Home > Scarlet Angel (Mindf*ck #3)

Scarlet Angel (Mindf*ck #3)
Author: S.T. Abby

Chapter 1

Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.

—William Shakespeare

LOGAN

“I don’t understand why he let her go. It clashes severely with his profile,” I tell Craig as we pull up to the police station. “A sexual sadist who has been on a killing spree doesn’t just release a victim.”

“I don’t know either. The girl is so traumatized that she wouldn’t let them bring her to us. She said we had to come here, and she’d only talk to you. Her father hasn’t even been allowed in yet. She said she couldn’t speak to him until she spoke to you.”

Confused, I walk quickly into the police station, leaving the introductions to Craig. Why leave her in this town? Why let her go at all?

A thousand questions are flitting through my mind as I walk into the room they’re holding her in. She’s shaking, her eyes wide and panicked, and a blanket is draped around her.

Three men and one woman are in there, all of them giving her a wide berth. She’s terrified, understandably so, and has most likely already had several panic attacks if someone got too close.

“I’m Supervisory Special Agent Bennett,” I say softly, trying to keep my tone warm and non-imposing.

Her eyes dart to mine, and immediately she starts sobbing. Everyone looks as confused as me.

“He…told…me…to contact you…just you,” she says through her sobs. “He said I couldn’t show anyone until…you…No one but you.”

I’m at a loss, carefully taking a step forward.

“Show me what, Erica?” I ask her, gingerly crouching in front of her, making myself appear smaller, less threatening.

“This,” she says, moving the blanket and tugging up her skirt to reveal her inner thigh that is bandaged. Blood has seeped through the bandage, and I look at the female officer closest to me.

“She wouldn’t let us check her. She refused until you arrived,” she says, answering my silent question.

Erica tears at the bandage, pulling it off, and I see the words he’s carved into her skin.

HER SAFE.

There’s even a period.

It makes no sense at all.

“Did he tell you where he was going?” I ask her.

She’s a sobbing mess, shaking her head. “He said he’d kill me if I didn’t follow his orders. Said he’d come back for me. He took me once; he could take me again. Told me to follow his orders precisely, and he’d let me live.”

“And he ordered you to show me this?” I ask, still trying to follow her.

“Yes. To get you here and show you this. That’s all I had to do, and he’d let me live.”

She’s crying so hard that it’s hard to understand her words, but I think I understand her well enough to spare her more questions. She’s not fit to be interviewed right now.

He’s shattered her.

“Can I see my father now?” she sobs. “I did what I was told to do. I did it right,” she cries.

“Of course, Erica,” I tell her.

We still haven’t figured out how to charge her father for what he did. He’s been temporarily released just for this.

I gesture with my head to let him in, and they open the door. Seconds later, the broken shell of man runs in, and he grabs his daughter who cries out. I turn and let them have a moment as she sobs into his chest.

“Her safe,” I tell Craig as I walk out.

“The rest of the message maybe? You can’t,” he says, pulling up a picture on his iPad of the judge’s wife he strung from a building. “Keep,” he goes on, pulling up the photo of Lisa’s arm. “Her safe,” he says, looking at me.

Donny is standing with him, and he shakes his head. “But Erica is with us. Is he saying we can’t keep her safe now that we have her? Maybe notching up his game?”

An icy wave washes over me.

“Logan Bennett, you can’t keep her safe. He carved my name into that body with the first part of the message.”

Their eyes all widen, and I panic, juggling my phone free. Lana’s phone goes straight to voicemail, and I curse, calling the patrol car assigned to her house tonight.

“SSA Bennett, how can I—”

“Where’s Lana? Do you have eyes on her house right now?”

“No…um…sorry, sir. I thought someone told you. We were pulled off to go help find the kids that other sicko buried.”

My stomach twists like a knife in me, and I hang up, frantically dialing Duke.

“Detective Du—”

“Tell me you’re with Lana right now,” I snap.

“No…I thought she was with you. Didn’t I see her back at your headquarters?”

“You fucking left her alone?”

“I thought she was with you! You took her from the house, according to my officers, then I saw her with you!”

“Fuck!”

I hang up, and I start sprinting to the SUV we took here. Craig and Donny are on my heels.

“I’ll stay here and see what I can find!” Donny calls out.

Craig hops in the passenger seat, buckling up quickly as I tear out of the parking lot. I toss him my phone.

“Keep calling her.”

He does, but curses each time, hanging back up. “Her phone is either off or dead. It’s not ringing through.”

I push the pedal all the way to the floor, turning the lights on.

“Get someone over there, now!”

“Already on it,” he tells me, the phone at his ear. He’s shouting orders at someone, telling them Lana’s address, and I weave in and out of traffic, never hitting the brakes.

“They said they’re twenty minutes out,” he tells me, hanging up. “How long has she been home?”

My stomach flips and turns inside out. She left an hour before I did. It would have taken her thirty minutes to get home. It took me almost two hours to get out here. That’s at least two and a half hours he’s had her to himself.

With no one to save her.

In the middle of nowhere.

Her closest neighbor would never hear a thing.

“Too long,” I whisper hoarsely, dreading the worst as I gas the car harder, hearing Craig hiss out a breath as I narrowly dodge a car. “Too fucking long.”

Chapter 2

Hell is empty, and all the devils are here.

—William Shakespeare (The Tempest)

HADLEY

Earlier…

They say children see the magic in everything. The eyes peering up at me as I sit down beside her tell a different story. At such a young age, she’s seen some of the worst of the world’s depravity. There’s no magic in that. Only evil.

Lindy May seems to have jaded eyes as well, but I’m too emotional to think practically right now.

This man kept doing things because I let them convince me it was all in my head. The therapist. Him. My mother…

Because of me, this child is hurting right now. Because of me, so many other children are dead. So many other children suffered what I went through.

Because I was weak. So weak I let them manipulate me.

It’s a guilt I can’t bear, and I’m barely able to breathe as I force myself to sit by her. To distract myself from my own misgivings, I focus on the fact she knew Lana. There’s no doubt in my mind that the child who hasn’t waved at another soul waved at Lana because she knew her.

“You know Lana Myers?” I ask her.

Her eyes widen, and Lindy clears her throat. “No. We don’t.”

It’s an obvious lie, but I refrain from calling her out on it. She’s fidgeting, uncomfortable since the mention of Lana. Craig has already bailed to go tell the others, so I don’t have long to get answers.

Laurel frowns, glancing over at Lindy.

“This man that hurt you…he hurt me too,” I say, establishing a rapport with her, giving her something to bond with me about. It’s hard to detach myself…to not be emotional. But I manage it, because I’ve had years of training.

Laurel reaches over, tugging on my sleeve, and I lean down to let her whisper into my ear. I feel her cup her hands around her mouth, as though she’s ensuring none of her words escape the tunnel from her lips to my ear.

“My angel made sure he’ll never hurt us again,” she says, and a sickly coldness washes over me. “My angel saved me. She’ll always watch over me. She is right now.”

I lean up, letting her words process as Duke barges in. I’m not even sure what’s being said when I finally leave. Logan follows me out, caring too much.

Words fly from my mouth before I can stop them, and I’m sobbing, taking in the weight of my responsibility in all this.

I could have prevented anyone else from getting hurt.

The words spill from my lips like vomit, pouring out everything I’ve had trapped in me since the day I ran away. I’m not even sure what we’re saying to each other; it’s all a blur.

My mind is on auto-pilot, ruled by guilt and self-loathing.

He doesn’t stop me when I finally walk away, but my feet hesitate in front of the breakroom. Lana is casually propped up, watching TV as though she’s the most relaxed person on the face of the earth.

She looks over at me, her body attuned to someone’s attention being trained on her. That’s not an innocent person’s response.

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