Bellamy and the Brute

By: Alicia Michaels

Loose gravel crunched beneath her boots as Special Agent Camila Vasquez navigated the almost-empty parking lot to her car. Darting a glance around, she took in her surroundings, careful to listen for any approaching vehicles or footsteps. Settling her gaze back on her car, she found it undisturbed—no broken windows or picked locks. She took another glance over her shoulder to ensure she hadn’t been followed as she pressed a button on the fob attached to her keychain.

Wellhollow Springs was a small town with a tight-knit community, but she couldn’t afford to let her guard down. After she slid into the front seat, she glanced in the rearview mirror and spied the stack of files laid on her backseat. The information she’d been gathering for the past month would be enough to put a murderer away for the rest of his life. The fact that he was powerful hadn’t intimidated her in the least, but until she’d placed the evidence into the right hands, she couldn’t be too careful.

She placed her takeout box from the Japanese steakhouse on the passenger seat, dropped her purse onto the floor, and retrieved her phone. It vibrated in her hand. Her pulse began to race when she saw who was calling.

Answering quickly, she pressed the phone to her ear. “This is Vasquez.”

A familiar voice reached out to her from the other end of the line. “Vasquez, it’s Jones.”

“Yeah, I know,” she said with a smirk, jamming her key into the ignition and cranking the engine. “Your ugly mug pops up on my screen every time you call me.”

Special Agent Jones laughed, but it came out dry and forced. “That’s real cute. You want the results of this DNA test or what?”

Taking a deep breath, she gazed back through the driver’s side window at the tall pine trees lining the highway beyond her. She’d been feeling as if she were being watched for about a week now, yet when she turned around, no one was ever there. Finding comfort in resting a hand on the sidearm holstered at her hip, she reminded herself that she had protection.

“Let’s have it,” she replied.

“The DNA from skin cells found under Isabella’s fingernails matched the sample of saliva you sent me,” Jones said. “The findings are consistent with the medical examiner’s report—Isabella fought for her life while she was strangled, scratching and clawing. He’s the one, Vasquez. He killed her.”

Her grip tightened on the phone, and her eyes began to sting. Choking down a sob, she fell back against the seat. She’d had her suspicions and a lot of circumstantial evidence. Aside from that, Camila had felt, deep down in her gut, that the man whose DNA she’d painstakingly retrieved from a coffee cup had been responsible for her sister’s murder two years ago. Now, she had proof.

“Are you still there?”

Jones’ voice snapped her back to reality, and she sat up, wiping away a stray tear that had escaped one eye.

“I’m here. I need those results sent to my email as soon as possible. Tomorrow morning, I am going to present everything I have here to the Young County D.A.’s office. That son of a bitch is going to pay for what he did to my sister.”

“Just watch your step,” Jones warned. “I’m not even supposed to be giving you this information, and you’re still on administrative leave pending a psych evaluation.”

Camila rolled her eyes. “A woman insists on investigating the death of a family member, and, suddenly, she’s crazy?”

“I don’t make the rules,” he retorted. “And breaking them could cost me my job.”

“Keep your panties on,” she muttered. “No one’s going to lose their job. Once I bring this guy down, they’ll be apologizing for not taking me more seriously.”

“I hope you’re right, for both yours and Isabella’s sakes. She deserves justice, and you deserve closure. Good luck, Vasquez.”

“I don’t need luck; I have evidence,” she said before ending the call.

The wallpaper of her home screen showed an old picture of her and Isabella. They’d taken the selfie together years ago while sitting on a park bench. Camila held the phone up while her little sister leaned into her, smiling and squinting a bit with the sun in her eyes. Isabella looked radiant and healthy—a far cry from the drug-addicted, waif-thin thing she’d been forced to identify in the morgue.

Giving the photo a sad smile, she sniffed and blinked back a fresh wave of tears.

“Don’t worry, Izzy,” she whispered. “I won’t let him get away with this.”

She placed her phone into the console beneath the radio, threw the car into reverse, and peeled out of the restaurant parking lot. Being one of the few customers leaving at closing time, she found the highway leading back into Wellhollow Springs all but empty. The red taillights of the car in front of her eventually disappeared around one of the many bends in the road, leaving her alone with two walls of pine trees whizzing by on either side.

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