The cruiser started forward again, traveling under the underpass. We could get to the hospital from here, but . . .”Considering how you want to move away from here and get away from all reminders of what happened four years ago, I’m surprised you just didn’t move in with your father when he left.”
My frown started to slip. “How . . . how do you know I want to move away?”
“Everyone knows that, Ella. You haven’t made it a secret.” There was a pause. “It’s funny how people deal with things—stuff that they brought on themselves. Some think they have no fault, you know? None at all. They just keep doing what they do, blissfully ignorant. Others get angry.”
The next breath I took froze in my lungs. My fingers eased off the steel.
“And there’re people like you.” At another stoplight, he twisted around so he faced me. The coldness in his gaze stopped my heart. “So riddled with guilt that you can’t even say his name without wincing.”
“His name?” My pulse sped up.
His gaze met mine. “Penn.”
I drew back from the steel cage as I stared at him. Part of my brain was processing what was going down, knew what he was saying and what a precarious position I was in, but the other part flat-out refused it. Couldn’t even wrap itself around the idea.
A smile appeared on his face, and then he made the low guttural sound that had haunted me since the very first time I’d heard it. He tsked under his breath. “It’s time to pay your dues, Ella.”
Oh my God . . .
It was Deputy Jordan Shaw.
Part of me rebelled at the idea, but it was him. He was the monster. The killer among us. As I stared at him, pieces started to click together in a horrifying chain of connections.
Shaw had been one of the officers to respond to the call at Penn’s house. He lived in this town, knew it inside and out. He’d been at the school when the bird had been placed in Wendy’s bag. He’d been at the warehouse when Jensen and I had talked about me staying with Linds’. And he’d been at school when the mask was placed in my locker, but how did he know to get into my window? Unless he’d been watching when Jensen did it? And him being a cop? He knew how to get away with what he was doing, could hide evidence if there was any, but I didn’t understand. Why? Why would he do this? He was Gavin’s cousin, but why would he do this to us? I couldn’t think of a reason.
Shit. Shit. Shit.
Over and over again, that one word replayed in my head as I reached for the door and realized there was no handle, no way out.
Shaw laughed, and there was something menacing and mocking about it. “You’re not escaping this time.”
The hairs rose all over my body as my head swung back to him sharply. Coldness rooted deep in my stomach. I was trapped.
“You walked right into it. I’m thinking I probably should’ve gone this route from the beginning.” He grinned then. “If I’d known how easy it would be, it would’ve saved me a lot of trouble, but then again, where’s the fun in that?”
I swallowed against the rapidly building nausea. “The fun?”
One shoulder shrugged, and his attention flipped back to the house, back to where Gavin was. Oh God. Gavin. He was hurt—hurt badly, could be dead, and I . . . I had helped Shaw take him out.
He chuckled. “Thinking of Gavin, huh? You know, he was the only one out of you little shits that really cared about that kid. Who never screwed him over.”
My heart was beating fast now, trying to climb out of my chest. “We cared about Penn.”
“Sure didn’t seem like it.”
“Why?” I asked. “Why are you doing this?”
“Why?” he mimicked, and then turned back to the steering wheel.
Shaw didn’t answer. The cruiser lurched into motion, pulling away from the curb. I had to get out of here. That was the only thing I could focus on, but as I glanced around the dark interior, I noticed nothing I could use to break a window.
Nothing other than my feet.
Leaning back against the seat, I pulled my knees back and slammed my feet into the window. The thud sent a jolt up my legs, but the window didn’t give. I did it again, totally prepared to jump out of a moving car.
Shaw laughed. “That’s reinforced glass, honey. You aren’t going anywhere.”
I switched positions, pushing against the back of the seat. Pulling my knees back, I kicked the cage. The steel rattled, but like with the glass, nothing gave. I kicked it again, and then again.
“Knock it off,” he warned, glancing back at me as the houses sped by outside the cruiser. “Or I will pull this car over, and our time will be cut short.”
Pulling the cruiser over would give me a chance to escape. That was my only opportunity, so I kicked the cage again and again, until my feet and knees ached.
At the red light, he reached down to his side, unhooked something, and a second later, a red dot appeared on my chest. I sucked in air, stilling.
“This is a taser,” he gritted out. “It won’t kill you, but it will hurt like hell. And if it makes it through the cage, you’re going to wish you had listened to me. So stop.”
Shaking all over, I decided pushing it wouldn’t be wise. I’d never been tased before, but I’d seen videos, and it didn’t look like fun. Not to mention, I had no idea how long the effects of a taser would last. I couldn’t risk being out of it when he opened the car door.
And he had to open the car door at some point.
I settled down, conserving my energy. I couldn’t let myself think about Gavin or Jensen.
“That’s a good girl,” he murmured.
The desire to kick his head in was almost too strong. Taking several deep breaths, I turned my attention to the window. The streets were virtually empty, lit by the streetlamps. I recognized where we were. Downtown. Ironically, we passed the police station.
It wasn’t long before we reached Rosemont Avenue. Confused, I twisted toward Shaw. Was he taking me back to my street?
We drove down my street, passing my house by a block, and then he turned into a narrow alley I hadn’t gone down in years. I absolutely refused to go there, because it led to the back entrance of Penn’s house. Ice drenched my veins.
Shaw pulled the cruiser off to the side, tires crunching over gravel. The car crept under the carport that was still standing and virtually hidden by overgrown bushes and trees. No one would see the car, and as late as it was, I doubted anyone would even be awake let alone looking out the back window, seeing through the jungle of overgrown branches and weeds.
“Why here?” I asked.
Shaw killed the engine. “It’s where it all began. Seems fitting that it’s where it all should end. When I’m done with you . . . well, that just leaves two more.”
I had no idea where Mason was, but oh God, Jensen would be in the hospital, virtually unprotected. No one would stop Shaw from walking in there, but there’d be witnesses. “You’re not going to get away with this.”
“That’s probably the most cliché thing people can say.”
“Others saw you take me!”
“I’ll say I dropped you off at your father’s. Then I’ll pay them a little visit.” He laughed again, the sound cold and flat. “Of course I’m going to get away with it. Do you think I don’t know how to cover my tracks? How to make a death look accidental?”
My heart stopped again. He was talking about my dad and Rose and Jensen.
“And up until ten minutes or so ago, you had no idea it was me.” He smirked. “I will get away with it, and it’s not because I’m smart or a cop. It’s because I’m doing the right thing.”
“Doing the right thing? You’re killing people!”
“I’m cleaning up this damn mess.”
Cleaning up this mess? I wasn’t following.
“It’s the right thing to do.” His brows rose and then he turned, opening the car door. “You do anything stupid, you’re going to regret it.”
My heart was back to pounding so fast that I was worried about having a heart attack. I was planning a whole lot of stupid. I’d only have one chance to get free. My hands were shaking as he rounded the car, his form bulky and heavy in the shadows. He reached for the door.