Peony Red (The Granite Harbor Series Book 1)

By: J. Lynn Bailey


Brooklyn, New York


“Just leave.”

“Nancy, just a minute,” I say, reaching out, touching her arm.

Her eyes sear right through me. “Don’t touch me.” Her words are vicious and cold, and she pushes my hand away.

“But, Daddy, when will you be back?” My son tugs on my pant leg.

I bend down, pick him up, and kiss him on the nose. “Before you know it, buddy. Before you know it.” I push his head to my chest. “Do you hear my heart?”

“Yes, Daddy.”

“Remember that. When you miss me, remember the rhythm, all right?” I kiss his hair. Take a big breath in to absorb his scent. Tears start to form in the corners of my eyes.

Nancy grabs our son. “You don’t get to cry. You’re making a decision, asshole.”

Standing, helpless, I say, “My father is sick, Nancy. What do you want me to do?”

“You have a family here. And you’re leaving us.”

“I won’t be gone forever, Nancy. Just a month or so. Come back with me.”

“No.” She glares at me, our son still in her arms.

“I wanna go with you, Daddy.”

“No.” Nancy snaps. She turns so my son can’t see me.

“Please, Nancy,” I plead.

“I will not let you take my son three thousand miles away.” Her voice is hostile and quivering, all at the same time, remnants of fear hanging in her tone.

This is a side that I’ve seen before, only on a few occasions. I always know when Nancy has reached her limit. I also know when to stop pushing. “Okay, okay.” I pause. “Can I give my son one more kiss before I go?”

Angrily, she gives me the boy and stomps away to the bedroom we once shared, slamming the door.

“Daddy, please don’t go. Don’t make Mommy mad.” Tears fill his eyes as he wipes away my tears. “Please don’t cry, Daddy. Please stay.”

Humboldt County Superior Court

Eureka, California

Nine Years Later


The judge sucks on a piece of candy, one he popped in his mouth earlier, as he stares me down.


His mostly gray eyebrows pull together as he casts his eyes upon me.

You’ll remember my face, fucker. I’ll be sure of it.

I give him a smile he’ll never forget.

Punish me. It will only push me. Punish me. It will only push me, I chant in my head over and over and over again.

“You’ve been nothing but a nuisance since you arrived in my county, Mr. Mahoney. You’ve set fires. You’ve done cruel things to animals. You don’t deserve the light of day, young man. You have the rest of your future still ahead of you.” He glances down at my rap sheet in front of him.

My file. What-the-fuck-ever.

“You’re seventeen years old. I hope you clean up your act before it’s too late.” He eases back in his seat, head resting between the L that forms with his thumb and pointer finger. “You will go back to the state of New York in custody of the state. I don’t want you to ever return here again. Do you understand me?”

Smile, Mahoney. Just smile. Bide your time.

I smile. Nod.

“Do you understand?” the judge asks again. “Answer me.” His eyebrows string together in a thick line.

My smile grows as my anger refuels. The shaking of excitement moves up my spine.

Threaten me, Judge Lindell. Threaten me, and I’ll kill your family. I’ll find out where you live.

“Yes,” I hiss as the S lingers on my lips too long, “Your Honor.”

“Get him out of my courtroom,” he spits.

And something inside me snaps. Like I’m a piece of trash, an irritation. Tossed away. Again. Given up on. “Judge Lindell, I’ll find out where you live. I’ll kill your wife.”

His eyes narrow. “Is that a threat, Mr. Mahoney?” He laughs and then stops abruptly.

Hate ravages through me, and seeing red is the only lens I have. I begin to tremble. This happens every single time before the kill.

“Trust me, I’ve sentenced far more violent criminals than you, Mr. Mahoney. And I’ll add another felony for threatening a government official. Take him away.”

The bailiff pulls me out of the courtroom, my bright orange jumpsuit claiming me as a threat to society. But I’ll follow the rules. In prison, I can’t get my to-do list done, so I’ll follow the rules. I take in a deep breath. I’ll add the Honorable Dan Lindell to my list, right under Alex Fisher.



October 1, 2017

I slide the comb through his thinning, wet, peppered hair.





We listen to the silence, and the lies that we bear.

The lie that he isn’t dying a slow death.

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