They said she was dangerous.
They were right.
own home, training with military precision for everything, ready for anything.
She can disarm, dismember, and kill—and now, for the first time ever, she is
thing of the past, but his influence remains as strong as ever. When his final
will reveals a future more terrible than her captive past, Petty knows she must
escape—by whatever means necessary.
her own family—the reality is worse than anything she could have imagined. On
the road and in over her head, Petty’s fight for her life has just begun.
and her suspenseful tale of a young woman on the run for her future…and from
the nightmares of her past.
into a frenzy of barking and pacing as they tried to keep the intruders off our
property without the aid of a fence. Two police cars, a fire truck, and an
ambulance were parked on the other side of the dirt road. The huddled cops and
firemen kept looking at the house.
myself answer it. I knew it was the cops outside calling to get me to open the
front door, but asking me to allow a group of strangers inside seemed like
asking a pig to fly a jet. I had no training or experience to guide me. I
longed to get the AK-47 out of the basement gun safe, even though it would be
me against a half-dozen trained law men.
“Petty Moshen.” An electric megaphone amplified the man’s
The dogs howled at the sound of it, intensifying further the
tremor that possessed my entire body. I hadn’t shaken like this since the night
Dad left me out on the prairie in a whiteout blizzard to hone my sense of
“Petty, call off the dogs.”
I couldn’t do it.
“I’m going to dial up your father’s cell phone again, and I
want you to answer it.”
Closing my eyes, I concentrated, imagining those words
coming out of my dad’s mouth, in his voice. The iPhone vibrated. I pretended it
was my dad, picked it up, hit the answer button and pressed it to my ear.
“This is Sheriff Bloch,” said the man on the other end of
the phone. “We have to come in and talk to you about your dad.”
I cleared my throat again. “I need to do something first,” I
said, and thumbed the end button. I headed down to the basement.
Downstairs, I got on the treadmill, cranked up the speed to
ten miles an hour and ran for five minutes, flat-out, balls to the wall. This
is what Detective Deirdre Walsh, my favorite character on TV’s Offender NYC, always did when emotions
overwhelmed her. No one besides me and my dad had ever come into our house
before, so I needed to steady myself.
I jumped off and took the stairs two at a time, breathing
hard, sweating, my legs burning, but steadier. I popped a stick of peppermint
gum in my mouth. Then I walked straight to the front door the way Detective
Walsh would—fearlessly, in charge, all business. I flung the door open and
shouted, “Sarx! Tesla! Off! Come!”
They both immediately glanced over their shoulders and came
loping toward me. I noticed another vehicle had joined the gauntlet on the
other side of the road, a brand-new tricked-out red Dodge Ram 4×4 pickup truck.
Randy King, wearing a buff-colored Stetson, plaid shirt, Lee’s, and cowboy
boots, leaned against it. All I could see of his face was a black walrus
mustache. He was the man my dad had instructed me to call if anything ever
happened to him. I’d seen Randy only a couple of times but never actually
talked to him until today.
The dogs sat in front of me, panting, worried, whimpering. I
reached down and scratched their ears, thankful that Dad had trained them like
he had. I straightened and led them to the one-car garage attached to the left
side of the house. They sat again as I raised the door and signaled them
inside. They did not like this one bit—they whined and jittered—but they obeyed
my command to stay. I lowered the door and turned to face the invasion.
As if I’d disabled an invisible force field, all the men
came forward at once: the paramedics and firemen carrying their gear boxes, the
cops’ hands hovering over their sidearms. I couldn’t look any of them in the
eye, but I felt them staring at me as if I were an exotic zoo animal or a
The man who had to be the sheriff walked right up to me, and
I stepped back palming the blade I keep clipped to my bra at all times. I knew
it was unwise to reach into my hoodie, even just to touch the Baby Glock in my
“Petty?” he said.
“Yes sir,” I said, keeping my eyes on the clump of yellow,
poisonous prairie ragwort at my feet.
“I’m Sheriff Bloch. Would you show us in, please?”
“Yes sir,” I said, turning and walking up the front steps. I
pushed open the screen and went in, standing aside to let in the phalanx of
strange men. My breathing got shallow and the shaking started up. My heart beat
so hard I could feel it in my face, and the bump on my left shoulder—scar
tissue from a childhood injury—itched like crazy. It always did when I was
The EMTs came in after the sheriff.
“Where is he?” one of them asked. I pointed behind me to the
right, up the stairs. They trooped up there carrying their cases. The house
felt too tight, as if there wasn’t enough air for all these people.
Sheriff Bloch and a deputy walked into the living room. Both
of them turned, looking around the room, empty except for the grandfather clock
in the corner. The old thing had quit working many years before, so it was
always three-seventeen in this house.
“Are you moving out?” the deputy asked.
“No,” I said, and then realized why he’d asked. All of our
furniture is crowded in the center of each room, away from the windows.
Deputy and sheriff glanced at each other. The deputy walked
to one of the front windows and peered out through the bars.
“Is that bulletproof glass?” he asked me.
They glanced at each other again.
“Have anyplace we can sit?” Sheriff Bloch said.
I walked into our TV room, the house’s original dining room,
and they followed. I sat on the couch, which gave off dust and a minor-chord
spring squeak. I pulled my feet up and hugged my knees.
“This is Deputy Hencke.”
The deputy held out his hand toward me. I didn’t take it,
and after a beat he let it drop.
“I’m very sorry for your loss,” he said. He had a blond crew
cut and the dark blue uniform.
He went to sit on Dad’s recliner, and it happened in slow
motion, like watching a knife sink into my stomach with no way to stop it.
“No!” I shouted.
Nobody but Dad had ever sat in that chair. It was one thing
to let these people inside the house. It was another to allow them to do
whatever they wanted.
He looked around and then at me, his face a mask of
confusion. “What? I’m—I was just going to sit—”
“Get a chair out of the kitchen,” Sheriff Bloch said.
The deputy pulled one of the aqua vinyl chairs into the TV
room. His hands shook as he tried to write on his little report pad. He must
have been as rattled by my outburst as I was.
“Spell your last name for me?”
“M-O-S-H-E-N,” I said.
“No,” I said. “We’re from Detroit originally.”
His face scrunched and he glanced up.
“How’d you end up here? You got family in the area?”
I shook my head. I didn’t tell him Dad had moved us to Saw
Pole, Kansas, because he said he’d always wanted to be a farmer. In Saw Pole,
he farmed a sticker patch and raised horse flies but not much else.
“How old are you?”
He lowered his pencil. “Did you go to school in Niobe? I don’t
ever remember seeing you.”
“Dad homeschooled me,” I said.
“What time did you discover the—your dad?” The deputy’s scalp
grew pinker. He needed to
grow his hair out some to hide his tell a little
“The dogs started barking about two—”
“Two a.m. or p.m.?”
“p.m.,” I said.
“At approximately two-fifteen p.m.
our dogs began barking at the back door. I responded and found no evidence of
attempted B and E at either entry point to the domicile. I retrieved my
Winchester rifle from the basement gun safe with the intention of walking the
perimeter of the property, but the dogs refused to follow. I came to the
conclusion that the disturbance was inside the house, and I continued my
investigation on the second floor.”
Deputy Hencke’s pencil was frozen in the air, a frown on his
face. “Why are you talking like that?”
“Usually I ask questions and people answer them.”
“I’m telling you what happened.”
“Could you do it in regular English?”
I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything.
“Look,” he said. “Just answer the questions.”
“All right. So where was your dad?”
“After breakfast this morning he said he didn’t feel good so
he went up to his bedroom to lie down,” I said.
All day I’d expected Dad to call out for something to eat,
but he never did. So I didn’t check on him because it was nice not having to
cook him lunch or dinner or fetch him beers. I’d kept craning my neck all day
to get a view of the stairs, kept waiting for Dad to sneak up on me, catch me
watching forbidden TV shows. I turned the volume down so I’d hear if he came
down the creaky old stairs.
“So the dogs’ barking is what finally made you go up to his
“Those dogs wanted to tear us all to pieces,” the deputy
said, swiping his hand back and forth across the top of his crew cut.
I’d always wanted a little lapdog, one I could cuddle, but
Dad favored the big breeds. Sarx was a German shepherd and Tesla a rottweiler.
The deputy bent his head to his pad. “What do you think they
were barking about?”
“They smelled it,” I said.
He looked up. “Smelled what?”
“Death. Next I knocked on the decedent’s— I mean, Dad’s—bedroom
door to request
permission to enter.”
“So you went in his room,” the deputy said, his pencil
hovering above the paper.
“Once I determined he was unable to answer, I went in his
room. He was lying on his stomach, on top of the covers, facing away from me,
and—he had shorts on … you know how hot it’s been, and he doesn’t like to turn
on the window air conditioner until after Memorial Day—and I looked at his legs
and I thought, ‘He’s got some kind of rash. I better bring him the calamine
lotion,’ but then I remembered learning about libidity on TV, and—”
“Lividity,” he said.
“It’s lividity, not libidity, when the blood settles to the
lowest part of the body.”
“Guess I’ve never seen it written down.”
“So what did you do then?”
“It was then that I …”
I couldn’t finish the sentence. Up until now, the shock of
finding Dad’s body and the terror of letting people in the house had blotted
out everything else. But now, the reality that Dad was dead came crashing down
on me, making my eyes sting. I recognized the feeling from a long time ago. I
was going to cry, and I couldn’t decide whether I was sad that Dad was gone or
elated that I was finally going to be free. Free to live the normal life I’d
always dreamed of.
But I couldn’t cry, not in front of these strangers, couldn’t
show weakness. Weakness was dangerous. I thought of Deirdre Walsh again and
remembered what she always did when she was in danger of crying. I cleared my
“It was then that I determined that he was deceased. I
estimated the time of death, based on the stage of rigor, to be around ten a.m. this morning, so I did not attempt
to resuscitate him,” I said, remembering Dad’s cool, waxy dead skin under my
hand. “Subsequently I retrieved his cell phone off his nightstand and called
“Why didn’t you call 911?”
“Because Dad told me to call Mr. King if something ever
happened to him.”
The deputy stared at me like I’d admitted to murder. Then he
looked away and stood.
“I think the coroner is almost done, but he’ll want to talk
While I waited, I huddled on the couch, thinking about how
my life was going to change. I’d have to buy groceries and pay bills and taxes
and do all the things Dad had never taught me how to do.
The coroner appeared in the doorway. “Miss Moshen?” He was a
large zero-shaped man in a cardigan.
He sat on the kitchen chair the deputy had vacated.
“I need to ask you a couple of questions,” he said.
“Okay,” I said. I was wary. The deputy had been slight and
small, and even though he’d had a sidearm, I could have taken him if I’d needed
to. I didn’t know about the coroner, he was so heavy and large.
“Can you tell me what happened?”
I began to repeat my account, but the coroner interrupted
me. “You’re not testifying at trial,”
he said. “Just tell me what happened.”
I tried to do as he asked, but I wasn’t sure how to say it
so he wouldn’t be annoyed.
“Did your dad complain of chest pains, jaw pain? Did his
left arm hurt?”
I shook my head. “Just said he didn’t feel good. Like he had
“Did your dad have high cholesterol? High blood pressure?”
“I don’t know.”
“When was the last time he saw a doctor?” the coroner asked.
“He didn’t believe in doctors.”
“Your dad was only fifty-one, so I’ll have to schedule an
autopsy, even though it was
probably a heart attack. We’ll run a toxicology
panel, which’ll take about four weeks because
we have to send it to the lab in
The blood drained from my face. “Toxicology?” I said. “Why?”
“It’s standard procedure,” he said.
“I’m pretty sure my dad wouldn’t want an autopsy.”
“Don’t worry,” he said. “You can bury him before the panel
“No, I mean Dad wouldn’t want someone cutting him up like
“It’s state law.”
“Please,” I said.
His eyes narrowed as they focused on me. Then he stood.
“After the autopsy, where would you like the remains sent?”
“Holt Mortuary in Niobe,” a voice from the living room said.
I rose from the couch to see who’d said it. Randy King stood
with his back to the wall, his Stetson low over his eyes.
The coroner glanced at me for confirmation.
“I’m the executor of Mr. Moshen’s will,” Randy said. He
raised his head and I saw his eyes, light blue with tiny pupils that seemed to
bore clear through to the back of my head.
I shrugged at the coroner.
“Would you like to say goodbye to your father before we
transport him to the morgue?” he said.
I nodded and followed him to the stairs, where he stood
aside. “After you,” he said.
“No,” I said. “You first.”
Dad had taught me never to go in a door first and never to
let anyone walk behind me. The coroner frowned but mounted the stairs.
Upstairs, Dad’s room was the first one on the left. The
coroner stood outside the door. He reached out to touch my arm and I took a step
backward. He dropped his hand to his side.
“Miss Moshen,” he said in a hushed voice. “Your father looks
different from when he was alive. It might be a bit of a shock. No one would
blame you if you didn’t—”
I walked into Dad’s room, taking with me everything I knew
from all the cop shows I’d watched. But I was not prepared at all for what I
Since he’d died on his stomach, the EMTs had turned Dad onto
his back. He was in full rigor mortis, so his upper lip was mashed into his
gums and curled into a sneer, exposing his khaki-colored teeth. His hands were
spread in front of his face, palms out. Dad’s eyes stared up and to the left
and his entire face was grape-pop purple.
What struck me when I first saw him—after I inhaled my gum—was
that he appeared to be warding off a demon. I should have waited until the
mortician was done with him, because I knew I’d never get that image out of my
I walked out of Dad’s room on unsteady feet, determined not
to cry in front of these strangers. The deputy and the sheriff stood outside my
bedroom, examining the door to it.
Both of them looked confused.
“Petty,” Sheriff Bloch said.
I stopped in the hall, feeling even more violated with them
so close to my personal items and underwear.
“Is this your bedroom?”
Sheriff and deputy made eye contact. The coroner paused at
the top of the stairs to listen in. This was what my dad had always talked
about—the judgment of busybody outsiders, their belief that somehow they needed
to have a say in the lives of people they’d never even met and knew nothing
The three men seemed to expect me to say something, but I
was tired of talking. Since I’d never done much of it, I’d had no idea how
exhausting it was.
The deputy said, “Why are there six dead bolts on the
outside of your door?”
It was none of his business, but I had nothing to be ashamed
“So Dad could lock me in, of course.”
Armed with a B.S. in journalism from the University of Kansas, she had a radio show called “People Are So Stupid,” edited a trade magazine and worked as a traveling Kmart portrait photographer, but never lost her passion for fiction writing.
She’s got a hilarious, supportive husband, two brilliant daughters and a massive music collection. She lives in Colorado but considers Kansas her spiritual homeland. Visit her website at LSHawker.com.