Page 23 of Depredation

“What are you getting?” she asked me suddenly.

“I always get the Moose Tracks. I just pretend I’m going to choose something healthier.” I shrugged and pulled open the freezer door.

She scrunched her nose up and leaned forward, reading the carton I pulled out.

“Oh, that does look good. My husband doesn’t like me to have sweets, so when he goes away on business, I get to indulge,” she laughed.

I wanted to ask if he didn’t let her have sweets for health reasons, or because he was a controlling asshole.

I played nice for the sake of not offending most strangers I tended to meet nowadays.

“Mm, well, enjoy.” I forced a smile and dropped the ice-cream in my basket, continuing down the aisle.

“I’m Michelle, by the way,” she called after me.

I continued walking. My ability to interact with strangers was rusty. Besides, the only time I’d witnessed a grand friendship being formed in places like a grocery store aisle was in movies or on television. I didn’t need friends; I had a cat.

“But most people just call me Minnie,” she added just as I was about to turn the corner.

I almost stopped dead in my tracks, choosing to turn around naturally and play off the fact that her name was ingrained in my brain.

I’d searched for a Minnie when I failed to find a J. Most of my results were the Disney character and a few social media profiles that didn’t match what I was looking for.

It could have been a wild coincidence that she just so happened to have that nickname, but I didn’t believe in those.

“Harper,” I replied, forcing some pep into my voice.

Her smile faltered just the slightest bit. If I hadn’t been watching her so closely, I would’ve missed it.

Did she know who I was? Is that why she came down this aisle?

I took a few steps towards her, instantly picking up on her sudden nervous energy. Her hazel eyes regarded me cautiously.

“Are you sure you want that ice-cream? We know how your husband can get.”

Her whole expression soured, my words hitting a chord.

I didn’t wait around to see what else she might or might not have decided she needed to say to me.

Turning on my heel, I hurried down the aisle. I set my basket on a doughnut display, anxious to get out of the store, nearly jogging to my Jeep.

I slipped inside and immediately began scanning the parking lot for Minnie.

The only person I saw was a mom loading her baby carrier into the back of a minivan.

I watched the store doors without looking away once, clenching the steering wheel so hard my knuckles turned white.

When she finally came out, she appeared to be in as much of a hurry as I just was—only she’d bought her groceries.

She had a cell phone cradled to her ear, talking rapidly into the speaker.

I slid lower in my seat, trying to stay hidden so I could eavesdrop on her conversation.

Her heels carried her by quickly, but I was able to hear exactly what she was saying. “I need you to call me back, Jayce. Now. You fucked up.”

My stomach turned over in response. She sounded highly pissed off and even more worried. I’d always assumed she didn’t know about his extracurricular activities.

I couldn’t fathom how another woman could sit by and let her husband sexually torture people as a hobby.

It was infuriating on a whole new level. How many of us could she have saved if she’d spoken up?

J—no, Jayce—was just a man. He was human. He felt pain and bled just like anyone else, and she didn’t seem to be that afraid him.

Hearing an engine start, I peeked over my steering wheel just in time to see a dark blue beamer pull right past me.

I knew who the driver was.

I wanted to ram the bitch right off the road. The last time I saw her husband, he’d left me to die, and therein lay their problem: I wasn’t supposed to be alive.

It took less than sixty seconds for me to decide what I was going to do next. I started my Jeep and proceeded to follow her home.

–Chapter Twenty–

Harper

-2 years-

I’m losing my fucking mind.

I had the same thought multiple times a day, or maybe it was night.

I didn’t know how long I’d been here.

I’d forgotten what it was like to feel the sun. I couldn’t recall the last time I’d breathed in something other than bleach, feces, and death.

I was excessively exhausted and constantly starving. J gave me food when he felt like it, not as I needed it.

Sometimes I talked to the other girls he brought in. I think there had been a total of four. Most of the time they didn’t speak back, just cried and begged me to help them.

They were never around for long.

I’m not sure what he did with their bodies once he killed them, and that was always by strangulation as he buried his cock in either hole.

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