Read Brush of Shade Online

Authors: Jan Harman

Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Coming of Age, #New Adult & College, #Paranormal & Urban, #Teen & Young Adult, #Romance, #Paranormal & Fantasy

Brush of Shade (9 page)

BOOK: Brush of Shade
11.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

“Trent, take
Olivia straight home,” Shade said, his tone uncompromising.

“We’re expected
at Bradley’s party. I said we’d get there around nine,” Trent argued.

“Home,” three
male voices said firmly.

shoulders slumped. He held out his hand to help me out of the truck. “Since
this was just a scare gone too far, we’re going to the party,” I said, testing
a theory. Trent’s expression brightened then fell flat as he looked past me.

“Mason, call
Claire and tell her they’re coming,” Shade ordered as though he had the
authority to do so.

“Tell Claire she
is having trouble putting weight on her leg. The knee might be swollen,” Shadow
said, betraying the extent of my injury.

“Miss Olivia,
I’m sure everything is fine. But I’d be remiss in my duties if I don’t make
sure you get your leg checked out. I know your aunt would feel better if you
were safe at home,” Officer Mason said, employing his professional voice.

I opened my
mouth to tell them to stop interfering. Shade spoke first.
Shadow and I should be heading out. They can follow us to the

“But I’m already
late for . . . fine,” Shadow grumbled.

I expected an
argument out of Trent. Instead, he waited silently while I steadied myself by
slipping my right arm around his waist. He tensed up and drew a quick breath. I
tipped my head back to look at his face.
In the shadowy lighting it was impossible to tell.



Hattie looked up
from attaching a silver beaded, snowflake onto a strand of garland in time to
catch me struggling to lift the odds and ends supply box back onto its shelf. I
almost had it until a torn flap got snagged and the darn thing refused to
budge. Shade reached over with one hand, lifted, and shoved. I nodded only
because Hattie was watching. The guy couldn’t resist a chance to prove that he
knew best. I had said I could do it. And I would have if it hadn’t hurt so much
to straighten my back after being crouched over doing inventory for the past
hour. I squeezed soundlessly past him, ignoring his sigh.

“What is wrong
with you two?” Hattie grumbled, dropping the wire cutters onto the table. “This
is the first time in over a month that you’re working an entire shift together.
Enough with the strained politeness, it’s stymieing my creative juices.”

“I didn’t say a
word,” Shade said in his defense.

If I wanted to work in the morgue, I’d have set
up shop there. I hire young folks to give this place and me life. I’ve had all
I can take of your squabbling.”

“Again, we’ve
not said a word.”

Glasses perched
on the tip of her nose. A brow cocked. She pointed at the empty spool slot.
“Sometimes it’s what’s not said that screams the loudest. You, apologize!”

“For what?”

“That confirms
it. What did you do?”

Shade shoved the
spool of wire into its slot with more force than necessary. The old, metal
stand creaked and wobbled unsteadily. “I’m not talking about this.”

“But you are,”
Hattie replied, sliding her glasses into place while Shade glowered and
threaded the wire through the overhead hook.

During the rest
of their argument, I maneuvered my way to the front of the shop. Tucked out of
sight and with luck out of the line of fire, I took extra care to be sure the
spirals in the window display were dust free.

When I’d found
out that Shade was scheduled to work the full shift, I should’ve called in sick
or said I had too much homework to come in today. Ever since he’d escorted me
into the house to explain what had happened at the maze, I’d been practically
under house arrest. No more rides alone with Trent. Aunt Claire had rearranged
her schedule, so she could drop me off at school and pick me up after work.
From now on, my dates had to be group functions. I was the victim here, yet I
was being punished, and even worse, being treated like a child.

After dusting
the last spiral, I flipped on the overhead spotlights and gave the spiral a
twirl. Prisms cast bobbing rainbows around the window display and out onto the
snow covered sidewalk. The duster slipped out of my hand. I barely registered
Shade calling out that he was leaving for the hardware store or the slamming of
the back door. A silver Chevy Cobalt was parked in one of the angled slots just
outside the shop. The driver, the police detective who’d come by the hospital
several times during my recovery, motioned for me to come out of the store. I
blew out a soft breath.

“Hattie, I’m
taking my break,” I shouted, not bothering to wait for her reply.

Detective Lawson
smiled and rolled down the passenger window.

That wind is bitter. Get in out of the storm.”

I scrambled
inside and turned one of the vents straight at my face. “What are you doing

“I’m in Denver
for a conference. You were pretty out of it those times we spoke when you were
in the hospital. Sometimes with trauma cases like yours, details surface with
the passage of time. I’ve got a few leads on your parents’ case that I need
your help clarifying. I tried calling to give your aunt a heads up, but I kept
getting the answering machine. I figured I’d pop over and do it in person. Good
thing I saw you head in to work while I was cruising the street.”

He’d been
watching the store for the past hour? I rubbed my arms and watched the snowplow
in the side mirror. “Come into the shop, Hattie won’t mind. Aunt Claire should
be here soon to pick me up. You can follow us out to the house or better yet
meet us at the diner you passed coming into town,” I said, speaking fast,
reaching for the door handle.

“It’s not her
that I want to talk to, not yet,” he said his tone foreboding. He shifted into
reverse and peeled out of the spot, tires flinging snow. “Buckle up.”

Where are we going? I thought we were waiting for my

He shook his
head. “Kid, do you have any idea how much it cost to stay in a suite in a four
star downtown Washington, D.C. hotel? While you were touch and go after the
accident, your aunt racked up quite the bill.”

“So, she sold
several of her paintings to pay for my care. Turn right at the stop sign the
manor is—” He blew through the intersection, speeding recklessly on snow packed
streets. I reached into my pocket then
cell phone. “Turn around,” I demanded, gripping the seatbelt harness like a
life raft, my nails biting into my palms.

“Not until you
hear a few key facts. You’ll thank me later. Relax, kid. We’ll chat at the
wayside park by the mini golf. When I’m done, it’ll be your choice Denver or
Spring Valley,” he said, pulling onto the highway that bordered the town. “It
took some doing, but a buddy of mine in the FBI traced the money trail. For
starters, did you know your family’s brownstone was bought and paid for by a
dummy corporation and that not a dime of your aunt’s painting proceeds paid for
your care or her lavish suite? Just how well do you know your aunt?”

“Aunt Claire’s
been great to me. I’m sure she can clear this up,” I replied as the mini golf
came and went. “You missed the park. That’s okay; you can turn around at the
hardware store.”

Shade’s trusty,
green truck was in the lot. I saw him leaning across his seat, speaking to a
woman through the passenger window. We drove past the first entrance just as
the woman stepped away from the truck, heading towards the store. I craned my
neck. “There’s my aunt, you can talk to her.” The car sped up. “Hey, stop!”

The button for
the window didn’t work. I pounded on the glass, hurting my palm.
Shade, turn
around. See me!
He might’ve turned. Even if he had, the glass was tinted
and we were too far away now. It occurred to me as my stomach sank that he had
no reason to be suspicious or to keep track of my activities given the current
state of our friendship.

Detective Lawson
released the window control and grabbed my arm. “Behave yourself. This is for
your own good. Give me trouble and I’ll have to use restraints,” he ordered,
his voice chilling. His fingers tightened until it hurt, but the look he gave
me was the one I remembered of the kindly officer speaking gently to a
grief-stricken teen. “It took my buddy a while, but we finally traced the
holding company to this valley. Don’t worry, kid, I’ll get you away from the
money grubbing relatives.”

“I don’t have
any money.”

“That’s a true
statement now that your aunt is the executor of your parents’ estate.”

“You’re lying.”

“Sorry, kid.
Truth hurts. The road is getting slick. I need both hands on the wheel. Sit
back. Behave. I’ll have you in Denver in a few hours.”

“Look, we can
bring this to the Spring Valley police. You’ll get in trouble, ruin your
career. Please, I can’t be in a car that long,” I pleaded, inching closer to
the door.

“Everybody in
that town owns a piece of you. If you don’t believe me, take a look at my
notes,” he said, pointing to a folder shoved down between the seats. “Read it.”

Something about
his tone told me I’d better play along. I skimmed the parts linking various
companies, many of which had overseas properties in towns where we’d been
stationed. “Just because people from the valley were investment partners with
my father, that doesn’t mean they killed him. I want to talk to my aunt.” An
index finger stabbed at the bottom of the second sheet. My aunt’s address
listed for a home in Boulder, Colorado owned by a Professor McGuire.

“This doesn’t
prove she means me harm.”

“She’s not the
only one who uses that address. Since you got here, have you had contact with
anyone outside of Spring Valley?”

“Long distance
calls are expensive,” I answered, parroting Aunt Claire’s complaint.

“What about her
cell phone plan? She’s got plenty of rollover minutes.”

“As soon as
she’s got time, she’s going to have my phone put on her plan,” I replied. Her
argument sounded flimsy even to me, but not enough to warrant the detective’s
attention. “I’m waiting for a letter back from my BFF.”

? She thinks you’re living in Boulder and was told to
give you some space.”

“She wouldn’t
have,” I whispered, crinkling the paper with my fist.

“Two weeks
before the accident, both your aunt and your father were booked on flights that
landed at the same time in Denver.”

“No, Dad was . .
.” I couldn’t remember where he’d been, but it had been overseas.

“On the day of
the accident your father flew into Dulles from Denver.”

“You’re wrong.
Dad had come back from a four day trip to London.”

“Your aunt
hasn’t got an alibi.”

“She doesn’t
need one.”

“You were in
that car too, kid.”

The detective
slammed an 8 x 10 photo on top of the folder. I jumped. “Your car hit a stone
fence hidden by branches which had been piled up in front of it, making it
invisible in the dark. This was staged to look like an unfortunate accident on
an empty stretch of road in bad weather. We found two sets of tire prints at
the scene. One for a gray hummer that matched the paint chip we took off your
Taurus. The second car was parked up the road from the fence.”

I shrank into
the cushion, chest tight, knuckles pressing against my lips. Instead of letting
up and letting me process, Detective Lawson slapped a second photo down. “Look,
two separate sets of footprints. Who were they? What did you see?”

Grisly details
stirred up memories, making my fingers quiver as they skimmed over the image of
our mangled car.
Stumbling footsteps.
A light behind my head sweeping the inside of the car.
Glass shattering.
“Leave the mom. She’s as good as dead.
We’ll try the girl instead,” a callous voice ordered.
slicing into my hip.
Blood pooling.
A burning hand on my face.
Dad, no! Breathe! Terrified
screams rose out of the depths of my nightmare. I thrust the photo between the
seats and clapped a hand over my mouth, tasting salty tears mixed with coppery
blood from biting my lip.

“Did your father
say anything?
Kid, you with me?
Drink this.”

The grape drink
smelled off and left a tangy aftertaste that lingered on a slick coating on my
tongue. I swallowed because it was there and I was lost. Listless, I slumped
against the window, staring out the windshield as one fierce gust after another
swept across the road, burying the world in a wall of white. If only it were
possible to blot out the horrific slices of memory the pictures had awakened of
a dark mass banging repeatedly into the side of our car, metal grinding and
squealing, tires spinning in mud, branches slapping against the windshield, and
screams rising then falling silent.

The driver’s
door opened, rousing me out of my stupor. For a moment I expected to see Shade
standing at my door. Then I remembered and had to swallow down the lump in my
throat. According to the dashboard clock, we’d been on the road for close to
two hours. I didn’t know which was more frightening how deep I’d been sucked
under or that I didn’t know where we were? Thick headed, I grabbed Detective
Lawson’s arm and cried out, “I couldn’t control the car. Did I kill them?”

“Of course not,”
he said in his best don’t upset the unstable teenager voice. “Stay put. I need
to knock the ice off the wipers, so I can see before we end up in a ditch. As
soon as we get to Denver someone will come pick you up.”

I snatched the
keys out of the ignition.
Detective, what’s
going on?”

His brow creased
in confusion and he mouthed my name.

I eased out of
the seatbelt, feeling woozy. “Detective, are you okay?”

“There’s no need
to be alarmed. Have you remembered what your father said to you? No? Well, I’m
sure once we get your body clean from all those pills your aunt has been giving
you, everything will be clear again. You just sit back. I’m here to help you,”
he said in an overly sweet voice that I’d never heard him use before.

He stood
momentarily still, like a cat preparing to pounce, and then he lunged across
the seat and ripped the keys out of my hand. I shoved open my door. Fingers
clawed at my sweater as I tumbled out into the drift onto my hands and knees.
The glove box clunked open revealing a gun. I shrieked, gained my legs, and
started running down the road using our blurred tire ruts to stay upright.

Gust of wind
hammered my body. Frigid air sliced through my sweater and snow peppered my
face. I staggered sideways, slipping and sliding out of control. Beneath me,
the ground dropped sharply away. I rolled, face plowing into fresh powder. Wet
hands burned. I pulled my sleeves over them and huddled in the drift, shaking
hard. Somehow I had to sneak into the car, close all the doors, and hold down
the button for the lock until help arrived. The next gust carried my name.
Where was he?

I stood up and
the world spun, churning my stomach. A hand closed over my shoulder. I threw
myself at the slope and felt the familiar catch in my left knee. Not now. Bend!

BOOK: Brush of Shade
11.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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