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Notice to Reader:

 

This is the first draft of my novel "Nothing Left To Lose". As I develop the story, I will return to previous chapters to update details to ensure a cohesive flow.

I hope you enjoy the story.  Please leave your comments.

Nothing Left to Lose

by Rayanne Rodier

COPYRIGHT © 2024

Prologue

 

       The early morning fog rolls off the banks of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, the dampness hanging heavy in the air. The fog carries a musty, almost moldy smell in the air that dissipates as the sun rises, and temperatures warm. I can feel the dampness in the air as it clings to my bare skin, leaving drops of dew that run down my face. It is the sensation of trickling water on my skin that slowly awakens me. I try to open my eyes, but the pain shooting through my face makes it nearly impossible. My eyelids are stuck together from mucus and blood, but I manage to open my right eye a sliver. I see blurred lights off in the distance and I am confused about where I am. My left eye won’t open at all, it is swollen shut. I try to calm myself and take a deep breath but can’t open my mouth. My heart races, and panic washes over me.

       I struggle to breathe, my nostrils flaring with each breath, desperate for air. My body aches in ways I never thought possible. What the hell happened to me? My only thought is, I need to get out of here, I need to move. My shoulders scream in pain from my arms being stretched out above me and I slowly lift my arms bringing them back over my head. I scream under the tape that holds my mouth closed. The coppery, metallic taste in my mouth makes me gag a little and I swallow it back. I manage to pull my arms back over my head and close to my chest. My wrists are tightly bound with tape, cutting off the circulation to my hands.

       Tears are streaming down my face now and I lift my hands to my mouth. I need to breath. My fingers are numb, and I fumble to find the edge of the tape. I scratch my face as I frantically claw at the tape covering my mouth. I whimper as I start to pull it back, muffled at first but growing to a scream as my mouth is freed.

       I take in a deep breath drawing the musty dampness of the air into my lungs. I take a moment to breathe and feel the throbbing in my brain as oxygen saturates my blood again and it helps to clear my thoughts. The realization of where I am and what happened, comes rushing over me. I let out a blood curdling scream as remember the feeling of their hands rip off my dress, hold me down and probe every part of my body. The fear of what happened takes hold of me, paralyzing me, and finally, I curl my body in on itself and cry.

       A few minutes pass as I cry and gasp for air. Lying naked on the grass, I feel the coldness of the air seep into my bones and realize my hands are still bound. I start to chew at the tape on my wrists, tasting the blood in my mouth but fear keeps me chewing and tearing at the tape to free myself.

       Now that my hands are free, I crawl on the grass, searching for my clothes. I see the shimmer of my dress a few feet away, and crawl toward it. My fingers feel the softness of the satin and I bury my face in it, wiping away the tears.

       Cold, bruised and aching, I managed to stand up and pull my dress down the length of my body. I wince from the sharp pains in my side from where I had been kicked, and shooting pain from between my legs, now crusted with dried blood.

       I turn in circles and recognize the football field and it all comes rushing back to me. He asked me to go for a walk when the others came out of the shadows and grabbed me.

The thought causes my body to convulse, and I throw up.

Chapter 1 – one week later

 

       Another dreadful Monday.

       Thankfully, there are only two more weeks of school, and I can get out of this hell hole.

       My stomach clenches at the thought of running into the Blonde Squad today.  Mondays, they are at their worst. For the last three years, Charlotte Dunn and her little squad of bleach blondes and plastic boobs have made my life a living hell. They strut down the halls of Roosevelt High like they own the place, and they have dug their claws into me.

       Maybe I deserve it. I know I’m a loser. Awkward. Ugly. Fat. Some days, I just wish my life were over just so I wouldn’t have to look at myself in the mirror anymore, but here I am to suffer another day.

       I try to avoid Charlotte whenever I can, but Monday’s we have English AP30 together first thing in the morning, so she is unavoidable. I would skip class, except that I’ve been accepted into the University of Southern California for Journalism, and I need this scholarship if I am ever going to get out of Portland.

       I make my way through the halls of Roosevelt High, lined with grey lockers and students hanging around by open lockers, grabbing their textbooks, telling stories of weekend parties and Prom night.

       With each open locker, there is a new and equally disgusting smell emanating from it. Some wafting of sweat and gym bags, others of rotten food that was left there over the weekend and occasionally, the pungent smell of weed. I crinkle my nose at the skunky smell and wave my hand in front of my face, trying to wave it away. I scurry in-between the students hoping to avoid my own personal bullies when I turn the corner and walk straight into the back of Brady Mitchell leaning up against one of the lockers.

       “Crap!” I whisper under my breath.

       Brady Mitchell, the football superstar wide receiver, is Charlotte’s boyfriend, and he is particularly mean to me. Last month, he stole my backpack, went in the boy’s bathroom, and pissed in it, and that is not the worst he has done to me, not by a long shot.

       “Sorry Brady,” I said with a tremor in my voice. I tried to walk away but Charlotte was standing on the other side of Brady and reached out, grabbed my arm and spun me back to face them.

       Charlotte is one of the most beautiful girls in our school, with long luscious natural blonde hair, deep blue eyes framed by long lashes, and a perky little nose. She looks like a beauty pageant queen at five foot ten inches, and slender with oversized breasts that her parents bought for her as an early graduation present.

       “Look, I said I’m sorry,” I tried to sound sincere but there was a definite edge of hate to my tone.

        “You better be sorry. You fat fuck.” Brady spat at me, leaving a spray of anger across my face.

        Joel, one of Brady’s friends and teammates stepped forward and stuck his arm out between us, “Brady, just leave her alone. I’m tired of this same crap every day.”

       Stunned, Brady started back at Joel, pushing his arm away, “Stay the hell, out of this.”

        Before things had a chance to escalate, I yanked my arm out of Charlotte’s grip and ran down the hall towards class.

       This may be hard to believe, but Charlotte and I were friends once. We were two giggly, pre-teen girls who spent all our time together, talking about boys and trash talking the other girls in Junior High. But that was lifetime ago, before I embarrassed her online for the whole world to see. I apologized over and over but she’s made it clear, she will never forgive me, and I will pay for humiliating her the way I did.

       I slid into my seat next to my only friend, Lise, who once upon a time was the target of both Charlotte and me in Junior High. Somehow, after the Charlotte fiasco, Lise and I became friends, and when you are radioactive like me, you never take a good friend for granted.

        After the incident, Charlotte banished me from our group of friends. Nobody would talk to me or come near me, and then one day, Lise sat down at my lunch table. Lise never talked, never even looked up at me. It was like I was invisible, but she kept coming back day after day. I tried talking to her, but she wouldn’t say a word. One day I decided to apologize for all the mean things that Charlotte and I did to her and said about her and with every cruel story I recounted, I apologized. She was hurt, I knew it then and I know it still hurts her now. I could see it in her eyes, all glossy, like a tear was about to stream down her face at any moment but she never let a single tear drop fall. Once I apologized for everything, she simply said, “Thank you.”

       I realized in that moment, that all she wanted was acknowledgement. Acknowledgement for all the hurt we caused and now, three years later, I know exactly how hurt and traumatized she really was, because that is exactly how I feel.

       I made it through the rest of the morning classes without further run-ins with Charlotte or Brady. I just wanted this day to be over. Lise and I made our way to the lunch hall, picked a table in the middle of the busy room. You know what they say, “safety in numbers,” but unfortunately, not today.

       Brady strode into to the lunchroom and right over to my table. At six-foot two inches, Brady seemed to loom over me. Once upon a time I had a crush on Brady, his tanned skin, dark brown neatly trimmed hair and brown eyes that had softness in them but not today. He leaned over me from behind, pressing his chest up against my back and nuzzled his face up against my ear and whispered, “Hi Palmer, what the hell was that this morning? Were you just desperate to touch my body, is that it?”

        I couldn’t say a word, I could barely breath. I couldn’t remember being this close to Brady since Junior High when we played Seven Minutes of Heaven, in his parents’ basement.

        He reached his left arm under mine, rubbing my breast as he grabbed a cookie out of my lunch bag. He brought it up to my mouth asking, “you wanna bite?”

        I shake my head, “no thank you.”

        “Okay,” Brady popped the cookie in his mouth, his face so close to mine, I can feel the warmth of his breath against my skin. I can hear him crunch and moan as he ate the cookie, “Mmmm, gotta love that creamy center. I have a creamy center too, but you already know that . . . don’t you?”

        I froze, all the fear from Prom night came rushing back and realization that Brady was there. A single tear slid down my cheek. 

        Lise couldn’t watch any more, “Brady, why don’t you leave us the fuck alone?”

        I could feel the panic settling in, my heart started racing, beads of sweat forming on my forehead and my breath coming in short and shallow gasps.

        Brady whispered in my ear, “maybe tonight we could meet up on the football field and you can taste my creamy filling. Really enjoy it this time.”

       I abruptly push my chair back, putting Brady off balance, knocking him on his ass and yell "Get your fucking hands off me."

Chapter 2

 

       Lieutenant Montgomery Walker leaned back in his chair with his feet up on the desk, drinking coffee and making small talk with the other cops in the bullpen. Monty is the precincts crisis negotiator and behavioral analyst. Using evidence gathered at the crime scenes, information about how the crimes were committed and even information about the victims, helps him to build a comprehensive profile of potential suspects. This profile helps the investigating detectives narrow their search for unknown subjects, or unsubs.

 

        His profiles also help detectives when conducting interviews of suspects and witnesses. Monty seldom joins in on the interviews, he prefers being the guy behind the glass, instead of at the interrogation table, reading body language and feeding information through an earpiece to the detective questioning the subject. 

“I feel like a goddam puppeteer behind this glass,” he always says.

       Monty's partner, Detective Isabelle Stolly, sauntered into the bullpen, slapped Monty’s feet off the desk onto the floor. It was the adult version of pulling the other person’s hair, slightly flirtatious with an undertone of annoyance.

       "Bugger!” His long legs fell to the floor with a thud, “this is my desk Izzy, and I can put me boots up if I want" Monty said with a bit of frustration.

       Monty Walker, in his mid-forties, has real sex appeal. Maybe it’s his Australian accent, or maybe his lean swimmer’s body, or maybe it’s his dirty blonde curly hair, which begs to have fingers run through it? Izzy couldn’t put her finger on it and had to look away to stop herself from being drawn into his soft blue-grey eyes with tiny little wrinkles around the corners. He started the week off clean shaven but by mid week, the light stubble that grew in just added to his inherent sexiness.

        Although Izzy is married, she finds herself sneaking little glances up and down his six-foot two frame and consciously has to remind herself not to nibble at her bottom lip.

       "Do you have any idea, how disgustingly dirty those old cowboy boots are?" said Izzy, trying to shake off her attraction to him, "Besides, it's not polite to have your feet up like that." 

       The boys in the bullpen laughed and shouted encouragement, "You tell him Izzy."

       "Don't encourage her mates!" said Monty. He continued to flip through the file on his desk.

       "So, what's on the agenda today MATE," Izzy said with a hard emphasis on the last word. 

       A smile crept across Monty's lips; he knows how much Izzy hates his colloquial Australian terms, and for that reason, he lays it on extra thick whenever she’s around.

       Originally from Sydney Australia, Monty came to North America at the age of ten with his parents to see the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. He loved the Rocky Mountains and was captivated by the mountain lifestyle. After graduating high school in Sydney, he went back to Canada and moved to the resort town of Banff, Alberta, where he spent his days skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer. A couple of years later, he decided to attend Mount Royal University in Calgary to study criminology and psychology, later joining the Calgary City Police.

       In the fall of 2020, Monty was invited to Portland to give a seminar on crisis negotiation tactics used in Canada, and in the spring of 2022, he was offered a position with the Portland Police Bureau.

       Sliding a file across the desk to Izzy, Monty said, "I’m just finishing up a profile for the captain on those home burglary cases. This guy definitely has inside information. He knows when the families are out of town and where the valuables are kept.” Taking a sip of his coffee, Monty leaned in, “Let me run something past you,” he paused briefly, “all these families have teenagers . . . maybe the burglar is one of their classmates.” Shaking his head in disbelief, “The bugger, learns about the families travel plans from his own mates.” 

       “Huh,” uttered Izzy, tilting her head to the side as she thought about it, “that’s a bit of a leap don’t you think?” Tapping her finger on the file in front of her, “have you profiled any of the students at Roosevelt High?”

       “No. Detective Landon is convinced the targets were random. But it fits the profile. Early twenties, disorganized, with personal knowledge of the victims. I’ve been hesitant to say anything, after all, his son goes to Roosevelt. Probably wouldn’t want me askin’ around about his son, now, would he?” Monty pushed away from his desk and stood.

       “Well, you have to say something and I’m sure Landon isn’t the only cop with a kid that goes there.”

“I know. I’ll bring it up at the briefing this afternoon. In the meantime, I’m starving, let’s head over to Paddy’s for some grub,” said Monty and started towards the elevator.

       In typical cop fashion, they sit in the back of the room, backs to the wall. Paddy’s Bar & Grill, just a few blocks up on Yamhill Street, has the Big Irish Burger topped with corned beef, bacon, cheddar cheese, fried egg and Guiness caramelized onions. Monty could eat that burger every day if his heart wouldn’t give out on him. Izzy on the other hand, always went for the Shepherd’s Pie.

       Taking the booth in the back, Izzy asks, "So, what do you have planned for Rayne's graduation? Doing anything special?"

       Rayne, Monty’s daughter, is graduating Roosevelt High in a couple of weeks. The thought of his little girl growing up almost makes him sad. Sometimes he wishes she were still that young girl who would run into her daddy’s arms when he got home from work. Blinking away the memory, he said, "I'm planning a back yard barbie for her classmates and maybe if your lucky, you’ll get an invite,” Monty said with a smirk on his face, “I’ve already invited half the bullpen.” Raising a hand to wave over the waiter, “If she plans to follow in her Pop's footsteps, she needs to know what hanging around a bunch of coppers is like."

       “You don’t really want her to be a cop, do you?” Izzy said, more of a statement than a question.

       "Rayne’s already been accepted into criminology at Mount Royal University up in Calgary,” he said with immense pride, “my alma mater. Besides, she misses her old mates and her grandparents. It will be hard when she leaves, but I don’t want to hold her back."  

       "You’re a good father,” Izzy said putting her hand over his and giving it a little squeeze before pulling it back abruptly. “You'll get to live the bachelor life again,” she said giving him an over-exaggerated wink. “Just saying, lay that Aussie accent on heavy and you’ll have all the girls throwing themselves at your feet?" teased Izzy.

        Monty's mind drifted to thoughts of his late wife, who died in a car accident five years earlier, leaving him to raise their pre-teen daughter on his own. In Calgary, he had the support of Michelle's family, but the last two years in Portland, it has been just the two of them, and the thought of Rayne leaving feels like a vice tightening around his heart.

       “So, how’s about you meet me at the school tomorrow morning, and we speak to the principal and school counselor? Let’s see who has been causing a ruckus lately?” asked Monty.

        The waiter set a couple of mugs in front of them, pouring them some coffee, and asked, “The usual?”

 

       “Yeah, thanks mate.”

       “Sure, what time?” Izzy poured two packets of sugar in her coffee and topped off her cup cream.

“How about nine? And bring me a coffee and pastry, from Posies while you’re at it?”

       “Sure. No worries, mate!” she said a little annoyed. “So, what are you hoping to find out at the school?”

 

       Their food arrived and the conversation paused a moment as Monty sunk his teeth into his burger. Still chewing, he said, “I’m hoping we can find out who are friends with our victims’ children and with a little luck, a common connection to each of the families.”

Chapters 3 and 4 still to come, May 2024

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