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Chapter 1

Char receives a threat from someone from her past five days before her wedding

Chapter 1

She was up all night. The wedding was drawing closer. Her nerves of steel had become nerves of something she couldn’t quite figure out. Cold feet? Nope. She loved Steven. Sure, they only had a few months together. But sometimes, those were the most magical of romances. With so much to do, Charlotte Rutkowski continued drawing lines in the stucco on her ceiling in her bedroom. As she glanced over at the digital clock that sat on her nightstand to her left, she grinned.
Neo was snoring away on the other side of the bed next to her. She laughed. So, wishing she could sleep like him, she decided that at almost zero six hundred, she’d get up for the day.
The department gave her two weeks off to plan her wedding with the sexiest firefighter ever. Everyone in the city was still talking about it when they made the announcement back in April. Reporters were crashing at their homes, at their places of work, anywhere they went. Even after Steven had given them a warning. This was the story of the year. They had grown to become the hottest story since the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial.
Char hated it. So did Steven. It seemed like they still never got a moments peace. Steven had taken appropriate measures to protect them both. But it felt as if these people didn’t care about those measures. As she got dressed for the day, she woke Neo by clapping her hands. He rose and barked at her.
He hopped off the bed as she walked through the short hallway to the kitchen. After she grabbed her morning soda of Dr. Pepper from the fridge, she checked her phone. As it powered up, it vibrated in her hand, and she knew she had more than twenty voice mails and texts and whatever else.
They first thing she did was, she called Steven.
He answered on the fourth ring, finally. She sighed in relief. And there was that sexy, smokey voice of his.
“Hi, babe!” she said.
“Hi. What a morning already.”
“What’s going on?”
“I need to come see you. I’ll be over in a bit.”
“What’s wrong?”
“Not over the phone.”
Her heart sank. She sighed. What now? Nothing was going to ruin this for them. Nothing! She would never allow it.
He ended the call. Her eyes widened. Something was going on. Something big. He never ended the call without saying I love you. She went to the living room with Neo. As she checked the main front window by standing on the side and slightly moving the curtain, she saw about four reporters camped out near her patio that had a privacy fence built around it with a gate. Steven had this made for her with permission by the awesome landlord that ran the property.
Through the slight openings of the wood panels, she counted at least four reporters. Although, she couldn’t tell who they were. She grabbed her phone and called Steven back. He answered on the first ring this time.
“I got about four damn reporters at my place, babe,” she said.
“Son of a bitch. Call your brother. I’m on my way.”
“Steven, what the hell is going on?”
“Not over the phone. Trust me.”
He ended the call once more. Call her brother? He was homicide in the Starling Police Department. She was now Sergeant of the K9 Unit. Today was the day she’d be getting her promotion. She loved how her new promotion was close to their wedding. She hoped she would get married while being Sergeant. It was a silly goal, but not to her.
Instead of calling Mathew, she called her dad. Her dad always had a way of calming her. She needed to hear his voice.
“Sweet cakes!”
She smiled wide. “Sailor!”
“What’s the word?”
“The usual. I’ve got about four reporters camped out my front yard. Steven is on the way over with some news.”
“Have you checked your phone yet?”
“No. I got up, called him and he said he’s on his way over. He sounded scared, Dad.”
“Whoa, that’s unlike him.”
“I know. I’m worried. I have no idea what’s going on.”
There was a long moment of silence. She heard some whispering between him and his home health care worker, Dawn Moon. Dawn was also about to become her stepmom.
“Perhaps you should wait until Steven gets there.”
“What? What is it?”
“Whatever you do, do not turn on the news!”
“Um what?”
“Charlotte, trust me. Do not turn on the news!”
Her eyes widened. He called her by her full name. That was rare. Ever since she’d been born and he gave her the name, he always called her Char or Sweet Cakes. She loved the nicknames.
“Dad, you’ve never called me by my full name. What gives?” she asked.
“Trust me. Just wait ‘til Steven gets there. Dawn and I will also be on our way. Did you call Matt yet?”
“No. I called you and Steven.”
“Call Mathew.”
“Yes. And don’t check your messages or texts until him and Steven get there.”
“Dad, what the hell?”
“Trust me sweet cakes, trust me!”
She sighed and he too ended the call. What the hell was this? This better not be some bullshit surprise. If it was, she’d kill them all for putting her through this. So, she called Mathew next and let her phone sit with the messages.
“Hey, Sis.”
“Hey, Bro. Dad said to call you and so did Steven. What the hell is going on?”
“You’re not safe.”
“Um what?”
“I’m on my way. Turning into your complex now.”
“I got about four reporters camped outside.”
“I’ll deal with them. See you in five!”
The call ended. Again. Another call just ended. No love you sis. Take care of my sis, she’s the only one I have. What the hell? She wasn’t safe? What was this? She had so many questions. And as she waited, she decided to say fuck it and she checked her voice mail.
“I know who you are! I know you killed my brother! I’m coming for you!”
Her eyes widened. That was the first message. Brother. She thought back to last month. Markus. Oh fuck! Markus had a brother. She had no idea.
She rubbed her mouth. How the hell did he get her personal number? Only her family and few close friends had this number. She checked the next message.
“Char, it’s Matt, look, we got a situation. Wake up. I’m on my way over.”
She sighed. There were eighteen more messages.
“Char, it’s Chuck. We got a situation; you need to get up. You need to check your phone.”
“Char, it’s Trish, we have a situation.”
She checked the rest of the messages, and they were all the same. But the first one never repeated itself. There were two more from her dad talking in a panic after talking with Matt. But there were none from her other brother, Chris, who was the middle of them three.
After she finished checking the texts messages, she realized there were none from her three best friends, Dawne, Marcie or Brooke. None from Dawn Hudson either. Dawn was the Lieutenant of the Starling Police Department Burglary unit. They were still friends though. Perhaps none of them had heard the news yet? Yes, Char believed that.
One major question went through her mind. How the hell did Markus’ brother get her personal cell phone number? And how the hell did he know she killed Markus?

Five minutes later, after chasing away the reporters, Matt arrived and knocked on the door. Char looked through the peep hole and let him in. Steven, her dad, and his nurse where over five minutes after Matt was there. Her cheeks blushed as she hadn’t even had time to brush the bed head out of her hair. She was wearing shorts with the US flag draped across in a cool pattern, along with a T-shirt that showed a bald eagle with America in a cursive font and the flag through the lettering. And she wore her famous white knee-high socks.
“Did you check your phone?” Paul asked.
“I did.”
“I told you not to!”
“I had like twenty messages in my voice mail. And like thirty texts. I haven’t even gone to my social media yet.”
“Good, don’t!”
She hugged everyone but held onto Steven the longest. What was going on here? Her family always came first before any guy. But Steven was no ordinary guy. He called the Marines for her when Markus held her in that container at the Starling Rail Yard last month for two days. He never left her side.
Everyone noticed the long hug between them. Matt finally cleared his throat as there was another knock on her door. She peaked through the peep hole and smiled when it was Trish, Chuck and Marie. Then her eyes widened. The Chief of Police was here too? She shook her head and let them all in.
“I need to see your phone,” Matt said.
“What, why?”
“Did you erase any messages?”
“No. I’m barely awake guys.”
“What was the first message?” Matt asked.
She played it for him.
“Son of a fucking bitch!” Matt swore.
Matt never swore. Everyone’s eyes widened. She shook her head and her entire body trembled after she finally broke from Steven.
“Is this what you couldn’t say over the phone?” she asked Steven.
“How the fuck did this guy get my number?” she questioned.
“We believe it was the informant,” Trish said.
“The informant? Which one?”
Trish rubbed her mouth. Char introduced her to everyone she didn’t know. And Char nodded to them all that none of this information would leave her home.
“Jamison,” Trish finally spoke.
“That little weasel! How?” Char asked.
“That’s what we need to find out.”
Trish looked around the living room but didn’t see Chris or Char’s mom. Char shook her head.
“Where’s your other brother and your mom?” Trish asked.
“Obviously not here.” Char laughed.
Trish grinned. “You talk to your superior officer that way this early?”
Char laughed some more. And so did Trish finally.
“Madelyn will never come here,” Paul said.
“Char, everyone is in danger. He’s coming for you,” Trish said.
“Ryan O’Neil,” Marie explained.
Char rubbed her mouth. She shook her head. She was about to be married. Nothing was going to ruin this. Nothing!
“Let him come! Nothing is going to ruin our wedding!” Char said.
“I get it,” Marie started. “I really do. But he’s put a hit out on you and your entire family and friends.”
“Um what?”
She shook her head. She had to deal with this now. And she had to put an end to the O’Neil’s once and for all. This was now personal to her. Markus was a bad man. A killer. What made them think he’d get out of this alive when he grabbed an FBI Agent as his human shield? Did they think he’d walk and get a cookie? Markus left her no choice. That smile he gave her. That smile told her either she needed to end him, or he would never stop. So, she ended him.
But why now? Why all these months later?

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