Authors: Audrey Claire
(A Makayla Rose Mystery – Book 3)
Copyright © January 2015, Audrey Claire
No part of this book may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, distributed, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, without express written permission from the author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purposes.
This book is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, or any events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and story line are created from the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously.
A Makayla Rose Mystery
Depth of Field
Since my last “memoir” ended on a bit of a sour note—well, I did try to pump myself up with an internal pep talk, but I don’t count that—I decided to begin this one infused with an extra dose of
rah rah shish boom bah!
Yes, I had plans. When I woke up in the morning, I was going to embrace the clichés. You know the ones, take life by the something or other, and strike while the iron was steaming or…
All right, I couldn’t put these idioms together properly while I slept, but suffice it to say, I was back to dreaming butterflies and kittens. I even felt myself smiling in my sleep. I was raring to go.
When I woke, I was going to dig out that glamour shot to upload to a dating site. I know it was early days since Spencer and I stopped seeing one another, but…there’s another expression to cover that situation. So, recall what it is, apply it, and let’s move on.
Makayla Rose doesn’t stay down long, and I was ready for morning with my new resolve. There was only one problem with this mental plan while I was sleeping.
The issue was—I woke up.
I don’t mean I woke up to reality and figured out I was still pining over Inna and Spencer. My heart would hurt for the both of them for a while. No, I mean I
up. Literally. The bright new day I expected wasn’t there. In fact, nothing was. I felt my lashes brushing against material as I closed and opened my eyes, but light—absent.
A sense of panic rose with the thought that I might have gone blind. I reviewed my oh-so-wholesome diet in my mind. I had heard if a woman eats too little for a while, she might not only lose her monthly, but she can lose her sight as well. Now, after you’re finished laughing at the thought of Makayla Rose skipping a meal, let me just say that’s insulting.
In truth, I wasn’t in danger of malnutrition. I focused on what my lashes could be touching and turned my head. Sure enough, something lay over my head. This wasn’t my bed sheet because I also didn’t feel softness beneath my bum.
My humor began to dull.
The surface under me was solid, hard, and cold, the one against my back uneven. I was sitting up, and as I tried to wiggle around to relieve the pressure on my extremities, I learned my hands were bound, as were my ankles. What was going on? Was this a nightmare? Yet, it felt real. Dust tickled my nostrils, and a musty scent filled them.
My heartbeat kicked up a few notches, and I tried to remain rational even as a scream bubbled in my throat. Just before I let loose with a shout for help, footsteps echoed somewhere overhead. I went still. The person moved with sure steps from the right to the left, and a door creaked. Blood rushed to—or from—my head. I couldn’t straighten out which. All I knew was dizziness assaulted me.
Heavy treads seemed to descend wooden stairs. They sped up and reached the concrete, which is what I determined I sat on. I opened my mouth in fear, but nothing more than a moan emitted. I was gagged! Who approached? An enemy or a friend?
Large hands touched my shoulders, and I whimpered, but then the covering over my head was taken away. I squinted against the light and blinked up into Spencer’s welcome face. Relief flooded my soul, and I sagged against his chest.
When I looked up, his eyes were full of pain as he gently removed the gag. I drew in a sharp if not fresh breath and blew it out. “Spencer, oh my gosh, I’m so glad to see you. What happened to me? What am I doing here? Where am I?”
My questions tumbled out one after another. He shushed me gently as he continued to remove my bonds. I winced when he worked the ropes from my wrists and caressed the bruises with his thumbs. My heart stuttered at his tender touch.
More steps sounded overhead, and then others descended the stairs, several of Spencer’s men. They crowded the narrow space, too poorly designed for so many people who were taller than, say, five foot ten. “Pete and Jeff? Everyone?” I said. “Thank you for rescuing me.”
A new sight from the corner of my eye caught my attention, a wisp of cloth, a scarf maybe. I started to turn toward it. “What’s that?”
Spencer’s hand came up to block my view like a blinder. He still hadn’t spoken, but he gave his head a little shake. I blinked at him, but such exhaustion weighted my limbs, and my brain felt a might bit foggy. I didn’t wish to argue with him.
He helped me to my feet after he had freed them, and I wobbled. His strong hold steadied me. “Can you explain a little?” I begged.
Pete took a small step toward us. I frowned at him and then at Spencer. My former lover supported me at the elbows until I gained strength. He leaned in bringing his mouth close to my ear to whisper, “I have to ask you, Makayla. Please, do one thing for me.”
I didn’t understand, but I nodded. “Of course.”
He kissed my cheek. “Believe in me.”
When he stepped back, I opened my mouth to question what he meant, but he dropped his hands to his sides and crossed them behind his hips. Dawning comprehension hit me. Pete unclipped handcuffs from his belt to clap them onto Spencer’s wrists. I shook in disbelief.
“Sheriff…uh…you’re under arrest,” Pete began awkwardly, “for the kidnapping of Makayla Rose and the murder of Penelope Norwood.”
“M-m-murder?” I whispered. This time without Spencer to stop me from looking, I turned my head to the right, and that’s when I saw her. The beautiful Penelope, Spencer’s ex-wife, lay dead not more than five feet away from me.
The room spun, the lights dulled, and my legs crumpled. As I hurtled toward a blackout, I heard Spencer shout, “Catch her. Don’t let her fall!”
* * * *
The news had already hit all of Briney Creek. A crowd gathered before the police station, everyone shouting. I wasn’t sure which of them asserted Spencer’s innocence and which wanted him run out of town.
My phone had been ringing all morning until I switched it to silent mode. Determined to get to the bottom of what was going on, I joined the demonstrators outside the station, but I refused to accept that I wasn’t allowed inside.
“Pete, I need to speak with you,” I said, when he stopped me at the door.
He frowned. “Makayla, shouldn’t you still be in the hospital?”
“I’m fine. Let me in!”
“We’re working the case, and—”
case. I’m a part of it, and I have a right to know the details, or don’t you want to ask me any questions?”
He sighed and backed up. I squeezed in through the narrow gap he made that wasn’t wide enough for a woman of my curves. When I glared at him for the insult, his cheeks pinked. They just ought to, I thought, and stormed farther into the station.
Pete passed me and gestured toward Spencer’s office. “We can talk in here.”
I hesitated. “You’ve taken over his job?”
His patience seemed to have snapped. “Don’t get huffy with me, Makayla. I’m not any happier about this than you. The fact is, the sheriff, or rather Spencer has been charged, and that’s that.”
“That’s that?” I almost shouted.
He grabbed my arm and all but dragged me into the office and slammed the door. “No, I don’t mean it like that. Look, I don’t like this. I
don’t. I respect Spencer.”
“You keep calling him Spencer.” I folded my arms over my chest.
Again, he reddened. “He’s been stripped of his position.”
All the fight left me, and I sank into a chair. “That fast? It can’t be true.”
“It is. For now, I’m the acting sheriff, and before you get up in arms again, it wasn’t my decision. Somebody has to do it. Period!”
He was too young and too inexperienced, but from his expression he knew it, too. I had the feeling things were in a serious uproar around here. This was the third murder in a short time span, Penelope’s less than two weeks after the last. What made it all worse was the sheriff being the primary suspect.
“You can’t believe he had anything to do with…” I licked my lips and breathed slowly. I could just as easily have ended up like Penelope.
“You’re saying you don’t believe it?”
He had cast his voice low, and for the first time since I woke up in that terrible situation, thoughts of the past broke free. Always my past. This was a slap in the face, a repeat if ever I saw one, a deliberate replication, and no one in Briney Creek knew the details of what I had experienced except Spencer.
“Makayla, he kidnapped you. Do you realize that?”
I raised a hand to my throat. The thickness there alarmed me. “I can’t remember anything before I woke up.”
Pete looked at me in disbelief. I imagined he thought I was just another silly woman in love with a killer. Maybe I was.
In love? Surely not.
“You don’t have proof,” I said. “I mean you haven’t said or I haven’t heard.” My thoughts jumbled.
He hesitated and then strode toward the desk. My eyes widened and strained at sight of the folders there, but Pete didn’t reach for any of them. “Makayla, we didn’t just happen to arrive in that basement. We were following Spencer.”
My mouth fell open. I couldn’t speak.
“And that basement wasn’t just anywhere either. It was
“I thought North Carolina houses didn’t have basements.” Completely irrelevant and pointless observation, which proves how far gone my brain was.
“It’s rarer than where you’re from,” he allowed.
“There’s something else,” he said, and I wished he would quit while he was ahead.
I nodded to prompt him, and Pete strode around the desk to pull open a drawer. I tensed, thinking any second I would see something I could never remove from my mind. Keys jingled in his hand, and I sagged against the edge of the desk.
Pete moved to a file cabinet and unlocked it. He brought out two plastic Baggies and paused, examining them. “We found these among his things.”
He handed me one of the Baggies, and I saw that it was a magazine. In the bottom of the Baggie were cut pieces, letters of various sizes, shapes, and colors.
Pete gave me the other Baggie when I handed the first back. This one was a single sheet of notebook paper, and on it, someone had started spelling out words and taping them down. Anyone who had ever watched TV or movies would recognize what it was—a ransom note.
“The letter was stuffed into the magazine, and the magazine was found in Spencer’s house. It contains multiple samples of his fingerprints. We have witnesses that say he was seen with you before you and Penelope Norwood disappeared and her body was found. So, he’s been arrested. Now, are you going to tell me I should just let him go?”
“No,” I mumbled. “I won’t.”
“Good. When you’re ready to talk to me, I’m ready to listen.”
I rubbed my forehead. “I’m not keeping anything from you, Pete. I assume you spoke with my doctor?”
“I did. He says it’s temporary amnesia, possibly brought on by trauma.” Pete’s look told me he thought it was the result of me witnessing Spencer’s violence. I didn’t know what to think.
I thanked him and rose to leave, but Spencer’s words echoed in my head, and I stopped.
“Believe in me.”
He must be kidding. I had known my brother-in-law for years. I had known Spencer for months. Belief was a luxury I could not afford. Still, I turned around.
“Can I see him?”
Pete stared at me as if I had lost my mind. Maybe I had.
“Please, it’s just a visit, Pete.”
“He’s been denied bail.”
I swallowed and twisted my hands before me. Pete relented, and I soon found myself heading back toward the cells. My stomach knotted so tight, I wanted to give in to the pain and curl into the fetal position, but I kept going.
“Five minutes,” Pete snapped and left me standing before Spencer’s cell.
I said nothing for the first minute and a half but stared at him. He looked the same as I had last seen him, except his head hung in his hands, and he didn’t meet my eyes. The presence and authority I had sensed from the first time I met him when I had jetted out into the road and he had almost run me down was still there. Of course, that had been an accident. This? What was this?
“Spencer, you know I’m here.” I put more sass in my voice than I felt, and I had yet to approach the cage.
“You shouldn’t be.”
“But, I’m glad you are.” He stood, and I was arrested with his beautiful silver eyes. My heart beat faster. He wrapped long fingers around the bars. I don’t mind admitting I trembled a little. The sadness and pain that surfaced in his gaze could have been a trick, and I kept reminding myself of that. “We don’t have a lot of time, Makayla, so I have to make this quick.”
“Don’t you start, Spencer,” I snapped. “You’re always short with me. I don’t have to believe you, and I don’t know why you think I should.”
He shook his head. “No, sweetheart. I understand, but you’re all I have, Makayla. I don’t have the right to ask for your help, but I’m going to humble myself and ask anyway.”