“Auntie Scar, are you leaving again?” Her voice was reproachful, and I turned to find an upset Banana staring at me.
“Banana, I just need some air,” I said, trying to smile. I also tried to calm the rage inside because I didn’t want to unnerve Banana any more than she already was. “Uncle Bobby just said some things to upset me. I need to cool down.”
“When I’m mad, I scream real loud,” Banana confided, her scowl lightening. “That makes me feel better.” She stepped forward and slipped her hand into mine. Looking up at me, she allowed her lower lip to tremble. “I wish I could do it right now.”
“Scar, you have to—” Julia stopped when she saw me and Banana holding hands. “What’s going on? Are you ok, baby?” The last was directed towards Banana who ignored her mother.
“Can I go with you, Auntie Scar? Please?” Banana squeezed my hand as hard as she could. “I can cheer you up—honest.” I was about to answer when my cell phone rang..
“Hold on a second, honey,” I said, disengaging from Banana’s clench. I hurried into the living room to take my call, watching out of the corner of my eye as Julia knelt to hug a stiff Banana.
“She died around midnight,” Matt said without preamble. “My cop friend said she was killed somewhere else, then dumped in her house. She was found on her bed, tied down spread-eagle by the cops. They got an ‘anonymous tip’ to check out her house—so they did. My friend told me she was so beat up, they could barely recognize her.” His voice was hollow, as if he didn’t have the energy to put anything into it.
“I’m so sorry, Matt,” I said, sinking onto the couch. I didn’t know what to say as I felt there was very little I could do. I had the sinking suspicion she had been raped as well from the way she was found, but that could just be misdirection. Just as I was about to add a meaningless platitude, a picture flashed into my mind
It was Kayla, and she was very much alive. She was on her knees, pleading for her life—not her son’s, I noticed—to a man who simply laughed at her. He had the coldest laugh I’d ever had the misfortune of hearing, and I had to force myself to look at him in detail. He had an aura of menace about him, but I looked past that towards his face, his hair, his body. He was over six-feet tall with the body of an ex-jock. His brown hair combed back into a widow’s peak, and he had full, sensuous lips. Somehow, that made it worse. He should have been a thin, sparse man with not an ounce of flesh to spare. Instead, he was almost voluptuous in a way that went against his personality.