Isaac Taylor Mysteries, Voices & Visions (Book 1) Excerpt
The further she drove the worse it got.
Rough-looking run-down houses, many of them boarded up and abandoned. A few war-wary souls wearing expressions of despair walked the mean streets.
It was the kind of area that could get a person killed.
Hopelessly lost, Sidney knew she was in the wrong part of town with one glance out the windows at her surroundings. She drove on, dread hardening her stomach like quick-drying concrete.
She had to find a place to turn around and get back on the right road, and fast. The last remnants of daylight were fading and she didn’t want to be caught in this strange, scary neighborhood after dark.
She took the next right, her gaze darting all around.
Pop, pop, pop… pop!
The sound shot through the air.
Sidney jumped and slammed on the breaks. Her body lurched forward and crashed into the seatbelt. Through her windshield, she watched the kneeling man fall over dead in the street. The two guys with guns — perfectly illuminated by her headlights — looked up and stared at her.
Her heart stopped.
Everything around her seemed to freeze.
A perfect moment suspended in time.
One of the men raised his gun in her direction. Her heart exploded into a crazy fast uneven rhythm, hammering at her rib cage like it wanted out.
“Shit! Sidney, get out of here. Get the fuck out of here, now!”
She muttered the panicked words out loud, her brain suddenly remembering how to work again. Throwing the car into reverse, she stomped on the gas, not even stopping to check if there was anyone behind her.
Gunfire slapped her ears.
Instinctively, she ducked her head with the ping of ricocheting bullets.
She jerked the wheel, narrowly missing a parked car, and entered the intersection going the wrong way. She yanked on the gear shift and threw the car into drive. Then she floored it, tires squealing as she sped back down the street she had come.
“Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit!”
She sped through the streets like a formula one racer, zigging and zagging and weaving and wending.
“Wrong place! Wronger time, Sid. Way to go!”
She glanced up into her rearview mirror and her heart sank at the sight of a large black SUV racing after her.
“No! God, please no!”
She prayed out loud, begging for God to protect her.
She had to go faster.
Fear rose up like a monster and gave chase.
She stepped on the gas with all her might and fought to keep the car on the road. The unshed tears stung her eyes, but she couldn’t afford to fall apart right now. She weaved the car in and out of traffic, not giving a thought to other drivers or the police.
Cars honked. People gestured.
She didn’t care that they were flipping her off and yelling obscenities. Staying alive was her only concern.
She took an immediate right, hoping to put more distance between her and the sinister-looking SUV. The sign for I-90 West appeared like a vision.
“Yes. Thank you! Come on, Sid. You can do this.”
She swerved left, narrowly missing a car in the other turn lane. Then she shot across the road, onto the entrance ramp.
When she finally found her way back onto I-90, she stepped on the gas pedal with everything she had. Checking her mirrors every few seconds to look for the evil SUV, she fled downtown Cleveland under the cloak of night and headed back to Rocky River as the sky grew ever darker.
This is what she got for venturing into the mean, unfamiliar city.
Okay, so it wasn’t LA or New York, but it was a city. And she wasn’t exactly sure what she had witnessed back there, but she knew enough to know that she shouldn’t have seen it.
Enough to know she was now in danger.
She’d witnessed a murder, and the men responsible for it had looked her dead in the face. That put her in very deep shit and she knew it. But she had to hold it together for a little while longer. She had to get away, and she had to get away clean.
Terror gripped her heart like a pit bull’s jaws clamping tight around torn flesh. She zoomed over the freeway with a lump in her throat.
Rocky River was about a twenty-minute drive from the city. More once you factored in traffic, but Sidney wasn’t exactly following the speed limits. The further she drove, the terrain slowly began to grow more familiar to her, but she knew she wasn’t home free yet. She took the State Route 20 exit in an effort to shake or confuse whoever might still be following.
She hadn’t seen the SUV in several minutes, but that didn’t mean they weren’t still back there. Growing up in a neighborhood ten times worse than the one she was currently fleeing had taught her a few things. She wasn’t stupid. She knew she had to make sure she truly lost the SUV before she went back home. She didn’t relish the idea of leading the killers directly to her front door.
For nearly a solid hour, she drove around aimlessly, taking back road after back road through Westlake to North Olmsted, and back up through Bay Village. At one point, she even pulled into a brightly-lit, busy fast food parking lot and sat there for several minutes just watching her surroundings. Watching for any SUVs that might be lurking.
That’s when she realized the wetness of her seat.
“Jesus, Sidney,” she whispered.
She might have laughed at the situation if she wasn’t so petrified.
When she was fairly certain no one was following her anymore she circled back, finally picking up State Route 6, and slipped into Rocky River to her own neighborhood. Turning off of Center Ridge Road, she made her way home, still scanning her surroundings. She pulled her car into the garage — something she didn’t normally do.
The automatic garage door came down behind her and she sat clutching the steering wheel for a long time.
“Stop shaking, Sid.” The voice sounded hollow and far away. “Take a deep breath and stop shaking.”
She couldn’t move.
The wet panties clung to her hidden places and the urine-soaked denim felt nasty against her skin, but her butt seemed surgically attached to the driver’s seat and she couldn’t make herself move.
“It’s all good, Sid. You lost the SUV. No one followed you home. No one followed you. You’ve got this.”
Talking to herself when she was stressed or scared was something Sidney had been doing for years. It helped with the loneliness.
Well, it had back in tenth grade anyway.
She peeled her fingers from the steering wheel. Slow methodic movements, as if not wanting to draw attention to herself. As if the gunmen were already lurking in the shadows of her unattached garage.
When her hands were free, she took another unsteady breath and opened the car door. Then she grabbed her messenger bag and her cellphone, and stepped out, hurrying over to the side door of the garage.
She peeked out the window and scanned the area outside, slinging the messenger bag over her shoulder. She would need to get across the driveway and up the porch steps to the front door, but from this angle she couldn’t see the front of the house or the street.
What if she got out there and spotted the SUV out front?
What if those men had followed her after all?
Glancing around her current position, she knew it was a chance she was going to have to take. She couldn’t stay here in the garage all night.
She closed her eyes and said a silent prayer before she slowly opened the door and took a step outside. Adrenaline tightening her gut, Sidney stood there for a moment and looked around in the dark, trying to listen for movement. Peeking around the huge rose bush on her right she examined the street out front. A nearby streetlamp offered just enough illumination for her to see a small portion of the street, searching for any sign of the big dark SUV.
When the coast looked clear, she stepped out of the shadows and began her trek to the door. Breaking into a run, she sprinted across the driveway, up the path, and up the porch steps.
Her hands shook wildly and she fumbled with her keys.
The toe of her left shoe tapped erratically against the porch floor. She was a frightened rabbit hammering out a danger warning with her foot.
Door opened, she quickly pushed her way inside, then immediately turned and locked it behind her. Finally safe inside her own home, Sidney’s breath came in shallow pants. She leaned her back against the door, dropping her bag, and slid to the floor right where she stood, wet pants and all.
The tears came freely then, like a gush of water into the lower decks of a sinking ship.
What the hell had just happened?
What had she been witness to?
Those men with the guns saw her. They had seen her face. They shot at her. And on top of everything else wrong in her life right now, this happens?
Those men saw her face, her license plate. Sidney knew exactly what that meant.
She buried her face in her hands and sobbed even harder.
If you like the Fatal / First Family Series by Marie Force or the J.J. Graves Series by Liliana Hart, you'll love the Isaac Taylor Mystery Series!
There are 11 books and counting, with book 12 coming soon. Voices & Visions is FREE. Start binge-reading today!