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Authors: A. D. Justice

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers, #Suspense, #Romance, #Romantic Suspense, #Mystery & Suspense

Wicked Games

BOOK: Wicked Games
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Wicked Games

 

A.D. JUSTICE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright
© 2013 by A. D. Justice

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

This book is a work of fiction.  Names, characters, places and incidents, either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

Chapter 1

 

 

The sweat glistened in the early morning sun, running down her forehead and along her hairline to her neck. Her eyes scanned the landscape around her, ever cognizant of her surroundings. Her rhythmic breathing matched the thumping of her feet as she ran along the familiar trail. She wore her earphones and an iPod on her upper arm, but she rarely listened to the music. She discovered when others thought she was listening to music, they rarely tried to start up a conversation with her.

She ran
every day, regardless of weather, but not for the reasons most others did. It wasn’t for the recognition and satisfaction of completing marathons, fundraisers or any health awareness campaign. She was health conscious, but knew more than anything she needed to push herself harder every day. Running had become her addiction, and her only way of dealing with the pain inside. She pushed and punished her body with exercise to try to keep the depressing thoughts at bay. The punishment could only last for so long, though. She couldn’t run 24/7, after all.

Boulder, Colorado
, normally had mild high temperatures with lots of sunshine in early May, but today the dark clouds rolling in felt very ominous. She thought, “
Damn, I miss Florida
.” Thunderstorms were nothing new to her after growing up in the South and moving to Miami. She actually loved storms – the rolling thunder, striking lightning, the sound of a hard rain, and the power of it all combined. 

The
colder Colorado spring weather had taken some getting used to, and she still wasn’t crazy about it. Living in this landlocked state may just make her crazy, though. Winter was absolutely depressing to her. Miami winters were mild to say the least, and it never snowed. Here, there was always winter snow.  She decided she should learn to snow ski to try to develop a new appreciation for winter weather. She knew most of her dislike stemmed from a severe case of homesickness, and she’d never really given the place a fair chance.

She had an uneasy feeling for the last few days
, and couldn’t put her finger on any one thing that would account for it. She just knew to trust her instincts. They’d served her well in the past. As she continued along the trail, the hair on the back of her neck suddenly stood at full alert, and she felt someone watching her. She looked around nonchalantly. She only saw other runners and families enjoying the spring weather in the grassy areas, but no obvious bad guys lurking about.
They don’t usually wear a big sign to announce themselves, though.

But she’d been through too much in her
twenty-seven years to dismiss the feeling as nothing. 
Something
was wrong, even if she didn’t know what, just yet. She kept running, intent on finishing her run before the rain started. She ticked off in her head each errand she needed to complete and which bills she needed to pay, but her eyes kept scanning the scenery as she ran.

She rounded the corner of the trail and backtracked toward her townhouse. When the thoughts tried to crowd in her head
, as they did now, she pushed her body harder and faster. Digging deeper, she increased her pace and her breathing. She continued until the jogging trail ended, crossed the street, then continued up the sidewalk, not slowing until she reached home. 

Home
, this isn’t home. I can never really go home
.

S
he walked the short distance from the sidewalk, up her driveway, and to her front door. Her neighbor, Mrs. Elizabeth Stanton, called her name to get her attention, just as she did every morning after her runs. She knew the older lady was probably lonely and had few visitors to keep her company. Mrs. Stanton’s husband had died of a heart attack several years ago. She had kids and grandkids, but they were all busy with their lives, and they didn’t take much time out of their lives to visit her. In her mid-sixties, Mrs. Stanton still looked and acted like she was in her forties. She had such spunk and a zest for life. Kris hoped she held up as well when she reached her neighbor’s age.

“Hello, Kris! Out for your morning run again, I see!” Mrs. Stanton always had such a friendly tone, never prying or nosey.

“Yes, ma’am! I think it may rain soon, and you’ve fussed at me enough for running in the rain!”  No matter how long she lived here, she knew she could never get rid of her southern drawl and slang. Her accent was evident to everyone, but so far, none had really pushed her on why she had moved here. She genuinely liked Mrs. Stanton and often wished they had met under better circumstances. 

“Glad
someone
listens to me,” still with the laughing tone she always used.

Kris bent over to pick up the morning paper lying in the driveway
, as Mrs. Stanton continued talking to her about how she hoped the rain came soon to water her newly planted flowers and shrubs. She was naming the various newly planted flowers as Kris absently removed the rubber band from the newspaper and unrolled it. She was smiling and nodding at Mrs. Stanton when she looked down at the headline and pictures glaring back at her.

Oh. My. God. It’s him! It can’t be!
Richard Hollingsworth.

Kris tried to quickly
gain her composure, even as her heart beat so hard against her chest. She would have sworn Mrs. Stanton could hear it. She could barely hear over the swishing sound in her ears from her elevated blood pressure and pulse rate. She quickly glanced around, remembering the feeling pricking the back of her neck and thoughts of eyes watching her as she ran just mere minutes before

Mrs. Stanton abruptly qui
t talking about her flowers and gasped. “Kris! Are you all right?”

Breathe!
“Yes, yes. I just feel a little sick all of a sudden. I think I need to eat a little and lie down. Sorry to hurry off.”

With a worried look, Mrs. Stanton offered
her food, but Kris politely refused and excused herself. Mrs. Stanton promised to check on her later.

Kris entered her townhouse and closed th
e door as quietly as possible, leaving the front door unlocked, in case she needed a quick getaway. Directly in front of the door were the stairs leading to the second level. With an open floor plan, the living room and kitchen actually looked like one big room with a bar and barstools acting as a room divider. To the right, just past the staircase, a short hallway led to the master bedroom and bath. Upstairs there were two more bedrooms and a hall bath. 

She quietly moved through
each room, silently checking off in her mind that everything was where it should be. She turned toward the short hallway that led under the stairs. It was always dark there, regardless of the time of day. She inwardly cursed the builder, who designed it this way. She reached in, flicked the light switch, and made her way to her bedroom. 

Flipping on her bedroom light
, she saw a piece of paper lying on her pillow. She quickly scanned the room to make sure she was alone. She looked in her closet and under her bed. She didn’t really know what she would have done had she actually found someone hiding there. Her nerves were on edge, as she slowly picked up the paper. There was only one word written on it - “Brianna.” Her heart skipped a beat, and her breath caught in the back of her throat. She thought she would hyperventilate.

She finished searching the rest of the house with a butcher knife in her hand. She realized if a man wanted to overpower her, he could do s
o, even though she had a knife. It still made her feel better to have it, though. Satisfied she was alone, she quickly locked the front door and grabbed her cell phone. Scrolling through her contacts, she found the name and hit send.

On the second ring, she heard a familiar voice.  “Stevens.”

“What the
fuck
, Stevens?”

No introductions were needed. And after what was splashed across the front page of the newspaper,
and the note in her bedroom, she decided no pleasantries were needed either.

“We’re still assessing the situation.” 


Assessing the situation?
That’s government speak for ‘we fucked up and don’t know how to explain it!’ Do you have any idea what this
means
?” She knew that screaming and crying like - well, like a girl, would get her nowhere with a hardened U.S. Marshal, so she used her anger to keep her voice low and serious. She was practically growling at the man.

She stared at the pictures on the front page of the newspaper
of the man, who was
thought
to be dead by everyone but her. This man was the reason she had entered into the WITSEC program and left her entire life behind three years ago. He was also a very bad man with a very good reputation and had worked hard to hide his sins. Sins she had uncovered as an investigative reporter, but never shared with the media. Very few people knew she had discovered his illegal dealings, and he was one of them. Here he was, alive and well, and
home
. Home….

“Look, I know how you must feel.
He claims he was abducted just before getting to the airport that day. Says he’s been a prisoner for the last three years and finally escaped from his captors. Could be true, could be a lie. I’m looking into his story. Just sit tight until I figure out what is going on.” 

Yeah, she had already read the same thing in the paper. He wasn’t telling her anything
that any other person across the country couldn’t readily access. With her anger at the boiling point, she kept her voice controlled, but allowed the anger to flow freely. “You have no damn clue what is going on! 
Think
about it, Stevens. Look at him! First of all, did his captors trim his beard and his hair for him? Don’t you think it should be a little longer, if he was a
‘prisoner’
for
three
years?”

“Second, does he look the least bit emaciated to you? What
, did his captors run out of filet mignon and caviar, so he had to survive on ribeyes instead?  And then there’s his appearance in general. Even Tom Hanks was dirtier in Castaway than
he
is, after supposedly spending three years as a prisoner in a third world country!”

Taking a deep breath, she continued. “Third,”
she could hardly get these words out, “do you really believe he would suddenly show up, out of the blue, if he didn’t already know
exactly
where I am?”

“Just stay put until you hear from me.” His voice had
no emotion in it—no concern, no surprise, and no intention of helping her.

“Stevens, there was a note on my bed when I got home. It has my
real name
on it.”

Stevens had tried to calm her fears
, but he finally admitted the situation could be dangerous, and the way it all came about was very suspicious. He didn’t want her to make any rash moves that would draw attention. She knew the feelings of being watched earlier were no coincidence. She didn’t believe in coincidences, anyway. The note was left while she was out running. Whoever it was waited until she had left home, had been watching her, and broken into her house. 

After hanging up with Stevens, she quickly
showered and dressed. She packed a backpack with enough clothes and toiletries to last several days. She opened a small hidden area in the wood floor and retrieved a small fireproof safe she hid there three years before. It contained her alternate identification, complete with a driver’s license, birth certificate, passport, credit cards and cash. The stash was prepared ahead of time, in the event her identity was ever compromised and she needed to bolt quickly.

In the back of her walk
-in closet, she found the small black duffel bag that contained the rest of her new identity: the hair cap, wig, adhesive, black brow pencil and colored contacts. She pulled her long blond hair into a pile on the top of her head, pulled the head cap over her hair, tucked in any loose strands, and then put the black wig on. After making sure it was straight and looked natural, she applied the adhesive to the underside of the edges to help keep it in place. 

Using the brow pencil, she applied a small amount to each eyebrow to match her new, short hair.  The brown-eyed contacts covered her cobalt blue
eyes.   She then applied eye makeup, using her eyeliner to reshape her eyes. She applied a dark burgundy eye shadow and thick fake eyelashes to complete her transformation. She looked in the mirror at her new image for several long minutes. 

It was still mid-morning yet, on a Saturday, and most of her neighbors were working in their yards.  She stood to the side of the window and looked at each person.
Is anyone out of place? Anyone pretending to be someone they weren’t – besides me, that is?
The woods behind the row of houses across the street from her townhouse were dense. She looked carefully along the line of trees, trying to spot any movement that would symbolize someone watching her.

She glanced around her townhouse and was suddenly more aware than ever that it held nothing personal that could be related to her or anyone she cared about. She left that all behind
, three long years ago. Truth is, she still saw all the pictures, faces, and smiles in her mind. She heard the laughs and voices.  She felt the warmth of the hugs and kisses. Everyone she ever loved believed she had been dead for the last three years from a plane crash, along with Richard Hollingsworth.

BOOK: Wicked Games
2.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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