s eyes, but not enough to make her stop. Her skin was pale and her arms and legs burning in the small dress she was wearing. The girl started to run, but her delicate bare feet hurt from hitting the hard surface of the pavement, and it made her stop. She tried to read the street signs, but she soon realized she couldn’t. A man with a suitcase passing her finally looked at her, and she hid her face so he wouldn’t see her properly, and maybe recognize her, because what if he was friends with the Doctor; he could be, after all, couldn’t he? If he was, he could tell that the girl had been seen, where she was, but the man walked on, not even slowing down to get a proper look at her.

  The girl took in a deep breath and realized she couldn’t be far away from her destination. She could smell it in the air.

  The girl walked on, passing a couple of old squares and a park, then a series of old shops, where she stopped and glanced through the windows, eyes wide open and in awe. Never had she seen anything so stunning. All those things in the windows and especially all those books.

  The girl laughed and looked at the blue sky above. It was so spectacular it was almost overwhelming. How can the roof be this high? So many years she had wondered what it would be like to look at it, being outside, looking up and not staring at it through the window glass until the Doctor yelled at her to get away from the window.

  The girl made a grimace, then shivered at the thought of the Doctor pulling her arm harshly while scolding her for risking being seen.

  While remembering the Doctor’s words, the girl sped up. She knew the Doctor would be looking for her soon, wanting to drag her back…inside.

  As she turned one more corner, she heaved a sigh of relief. There it was. Right in front of her. As blue as the sky above.


  May 2016

  “I was thinking this would be a good place.”

  Pastor Daniel looked at us with his arms stretched out. He had taken us to one of the small parks in the middle of town, or squares as they were called. Savannah was filled with them. Twenty-four in total, I had been told. The town was sort of built around them. They were all beautiful, but this one in particular.

  “I was thinking we could do the ceremony right here,” he said, and walked to a small pavilion in the middle of the square. “You—Jack—would stand here, with your ring-bearer, Austin, at your side and wait for the bride. Then you—Shannon—you come walking from down there, from behind the tree, so no one sees you prematurely; while the music plays, you walk up here with Angela and Abigail as your flower girls, spreading roses out on the grass for you to walk on. How does that sound?”

  Tyler burst into a loud scream as soon as Pastor Daniel looked at me with that big smile of his. I looked down at the baby and tried to bounce up and down a little to calm him down. Shannon reacted to his cry immediately, giving me a tired look. She had strapped him around my stomach in the sling to give her a break for once. Tyler was now almost three months old and, so far, he hadn’t slept one full night.

  “So, what do you think?”

  “I love it, Pastor Daniel,” Abigail exclaimed. “I think it is perfect.”

  “And the bride and groom to be?” he said, looking at Shannon and me.

  Shannon smiled, exhausted. “It looks great, Pastor.”

  It was her idea that we have the wedding in Savannah. It was her favorite city and she simply loved the old houses and the atmosphere here, she had said, when I tried to argue for an ocean wedding on surfboards. “It’s the most romantic city in the entire country,” she said, and how could I argue against that? The ocean was my choice, but I had to give her that it wouldn’t be as beautiful and the water would destroy her dress and hair. Austin had been on my side and I have a feeling so was Tyler, but the girls had finally won. They wanted the romantic stuff and so they’d get it.

  Savannah had another advantage. No one knew or suspected that Shannon King, the famous country superstar would get married in some small park in the middle of town, so with a little luck we could avoid the paparazzi and other unwelcome guests. It was only going to be us, our kids, my parents, and Shannon’s mother and sister, Kristi, with her husband. Shannon hadn’t invited her second sister who lived in New York. I didn’t know why and Shannon made it clear I shouldn’t ask.

  It was supposed to be a small, private wedding.We hadn’t told anyone, not even my best friends or colleagues at the Sherriff’s office. Not even Sherriff Ron or even my partner Beth. They were going to get the surprise once we got back. All I said was we were going on a vacation for a week to the Bahamas. Just in case any snoopy reporters called and asked for me, suspecting something. Sending them off to the Bahamas would make sure they wouldn’t make it here once they found out.

  “Don’t you think, Jack?” Shannon smiled at Tyler, even though she was addressing me. It had been like that a lot lately. I didn’t get much eye contact from anyone. I simply wasn’t as cute as Tyler, I had to realize.

  “Yes. I think this place would make a great wedding.”

  “Great. It’s settled then,” Pastor Daniel said. “I will make all the arrangements and then we’ll have the ceremony this coming Saturday at five o’clock.”

  We had exactly a week to get ready. Not that we had much we needed to do. Shannon had a dress made for her and the same tailor made my suit and clothes for the kids. It was already taken care of. We had found a small restaurant to have the dinner afterwards. Our guests would arrive just before the weekend, so that meant we had an entire week to explore Savannah and enjoy each other’s company.

  Tyler burst into yet another loud scream and Shannon grabbed him. “Here, let me take him. I think he’s hungry.”

  “Didn’t he just eat?” Austin asked.

  While Shannon unwrapped the baby from me, I looked at my big son. I couldn’t believe he used to be this small and demanding. I couldn’t believe I’d had baby twins and that I actually survived it.


  April 1990

  “Hello? I’m looking for a Kimberly Milligan?”

  “This is she,” Kimberly said. “Who’s this?”

  “I’m sorry. This is Jonas Anderson, attorney-at-law in Savannah.”

  Kimberly lifted an eyebrow while her husband Joseph looked at her from across the living room, where he was doing homework with their daughter, Rosa.

  “Savannah?” she asked, puzzled.

  “Yes, ma’am. Savannah, Georgia.”

  Joseph shaped a who is it? with his lips and Kimberly shrugged visibly. She honestly didn’t know. She had never been to Savannah. She had never even been out of Wyoming.

  “How may I help you?” she asked, thinking this was probably just someone trying to sell her something. Kimberly prepared herself to hang up.

  “I think I might be the one who can help you,” he said with that heavy southern accent.

  Here it comes. What is it this time? Insurance probably.

  Kimberly rolled her eyes, waiting for it to come, but it never did. No sales pitch, no This is exactly what you need…instead, the man on the other end said something that would change Kimberly’s life.

  “I am sorry to inform you that your Aunt Agnes Vann, a long term client of ours, has passed away.”

  Aunt Agnes? Who the heck is she?

  “And you are mentioned in her will.” />
  “I’m what?” Kimberly exclaimed. “But I never even met the woman.”

  “Nevertheless, she has left you her home here in Savannah.”

  Kimberly grabbed a chair leaned against the wall of their small rental apartment and sat down. “And you’re sure about this?”

  “Positive,” the man said.

  “But, why? Why would she leave me anything?”

  “I have no way of knowing my client’s intentions, but this is what she wanted. She wanted you to have the house.”

  “I…” Kimberly clasped her mouth as the realization slowly sank in. She still couldn’t believe it. A house? Her aunt had left her a house?

  “I’m asking for you to come to my office and we’ll have all the paperwork done so that you can take over the house,” he continued.

  “I…we will be there.”

  Kimberly hung up. She stared at the phone a long time before she finally lifted her eyes and looked at Joseph and Rosa. Her eyes filled with tears. For so many years, they had struggled to make ends meet; for so many years they had wanted to get a house, a home they could call their own, but the banks always turned them down.

  “Who was that, Mommy?” asked Rosa.

  Kimberly looked into her beautiful blue eyes. Her baby doll, as she liked to call her because she looked so much like a live doll with her blond curly hair. Only nine years old and already a heartbreaker.

  “It…it was a man,” she said, as she grabbed Rosa and pulled her into her lap. She removed a lock of hair from the girl’s face and pushed it behind her ear. “This was a very nice man who told us that we now own a house. A real house.”

  Rosa let out a loud shriek. Kimberly looked up at her husband, who was smiling widely.

  “A house? But how?”

  “Some aunt I never knew died and left it to me,” Kimberly said. “But there is one catch.”

  “There always is, isn’t there? What is it?” he asked.

  “It’s in Savannah, Georgia.”

  Joseph threw out his hands. “That’s not a catch. I always wanted to go to Savannah. Now we own a house there? I can’t wait to go.”

  “So, you want to move there?” Kimberly asked.

  “Yes! I can easily get work down there and so can you! Let’s do it. It would be a new start for us as a family. We would have a house. A real house!”

  Joseph grabbed Kimberly and Rosa in his strong arms and lifted both of them in the air with a loud laugh. The girls whined.

  “We’re going to Savannah. We’re going to Savannah!”


  May 2016

  Shannon looked at herself in the mirror.

  “How does it feel up here over the chest?” the woman next to her asked, pulling the dress in on the sides. She was a very skilled tailor, hired by Sarah, standing right behind her, watching her every move.

  Sarah was Shannon’s new personal assistant. It was Jack’s idea to get a PA once the baby arrived, so Shannon wouldn’t have to take care of anything besides the baby. Sarah could handle everything else, along with Shannon’s manager. Sarah had only been in her life for four months, but Shannon already loved her dearly. Not only did she take care of every detail, she also knew how to make Shannon look spectacular, no matter what the occasion was. She couldn’t think of anyone better to take care of the details of the wedding.

  “It’s a little tight,” Shannon said with a sigh. Losing the weight after giving birth the second time sure hadn’t been as easy as when she had Angela. Of course, she was a lot younger then.

  “Could you loosen it a little up there, then?” Sarah asked the tailor.

  Sarah looked at Shannon’s reflection over her shoulder. “Don’t worry about it. It’s only natural that they’re a little big when you breastfeed. As soon as you stop, they’ll get smaller, and before you know it you’ll wish you had them back.” Sarah laughed.

  Sarah was older than Shannon and her children had both gone off to college when she applied for the job. Sarah was a big girl. She had a lot of authority and clout when she spoke, and Shannon had noticed that people really listened when she opened her mouth. And she always got the job done, no matter what it was. Shannon liked that she was older and that she didn’t have a family waiting for her. Her husband had left her when the twins were just babies. She didn’t miss him one bit, though. He was more in the way than of help, she said, laughing during her interview.

  “I don’t mind the breasts,” Shannon said. “Jack loves them. No, it’s more the stomach and the wider hips. I guess I just need to be more patient.”

  Sarah shrugged. “Yeah, and then maybe accept that your body has changed since you carried your second child. You’ve always been gorgeous. You still are. Look at yourself in that dress. Jack is going to pass out,” Sarah said, and forced Shannon to look at herself. Shannon still thought she looked terrible, like a big pile of whipped cream. She missed her old body terribly.

  “I need you to take it off so the tailor can correct it,” Sarah said, and helped Shannon pull the dress off.

  Shannon walked to the window and looked out into the yard of the house they had rented in Savannah for the week. It had been many years since Shannon had last been in this town. None of them had any ties to it and that made it easier, Shannon believed. She had an aunt who once lived here, but that was all. Jack had no family here either. It was perfect.

  The kids were playing hide and go seek in the funny yard that almost looked like a maze from where she was standing on the first floor. She spotted Angela hiding behind a statue and felt a pinch in her heart. How she hoped Angela was going to be happy with this new family. Everything was changing very fast right now, and she wondered if it was rough on her firstborn.

  Austin was done counting and Shannon watched as he started his search for the girls. Jack’s son was Shannon’s favorite of the twins. Abigail was sweet too, but she had an attitude and a way that she would never have let her have had it been her own daughter. Of course, she was Jack’s daughter, and every time Shannon said something or even hinted something, Jack would get mad at her, so she tried to stay out of it.

  Emily was another matter. Shannon spotted her sitting on a swing in the yard, looking down at her feet. She wasn’t well. It had been a year now since she started losing weight. She was still very skinny and not eating much. Shannon had walked in on her one day when she was exercising in her room and caught a glimpse of her in a tank top where the bones in her back poked out. Usually, she wore big shirts and pants, so no one could see how skinny she really was, and it worried Shannon. She saw how she tried to pretend like she was eating when they had dinner together, but all she did was push her food around, or sometimes she would even hide some of it in her napkin. Jack didn’t see it, but Shannon did. Shannon had carefully asked Jack one day if he thought maybe Emily needed some professional help, but he had told her that wasn’t necessary. Emily was fine.

  “I’ll talk to her,” he said.

  But once he did, all the girl told him was that she was fine and happy and looking forward to the wedding. But Shannon knew she wasn’t fine.

  Shannon sighed and spotted Angela, who had now been found by Austin and was giggling with joy. Shannon chuckled. It was so obvious how much she liked Austin; she only hoped it wouldn’t cause any problems for their little family.

  Sarah approached her and stood next to her while both of them looked out the window, just as Jack came out in the yard with a cup between his hands, while looking at the kids. That meant Tyler had finally fallen asleep, Shannon thought with relief. Having a baby was a lot harder than she remembered. Or maybe it was just Tyler who was different than Angela. Shannon remembered Angela as the easiest child in the world. She hadn’t been quite prepared for this.

  “Look at them. What a beautiful family. You’re a very lucky woman,” Sarah said. “Don’t you ever forget that.”


  May 2016

  Everyone was crying at the house. It was nothing but misery. The Doctor
looked at the girls sitting around the dining table in the living room. They were all crying heavily, sobbing with tears while they were being served their soup. Especially Millie was inconsolable. She was, after all, Betsy Sue’s best friend. The Doctor didn’t know how she was going to do without her at the house.

  “There, there my little ones,” the Doctor said and walked up behind Millie. She knelt next to the little girl. “I know you’re sad that Betsy Sue is gone, but do try and eat, will you?”

  Still, no one touched the soup. It annoyed the Doctor, even though it was understandable. The Doctor felt sick as well, sick with longing and deprivation. At first, she had believed the girl was just hiding, but after searching the entire house, the Doctor finally realized with terror that Betsy Sue had done the unthinkable.

  She had gone outside.

  “I want her back too,” the Doctor cried, when Millie burst into another loud bone-piercing sob.

  The Doctor walked to the window, carefully pulled back the curtain, and looked outside. It was getting dark out there now in the street. Ravens were picking at the windows of the house and startled the Doctor. With a gasp, she let go of the curtain and pulled back.

  “Don’t let them see you. Don’t let them see you,” the Doctor whispered, arms hugging her chest, hands shaking.

  The weeping from the girls grew stronger. It was alarmingly loud now, and the Doctor felt like her head was about to explode. The Doctor lifted both hands and held them to her ears to try and block out the loud sounds.


  But the girls wouldn’t stop. Worst of all was Millie. The Doctor couldn’t stand it anymore and grabbed the girl by the arm and pulled on it hard.

  “Go to your room!”

  There was a loud sound, like a crack, from her arm, and the little girl screamed even louder, but now the screams were different, now they weren’t of sadness but screams of pain.