Tricking Astrid

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Chapter 41

When Astrid came to, she groggily rubbed her aching cheek.

What happened?

She paused, blinking at her unbound feet. Then the eerie hush and Jay’s absence made her still completely. Her frantic pants in the gloom seemed too loud, plus the debilitating pain all across her body didn’t help. Could she even walk? Her flesh swelled from his assault, and the headache behind her eyes caused them to water. Blood dripped from her chin. She must have only been unconscious for a few minutes. He broke her fucking nose!

“H-hello?” she croaked, her raw throat squeaking out the word.

Silence.

Was this a trick? To see if she ran just for the fucker to stab her mid-step? She blindly scrabbled to the end of the mattress. If she reached the doorway, there might be a way out of this place.

A noise from the front of the house startled her. Everything was so damn quiet. She froze once more, fine hair rising on the back of her neck. Where did that freak go? His disappearance felt ominous.

A rattle.

Doors opening?

Astrid continued to rest on her knees at the edge of the bed, unsure of what to do.

A white glow cut through the darkness in the hallway and she noted the closed bedroom door, the glare sweeping back and forth under the warped wood. The brightness confused Astrid. Jay barely tolerated the candle flame and said no one would hear her, but kept her subdued and gagged. Did he lie?

Sudden fatigue struck, and Astrid curled into herself. With a throbbing head and stinging eyesight, it became hard to focus. This was her chance to run, dammit! Sitting up once more, concentrating on her predicament with a sadist murderer, the disorientation wavered as she struggled past her injuries. She couldn’t pass out now!

The light floated nearer.

Vehemence bombarded Astrid’s thinking, strengthening her. She crouched, getting ready to pounce when the doorknob rattled. She didn’t know who was coming but needed to pull her shit together. The door swung inward, and she swallowed, realizing she sat naked with no way of defending herself. A light hit her square in the face, blinding her instantly.

Then an unfamiliar male voice called out to her.

“Astrid?” The man quietly asked her name again, directing the beam lower, “Astrid Trahern?”

She gasped in relief. He was there to help her! She wasn’t alone anymore! Saved!

The shocking appearance of the rescuer made Astrid gape, seeking the face beyond the blinding light. Her throat throbbed and burned as she sobbed in traumatized hysteria, unable to speak.

The stranger rushed forward. “I’m Detective Laramy,” he identified himself, “Where’s the man who abducted you?”

Trying to get a grip on the blubbering, she went to reply when a creak above made them freeze. Before she could wonder what the noise meant, Jay jumped from the rafters, slicing the detective’s throat wide open.

Astrid screamed, blood splashing the front of her naked body. In her mouth. In her eyes. The brave man who came to save her let out a horrible gurgling sound, falling forward. She tried to scamper backward to avoid his drop, but Laramy landed heavily on her torso.

She never imagined such carnage existed in the world until that moment. The blood, coating the bed and herself, felt warm and sticky. She gagged on it, bile rising into her sore throat. The flashlight in Laramy’s twitching hand highlighted the wall behind them, making Jay’s silhouette appear like a ten-foot monster, and her bowels loosened. The urine and coppery scent of blood mingled together in a rotten mixture of soured death as Jay cackled while she shrieked.

“You dumb bitch!” he snarled, grabbing the dead man’s collar, yanking the body to the floor. “Did you expect to be rescued? You don’t deserve a happy ending, Astrid. No one does.”

She worked to stay focused. To not completely lose her shit. He scowled, punching her in the mouth. She stopped screaming when her head snapped back, not even aware she had been on the verge of a mental breakdown. Loosing a few precious moments from unconsciousness, she discovered Jay tying her up again when her eyelids fluttered open.

White-hot rage took over, and she bit his arm before he jerked away. That earned her another backhand and a dirty piece of cloth shoved into her busted mouth, but it was all pain now. Every breath. Every movement.

Astrid stilled, realizing she wasn’t escaping after all. How the detective found her was a miracle. Why was he alone? Where was the SWAT team? Cops and others who negotiated situations? Why would that stupid man come by himself? Didn’t they know what Jay capable of?

He laughed once he finished securing her hands in front this time, leaving her legs loose. After observing her lethargic movements, he triumphantly whooped at the bloodshed. The drugs and physical injuries left Astrid compliant at last.

“You have no idea how well that played out,” he boasted, dragging the recently deceased across the room, “This house almost burned to the ground when I was a kid. My parents died here. How do you like my old bedroom? I have plans for the next asshole who believes they can take you away from me.”

Next one? Were more people outside? She didn’t think so because he appeared unhurried. She watched Jay grab the torch, shut the door and climb once more into the burnt-out space above her head.

“Curious Astrid? Your so-called boyfriends will die,” Jay whispered from his hiding spot, “Remy led them here. He remembered this place like a perfect fucking puppet. Be a good girl and play the forlorn heroine again?”

She glared hatefully where Jay hid, hoping he would fall and break his neck. When the next person entered, she wouldn’t be able to warn them. If Calder and Remy came and Jay attacked, there was nothing she could do. She truly was a helpless victim and wished he had made good on his threat to kill her and himself before anyone else got hurt.

She would gladly die so her boyfriends would not learn what the psycho put her through. In the silence, she resolved to fight. Men had taken from her all her life, and high-time she fought back. Remy and Calder meant the world to her, and if she made it out, vowed to tell them. Their love may not be conventional, but fuck what others deemed acceptable.

Squaring her shoulders, Astrid yearned to remove the gag but needed to wait for an ideal moment. Whoever came wouldn’t die because she felt sluggish and afraid. Detective Laramy would be alive if she hadn’t been a weak little bitch. His death profoundly saddened her, but she shook her head, focusing on the sounds coming from outside the house.

Jay chuckled from above as if reading her mind, “Not ready to give up the ghost yet, hmm? Such a wildcat. We’ll give them hell together.”


* Earlier *

Remy and Calder could not locate Jay’s place so drove aimlessly, becoming more dejected as the minutes ticked by. Remy ran a hand across his sweaty brow listening to Calder complain about his family, knowing they were both trying not to explode from the intense situation by making useless conversation.

“Cody’s pissed off I’m endangering myself,” Calder growled, “What a bunch of pussies my brothers turned out to be. They consider themselves above disrepute, and my relationship with Astrid threatens their squeaky image. I’m glad I didn’t pick up that arrogant trait. Hell, it probably helped I distanced myself as a kid.”

“Yeah,” Remy had to admit the lawyer prick wasn’t as awful as he thought he’d be, “But at least you have a family.”

“You sound like Astrid,” he huffed, “Shit, she better be okay. Whatever happens, I’ll never abandon her.”

Remy’s phone rang, “It’s the detective. Maybe he’ll give up the location.”

“Doubt it,” Calder muttered as Remy answered the call, sounding more morose than he liked. They had to stay positive.

“Where are you?” Laramy ranted, “Not at the boat, that’s for damn sure! You have no clue where the house is.”

“We can’t sit and wait,” Remy ground out in frustration, “If you tell me where it is I promise we’ll let you handle it. I know the law. Do you have reinforcements? We’re far from the city.”

Laramy paused, “No, I don’t. Gathering evidence proceeds footwork, but I want to check out this lead. You will not go in, understood? Let’s meet. I’m heading north on Tavern Hills road.”

He cursed, turning the car around, “Right, see you in five minutes.”

Roy Laramy relaxed against his unmarked vehicle smoking when Remy and Calder pulled up looking as worn out as he felt. He sighed inwardly at the men glowering with vengeance in their eyes, wanting nothing but to find the girl in one piece and return home to his wife who he suspected of sleeping with their neighbor. The bitch hadn’t put out in months and he swore she covered a fingerprint bruise on her arm last week. There was fuck all he could do about it now, especially when a woman’s life was on the line. Bleak days such as these made him long for retirement.

He always pegged Renold for the one who killed those girls when he first took the case years back and it boiled his blood to think he’d let a deranged killer run free by not believing the kid because he acted like a shithead. But now, he wanted to do everything in his power to help the guy, even though Renold still behaved as if the world owed him something. He reviewed the video Calder sent, knowing Jay was an unpredictable psychopath and needed to steer them away before anyone got hurt. The fact Astrid dated two men perplexed others, but Laramy witnessed too much shit in the last twenty years to care about who slept with whom. His purpose was to bring her home safe and put a murderer behind bars.

“Well?” Remy snapped as he finished his cigarette.

Laramy leaned in the window frowning at them in the dashboard lights, “Jay wants to be caught if the videos he left are any indication. In most cases, death is the only way out. Death by cop or suicide. He may have already achieved what he promised. You need to prepare for the worst.”

“She’s alive!” Remy shouted, hitting the steering wheel, “He would make her suffer first. Jay raped her when they were kids! The guys unhinged and orchestrated everything to get us here! He’s waited for this!”

“Yeah,” Laramy calmly responded, “So have you. I remember you at nineteen, wanting to come across as innocent but hardened by the life you led. I’ve met hundreds of criminals with your disposition. Darkness will take hold if you aren’t careful.”

Remy swallowed and looked away, mumbling, “Please, find her. We’ll watch your back. Did you see what he did to Alice?”

“Yup. Jay is one very disturbed individual.”

“No shit! Astrid needs help!” Calder pleaded, “Time’s wasting. Can we leave now?”

Laramy gave each of them an intense stare, “Follow me. I’m going in on foot and you’ll stay where I park. Hear me? Stay put. Understood? Everything’s on record and my partner Mason’s headed this way since they concluded searching Jay’s apartment. All right, let’s go see if your hunch is correct, Renold.”

He started the car, seeing his wife called. The bitch could wait because he was through pretending he didn’t know about the affair and planned on starting fresh once he captured a killer he should have over a decade ago.

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