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Authors: Elizabeth Little

Dear Daughter (42 page)

BOOK: Dear Daughter
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Thank God I can run in heels.

I slammed into Stanton, clawing at his wrists, forcing the gun up and away. A bullet shot into the ceiling. He freed his right hand and thrust it at my chest, shoving me back. Then he let out a roar of fury, grabbed me by my shoulders, and slung me at the fireplace. I twisted around and crashed into the wrought-iron screen. He fisted his hand in my hair, wrenching back my head before ramming it forward into the marble edge of the mantel.

Through the door:
“Jane, hold on! Billy, get over here and help me—”

Stanton’s arm came around my waist. I reared back, kicking my feet up against the screen. He stumbled, pulling me with him, then spun me around and threw me into the credenza. My hand shot out and scrabbled across the tabletop for my purse.

“On three, Billy—”

A thump. The door buckled, but held.

My fingers wrapped around the purse strap, and I hurled the bag at Stanton’s head. It caught him in the face; the gun fell to the ground. I blocked the swing of his fist with my good arm and drove my hip into his side. I kicked at the gun, just barely catching it with my toe, and it skittered across the floor. I lunged for it.

“Does anyone here have a gun?”

Stanton kicked out his leg, knocking me to the floor. My hand clipped the grip of the gun and sent it sliding. It disappeared under the settee. Stanton put a knee on my back.

I tried to wriggle free, but he was too heavy. I twisted beneath him and managed to flip over. I squeezed my fingertips together and jammed them at his wild eyes. He howled and drew away. I scrambled out from under him and staggered to my feet, my chest heaving. Stanton started to come at me again—then saw something that changed his mind.

I followed his gaze. The contents of my purse had spilled out onto the floor. And amid the scrap and rubble of my belongings, there was a glint of silver.

Stanton’s head came up. Our eyes met. My scissors.

And he was closer.

A shot exploded through the door, just missing the lock. Another series of slams and kicks. The door shuddered but still wouldn’t open.
They’re not going to get through in time.

I ran for the balcony. Stanton grabbed the scissors and ran for me.

He caught me just as my fingertips grazed the railing. I screamed, and every single camera lens lifted toward me.

I spat. “You fuckers—”

Then, all of a sudden, the metal railing was digging into my spine, and Stanton’s fingers were digging into my collarbone. The scissors I had sharpened to such a fine point were aimed at my heart, and in Stanton’s eyes was the absolute certainty that This Was It for me—and sure enough, I was still expecting that miracle cure, that second wind, that call from the governor. That last-minute rescue by the cop who was at that very moment trying to break down the door.

No, that’s not right—
I wasn’t expecting it. I was
wishing
for it.

I bared my teeth.

Fuck
wishes
.

I grabbed the scissors and wrenched them around.

Inside, another gunshot. The sound of splintering wood.

Stanton snarled and tried to regain control of the scissors, but I fought him off. My arms were trembling, on the verge of giving out.

Leo appeared in the door, Kelley and Renee right behind him—

With the last bit strength I had left, I drove the scissors forward and shoved them up into Stanton’s chest.

We fell to the balcony floor together. A bloom of blood pushed past Stanton’s lips like a flower emerging from a bud. He choked, and beneath us pooled the sticky murk of our comingled blood.

Leo tried to pull me off Stanton, but I held tight, kept close, and looked into my father’s face as the life left it. I had his eyes.

My mother’s voice whispered through me:

Took you long enough.

•   •   •

Kelley and Renee were carrying me back inside. They laid me on the settee and pressed something against the hole in my shoulder. Their hands pushed back my hair and stroked my brow. It hurts worse than it looks, Kelly said. Next to me, Rue was ripping off strips of her dress to use as makeshift bandages. Renee said she shouldn’t be here. Rue told her to fuck off. I thanked God there wasn’t room inside me to feel anything more.

“Call Hill City for backup,” Leo was saying—to Billy? “We’ll need paramedics, too. That lawyer guy said he’d deal with the press.”

A crowd jostled at the door. “Move, goddammit,” someone shouted.

Mitch forced his way through. He saw me first. “Jesus Christ.”

I held up a hand. I didn’t have the strength to curl it into a fist, but he’d just have to deal. “Hey, bro. Up top.”

Mouth hanging open, he turned and looked out at the balcony. He staggered over to the door; his hand clutched at the curtain. His words floated over to me—or maybe I just imagined them—or maybe I was remembering them.

“I should feel more than this.”

More noise, more commotion. Peter and Eli had managed to push their way to the front of the crowd. When Peter’s eyes landed on me, the recognition that flickered there was insufficient. He only saw Jane. Eli, though—

Eli turned and shouldered back the crowd. “Out,” he ordered. He cast me one last glance over his shoulder, his eyes doing something I hadn’t seen them do before. They weren’t softening, but there was a sign perhaps of a slight easing of his inner regulations—like maybe, just this once, he would forgive his trousers a wrinkle or two.

The door closed behind him.

Something brushed against my arm. Leo was crouching down next to me. “You’re a fucking idiot,” he said.

“You don’t know the half of it. Now give me a goddamned cigarette already.”

He pulled a pack out of his shirt pocket—then frowned. “Are you sure you should?”

“Way sure.”

He tapped out a cigarette and put it between my lips. He lit it and held it while I inhaled. The smoke slipped into my lungs; relief rolled out through my veins. I leaned into Kelley’s shoulder and closed my eyes. No one said anything. Not even Renee.

And as the rest of the world erupted around us, we sat, letting everything else fade away until the only sound was my breath, the sizzle of the cigarette, the infinitesimal hastening of my own demise.

That’s the thing about smoking. Even when everything else is out of your control, awful and random and bleak and unfair, for a few moments a day, at least, you can control the velocity of your life.

Also it helps keep you thin.

 

From:
  CNN Breaking News
Subject:
CNN Breaking News
Date:
   Jan 14, 2014 2:43:29 PM EST
To:
     [email protected]
A South Dakota jury has found Jane Jenkins guilty of grand theft auto, possession of stolen property, and second-degree murder.
Jenkins was convicted in 2003 of the murder of her mother and was imprisoned for ten years before the ruling was overturned. Eight weeks after her release, despite the objections of the police in charge of the investigation, Jenkins was indicted for the murder of her father, Stanton Percy. She maintains that she was acting in self-defense.
Noah Washington, Jenkins’s defense attorney, told CNN today that he was already preparing an appeal.

 

WITHOUT A TRACE
Published 1.14.14
Trace here.
Karma’s a bitch.
And so’s Janie Jenkins.

 

No one who knew Rebecca Parker would have believed she was capable of murder.
And, despite the conclusions of the prosecutors, most commentators, and a jury of her peers, I still don’t.
—Peter Strickland,
The Murderess & Me: Five Days with Janie Jenkins

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I am deeply indebted to Clare Ferraro, Allison Lorentzen, and everyone else at Viking and Penguin Random House, particularly Hal Fessenden, Nicholas Bromley, Holly Watson, Angela Messina, Carolyn Coleburn, Nancy Sheppard, Paul Lamb, and Winnie De Moya.

My heartfelt gratitude as well (and as usual) to Kate Garrick and DeFiore and Company, to Shari Smiley and Resolution, and to everyone else who supported me and/or inspired me, wittingly or otherwise: Alison Hennessey, Annabel Oakes, Lane Shadgett, Megan Crane, Scott Korb, David Gates, Annie Ronan, Sara Burningham, Alison Cherry, Liz Lawson, and Ellen Amato.

And, of course, none of this would have been possible without my very beloved family.

(Which reminds me . . . Mom, please repeat after me:
This is a work of fiction
.)

Thank you.

BOOK: Dear Daughter
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