Read Cold Touch Online

Authors: Leslie Parrish

Cold Touch (2 page)

BOOK: Cold Touch
7.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

stomach heave. She’d eaten almost nothing for days, yet thought she’d be

sick.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. She’d tried so hard to be strong, to think

positively. Her parents loved her, and they had a lot of money. Of course they’d

pay the ransom. She’d told herself it would al be okay. But it wouldn’t be okay.

Not ever again.

“When?” she final y asked, dread making the word hard to push from her

mouth.

“Once he makes sure they paid the ransom money.”

“If they’re paying the money, why is he going to kil me?” she asked, the

words sounding so strange in her ears. God, she was fifteen years old; the

very idea that she would be asking questions about her own murder had never

once crossed her mind.

Four days ago she’d been a slightly spoiled, happy teenager looking

forward to getting her driver’s license and wondering how much begging it

would take to get her overindulgent parents to buy her a Jeep.

Now she was wondering how many minutes she had left on this earth. She

could hear a clock ticking away in her mind, each tick marking one less

second of her life.

“He don’t want any witnesses.” Jack leaned back against the old plank-

“He don’t want any witnesses.” Jack leaned back against the old plank-

board wal and slid down it, like he couldn’t hold himself up anymore. He sat

hunched on the backs of his bent legs, watching her. A shaft of moonlight

bursting through a broken slat high up in the barn wal shone a spotlight on his

bony face. Tear tracks had cleared a path through the grime on his bruised

cheeks, and his lips—swol en, bloodied—quivered. “He’s afraid you can

identify him.”

“I can’t! I never even saw his face.”

That was true. She’d never gotten a glimpse of the man who’d grabbed her

from her own bedroom. Liv had awakened from a sound sleep to find a pil ow

slapped over her face, a hateful male voice hissing at her not to scream or

he’d shoot her and her sister, whose room was right next door. Their parents’

room was on the other side of the huge house, and Liv didn’t doubt that the

man would be able to make good on his threat before anyone could get to

them.

A minute later, any chance of screaming had been taken from her. He’d hit

her hard enough to knock her out. By the time she’d awakened, she was

already inside this old abandoned barn. Jack was the only living soul she’d

seen or heard since.

“I’m sorry.”

“Let me go,” she urged.

He shook his head, repeating, “I’m sorry.”

“Please, Jack. You can’t let this happen.”

“There’s nothin’ I can do.”

“Just untie me and give me a chance to run away.”

“He’l find you,” he said. “Then he’l kil us both.” His voice was low, his tone

sounding almost robotic. Like he’d heard the threat so many times it had

become ingrained in his head.

“When did he take you?” she asked, suddenly certain this boy was a

captive as wel .

“Take me?” Jack stared at her, his brown eyes flat and lifeless. “Whaddya

mean?”

“He kidnapped you, too, didn’t he?”

“Dunno.” Jack slowly shook his head. “I’ve been with him forever.”

“Is he your father?” she persisted.

Jack didn’t respond, though whether it was because he didn’t know or

didn’t want to say, she couldn’t be sure.

“Do you have a mother?”

“Don’t remember.”

“Look, whoever he is, you have to get away from him.
We
have to get away.”

She tried to scoot closer, though her legs—numb from being bound—didn’t

want to cooperate. She managed no more than a few inches before fal ing

onto her side, remnants of dry, dirty old hay scratching her cheek. “Come with

me. Untie me and we’l both run.”

If she
could
run on her barely functional legs.

She thrust that worry away. If it meant saving her life, hel , she’d crawl.

“I can’t,” he replied, looking down at her from a few feet away. His hand

rose, like he wanted to reach out and touch her, to help her sit up. Then he

dropped it back onto his lap, as if he was used to having his hand slapped if

he ever dared to raise it.

“Yes, you can! My parents wil help you. They’l be so grateful.”

“I can’t.”

Again that robotic voice. Like the kid was brainwashed. If he’d been a

prisoner for so long he didn’t remember any other life, she supposed he

probably was.

He reached into the pocket of his tattered jeans, pul ing out two smal pil s.

“Here,” he said. “I swiped ’em from the floor in his room. He musta dropped

’em. I think they’l make you sleep, so maybe it won’t hurt.”

A sob rose from deep inside her, catching in the middle of her throat,

choking and desperate. “How wil he do it?”

The boy sniffled. “I dunno.”

“Not a knife,” she cried, panic rising fast. “Oh, please God, don’t let him cut

me.”

She hated knives. In every horror movie she’d ever seen, it was the gleam

of light shining on the sharp, silvery edge of a blade that made her throw her

hands over her eyes or just turn off the TV.

“He don’t use a knife, not usual y,” Jack said.

His consoling reply didn’t distract her from the implication: She wouldn’t be

the first person to die at her kidnapper’s hands. He’d kil ed before. And this

boy had witnessed those kil ings.

“Don’t let this happen, Jack, please.” Tears poured out of her eyes as she

twisted and struggled against the ropes. “Don’t let him hurt me.”

“Take the pil s,” he said, his tears streaming as hard as hers. “Just take ’em.


“You should have brought the whole bottle,” she said, hearing her own

bitterness and desperation.

“If I could get to a whole bottle, I woulda swal owed’em myself a long time

ago.”

That haunted voice suddenly sounded so adult, so broken. The voice of

someone who’d considered suicide every day of his young life. What horrors

must he have endured to embrace the thought of death so easily?

It was his sheer hopelessness that made her realize she
hadn’t
given up

hope. She was terrified out of her mind and didn’t want to die, didn’t want to

feel the pain of death—
oh, God, not a knife
—but she wasn’t ready to give up,

either. No matter what she’d said, if he had a bottle of pil s in his hand, she

didn’t think she would swal ow them, not even now with death bearing down on

her like a car heading for a cliff.

She wanted to live.

“Where you at, boy?” a voice bel owed from outside.

Jack leapt to his feet, his sadness disappearing as utter terror swept over

him. That terror jumped from his body into hers, and Olivia struggled harder

against the ropes. Like an animal caught in a trap, she could almost smel her

own extermination barreling toward her.

She tried to keep her head. Tried to think.

If her captor didn’t know the boy had warned her, maybe he’d let his guard

down. Maybe she could get him to untie her, maybe she could run. . . .

Or maybe she real y was about to die.

“Please,” she whispered, knowing Jack wanted to help her. But his fear won

out; he didn’t even seem to hear her plea. He had already begun to climb over

the side wal of the stal , fal ing into the next one with a muffled grunt.

No sooner had he gone than the barn door flew open with a crash. Heavy

footsteps approached, ominous and violent like the powerful thudding of her

heart.

Through the worn slats, she could see Jack lying in the next stal ,

motionless, watching her. She pleaded with her eyes, but he didn’t respond in

any way. It seemed as though the real boy had retreated somewhere deep

inside a safe place in his mind, and only the shel of a human being remained.

Her kidnapper reached the entrance to the stal . Stil lying on her side, Olivia

first saw his ugly, thick-soled boots. She slowly looked up, noted faded jeans

pul ed tight over thick, squat legs, but before she could tilt her head back to

see the rest, something heavy and scratchy—a horse blanket, she suspected

—landed on her face, obscuring her vision.

Confusion made her whimper and her heart, already racing, tripped in her

chest. She trembled with fear, yes. But there was something more.

Hope.

He didn’t want her to see him. Which meant he might have changed his

mind. Maybe he knew she couldn’t identify him, and he was going to let her

go.

“Up you go, girl,” he said, grabbing her by her hair and yanking her to her

feet, holding the smal blanket in place. He pressed in behind her, and she

almost gagged. The cloth over her head wasn’t thick enough to block the

sweaty reek of his body or his sour breath—the same smel s she’d forever

associate with being startled awake in the night.

Forever?
Please, God, let there be more than just tonight.

“Looks like your Mama and Daddy ain’t sick’a you yet. They’re paying over

a lot of money to get you back.”

“You’re going to let me go?” she managed to whisper, hope blossoming.

“Sure I am, sugar,” he said with a hoarse, ugly laugh.

Olivia forced herself to ignore that mean laugh and al owed relief and

happiness to flood through her. She breathed deeply, then mumbled, “Thank

God. Oh, thank you, God.”

Ignoring her, he kicked at her bare feet so she’d start moving. She stumbled

on numb legs, and he had to support her as they trudged out of the stal —her

shuffling because of the rope. His grip on her hair and a thick arm around her

waist kept her upright as they walked outside into the hot Georgia night.

At least, she thought she was stil in Georgia. It smel ed like home, anyway.

Not even the musky odor of the fabric and her attacker’s stench could block

the scent of the night air, damp and thick and ripe like the woods outside of

Savannah after the rain.

Maybe she was stil in Savannah. Close to her own house, close to her

family. Minutes away from her father’s strong arms and her mother’s loving

kiss.

Despite everything—her fears, the boy’s claims—she was going to see

them again.

Suddenly, he stopped. “Where you been at?”

A furtive movement came from nearby. Jack had apparently scurried out of

his hiding place. “Watchin’ the road.”

Suddenly, Olivia was overwhelmed with anger at the boy, fury that he’d

scared her, even more that he hadn’t helped her escape. Over the past few

days, there had been any number of times when he could have released her,

but he hadn’t done it.

Then, remembering the blank, dazed expression, the robotic voice, she

forced the anger away. He was a little kid who’d been in this monster’s grip for

a whole lot longer than three days. She couldn’t imagine what he had endured.

Once she got home, she was going to do what she could for him. Help him get

free, find out who his people were. She had to; otherwise that blank, haunted

stare and bruised face would torment her for the rest of her life.

“Good. I’m gonna need your help in a li’l while. Once I take care of this, I

want you to get some plastic and rol her up good and tight to bury her. You

know what to do.”

And just like that, her fantasy popped. He wasn’t hauling her outside to let

her go. Jack had been right al along. Olivia shuddered, her weak legs giving

out beneath her as the world began to spin and the faces of her parents and

little sister flashed in her mind.

“Get me my hunting knife.”

Her every muscle went rigid with terror. A scream rose in her throat and

burst from her mouth. He clapped a hand over it, shoving the fabric between

her split lips. “Shut up, girl, or it’l go worse for ya.” Then, to the boy, he

snapped, “Wel ? Get goin’!”

“Knife’s broke,” Jack mumbled. “I was usin’ it to tighten up the hinges on the

barn door, and the blade snapped.”

Her kidnapper moved suddenly, the hand releasing her mouth. A sudden

thwack said he’d backhanded the boy. Jack didn’t cry out, didn’t stagger

away, as far as she could hear.

“What am I supposed to do now?” the man snapped.

Jack cleared his throat. For a second, she thought he had worked up the

courage to beg for her freedom, that he would try, however futilely, to stand up

for her.

Instead, in that same brainwashed voice, he made another suggestion. And

her last hope died.

“Why don’t you drown her?”

Chapter 1
Present day

Pul ing into the gravel parking lot of a burned-out honky-tonk on Ogeechee

Road, Detective Gabe Cooper eyed his watch, then the temperature gauge

on the dash of his unmarked sedan. Six twenty-five a.m., eighty-two degrees.

Humidity about eighty percent.

It was gonna be a hel of a day. Or a day in hel . With any summer in

Savannah, there wasn’t much difference, and this August heat wave had

BOOK: Cold Touch
7.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Healing Faith by Jennyfer Browne
A Death in the Loch by Caroline Dunford
Longhorn Country by Tyler Hatch
I SHALL FIND YOU by Ony Bond
The Dogs of Winter by Kem Nunn
The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman
Angel City by Jon Steele