Monday, December 23, 9:30 am
Burn, baby, burn.
Moody turned to talk to Melanie but her neighbor was nowhere around. Taking her place was a pale girl with too much black makeup who didn’t look older than fifteen. Turning back toward the fire, Moody waited for the firemen to do their job and start bringing out the bodies, if there were any.
Nothing that happened in Rubicon Ranch seemed complete without a body or two. She sighed out loud but no one around her heard. The murmur of the gathering mixed with the sound of approaching sirens.
As she stood with the gathering crowd of onlookers, firemen hustled toward the burning house. Not that it would do them any good; this place was in the throes of a full-on hellfire.
Nothing like a little arson to start Monday morning off with a bang. Moody covered her nose and tried not to breathe in the acrid oily odor wafting through the air. The firemen were sure to recognize the smell of kerosene. Or possibly not. They were volunteer firemen and most of them were barely out of high school.
Then, again, maybe it was good that the local yokels were not that swift on the uptake. If they had been really sharp in the past, Moody would be sharing a cell with her brother.
She was used to deviousness but not covert criminal activity. With practice she was becoming perfect. Or nearer to perfection. She had her father to thank for that.
Morris was the master of misdirection. Almost nothing he did came back to haunt him. He was expert at using scapegoats and got away with more than anyone would ever know, save Moody. He was a wily old man before death finally caught up to him.
Death, death, death. Rubicon Ranch was the Mecca for grisly demises. At least Nancy didn’t burn to death. Her end was less messy and infinitely more amusing.
She hoped they put the fire out quickly. She was tired of standing around but she couldn’t walk back to her house with all the groupies and tour bus gawkers waiting for more exciting things to happen. That’s all she needed—to be recognized by the Morris Gang.
It was true that the criminal almost always comes back to the scene of the crime. She saw a few familiar faces and many unfamiliar ones. The Morris groupies stood out as did the regular tourists with their cameras and khaki shorts. Moody looked around and wondered how many of these people were guilty of big and small misdeeds.
Arson was a very big misdeed, indeed. If it was arson, she thought. Maybe someone knocked over a kerosene lamp.
That was funny. This wasn’t a frontier town and it certainly wasn’t uncivilized. Dangerous, yes, but with all the modern conveniences.
Moody turned as she heard airbrakes. Another tour bus pulled up behind the first one. More morons who had nothing better to do than tour the death community.
Great, now the local police department had arrived and they were not in a good mood. Their crime scene had been incinerated. Two officers started yelling at everyone to back up. This had the effect of drawing more people to the area directly in front of the smoldering house.
She watched as several officials scanned the crowd. Before any could swivel her way, she backed up and in between people around her. She had no desire to talk to the police out in the open. They knew where to find her.
The crowd had grown considerably larger. Walking nonchalantly toward her house, she felt eyes on the back of her head. Moody did not like to be watched in any shape or form. It was a loss of control and she was never going to be on the losing end of control again.
Turning around, she was a little surprised to see a casually dressed young man looking after her as she walked. When she met his eyes, he winked. Moody stood stock still. She had no idea what to do. Did he know her secrets?
Get it together, Sinclair, she told herself as she realized he was flirting with her. He was just a young kid watching a fine butt walk away. He was not her type, of course. He didn’t look like he’d be easy to control and having control was what mattered in Moody’s life.
And he was way too young. Moody had always been attracted to the much older, much darker souls. Another thing to thank Morris for. The way he’d raised her had ruined her for normal life. The old demon bastard.
The Sinclair in her blood was cold and calculating. She would go to hell and back to make sure no could control her again.
Never. Ever. Ever.
As Moody approached her house, one of the tour buses was slowly navigating around the sudden traffic congestion on her road. Gawkers hung their cameras out of the open windows. Luckily they were pointing toward Moody’s house and not at her.
Unfortunately, the bus slowed to a stop right in front of Melanie Gray’s house. Moody’s plan to sneak in through the front door was blown. She couldn’t even creep though the garage. She’d have to go around the opposite side so no one on the bus could see her.
The no-man’s land had grown up considerably since the last time she’d looked out the kitchen window. She didn’t mind leaving the eyesore of overgrown weeds and trash in the strip of land between her house and the one next door. Continuing the tradition her father had set, she pretended not to see it.
Except for now. It was a mess. With the Morris worshippers hanging around her house when she wasn’t looking, the area was a pigsty. Broken bottles, enough cigarette butts to fill a large bucket and a few dried and shriveled condoms were scattered among the other trash.
“Ick,” she said aloud before she could stop herself. It was enough to make her rethink walking through the area. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to go in the front.
A loud speaker interrupted her thoughts.
“The Sinclair house is the current resident of Morris Sinclair’s only remaining child. Mary Sinclair is the spitting image of her famous father and she inherited his vast estate.”
Good grief. Talk about misinformation. She wasn’t the only living Sinclair child and she certainly wasn’t the clone of Morris.
Now she knew she’d take her chances with the side yard. Carefully stepping around and over the debris, her foot landed on a dark brown patch of hard earth.
“Hello,” she whispered to the universe. “What have we here?”
It wasn’t a hard piece of ground her foot landed on. It was a piece of leather, or more precisely, a nice leather purse.
Moody scooped the purse up and hurried inside the house before a groupie could spot her. Spilling part of the contents on the countertop, she wondered which stupid Morris moron had left their purse by her house.
The wallet was nice and didn’t look like the usual fare she would expect from a dark child wannabe.
“Oh,” involuntarily escaped her mouth as she read the name on the license. Nancy Garcetti. Was this providence or what, she thought.
Dumping the rest of the purse’s secrets, she barked a laugh so loud and forceful, Satan whined in doggy worry. She leaned down to pet him as he continued to whine. Was he trying to warn her? Or was he simply hungry? Or did he know something beyond his doggy mentality?
Moody’s hand shook in excitement as she turned the first page of the little worn notebook. This was the beginning of an insidious adventure for Moody and she felt her heredity rise to the challenge. How awesome was the universe when it gave the daughter of Morris Sinclair the keys to others’ misfortune?