Hell And Back(6)

By: Natasha Madison

“Hey, you!”

I look up at her and see she has one of those hats that tie under your chin.

“Aren’t you Felicia’s granddaughter?” She walks over to her white picket fence, the water from the hose still running.

“Yes, ma’am,” I answer, pulling Lilah closer to me.

“Is that your baby girl?” she asks, looking me up and down.

I’m not sure if she is sizing me up or passing judgment.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Where are you guys off to?” she asks.

“To get some groceries. Maybe buy a lawnmower.”

“The walk is way too far, and it’ll be too hot by the time you need to come back. Why don’t you wait there, and I’ll take you? I have to go myself anyway,” she says, turning around, heading to the spout to turn the water off. “I’ll just get my purse and keys, and we can be on our way.” She is already walking up the front steps.

“I don’t want you to go out of your way, Mrs....?”

“Oh, you can call me Brenda. I knew your grandmother. She was very special to me, and I loved her dearly. Just let me get my keys, and we can get to know each other better in the car. All right? Maybe we can even hit up McDonald’s. Would you two like that?”

I don’t have to look down to see Lilah has another smile. She has had McDonald’s only once.

It’s a funny thing what one would do for their child. This right here is one of them. My head is telling me not to trust her, my heart is telling me to run, but my gut is telling me it’s okay.

“I think we would like that very much, Brenda. Please take your time. We’ll wait right here,” I tell her, retreating back while looking down at Lilah. “We’re going to McDonald’s. Isn’t that fancy?” And then I hear my girl giggling, which is like music to my ear.

Chapter Four


I slam the phone down with more force than I intended. My partner, Mick, looks over at me.

“I thought Kendall came over last night. Yet here you are ready to blow up.”

I shoot him a glare. We’ve been partners since the beginning. We entered the academy at the same time, both of us with chips on our shoulders, both hoping to change the world.

Seven years later, there is no one else I would want to have my back.

“Shut the fuck up, Mick, not today.” I focus on the file in front of me. Another runaway kid disappeared into thin air.

I look up and stare straight into Mick’s eyes. I don’t need him to say anything. I know what he’s thinking.

“I met my neighbor this morning.”

Mick leans back in his chair, not saying a word, waiting for me to finish.

“She had bruises on her arm and a couple faded ones on her face.” I close the file in front of me.

I turn around to open up the computer so I can search Nan’s name, Felicia, to find something on her.

“So now what?” Mick asks me, but he knows the answer even before I know what I’m going to answer.

“She’s running from something. I don’t know what or who, but there was real fear in her eyes. There was enough pain in them to break someone straight down to their core,” I tell him while I start typing.

“You can’t save everyone, Jackson, you know this. It’s like you’re constantly chasing that same ghost.” He leans forward, putting his arms on the desk.

“I don’t want to save her.” Her scared eyes flash through my mind. “I just want her to know she’s safe.”

“What the fuck are you doing?” he asks when he sees me type in Nan’s name.

“I need to know what her story is, Mick.” I almost press enter, but his words stop me.

“It’s her story to tell, Jackson. Not yours to find out. If she is the way you say she is, ain’t no way in fuck she’s going to be cool with you finding out without her telling you.”

I shrug at him, not ready to admit he’s right. You would think he would shut up, but he doesn’t. “Yeah, I know you aren’t going to stop searching till you find out those answers. You want to keep her safe.” He pauses, cocking his head to the side. “Who is going to keep you safe from yourself?”

“I have no idea, but something is pulling me to her, something I can’t even explain. I’ve got to get home. I promised to mow her lawn.”

“Which lawn we talking about?” He ducks when I throw a balled up piece of paper at him. “How are you going to explain Kendall?”

“There is nothing to explain. We’re friends, just friends from now on.” I go to grab my keys off my desk, not interested in finishing this conversation.

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