Fifteen Nights

By: Zoe Lee

CHAPTER ONE


OCTOBER



Leda



“The book about the feisty lady treasure hunter who finds some giant ass diamonds is on my desk in the den upstairs,” Moira told me as I shouldered out of my shitbox hatchback.

“Got it. After all the pre-Halloween bullshit at work and the Oktoberfest at Archer Farms, I really need to spend a night reading in peace,” I complained. “Why do so many women think I give a shit what costume they’re going to put on to try to seduce that guy who never looked twice at them the rest of the year?” I went on cynically as I headed up her driveway.

Moira snickered. “Have you ever worn a mask? You’ll never feel more powerful,” she said so smugly that I groaned, trying not to imagine why she knew that. The background noise on her end got loud, so she must have walked into her pub, The Three Brothers, the most popular restaurant in our adorable tourist-centric county in western Virginia.

“Is your garage code still 3690?” I asked as I reached the keypad.

“Why do you know that?”

“Everyone in Maybelle County knows your garage code,” I told her, putting in the code and ducking under the garage door as it lurched upwards painfully slowly. “Thanks for telling me about the book. It was the only good thing about the Tourist Board meeting this morning.”

Moira chastised, “It’s Halloween tomorrow, so don’t be bitchy. You know everyone was too distracted by that to make any decisions about when to put up the Thanksgiving seasonal decorations.”

“Yeah, okay. Bye, M.”

I ended the call and jogged up the steep stairs towards her den.

But then I stopped sharply on the top step when I noticed a curl of steam making its way through the gap beneath the bathroom door opposite the den.

There were a lot of people who could be in her shower other than serial killers, like any number of her relatives in for the holiday. But I tiptoed right back downstairs as fast as I could, not taking any damn chances, while I called Moira again.

Luckily she picked up on the second ring. “It’s the one with diamonds on the cover—”

“Is there a chance,” I hissed violently, my back against the kitchen sink so that I faced the stairs, “that someone’s maybe taking a shower in your upstairs bathroom?”

She burst out laughing.

“Moira! Is it a criminal, or is it your dumbass brother-in-law?”

She finally caught her breath and said, hardly sounding apologetic at all, “No, the dumbass is out of town. Let me think… Do you see a blue suitcase with an orange bow?”

My eyes darted around until I saw it, sagging in relief. “Yeah,” I said tightly, “I see it.”

“It’s not a criminal,” Moira told me. “That’s Jamie’s suitcase.”

My lips trembled before my mouth fell open. “Jamie’s?” I repeated. It was supposed to sound like an incredulous, annoyed bark, but it splintered just a little on the mie.

Jamie Houston, one of Moira’s brothers. He was two years older than me, the same age as my brother Aden. Now he lived in Lynchburg, which was just under three hours’ drive east, but he came in about once a month to spend the weekend with his three-year-old son Hunter.

“He never stays with us, so I have no clue why he’s in my shower,” Moira blathered on.

In Moira’s shower. Twenty feet diagonally up from me.

“He scared the shit out of me,” I managed to snap out after a slightly-too-long delay.

“You can get him back if you want,” Moira said. “It’s only fair. I would’ve probably run outside screaming and dialing 9-1-1 if I’d gotten home and heard someone in my house!”

“Okay, bye.”

I tapped the toe of one of my boots lightly on Moira’s linoleum floor.

Now that I knew it was Jamie, and not a serial killer with a weird thing about using his future victims’ shower, I was sweating with delayed nerves. Jamie deserved something for scaring the shit out of an unsuspecting, unprepared woman, being where he wasn’t supposed to be. Resolute, I crept up the stairs again and then flung open the door to the bathroom.

“Whoever you are, I’ll flush the toilet and burn your ass, dickwad!” I threatened.