Deep Hurt - Eva Hudson




Two Pies Press


Ingrid Skyberg reached the stairway in her apartment building and stupidly looked up at the dozen or so flights ahead of her. The action meant she lost momentum completely. It was a bad habit she’d gotten into after her daily five-mile run, and that brief pause made the final climb seem ten times harder. Nevertheless, ignoring the burn in her thighs and calves, she pushed on up, two steps with each stride, her breath labored, but her mind gloriously clear.

Triumphantly, she reached the top floor and punched the air. Just as she was putting her key in the lock, her cell phone buzzed. She answered the call without looking at the screen to see who was calling. Big mistake.

“Ingrid? Is that you?” Svetlana Skyberg’s Russian accent was still unmistakable even after nearly forty years in the US.

“Who else would it be? You’re calling me on my cell.” Ingrid turned the key and kicked open the apartment door. Speaking to her mother instantly made her feel like a petulant teenager. She tried to subdue the irritation the sound of her mother’s voice always provoked. “Everything all right? You OK?” Ingrid hadn’t spoken to her in months.

“Me? Of course I am OK. Why wouldn’t I be?”

The indestructible Svetlana Skyberg: two packs of specially imported unfiltered cigarettes a day for the last forty years and still going strong. Ingrid shut the apartment door with her behind and wandered into the kitchen. She pulled a fresh bottle of water from the fridge. “Then why are you calling?” A split second later, she remembered. How could she have forgotten? Svetlana only contacted her when… Ingrid got a sinking feeling in her stomach.

Oh no, not again.

“Have you seen TV? It is on the news in England?”

“I don’t own a TV.”

“Why not? Is FBI not paying you enough to buy a TV now?”

“Mom… tell me why you’re calling.”

“They found another house.”

Ingrid closed her eyes and made a low moaning sound.

“What? You’re complaining? You don’t even know what I am going to tell you. You need to know. You must listen to me.”

“Please, Mom. I don’t have time for this. I have to get ready for work.”

“So now you can’t spare five minutes for something so important?”

Ingrid knew the amount of time she spent speaking with Svetlana was irrelevant—as soon as she put the phone down she’d replay the events of eighteen years ago over and over. It was the anger and resentment, swiftly followed by guilt and remorse, that would go on for hours afterwards.

“Three girls, they found this time. Alive. You hear me? Alive.” She took a deep breath. Ingrid pictured her sucking on one of her long cigarettes. “What am I saying? They are not girls. Not now. They are full grown women. One of them is thirty-two. For God’s sake, Ingrid—don’t you see what I’m saying? She is Megan’s age.”

A chill ran across Ingrid’s shoulders and down her arms. Her hands started trembling. She was still sticky with sweat from her run, but suddenly so cold. “Have they identified them?”

“Not yet. Already they have given the police their ages. But not names. Or maybe the police are not telling the news people.”

Ingrid wandered into the living room and rested one hand on the back of the beaten up old leather couch to steady herself. Was it possible? Could Megan Avery still be alive? Her mouth had gone dry. “What else do the news reports say? Have they apprehended the perpetrator?”

“You mean have they arrested the stinking bastard who did this? What’s the matter with you, sounding so much like a cop? You’re speaking to your mother. We are talking about your friend.”

“I’m an FBI agent, how do you want me to sound?”

“Like a goddamn human being for once.”

Ingrid pulled the phone from her ear and considered hanging up. She could hear her mother still speaking at the other end, the words indistinct, the sound just an annoying buzz in the distance, but the tone of her voice was unmistakably angry. Like a wasp trapped inside a jar. They always had this effect on one another, Svetlana had an uncanny knack of pressing all of Ingrid’s buttons. It wasn’t even the words themselves, her accusatory tone was enough to make Ingrid want to scream at her. And yet her mother was the picture of charm itself with her friends back home. She saved her criticism for her only child. Ingrid had never been able to do anything right in Svetlana’s eyes.