She closed her eyes. “Not good, Hayden. Not good.”
Chocking it up to fatigue and too much work, she opted to go for a run. Sweat and fresh air were the best medicine for anxiety.
She changed quickly. Normally she didn’t carry her gun when she worked out. Its weight and bulk sometimes rubbed against her skin, but tonight she put up with the inconvenience. She clipped the gun at the base of her back and pulled an oversize T-shirt over it.
The night air was crisp. As a teenager, before things went wrong, she used to run. She’d loved the solitude. But now she had worry and stress weighing on her.
She grabbed her phone and shoved earbuds in before cutting through the lobby. With a nod to the woman working behind the desk, she headed outside. The run began slowly. But within minutes sweat beaded on her forehead and soaked her T-shirt.
Many of the old streets and buildings hadn’t changed much in the last seventeen years. Sure, some businesses had traded hands, but the buildings and the street patterns had remained the same. Memories from the past flashed through her mind, and she recalled walking these streets with her mother, father, and brother. Before her father had died, they’d been a happy family. Her father had been the glue that held them all together. And with him gone, it all unraveled.
Her gaze settled on a too-familiar location. Breathless, she slowed her pace to a walk, pressing her hand to her side as she moved closer to the alley that she would never forget.
Usually she drove to chess practice alone, but that night her father offered to drive. It was dark when she came outside and saw her father standing by the car. As she approached him, William stepped out of the shadows. He hesitated when he saw Kate’s father, then raised his weapon before her father could wrestle the gun away. The pop, pop of the weapon was loud, and Kate flinched as time slowed to a crawl and every detail came into perfect focus.
Her father sank to his knees, stared up at her, his eyes reflecting shock, anger, and fear. He mouthed, “Run,” as the barrel swung toward her. Her life stilled. William fired.
The first bullet struck her in the thigh, tearing through flesh. The impact dropped her to her knees. The next rapid-fire shot hurled a slug toward her face. William never spoke as she tumbled back toward the ground.
She would later learn that a facial wound could bleed excessively, often looking far worse than it was. Unconscious and covered in blood, she must have appeared dead to William.
Her next memory was a siren blaring and William cursing her. “Why the fuck did you make me do this?”
The blast of a horn brought Kate back to the moment, and she realized several people were staring at her. Ducking her head, she turned and ran back toward the hotel. When she arrived, her hair and clothes were drenched in sweat.
She entered the lobby and was suddenly anxious for a hot shower to wash away the sweat and memories. She had just pressed the “Up” button on the elevator when she heard, “Kate.”
She stiffened at the sound of the familiar voice. Activating mental armor, she turned to see her brother, Mitchell, crossing the lobby. It had been at least five years since she’d seen him. He was as tall and muscular as ever, but since his wife’s death he looked tired. Silver now wove through his dark hair. A Texas Ranger’s star pinned to his chest glinted in the lobby light, and he held his Stetson in his hand.
She didn’t speak as she rubbed the side of her neck. “Mitchell. Is everything all right?”
“Mom is fine.”
“How did you find me?”
“When I saw you on the news I figured you’d be staying close to police headquarters. I stopped by the police department and identified myself.”
Annoyance scraped under her skin. “And they gave you the information?”
“I’m a Texas Ranger. And I know a lot of those guys.”
Still, it didn’t sit well. “Right.”
“Mom also saw you on the news. She knows you’re in town.”
Guilt jabbed her. “I’ll call her.”
He traced the leather-and-silver-studded band of his Stetson. “Why haven’t you gone by to see her?”
Visiting the family home where her mother still lived always churned up bad memories. Whenever Kate did have free time, she invited her mother to come see her wherever she was staying. Her mother always agreed, never once pushing Kate to visit the house.
“I said I would call her and I will.” Her brother might be trained to interrogate, but she was adept at avoiding questions.