Read Chapter One of Family Pretense…



When Silas arrived at Hannah’s house, there were two police cars and a group of onlookers standing just outside her gate. Silas parked as close as he could get and wasted no time getting out of his car and jogging toward the crowd. He kept his head down as he went through the crowd toward the house, hoping that none of the reporters would question him about why he was there.

He managed to get past most of the onlookers without incident, but when he got to the gate, there was one man standing with a camera blocking his way in and arguing with the cop.

“Just tell us something,” said the reporter, whose tone made his frustrations clear. “We already know who lives here. Why all the mystery?”

“I said to stay behind the gate,” said the officer. He didn’t seem to be interested in feeding the man’s curiosities and only wanted to do his job.

“Are there any injuries?” asked the man, trying to push his luck. “Would you tell us that much?”

Silas didn’t like the sound of that. He still didn’t know if Hannah was okay either, and eagerly wanted to hear the answer himself as he waved his hand to be seen.

Thankfully, Silas got the cop’s attention. “I’m expected,” he said. “One of the officer’s called me.” He hoped he didn’t have to say more, and thankfully, instead of blowing him off, the officer called out to the other cop nearby.

This didn’t help the other man’s attitude, who sighed and gave up. But unfortunately, he found a sudden interest in Silas. “Are you a friend of Hannah Faran’s?” he asked. “Do you know if she is injured?”

“No,” said Silas, not wanting to talk to the man, but he was so desperate to know if Hannah was okay or not. “Did they say someone was injured? Did they take someone out?”

“The ambulance went in, so we think someone got hurt. They won’t tell us anything.”

That only fed his panic. And every second that he had to wait, he grew more anxious that something terrible had happened to Hannah. Even though he had just met her, he was looking forward to having her around for a while.

Thankfully, the officer got the okay to let Silas in and made the crowd clear the way for him to enter the gate without issue.

When he went in and rounded the corner past the gates, he saw the ambulance with its doors opened wide, and Henry was sitting near the door with one of the paramedics. The first thing Silas noticed was blood. Henry had a small cut under his eye that he was applying pressure to and a nasty bump on his forehead that was partially covered by his hairline.

“Henry!” Silas yelled as he approached. “Are you okay?”

“I don’t know,” he said, looking like he was in a daze. His hair and clothes were disheveled as if he had been in a struggle, and there was blood on them both as well. “They want to take me to the hospital and check me out.”

“You should do that,” he said. “Where’s Hannah?” He was afraid that if she wasn’t in the ambulance, she might be worse off.

“She’s in the house,” he said.

The paramedic turned to Silas. “We’ve got to get him to lay down,” he said. “You can go inside and see her.”

Silas hurried to check on her, noticing the patio door that led out to the pool and Henry’s guest house was busted. And while that made his gut sink even more, he was relieved when he went inside and heard her voice coming from the studio.

“I could hear him destroying the place. But yes, I think it was just one man.” She saw Silas and gave him a wide-eyed stare. “Sorry about the mess,” she said halfheartedly.

“Are you the boyfriend?” the officer asked Silas.

“No,” they both said in unison.

“I’m a concerned friend,” he said, wondering why it mattered.

Silas felt horrible for her. Not only was it a scary situation, but it would take some time to clean it up and replace everything that was broken. She depended on her studio to make a living, and it had to be gut-wrenching to see it in that state.

“I’m just glad you’re okay,” he said. “You are okay, aren’t you?” He didn’t want to just assume. Seeing her studio, which looked like a tornado had come through it, made him realize how much worse it might have been.

“I’m fine,” she said, tearing up. “I just feel horrible about Henry.” She wiped her eyes and turned her attention back to the officer. “As I said, the alarms were quickly shut off, and I went directly to the panic room.” She sniffled, still concerned for her friend.

“Do you have any cameras or monitors to see from inside the room?”

“No. I don’t. I just have the outside cameras. But I could hear him. I know he came upstairs, and I could tell where he was walking through the wall. He wasn’t up there too long and hurried right back down. He went to the studio, and that’s when I heard him breaking more things.”

“Sounds like someone didn’t like your show,” said the officer. “Do you have any disgruntled fans that stick out to you?”

Silas didn’t care for the cop’s timing to attempt humor but figured it was just another day at the office for him.

Hannah hesitated and shrugged. “None that I know of. But I’m not sure this is about my show.” She shook her head as if there was no way. But Silas thought it made a lot of sense.

The cop, whose badge had the name Stevens, tilted his head. “Well, it seems to be.” He looked around at the mess. “We’ll take the outside footage, make a report, and we’ll be in touch. You can go and check on your friend.”

“Right,” she said, looking less than confident in the officer.

When he walked away, she let out a heavy sigh. “Did you see Henry?” she asked. “Have they taken him?”

“I don’t think so,” he said.

She quickly walked back through the house and out the busted patio door. Then she beelined to the ambulance where they had finally gotten him to lie down and were loading him into the back.

“Henry,” she said. “Can you hear me? I’m right behind you. I’ll come as soon as the house is secured.”

“Don’t get in a hurry,” he said. “I’m fine.”

He didn’t look fine. He looked like someone had roughed him up pretty badly. But Silas still didn’t have the whole story. He waited for her to watch the ambulance leave. “I’ll take you to the hospital,” he said. “You shouldn’t drive yourself.”

“Thanks,” she said. “I can’t leave until I know the house is secured.”

“You have time. They won’t take him back right away. Is there anything you want me to do?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “Thanks for coming. I just didn’t know who else to call.”

“No problem. You can call me anytime.”

One of the officers came over to her with a thick roll of plastic. “We’re going to put this over the door. But you may want to lock the gate when we leave.”

“Thanks,” she said, and let go of a deep breath as the officer walked away to cover the doorway. Her posture slouched, and she seemed to deflate all of a sudden. “I still can’t believe this happened. Poor Henry. He was just saying he hoped me helping with this case wouldn’t ruin everything, and now this.”

“You don’t think that’s why this happened, do you?” Silas was unconvinced and thought the officers’ ill-timed humor made more sense. “I mean, you have a lot of people who listen in to your show. If one person disagrees with something you say against law enforcement or someone related to a victim or their case, isn’t it possible that they did this to keep you from saying it again?”

Hannah shook her head. “I know what it looks like,” she said. “But I think that’s the point. They want this to look like an attack on my show, but it’s really an attack on me. And I know who it is.”

“You do?” He wasn’t so sure about that.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s Win Bishop. I’m pretty sure he knows I’m working on this with you by now, and he’s not happy about it. Can you think of a better way to get at me and send a warning?”

He thought she was too upset to think rationally. It didn’t seem to him that this was something a man like Win Bishop would stoop to, but he didn’t want to argue with her. “Let’s just get things locked up, and I’ll drive you out to the hospital to see Henry.”

“I hope he’s going to be okay. It’s all my fault. He was trying to check on me when he said he came face to face with the man who was already on his way out. He punched Henry several times, and Henry tried to fight back, but he went down and hit his head on the tile. He’s lucky it wasn’t worse.”

“Ouch,” said Silas. “But he seemed okay. I’m sure he’s fine. You two are both lucky it wasn’t worse. If he had come here intending to harm either of you, he could have killed you both.”

“I know,” she said, wrapping her arms around herself. “And that’s what makes me sick. I don’t know what I would have done if Henry had been shot or stabbed. The cops found him when they got here, but the man was long gone.”

“He didn’t take anything?” he asked, looking across the patio at the cops who were finishing up with the door. Most of the others had already gone, as well as most of the onlookers.

“No,” she said. “They didn’t take anything because that wasn’t what this was about. It was about putting me in my place and showing me that he could and would do everything to destroy me.”

Silas let that sink in as he finished watching the officers do a shoddy job at securing her home.

Finally, Officer Stevens walked back over. “We’re all done. Again, lock your gate when you leave. And you may want to have someone stay with you tonight. Or you could go stay with someone else. I’ll have an officer patrol the neighborhood tonight as well.”

“Thanks,” she said.

She and Silas walked to the car, avoiding the questions that were coming at them from the onlookers who were left around the house. Stevens and his fellow officers headed out behind them.

“Who do you think did this?” one of the gawkers asked.

But Hannah wasn’t going to call anyone out for it. Instead, she remained tight-lipped on the way to the car.

She got in and put her seatbelt on, looking straight ahead. Silas walked around the car and got in behind the wheel.

“Maybe I should have told them who I think did this,” she said, raking her hand through her hair. “If I thought any good would come of it, I would have.”

“You did the right thing. You can’t blame him without proof. Besides, I’m not sure I agree. I just think you need to give it some time.” He thought if she gave it time, she would start to see her theory was absurd. Whoever had done this had targeted her show directly, trashing the studio like they had.

“I’ve got so much to do,” she said. “I have folks coming on live this week, and I have to make sure the files weren’t lost. I can’t even be sure that the work I’ve done this week is salvageable.”

“Maybe you should take some time off to regroup your thoughts. Give yourself time to get things back up and running and for you to deal with what happened.” Sometimes you couldn’t control what happened, and if she had a loyal following, they would understand that.

“No,” she said with a very determined tone. “I’m not doing that. That’s what this asshole wanted, to put me out of business. Besides, my show means a lot to some people, and I don’t want to let my supporters down. And it’s not like I’m not about to just roll over and let Bishop win.”

“Again, I’m not so convinced he has anything to do with this. Does this really sound like his style? He’s not going to risk making a move like this.”

“You’d think. But that’s because you don’t know what I know.”

Silas didn’t deny that. She claimed to have a hell of a lot on the Bishops. But so far, all he knew was her own personal issues with the family and a couple of other complaints that might be true or not. “Look, I want to trust what you say, Hannah.”

“But you don’t believe me.” She shook her head as if she expected as much.

“Hey, hear me out. I want to believe you.” He liked Hannah and trusted that she really believed she was right, and with that, he figured she must have a reason. He just needed to hear it. “Maybe it’s time you enlighten me.”

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