Mum had come over not ten minutes after Emery had gone home on Saturday. The pained look on her face had my stomach in knots, and my insides twisted painfully at the options. Something was wrong. Was Momma Gemma okay? Grandma? Grandpa? Mum?
She didn’t wait long to give me the bad news. The moment I opened the door she sank into my arms and started crying.
“Gemma is gone, Sophia. Gemma is-” Choking on her words she couldn’t bring herself to finish, but she had said enough. My Momma was gone. We had known that she hadn’t had much time left for a little while now but that didn’t make actually losing her any easier.
“When?” I asked as I held onto Mum.
“Last night. She passed away peacefully in her sleep, in the hospital.”
“Come on in” I said as I held the door open. Emery was going to be back soon but I couldn’t just leave her. “I’ll make us some tea.”
Mum shook her head gently. “I’ll be okay, sweetheart. We knew this was coming, but now that it has… I thought I was prepared. I miss her.”
“Are you sure? I don’t like the idea of you driving right now.”
Mum hugged me, holding on tight. “I got here okay. I’ll get back home okay, too.” She sighed, giving my hands a squeeze. “There are things I need to sort out. Mum and Milan are staying with me tonight, sweetheart, don’t you worry about me.” I nodded, feeling better knowing that Mum wouldn’t be alone at least. Maybe I could take a week off work and join my family for a while. I knew it was probably too soon after my promotion, but you couldn’t plan for things like this. And I was worried by how tired Mum looked. She was older than Momma Gemma, if only by a little bit.
“Give me a call when you’re back home, all right?”
“I will, sweetheart. I just wanted to give you the news in person, and I needed to get out of the house for a little while.” We hugged and I watched as she drove off, worried that she wouldn’t be able to see the road properly through her tears. I knew Mum was a fighter but that didn’t stop me from worrying.
Half an hour after Mum had left I heard the familiar knock on the door. Grateful that Emery was finally back I jumped up, desperately needing the comfort of his arms. I wanted nothing more than to cuddle into him and mourn my Momma, but I was to be denied that small comfort.
It wasn’t Emery at the door. It was Chief Parker.
“Chief! How can I-” Suddenly feeling sick, I thought of Mum driving home crying. What if- “Is something wrong?” I asked, not sure if I wanted to know the answer.
“Not at all. I simply came to discuss your recent promotion. Allow me to congratulate you again.” At this hour?
“Thank you.” The relief at hearing that he wasn’t here because Mum had had an accident overshadowed the sinking feeling in my stomach. He was here for something. If he wanted to congratulate me again it could have waited until Monday. “Would you like to come inside?” I asked, not wanting to be rude.
He nodded. “Thank you.”
Having the Chief in my home felt strange. The last time he had been here had been my garden party months ago, yet he entered like he owned my house. I wasn’t comfortable having him here this late in the evening but I could hardly refuse my boss a chat after he had only just promoted me. I just hoped that Emery would not be long. Something about the way he carried himself had my nerves on high alert.
“You said you wanted to discuss my promotion?”
“Ah, yes. Your promotion” he said, clearing his throat. “You have done rather well for yourself since joining our Police Department. Your mother must be very proud of you.”
My mother? What did Mum have to do with this? “She is. I’m sorry, it’s late. If there was nothing else, could we discuss this on Monday?” I didn’t want to be rude but every instinct I had told me to get him out as soon as possible.
A grin that made my skin crawl entered his face. It looked oddly familiar but I couldn’t for the life of me think where I might have seen it before.”Oh, but I have no intention of seeing you again on Monday.”
Confused, I tried to make sense of his words. “Am I fired?”
“No, no, not fired. Your mother, however, will have more than one family member to mourn after tonight.”
“What are you-” I didn’t understand. Why was Chief Parker threatening me? Everything about this conversation was too strange to comprehend. I knew something had been off about him, but kill me? The Chief wouldn’t go that far. He was unarmed as far as I could see, I had the younger body. I could overpower him if I needed to, I was sure of it. This whole situation was so surreal I couldn’t believe it was really happening. My Chief was threatening me. In my own home.
“Take a look at this” he said, handing me the strangest device I had ever seen.
“What is it?”
“This, my dear daughter, is how I have kept an eye on you all these months.”
Every part of me froze. I didn’t know what to say or how to react. No matter how often I replayed his words in my mind, they didn’t make sense. He was the one who had spied on me. And what had he just called me? Lost for words, I stood frozen to the spot staring at the thing he had just handed me, unable to speak.
I felt sick. When I finally found my voice again, the words wouldn’t come.
“You what?” This couldn’t be happening. How was this even possible? It couldn’t be possible! My father was a criminal, a wanted criminal! There was no way he could just walk into any police department and get a job! Or be promoted to Chief, even! All of us knew his face, knew his name, knew everything about him! This was ridiculous. I had missed something, something obvious, I was sure of it. How else could this be? He couldn’t be-
The room was spinning. The last picture we had of Blaine Raegan was as a middle aged adult, back when he had been imprisoned. No one had seen him since then, we did not even know for sure where he was. As a police officer I knew all about how petty thieves went about faking their IDs. One of the most wanted criminals in Oasis Springs and Willow Creek would surely know a few tricks himself.
I wanted to throw up. Was it really that obvious? Had I really been that stupid? How funny this must have been for him, watching me search for my father while he was the one giving me assignments all along. And I had never even noticed.
“You heard me, girl. You won’t be returning on Monday, and you won’t leave your house alive again, either. Such a pity, really” he said, looking at me like I was the bad guy here. “We could have build something beautiful together! I would have offered you the same choice I offered your mother, had you not worked so hard to bring me down. You should have inherited my business, Sophia.” He sounded angry, like I had let him down. Did he actually expect me to be disappointed that I had missed out on being his partner in crime?
I knew he wouldn’t humour me but I needed a moment to think, to process everything. The Police Chief of Willow Creek was Blaine Raegan. My father. A wanted criminal. The man who had raped my Mum. And all this time I had worked for him I had never even suspected the truth! I had been so blind!
“You need to leave” I said, knowing very well that he wouldn’t.
Chief Parker – Blaine Raegan – reached out for my arm but I pulled away before he got anywhere near me.
“Now, why so scared? I’m not a bad person, Sophia. I am happy to make your death quick and painless. You won’t suffer, I promise.” The grin I now recognised from all these wanted posters mocked me and everything that I was. “You are my child, after all.”
Panic grabbed me. Desperately needing to get away from him I pushed him and ran, but he was faster. He grabbed my wrist and painfully jerked me around, landing a punch to my ribcage. Nothing cracked, but the sudden impact and force behind it was enough to knock the air out of me.
I coughed, trying to regain myself when he grabbed my hair and pulled me back up, forcing me to look at him.
“Maybe I won’t make this quick after all, then. A shame. But don’t worry, Sophia, I will bring Lilli the news of your death myself. She will let me in, don’t you think? I am your boss, after all.” I wanted to hurt him more than I had ever wanted to hurt anyone in my entire life, but just as I was about to return the punch he knocked me over the head with that strange device of his, and I stumbled to the floor.
It wasn’t enough to knock me out – and I didn’t think it had been his intention to – but everything was spinning, and I felt nauseous from the sudden disorientation.
“What’s going on?”
I hadn’t even heard the door open. Blaine must have left it unlocked when he followed me inside, and Emery had let himself in.
“What are you doing here?” Blaine’s voice was full of disdain, but he did not sound like he cared. I expected he believed he could easily take on both of us. Worried that he actually could I tried to stand up but couldn’t. I felt like I was going to be sick if I moved another inch, and crumbled into a pile on the floor instead.
“Emery-” I croaked, hoping he’d hear the warning in my voice.
“What are you doing to her?” I had never heard that tone on his voice before. With every case he had taken he had been calm, even when criminals had pointed weapons at us. Never once had he sounded angry. He sounded furious now.
“I believe I asked you first, Mr. Dwyer. This does not need to concern you. Leave now and I’ll be willing to forget about this unfortunate intrusion.”
“I don’t think so.” Emery sounded ready to tear Blaine’s head off. “I’ve already alerted the police. They’ll be here within fifteen minutes, twenty minutes tops. You won’t get away with this.”
Blaine laughed. “And who do you think they will believe? You and her, or their Chief? I was leading their department long before you two came along!”
Emery flashed him a smug grin. “Yes, but we have evidence. You’re not the only one who installed cameras.”
For a moment neither said anything. Even from my position on the floor I could tell that Blaine was beginning to lose his patience.
“They won’t help you. Once you’re both dead I will dispose of everything before anyone can search the house. I won’t assign anyone until I’m sure this place is clean.”
“Once we’re dead?” Emery laughed, taunting him. “We’ve had our share of dangerous criminals, Chief Parker. Criminals younger and stronger than you. You’ve taken Soph by surprise but you’re not so lucky with me.” I wanted to beg him to stop and get out, but every time I tried to talk bile rose up instead.
“This is your last warning, Mr. Dwyer. Get out now, and I’ll consider letting you go.”
“No. Not without Soph.”
“I can’t do that.”
“Then I’m not going anywhere.”
I couldn’t see who attacked first, but before I knew it both men were fighting for their lives.
Through the chaos I thought I saw a knife flash, but it was impossible to tell who it belonged to. Both of them screamed and threw threats at the other, but I had no idea who was winning.
I felt my insides twist when blood smeared across the floor. Blaine seemed to be bleeding, but so was Emery. Praying that it was Blaine’s I tried to get up but crumbled onto my sofa instead.
Moments later the sirens of police cars cut through their fighting. Emery landed a final blow, and Blaine sank down into a bleeding pile in the middle of the room. His head was bleeding, but he was alive.
My heart sank when Emery sat down next to me. His hand was covering the wound but even through his fingers I could see his jumper turning a deep red.
I wanted to reach out for him, make sure he was okay, but instead I sank against him just as three officers shot into my house, trying to understand what had happened. One of them called an ambulance while the other two dashed over to us with emergency kits, trying to figure out which one of us was hurt the most.
“Can you speak?” she asked, but all I could do was grunt and nod. “Just sit still, and ambulance will be here any minute. Move your hand, Officer Dwyer.” His arm fell to his side, giving the cop a chance to bandage the wound as best as she could.
In the middle of the room Blaine stirred, causing the officer who had called the ambulance to hurry over to him.
A strong wave of relief washed over me as I felt my eyes grow heavy. The police were here now, we had evidence of the whole evening as well as a confession on tape, and paramedics would arrive any moment.
Emery and I were going to be okay.
And finally, after all this time, Blaine Raegan would answer for his crimes.