The Copycat Killers(4)

By: Paula Millhouse


She never thought she’d have to endure reading something written from her ever again. Her hands shook. It was a hand-written note from Miss Aida Marino.

Nick growled, “Aww, what the hell?”

Her eyes devoured the words while she read them aloud.

“Dear Evie,

I know what you did to save yourself and your family was done all in self-defense.

What my son did was wrong. That no one will have to suffer at his hands again is a feather in your cap, my dear. You bring the word courage to standing attention.

It’s no rationalization or justification, but Paulie learned his aberrant behavior from his father, who preceded him in death.

I’ve cooperated fully with the authorities, and I’ve turned over the evidence my boys accumulated to your friend, Janet Pierce. The FBI considers the case closed. They were kind enough to include my note to you as a show of good faith.

This federal gag order, initiated by Judge Gretta Fontaine, outlines our responsibilities. The document ensures you are above reproach, and no one I know will ever bother you again.

I burned that damned guest cottage to the ground.

I consider this horrible chapter in my family’s life closed.

You’re the girl who got away.

Please go about your life in a normal way, and for God’s sake, keep writing books. You owe me nothing, and according to the federal judge who drafted the enclosed confidential gag-order, and the FBI, you need never hear from me again.

I’ll never be able to convey how very sorry I am about everything that happened.

Best Regards,

Aida Marino.”

Evie dropped the pages.

Nick rushed to scoop them up off the two inches of muddy snow. He held them up in triumph. “This is huge.”

She tucked into herself, securing her arms around her body, her heavy winter clothes doing nothing to fend off the chill. The last time she’d seen that woman’s handwriting was the day a killer abducted her and imprisoned her in the Mario’s guest cottage. Memories of that horrible creature, what he did, what he was going to do to her flashed through her mind like a slasher movie at Halloween.

Nick reached for her, but she pulled back. She threw him an angry glare. “You think that damn letter means something?”

“I do.”

She shook her head and couldn’t stop once she got started. Chills hit her hard. Her entire body jerked.

Nick tossed the pages down beside priority box. He embraced her. Once she felt his warmth, she moved to him. His arms were the only place she knew any comfort.

One thing cracked through what might have turned into a full-blown panic attack—that horrible day back in October was also the first day she’d met Nick, the day her life changed in so many permanent ways.

He buried his head into her neck. His strong grip on her hips settled her shakes. She drew in deep breaths of the comforting smell of him, and her heart hitched with the sensation of him surrounding her, protecting her. Her pulse rate slowed.

He tightened his hug. “This means we’re okay. You’re okay.”

“Okay?” She wanted to believe him. She craved the courage to buy into his vision of peace, and happily-ever-afters, and everything he promised her their life would be together.

He’d given up so much to love her, to live with her here, to give her a new life and a new family. This handsome tall man, with periwinkle blue eyes and the heart of a lion needed a woman who didn’t have to hide in the shadows of fear—he deserved someone better.

She pushed back the well of tears in her eyes. “No, Nick. None of any of this is ever going to be okay.”





3





TIA’S HEART POUNDED while she watched Michael Harrison leave Miss Aida’s penthouse. Several floors below in the Marino Industries Skyscraper on Madison Avenue, Jimmy entertained Miss Aida in her office. With Michael out of the way, Tia let herself into the private penthouse.

She checked the kitchen first and read the note Michael left behind. “Out to market. Back at 4p.m. Your favorite British dish for dinner tonight. M.”

Tia smiled. She was alone in the penthouse, and she intended to find evidence explaining why Miss Aida refused to go after her father’s killer. Two months had passed.

Tia wanted a name.

She helped herself to the amazing view of New York City first. From way up here, the Old Woman owned a bird’s eye view of the city she manipulated.

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