Check

By: Mimi Jean Pamfiloff


“Besides that, you injured?” Warner asked.

“No.”

“Tell your father what we’re going to do to you if he doesn’t give us five million dollars.”

Five million? What the hell? More proof that Warner was a cutthroat, greedy sonofabitch. It wasn’t enough for him to just get a hold of the island.

I swallowed hard and looked into the camera. “He’ll kill me.” I wanted to add that my dad needed to go to Rook for help, but that would be too obvious. I had to trust my instincts. My father knew a lot of people, but none with piles of cash on hand, and he certainly didn’t have much money saved. Hell, he still drove the beige Volvo he’d given my mother before she died. Our home, located in a middle-class suburb north of New York City, was no prize either. Weeds had taken over the front yard a decade ago, the yellow paint was peeling, and I couldn’t count the number of repairs needed. My sister and I did what we could, but we barely had enough to pay the electric bill each month. My father’s meager salary only paid the mortgage and for our food. Without any money, my father’s only option would be to go to the man who’d already offered him some.

Are you willing to bet your life on it? I asked myself.

“Anything else you wanna say?” Warner asked.

Staring into the camera, I lifted my chin. “I’m sorry, Dad. I know after losing Cici this must feel like a nightmare, but hopefully you can find someone to help you, someone who understands what you’ve already lost.” Rook.

Warner dropped the phone. “Good girl. Let’s hope you’re right about this Rook givin’ a shit about you, because I sure don’t.”

“Goes without saying,” I threw back. As for my father? He cared so little about me, it was laughable to call him “my father.” He’d abandoned me and Cici to part-time sitters and nannies after my mother passed, throwing himself into work. I maybe saw him a few times a year, and when I did, no one was home upstairs.

“You getting smart?” Warner snarled at my glib comeback.

“If I were smart, I never would’ve borrowed money from you.”

Warner shook a finger at me through the car window. “Smart people make deals with me all the time. But unlike you, they keep them.” He jerked his head at Mr. Classy, who grabbed me by the back of my black dress and began shoving me back toward the warehouse.

“Thanks for the shittiest last days of life anyone could ever wish for!” I barked out, waving my hand in the air. My chances of living were so low at this point, what did it matter if I pissed Warner off? All I could hope for now was a quick and painless death. Little did I know, however, that wasn’t in store for me. Warner had other plans, and they weren’t nice.





CHAPTER FOUR





Rook


I didn’t know the hour, how many days I’d been asleep, or how much time I had left to live, but the sky outside was dark now, and my lungs felt heavy, as if the muscles were too tired to pump oxygen any longer. My skin felt cold, and my vision was blurry. Not that there was anything I wished to see. I’d had a life filled with every image known to man—blazing orange sunsets, tropical flowers that defied the imagination, glowing fish, and an ocean with every possible shade of green and blue. I’d seen people fall in lust, love, and into despair when they realized their totality. And, before the time of technology and the internet, I’d traveled the world, searching for the descendants of the men who helped kill my family.

In these final moments, my body growing weaker, the only thing my life lacked was the knowledge that Stephanie would find happiness, that she would find love. It no longer mattered to me why she left or that I was not enough in the end.

“Stephanie,” I mumbled to my empty room, “I will always love you.” And I would. I’d protected her from that lagoon and its curse. I’d stood my ground and demanded my aunt leave the island once we discovered who Stephanie really was all those weeks ago—not a guest, but Cici’s sister. “No one will touch her,” I had said.

“You think you’re stronger than this place, than the souls in that lagoon?” my aunt had asked.

“No. I think if anyone crosses me, I’ll rescind my vows.”

“You wouldn’t dare. Not for some low-life scum like her.”

Stephanie was not scum simply because over two centuries ago, a group of men had decided to come onto our island and hunt us down. Their ship sank after leaving here, but many survived and had children. “Taking the life of someone like Stephanie or her sister doesn’t right the wrong done to us. It will never bring back your baby, my parents or my brother.”

“No. But allowing them to die so that others can live longer and do good in this world is a worthy cause. Especially when Stephanie will die someday regardless.”

As my mind replayed the hundreds of conversations my aunt and I had over the years, I felt the shame eating away at me. The things I once felt were justified no longer were. I’d been blinded by the impossible magic surrounding this place and by my need to feel important. I was changing the world. I was on a crusade. Really, I was justifying the deaths and my desire to remain young forever.

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