She straightened her shoulders and jerked up her chin. One way or another, she would find out who was responsible for her current situation; and she would make them pay big time.
She made her way along the beach. The area where she, the body, and the others had been was washed clean by the tides, as if this morning had never happened.
How was she going to nail the corrupt cops and not endanger Grandma Allison?
Her steps slowed as she left the beach area and made her way into the city, the cat padding along beside her.
With a certainty which made her breath catch, she knew the threat against her grandmother was not an idle one.
Memories of the last time she had seen her grandmother and her family swamped her. but this time, rather than push them away, as she usually did, she allowed the bitter truths of what she had done wash over her.
She’d just turned eighteen and graduated high school, then bought a one way bus ticket out of that suffocating small town of Medicine Springs, Missouri for the big city. She rubbed a hand over her face and pushed away hot tears. That was the last time she had seen any of them, yet their faces were etched in her memory.
Her mother’s tears.
Her grandmother’s, Allison’s, and Betty’s looks of stunned disbelief.
Her grandfather Sean had shaken his head and given her a look that for some reason gave her courage. She was almost certain that had not been his intention.
Grandpop Eddie smiled at her, with that vacant smile he got sometimes that told her he didn’t always know what was going on around him.
And her father.
Winter sighed and resisted the habit of trying to shake off the guilt which always assaulted her when she thought about her father.
She’d always been a daddy’s girl.
Her dad had been so disappointed in her that day. And afraid. Fear had shown in his eyes.
Even back then she hadn’t blamed her family for their worry. After all, her father was a detective and had been for two decades or more, and her grandpa Sean — the youngest, sharpest, seventy-three year-old man she had ever known — was a retired detective, himself.
They upheld the law in their small town. However, just because they worked in a small town, didn’t mean they were ignorant of what went on in the bigger cities; or what could happen to an eighteen year old girl alone.
So, she didn’t tell anyone her plans — not a single person — until the morning she walked out of her room, backpack slung over one shoulder and bus ticket clutched in her sweaty, trembling hand.
She’d said goodbye from a distance, not trusting herself to go near them lest she lose her resolve to leave. She stood with the length of the room between them, promised to write when she could. Swallowing back tears she walked out the door of her childhood home, pulling it closed with a determined snap on the stunned silence of her parents and both sets of grandparents. .
She half expected them to come running out to stop her. The entire thirty minute walk to the bus station she craned her head to look, worried one or all of them would break out of their shock long enough to come and snatch her back home.
Oddly, they had not.
She was still, after all these years, not sure how she felt about the fact they hadn’t.
Only Scat Cat had trailed her steps.