By: Joanna Blake

Dead. Gone. Really gone.

Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck.

I stepped backwards instinctively and the heel of my boot hit something. A can, I would realize later. At that moment I couldn’t think. All I could do was panic. Because the two men in the parking lot turned to stare.

Right at me.

I held perfectly still, praying I was hidden in the shadows.

They spoke softly and one of the men started dragging the body away. The other one walked towards me. Almost like he could see in the dark.

The one who had held the knife.

As he got closer I saw who it was and my fear quadrupled. My heart felt like it was going to pound itself right out of my chest. I whimpered as he stepped closer and I knew he had seen me.

The bastard probably could see in the dark.

He smiled, a slash of light from inside illuminating his face. He was all harsh angles and scars. And those dark, crazy eyes. He reached out and brushed his knuckles over my face.

I could see blood on his fingers. He still held the knife. I didn’t breath. Didn’t move.

“Such a pretty little thing…”

I was breathing rapidly, puffing like a tiny little bunny rabbit. He smiled and I felt a chill down my spine. He was going to kill me- he was-

“Run little girl. Run back inside now.”

I ran.


The house was dark and quiet. No sounds of cars passing by. No glow of streetlights or rustling of neighbors. I’d picked this place on purpose, for the seclusion.

Long ago, I’d had a vague idea of sharing it with someone, starting a family, fixing it up someday. But it had quickly become my refuge from the world. The idea of renovating had flown out the window, along with the visions of backyard barbecues or a woman sharing my bed.

The cabin was old, some 1950’s family idea of a rustic lodge. And I hadn’t touched a damn thing. The linoleum, the brick, even some of the original furniture was still here, untouched.

Well, other than some light dusting. I wasn’t a damn pig. But it was definitely… retro. Hell, maybe I was retro too.

My mom and sister rolled their eyes every time they came over. Some of the old stuff was cool, even they had to admit that. Some was… not.

Yeah, it could have used a woman’s touch.

But the only women who set foot in the place were family, and they had to show up unannounced if they wanted to visit. Lately, it seemed easier to be busy than face the disappointed look in my mother’s eye, or the glare in my sister’s.

I’d really planned to fix the place up. Paint it at least. Hang shelves and pictures and whatever else a person did when they set down roots.

I’d thought maybe someday I’d make an effort to find a girlfriend, instead of the rare one-night stand after a night of drinking. No phone numbers. No repeat customers.

But I hadn’t even had one of those in a good long while. That was years ago, when I was coming up in the agency. Now… well, I spent most of my time working or alone.

For the most part, I liked it that way.

It was easier to just ignore the occasional hormonal urge. It’s not like anyone had even caught my eye. Not for years.

Hell, I’d forgotten what a woman felt like.

And now… well, I didn’t care about anything but catching my partner’s killer. I wouldn’t be any good for a woman anyway. I was obsessed. Not to mention ill-tempered.

Ring ring.

I opened one eye a crack. It was after 4 am. Nothing good ever came from a phone call at this hour.

I picked up my phone as it rang again. Just as it abruptly went silent. Great, I missed the call and it woke my ass up.

Should have put the fucking thing on silent.

I sat up as I read the texts that had been coming in for twenty minutes. Basically, since the moment I’d finally laid down. I hadn’t slept more than a few minutes but I was instantly alert.

There was a body found in the road along Route 57. Out near The Mason Jar. Where most of the suspects in my case went to get hammered and beat the shit out of each other.

Well, fuck me.

I was up and on my feet in a heartbeat. The Mason Jar was owned by a guy who was associated with the Untouchables. One of the gangs we were investigating. Mason kept his nose relatively clean, but as far as I could see it, he was swimming in a pool of filth.

The truth was, I had sort of grudgingly liked the guy on the two occasions we’d met. But all that changed after Danny got shot. I squashed any inkling of kindness or comraderie I felt over Mason’s seriously well-curated jukebox or the rare, top-shelf whiskeys he kept in a locked case behind the bar.

The man might like the blues and good booze but he was still a criminal. And he knew the killer of the brother I’d never had. So as far as I was concerned, he was the enemy.