To celebrate my latest release. I'm sharing the first chapter.
Ho, ho, ho! Christmas is coming and so is the deadline for Jolene Argall and her boyfriend, Bob Ghul. While all the good girls and boys get presents, Jolene and Bob face multiple first-degree murder charges and a domestic terrorism charge. The story behind the massacre comes out, but is it the whole truth or a fabricated lie? Will Jolene and Bob get what they deserve or the freedom to open presents on Christmas Day? ***Warning this book contains graphic content.***
Blood oozed from Shelly Nicholson’s neck. It ran down her body, soaking her big blue chair.
I’d taken her notebook from our session and slashed her with the hard cardboard edge. Her heart did most of the work, pumping her blood out. All I had to do was sit back and watch.
She took five minutes to bleed out. I should’ve cut her deeper.
Now I had less than thirty to escape. Her office was on the second floor and bars were on the only window. My guards stood by the sole entrance. My lawyer had planned for me and her to talk, like I needed any help. I was perfectly fine. Didn’t normal people massacre others?
“Ms. Argall?” Shelly snapped me out of my daydream.
I hadn’t been paying any attention to her since we started our session. Instead, I’d been imagining all the different ways I could kill her. Her pen, her notebook, her books, her awards on the shelf, her glasses, her coffee table, and even her hair tie could be weapons.
“Ms. Argall?” Shelly said again, her tone sounded like nails on a chalkboard.
If I didn’t say something soon, she’d give up or worse, she’d tell my parents. After rolling my eyes, I answered, “What?”
“I asked you a question.”
“So what?” I shrugged my shoulders. She’d been trying to convince me since we met that my relationship with Bob Ghul wasn’t normal. I didn’t care what she thought. What he and I had words couldn’t describe. We belonged together, together forever.
Shelly took a deep breath and let it out. She tapped her pen against the notebook she always carried. When I asked about what she wrote, she always said, ‘just minor notes to remind myself of our session.’ She didn’t realize I could read what she wrote by following the movement of her ballpoint. She’d written two words multiple times.
Minor notes, my ass, I thought.
My lawyer paid her to figure out if I was crazy or not. If I suffered from being held hostage by my man, which I didn’t. She added the question mark every time she wrote the condition because she wasn’t sure.
She’s such a dumbass.
I was sane. I wanted to do nothing more than take that pen and shove it into her, but not her neck because that’d cause way too much spray back. Her side maybe and afterward, I’d watch her slowly bleed out for all the mean things she said about my Bob.
“Jolene!” Shelly pressed. She liked me to call her by her first name too, not Ms. Nicholson, shrink, or bitch. She said it made our meetings more personal.
“What?” I grunted. The image of her blood pooling on her gray carpet flipped into my mind. Maybe I should get her to stand first and then take her down, less commotion. One quick jab and my hand over her mouth should do it. The armed guards, who waited in the hall, wouldn’t hear it.
“Jolene, what you’ve been through isn’t your fault. What he did—“
“Excuse you, don’t mention my Bob again. He did nothing wrong.”
“A lot of prisoners empathize with their capturer, but—“ Shelly said before I cut her off again.
“Here’s the thing, I wasn’t a prisoner. What Bob and I did, we did together.” I pulled my sleeve down on my right arm after the bandaged showed. Bob would be mad at me if he found out what I attempted. Everyone told me too many lies about him. I couldn’t take their deceit anymore and the stress of everything. I glanced out the window as my throat thickened. My bad angle on the couch and the bars blocked most of my view.
“Please let me finish.” Shelly tucked a strand of her curly red hair behind her ear that had gotten loose from her Santa hat. How lame could she be? Why did she bother to tame her wild mane? She’d look way better letting it loose with some product she could actually be pretty. “You have positive feelings for Bob. You didn’t have a previous relationship with him until the Friday before Labor Day this year, right?”
“I met him years ago. He’s Kaylee’s twin. Well, he was her twin. Would he still be if she was dead? I think so. Death doesn’t change who you are.” Kaylee had killed herself. I took a deep breath to calm myself. Bob wouldn’t hate me; he’d understand why I attempted to harm myself. I felt so alone.
“But that wasn’t a relationship. You talked to him how much? A handful of times?”
“So what?” I folded my arms and leaned back. I kicked myself for not giving Bobby the time of day back then. Everyone called him Bobby then. To me, he was Bob, my sweet, sexy, muscular, and handsome man now.
“You didn’t have an actual relationship with him at this time, though,” Shelly said.
“I was a jerk to him when we were younger, and I regret that now. What’s your point?” I didn’t get where she was going with this.
“Let’s move on. You’re refusing to cooperate with the police and the FBI?”
“I don’t like cops.” No one did unless they needed them, and from what I hear in bigger cities, they didn’t want to call them.
“Everyone in law enforcement is trying to help you, even me.”
“You’re not a cop,” I pointed out. If she was, I wouldn’t be talking to her. Bad enough, she had a PhD in psychology.
“I’m here for you, Jolene. Do you think Bob is dangerous?” Shelly asked as she leaned in closer to me, her voice sweeter than molasses.
“That’s where you’re wrong. Bob is dangerous and I know it. He is not to me.“ I honestly believed whole heartily that he would never lay a finger on me. I was the one who stopped him from doing worse things, his rock. “When he isn’t around me, you can’t stop him.”
“What do you mean?”
Shit! I shouldn’t have said that.
“What do you mean?” Shelly asked again. Her red eyebrows rose to her hairline. Her hair and eyebrow colors matched when they shouldn’t have.
Is her hair fake too or does she dye her eyebrows to match her hair? Either way she was a weirdo. From what I’ve seen in my old classmates, redheads had either light brown brows or red brows that weren’t the same color as their hair.
“Jolene, tell me what you mean, please,” Shelly said.
I pressed my lips together into a tight line. I hadn’t gotten to see Bob since the day I told him I was pregnant, and I absentmindedly touched my belly. The police marched me into the station, followed by him. I assumed the latter since I didn’t get to see him. I didn’t have access to the news or a phone. Except if I made a phone call, the jail monitored it. Any contact for me with anyone was bare minimum, even before the accident of me hurting myself. This could be my chance to see him, or I could make the situation worse.
“Jolene?” Shelly asked, her tone soft.
“Never mind.” I waved my hand in front of me, and afterward I pulled my sleeve back down.
“Okay, we’ll drop this conversation for now. You’d tell me if Bob would hurt anyone, wouldn’t you?”
No, I won’t. I blinked at her instead of answering. I didn’t want him to be in solitary confinement like me. Being alone with my own thoughts all day was driving me a little crazy.
I had scratched myself deep. I never did before. Ever since I hurt myself, I had to show the guards my nails, and if they were too long, I had to bite them down or they would forcefully cut them. Talk about a sick, perverse justice system.
“Of course,” I muttered, a complete lie.
Shelly wrote something that I worked to figure out before she said, “With the time remaining, let’s talk about your friends.”
“They’re dead. Why do we have to talk about them?” I shrugged my shoulders, and I didn’t care if I had no one left. I had Bob.
“How did your friends die?”
“I wasn’t there for most of their deaths.” I rattled off how I thought each died, but I never mentioned who killed them. When I got to Bob’s sister, his twin, I took a deep breath. “Kaylee killed herself.”
Out of everyone’s death, she brought tears to my eyes. I brushed them away. I hated myself for not knowing what was happening at her home. Why wasn’t I a better friend?
“What do all their deaths have in common?” Shelly asked, gently.
“They deserved to die except for Kaylee,” I answered after taking a moment to think. She had done nothing, and her sick stepfather used her. My fists tightened at my side.
“Here, use this.” Shelly handed me a tissue from the coffee table in front of me.
I dabbed at the corner of my eyes. I didn’t realize I’d been crying. Yeah, a few tears here and there, but nothing like this. Whenever I was at the damn shrink’s office, I bawled like a baby. Who wouldn’t with everything going on? I started pretrial on Monday, the day after tomorrow. I’d have to give my plea. My lawyer advised me to plead insanity. If I did, I’d spend years in a psych ward. What would happen to my baby then?
On top of my drama, I had to talk about my feelings with Shelly. She and my lawyer also tried to get me to relive the things that I’d done. I had killed people, big deal.
She glanced at her notes after I blew my nose. “Do you think Corrie deserved to be tortured and gutted?” Shelly asked.
“Yeah! She was the worst of my old friends,” I answered without hesitation.
“Why are you saying old? Your friends are dead, Jolene. Killed by your boyfriend. They are still your friends, even if they’re gone.”
“My dead friends deserved to die, especially Corrie.”
“You can’t believe that. What could a seventeen-year-old teenage girl do to deserve death?”
“She’s the reason everything happened. If that bossy bitch Corrie hadn’t forced the rest of us to ignore Kaylee, Kaylee would still be alive.” I ground my teeth together, and heat flushed through my body.
“You didn’t have to ignore Kaylee,” Shelly pointed out.
“Have you ever dealt with a queen bee, or should I say a queen bitch? If you don’t listen to her, you’re ousted, too.”
“I was in high school once. I know what it’s like.”
“What, a million years ago? Time has changed everything.”
Shelly’s lips twitched before she said wistfully, “No, only ten, but I know what it was like to want to be popular.” Her cheeks turned a little pink.
“I didn’t know ‘what it was like’ because I was, and if you didn’t follow the queen bee, you were out. Corrie liked to make the lives of any girls who crossed her miserable,” I said. Like what she did to Molly Bremer. Molly had turned the corner and bumped into Corrie on accident. The harassment had gotten so bad that Molly switched schools. I didn’t stand up for the other girl even when Corrie should’ve been paying attention to where she walked. I didn’t bother telling my shrink this story, since she wouldn’t understand.
“We’re getting off topic here. With Kaylee, you also had a choice to not ignore her, but you did,” Shelly pointed out.
“High school must’ve changed in the decade since you’ve been there. You either listen to the queen and king or you’re…” My voice trailed off, and I made the motion of getting a throat slit.
“You have to be kidding.” Shelly’s hand flew to her chest.
“Corrie’s dead, isn’t she?” I asked.
Shelly paused and then said, “Yeah, Corrie was murdered.” My shrink had to stop and think. If she mentioned Bob in any negative light, I shut down and refused to speak to her. She was like a kid. I gave her one warning and if she continued, I was done. One session we didn’t speak for fifty-five minutes. She spoke to my lawyer and offered to try again the next day.
“Corrie deserved to die because she wasn’t a good person.”
Again, Shelly looked at her notes before speaking, “If you say so. What about Abby Miller? Did she deserve to be stabbed?”
“Yes, Abby wasn’t great at anything.” I smiled at my own personal joke. Abby loved the five-letter word, great. After Bob gave her justice for her part in his sister’s death, he’d written it on the wall above her bed. I’d been horrified. Now I found it quite amusing.
“I don’t get why you’re smiling. Why are you suddenly happy?” Shelly’s eyes narrowed in on me.
“Everything is just great.” A bubble of laughter burst through my mouth, and I covered it. I fought against the giggling fit that was building up inside of me. If I didn’t stop chuckling, the shrink would sign off on me as being crazy. At least that would make my parents and my lawyer happy.
Think of the baby. Those words sobered me fast, and I explained, “Inside joke. I’m thinking the stress of the trial is just getting to me.”
“Yeah, stress affects people in different ways. Do you feel stressed a lot?” Shelly asked.
“I didn’t until the police kidnapped me. I was fine before then. Everything’s been…been a blur these last few weeks.” After refusing to speak to the cops the night they took me, I was in their custody for a few hours and then whisked away the next morning by the FBI to another, much bigger jail for a week. From there, I spent the rest of the time in a state prison until these last seven days, when I was back in the smaller jail to await my court date. Wasn’t I supposed to have had an arraignment a long time ago?
I’d seen my lawyer and the FBI or other police agency members numerous times, so many that I forgot their names. My parents visited once, but once they spoke bad about Bob, I refused to see them.
“How do you feel when you’re stressed?” Shelly asked.
“Like my life is out of control.” I held up my arm as evidence.
“How do you feel about your attempted suicide?”
“I didn’t try to kill myself. I kept on scratching until I didn’t hurt anymore and then I was tired, very tired. Before the stress and the lies, I never scratched myself.”
“I’m glad you can admit to the suicide attempt, Jolene. That’s progress. Let’s use the time we have left to discuss some ways for you to deal with stress. Since you have limited access to the outside world, we can go over a few things you can do. Taking care of yourself is essential. You need to sleep and eat all of your meals. Are you getting to go outside?” Shelly asked.
I shook my head. The only time I’d seen the sun was the few times I’d come here between transportations so for five minutes.
“Since you can’t go in the yard, I can teach you some exercise routines you can do in your cell.” Shelly stood and asked me to do the same. Once I did, she continued. “Walk in place to warm up. Once you feel your heart pumping, you can do some jumping jacks, squats, sit-ups, and burpees. Do you have access to any weights?”
“No,” I said with a laugh. I had a bed with a thin ass mattress, a sheet, and a rock-hard pillow. The rest of my sleeping arrangement contained another sleeping spot and a toilet. I had to go easy on the TP because of a shortage. At least I didn’t have to share the tiny cell with anyone.
“Do you have a bar?”
“I’m not staying at a fancy hotel.”
“I’ll look up some exercises for you to do for your next visit. Getting into a routine will help you deal with stress.” The timer Shelly set buzzed. “Our session is over. I think we made some actual progress here.”
“Can you show me what a burpee is before I go?” I asked, even though I knew full well how to do one. Monte Jackson and Hank Pratt used to do them as a competition. Hank had won every single time. Now they would never do it again because they were dead, unless they were doing it in hell. I could see them having adjoining cells.
Shelly paled a little, but said, “Of course. You start on the ground and place your hands shoulder-width apart.” She kicked off her stilettos and slid them underneath her chair.
Now those shoes would make a killer weapon. A couple of stabs and she’d be bleeding on the carpet. Her death would be a little faster and more painful after our talk. Or should I let her die slowly?
Shelly continued with her instructions, being oblivious to my plan and then said, “That’s how you do a burpee. Do you have questions?” She had winded herself after the one.
“No, I’m good. Thank you.” I swore I heard her sigh with relief.
“Before you go, Jolene. Someone has reached out to me to talk to you. I think it would do you some good to speak to them.”
“Someone? Not my mom or dad, right?” I wouldn’t talk to either of them, not until they apologized. They never would.
“Conrad Jackson. Should I arrange a meeting with the three of us for tomorrow?” Shelly asked.
“Conrad wants to see me?” I asked, surprised. I thought he’d hate me for his brother, Monte, dying. Yeah, they didn’t get along like most siblings. I was an only child, so I didn’t know, but I saw it enough with my dead friends and classmates.
“Okay then.” What did Conrad want to say to me or yell at me? I deserved whatever he wanted to do. Hopefully, after he did, he’d get some peace. I couldn’t change his brother’s death. Monte had his junk cut off and his innards pulled out. He shouldn’t have slept with Kaylee while he dated Corrie.
Shelly glanced at the clock on the wall and said, “Looks like your lawyer is running late, but your guards can take you to the jail without him.”
“I can see myself out then,” I said.
“No, the rule for you to come here is that your lawyer or an adult, must accompany you in and out of this room. I guess me doing it will be fine.”
I didn’t point out that I was an adult, and if I walked the few feet to the door, it wouldn’t kill me. Not like I could disappear without her noticing.
Someone knocked on the door. Before Shelly could answer it, my lawyer, Roger Dangers, entered the room, saying, “Sorry, traffic. Did everything go well?”
“Yes, Jolene and I made actual progress. I still want to see her tomorrow for a longer appointment, Mr. Dangers,” Shelly said.
“Call me Roger, Shelly,” my lawyer said. He turned to me. “Jolene, please sit and wait for your therapist and I to finish speaking.”
Why did old people do this? They clearly wanted to talk about me. I grumbled and sat on the couch. At least I’d get a few more minutes to look out the window despite the bars.
I asked Shelly once did she normally see such dangerous people. She answered me after taking a moment to think, ‘not normally’ and didn’t say another word about it, so I didn’t ask again. She’d gotten special arrangements for me to come here. I guessed the extra protection was part of the deal.
Snow had fallen the previous night. It lined the roof of the building next door. The sun shined off the white stuff, making everything much brighter. How I missed standing in the rays or shoveling the nasty white stuff away from the cabin door. Bob would be outside cutting down a tree.
“Have you…” my lawyer said before his voice quieted down. He glanced over at me.
“Doctor patient confidentiality,” Shelly said.
I heard that loud and clear.
“Give me something to work with, I’m trying to…” Dangers whispered next, and I missed the rest of his words.
To what? Save my life? He has got to be kidding me. What Bob and I did was out of necessity. People wouldn’t just let us live our lives. We would’ve been fine if we were left alone.
“I need more…” Shelly said.
“Will ask you…” my lawyer said.
The rest of their words I couldn’t make out because they whispered even lower.
I sighed and stood, having enough before saying, “I need to go. I got plans.”
“Yeah, we’ll talk later,” my lawyer said to my psychologist.
“Tomorrow, I got other clients to see,” Shelly said. “You have a good day, Jolene.”
My lawyer escorted me to the guard who shackled me before we headed outside.
At least tomorrow, I’d get to see Conrad. What was I going to wear? Ah, my normal tan shirt and pants the jail provided.
Maybe I can steal or make some makeup before tomorrow.