As Hannah woke, a distinct image formed in her mind. It was something she had not wanted to see but would never forget.

It was difficult for Hannah to process or accept what she had seen at the crime scene as a human being because of the shape the girl had been left in. Unfortunately, what she had seen was playing on a permanent loop in her head.

Once the thoughts became too much, Hannah opened her eyes, realizing that she wasn’t home in her bed. Instead, she had slept over with Silas.

She turned to see him, but he wasn’t lying next to her as he had been the night before.

Instead, the sounds and smells from the kitchen gave him away. She moved to the edge of the bed and raked her hand through her mess of hair. She was sure she looked horrible with puffy, red eyes and her hair in all directions.

Silas had been a perfect gentleman, offering her a T-shirt to sleep in, as well as keeping his hands to himself. Other than the spooning, of course, which was what she needed more than anything else. It had meant so much to her that he hadn’t tried to take advantage of her vulnerability. She didn’t find herself in that state often, but the previous night had been an exception.

When Traeger called her, she wasn’t expecting anything like what she saw. She expected the body to at least be whole, and instead, it was in sections, dissected and skinned like something from a laboratory, and tossed out into the wilderness like garbage.

She scrubbed her eyes with her palms and took a few deep breaths. She had to get it out of her head, if only for a little while.

Hannah got to her feet and walked to the bathroom to take care of her morning regimen, including using the toothbrush that Silas had left with the fresh towels and soap on the counter.

He was so thoughtful. It made her think about how lucky she was to have someone like him in her life. Someone she could depend on. Sure, she had Henry, but that was different. It had been far too long since she had someone in her life who she could be vulnerable with.

She turned on the shower to freshen up, and when she stepped inside, a part of her wished that Silas was there with her. She couldn’t wait to get out and go and see him.

When she was done in the shower, she dressed in Silas’s robe, tucked her cell phone into the pocket, and went to the kitchen.

Silas looked up from the stove, where he was dressed in shorts and an apron. “I hope you’re hungry this morning. I think I’ve made too much.”

“You shouldn’t have gone to the trouble. I’m not sure I’ll ever eat again after last night.” It was hard to think about food when the body had looked like something from a butcher shop.

“Come on. You should have something. It’s not good for you to go without.” He stepped over to grab a plate from the cupboard.

“I’ll try some, but no promises. And thanks again for taking care of me, Silas. I know I was a mess last night when I showed up.” She had been a mess of tears and could barely speak, so she had fallen into his arms as soon as he opened the door.

“I’m embarrassed I wasn’t stronger in that situation. I guess I always thought I would be, but I wasn’t ready for that.” She didn’t think anyone could be ready for a scene like that.

Silas gave her a sympathetic look. “Well, you didn’t think you’d be going into something like that. I could tell it was bad. I’m glad I was at least in your pocket. It was hard not to say something, knowing I’d be heard.”

Hannah had only told him a little bit about it. She’d wanted to spare him the gruesome details.

He still seemed bothered by the situation. “If you ask me what I think, I’m not happy with Traeger. He should have never let you see it. He knows better.”

He spooned a smaller part of the omelet onto her plate and the rest onto his.

“He’s just trying to let me in,” she said, taking her place at the table with him. The food smelled good, and despite the awful visions, her tummy rumbled with hunger. “I should be glad however he chooses to do it. And I guess, in a way, I asked for it. On my show, I’m always asking opinions about law enforcement, and some people really have some heated ones. Not to mention all my trash talk about why the police aren’t doing more. And how can they just ignore a case like this or that? I can understand why it upset him. He’s not some clock watcher ignoring the cases he’s been assigned. He’s out there fighting the good fight.”

“So, one crime scene, and you’re changing your views on Traeger?” Silas sounded doubtful.

Hannah shook her head. It would take a lot more than that, but it was definitely broadening her horizons. “Well, I wouldn’t say that, exactly. But I can honestly say I have a whole new perspective on what he does. Not to mention more respect for what he goes through. I swear, many nights like that, and I’d need therapy.”

Silas shrugged. “I’ve heard your shows, and I’ve never really concluded that you hated law enforcement.” He reached for the juice which was already on the table and poured her some before pouring his own.

“No, I just don’t like cold cases. And most of my complaints are about them. I feel they shouldn’t exist, but at the same time, I understand why they do.”

“So, does this mean you’re going to work with him now?” Silas seemed surprised by the notion.

“Yeah. I am. It’s my only shot to really help these girls. My show is great for putting out information, but this would mean helping on a whole new level. Besides, if that girl was the one Miley identified, it could have easily been her. And that woman she told Traeger about? Vida? She needs to be stopped.”

Silas shook his head as if he was unsure. “Just be careful. Keep your guard up where Traeger is concerned. You know what they say about leopards and their spots.”

“I will, but I’m going to share what he asked for. I think it’s well past time we start helping each other. We have to put aside our petty differences for the better of the community and for those girls. I’m always saying I wish I was out of a job, but I need to do more to make that happen.”

“What did he want from you?” he asked, looking suspicious.

“When I was a PI, I was hired by the Clark family to check into their daughter’s disappearance. Her name was Melissa. She was missing and later found dead, just like this girl last night.” The images tried to come back to the surface, but she pushed them down. “So Traeger wants us to work together. He asked for everything I have on the case and wants my help to establish a pattern where we can prove who did it.”

Silas nodded as if he understood. “So, he wants to know what you know. Is he willing to give you anything in return?”

“He did say something about giving me special evidence that no one has seen before. I think it could have something to do with the medical examiner’s report. Because when I saw it, there was a lot of stuff that had been held back and redacted. I wasn’t happy about it at the time. I figured whatever it was, it was something about the murders that law enforcement was trying to hide.”

“It’s standard for them to hold some things back,” said Silas. “They would want to make comparisons later, and the only way to do that is to know something no one else does. And if it came out that there’s another crime in the same manner that might be related, it could be associated with the same killer. Maybe whatever it is, it could be the killer’s signature.”

“I wondered that too. They have to protect something.” She understood it well. And often wondered what was held back in her aunt’s case.

“Or someone,” he said.

“I don’t think he’s protecting Owen Bishop. At first, I did, but now, no. I think he’s investigating him.”

“And you think that Owen Bishop is capable of what you saw last night?” Silas took a deep breath and shook his head. “I’m not sure, Hannah. From what you described? That’s just hard to believe.”

“It would explain why Claire Ford wanted to run off a bridge to end her life—I’ll tell you that. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. Maybe she knows what he’s capable of. There’s no telling what she’s seen.”

Silas looked her in the eyes. “I want you to be careful. But you can’t let this slow you down. You can’t let it change you, Hannah.”

She knew what he meant. It was getting in her head. “I know. It’s just going to take some time. I can’t help but think about Miley. If she had stayed with that woman, this could have been her.”

She didn’t want to think that Miley was better off at the moment, considering what she saw her and Henry doing the night before when she went into his room to get his keys, but at least Miley was alive to have the experience.

Silas glanced at his watch. “Shit, I have to get to the office. Bell isn’t going to be happy with me. I sort of got ahead of myself with him.”

She could tell that Silas was unsure about something he had done. “What do you mean?”

“I may have led him to think that Claire said something to me about him and Aria Patterson.”

“You did?” she asked, surprised to hear it. It wasn’t like Silas to make things up. At least not from her experience. “Did Claire say anything to you about them?” She wondered what it could have been.

Silas shook his head. “No, she didn’t, and yes, I did. But he’ll never find out.”

“Why did you do that?” She didn’t understand what came over him. He had always been so careful around Bell. And he had never wanted to step on the man’s toes.

He gave a sound of frustration. “Because I was pissed. He gave me the brush-off. It reminded me of how he treated me before the case, which was, in case you’ve forgotten, supposed to be a favor he was doing for a friend. Instead, he got me to do it. I thought it was because he didn’t want to defend Claire Ford based on her reputation, but the more I get into the case and the longer I know her, I think he was pushing it off on me because he knew he wouldn’t win. He didn’t want to tarnish his reputation. But he didn’t give fuck all about mine.”

“I’ve thought that,” she said, hating to admit it. “But I’m glad you were on the case. I’m glad we got to meet each other, for what it’s worth.”

“Me too,” he said, getting to his feet.

“I should go and get ready for work. You finish up your breakfast, and you can stay as long as you want.”

Hannah got up from the table and brought her plate to the sink. “I should get moving too.” She had a situation at home that she couldn’t ignore any longer, as much as she wanted to. “But hey, thanks again for last night. I mean it, Silas. You’re the best.”

Silas walked over and brushed her hair back from her shoulder. “Well, it wasn’t exactly how I thought it would be having you spending the night for the first time, but I’m glad I could be here for you, and I hope you know that I always will be.” He leaned down and kissed her on the cheek, but Hannah turned and captured his lips. He had earned it.

Silas deepened the kiss, which they enjoyed, but eventually, he pulled away reluctantly. “You sure don’t make it easy for me to leave you.”

Hannah giggled. “Sorry. Maybe the next time, it will be different.” She kissed him again, this time giving him just a tiny peck.

“Are you saying you want to stay with me again?” He raised his brows as if he liked the idea of that.

“Yes.” She would like that too.

“You know, it can be arranged.” Silas went to kiss her again, but the sound of her phone ringing brought their attention to where she had tucked it into the robe pocket.

She took the phone out and glanced at it.

“It’s Traeger,” she said, narrowing her eyes. “I should take this.”

“Go on. I’ll go change.” Silas turned and headed to his room as she answered and put the phone to her ear.

“Hello, detective.” She hoped that he had good news for her.

“Ms. Faran.” Traeger was as professional as usual.

“Please, after last night, call me Hannah.” They had certainly been through an experience together.

“Fair enough, Hannah. I’m calling because I wanted to let you know that we made a positive ID with the hair we found at the scene. It is our girl, Haley Perkins.”

“Damn,” she said, wishing it wasn’t true. She put her hand to her heart and closed her eyes. But all that did was make her see it again.

“Yeah, that’s how I felt, too,” he said. “There are no words. And it means that there are a whole lot more girls who are in trouble if she comes from this Vida person’s house. I think it’s important to speak with Miley again. Do you think you could bring her down to the office to see me?”

“Yeah, if not today, I’ll do it tomorrow.” She wasn’t sure what she would find when she got home and didn’t want to make any promises. It was entirely possible that Henry and Miley were not trying to start a relationship, but instead, perhaps they were just taking advantage of their situation, which was even worse.

“Sounds good,” said Traeger. “I’ll see you then.”

Traeger hung up the phone, and all Hannah could think about was that she had to go home and tell Miley what had happened. She wasn’t sure how she was going to take it. It wasn’t like she had admitted to being very close with them, but the fact that one of Vida’s girls had ended up slaughtered, a girl that could have very well been Miley under different circumstances, was terrifying.

She went to Silas’s room and knocked on the door. “Can I come in?”

Silas opened the door. “Sure, I was just trying to give you some privacy for your call. What was that all about? Is there any news on the murder?”

“They made an ID on the girl. She was one of Vida’s girls who Miley identified.”

“Damn. I’m sorry. How do you think she’ll take it?” Silas had heard enough to know that Miley wasn’t with Vida long enough to make lasting relationships.

“I think, given the circumstances, she’ll be upset.” She walked over to pick up her clothes that had been hanging on the closet door since the night before. “It’s going to be a shock to her with all she’s been through.”

Silas was still buttoning up from tucking in his shirt, and while he went to get his shoes from the closet, she shrugged on her jeans and took off the robe.

Before she could put her top on, Silas came out of the closet and noticed her. “Wow, now I really don’t want to go to work.”

“We have to,” she said, giving a light-hearted giggle as she put on the top. “But I’d love to see you tonight.” She had a feeling she was going to need his company again.

“Yeah,” he said. “I’d like that.”

She finished getting dressed. Then he grabbed his keys and they walked out together.

“I’ll call you, okay?”  

He nodded. “Okay.”

They went their separate ways and she sighed. Going home was going to be tough.

She wasn’t sure what was going on with Miley and Henry, but she was going to have to face it eventually. Besides, the sooner she told Miley about Haley Perkins, the sooner she could start to process it and heal.

The sooner they both could.

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