I Promise, page 1
A Night Hawks Saga
Copyright © 2018 Tonya Coffey
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7380 West Hwy 92
Stearns, KY 42647
About the Author
To all the girls who want a knight in shining armor.
As I stood at the top of the stairs, the scent of bacon and coffee called to me from the kitchen. The muffled sounds of Dad’s voice along with the clang of metal against metal made me smile.
I didn’t have to stand in the room with him to know what he was doing. It was the same occurrence each morning, only a different electrical device. Yesterday it was the coffee pot and tomorrow it would probably be the stove.
One of our old kitchen appliances had decided today was the day to short circuit and judging by the light smell of burnt toast, it had to be the toaster.
I walked into the small white kitchen. Dad was bent over the toaster, jabbing at the opening with a fork. My eyes widened as I ran toward the plug-in. When I saw that he had unplugged it, I slowed my pace and gave him a quick hug. I couldn’t handle seeing you in the hospital.
“Morning, Dad.” I dropped my backpack behind my chair and went to the refrigerator for orange juice.
He grumbled between curses, “Morning, Cora.”
I sat in my usual chair, which offered a good view of him wrestling with the toaster and poured myself a glass. I was tempted to ask the same question as I did every other morning when an appliance acted up. Why don’t you just buy a new one? I would get the same answer. There’s nothing wrong with this one.
I figured it was because Mom had bought them. He’d kept everything the same since she died. I was ten when it happened. Six years later and I felt as if I lived in a museum. It was as if he expected her to walk through the door at any moment. It made me sad. I wanted to do something but what could I do? There were times I felt as if he thought he had no family even when I did what I could to prove otherwise.
Dad gave up the effort of prying the burnt toast free and flung the toaster across the room into the wall with a crash. My eyes widened as I watched him drop into his chair. That was new, I thought. He sighed as he grabbed his cup of coffee and took a sip. His brows were pulled in tight from the frustration I assumed he felt. I wondered if it was because of the phone call he got last night.
I came down the stairs. He stood at the front door, looking out at the darkness, his phone to his ear. Every light in the lower level was turned off. I glanced around the room as I stopped. He always had the lights on in the foyer.
"Was Cora's name on it?" My breath caught in my throat from my name being spoken. "No," he said. "Let's keep it in-house. I don't want them turning the town upside down."
What's going on, I thought. Keep what in the department?
He sighed as a car crawled along the street out front, the lights slipped into the hallway highlighting Dad’s head in the small window. "Just keep your ears open." He hung up the phone and continued to stare.
I slowly backed up the steps and went back to my room.
I pushed the memory away. I didn’t want him to know I knew something was wrong so I tried to be normal. “No toast?” I took a bite of bacon wondering if my attempt at humor would ease the tension he wore. I glanced over my shoulder at the remnants of the toaster. “We can probably fix it.”
He glared at me but then smiled. “Very funny.”
I did my job, he relaxed into his chair. His shoulders slacked to prove it. I hoped it was enough so he could tell me what the phone call was about. I continued to eat but noticed he sat there, looking out the window. His plate set untouched and it made me wonder what exactly happened with my name because he never passed up bacon.
He glanced at me and said, “There’s something I need to talk to you about.”
Here it goes. I was glad he decided to tell me. “What is it?”
He held his cup with both hands with his elbows on the table. “I know how you like to take the long way home,” he eyed me, “but I need you to come straight home from school for the next few weeks.”
Why? I wanted to protest. Surely it wasn’t that bad. Yet, I didn’t know what bothered me more, that he knew why I walked down Cider Avenue or that he insisted I come home. “What’s going on?”
“You know how work is.”
I waited for him to elaborate but he didn’t. He just stared at me so I stared back, waiting. Please tell me something…
“It’s not the first time I’ve asked.”
You always told me what was going on before… I frowned. “I know but…”
“You know how criminals are. Every time you slap cuffs on them they shoot off their mouths trying to look big in front of the other inmates.”
Oh… I figured it was something like that but it still didn’t explain his phone call or the way he was acting. Dad was the sheriff of our small town. It wasn’t uncommon for him to get a note or a call saying they were coming for me. For the past five months, it was becoming a common occurrence. I wasn’t concerned then because Dad didn’t seem worried. But now… It was only thugs blowing smoke, right?
“Did someone threaten me again?” I wondered. Just tell me the truth, Dad.
Dad glared at me. “Just do as I ask.” He set his coffee cup down and scooted it to the center of the table. “Stay away from your normal routines for a few days.” His eyes drifted to the window again.
I always listened to him when he asked, so I wasn’t going against him this time either. “OK,” I agreed. He had his reasons and I didn’t want to make him worry any more than he already was.
Besides, the only reason I walked down Cider Avenue was to see a boy and I could see Dante Black at school.
Dad dropped me off in his cruiser in front of the school at 7:30 am. He waited until I got to the double doors before he waved and drove off. I gave him a quick gesture back along with a smile, to show him our talk this morning was good. I would listen. Besides, I’d have to be crazy to not listen to him. Right?
It wasn’t as if I wouldn’t anyway. I don’t think there was ever a time since Mom had died that I’d lied. I believed it was because it was the last thing I said to her before she walked out the door.
I’d pretended like I was sick because I didn’t want to go to school. I remembered a big girl who always pushed me down. It was silly thinking about it now. Mom let me stay in bed because the flu had been going around and she didn’t want to take a chance on me getting sicker. Dad wasn’t on duty yet. He worked the night shift, so he stayed home with me. She went to the pharmacy just in case I needed the medicine; some children’s Tylenol and cough syrup.
I didn’t know it back then but a couple of men high on drugs thought she had some good pharmaceuticals. They apparently thought everyone coming out of Rite Aid had pain meds. They jumped her when she was getting into her car. When they saw she only had children’s medicine, they shot her.
Dad never told me what had happened to her until years later. I’d heard about it at school. A couple of boys at lunch were talking about the men who had shot her. The police had them locked in the back of a police cruiser. They tried getting out by beating their heads off the glass.
I remembered crying, asking Dad if it was true. He finally told me someone had killed her.
I still thought about them, wondering what had happened because there was no trial. To this day, Dad kept a wanted poster of the two men up on the wall at the police station.
I often wonder if I hadn’t lied to Mom and went to school that morning, how would our lives be today?
Taking a deep breath, I pushed the thoughts away, heading down the hall. I couldn’t wait to get my day going and to finally get to lunch. After that, I would get to talk to Dante.
Most of the kids at school were scared of him. He wore his biker colors to the school, while he rode his motorcycle and took them off when he was inside the school building. To the lower class boys, he was a renegade. To the teachers, he was a good kid with a bad home life. No one at the school approved of his dad’s motorcycle club and they even petitioned for the sheriff to shut it down. Dad went and talked to him about it. Soon afterward, the club started doing charity work, giving money to those in need. Doing so seemed to make the town forget about the club.
Dad told me, when I was younger, to stay away from them that outlaws were no good. I asked if they were bad people. He told me no, they just weren’t my type. I didn’t know what he had meant. I still didn’t understand. What made us so different?
Throughout the day, I kept glancing up at the clock, wishing time would hurry but when lunch was over and I headed to Ms. Allen’s math class, I was nervous. Even though it had been Dante and my thing to talk before he left school after lunch, I couldn’t wrap my head around why he decided to talk to me that first day. I remembered it like it was yesterday.
Standing in the hallway during class, I leaned against the wall. Apparently, my test score was unacceptable and I needed a one-on-one with the teacher. I waited on her when a door opened down the corridor. I looked up to see Dante walk out into the hall.
Every girl in school knew who he was. He was tall like a basketball player with shaggy brown hair and eyes dark as chocolate. He had a body most football players worked out seven days a week for. Dante worked construction which kept him in tip-top shape. He was even smart. He was in all the AP classes. The girls loved him for his bad boy ways. I was one of the girls who drooled over him but I knew he’d never see me as girlfriend material. He gravitated toward the bad girls and I was far from one.
I felt strange standing there, trying not to watch him come closer. I shrunk back, hoping to disappear into the concrete wall, so he wouldn’t see me but I knew, in all reality, he would have to be blind to not notice a red-headed girl standing in the hallway.
I couldn’t believe my ears. Did my name just come out of his mouth? I looked up at his face. He stood within arm’s reach. He wore a crooked smile as his eyes took me in from head to toe. My knees went weak standing in his line of sight. He did say my name and it sounded as if angels sung it.
“Hi,” I more than whispered. I felt so stupid but he didn’t seem to mind. He just stared at me.
He laughed. “What are you doing in the hallway?”
Great, I thought, now he’s going to know how dumb I am.
“Talk to the teacher.”
He eyed me. “Uh-oh.”
I would never forget our first conversation. We had bumped into one another in the hallways and in town but never really talked. Since that exchange, he never let me start class without a quick hello and a few words of encouragement. If I ever needed his words of wisdom it was today. I needed him to tell me Dad had nothing to worry about. I would be OK. Hearing him say it was all I needed to be sure. If I could look at him, I don’t think I would feel as if I needed to worry.
As I stood there, watching the people disappear into their classrooms, I wondered where he was. For three months it was our ritual, so why wasn’t he here today? Where are you, Dante?
The tardy bell dinged and I gave the hallway one more glance before I turned around and slipped into the classroom without talking to Dante.
I anticipated the bell ring and was at the door when it began. My teacher frowned at me as I headed for the exit but I ignored her. I hurried down the hall, down the steps, and out the double doors to the main drive. I stood on the curb as students drove out of the parking lot and zoomed onto the main road past me. Kids loaded school buses at my back while others ran to the football field for practice. There weren’t many kids who could walk home. The town was mostly farmland, so the majority rode the bus. I lived a ten-minute walk away. I was lucky.
The constant sound of Dad’s voice repeated in my mind, stay away from normal. Even though Dad made me believe it was a legitimate threat, my own inner voice wondered if it was the same as the others—nothing. He was worried. …But it was like every other time… I argued with myself. Nothing happened then. What were the chances of something happening this time?
I looked left and right. My heart thumped in my ears and my breath felt as if it were frozen in my throat. I wanted to obey him, to not put him in danger. By lying, I was afraid he would see the same fate as Mom. But I’m taking the risk. He wouldn’t be hurt by it.
Sighing, I frowned. Dad was too overbearing. He had to let me live the life I wanted. Even if that was doing something he thought was dangerous. I had to learn on my own.
Taking a deep breath, I stepped off the curb and headed left but when I got to the middle of the street, I stopped. I have to see him. I had to know why he didn’t show up. Was he alright?
Exhaling hard, I ran right, to the street where I always walked. With each step, I regretted my decision because I told Dad I’d go straight home but if I hurried he wouldn’t know. I would be home before he knew it.
I rushed down Cider Avenue at a pace that resembled a speed walker. I was excited to lay eyes
At the intersection, I paused, glancing left and right. When it was clear, my eyes fell on the road that was filled with new construction. Dante’s dad was a big deal in the county. Which was funny because they thought he was a no good biker. He had built most of the homes and remolded a lot of the older ones. He was so good at his job they overlooked his reputation as a biker. The old district was filled with beautiful two-story homes that reminded you of the colonial days. Dante signed out at 1:00 pm each day so he could work for him. When he graduated, he would run his own crew. Well, that was the rumor going around school.
When I neared the road, I noticed a van parked in the driveway of the house at the corner. Slowing my pace, my eyes worked over the white van with a faded plumbing logo on the side. Hall’s Plumbing, I thought. I stopped. The name didn’t ring any bells. But they could’ve come from a different county.
I took a few more steps as the hairs on my arms came to attention. My toe twisted into the asphalt. Something didn’t feel right. I took another step but paused. In the back of my mind, a whisper urged me to turn around, to go home. So I slowly turned around. My eyes went from the ground, to the van and back again. My heart picked up. My mind constantly went to bad things and I wanted to punch myself for not doing what Dad had asked. Maybe I’m overreacting…
With my back to the van, the sound of a door sliding open filled the bright day. No, you’re not. I sprinted forward. The sound of feet stomping into the pavement grew behind me. My heart raced, thumping in my ears. Faster, I told myself. Louder the running grew. My lungs burned. My eyes widened as they darted around, searching for somewhere to go. Dropping my backpack, I pushed harder, trying to get away. I shot across the lawn out of the road.
When I thought I couldn’t run any faster, arms enclosed me. Hard muscle gripped me like a vise. My feet left the ground causing a scream to erupt from my mouth. I swung around, kicking. I tried to scream again as a hand covered my lips. I bit down. Blood seeped into my mouth. I gagged from the coppery taste. He jerked away and I got a good look at a man in a black mask then another at the van’s opened door. The vehicle pulled up next to us then my attacker pushed me into the other man’s arms. I kicked at him but the one holding me squeezed his arms around my body. It felt as if he would break me in two pieces. Tears filled my eyes as they bound my feet and hands. To make it worse, they slipped a black hood over my head, blinding me to the world.