Linda S. Prather 

  Mystery At Its Best





Kamela examined her reflection in the bathroom mirror. She wasn’t showing yet, but she would soon, and she wanted Jordan out of prison before that happened. She fluffed her long blond hair before applying Jordan’s favorite pink lip gloss. She’d chosen the country club for her meeting with Olivia because it would be quieter on a weekday and because she’d met Jordan there. They’d planned their wedding on the hill overlooking the lake. Her gaze fell on her ringless finger. Instead, they’d been married in the prison chapel with two guards as witnesses.

She lifted her eyes, meeting her own gaze in the bathroom mirror as she spread her hands over her flat stomach. She was Mrs. Jordan Elkins, and she was carrying Jordan’s child. Nothing else mattered. She could live without the country club and the limousine, and although she’d grown up in Corpus Christi and had never imagined leaving it, she could live without that too, for Jordan.

Picking up her purse, she took a deep breath and headed for the dining room. Olivia loved Jordan as much as she did. She’d want him to be with his child.

Kamela scanned the dining room and moved quickly toward the table in the back. “Olivia, thank you for meeting me.”

The older woman stood and embraced her. “You look absolutely beautiful, Kamela. Have you seen Jordan?”

Kamela shook her head. “I thought I might visit on Friday.”

She waited until Olivia sat down before taking her seat. She smiled at her, studying the time-worn face, covered with thick makeup that—to all except the most perceptive eye—disguised green discoloration and subtle swelling. The judge was either getting careless with his beatings, or he’d gotten away with it for so long he felt invincible.

Kamela continued her assessment, noting the long sleeves of the Versace silk even though the weather was blistering outside. A delicate scarf was tied around her neck. Olivia Elkins was a beautiful woman, but the luster was gone from her eyes, the spark of life slowly fading.

“Kamela, is something wrong?”

She’d promised Jordan she’d protect his mother as best she could, but the stakes had changed. Placing her napkin on the table, Kamela took the woman’s helpless, fluttering hands and held them tightly, her own hands trembling. Olivia expected an answer but perhaps not the one she was about to reveal.

“I’m pregnant, Olivia. Jordan and I are going to have a child.”

The color faded from Olivia’s already pale face, and her hazel eyes started, blinked, and settled on Kamela’s, questioning as Olivia pulled her hands away and shook her head. “But that’s impossible. Jordan is in prison.”

Kamela laughed. The sound carried in the room, and several guests glanced their way. She lowered her voice. “Money buys many things, Olivia. You pay the guards to keep him safe; I pay them for private time alone with my husband.”

“Your husband?”

“We were married last year. We wanted to tell you, but Jordan thought we should wait. He was afraid it would make his father strike out at me.”

Olivia’s mouth twitched, words forming slowly. “Does he know?”

“No. I wanted to talk to you first before I told him. It would only hurt him to know I was pregnant and he wouldn’t be around to help raise our child.”

    Olivia nodded slowly, her hands settling around the crystal water goblet, gently wiping away the condensation like tears on a child’s face.

Kamela waited until the hazel eyes met hers, clear and determined.

“What do you want me to do?”

She hesitated for a moment and then sighed heavily. Jordan had refused to allow her father to help him, and Olivia was her only hope. “We have to get him out. I want my child to have a father.”

“William will never allow it.”

Kamela felt her anger rise, color flooding her face. “William would have no choice if you told the truth. My father would help you. I know he would.”

Kamela immediately regretted her words as the hazel eyes misted, tears threatening to overflow.

“In the beginning, I tried to tell the truth.”

“I know; you did, Olivia. But we have to try again. Jordan only stole that gun to protect you. You know he would never hurt anyone.” No one except his father.

“Olivia, please talk to Michael. Tell him the truth. Show him what his father is really like—what he does to you when no one else is around.”

A single tear made its way down the wrinkled cheek. “Michael knows.” Rising slowly, Olivia wiped her hands on the napkin, folded it, and placed it carefully on the table. Her lips trembled slightly as she smiled, but her hands were steady. “We’re leaving for Kentucky tonight for the fall Keeneland meet. William is always happier there. I’ll talk to him.”

“Olivia, no. You can’t. He’ll...” Kamela’s voice faltered as she watched in horrified silence as Olivia walked away from her, back straight, head held regally, “kill you.” Kamela finished the sentence, her voice barely a whisper, as a cold chill enveloped her.



Kerri studied the notes she’d added to the diary, comparing them to the ones written before. The writing was a close match, but a handwriting expert would see the subtle differences. She would eventually have to recopy the entire book just in case it was ever found. His legacy had to live on without blemish.

But what about your legacy?

She ignored the voice in her head, much as she’d ignored Keira most of their life. Kerri would have her legacy in time, but not until Simone’s work was finished, and not until the world was ready to recognize Kerri’s talent as an artist.

She closed the book, picked up her glass of wine, rose, and went to study the painting of Jake Savior she’d hung on the den wall. Simone would have been proud of her. The painting was some of Kerri’s best work. She’d captured not only his handsome face but also the quintessence of his soul. She’d painted him while he watched his wife feeding ducks in the park. The eyes always revealed so much to her. She’d captured his compassion and profound love for his wife, as well as the shadows of torment and loss not quite forgotten. She knew where those shadows came from. It must have been horrible for an eight-year-old child to watch his mother beaten day after day until finally, in a moment of sheer desperation, she’d attacked her attacker, giving her son a chance to escape and run for help. Help that came, but much too late.

A deep, rattling cough came from behind the bedroom door. Kerri’s shoulders slumped, and the glass she held shook as anguish ripped through her like a thousand tiny paper cuts that throbbed and ached. It was their fault Simone had been hurt. He’d been upset because the job wasn’t finished. Like an artist when the painting was incomplete or an author when the book was only half written. No true artist could live with that. It ate away at the soul until the artist slowly starved to death.

She opened the door, watching the sheet covering the withered, scarred body for any signs of movement that would signal he was still breathing. The sheet rose slightly as another rattling cough shook the bed. Kerri blew him a kiss, closed the door and leaned against it for a moment to steady herself. He no longer bore any resemblance to the man she’d fallen in love with, but his essence was still in there somewhere, struggling to survive. His zest for life was one of the things she loved about him.

Kerri poured another glass of wine and returned to the painting of Savior. That was the beginning of her legacy. Any normal child would have been driven insane by what Jake Savior had endured with both his mother’s death and then his father’s subsequent suicide. Instead he’d followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the police force as a champion for justice. People like him could never see the true artistic beauty of Simone’s bombings. Like her, Simone was a true artist. He observed his subjects. And even though their death was imminent, Simone made sure they went out in an explosion of beauty.

Her gaze fell on the remaining four paintings sitting near the baseboard—Harry Redmond, Clifford Beaumont, Jenna James, and Marcus Dade. They were all guilty of murdering the heart and soul of the only human being she had ever loved. She would be their judge and jury, and she would mete out justice fitting their crimes.

She picked up her paintbrush and stared into the blue eyes of Jake Savior as she sipped her wine. It wasn’t enough just to kill him. She painted a scar running from his right eye to just below his chin. She wanted him to suffer, as she had suffered. To die a little each day as he realized there was nothing left to live for. Before she was finished, they would all go insane.

A loud moan came from behind the closed door, followed by another rattle. She glanced at the syringe and bottle sitting on the coffee table. The doctor had told her the time would come when Simone’s suffering would become unbearable. She tossed the paintbrush into the fireplace and picked up the syringe and bottle before walking slowly to the bedroom door. It was time for his suffering to end and theirs to begin.


October 2017