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8 Bodies is Enough

By´╝ÜStephanie Bond

Chapter 1





“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, the travel time from Atlanta, Georgia, to Las Vegas, Nevada, is approximately four hours, thirty minutes. We should arrive around 7:00 p.m., local time. Please sit back and enjoy the flight.”

Carlotta Wren distantly registered the flight attendant’s effervescent voice. For the past few days leading up to her trip to Vegas with Peter Ashford, her mind had been running on a loop, stubbornly replaying her last conversation with Jack Terry. She’d called to tell him she had news about where her fugitive parents had been hiding, but he had preempted her report with a personal declaration.

Liz Fischer is pregnant.

I’ve known for a while, Jack. But good news—Wes isn’t the father after all.

I know…because I’m the father.

She had disconnected the call. On the heels of acknowledging to herself she loved Jack, the announcement had been especially hurtful, slamming a door on the future she had imagined with him. Their last night together was still fresh in her mind—she could still feel his hands on her body. And hadn’t he nearly professed his love for her then, too?

For all she knew, he’d whispered the same words to Liz when they’d been procreating.

“You’re thinking about him, aren’t you?” Peter asked, breaking into her thoughts.

Carlotta startled guiltily, then turned her head toward her companion. “Hm?”

“You’re thinking about Randolph, aren’t you?”

“Um…yes.” The other man who’d been taking up space in her head lately—her father.

Peter clasped her hand. “Don’t worry. He’s not going anywhere this time—the feds will see to that.”

Indeed, Randolph was cooling his heels in the federal penitentiary in Atlanta after appearing out of nowhere to save her from a madman and being taken into custody by Jack.

Except she’d finally figured out he hadn’t appeared out of thin air, but from the long-empty house where she and Wesley had grown up and where Randolph had been monitoring a listening device he’d apparently placed in the wall of their townhome before he’d skipped town.

“Forget about your parents for a few days,” Peter said. “Let’s try to have fun.”

She conjured up a smile, fighting the shame rising in her chest. Peter had no idea she had an ulterior motive for suggesting the trip. In the thirty-second encounter she’d had with her father when she and Hannah had wormed their way into the federal pen in disguise and she’d asked about her mother, he’d told her she’d find what she was looking for at “home.” And among his things in her childhood home where he’d been hiding out, she’d found a receipt for a post office box in Las Vegas. The real estate agent she’d contacted about the house had recently sold it to a Bill and Melanie Randolph. She’d only dealt with the husband but the wife was supposed to be joining him. When pressed for an address, the agent had become suspicious, would only confirm it was a post office box in Las Vegas.

So if Carlotta had put together the puzzle pieces correctly, Valerie was somewhere in Vegas waiting for word from Randolph to rejoin him in Atlanta. When she hadn’t heard from him, it would’ve taken a simple Google search to learn he’d been arrested and incarcerated. She was probably trying to figure out her next move.

Carlotta prayed she found her mother before she relocated. Randolph had also said he’d stashed evidence to exonerate himself, but he couldn’t come forward yet. She’d gone over the expansive Buckhead house systematically, but had found nothing of interest other than the receipt. Not knowing what she was looking for was a huge handicap, but it stood to reason he’d left the evidence in a safer place—with Valerie? Hannah had helped her conduct hundreds of dollars’ worth of paid people-searches online, but they’d yielded no Vegas address for a Bill or William or Melanie Randolph.

The post office box was all she had to go on.

“When is Wes coming out?” Peter asked.

“I’m not sure—he had to clear it with his probation officer and his boss at the city. It’s nice of you to let him use the extra room that came with the package.”

“Happy to. So he’s still doing community service?”

“Yes,” she murmured. She made a mental note to ask Wes if he was close to fulfilling his sentence for hacking into the city courthouse records. That incident seemed so long ago—and paled in comparison to some of Wes’s antics since.

“And he’s still working for the morgue?”

“Occasionally. Coop hasn’t called him as much lately.”

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