Home > Taming Cross(10)

Taming Cross(10)
Author: Ella James

Silence eats my words, and I wipe my eyes with the palm of my hands. My heart is beating hard, and for some reason, I have a flash memory of walking out of my second grade classroom to Aunt Britta’s van, of how my backpack felt so heavy, and I disliked being stuck in that school building all day so much. I want to cry some more, but I manage to hold it in, because I'm not a girl who cries.

Finally, I hear the slight rustle of Father Mendez's robes, and his low voice travels through the thatch.

“The Lord hears you,” he says. “I don't want you to say Hail Marys. Close your eyes and see your past and understand that you have paid these debts already. Sister Mary Carolina—she wishes to shelter you. St. Catherine's offers shelter for all people and if there is danger, we will trust our Lord to deliver us.”

And now Father Mendez leans forward, so close to the thatch divider that I can smell a whiff of coffee. When he speaks again, his voice is nothing but a hiss. “But if you want to ensure that God keeps these children safe, I have a message. Walk out the door nearest the site of the explosion Thursday at ten o'clock in the evening.”

He leans back into his seat.

“I cannot promise that the Lord will preserve your life, but I have heard your confession and I believe your heart is pure. If you perish, you will join our savior in Heaven.”









ONCE I DECIDE to go looking for Meredith Kinsey, I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. It's my fault she's still in Mexico. If she's dead and gone, that's my fault too. I could have told someone. Shown someone the files I saved on a USB. Copies of e-mails that showed my father conspired with Priscilla Heat and Jim Gunn to sell one of his former mistresses as a sex slave.

When I found out, last May, Cross Carlson had his own shit going on. He was busy making money, tweaking bikes, fucking around. He’s done being a selfish fucknut.

I have to drive to Vegas before I do anything else. I leave early Wednesday morning, armed with my trusty leather bike bag, plus my passport and a fake ID that I bought last night from one of my high school buddies, a civil servant who specializes in fake documents for illegal immigrants.

After making a pit stop at a bookstore for a road map of Mexico, I adjusted the Mach’s arm band for extra mobility and steering accuracy. Right before bed, I called my mobile phone provider and got the internet turned back on; I’ve e-mailed both Wil and Napo, plus my old receptionist, Martha, informing them that I’ll let them know something about the shop in the next two weeks. It’s a small step, I know, but it feels good.

The air is cool and crisp at 6 a.m. as I head down I-680 toward Walnut Creek and Dublin, which will get me close to I-5 South. The sky is caught between shades of blue, the grass glows yellow-silver with the sun’s first rays, and on my bike, I feel okay. Capable. Good.

I got a voice mail in the wee hours of this morning from my father. He sounded drunk and said some vaguely threatening shit about the situation between us deteriorating further if I stirred up any trouble regarding ‘the situation we discussed’. If anything, it was the final affirmation that I’m doing the right thing.

I make good time through Walnut Creek, past Livermore; then my route veers eastward, and after that, south on I-5 toward Bakersfield. I make a couple of stops to stretch my arm and shoulder, but I’ve got PB&J and water, plus some jerky and a couple of apples in my bag. It’s enough to hold me over until I get to Vegas.

The nine-hour drive is surprisingly enjoyable. I haven’t felt the wind on my face the way it hits you on the highway in a long, long time. I know I must be hard-up for this when I feel my throat get thick outside L.A. It’s not the most beautiful place to ride—far from it—but it just feels so damn good to be back on the road.

By the time I roll to a stop at a gas station in Vegas, it’s mid-afternoon and I’m sweaty, stiff, and tired. Still, I grin when I pull my helmet off and rub my hand back through my sticky, matted hair. I unzip my leather jacket and fish a map of the city out of my bag. It would be good if I could use a phone’s nav system, but I think it’s too risky to bring a smart phone on this excursion. I don’t trust my father not to try some shit and track me down. Anyway, I’m pretty good with old-school maps.

I’m looking for an upscale suburb on the west side of town. It’s called The Woods, although I can’t imagine there are really any ‘woods’ in Vegas. I find Birch Street pretty quickly and, again, feel surprised at the ordinary name.

For Priscilla Heat, I’d imagined something more exotic—and maybe she was living somewhere more exotic, before what went down in Mexico two and a half months ago. She and Jim Gunn tried to make Lizzy and I the latest victims of their illicit business. While Jim Gunn got arrested right out of Mexico and charged with multiple counts of abduction, human trafficking, and murder, Priscilla didn’t re-surface until March, when she got caught crossing the border with some drug runners near Nogales.

Somehow, both she and Jim Gunn got out on bail. I guess my father’s not the only powerful friend they have. I don’t think there’s any way Jim Gunn won’t get put away for life, but rumor has it that Priscilla is planning to turn state’s witness, so she could still come out okay.

I know for sure she’s hidden in this little corner of suburbia because Hunter West told me—and he’s got a P.I. on her ass. Now that she’s here, she can’t leave. She’s got a tracker bracelet, or something like that. I guess I’ll find out.

The drive to The Woods takes me about forty minutes, and as I suspected, there’s hardly a tree in sight. The neighborhood is unremarkable: a bunch of three-story, Spanish-style homes that sit on half-acre lots. There’s a sidewalk lined with bushes. Tennis courts. Grass and flowers meticulously maintained by the HOA.

Priscilla’s house is a patterned stone monstrosity with a gaudy leopard fountain in the front and huge cement balconies on all sides, as if it was built for someone under a “no leaving the house” rule. The grass is so green it hurts my eyes, and as I roll closer, I can see the spray of sprinklers embedded here and there, making little rainbows in the fading sunlight.

There’s no gate, so I can drive right down the winding driveway. I park the Mach between the large, circular fountain and her front porch. As I take off my helmet, I notice the porch is pink-tinted cement. How cute.

I brush my hair down with my fingers, then think of who I’m visiting and pull it back up sideways. My shoulder is sore, so I roll it before putting my left hand in my jacket pocket. The jacket is heavy, and it’s not cold here, but I can’t bring myself to take it off. Now that I’m here, I feel surprisingly nervous. Probably because of my hand. Also could be because she got one up on me that day at the vineyard. Or maybe I’m just nervous. I ring her bell.

I pull the little picture out of my jeans pocket and look down at Meredith’s face while I bang on the door. It sucks being here—having to go to Priscilla Heat for anything—but I remind myself that I’m doing this for one of her victims. One who didn’t escape her like I did.

I slide the picture back into my pocket and I lift my hand to knock again. Before my knuckles hit the wood, I hear a buzz of static, followed by Priscilla Heat’s snippy voice. “What do you want?”

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