Abandoned in Death (In Death #54) by J. D. Robb



1





BEFORE


The decision to kill herself brought her peace. Everything would be quiet and warm and soft. She could sleep, just sleep forever. Never again would she hide in the dark when the landlord banged on the door for the rent she couldn’t pay.

Or climb out a window again, to take off. Again.

She wouldn’t have to give blow jobs to some sweaty john to buy food. Or the pills, the pills she needed more than food.

The pills that made everything quiet, even the pain.

Maybe she’d even go to heaven, like it looked in the books in Bible study where everything was fluffy white clouds and golden light and everyone smiled.

Maybe she’d go to hell, with all the fire and the screaming and eternal damnation. Taking a life, even your own, was a big sin according to the Reverend Horace Greenspan, the recipient of her first BJ—payment and penance when he’d caught her lip-locked with Wayne Kyle Ribbet, and Wayne Kyle’s hand under her shirt.

The experience had taught her, at age twelve, it was better to receive than give payment for such tedious services.

Still, suicide ranked as a bigger sin than blowing some grunting asshole for traveling money or a handful of Oxy. So maybe she’d go to hell.

But wasn’t she there already?

Sick, half the time sick, and her skin on fire. Sleeping in her car more often than in a bed. Driving from one crap town to the next.

Trading sex in steamy alleys for pills.

It wasn’t going to get better, not ever. She’d finally accepted that.

So she’d take the pills, enough of the pills so the quiet went on and on and on.

But before she did, she had to decide whether to take her little boy with her. Wouldn’t he be better off, too?

She shifted her gaze to the rearview mirror to watch him. He sat in his grubby Spider-Man pj’s, half-asleep as he munched from a bag of Fritos she’d grabbed from a machine when she’d pumped all but the last few dollars of her money into the gas tank. They kept him quiet, and she needed the quiet.

She hadn’t had time—or just hadn’t thought—to grab anything when she’d scooped him out of bed. She had money—nearly gone now—and pills—far too few of them—stuffed in her purse.

They didn’t have much anyway, and what they did have she’d shoved into a trash bag weeks before. She had another couple of outfits for the kid—nothing clean. But she’d nearly gotten busted trying to lift a T-shirt and jeans for him from a Walmart in Birmingham.

If she got busted they’d take her kid, and he was the only thing completely hers. She’d wanted the best for him, hadn’t she? She’d tried, hadn’t she? Five years of trying after the asshole who got her pregnant told her to fuck off.

She’d done her best, but it wasn’t enough. Never enough.

And the kid was no prize, she had to admit. Whiny and clingy, Christ knew, carrying on so she’d lost babysitters when she’d tried serving drinks or stripping it off in some hellhole.

But she loved the little son of a bitch, and he loved her.

“I’m thirsty, Mommy.”

Thirsty, hungry, tired, not tired. Always something. She’d seen motherhood as something holy once. Until she’d learned it was nothing but constant drudgery, demands, disappointments.

And she wasn’t good enough, just like everyone had told her all her damn life.

She slowed enough to pass the bottle of Cherry Coke between the seats. “Drink this.”

“Don’t like that! Don’t like it! I want orange soda pop! I want it! You’re a bad mommy!”

“Don’t say that. Now, don’t you say that. You know it hurts my feelings.”

“Bad Mommy, Bad Mommy. I’m thirsty!”

“Okay, okay! I’ll get you a drink when I find a place to stop.”

“Thirsty.” The whine cut through her brain like a buzz saw. “Thirsty now!”

“I know, baby darling. We’ll stop soon. How about we sing a song?” God, her head felt like a soggy apple full of worms.

If she could be sure, absolutely sure, she’d die from it, she’d swerve into an oncoming car and be done.

Instead, she started singing “The Wheels on the Bus.” And when he sang with her, she was, for a moment, almost happy.

She’d put one of her pills in his drink, that’s what she’d do. He’d sleep—she’d given him a portion of a pill before when she’d needed him to sleep. But she’d give him a whole one, and wouldn’t he just drift away to heaven?