Authors: Linsey Lanier
The Day It Happened
Miranda’s Rights Mystery Series
Copyright © 2012 Linsey Lanier
All rights reserved. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, please return to your online distributor and purchase your own copy.
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Adult content. Short prologue.
A woman’s right to respect.
A woman’s right to be strong.
A woman’s right to her child.
What happened to Miranda Steele shouldn’t happen to anyone.
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More Books by Linsey Lanier
THE MIRANDA’S RIGHTS MYSTERY SERIES
THE MIRANDA AND PARKER MYSTERY SERIES
Look for the next mystery early in 2015
OTHER SUSPENSE BOOKS BY LINSEY LANIER:
HUMOROUS BOOKS BY LINSEY LANIER
Oak Park, Illinois
A nameless disquiet woke her.
Miranda Groth opened her eyes to the sound of snowy sleet tapping against the narrow bedroom window like warning fingertips, desperate to rouse her.
Drawing in a slow breath, she blinked and raised a hand to shade her eyes as she peered out at the icicles hanging from the eaves.
December. She hated this time of year.
Stretching, she sat up and realized it was the first time in three weeks she’d slept through the night. The first time her baby’s cry hadn’t gotten her up to feed or to soothe.
Her baby. Her only hope now. And then her mind cleared.
Something was wrong.
Jumping up, she snatched her bathrobe off a chair and pulled it snug around her. She padded across the floor in her bare feet. In the doorway, she stood still, listening hard.
Nothing. No sound at all.
Sudden panic clawed at her chest. She shot down the hall to the makeshift nursery that was little more than a storage room. She stepped inside and hurried to the crib. She grasped the rail and held on with a death grip, as searing pain shot through her.
The crib was…empty.
Her baby. Her newborn. Her little Amy. Where was she? Where in the name of everything holy was her daughter?
Wildly, she tore at the blankets as if the child could be hiding under them, but of course, she wasn’t there. Miranda spun around, digging her nails into her scalp. She blinked at the old boxes of junk piled in the corner. She raced to them, pulled them away from the wall. Not there.
Hot tears stinging her eyes, she dropped to the floor and searched the bottom of the small closet. She pivoted and peered under the crib and the old dresser drawer in the corner.
No sign of her baby.
Her heart in a vice, she got up and dashed to the guestroom. She attacked the bed. “Amy,” she cried out, pulling apart pillows and spreads and sheets. “Amy. Amy.”
Her baby wasn’t there.
Gasping, she stood staring down at the mess she’d made and swiped at the tears now streaming down her face. What had happened to her daughter? Where was she?
The living room? Blindly, she ran downstairs and began snatching cushions off the couch.
She tried to think. She’d gone to bed early. Had she gotten up in the middle of the night and brought Amy down here? She would have remembered that. But she had shopped and cooked and scrubbed floors yesterday. Maybe she’d been too tired to remember. Had she laid Amy on the floor and fallen asleep? But she wouldn’t have gone back upstairs without her. Still, Miranda lifted the worn apron of the couch and peeked under it.
Then she heard a noise and her breath caught in her throat. Slowly she turned and crept to the kitchen door.
Miranda found Leon sitting at the small, green Formica-top table, dressed for work in his uniform, his black hair cut short in the regimental crew cut he liked, his gun belt around his waist, heavy with handcuffs and billy club and pistol. He held his favorite cup in his hand. It read “World’s Baddest Cop.”
She put a hand over her mouth, forced herself not to sound panicked. “I can’t find Amy,” she said in a hoarse whisper.
He didn’t look at her, just stared at the wall.
The side of his mouth jerked a bit, a nervous twitch he’d always had. He didn’t like being around people.
A chipped plate scattered with stray crumbs sat in front of him. “You made yourself breakfast?” she asked in surprise. Leon had always insisted that was her job.
“Just some toast.” He turned his head and glared at her as if she were one of those hookers on Elm Street he was always arresting. She knew he couldn’t stand the sight of her at times. He turned back to stare at the wall and took a sip of coffee. “I had an errand to run this morning.”
“Where’s—” she stopped herself before she said “our daughter.” He didn’t want her to call the child that. Her body trembled as she took a breath. “Where’s Amy?”
Slowly he exhaled his irritation and turned back to her. Once she’d thought his eyes sexy, but now those cold, black slits reminded her of a lurking animal ready to pounce. That look always made her feel so powerless. Like she was nothing.
Terror welled up in her throat. “Where’s Amy?” she asked again, trying not to sound hysterical. Leon hated it when she got emotional.
His reply was as icy as the snow outside. “I got rid of her.”
Miranda hugged herself tight, feeling like she’d been struck in the chest with the butt of a rifle. “What?” she gasped.
“You heard me.” He rose, went to the sink to wash his hands.
Trembling, she picked up his plate and followed him. She had to control herself. She couldn’t let him see her panic. “Leon. What did you do with her?”
Meticulously, he wiped his hands on a dishtowel and watched her as she set the plate down in the sink. Her hand shook.
“I’ve put up with this nonsense for weeks,” he said in a flat tone. “I had to make a decision. I couldn’t have that vile thing in this house any longer.”
“Vile thing?” Her voice cracked with emotion. It wasn’t the first time he’d called Amy that. “She’s just a baby.”
He glared at her, those hateful black eyes taunting her. “She was
baby. We both know you’ve been ruined, Miranda. Ruined.”
Smarting with pain and humiliation, Miranda let out a sob as she pressed her hands to her head.
That again. She might have known. Amy didn’t belong to Leon, no matter how hard Miranda pretended she did.
When she’d learned she was pregnant, she’d made herself believe Leon would get used to the idea. She told herself the baby would bring them together again. They could get back to the way it had been when they were first married. They could be a family again.
The truth was that the night her child was conceived had been the worst night of her life. That awful wintry night. Those gruesome hands tearing at her clothes. That horrid, hooded face. The cold ice scraping against her back. The things that stranger had done to her…. The examiner at the hospital had said she was lucky her injuries weren’t worse.
Miranda hadn’t felt lucky. She’d wished she were dead.
Leon had called it her “accident.” She’d been careless. Subconsciously, he said, she must have wanted it to happen, or it wouldn’t have. He wouldn’t let her go to the police. His buddies at the station would find out and realize what kind of woman he was married to. After that night, Leon had looked at her as though she were infected with some horrid disease he might catch if he got too close, though she’d tested clean for STDs.
Then he’d told her to get rid of the child. She’d refused.
Now, standing at the sink in their tiny kitchen, Miranda realized Leon had only been waiting until mid-November, until after Amy was born, to take the child from her. He probably thought she should be grateful he’d given her three weeks.
He brushed past her. “I have to go to work.”
“Leon.” Her throat strangled with anguish. “What have you done with her?”
He shook his head in that condescending way. “You’ve heard of adoption, haven’t you?”
She stared at him. “You gave Amy up for adoption?”
“Now your little brain is starting to work.” He reached for his thick policeman’s jacket.
She covered her mouth with both hands. He had to be lying. How could he have given Amy up for adoption without her consent? Who would have taken her?
Reading her thoughts, he exhaled in frustration. “I had an opportunity. There wasn’t time to convince you of the sense of it, so I duplicated your signature on the papers.”
She blinked at him. Forged, he meant. He must have bribed someone to look the other way. “How?” she dared to ask, forcing her tone not to sound too demanding.
“It wasn’t difficult. I know people. Judges. Court Clerks. Members of agencies. I took her to one of those agencies early this morning.” He spoke as if talking to a child. “Don’t worry. They assured me she’d go to a good home. A family who’ll never know her true origin. I’m not a monster, after all.” He turned to go.
Miranda’s mind spun out of control. Tears began to run down her cheeks. “And you did this without even…asking me?”
The corner of his lip quivered. He was angry.
She’d seen his lip move in that way before and knew what it could mean, but suddenly she didn’t care. “How could you do that, Leon?”
“It wasn’t your decision to make.”
“Not my decision?” She’d given birth to the child, held her in her arms, fed her, loved her. And it wasn’t her decision?
Leon started to turn away.
“I want her back, Leon.”
He stopped, slowly rotated toward her and folded her arms across his chest. He laughed as if he pitied her utter stupidity. “She’s gone, Miranda. They took her away and neither of us will ever know where she went. You’ll never find her again.”
Never find her again
Amy gone forever? Leon had taken away the only bright spot in her miserable life.
She raised her head and glared at him. Her feet began to move across the floor to him. Of their own accord, her hands lifted and she lunged at him, her nails groping for those sickening black eyes. “Nooo,” she shrieked.
For a single instant, his face flashed as white as the snow outside, as if he were too stunned to react. Then he caught her by the wrists, his mouth twisting with rage. “How dare you attack me?”
It was a stupid move. Leon did the attacking in this family. He shoved her away from him with such force, she staggered back against the refrigerator. The handle caught her in the ribs. She cried out in pain.
Before she could regain her balance, he stomped across the floor and grabbed her by the hair. He drew back his arm. “Don’t you ever do that again, you stupid bitch.”
The palm of his big hand smacked hard against her mouth. She felt her lip open and start to bleed as she crumpled onto the floor.
She covered her head as his arm lumbered back and forth over her, like a crazed elephant’s trunk, the blows landing on her arms, her shoulders, the back of her skull.
“You. Filthy. Whore.” He punctuated each word with another strike. “Look what you brought into our home. Look what you’ve done to us.”
“Leon,” she sobbed. “Stop. Please, stop.”
After a few minutes, he did stop. He stood hovering over her like an insane beast, his chest heaving. She tried to get up, but he shoved her back down.
“I’m not finished.” He grabbed her wrist, dragged her across the floor.
“Leon, stop,” she cried, her shoulder burning with pain. She struggled to get to her feet as he yanked her up the stairs.
Leon didn’t answer. He didn’t seem to even hear her. It wasn’t until they reached the bedroom that he let go of her. As she crumpled into a sobbing heap, he moved to the closet with swift, soldier-like steps. He pulled out a suitcase, began shoving her clothes into it.
From the floor where he’d left her, Miranda lifted a shaky hand to her mouth to stop the blood oozing from her lip. “What are you doing?”
“What I should have done the night your bastard was conceived. What I’ve wanted to do for months.” His voice shook with quiet rage.
He jammed the suitcase shut, grabbed her by the wrist again and forced her back downstairs.
“What are you doing?” Miranda screamed as he wrestled the front door open.
“Purging my house.” He tossed the suitcase onto the snow in the front yard. It broke open and her clothes tumbled out. Then he gave her a hard push.
She stumbled outside onto the cold concrete step. Her feet were bare. She was still in her bathrobe. “Leon,” she begged. “Let me back in. What will the neighbors think?”
“They’re at work. Besides, no one cares about you. They know what you are.” He shoved her again.
She staggered off the stoop and landed with a hard thud on the ground next to her clothes.
He grabbed her purse from a chair and tossed it beside her. “Take this and go, Miranda. Go away.” His voice was dark and almost calm now. “I never want to see your face again.” He slammed the door so hard, it made the air vibrate. She heard him turn the latch.
Her chest heaving, she tried to catch her breath. For a long while, she sat staring at the locked door. That plain wooden door Leon had carried her through when they were first married. She’d been so happy then. So full of hope.
The overcast sky grew darker, as if the sun would never shine again. The air became colder. It started to snow.
Soft flakes fell cold against her cheeks. They were all she could feel now. No pain. No fear. Only the snow. And empty…nothingness. The same nothingness that had enveloped her ten months ago on the night she’d been attacked by a nameless face.
After awhile, her toes began to burn. She turned over and found a pair of socks in the snow. She pulled them on.
Crawling on her knees, she packed her clothes back into the suitcase. The suitcase wouldn’t close. The latch was broken.