Promise Not to Tell(2)

By: Jayne Ann Krentz



Quinton Zane emerged from the dense shadows of the thick woods that surrounded the cabin. It was as if he had walked straight out of one of her paintings, straight out of the past, straight out of her nightmares.

She could not let him touch her. He was too strong, too powerful. If he got his hands on her, he would force the truth from her. She might be crazy, like everyone said, but she knew how to keep a secret.

“Stay away from me,” she warned. She was amazed at the calm fortitude in her voice. “Don’t touch me.”

But Zane broke into a run, moving toward her. His tall figure and broad shoulders were silhouetted against the storm of flames just as they had been that long-ago night when she had watched him stride through the burning compound.

He was strong. He could easily outrun her. She would not stand a chance.

He was calling to her now, telling her to come to him, promising safety, security and an end to the visions, just as he had promised all those years ago. But she knew he lied.

She made her decision.

“You were a fool to come back,” she shouted. “The key belongs to the children. Did you really think that they would forget what you did to their families? You’re a dead man. You just don’t know it yet.”

She turned and fled into the night. Footsteps pounded behind her.

The edge of the cliffs was lit with moonlight and fire. She had walked to that edge many, many times in the years she had been living on the island. So many nights she had stopped there, looked down at the dark, deep water far below and thought about how easy it would be to take one more step.

In the past she had always turned back. But not tonight. A sense of deep certainty came over her.

She realized somewhat vaguely that she was still holding the box of matches. She would not need them anymore. She tossed them aside and kept going until there was nothing but air beneath her feet, until she was flying away from the demon.

The last thing she heard was Quinton Zane’s scream of frustrated rage. She knew then that she had defeated him, at least for the moment. It was up to others to stop him. She had kept her promise and she had sent the warning. She could do no more.

She knew a split second of peace.

The dark sea took her.





CHAPTER 2





“You saved my life, Mr. Salinas,” Virginia Troy said. “I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me this long to track you down so that I could thank you. Embarrassed to tell you that I came looking for you now only because I need your help.”

“No need to apologize,” Anson said. “I was just doing my job that night. You were a little kid caught up in the craziness. There was no reason you should have come looking for me as an adult.”

The last time he had seen Virginia Troy she was a child of nine, one of the eight children trapped in the blazing barn. He’d used his vehicle to crash through the locked doors, tossed all eight kids into the SUV and reversed out of the inferno, a hound out of hell. Shortly after he had gotten them all to safety, the barn had collapsed in on itself.

He’d saved the kids but he and the local firefighters had not been able to save all of the adults. Virginia Troy’s mother had perished, along with several other people.

Quinton Zane had kept the women away from their children at night. They had been locked in separate quarters. Zane had torched the entire compound before he vanished. It was a miracle and a tribute to the first responders that several of the cult members had made it out alive. The following morning, when they had surveyed the ruins, it was clear that Zane had not intended for any of his followers to survive. Each one was, after all, a potential witness.

“I have never forgotten what you did that night,” Virginia said. “Afterward my grandparents tried very hard to erase that part of my past. The stress of losing my mother and finding themselves stuck with the task of raising me eventually broke up their marriage. My grandmother still won’t talk about it. But for the rest of my life I will remember that you saved all of us who were locked up in that barn.”

“Can’t blame your grandparents,” Anson said. He was aware of a great heaviness settling on him. “There was a lot of pain going around. You lost your mother that night. They lost a daughter.”

“Yes.”

Something about the bleak tone of Virginia’s voice told him that she wasn’t only mourning the loss of her mother all those years ago. He had a feeling that she carried another kind of burden as well. He recognized survivor’s guilt when he saw it because it was close kin to the kind of guilt he felt when he looked back on that night. He had not been able to save everyone in Quinton Zane’s compound.

For a while he and Virginia sat quietly, facing each other across the desk. He did not try to restart the conversation. Once upon a time he had been a cop. He understood the value of silence.

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