Lunatic Revenge

Lunatic Revenge
Sharon Sala

September 2012 $11.95
ISBN: 978-1-61194-179-1

Book 3 of the Lunatic Life series

 
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Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt

Back Cover

Do Tara and Flynn stand a ghost of a chance?

The bad guys are after a hidden fortune that belongs to Flynn O’Mara’s dying father—they think Tara can use her psychic powers to find it for them. She’ll need plenty of help from her spirit friends if she and Flynn are going to get out of this trouble alive.

"Look out!” Tara screamed, as the sports car spun toward them.

The car hit them twice—first on the driver’s side fender, then as Flynn’s car started to spin, again on the back bumper.

"Hold on!” Flynn yelled, as their car flipped once, then went airborne, over the guard rail, and into Boomer Lake.

Tara came to as the car was sinking nose first into the water and quickly unbuckled her seat belt. If they were going to survive, they would have to get themselves out.

"Flynn! Unbuckle your seatbelt. I’m going to roll down the windows so we can swim out.”

Then she saw Flynn, unconscious and slumped over the steering wheel. Frantically, she unbuckled his belt and tried to pull him toward her, but the steering wheel was too tight against his chest.

"I can’t breathe,” he groaned. "Help me, Tara, help me.”

Tara began screaming at Flynn, begging him to move as the water rushed up to their chests—then their necks. She was holding Flynn’s face out of the water, pushing him as far up as she could until their heads were touching the roof of the car.She couldn’t believe this was happening. It was just like her dream. They were going to die. Where was her backup when she needed them?

"Millicent! Henry!Uncle Pat! Someone! Anyone!Help! Help!”

Seconds later, the water was over their heads.

Sharon Sala’s stories are often dark, dealing with the realities of this world, and yet she’s able to weave hope and love within the words for the readers who clamor for her latest works.

Her books repeatedly make the big lists, including The New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher’s Weekly, and she’s been nominated for a RITA seven times, which is the romance writer’s equivalent of having an OSCAR or an EMMY nomination. Her novels published by Bell Bridge Books include The Lunatic Life Series: My Lunatic Life, The Lunatic Detective, and Lunatic Revenge; also a psychological suspense novel, The Boarding House. Visit her at http://sharonsalabooks.com and on Facebook.


Reviews

"I absolutely love this series. I liked the first book, really liked the second, and I LOVE the third one… I love Tara's bravery and her will. I wish she was my friend… Sharon Sala's characters are superb. And her pacing is flawless!" -- Soma Rostam, Insomnia of Books

Excerpt

Chapter One

"I can’t breathe. Help me, Tara, help me.”

More water was coming into the car now, creeping up their waists, to their chests, then their necks. Tara was holding up Flynn’s head, but it wasn’t the water that was restricting his breath, it was the broken rib that had punctured one of his lungs.

Tara couldn’t believe this was happening, and that she was going to die before she had a chance to grow up.

Where was her backup when she needed them?

Millicent! Henry! Uncle Pat! Someone! Anyone! Help! Help!

Seconds later, the water was over their heads.

The alarm went off.

Tara woke with jerk and then flew out of bed before she realized where she was. She took a deep breath, still locked into the dream that she and Flynn had been drowning.

"OMG, that was seriously wack.”

She sank back onto the side of the bed, and didn’t realize until she turned off the alarm that it was raining. That explained the water dream, but not why she had seen her and her boyfriend in danger.

For most people, assuming a dream had real meaning would have been silly, but Tara wasn’t like everyone else. Not only did she see ghosts, but she was psychic, too. It made every day of her life a challenge. What bothered her now was that for some time she’d felt something dark hanging around Flynn. She just couldn’t get a handle on whether it was a dark spirit, or a living, breathing baddy?

She’d talked to Millicent and Henry, the two ghosts who lived with her and her Uncle Pat, but for whatever reason they’d been mum. Either that meant she was on the wrong track, or they weren’t supposed to tell. There were rules where they came from about what they could and couldn’t reveal—stuff that Tara didn’t fully understand.

So it was raining, which meant the walk to school would suck eggs. Still in a bad mood from the dream, Tara made a quick trip to the bathroom and then headed for the kitchen to start the coffee for her uncle. With this weather, his day was going to be miserable too, reading meters for the City of Stillwater.

She could hear voices as she headed down the hall and, when she reached the living room, realized the television was on. Uncle Pat must already be up, only when she got to the kitchen, it was empty. She backtracked into the living room, and this time noticed his feet propped up on the end of the sofa. He’d fallen asleep watching TV again.

Smiling, she leaned over to wake him and immediately smelled the liquor on his breath, then saw the empty bottle on the floor beside him. Her heart dropped. Not again. He’d been down in the dumps ever since he’d stopped going out with Flynn’s mom, Mona, and this was always his cure-all when things didn’t go as planned. It used to scare her, finding him in this condition, but not any longer. She’d made up her mind months ago that they weren’t quitting and moving ever again, no matter how many jobs he got fired from. She yanked the pillow out from under his head, and the remote out of his hands.

"Uncle Pat. Wake up. You’re going to be late for work.”

Pat Carmichael groaned then blinked as the television went dead.

"Huh... what... I uh...”

"Wake up! You’re going to be late for work,” she said, and took the empty bottle into the kitchen and dumped it into the trash.

She was making coffee when he stumbled into the kitchen.

"Hey, honey, this rain is really coming down and I’m not feeling so good. I think I’ll call in sick and you can take the car to school, okay?”

Tara’s heart sank. "No, Uncle Pat, it’s not okay. I’m not taking the car, because you’ve got thirty-three minutes to be out of his house or you’re gonna be late for work.”

Pat frowned. Tara had never challenged him like this before.

"Listen here, you don’t—”

Tara’s hands began to shake. "No, you listen. If you lose this job and decide you’re going to quit on this city and move again, you’ll be leaving without me. I’m done, Uncle Pat. I have less than a year to graduate high school and I’m never changing schools again. Thanks to the reward money I got for finding Bethany Fanning when she got kidnapped, I have money to go to college and I’m staying here to do it. Are you going to stay with me, or am I going to be part of the past you’re still trying to outrun?”

Pat was blindsided, and at the same time, ashamed. He put his arms around his niece and hugged her.

"I will never leave you behind, and I’m sorry I scared you,” he said, and kissed the top of her head. "I’m going to clean up. Make the coffee strong.”

Tara blinked back tears as she poured the water into the coffee maker and turned it on.

That’s been a long time coming, but I’m proud of you.

Tara sighed. The whisper in her ear was from the only motherly figure she’d ever known. Millicent was a spirit who never bothered to show herself beyond a puff of pink smoke, but she was always Tara’s backup.

Henry popped in beside Tara and gave her a ghostly hug before ricocheting off the ceiling and rattling the back door, just to let her know he thought she rocked the house.

It was enough to lighten Tara’s mood, and by the time she finished her cereal, Pat was downing his second cup of coffee and heading out the door with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to eat on the way to work.

"Have a good day honey, and I love you.”

"You, too, Uncle Pat and I love you, too.”

Just like that, the fuss was over. Tara was about to get dressed for school when the phone rang.

"Hello?”

"Hey, girlfriend, wanna ride to school today or are you breaking out the ark?”

Tara laughed. BFFs were the best, especially BFFs like Nikki Scott. "You are too funny, and I would love a ride to school.”

"I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”

"Fifteen? Yikes.”

Nikki laughed. "Sorry. I have to drop my sisters off at the gym for early basketball practice, so it’s now or never.”

"Now, and I promise I won’t keep you waiting.”

"Great. See you in a few,” Nikki said.

Tara hung up, rinsed her cereal bowl and left it in the sink as she ran to get dressed. Ten minutes later she was standing in front of the bathroom mirror, eyeing her jeans and her orange Oklahoma State University sweatshirt. She smiled at her reflection. OSU rocked.

Because of the weather, she pulled her hair back in a ponytail, which then left her with nothing to hide behind. That used to be a big deal, but not so much anymore. The older Tara got, the more comfortable she was in her own skin. Still, if she squinted just a little and turned her head to the left, she thought she looked a little bit like Angelina Jolie, who was her all-time favorite movie star. But not because Angelina was beautiful—because she adopted children no one else wanted.

A quick slash of lip gloss and she was good to go. When Nikki drove up a couple of minutes later, Tara was standing on the porch with her raincoat on, the hood pulled up over her head, and her book bag on her shoulder.

Kiss kiss.

Tara stifled a grin. Millicent was definitely in mother mode this morning, giving her a kiss goodbye.

"As if you ever stay behind,” Tara muttered, and made a mad dash into the downpour to Nikki’s SUV. "OMG... the rain is cold,” she said, as she quickly shut the door behind her.

Nikki’s two younger sisters were in the back seat, giving her the once-over. They knew from Nikki that Tara was psychic and were suitably impressed.

"Hi Tara,” they said in unison.

Tara glanced over her shoulder and smiled at them as Nikki drove off. They looked like different versions of Nikki, all with long dark hair, almond shaped eyes, and that beautiful skin, compliments of a mother who was part Native American.

"Hi, you guys. So you have early practice, hunh?”

Rachelle nodded and Morgan rolled her eyes.

Tara laughed. "Better you than me. I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, let alone dribble a ball and run.”

"I wish I was as tall as you and Rachelle are,” Morgan said. "I’d be the star on the team.”

"You guys aren’t through growing. Give it some time,” Tara said.

Morgan rolled her eyes. "I’m not holding my breath. Look at Nikki. She’s the oldest and she barely made it past five feet.”

Nikki frowned. Her height was a sore spot with her, especially because her younger sister, Rachelle, was already five feet, nine inches tall and still growing. "I’m almost five feet, four inches, thank you very much.”

"Which means you’re only five feet, three inches,” Rachelle said, and then giggled.

Tara couldn’t stop smiling. She didn’t have siblings, and this family banter was endearing to her, although she could tell from the look on Nikki’s face that she wasn’t nearly as impressed with her sisterly duties.

After they dropped the girls off at the gym, they headed back across town to Stillwater High, talking about boys and school as they went.

"So, are you and Flynn getting serious?” Nikki asked.

Tara shrugged. "I don’t know. We don’t talk about serious. We’re just having a good time together.”

Nikki nodded. "That’s smart. We’ve got our whole lives ahead of us, right?”

Tara thought about college. "You said you were going to OSU. What are you going to study?”

"Haven’t decided yet, have you?”

In my last life, I never learned to read.

Tara blinked. She should have known Millicent wouldn’t stay absent for long, especially when they were talking about boys. Millicent did love the opposite sex.

"No, not yet,” Tara said.

You could read palms. You’d be good at that.

Tara stifled a snort, which Millicent detected.

It was only a suggestion. Oh look! Hunk alert at three o’clock! Oops! He’s in trouble.

Tara glanced out the window and to her horror saw some stranger had Flynn backed against the wall of a building. From the looks on their faces, they were close to coming to blows. Within seconds, she was nauseous from the dark energy and knew this was connected to the trouble she’d been sensing.

"Nikki. There’s Flynn. Pull over, quick.”

Nikki turned off the street into the parking lot of the quick stop, as horrified as Tara had been by what was happening to Flynn.

"What do we do?” Nikki asked.

"Honk the horn!” Tara said.

Nikki gave the horn three sharp blasts.

The stranger turned, obviously startled by their arrival and darted off into the alley between the buildings.

Nikki honked again and motioned for him to get in.

Flynn didn’t hesitate as he ran through the rain and got into the back seat the Scott sisters had just vacated.

The darkness came with Flynn, leaving Tara struggling not to throw up her cereal as Nikki took off out of the parking lot.

"What was that all about?” Tara asked.

The hood of the poncho Flynn was wearing had slipped off when he ran, soaking his face and hair to the point that he appeared to be crying. He swiped angrily at his face and ignored her question.

It has something to do with his father, and oh my, he smells good. I remember men’s cologne. Once upon a time I—

Tara frowned. Oh for Pete’s sake, Millicent. Not now.

She heard a huff and then a pop. She’d ticked Millicent off, but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t be back. However, this thing with Flynn and the bad guy at the station was beginning to make sense. Flynn’s father had cancer and was dying—but he was also in prison. Was the bad stuff she’d been sensing for so long actually connected to Flynn, or to his father... or maybe both?

She twisted in the seat until she was facing Flynn, only to find he wouldn’t look at her.

"Are you alright?” she asked.

His hands were knotted into fists. "I’m fine,” he muttered. "Thanks for the ride. The rain sucks.”

Tara, being Tara, persisted. "Who was that man? Was he trying to rob you or something?”

"Let it go, Moon Girl. It has nothing to do with you.”

And just like that, Tara’s feelings were hurt. She glanced at Nikki, who shrugged and made a sad face in sympathy for the way Flynn had dissed her.

They were silent the rest of the way to school. No sooner had Nikki parked than Flynn was out of the car.

"Thanks again for the ride. See you later,” he mumbled, and made a run for the door without waiting to walk Tara in like he usually did.

Tara’s heart hurt, but the really awful part was that the moment Flynn left the car, the sick feeling went with him. OMG. Was it possible for a girl to become allergic to her boyfriend?

"Maybe it embarrassed or just scared him and he didn’t know what to say,” Nikki said.

Tara shrugged. Her feelings were hurt and she wanted to cry, but not in front of Nikki. "Maybe, but you were a sweetheart to stop like that and pick him up. I didn’t think that I might be involving you in something bad.”

Nikki threw a hand up in the air, as if dismissing the incident. "Pfft, I gave two of my friends a ride to school this morning. Nothing bad about that.”

Tara sighed. "Well, it was a lot to me, and I really appreciate it.”

Nikki smiled. "I’ll see you at lunch. In the meantime, don’t let the enemy see you sweat.”

Tara laughed. Nikki Scott was good for her soul.

"You got it, girlfriend.”

Nikki high-fived her. "Now that’s what I’m talking about. Are you ready? You do know we’re gonna get wet no matter how fast we move.”

"LET’S DO THIS!” they squealed, opened their doors in unison, leaped into the downpour, slammed the doors behind them and headed across the parking lot to Stillwater High on the run.

They were still laughing when they ran through the front door. Coach Jones was on hall duty. Tara liked Coach Jones. He was one of the really cool teachers here.

"Good morning, ladies,” he said, as they shifted from run to walk.

"Good morning, Coach,” they echoed, dripping water as they made a beeline to their lockers.

"So, see you at lunch?” Nikki said.

Tara nodded. They parted company, each heading to first hour with a load of books and an acceptance that they wouldn’t be free of this place for the next eight hours.

The hall was full of kids just as wet as she was, most of which were talking at a Wi-Fi pace. The hall sounded like it was full of clucking chickens. She kept looking for Flynn as she walked, but didn’t see him anywhere. Okay, so he would certainly have been frightened by what had happened, but his reaction to her concern made no sense. What kind of a girlfriend would she have been if she’d ignored the whole thing?

It’s about money and his father.

Tara jumped. For real?

For real. His father hid something... money I think, that also belongs to that man and his friends. They all found out he’s dying, which means he won’t be getting out to give up the location. The hunk is in big trouble. They’re going to try to get to the father through the son.

What do I do?

YOU do nothing. You tell Flynn to tell the coppers.

Tara rolled her eyes. It’s cops, not coppers.

She heard a pop, which meant Millicent was gone, but it was no big deal because she’d reached her classroom. Thanks to Millicent, at least now Tara knew what was wrong. She just didn’t yet know what to do about it.

As usual, there was a rush to get into the room before the last bell rang. The floors were slick from the water dripping off clothes and shoes and she was hurrying. One minute she was upright and the next thing she knew her feet were in the air. This was definitely going to hurt.

Only she never hit the floor. Just as she began to fall, she felt hands beneath her elbows and suddenly she was back on her feet.

"Oh my gosh,” Tara said as she turned to thank her rescuer, but all she saw was the back of a very tall guy in a long black poncho walking away. "Hey!” she yelled.

He paused and looked back.

Tara wasn’t one to ever judge someone’s appearance, but this guy left her speechless. He was dressed all in black, from his shirt to his shoes. His eyes were dark, his hair was black and wet, slicked back away from his face, which revealed a bad-ass widow’s peak. He had a long scar on his cheek that ran down the side of his neck, with a single silver skull earring dangling from one ear. He had such a defiant expression on his face, as if he was expecting rejection, and that she immediately empathized, remembering her first day here.

"Thank you,” she said, and ducked into her room just as Mrs. Farmer was closing the door.

"I saw you falling,” Mrs. Farmer said. "Are you alright?”

"Yes, ma’am. Some knight in shining armor dressed a little like Dracula caught me before I hit the deck. I’ve never seen him before, and he’s someone who’d be hard to miss.”

"Oh, I believe his name is French Langdon. I think he’s a transfer student. Now please take your seat. You can thank him later.”

"Yes, ma’am,” Tara said, and headed for her desk.

He has secrets.

Tara frowned. Millicent’s info was usually helpful, but this was way off course. What kind of secrets?

The kinds of secrets that are secret.

Seriously, Millicent? Is this the best you can do?

Your teacher has twelve siblings. All boys. Her mother went mad. I see her now and then, but since that incarnation she’s never been the same.

Tara blinked. She had not thought about spirits visiting each other or forming friendships, and she’d never thought about Mrs. Farmer as a kid, let alone having twelve brothers. It was an interesting concept, and she hoped when she got to the other side someday she’d get to see her mother and father. Even if she didn’t remember them, it would be cool to see them again.

She forgot about French Langdon when Mrs. Farmer pulled out her text book and told them to turn to page 107. After that, she was too busy taking notes to think about the neo-Dracula of Stillwater High.

It was noon before she sawFlynn again. He was on his way out of the cafeteria as she was going in. He gave her a fake smile that didn’t reach his eyes and pretended to tweak her nose, which he knew she hated.

"Hey, Tara, sorry I missed you for lunch, but I have an appointment with the counselor to make sure I’ll have enough credits to graduate. The last thing I want is you leaving me behind. "

"We need to talk,” Tara whispered.

Flynn frowned. "Yeah, sure, catch you later, okay?”

"Uh, yeah sure... later,” she said, and headed for the line.

That was weird.

Tara shared Millicent’s opinion. Seriously weird.

You know he’s just sleeting you.

What? What on earth are you talking about?

You know... when someone is trying to put something over on another person. I believe you people call it sleeting.

Tara laughed out loud, which drew a few stares considering she was standing by herself at the back of the lunch line.

It’s not sleeting, it’s snowing. The phrase you’re referring to is ‘you’re being snowed’ which kind of means they’re feeding you a line to cover up the truth. And just for the record, that phrase is almost as old as Uncle Pat.

Ah. I knew it had something to do with the weather. What’s for lunch? Oooh, oooh, strawberries! I love strawberries. There was this Duke I knew. Once after a masked ball he ate strawberries off my bare—

Stop! Stop! Telling me that is wrong on so many levels!

Whatever. About those strawberries, are you—

I’m getting strawberries, okay, and every time I take a big, juicy bite I’ll think of you, how’s that?

It will suffice.

A serving of salad, a plate of macaroni and cheese and a bowl of berries later, Tara was carrying her tray toward the table where Nikki and her BFFs, Mac and Penny, were sitting.

They saw her coming and waved.

She couldn’t help thinking what a change this was from her first week at school. Being the new girl during the senior year of high school had been the worst, but it was getting better. Lots of people still thought she was weird, but the only student here at school who continued to give her a hard time was Prissy Marshall. Like it was Tara’s fault Prissy cheated on a test and got kicked off the cheerleading squad. All Tara had done was give her a heads up that she’d been found out. The rest of that karma was all on Prissy.

"Flynn just left,” Nikki said, as Tara slid into a seat beside her.

"We talked. He’s on his way to the counselor’s office to check on some of his credits.”

Nikki dunked a French fry in ketchup then popped it in her mouth. "So he’s okay, then?”

Tara shrugged. "No, he’s not okay, but he wants me to think so. I think it’s complicated, so unless he offers to share his misery, I’ll pretend I don’t know a thing about it.”

Nikki laughed. "Is he dense or what? Like... did he suddenly forget that you ‘know’ stuff?”

Tara grinned. "He’s a guy. We have to cut them some slack, right?”

Mac and Penny thought that was hilarious and added their laughter to the table.

"And speaking of guys, did you all see the new one? He has a scar on his face that looks like a snake. He is seriously bad-ass,” Penny said.

Nikki gasped. "For real? Ooh, imagine waking up every day with a guy like that beside you.”

The four of them looked at each other and then giggled in unison. From all appearances, four carefree teens were just having lunch in the high school cafeteria.

The lunch hour had passed, and then so did the rest of the day. Tara was pretty ticked. Flynn managed to dodge her all day, and by the time school was out, he had already made his getaway. The only good thing about the entire day was that it had finally stopped raining.

After Nikki dropped Tara off at home, it was business as usual. She started homework along with supper, and by the time Uncle Pat got off work, she had beans and wieners coming out of the oven and a skillet of fried potatoes ready and waiting.

"Something smells good,” Pat said, as he set his lunch box on the cabinet. "Ooh, beans and wieners. We haven’t had that in ages. Give me a couple of minutes to get out of these wet clothes and I’ll help you set the table.”

"I’ll do it, Uncle Pat. You need to take a hot shower before supper. You don’t want to get sick.”

"Good idea,” he said. "I’ll hurry.”

Tara sat back down at the kitchen table to her homework, popped the ear buds back into her ears and conjugated Spanish verbs to Adele’s ‘Rollin’ in the Deep’. The song fit her mood. She felt sad and off-center. Being on the outs with your boyfriend made days like that happen.

All of a sudden, Henry popped up in front of her, looking anxious and waving his hands. At that moment, there was a knock at the door, but Tara didn’t hear it because of the music. Henry knocked over the salt shaker to increase his insistence.

She looked up and frowned. "What?”

Henry pointed. Tara took the ear buds out of her ears just as another knock sounded.

"Oh. Someone’s at the door. Thank you, Henry. You are such a doll,” Tara said, and blew him a kiss.

It discombobulated Henry to the point that he dissipated in pieces. First his feet—then his arms—then the rest of his body. His head was the last to disappear, but he was smiling as he went.

Tara was still grinning when she got to the door, and then was surprised to see two detectives from the Stillwater police department. She’d helped Detectives Allen and Rutherford solve two crimes already and thought of them as friends, only neither one was smiling.

"Hi guys,” Tara said.

"Miss Luna. We need to ask you some questions. Is your uncle here?”

Tara frowned. "Miss Luna? What happened to Tara? Did I jaywalk somewhere?”

Detective Rutherford shrugged. "This is serious business, Tara. Can we come in?”

She grinned. "That’s way better, and sure, you can come in. Uncle Pat is taking a shower. It was a nasty day for reading meters. I’ll tell him you’re here. In the meantime, have a seat.”

Detective Allen frowned as Tara walked away. "Dang it, Rutherford. Police business is no joke.”

Rutherford frowned. "Do you see me laughing?”

"No, but you’re being too friendly with a person of interest.”

"She’s not a person of interest. Freak of nature, maybe. Interesting doesn’t even being to describe it.”

Allen frowned back. Before they could get into an argument of their own, Tara was back with her uncle at her heels. He was pulling a t-shirt over his head and his feet were bare as he entered the living room.

"What’s going on?” Pat asked.

"We just need to ask Tara some questions,” Detective Allen said. "If you both wouldn’t mind having a seat, we’ll get out of your way as soon as possible.”

Pat sat, then looked at Tara. "What did you do?”

Before Tara could answer, the magazine on the table beside Pat’s elbow flew up into the air and landed with a splat in his lap.

Both detectives were on their feet.

"What the hell?” Pat yelped.

Tara eyes narrowed. "Obviously, your assumption that I would automatically be at fault ticked Millicent off, and it set my teeth a bit on edge, as well. Why would you instantly think I’d done something wrong?”

Rutherford was standing by the door. Allen was up against the wall. They’d already had more than one run-in with her ghosts and didn’t want a repeat performance.

"We can talk from here,” Rutherford said.

"Talk about what?” Tara asked.

"We’re investigating a homicide,” Allen said.

Tara leaned forward with her elbows on her knees. "So, do you need my help or something? I don’t mind—”

"I do,” Pat said.

"No, it’s not that, exactly,” Rutherford said. "We have a body. We have identified the man. We also have surveillance tape of that man inside a convenience store earlier this morning, then the clerk’s account that he accosted someone outside a few minutes after his arrival.”

Tara’s stomach turned. She knew before he opened his mouth again what he was going to say.

"And,” Rutherford continued. "In the background of that tape, you are sitting in a gray SUV, watching it happen. We would like your version of this account, and for you to confirm the identity of the person who the clerk identified, also running toward your car and getting inside.”

Pat gasped.

Tara sighed.

If you need to make a getaway, I can distract them.

"No, Millicent, I am not making a getaway. Chill, okay?”

The lights went on and off a couple of times, which was enough to set the detectives teeth on edge. Tara was afraid that one more stunt from Millicent and they would finish this interview at police headquarters, which was the last place she wanted to be.

"Of course I know who it was,” Tara said. "My friend was giving me a ride to school so I wouldn’t have to walk in the rain. We were passing this convenience store when I saw my boyfriend, Flynn, talking to some man outside. You remember Flynn O’Mara. He helped rescue Bethany Fanning, the cheerleader who was kidnapped. We pulled in to give him a ride, too, and when we honked, the man he was talking to saw us and ran off down an alley. Flynn got in and we went to school.”

It was a simpler reason than they’d expected and certainly took some of the wind from their sails. Rutherford was writing as he talked. "So, did Flynn say who the man was or what they were talking about?”

"No sir.”

"He didn’t say a word?”

Tara sighed. "No. I could tell he was bothered about it, but he tried to pretend he wasn’t. I’m not hiding anything, but I know more about this than Flynn thinks I do.”

Allen took a step forward. "Exactly how do you know—”

Rutherford elbowed him. "Remember who you’re talking to.”

"Oh. Yeah. So, what do you know?” Allen asked.

"I know what Millicent told me.”

Rutherford ran a finger around his shirt collar, as if it had suddenly gotten too tight. This was where writing up a report on their interview with Tara Luna was going to make them look like a pair of dumb asses.

"Youare referring to your ghost and not a living breathing person who you know?” Rutherford asked, then looked nervous and added. "Uh... meaning no disrespect or anything, but exactly what do you call someone like her?”

Tara was getting angry, and a little bit hurt. She thought they’d already cleared the air between them with this stuff.

"I call her Millicent. Now, do you care what I know, or are we going around the mulberry bush again and pretend you’re surprised by all this? You both know I see ghosts. We dug up a decades old murder victim out of our backyard so you both know I’m psychic. How many times do I have to prove it before you all get over it?”

"Well, damn it... excuse my language,” Rutherford said. "We didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, but it was a surprise to see you in that tape.”

"It is a bigger surprise to me that the man I saw this morning is now dead. You both need to sit down so you can write your notes.”

They went back to their chairs.

Pat slid a hand across her shoulder. "Are you in any danger, honey?”

"No, of course not, Uncle Pat. We just picked up Flynn and took him to school.” Then she turned her attention to the cops. "Are you ready?”

They nodded.

"So, here’s the scoop, and FYI, Flynn does not know I know this, because we haven’t talked about it, and he doesn’t want to be around me, so I’m guessing he thinks if he keeps his distance, I won’t know. But I digress. According to Millicent, the man who pushed Flynn up against the wall isn’t actually interested in Flynn, other than his connection to someone else. It’s about his father, Michael O’Mara.”

Detective Allen frowned. "But he’s in prison.”

Tara nodded. "And that’s the problem. It has to do with money. Before Michael O Mara went to prison, he was with a gang of bad guys. He hid a bunch of their money and then got sent to prison. The men were waiting for him to get out so they could split it up, I guess. At any rate, they don’t know where it is and now they are running out of time.”

Rutherford had quit writing and was just staring at Tara in disbelief.

She paused. "What?”

He shook his head. "I’m hearing this come out of your mouth, and I still can’t believe it. You just ‘know’ stuff that would take us weeks, maybe months to find out, if even then. I’m sorry, I interrupted. So they don’t know where the money is? What’s the big hurry all of a sudden to find out? I mean, O’Mara’s been in the pen for almost three years now.”

"Because Michael O’Mara is dying of cancer and they probably found out. Now the men are going to try to get to the father through the son before it’s too late.”

"Did you see Flynn at school during the day?”

Tara frowned. "We all went inside at the same time this morning. I saw him at noon on his way to the counselor’s office to discuss some school credit issue, and I did not see him after school, which isn’t unusual on nights he buses tables at Eskimo Joe’s. Why don’t you talk to him?”

"Because he’s gone missing. His mother is in a panic. Claims she has no idea where he’s at, and we have a dead man on our hands with a connection to Flynn.”

Tara jumped to her feet. She was starting to panic, too. He shouldn’t be missing. This wasn’t good. "What time of day was the man murdered?”

"The M.E. says before noon.”

Tara frowned. "And did you talk to Flynn’s teachers to see if he was in all his classes?”

Detective Allen fidgeted with the pen he was holding. "According to the teachers, he answered roll in every class and didn’t ask to be excused in any of them.”

Tara gasped, and when she did, the lights started going on and off in the room and pages started flying out of Detective Allen’s notebook. He was too scared to move. She was so angry her voice was shaking.

"I can’t believe you just did this. You knew all along that Flynn had nothing to do with that man’s murder, and yet everything you said to me earlier was deceptive. You let me talk, then you led me to believe Flynn could be responsible for this dead man and were viewing him as a suspect, when all along you knew he was missing!”

"It’s called interviewing a witness to a crime,” Allen said.

"Well then, you’re both sitting in the wrong house, because I did not witness a crime today, and you both know Flynn didn’t either. Are you looking for Flynn? Is there a missing person’s report out?”

"Well—”

Tara stomped to the door and yanked it open. All the papers that had been flying around the room went shooting out the door. "If I find out anything else that will be of benefit to your case, I will call you.”

Pat stood up. He was as aggravated at them as Tara was, but knew it was wise to err on the side of courtesy.

"Gentlemen, if you’re done, our supper’s getting cold.”

Since Detective Allen had already booked it out the door, Detective Rutherford was trying to maintain his composure. "Right. So, if you hear from Flynn, you’ll let us know?”

Tara’s voice was shaking. "I just told you that people are trying to force Michael O’Mara to give up the hiding place of a bunch of money and use Flynn to do it. Now he’s missing, and you think he’s hiding out? You don’t know Flynn. He would never run off and leave his mother at the mercy of these people. If he’s missing, he’s in trouble. He needs your help.”

Tara burst into tears and ran out of the room.

Rutherford paused at the threshold. "I like your niece, okay? Tell her we’re sorry we upset her.”

"I like her, too, and she’s right. You both knew coming in here that the boy wasn’t a suspect, and yet you let her think it, trying to trick her into saying something that would incriminate one or both of them. If someone has snatched Mona’s son, then find the boy and you’ll find your murderer. I think we’re done here.”

He closed the door in their faces.

Rutherford looked at his partner, who was out in the yard picking up the papers from his notebook, then shook his head and headed for the car.

Inside, Pat went to Tara’s room and found her face down on her bed, sobbing.

 


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