The driveway went only as far as the sidewalk, the rest of it having been claimed for plantings. He shifted the truck into Park, then turned to face her. “Are you going to be all right?”
“You’ll call your grandmother?”
“Here’s my number. If you need anything, even just to talk, call me.”
She hesitated before accepting the business card he offered. Then, with a polite nod, she opened the door, got out and walked through the gate and into her garden. She followed the stone path to the porch, never glancing back. There she unlocked the door, opened it to the bare minimum of space she needed to slip through and did just that.
The cop in him wondered about that. Was someone inside she didn’t want him to see? Did she have an inside garden that he might have to haul her to jail for? Was she such a bad housekeeper she didn’t want anyone to catch a glimpse of the mess? But in those seconds the door was open, he’d heard excited barking and gotten the impression of a yellow-furred mass of energy greeting her. She had a dog, a big one judging from what he’d seen, who’d been locked up all day and probably regarded an open door as an invitation to romp down the streets.
Would she call her grandmother? Would she do it now or wait until tonight, when it was dark and she was vulnerable and the image of Evan Carlyle’s face haunted her even with her eyes squeezed shut?
Her decision to make, he reminded himself. He’d done his duty, both as police chief and as Samuel Douglas’s son. The rest was up to her.
Halloween had come and gone, and Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I saw TV sometimes. I knew what those days were like for most people, but I had never had a Halloween costume or anything to feel thankful for. My parents hadn’t killed me yet. That should have been something, shouldn’t it? The idea of Christmas, of people all over the world celebrating someone’s birth… My mother said my being born was the worst thing that ever happened to her. She hated me. He hated me, too.
I didn’t hate them. I just wished they were dead.
He took me to the Rose Parade today. I had never seen so many people in one place, tens of thousands of them. We walked down the crowded sidewalks, him grasping my hand so tightly it hurt, his narrow dark eyes sliding from one woman to the next. Did they have any idea, even just a slight disturbance in their souls, that they were in the presence of evil? I knew it. I smelled it, that mix of excitement and lust and sick, sick pleasure. For him, half the fun was the choosing. He never drank before a hunt. The anticipation was his high, his need, his reward.
We walked. He looked. I let my mind wander someplace safer. Sometimes I just stopped being. I was nothing and nowhere. A blink, and I no longer existed. Sometimes I became someone else, a normal girl whose father loved her so much that he’d fought traffic and huge crowds just so she could see the parade. He held my hand so tightly because his heart would be broken if we got separated. Fear, ignited by pure, sweet love.
I didn’t pretend very often. It was too nice, and when he poked me to point out his target—our target—the fantasy crashed so hard I was afraid it would squash the hope out of me.
Today I looked at those crowds, those hundreds of thousands of people, and wondered what would happen if I ran right into the middle of them. He was stronger, but I was fast and wiry, and I was more afraid. If I twisted my hand from his, quick and hard, and darted into the street between floats, I could reach the other side. I could run to that group of college kids over there and cry, “This man is not my daddy! Please don’t let him take me!”
Better yet, I could disappear. Sometimes when I was allowed to play outside, my mother said I’d never met an obstacle I couldn’t go over, around, under or through. I could run and run until my lungs burst, and he wouldn’t keep up. Everyone around was taller than me. He would have only a vague idea of where I’d gone, and I would get so far away from him that he would never find me.
Suddenly he jerked me to a stop and bent low to look into my face. His fingers squeezed so viciously around mine that the tips turned red, and after a spike of pain, mine went numb. “You wipe that smile off your face, you stupid little brat. You try to run away, I’ll kill you.” He yanked hard on my hand, pulling me closer. “You understand?”