The Perfect Daughter - Joseph Souza



SHE SHOT UP OFF THE MATTRESS, HER FACE BATHED IN A SHEEN OF sweat. Had she just heard something? Or had she suffered another bad dream? She’d been having a lot of them lately, ever since that rich boy from Harper’s Point vanished without a trace. No, something seemed not quite right. She glanced across the bed, registering Ray’s absence. It was just like him to disappear when she needed him most.

The alarm clock on her nightstand flashed 3:32 in red digits. She turned toward the large bay window, which Ray had installed last year, despite having no funds to do so. A wonder the bank had even loaned them the money. And yet it really opened the room up and provided them with a beautiful view of the bay and the ocean far below.

She remained perfectly still. Then she heard it again. A loud crashing noise downstairs. Someone appeared to be mucking about in her kitchen. A jolt of adrenaline spiked through her. She flung off the well-worn quilt, the same quilt her mother had made as a wedding present for them so many years ago. Her mother, God bless her soul, had been one of those quilt-obsessed women who the older she got, the more fanatical about quilts she became.

She walked over to the bay window and noticed that Ray’s beat-up truck was not parked in its usual spot. Not like he hadn’t disappeared from their bed before, often in the middle of the night. She’d gotten used to waking up and not seeing his long, wiry body next to hers.

Another loud smashing noise came from downstairs.

Terror gripped her as she quietly opened the bottom dresser drawer. Reaching down, she punched the four-digit combination into the electronic keypad on the safe and waited a few seconds. The door to the safe opened and revealed the loaded Glock. The sight of the gun scared her, but she was now glad to have it. She picked it up and let its weight settle in the palm of her hand. Then she pulled out her phone and dialed the Shepherd’s Bay Police Department instead of 911, knowing that all 911 calls were directed to a regional dispatcher twenty miles away, and they didn’t know their ass from their elbow about the street patterns in this town. Karl Bjornson answered. She’d known that voice since they were high school sweethearts.

“Someone’s in my house, Karl,” she whispered. “Hurry up and send someone over.”

“You sure it’s not the wind? It’s been blowing pretty hard tonight, and you have all those trees around your property.”

“I know what I’m hearing. The noise is coming from inside my house. Besides, I think I know the sound of wind blowing through the trees.” Something else crashed downstairs and jolted her to the reality of the situation.

“Where’s Swisher?” Swisher had been Ray’s nickname since childhood.

“How the hell should I know? Just send someone—and fast.”

“Okay, Isla. Take it easy. I’ll be right over.”

Holding the gun aloft, Isla tiptoed to the doorway, trying to be as quiet as possible. Her two kids lay asleep in their rooms, hopefully unaware that an intruder was rummaging through their house. She cinched her robe so as not to trip over it and made her way downstairs. Her face grimaced in agony every time one of the worn floorboards creaked underfoot, and she prayed the intruder in her kitchen wouldn’t hear her approaching. She gripped the Glock in hand once she reached the landing.

Her heartbeat raced as she leaned against the kitchen doorframe. She took a few deep breaths, psyching herself up, grateful that she’d always been a light sleeper. Would she have the nerve to shoot the bastard if it came to that? Yes, she realized, she would. Hopefully, the mere sight of her would scare the person away. Besides, her house held nothing of value.

Still gripping the gun with two hands, she held it up by her chin so that the barrel pointed toward the ceiling. Her hands trembled at the prospect of shooting another human being. From the sounds of it, the intruder seemed perfectly fine rummaging around in her kitchen. But what were they looking for? She counted down from three, took a couple of deep breaths, and then jumped out, pointing the weapon.

What she saw surprised her.


ALTHOUGH THE NIGHT SHIFT MEANT EASY MONEY, KARL BJORNSON never liked the crazy hours or the way it wreaked havoc on his body. It threw off his schedule for days to come. But since