Zachery: The Pride of the Double Deuce Release Blitz

 

 

Tisha Porter didn’t think she was going to make it. Convinced she would die from her injuries, she left a blow by blow account of what happened to her and who was responsible. The why of it was still a mystery.

Thanks to Detective Harlan James, Tisha was on the mend, but she was ready to get out of her father’s house and back into a house of her own. She was anxious to see that recently renovated old Victorian home and buy if she liked it. She wasn’t counting on the stress being too much for her still too weak body.

Zachery Douglas was hosting the open house in the old Victorian. They’d had more than two hundred people tour the house so far which was far more than he expected. And when Tisha walked through the door, he knew what she was to him, and he’d do anything he had to do to make her his.

 

 

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Spencer Graham had been trying to get a hold of Jason Crosby for weeks, but he didn’t seem to answer emails, mail or the telephone. She had an idea that would make them a great deal of money, but she needed him to invest in her project before it was too late. So, barging into his home at 4 a. m. was the only solution as far as she was concerned. She didn’t, however, expect him to answer the door naked and proposition her as soon as she walked in the door. Spencer did the only thing that came natural to her, she knocked him on his ass….

Jason Crosby was nearly two thousand years old, and in all his days as a vampire, he’d never seen anyone quite like her, not that he thought that was a good thing. He didn’t. She was his mate, and he was only going the tolerate her because he had to….

 

 

 

 

The building and surrounding area looked like a crater. The swing set, which may have held eight on it, was a twisted mess that hung from one of the blackened trees about a mile away. The slide was still sitting in its original place, yet barely resembled its former self. The only reason Harlan knew what it was is because he’d seen his own kids on it. He looked over when someone said his name. “Four dead. We think. It’s going to be a little while before we can sort this mess out. If there were cars in the lot, I’m not sure how long it will take before we can figure out not just the owners, but if they might have been here last night. Christ, this is a mess.” Harlan asked him if they’d been able to get a list of teachers yet. “We’re still working on that. I have been able to canvas the damage surrounding this land. There has been one death that is apparently related to this explosion, but we won’t know for sure until all reports are in. Had this been in the city, Harlan, you know this would have been a hell of a lot worse.” “Yes. There are reports of windows blasted out eight miles from here. And I heard that one of the deaths was a man who had been on the street in front at the impact time and was killed by the blast. Is that the one that you’re talking about?” Richard nodded. “As you know, had this happened only about ten hours later, there would have been children here, and a lot more bodies.” “We have narrowed down the center, we’re pretty sure. The city planner brought by the blueprints like you asked for, and he’s looking things over and thinks he knows where the epicenter is. Second grade room, as near we can tell.” Harlan wasn’t able to go to the area just yet; the fire department was going over some of the wreckage to make sure that the fires were out. The bomb squad had left about half an hour ago. “The three bodies that we’ve recovered here so far are two men from the janitorial service and a woman. No ID yet on the latter. We think it might have been the principal, but we’re not sure where the person was at when the bomb went off, in or out of the building. But again, we’re working on that too.” “Next of kin been notified on the others?” Richard told him not as yet, they were waiting on the cleaning service to get back to them on how many people were here. “Let me know.” When Richard excused himself just as his phone rang, Harlan moved as close to the site as he could get. Whoever had done this, and he had little doubt that a single sick individual was responsible, they’d wanted a high kill rate. And this wasn’t a gas explosion like the police were hoping either. A bomb, a huge one, had gone off here. Eight hours after he had arrived, they found what they thought was the kill switch, and that other bombs had been set up around the building. According to the experts, there was one central location that once detonated, would fire off the other twelve smaller but no less powerful bombs around the large structure. Harlan was also informed that the person who had set this up was good, maybe even an expert. Or they had an understanding of internet jargon better than most.

“Whoever this person was, they wanted this building gone, and didn’t care who was inside of it. It had a switch on location, meaning that it was set off by a simple movement or a lid being removed, so it mattered little to them when this thing went off. I would say that it more than likely was triggered by opening whatever it came here in, which I’m thinking cardboard at this point. The others all depended on the main larger bomb, causing enough power to set them off as well. They were on a tumbler-like set off. Once they were moved, hard, they would blow.” Harlan asked him how long something like this would take to set up. “Hours. Maybe a few days. The person would have had to have access to the building, and no one to question what they were doing here. A good sense of the size, layout, as well as how much explosive material to use to get this sort of devastation.” “So whoever it was, they were known to those that work here, you’re thinking. I mean, the staff here, they didn’t have any issues with this person being in and out of here, so they could have pretty much done this without anyone having any clue.” Richard nodded. “This is some sick shit, you know that, right? In another few hours, there would have been over four hundred people in this building, mostly kids. And then nearly seventy teachers and other staff.” “Don’t forget buses of kids that were being held to drop off at the higher grades, parents here dropping off little Jimmy for his first day, and any of the other hundreds of people that might have been passing by when this went off.” Harlan moved through the debris and other mangled things while they talked. “I heard that you’re having trouble locating two of the teachers. You think they might have been here too?” “I hope to Christ not. Also, we did hear from the cleaning service. There were not three here, but six, to get the building ready for the first day. So far we’ve had no luck at all trying to figure out if they showed up for work or not. The teachers have all been accounted for, except the two you know about. One of them is the one that had that classroom. Tisha Porter.” Richard asked him if it was old man Randall’s daughter. “I have no idea. Randall Porter a name I should know?” “Yes. Well, sort of. He’s been putting his name around town for a few years now. Probably because his little girl teaches here. If this is her, I can have someone check on it. If it’s her that’s missing, he’ll have a better chance of finding her than you will.” Harlan asked him why. “Because he has a supposed endless supply of money, and she’s his only child.” At about nine that night, nearly twenty-four hours after the explosion happened, Harlan found himself in Tisha’s neighborhood, which made him feel like he was underdressed. Tisha hadn’t contacted her father since last evening, nor was she answering her phone. Harlan just knew that he was going to find out that she’d done this and skipped town. According to friends, she was a nice girl and didn’t bother others, and that was what gave him the feeling that she was in this deeper than anyone. Harlan hated to have to tell her daddy if he was right. That man was very forceful and concerned at the same time. There was no car in the drive but he could see one in the garage. The lower level of the building was as big as his entire house. Going to the door, he drew his gun when he

saw that the glass nearest the handle had been broken inward. Calling in backup, he was told to wait. It was then that he saw the blood. “I can’t wait. I can see that someone is hurt. Going in.” Instead of letting the dispatcher tell him to wait again, he muted his phone. He could be fired for it if this turned out to be nothing, but right now, he just didn’t care. As he made his way into the house, he noted in an abstract sort of way that it was neat. Not in a cleaned up sort of way— though it was that too—but more like this person did not care for clutter or fluff. Straight lines and hard surfaces were on everything, including the cushions on the chairs in the kitchen. It was also expensive, like this person spent all their money on their things, as they had no children or pets to muss it. Making his way to the living room, he could see the difference immediately. This was a room that was used; comfort nearly screamed at him. The noise to his left gave him pause. He wasn’t in a good place in the house…the hallway he was in was not only open at both ends with rooms coming out from each side, but there were two doors that were opened in front of him, one on the right, the other on the left. But when he heard it again, he moved forward. “This is the Nevada Police. I’m armed and have backup.” He heard the sirens getting closer and peeked quickly into the room to his right. Nothing. “Ms. Porter? Can you hear me?” “Yes.” He thought he heard her answer him but wasn’t sure. “I’m dying. I’m alone.” Relief was short lived when she cried out. “She hurt me.” Entering the room at the end, the doorway that spilled into the hall, he nearly backed away. The woman lying in a pool of blood looked as if she was indeed dying. Her body was not only covered in a great many of what looked like knife wounds, but she was beaten up as well. Moving closer, keeping his gun out, Harlan called for an ambulance. “I’m Harlan James. Are you Tisha Porter?” She nodded, then passed out. He could see that she’d been making notes, and it sickened him that she’d been forced to do this. The papers to her left were covered in bloodied letters that not only spelled out who had hurt her, but also who to call when they found her. Taking her pulse, Harlan thought she was dead for a few seconds until he felt her very faint heartbeat. Then she looked at him again. “Ms. Porter? Can you tell me when this happened?” “Late. I thought it was the neighbor’s cat at the door.” He nodded, taking out his phone and setting it to record. “Before I could…. The door, it exploded inward. I was hurt then. Knife. My knife. She used it. Hammer too.” “Can you tell me who?” Before she could say anything, she was out again. And as much as he wanted to shake her awake to answer him, he knew that any movement might well kill her. Harlan looked at the papers. The name of the other missing teacher was what she had written down as who harmed her. There was a timeline too. At eleven forty-five, the sound at the door. Eleven forty-nine, Alexandra Grace rushed her. Eleven fifty, Alex hit her first with a hammer, then knives. It also said that she’d beaten her. The times were messed up then, the spelling off, but he read this woman’s account like she’d been writing up a police report. At six

thirty this morning, Alex had left. The facts in-between those times, he knew, would haunt him for years to come. By the time the ambulance arrived, he’d called in a report on what he’d found. Then he told his boss what she’d written down about the other teacher, as well as having someone sent to her house to find the woman. Alexandra Grace was going to have a lot of explaining to do. ~~~ Randall moved through the hospital trying to figure out where he was to go. The nurse at the front desk had told him twice how to get to the operating area, but he was hurting in his heart so badly he only half remembered. When he saw two police officers, he made his way to them. “I’m looking for my daughter, Tisha Porter.” The officer nodded at him and then took him to a man dressed in a dark suit. “My daughter, someone said that she was hurt. Tisha Porter is her name. She’s a teacher. Second grade. They all just love her.” “I’m Harlan James, Mr. Porter. I came in with her.” Randall felt his knees simply give out on him. If Harlan hadn’t been there to catch him, he was sure he would have fallen. “Come on over here, Mr. Porter. We’ll talk while we wait.” “She loves teaching those children. I saw in the news that the entire building was blown up. I never got much from the man who called me.” Harlan said it had been him. “Was she in the building?” “No. We found her at her home. That’s where we’re thinking she was hurt. Someone broke in.” Randall tried to think of why someone would harm his little girl. “She was beaten, and cut up pretty badly. The doctors here are doing all that they can to save her. You have a very smart and brave daughter, Mr. Porter. She’s helped us a great deal in this.” “That’s my baby. Always knew she was the best. I spoke to her just last night…I think it was the night before. It’s hard to think so much time has…. I had just called her to tell her to have fun with her first day. I teased her about her room being….” He paused, trying to remember something about a box. “She had this mysterious box, she said. Even asked me if I’d sent it to her. I didn’t of course, but I told her it was more than likely from one of the other teachers. Perhaps they’d left it there.” He asked him the same thing as he had his daughter. “No, no name she told me. Only hers on a Post-It note on the top. I never thought to ask her about the handwriting. I mean, it was just a box, right?” “The blast came from the general area of where her room would have been. We only know things as they get found. But it is speculated that it was a cardboard box, and like I said, in the area where her room might have been.” Randall wanted to ask if they thought his baby had done it. Or if she had been the target of this monstrosity. The officer seemed to understand. “She had left notes on what she knew and what had happened to her. They were with her when I found her in her home. Tisha, she made sure we had enough information to get started on trying to find this…. We’re currently looking for someone that might have a connection to what has happened to your daughter. But as of now, we don’t believe Tisha had a thing to do with this. We’ll know more as our investigation continues.”

“She’s all I have in the world. Since her mother died, Tisha has become my whole world. I just saw her last weekend, and she was telling me how she’d gotten all these nice learning tools from a shop online. And now this.” Harlan told him they were doing their best. “If you need anything, a kick in the ass to the mayor, you let me know. I’ll pull some strings and get you more manpower if you need it. You just let me know. I’ll get it for you.” “I think we have it for now, but I’ll keep that in mind. We’re working round the clock now, so I hope to have answers in a few days, if not sooner.” Randall nodded and Harlan stood up. “I’m going to have someone at her room until we find this other person. And if you’d be so kind, I’d like for you to have a guard as well. Right now we don’t know the reason that any of this happened. So to be on the safe side, I’d like to protect you as well.” “I have my own bodyguards.” Randall nodded to the hall where they were and the three men standing there. “Nothing will get past these men unless I tell them or they’re dead. If it will free up some of your men, I can assign them to her room as well. To be honest, sir, they’ll be there anyway. If you’ll agree to it, then nobody will get their underwear all tightened up by them being there too.” “I’ll let you know.” Randall nodded then was left alone. Making his way down the hall, he told Burt, his right hand man, what was going on as he sat in one of the most uncomfortable chairs he’d ever been in. He also told Burt to set up some people on the inside for her safety. “You have it, sir. And may I suggest that we bring in that buddy of yours? The retired agent? He could be a little more help even from the sidelines.” Randall nodded. “Very good, sir. Have they told you how she’s doing? I mean, more than you were told on the phone?” “No. I’d very much like it if you can run a check on any doctors and nurses she has contact with. And there is a person of interest that the police are looking for. Another teacher. Find out who this person is and anything you can find about them.” Burt said he would put his best on it. “One more thing, I want you to find out about her home. That cop said someone broke into it. Maybe they don’t know about the cameras in the house.” “More than likely not. I’ll take one of them there with me to check.” Randall told him to take Harlan James and to give anything they found to him. He’d know what to do with it. “Very good. Anything else?” “I don’t think so right now, but I might. He wants a guard put on her room and me. You’ll see that things are taken care of here for her. We won’t take over, but there isn’t any way that I’m leaving this to chance. Someone hurt my little girl.” Burt looked pained, and said that he would. Tisha was loved by all that knew her. “We’ll help them when we can, Burt, but I won’t sit idly by.” “No, sir. That’s not your style. Nor that of your daughter. We’ll help them, or if nothing is moving we’ll get them going.” Randall leaned back in the chair, trying to find a position that didn’t hurt. At least too much. “Sir, I’m going to find you a hotel, someone to bring you something to eat, as well as a doctor here that knows your condition.” After telling Burt to do what he needed, Randall closed his eyes. He was exhausted, and that didn’t play well with his heart. Breathing in and out slowly, like he’d been taught

to help himself, he tried to calm his nerves and heart. All he could think about was his daughter. Tisha had been born later in his life, he’d been nearing forty and his wife just shy of that. Had anyone asked, he would have said they were happy being childless. They had money, a great deal of it, and traveled, and pretty much did anything that they wanted. Then Rachel had gotten pregnant and Tisha had come along. Randall was pretty sure until that moment he’d not lived at all. Hadn’t taken a good breath of air, nor had his heart beat so well until he looked into the most beautiful pair of blue eyes he’d ever seen. His baby girl, Tisha Randall Porter. She’d been the best baby, and an even better child. No temper tantrums were ever thrown, nor did she give them a hard time about things. Of course, he’d made sure that she had everything that she wanted…even if she only gave something a passing glance, he’d get it for her. Until the day she turned seven. “I want to get a job.” He only nodded at her, indulging her even though he knew she’d never have to work a day in her life, if he could help it. “My friend, Emma, has a job. And her grandma pays her for doing the dishes too. Not the pots and pans, but her pretty dishes she serves tea on.” “Tisha, I can give you money if that’s what you want. I have no problem with it.” She told him no, she wanted to earn her keep. “Honey, you don’t have to earn anything. We’re very wealthy.” “So are Emma’s mommy and daddy. And she has her own pocket money that she can do whatever she wants with and not have to ask. Why last month, she took me to get an ice cream soda, and no one knew about it but just the two of us.” Randall wondered just how much this other little girl was teaching his daughter. “I want to do this, Dad. You want me to be smart like you? And know the value of money?” “I do. And I’m pretty sure that you have a good handle on the value of money.” Then she gave him that look. It wasn’t a pouty one, like most little girls did, but the kind that told him he was being too much of a dad. He also knew that he’d give her the world should she want it. “All right, child, whatever you want. But I’d like you to keep an accounting of your money and your spending. If you’re going to earn your own money, then you’re going to be accountable for it as well. Then at the end of one month, we’ll see how you did.” He’d thought that after a few weeks she’d tire of what he’d viewed as games. But at the end of a month, she’d come to him with not only her books, as she called them, but receipts on everything she’d spent too. Which wasn’t much. “I’ve been taking out the trash in the kitchen, and Molly pays me one dollar for doing it. She said that her husband could do it, but he’s too busy in the house so I could.” Randall had made a mental note to pay back his cook and thank her for what she’d done. “And the gardener gave me five dollars for helping him pick up the twigs in the yard after the storm last week. He said that my back was younger and I was closer to the ground, and that I saved him some pain. I think he needs to have more help, Dad. The man’s list is never finished.”

Another note to his list of things she’d found out for him. As they went over her books, he was astonished not only at much she had learned by talking to the staff, but how much she’d managed to save up as well. One hundred dollars just by doing odd jobs for those that worked for them. “All right, let’s see how you spent your cash, shall we?” Randall had already had it in his head to get her a real ledger, as well as some colored pencils. It was the way that he’d been keeping track of his earnings for years. Not only did he love seeing the numbers all lined up in neat rows, but when he had gotten a computer and it did the adding for him, he still found himself using his old tried and true method. “I’ve put a computer on layaway. I had to have Molly help me with that. They’d not sell me one at my age. I think it’s ridiculous that there has to be an age limit on learning, but now that it’s there, I pay on it every week and she takes it to the store for me.” Randall told her he’d purchase it for her. “No, Dad. I’m doing this on my own.” After an hour of going over everything, he’d needed to find a quiet place to think. She had not just opened his eyes to his staff, but to the fact that she was not a baby any more. Randall would only admit this to himself, but he’d had a good cry over that fact, and still got teary when he thought of it. “Mr. Porter?” Dragging himself from his thoughts, he stared at the man in front of him for several seconds before he could think where he was. “Mr. Porter? I’m Doctor Fitzpatrick. I’ve spoken to the police just now, and they told me that I could bring you up to date on your daughter’s surgery.” Randall sat up straighter in the chair and waited for the news. “She’s in grave condition, I’m afraid, but I have hope that she’ll pull out of this. Tisha is young and in very good health. While she’s lost a great amount of blood and has had some pretty extensive wounds to her body, I think she stands a good chance of coming out of this with only a few adjustments on her part. Had she not been brought in when she had…? Well, I think that given what happened to her, she’s very lucky that someone went to check on her.” “What happened to her?” Burt had come to stand beside him, and the doctor looked up at him. “I’m going to tell him whatever you tell me, so it will save me time if you just pretend that he’s her father too. Burt is…well, he’s her friend as well as honorary uncle. And doctor, we’d like it straight up like I like my bourbon, if you don’t mind.” “All right then. She had been stabbed forty-three times in the chest and arms. Her legs have been cut as well, but I’m not sure with what just yet. The police have pictures of each wound and are looking for the weapons now. She’s been shot twice, once in the back and once in her upper left thigh that broke bones, but luckily didn’t hit any major arteries. I don’t know the timeline of these wounds as I was working to save her life, but I can tell you that she was tortured over a few hours’ time.” Randal nodded, his heart needing just a moment to catch up until Burt put his hand on his shoulder. It was both reassuring and comforting to have this man so close to him. “There was blunt force trauma to her head, arms, and the bottom of her feet. I would say that whoever did this to her took their time, wanting her to suffer for some reason. Her left hand is broken pretty badly, and we may have to wire it back together later. Right now, I’m solely focused on getting her past the point of being critical. I’m not sure if we’ll need to go back

in later and replace bone with metal in her hand, but for now, we have her in a hard cast to prevent her from doing more damage.” “Any internal injuries?” The doctor nodded, then looked at him when Burt asked. “Was there brain damage? What?” “There is no way to soften the way I tell you this. Her abdomen was crushed, pelvis broken, and the fallopian tube on the right side was destroyed. Her womb was injured as well, to the point where it had to be removed or risk infection. As for her brain, we don’t yet know what sort of damage is there. After she wakes, if she does, we’ll be able to better determine where to go after that.” Randall felt his body just go limp. The words ‘if she does’ were too much. His mind simply said this is too much, and he embraced the darkness where his little girl was safe in his dreams.

 

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