Jamming his hands into his sweatshirt pockets, Beck shivered and blinked the sleep out of his eyes with a yawn. He took a step back and looked around, finally able to focus on his surroundings. The neighborhood was a mess, not even counting the mayhem around the house fire. Garbage cans were upended in the middle of the road, one crunched under the wheel of a black sedan with a dent in the side, parked halfway onto the sidewalk, the driver's side door hanging open and spray paint scrawled across the hood. Paper and trash scattered in the wind, littering front yards up and down the street. Beck tilted his head a the sound of another siren, further away, and a distant rumble he realized was shouting.
What in the world was going on?
His dad strode up. "House is empty. The Jensens aren't home," he said, looking up at the fire. "The house is a loss, though. They're pretty much just trying to keep it from spreading to other buildings at this point."
"Do they know how it started?" Beck asked.
His father frowned. "Bunch of kids, apparently. Maybe gang activity. They're not sure," he said. "They came through, causing trouble . . . vandalizing, looting, that kind of thing. Not sure how they started the fire, though. Not sure why they'd want to.
"I don't know." He shook his head, brow furrowed as he turned toward the still-wailing siren. "It seems like this town's gone crazy or something."
Beck opened his mouth to respond, but his ringing phone interrupted his thought. He grabbed it, instantly recognizing his sister's ringtone.
Only heavy breathing and a soft whimper responded.
"Trulee? Is that you?"
"Guess again," a chillingly familiar voice responded.
Beck's heart stopped. "Gina?"
The woman laughed. "What happened to 'Mom?'"
"You lost that privilege a long time ago."
"What's going on?" his father asked. Beck shook his head and held up a finger to hold him off.
"How did I raise such an ungrateful child?" she asked, words slurring. "You're such a disappointment."
"Well, that's nothing new," Beck replied through gritted teeth. "Where's Trulee?"
"Trulee . . . Trulee . . . Truuuuuuleeee . . ." Gina sang tunelessly. "Wouldn't you like to know?"
"What have you done to her?"
"Nothing she didn't deserve," she snapped. "Ungrateful, useless—"
Beck didn't hear the rest of her rant. He hung up the phone and fumbled for his car keys, racing for the house when he realized he'd left them inside.
"Beckett!" His father chased after him, catching him on the way back down the stairs. "What in the world is going on?"
He pushed his way past. "It's Tru. I think she's in trouble."
T.M. Franklin started out her career writing non-fiction in a television newsroom. Graduating with a B.A. in Communications specializing in broadcast journalism and production, she worked for nine years as a major market television news producer, and garnered two regional Emmy Awards, before she resigned to be a full-time mom and part-time freelance writer. Her first published novel, MORE, was born during National Novel Writing month, a challenge to write a novel in thirty days. MORE was well-received, being selected as a finalist in the 2013 Kindle Book Review Best Indie Book Awards, as well as winning the Suspense/Thriller division of the Blogger Book Fair Reader’s Choice Awards.
In addition to MORE and its sequels, The Guardians, and TWELVE, Franklin penned the Amazon best-selling short stories Unscheduled Departure, A Piece of Cake, and Window, which also won a Blogger Book Fair Reader’s Choice Award for Short Story/Fantasy. Her YA romance, How to Get Ainsley Bishop to Fall in Love with You, isFranklin’s first love story without a paranormal or fantasy element, although she believes love is the best kind of magic.
Web site: http://www.TMFranklin.com
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