We are excited to share a book installment on Wednesdays and Saturdays! Hidden Danger by Jennifer Pierce is the first in the Small Town Guardians series. If you love mystery and romance, come read the next chapter below!
Chapter 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 / Chapter 5 / Chapter 6 / Chapter 7 / Chapter 8 / Chapter 9 / Chapter 10 / Chapter 11 / Chapter 12 / Chapter 13 / Chapter 14/Chapter 15/Chapter 16/Chapter 17/Chapter 18/Chapter 19/Chapter 20/Chapter 21/Chapter 22/Chapter 23/Chapter 24
Cody’s voice pulled at her from somewhere in the fog she was currently residing in. She opened her eyes and allowed them to adjust to the lighted room. Cody sat on a bed across from her. What had happened? All she could remember was the truck turning and her head hitting the glass. Everything else was blank.
Something heavy weighed her arm down. A three-inch silver band circled her wrist, a long thick metal chain attached to the band. She slowly followed it to where it was fastened to the wall with large screws.
She was secured to a wall, but she didn’t panic. All she could concentrate on was the pain. She couldn’t ever remember being in this much pain. Her head was going to explode, and the muscles in her neck and back screamed with each movement. She forced herself to focus on Cody’s face and not on the pain. His hair was mussed, and he had something smeared on his forehead. He didn’t look as bad as she felt.
“Maggie, are you okay?”
She opened her mouth to speak, but the words wouldn’t come, her mouth was like cotton. She swallowed several times before she was able to respond. “I think so. What about you?”
“I’ve felt better.”
“What happened? Where are we?”
“We wrecked. You were unconscious and then…” He paused, like he was trying to decide how to tell her some bad news.
Before he could finish his sentence, they heard a key in the lock on the door to her right. It opened slowly inward. Her view of who had entered was obscured by the door.
“How could you?” Cody’s rage-filled voice yelled. “I trusted you!” Metal clanged as he stood and lunged at their captor, but he didn’t get very far before his own chain snapped him back to the bed.
“I could say the same thing to you, Sheriff.” The voice was filled with disdain. She knew that voice. She had heard it several times in the last week, but she couldn’t pinpoint who it belonged to. The door opened wider, revealing a man dressed in a Dale County Sheriff’s uniform. He turned to face her. “Hello, Magpie.”
She cringed as Deputy Grainger called her the name only Cody and Jacob used. “Why?” was all she could say. She had never met Grainger before this week. She had no idea why he would target her so maliciously.
“There’ll be plenty of time for questions later.” He walked over and stopped in front of her. She fought the urge to cower away from his looming figure. He tucked a strand of her auburn hair behind her ear. It was a comforting gesture when Cody did it, but her stomach revolted at Grainger’s touch.
She slapped his hand away. Her gesture of defiance was rewarded with a slap across her cheek. His hand was hard and left her cheek stinging. The assault stunned her. No one had ever hit her like that. She fought back the tears that threatened to spill. Cody was yelling at him, standing, and trying to pull the chain from the wall to get to her.
Deputy Grainger wasn’t fazed by Cody’s reaction. He reached behind him and produced a pair of handcuffs. Grabbing the hand that wasn’t chained to the wall, he slapped a cuff on her, tightening it until it pinched her skin. He reached for her other hand, but she refused to let him have it, scooting back on the bed until she felt the wall behind her. He leaned over to grab the chain attached to the wall, and she tried to kick him away. He blocked her kick with his hand and raised his other hand to slap her again but paused before making contact. Instead, he took his service weapon from its holster and aimed it at Cody.
“No!” The air was sucked from her lungs and pounding sounded in her ears. She straightened her body, forcing her shaky limbs to cooperate. “I’ll do what you want.”
“Maggie, no,” Cody yelled from his side of the room. “Don’t do it.”
Deputy Grainger kept the gun aimed at Cody but turned to her. “You can fight me, and I’ll put a bullet in your boyfriend, then make you come with me anyway. Or you can come with me willingly, and I let him live.”
“Please, don’t hurt him,” she pleaded.
“Then put the other cuff on your hand.”
She did as she was told. Once the cuff was secured on her wrist, Grainger tightened it. “Wouldn’t want you to escape.”
He holstered his weapon and pulled a key from his pocket. Unlocking the small lock attached to the cuff, he freed her from the wall before grabbing her upper arm and pulling her to a standing position. She gasped in pain. He dragged her toward the door. “Walk.”
“Grainger, she hasn’t done anything to you. Take me instead.”
Maggie could hear the desperation in Cody’s voice. She saw the fear in his eyes as she walked toward the door.
“Sorry, I can’t do that.” He shoved her through the door, shutting it behind him, never releasing her arm.
“Grainger!” Cody’s guttural yell echoed as Grainger relocked the door.
He pulled her down a dark hallway that opened to a larger room with cement walls. There was a washer and dryer in the corner and a set of stairs that led up to a closed door. There were windows situated at the top of the walls, similar to the previous room she was in, only they were dingy and didn’t let much light through. A single lightbulb in the center of the large room gave her enough light to recognize that she was in the basement of a building.
He remained silent as he pushed her to the stairs. Her fear grew with each step. She didn’t know where he was taking her or what he was going to do. Hesitating, she said a silent prayer. Lord, be with me. I don’t know what the future holds but You do, Lord. I’m so scared, but I know that You are with me.
“Go up.” His gravelly voice wasn’t as harsh as it had been moments ago, but it wasn’t as friendly as it had been in every exchange prior to today. With shaky steps, she climbed.
She didn’t know where Grainger was taking her or what he planned to do to her, but she wasn’t going to give up without a fight. She walked up and through the door, which opened into a small kitchen furnished with a stove and refrigerator. Pots and pans hung on the wall over the stove and various kitchen appliances lined the countertops. This isn’t a vacant home; someone is living here. Maybe there’s a phone I can use to call for help if I can break away from Grainger. She looked around the kitchen and couldn’t find a phone but did see a knife block to her left. When Grainger’s attention was on shutting the basement door, Maggie used the distraction as her chance for escape. She pulled a knife from the block and turned to face Grainger. He stared at her, and then he laughed.
“You’re not serious?” He pulled the gun from its holster and waved it at her. “I have a gun and you,” using the gun to gesture to the weapon she held in her hand, “have a vegetable peeler.”
She looked in her hand and sure enough, she had picked a small paring knife.
“First, you would have to get really close to do any harm with that, and second, you come at me and I’ll put a bullet in you. Now, put it down. I really don’t want to get any blood on the kitchen floor.”
She didn’t want to let go of her only protection. She knew he was right, but setting it down was like giving in to death.
Grainger aimed the gun at her leg. “One.”
She quickly ran through her options and no matter what she came up with, it didn’t end well for her. She set the knife on the counter.
“Good girl.” Keeping the gun aimed on her, he moved the knife out of reach, and then he struck her again. “Do not do that again. I won’t be so nice next time. Now, turn around and walk through that door.” He jammed the gun in her back as he pushed her toward the other room.
Her cheek stung where his hand had connected to the already sore flesh. She brought her cuffed hands to her cheek, choking back tears.
The kitchen connected to a modest living room. He shoved her down onto a couch positioned against the wall. Her gaze traveled the room, taking in her surroundings. A coffee table was situated between the couch and a television along the opposite wall, positioned in front of a large picture window. To the left of the window was a door leading out of the house.
Grainger sat next to her on the couch, so close she could smell the stale cologne he wore. He picked up a photo album off the coffee table and opened it, placing it on her lap.
She stared down at pictures of a girl and boy playing on the beach. The boy was about eight and the girl a year or two younger. In one picture, they were splashing around in the ocean. The next picture showed the children building a sandcastle. The following one was the little girl shoveling sand over the boy as he laid in a hole they had probably dug to bury each other.
“That was our family vacation to Florida when I was eight. Iris was almost seven.” He turned more pages showcasing their family vacation. Pages upon pages of photos of the two children laughing and having fun. Then some with one or both of their parents joining in on the merriment.
He turned the pages slowly, giving her plenty of time to see each photo. She looked away, not wanting to see anymore. She looked around, trying to get a better lay out of the room and her best chance of escape.
Grainger slammed his fist down on the album, causing her to jump and sending it to the floor. “Look at what you’ve done.” He screamed while picking it up from the floor. He placed it back on her lap. He grabbed her face and forced her to look at the photos. “Look at them!” His face was crimson, and his eyes were wild with rage.
She looked back down. When he turned the last page, he closed the album and opened another, placing that on her lap, too. This one contained pictures of the same children dressed as Mary and Joseph, probably three years later. Their faces beamed with the joy of Christmas. He flipped through this one, not saying a word. She fought hard to keep her attention on the photos. Grainger seemed to be teetering on the edge, and she didn’t want to do anything to push him over.
With each turn of the page, the children continued to grow. The next album showed a handsome young Grainger in a cap and gown posing with a beautiful young woman, who Maggie assumed was Iris. The next page was Iris’s graduation and various photos of her smiling and happy.
“Why are you showing me these?”
“To show you why you have to die.”
Maggie’s stomach turned. She was going to die, and she didn’t even know why. “Why? I haven’t done anything to you.”
“You have to die to show our incompetent sheriff what it’s like to lose someone he loves knowing he could have prevented it.”
Grainger picked up a remote that was lying on the coffee table and turned on the television. A video of the inside of a house started playing. The shaky video led down a hallway and through a doorway into a room that was decorated in soft purples. The camera focused on a body lying in the center of a bed. The camera moved closer and focused on a woman she recognized from the photos. The camera zoomed in on her face. Her eyes were opened wide, but they were dull and lifeless like Dee’s had been. The camera slowly panned over her entire body. Except for a burn scar on her collar bone, there were no bruises or marks to indicate a struggle. The camera traveled the length of her arm and came to rest on several pill bottles strewn about the bedspread.
“It’s not Cody’s fault Iris killed herself.” She turned to focus on Grainger.
“It is his fault, and he’s going to pay for it.”
The video travelled back to Iris’s face. Grainger paused the video and grabbed her face, forcing her to look at the screen. His grip was tight, fingers digging into the flesh of her cheeks. “Look at her. See how beautiful she was.”
“Cody couldn’t do his job, and she killed herself because of it. My baby sister is dead because of your stupid, useless boyfriend.” He let go of her face.
“I’m sorry that he’s forced me to do those awful things to you. I’m sorry he’s forcing me to kill you.”
He slammed the remote down on the coffee table. “Had he just found the guy stalking her, this wouldn’t be happening. It took me a few months, but I found the guy who did it, and I took care of that problem. Cody had the entire sheriff’s department at his disposal and still couldn’t do it. Now he’s going to have four deaths on his conscience.”
Maggie, fearing that he would kill her soon, jumped from the couch and ran to the door. Using her cuffed hands, she yanked on the knob, but it wouldn’t open. She fumbled with the deadbolt, but just as it unlocked, something hard hit the back of her head, sending lights dancing in her vision. And then the darkness clouded in.
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About Jennifer Pierce
Jennifer Pierce currently lives in Arkansas with her husband and two children. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and River Valley Writers, where she serves as secretary.
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SMALL TOWN GUARDIANS SERIES