I needed to get into prison.
Not something a thirty-two year old writer normally aspires to, but these were desperate times.
It was the third time in a week that I was sitting in the lobby of the Philadelphia Federal Detention Center, a multistory building located on Arch Street. Prisoners housed here are waiting for trial or are serving short sentences. The prison is famous for being where rapper Lil’ Kim stayed for eleven months.
I was not visiting because of Lil’ Kim. In January, Grant McCairn, a hired thug, had assaulted me in my home. He was currently a prisoner in this detention center and I was desperate to talk to him. I had been to the Detention Center twelve times and barely made it past the lobby. This was lucky visit thirteen.
I shifted my weight on the uncomfortable white, or formerly white, plastic chair and listened to the second hand tick on the clock above me. I had already been waiting for fifteen minutes. Any moment now I expected the guard to step out and say I was not on the accepted visitors list. Considering that was the answer I had received every time I attempted a visit, I was anticipating the denial any minute.
It didn’t make the waiting any easier. My knee jittered up and down in time with my heartbeat as my mind scrolled through the questions I was desperate to ask. The answers I was desperately seeking. My hand tightened around the leather strap of my bag as the guard called my name.
I wiped palms gone sweaty down my jeans as I stood up and slid the strap of my bag onto my shoulder. My sneakers squeaked as I walked across to the window where the guard waited. I worked to keep my face calm, but I felt myself wince inside.
The guard leaned his muscular arms on the counter and looked at me, his wide face impassive.
“I’m sorry ma’am. You are not an approved visitor.”
I sighed. “Is there anyone I can talk to? Can I send a note to Mr. McCairn?”
“Can I speak with a social worker?”
“Can I speak with the Warden?”
I looked at the guard. He looked back at me. I guessed he didn’t have anything else to say. Really, what else was there to say? I had sent letters. I had left messages. Grant McCairn wouldn’t see me, and he had the right to refuse visitors. I could come to this building however many times I wanted to, but unless Grant McCairn agreed to see me, I wasn’t getting past the security doors.
“Thank you.” I smiled. The guard didn’t smile back. I couldn’t blame him.
I exited the cool and quiet lobby to the hot and noisy streets of Philadelphia in summer. My dark blue eyes squinted in the sun and I fumbled in my bag for sunglasses before starting off down the sidewalk. My car was parked a few blocks away which left me with several minutes of walking to think. I had been trying to get in and speak to Grant McCairn ever since he was arrested for breaking into my home and assaulting me.
With a few exceptions, no one understood why I wanted to talk to him. But he was my connection, my link to my own personal monster. Georgia Layeen sent him to kill me with the message that he was a gift from her. This was after she taunted me with emails and flowers. After she threatened me and reminded me of the horror I had been through at the hands of serial killer Lawrence Pheares; a man responsible for the death of twenty-three teenaged girls.
Grant McCairn was my link to her, my only hope of finding and beating Georgia. I was convinced I needed to speak with him. So far, he didn’t want to speak with me and my FBI friend, Jack Moore, was being stubborn about helping me.
I let out a sigh as I walked, one of those long, drawn-out, put-upon sighs. It didn’t appear that I was going to get into see McCairn.
A little over a year ago my life changed dramatically when I uncovered evidence that a serial killer, Lawrence Pheares, had preyed upon teenaged girls. A killer responsible for the death of twenty-three young teenagers. One whose partner, Georgia Layeen, was still at large.
I beat him. I survived, along with Jack Moore. Now I was a target of his partner, or his lover--I still wasn’t clear on what their relationship was. What I knew, in the very marrow of my bones, was that Georgia Layeen was still out there. Still stalking me. Still waiting to do me harm.
After McCairn’s attack things were quiet, but I felt her out there, a malevolent presence waiting and watching. A pregnant pause whose birth promised suffering and death. Georgia wasn’t done with me yet.
A stale breeze barely stirred the air as I turned into the parking lot. I lifted my light blonde hair up to let the breeze slide against the back of my neck. It was a hot summer and in the middle of the city with buildings all around the heat was oppressive. In a few months it would be even worse. It’s at times like this that I really want to chop my hair into something cute, light, and, most importantly, cool. I keep my hair long because I spend my time writing or training. Long hair that I can easily put in a pony-tail or braid is easiest to deal with when sparing.
I entered the parking lot and started toward the back were my boxy black SUV, Bertha, was parked. Last year I practically lived in Bertha while I was on the run from Lawrence Pheares. Then a few months ago Bertha took a bullet for me along the side of a road in Virginia. Okay she didn’t jump in front of me or anything, but there was still a hole in her right side panel from the bullet that almost left a hole in my head. I feel a sentimental attachment to her, like she is an old friend. She instills a sense of safety when I see her. I survived in that boxy SUV.
I grinned as I walked towards her. I reached into my bag and pulled out my keys. I held my hair off of my sweaty neck as I pushed the unlock button on the key fob.
The blast knocked me back and off my feet. A wave of heat and sound rushed over me as car alarms blared and my head hit the pavement. Darkness threatened and my vision went blurry. I rolled to my side and tried to push myself up. My head throbbed and I automatically reached my hand up to explore why. It came away sticky and red. I looked up to see Bertha engulfed in flames.
I lurched to my feet and staggered towards the fire in horror and shock. My throat tightened and my eyes watered from the billowing smoke.
“BERTHA.” I tried to scream, but my voice cracked and my ears buzzed.
I stumbled a few steps toward the heat of Bertha’s remains before my legs gave out. I collapsed. A figure dropped down in front of me. The lot attendant grabbed my shoulders. I could tell he was talking to me because his lips were moving, but I couldn’t hear anything he said. Everything felt a million miles away. I was dizzy, hurt, lost. Bertha. I knew she was just a car, but she felt like more to me. She felt like safety. Watching her burn hurt more than my scrapes and banged head.
If you enjoyed the preview, pre-order Redemption today!
Plus the first two books in the series!
Run and Stand