“Ms. Morton was discovered by her boyfriend a few hours ago. He went over there and used his key to gain entry when she failed to show up for a date. He found her hanging from the piping in her basement apartment.” He paused before adding, “She’d been gutted like a pig.”

“WHAT?”I started trembling, and Jason kept asking me what the detective was saying. I told him I would fill him in when I got off the phone. “Detective, that’s horrible, but her death might not have anything to do with me at all! Dempsey’s dead, remember?”

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“Yes, I remember. I identified that bastard’s body at the crime scene myself.”

“So what makes you think this involves me?” I was on the edge of my seat, nervously awaiting his answer.

“Hmm, I guess you could say the writing on the wall was a dead giveaway.”

“What writing on the wall?” There was a silence on the other end of the phone. “Detective?”

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“It was written in Ms. Morton’s blood on her bedroom wall.”

“What was?”

“Zoe is one dead bitch!”

chapterthirty-five

I dropped the phone into Jason’s lap and froze in place. “Zoe, what’s wrong with you? You look as pale as a ghost!”

I wouldn’t answer him! I couldn’t answer! I was in the middle of having a fucking heart attack! “Detective Wilson, this is Jason Reynard. What happened to my secretary?”

Jason listened intently while the detective repeated everything he had just told me, adding he thought the most likely motive for the murder was gaining information about our whereabouts. Apparently, whoever killed Allison tortured her first and didn’t put her out of her misery until she told them what they wanted to know. That explained a hell of a lot and made my guilt grow ten times over. Someone was after me, and poor Allison had died because of it. She was tortured because she tried to protect Jason and me. Her death on my hands was something I would have to deal with for years to come—if I lived that long.

I was in a trance until I heard Jason, still on the phone, blurt out, “A gold earring? What about it?”

I yanked the phone out of his hand. “Detective, what about a gold earring?”

“It just seemed out of place. It was found on top of the comforter on her bed, but she wasn’t wearing the match. We couldn’t find the other one in her jewelry box or anywhere else in the apartment. It may show up after forensics goes through the place more carefully, but the way it was positioned, I figured the assailant may have lost it during a struggle.” He paused and then added, “It’s probably nothing. Just a hunch.”

I could have just asked him what type of gold earring it was, but I decided to play a hunch of my own. “Detective, was the earring a gold cross?”

I could hear his breathing become exasperated over the phone. “How did you know it was a gold cross?” I didn’t answer him. My mind was playing back memories in my mind. “Mrs. Reynard?”

“Tyson wears a gold cross earring in his left ear!”

Unfuckenbelievable! How could everyone I ever ran across in my entire life turn out to be a loony? Dempsey, Diamond, Tyson—all fucking crazy. I began to wonder if the old saying, “You are what you attract,” was written specifically for me. Maybe I was the maniac, and all the others were just following my lead.All that time the police had assumed Tyson had fled jurisdiction to another state to avoid doing time for his parole violation, and I figured the same. When he tried to strangle me that day in Quinton’s hallway, I figured it to be a one-shot deal, caused by a fleeting moment of anger.I had chalked the incident with him and Jason up to the same. Never in a million years would I have thought Tyson was capable of such madness.

The sheriff informed us we had two choices. There was really no place for us to go stay that side of the county line at that time of night, so we could either stay where we were and have him and his deputy keep watch outside or we could bunker down for the night at the Sheriff’s Department. I opted for the first choice, and so did Jason. No way was I trying to spend the night sleeping on a hard cot in a cell.

The two officers, who I affectionately nicknamed Andy and Barney, took up a post out in their car in front of the cabin about midnight. I refilled both of their thermoses with hot coffee, and they took turns relieving themselves in the downstairs bathroom before heading out into the cool March night air.

Jason and I took our asses to bed, and for the first

time since my release from the hospital, nothing sexual happened before we drifted off to sleep. We were both stressed the hell out and worried about our kids being in a safe house that sounded like something for people in the witness protection program. I didn’t like it, any of it, and I desperately wanted it to all end. So many times I thought the shit was over, but each problem resolved seemed to bring about an even bigger one. Now Tyson was after my ass. Shame on it all!

I fell asleep thinking about the fight between Dusty and me that day in the parking lot of the garage where Tyson worked, and how she ripped the gold cross earring out of his ear, causing it to bleed, when he pulled her off me. The same earring I used to take into my mouth and suck on, along with his earlobe, while he was fucking theshit out of me in his apartment, and the same earring they had found in Allison’s apartment after he “gutted her like a pig,” to quote Detective Wilson.

Jason and I were both in a deep sleep when glass shattered somewhere downstairs. We both jumped up. I picked up the phone beside the bed, but the line was dead. Jason covered my mouth, muffling my screams, and whispered in my ear, “Zoe, don’t say a word. Just listen to me and do exactly what I say.”I nodded and listened while he instructed me on what to do. Jason helped me climb out the top-floor window, and I jumped down onto the ground below. My ribs, still damaged from the accident and Dempsey slamming them up against the car door, hurt like all hell when I landed, but at that point, I really didn’t give a damn about the pain. I had to make it to the police car to let them know Tyson was in the house.

I was about five yards from the sheriff’s car when I realized something was terribly wrong—deadly wrong. The sheriff’s arm was hanging limply out of the driver’s-side window. When I got closer, I saw his eyes in the moonlight, and I knew right off the bat they were the eyes of a dead man. There was a small bullet hole in his forehead, and his deputy had his head on the senior officer’s shoulder. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought he was napping. Andy and Barney were both dead, and Jason was alone in the house with Tyson—Tyson, who had a gun and was blowing people away with it.

I opened the driver’s-side door, and the sheriff fell halfway out the car. I reached over him and yanked on the part of the police radio you speak into. It came to me too easily, and once I had it in my hand, I discovered why.The cord had been cut. Calling for help on the radio was out of the question. I felt all over for the guns they both wore on their hips earlier that evening. They were nowhere in sight. They could have been anywhere— tossed in the bushes, or taken by Tyson. I didn’t have time to search, and my stupid ass had left my gun at my office, figuring the whole ordeal was over and done with. I had to get to Jason! I had to save my baby! Too many people had paid the ultimate price, and my husband wasn’t going to be one of them. Even if it meant laying down my own life to save his.

I snuck around to the back so I could look in through the rear windows of the cabin. I couldn’t see anything at first, but then I spotted Jason sprawled on the kitchen floor, unconscious. There was no blood, so I didn’t think he had been shot. I had to find out.The patio door was ajar and missing a pane. That was obviously the glass we heard breaking. For once in my life, I wasn’t afraid. I was sick of all the bullshit; if Tyson wanted to kill me, he was going to have a hell of a time doing it, because I had no intention of going out without a struggle. I went in and looked around the downstairs living area. It was dark in the living room. I didn’t sense or hear any movement. I made my way over to Jason and tried to wake him up to no avail. He had a nasty knot on the back of his head, and I figured Tyson must have coldcocked him with the butt of the gun. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why he hadn’t killed Jason like the cops, but I was happy as all hell he didn’t.

Suddenly I heard some footsteps coming down the stairs. I let Jason’s head down gently before sneaking off to conceal myself in the darkness of the living room.

“Where’s that bitch wife of yours?” Jason started to regain consciousness. A swift kick to the chest cavity made him wake all the way up. “Where is she?”

Jason didn’t answer. He just looked up off the floor with fear and pain in his eyes.

“Come on out, Zoe, my love! Snookums! I have something I want to give to you, a present!”

Jason started to blurt out a question. “Aren’t you—?”

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