Unraveled_Steel Brothers Saga_Book Nine, page 1
Steel Brothers Saga: Book Nine
This book is an original publication of Helen Hardt.
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not assume any responsibility for third-party websites or their content.
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Copyright © 2018 Waterhouse Press, LLC
Cover Design by Waterhouse Press, LLC
Cover Photographs: Shutterstock
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All Rights Reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic format without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
Message from Helen Hardt
Also By Helen Hardt
About Helen Hardt
A Special Thank You
Start the Honor Bound series
Continue the Honor Bound Series with Book Two
Don’t miss Misadventures!
Also by Angel Payne
About Angel Payne
This book contains adult language and scenes, including flashbacks of child physical and sexual abuse, which may cause trigger reactions. This story is meant only for adults as defined by the laws of the country where you made your purchase. Store your books and e-books carefully where they cannot be accessed by younger readers.
To my brilliant editors—Celina, Michele, and Scott—who made the Steel Brothers Saga better than I ever could have alone. And to all the fans who stuck with me through nine books and believed in the story I was telling. Thank you all so much!
“How did you get in here?”
“The same way I got in the other night.”
“So you left the book.”
“You should know. I’m armed.”
He smiled, and a spooky recognition oozed through me. His smile resembled mine, right down to the slightly lower gumline on the left side of his mouth. I’d never noticed that before.
“I am no threat to you. I never was.”
“Oh…except for the time you tried to rape me.”
“That was unfortunate. I was a different person then. I regret it.”
“Well, you won’t get the chance to try it again.” I pointed my gun at him.
“Kill me, Ruby, and you’ll never find what you’re looking for.”
“Maybe all I’m looking for is to send you to hell.”
He smiled again, and I gulped back nausea at the resemblance.
“Then do it, Ruby. Pull that trigger. Murder me in cold blood.”
I laughed. Actually laughed! “Cold blood? Are you kidding me? This would be the most hot-blooded murder ever committed. But I assure you, I’d get away with it. You broke into my house. Pure self-defense.”
“Then what are you waiting for?”
What was I waiting for? I aimed the gun right between his eyes.
“Kill me, though,” he said, “and you’ll never discover the truth.”
“I know all the truth I need. You raped Gina. You tortured and raped Talon Steel. You tried to rape me. You had something to do with the disappearance of those girls I met in Jamaica. You tried to have Brooke Bailey killed for insurance money. And God himself only knows what other heinous acts you’ve committed or had a part in.”
“I had reasons for everything I did, including letting you live all these years.”
“I’ve often wondered about that,” I said. “Why didn’t you have me taken care of long ago?”
He smiled. “A father’s pride.”
I scoffed, even though I knew he could have killed me at any time. Still, his statement rang with morsels of truth. “Please.”
“It’s true. You’re strong and determined. I’ve watched you since you left. I helped keep you safe.”
“I kept myself safe, you shithead.”
“Did you never wonder why, as a fifteen-year-old girl, you were never caught? Never arrested? Never violated?”
“I stayed under the radar.”
“Yes, you did. With a lot of help from me.”
That was bullshit. He was playing mind games. I had taken care of myself all those years. So I changed the subject on him.
“I’m not interested in your reasons for anything you did.” I cocked the gun. “Say goodbye, Daddy.”
“Mr. Wade was murdered last night.”
My veins turned to ice. Not that I gave a shit that the motherfucker was dead, but now another source of information had dried up.
Talon looked visibly relieved. He hadn’t wanted to face Larry again. He’d had issues the first time he’d tried it, but my brother was nothing if not strong, and he would have done it. Now he didn’t have to.
“Murdered?” Joe asked.
“Another inmate, you mean?” I said.
The warden cleared his throat. “No. Not another inmate. Mr. Wade was in a solitary cell…on suicide watch.”
I widened my eyes, and Talon’s looked like they were going to pop out of his head.
“Suicide watch?” Joe said.
“Yes. Our psychologist had determined Mr. Wade was a suicide risk. Plus, he’d been routinely attacked by other prisoners. He was fading fast and succumbing to severe depression. So he was put in solitary on suicide watch.”
Joe scoffed. “Putting prisoners on suicide watch. Give me a break.”
“They’re still people, Mr. Steel.”
“If you knew what this so-called person—”
Talon gripped Joe’s arm. “It’s okay, Joe. We don’t need to go there.”
“We’re well aware of what Mr. Wade was accused of. However, he was still innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. He hadn’t gone to trial yet.”
Joe stood. “I guess our business is done here. We won’t be getting any more information out of our dear old uncle.”
“Please have a seat, Mr. Steel,” the warden said. “I’m afraid our business is far from done here.”
“Look. If you think I’m going to shed tears over the loss of that piece of shit, think again.” Joe motioned to Talon and me. “Let’s go, guys.”
I stood as Joe headed toward the door, but a large guard blocked his exit.
“What the hell is going on here?” Joe demanded.
“Have a seat, like the warden said,” the guard said.
“Are you fucking kidding me? Get the hell out of my way.”
“Joe,” Talon said. “Let’s just see what the guy has to say.”
Joe rolled his eyes. “Fine.” He plunked back into his chair. “What is it?”
“Like I told you,” the warden said. “It was an inside job. But not by another inmate. A prison guard killed Mr. Wade.”
“And we should care because…?” Joe said.
“You should care, Mr. Steel, because I have sworn testimony from two of my guards that you paid them off to rough Mr. Wade up.”
Joe’s eyes widened. “That’s bullshit.”
“That’s not for you or for me to say. Now, that said, normally we look the other way when this happens. A few beatings don’t concern us. But a murder? We have to investigate that.”
“I can assure you that my brothers and I had nothing to do with Larry’s murder,” I interjected.
“Maybe not. But one of my guards murdered Larry Wade. It couldn’t have been anyone else because no one else had access. And oddly, one of my guards has since disappeared into thin air.”
“So what?” Joe said.
“So this,” the warden countered. “It seems pretty plausible that this guard might have been given a sum of money to do Mr. Wade in. A large sum of money. And you three certainly could have come up with a large sum of money.”
Joe stood again, raising a fist. “Don’t you dare try to hang this on us.”
“We already have evidence that you paid a couple of guards to rough him up,” the warden said.
“So? That’s their word against mine. And that doesn’t mean I had him murdered.”
“No, it doesn’t. But it does mean I can have you questioned, and I will.”
“We don’t have time for this,” I said. “We’re going on a trip. A very important trip. You can’t hold us here.”
“You’re right. I can’t. But the police want to question all three of you. Don’t leave the state until they do.”
Joe rubbed his stubbled chin. “Christ.”
“It’s not your fault, Joe,” I said.
Talon punched some numbers into his phone. “I’m calling Jade. We need an attorney.”
“The police expect you sometime today,” the warden said.
“My girlfriend is a detective on the force,” I said. “I can assure you this will all come to nothing.”
“For all of your sakes, I hope you’re right,” the warden said. “But we have to investigate. Good day.”
We all stood, and the guard moved from the doorway, letting us pass.
“I’m sorry,” Joe said, once we were alone. “This is on me. I did slip a guard a benji. On two separate occasions.”
“Don’t blame yourself,” I said. “We all wanted to see him get the shit kicked out of him.”
“You were just taking care of things,” Talon said. “Just like you always have, big brother.”
“I wanted him to suffer for what he did to you,” Joe said.
“We understand that,” I said.
Joe rubbed his forehead. “Shit. I swear to God I never paid anyone off to kill him.”
“We know, Joe,” Talon said. “He’s no use to us dead.”
“Look,” I said. “We’ll talk to the cops, assure them we had nothing to do with Larry’s murder, and then we’ll get out of town.”
Talon eyed his phone screen. “Jade just texted me. She’s getting an attorney at the top criminal defense firm in the city to meet us at the station. Everything will be fine.”
I sighed. “All right, then. Let’s get this over with.”
* * *
Talon and I sat, rigid, waiting for Joe’s interrogation to end. The attorney Jade had hired, Catherine Fox, was in the room with him. I cracked the knuckles of my left hand and inhaled. Pine cleaner. An antiseptic smell, kind of like an office basement. I arched my back. The plastic chairs were uncomfortable.
“What’s taking so long?” Tal asked, wringing his hands.
“Hell if I know.” I leaned my head against the wall and closed my eyes. “Just when we were getting so close, too.”
“You can’t think Joe had anything to do with this,” Talon said.
I opened my eyes. “No, I don’t. I just hope he can convince the cops he didn’t. Him palming some Franklins to the guards to rough up Larry doesn’t look good.”
Talon sighed. “It doesn’t. But it’s circumstantial at this point.”
“Jade’s legalese is rubbing off on you.”
“A little.” He looked toward the door. “How long are they going to keep him in there?”
As if on cue, the door opened, and Joe stepped out, his dark hair more unruly than usual. “Tal, they want to talk to you now.”
Talon stood, nodded, and walked into the interrogation room.
Joe sat down next to me, his face pale.
“Should I ask how it went?”
“They grilled me pretty good. I was glad to have the lawyer there. But they have nothing to hold me on. The guard who they think killed Larry has disappeared, and he wasn’t one of the two I gave money to.”
“Did you tell them about that?”
“Yeah. The attorney advised me to tell the truth.”
“Are you going to get in trouble for bribing a guard?”
“No. They’re not interested in that, thank God. Last time I’ll ever throw money around like that. Though I can’t say I regret it.”
“It’s okay. Let’s just get this shit over with so we can get the hell out of town and deal with Mathias once and for all.”
Joe rubbed his hands together, looking down at his lap. “I can’t, Ry. They want me to stay in town because they might have more questions.”
“Shit.” I didn’t blame my brother for bribing the guards, but this definitely hurled a wrench in our plans.
We didn’t talk anymore, and a few minutes later, Talon emerged from the room.
“Wow,” Joe said. “They kept me in there a lot longer.”
“I only saw Larry once while he was in prison, and I freaked and didn’t stay long. There wasn’t much they could ask me.”
Surprising that they hadn’t asked him about what Larry had done to him—or allegedly done to him. Seemed like Talon had just as much of a motive—or more so—than Joe to do Larry in. But I wasn’t going to bring that up.
I inhaled. “All right.” I walked in the door. The walls were a sterile white, and a large mirror hung on one side. A two-way mirror? Most likely. I resisted the urge to make a face. Even the smell in the room was sterile, as if it had just been doused in alcohol.
A man in plain clothes sat behind a table. He stood. “Mr. Steel, I’m Detective Andrew Benjamin. Please, have a seat.”
I sat down, and Catherine sat next to me.
“This is just routine questioning. No need to be nervous.”
I wasn’t—not for myself, anyway—though my fidgeting need to get out of town might have looked like nerves to the detective.
“Please just answer all of my questions honestly, unless your attorney instructs you not to respond. Do you understand?”
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