Eighteen Years Earlier
What a night!
Maddox turned his car into the residential area and glanced at the digital display on the dash—12:28. Great, late for curfew. He smiled. Being late was worth it when he’d had a hot date with Julie Cordon. Man, the girl was something else. Beautiful, sexy, and funny. Just being with her made him feel special. Made him forget lots of things, including time.
Besides, he was seventeen. Curfews were for kids! A senior in high school, and he had to be home by midnight? All his Pop’s doing.
Tyson Bishop…Mr. Air Force man, determined to force the entire family to live by rules and regulations.
But his dad was over foreign soil right now, jumping out of perfectly good airplanes. Mom understood better, wasn’t quite the stickler about curfews like his dad. Good thing, too. Maddox was almost thirty minutes late tonight. Pop would blow his top and ground him for at least a month. Probably take away his car. But not Mom. She’d just caution him to pay closer attention to the time. Launch into the whole spiel about responsibility and accountability. He could recite it from memory.
Maddox whipped into the driveway and pressed the garage door opener. The light from the kitchen door spilled into the garage. Mom would be up…waiting. He should’ve called.
But being around Julie was like being caught in a time warp. Even the car’s interior held her smell. Light, flowery…teasing and tempting.
He killed the engine and jogged up the steps, slipping his charming smile into place. His mom had never been able to stay mad or disappointed when he flashed his dimples at her. He’d promise to mow the grass tomorrow before Pop got home, and she’d forget all about his tardiness.
He shut the garage door behind him and entered the kitchen. “Mom? I’m home.” The hint of roast lingered in the air.
The house was as silent as a tomb.
Odd. She would normally be on her feet to meet him.
He passed the kitchen’s butcher-block island and continued into the living room. A soft light filled the space beside her reading chair, but no sign of her.
Maddox backtracked to the kitchen. Maybe she was in the downstairs bathroom.
“Hello?” His voice rose an octave as his pulse hammered. The bathroom door was wide open, the room dark.
Where was she?
His steps faltered as he pressed into the kitchen again. The backdoor stood open, the glass pane closest to the knob—shattered. His heart jumped into his throat.
Using the agility that had garnered him the wide receiver place on the varsity football team, Maddox flew down the hall toward his parents’ bedroom. He pushed open the door with shaking hands.
His mother lay sprawled on the floor, a pool of blood staining the carpet around her. Her face pale against the dark red spilling from her chest. A metallic odor permeated the room.
What? He blinked repeatedly, his mind not processing what his eyes saw. Then…he did. And nearly vomited.
He raced to her side, lifting her head into his lap. “Mom.” Tears backed up in his eyes as he smoothed her hair.
“Mad-dy,” she croaked.
He grabbed the phone from the nightstand, the base landing on the floor with a resounding thud. He grabbed the receiver and punched in 9-1-1.
“Hang on, Mom. I’m calling for help.” Every nerve in his body stood at high alert.
“Too. Late.” She grimaced. A gurgling seeped from between her lips. Her body went slack in his arms.
“911, what is the nature of your emergency?”
He closed his eyes. Fought back scalding tears. “My mother. She’s been murdered.”