By the time the elevator doors opened, I was shaking. I couldn’t tell if the shaking was from rage or the ripping sort of ache I still felt lodged in my middle.
Could it be a little bit of both? Probably. But it could also be from the biting cold as I stomped from the warmth of the hospital to my rental.
Interfere. In what, pray tell? They weren’t even going to do an autopsy on Vivi. They were just going to let whatever evidence she had on her to go unchecked. Did she have drugs in her system? Who knows. Was she hurt or raped and that’s why she tore down the street and wrecked? Shrug.
It was shoddy fucking police work, and I was ashamed of the whole damn department for letting it slide on past like nothing was amiss. And Noah wanted to know if I was going to interfere. Yeah. I was. And he could take his badge and shove it where the sun didn’t shine for all I cared.
That thought kept me warm until my rental finally decided to heat up, and I debated whether or not I wanted to head back to my mother’s house.
Yes, she lost a child. Yes, she was grieving. The kicker of it was my mother’s ‘grieving’ looked exactly like every other day of the week. I couldn’t count how many times Vivi told me about how she had to clean my mother up and put her to bed. I couldn’t count how many times I did it myself as a kid.
Was I strong enough to sleep under the same roof as my mother?
Nope. Not today.
Deciding that heading to the closest hotel with at least a modicum of security is probably my best option, I pointed the front end of my rental back toward the heart of Harebrook. I settled on an upscale chain hotel that had a healthy amount of lights in the parking lot and mounted security cameras damn near everywhere.
A part of me needed that assurance. I was in a town I didn’t feel comfortable in with my father thousands of miles away. My sister was dead, and my mother was probably still passed out drunk on the couch. I needed the security blanket of a well-lit parking lot and cameras. I needed room service and a locked door.
And probably a shower to get the smell of death out of my nose.
The thought was so flippant that I didn’t even register the weight of it until it hit me like a truck. Part of that smell that lingered in my nostrils was Vivi. Vivi was dead, and there was nothing I could do to bring her back to me.
I managed to hold my tears in while I checked in. I held them still as I made my way to my room. But as soon as the door fell shut and the darkness closed in around me, they rose up out of me, tearing from my chest as the pain took me over.
When my tears ran their course, I picked myself up off the hotel floor, wheeled my suitcase out of the narrow entryway and into the room proper and decided on a shower. I was stalling. I didn’t want to look at Vivi’s file. I didn’t want to examine it piece by piece, seeing her in her final moments.
But I had to.
If that conversation with Noah had any bearing of how the Harebrook Police Department handled their business, I didn’t trust him to tie his shoelaces properly let alone handle my sister’s case.
Still, I took my shower, lotioned my whole body which I hardly ever did, and brushed out my hair. It was a weird shade of reddish brown. Nothing like Vivi with her blonde locks. If I didn’t know for a fact we were only half-siblings, I always would have wondered. I had hazel eyes she had blue. I tanned like a boss, she just burned. She looked almost nothing like our mother. Not like I did.
She was singular, a bright flash of joy, burning too bright and out too quickly. The agony of it all socked me in the gut again, but before I let it take me under, I steeled myself and opened Vivi’s file.
Crime scene photographs painted the picture of her death in vivid color. The burgundy of the blood, the pale expanse of flesh speckled with it, the scant black lingerie, her bare feet.
What were you doing, baby girl?
Why were you out like that?
Who were you running from?
Because no one goes out in their underwear in this weather. Not unless they had to.
I flipped to the next picture. It was a wide shot of the accident. Genevieve’s car sat accordioned against a thick tree, maybe an oak, the low slung car no match for the centuries-old trunk. In the picture, the door sat open, Genevieve splayed over the steering wheel, eyes half-lidded and vacant. It didn’t appear as if she were wearing a seatbelt, but she wasn’t thrown from the seat. Her wrist dangled down, as if it were resting on the door after the crash, but fell when the door was opened.
From the tips of her fingers dangled a piece of jewelry, a bracelet or a necklace perhaps. It could have been a costume piece, but the way the flash played off the stones, I was pretty confident I was looking at roughly thirty thousand dollars in diamonds just dangling from my sister’s dead fingertips.
My sister barely had to pennies to rub together. What the fuck was she doing with that kind of jewelry? And the black car she was driving, it wasn’t the Mini she had in high school. This was a BMW, and not an old one either.
Something didn’t add up. Hell, none of this added up.
I had money, sure, and I gave Vivi some for tuition and books and stuff, but not enough that she would be driving in a new BMW. Was the car even hers?
Flipping to the last picture, my breath caught. It was a tight shot of Vivi’s face, her vacant blue eyes staring right into the camera. I flipped the image over, forcing myself not to stare directly into her eyes and get lost in my own grief.
Stuffing the pictures back in the file, I vowed to go to the accident the next day, vowed to look at everything more.
When I had more strength.
A bitter wind whipped my hair in my face as I stared at the battered tree that took my sister’s life. I wanted to look for skid marks on the road, but with the slushy consistency to the pavement, I knew there wouldn’t be any.
It made me wonder if it all could have been a silly accident. She could have fought with someone and drove off in a huff, lost control, and smashed into a tree.
In her underwear.
With expensive as shit jewelry in her hand…
Yeah, I didn’t buy it.
“How did I know I’d find you out here?” a familiar voice called from behind me.
I tore my gaze from the splintered bark to find Detective Noah behind me.
“I’d hope deductive reasoning, but I’m guessing for you it’d be just pure dumb luck.” I tossed that barb over my shoulder, turning back to the tree.
You’d think he’d take the fucking hint that I didn’t want him here, but alas, he did not. Instead he sidled up next to me, his hands deep in the pockets of his down jacket, his blond hair untethered and flying loose in the wind.
“It’s amazing how resilient trees are. Nearly a ton of metal and glass hurtled into it, and the thing has barely a scratch.”
And my sister was gone.
Who the fuck did this guy think he was? I cut my gaze to him.
“Thanks for that, Detective.” My tone biting, the sarcasm ripe in my words.
Noah rolled his eyes. “That wasn’t what I meant. Or maybe it was,” he sighed, exasperated. “It’s just so stupid. How fragile we all are. I’ve seen people die from wounds that shouldn’t have been fatal. I’ve seen people survive wounds when there was no possible reason they should have. None of it ever makes any sense.”
“You get a lot of murders here in Harebrook, Detective?”
He shook his head, his shoulders creeping up toward his ears. “Nah. But I worked patrol in Bridgeport. It’s no Dallas, but I saw enough.”
Bridgeport was a city farther up the coast near Fairhaven. One of the biggest cities Connecticut had to offer, it was still smaller than I was used to.
“And you came here for some peace and quiet?” I asked, interested in why a man would go from a small city to a smaller town.
Noah clenched his jaw as he stared at the bits of splintered wood before his lips twisted in a rueful smile. “No such luck, huh?”
I turned back to the tree.
No, I really didn’t think so.
Thank you for reading this chapter of Seek You Find Me! New episodes will release on the last Tuesday of each month. If you enjoy this story, you should check out the Shelter Me Series.