Written in 21 minutes. No time for typos or edits.
Elizabeth put up her hands and took a deep breath. “I need—I need to slow down. I need—” She looked at Jason. “I need to sit down,” she admitted.
The last ten hours of her life had been the worst of her life—from being woke in the dead of the night, fighting for her life and sanity—for her children—terrified that her choices had led to one of her son having to live with killing someone—
Only to learn that everything she thought had been happening was a lie.
She closed her eyes, took another breath. Her boys were safe. That was all that mattered in the end.
She felt a hand at her elbow as Jason gently steered her towards the sofa and guided her to sit down. “Just…” Jason hesitated. “Relax,” he said, but the way he said the word suggested he knew exactly how insane that sounded. “Let’s just all take a second and regroup, okay?”
“Is there coffee?” Diane asked, the lines in her face more prominent than usual. She’d been up all night, Elizabeth remembered, helping her. “I think we’re going to need it.”
Jason sat next to her, and Cameron took the other side. She looked at him again, at her little boy who looked so grown up—there was something in his eyes that said he wasn’t the boy he’d been yesterday. He’d grown up over night, and she was all too aware how something could destroy everything you thought about yourself.
She’d never wanted that for her boys—but this was her fault.
“Let me get you something to eat,” Jason told her. “You should rest, sleep—” He took her hand in his, wrapping her smaller fingers in his own. “We can deal with this when you’re stronger.”
“No, no, I won’t be able to sleep until we—” Elizabeth exhaled slowly. She looked at Cameron again. “Does he know what happened?”
“He knows everything I know,” Cameron told his mother. “You—you said I could trust him—”
“Of course,” Elizabeth assured him. She turned to her son, facing him fully. “There aren’t a lot of people I would say that about, but Jason will always be one of them.” Her smile was thin. “But I know I don’t have a lot of credibility right now—”
“Mom—no, don’t—” Cameron shook his head. “You’re not the only one who thought he was different. We all did.”
Diane returned with two cups of coffee, one for herself and one for Elizabeth. She arched a brow at Jason. “My empathy only goes so far,” she murmured. “Now, let’s—let’s take a minute and start from the beginning. Now that you know you don’t have to protect Cameron.”
She opened her notepad. “According to Detective Chase, they received a 911 call at 1:05 AM. What time did Jake call you?” she asked Jason.
“1:13 PM,” Jason answered. “But the line went dead after I picked it up.”
“His phone fell while we were getting in the car,” Cameron told his mother. “Remember? You told him there was no time—that you’d call Jason when you got inside. So we went in.”
“The cops arrived on scene at 1:20 PM,” Diane continued. “That’s seven minutes.” She tipped her head. “They were delayed due to traffic on Quartz Lane and overnight construction. I don’t have the transcript of the call yet or the recording—”
“I thought Aiden called, but that timing wouldn’t match,” Cameron admitted. “Jake told me they were tied up, and that Aiden’s knots were looser so he got them both free. “I got home aa little before one.”
“It all happened so fast,” Elizabeth murmured. “I don’t understand. Who called 911?”
“We’ll know when we get the information. But I need to know what happened after the boys left,” Diane said. “What was the plan?”
“I didn’t know the cops were coming,” Elizabeth admitted. “I, u—” She looked at Jason. “I was going to call you. I thought—” She blanched.
“You were going to ask Jason to get rid of the body,” Cameron said as Elizabeth looked at him, her eyes burning with tears. “It’s okay, Mom. You don’t have to protect me anymore.”
And there was something about that statement that quietly shattered her. The tears slid down her cheek again, and she couldn’t stop them. Diane shifted, uncomfortably as Elizabeth struggled to get herself under control again. She was just so tired of everything.
“You didn’t call me,” Jason said, drawing her attention after a long moment. “Why? What happened?” he repeated Diane’s question.
“I went inside, and then—” Elizabeth hesitated. “I fell—” She touched the back of her neck, at the base of her skull. “Or something hit me. I don’t know.” She closed her eyes. Forced herself back into that terror—
Running inside, her skin like ice, rushing for her phone, trying to dial—then blinding, white light—pain—
She looked at her knees, left bare by her cotton shorts. They were scabbed, the blood having dried. “I fell,” she repeated. “Something hit me—and I fell on the ground.”
Jason took her leg in his and she shivered at his touch, her fingers warmer than her cool skin. “These are scrapes from being dragged,” he told her and she didn’t question how he’d know something like that. “Someone hit you and dragged you. Where did you wake up?”
“The next thing I remember is the living room—I was standing there, and there was an officer shoving his flashlight in my face, asking me if I was high, and who killed Franco. I didn’t even think—I didn’t know—I just said it was me.”
“And Franco was dead in the kitchen. You left him upstairs, on the bedroom floor while you got the boys out of the house,” Diane said. “And while you were outside with them, Franco came down stairs, someone called 911, hit you in the head, and killed him.”
“But—but maybe it was me,” Elizabeth insisted. “Maybe—”
“Someone dragged you across the floor—you must have scraped your knees on something—and Franco was stabbed to death. Someone was with Franco last night,” Jason insisted. “He wasn’t alone.”
“Someone waited while he tried to—” Elizabeth pressed her fist to her mouth, then lurched off the sofa and ran to the bathroom, barely reaching it before she vomited.