Anew beginning (second chance #1)

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A New BeginningThe Second Chance Series

Book One 

Christina Escue

 Copyright

 

Copyright © 2014 Christina Escue

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means without prior written permission of the copyright owner. This is a work of fiction.

 

Acknowledgements

 

I would like to start by thanking each and every one of you who are reading my first novel. If not for readers, authors would have no one to write for.

I’d like to send out a very special thank you to my beta readers for taking the time to read, comment and correct. Malinda Diehl, Linda Cline, Deana Mesman, Corrina Price, Rachael Wallace, Rachel Mapp and Dayron Colon, y’all are invaluable to me. Thank you all so much for your feedback. I look forward to working with y’all again.

I’d like to send a huge thank you to the author of every book I’ve ever read, without these great authors creating their different worlds I would have been lost in my own.

There are a few authors who have supported me along this journey that I want to give a special thanks to.

Erica Stevens, thank you for always being there to answer my questions, offer advice, letting me use you in my book and for being an amazing friend and mentor. You’re not only an excellent author, but you’re an all-around great person too. You’re awesome.

D.L. Colon, thank you for helping me keep focused and for letting me bounce ideas off of you. You have been awesome throughout this entire process. Also thank you for your continued support and your ear when I needed to vent. You’re an invaluable friend.

Cheryl Davis, thank you for offering advice and helping in every way you could. You’re a great friend.

Next I’d like to send a huge thanks to Jesk at Taurus Designshttp://www.taurusdesigns2.com/for making my beautiful cover.

To my beautiful daughters and the most loving and supportive man in the world, thank you for standing beside and supporting me though the entire writing process. Y’all are my life, my world, my happiness and without y’all I’d be nothing.

 

Dedication

 

 

This book is dedicated to every child in the entire world who has suffered from abuse at the hands of someone who was supposed to be caring for them. You are all survivors and you are all stronger than people think.

 

Chapter One

             

 

“Karla, get your butt in gear, we’ve got to go. Now!” Karla heard her mother yelling as she ran down the hall of the small, dingy apartment they’d been living in for the past two months. Rent is due tomorrow and she’s drank away all the money again, Karla thought to herself as she grabbed her books, and what few clothes she had, and tossed them into a garbage bag. She took a deep, calming breath before she answered her mother.

“I’m ready mom.” Karla yelled back, praying her mother wasn’t drunk enough to hit her again for raising her voice.

“Karla, let’s go. I don’t have time to deal with you right now, but when we get away from here you will be dealt with for taking that tone with me. I am your mother and I demand your respect. Now get in the car before I change my mind and just leave you here.”

As Karla walked away her mother said, “I should have just had an abortion like my parents wanted me to.”

Having heard it all before, Karla wasn’t hurt by these words anymore. According to Diane, that’s what she called her mother in her head, but if she ever called her by her name out loud she’d never live to tell about it; she’s the reason for everything bad that’s ever happened to them. If not for Karla, Diane would be married, have a beautiful home and have children that were well mannered, well behaved and respected their elders.

As the beat up Ford Tempo they’re in pulled away from the curb their landlord ran out and chased them down the street, yelling profanities and shaking his fist. “Stupid man,” Diane said with laughter in her voice. “Doesn’t he know that he can’t catch us?”

Karla, not wanting to catch her mother’s wrath, just shook her head. “I guess not mom.”

“Wanna know why we had to take off like that?”

“Sure,” Karla answered, knowing she was about to hear another of Diane’s sob stories. She’d heard all those before too.

“Tony, the dirt bag, ran off with Leeanne and took all the cash I had saved to pay rent. Wanna know why he ran off with Leeanne?” She asked, but didn’t wait for Karla to answer before she continued. “It’s ‘cause she didn’t have a little ungrateful, disrespectful brat like you to take care of. She was free to go wherever, and do whatever, he wanted to do. It’s all your fault that we had to leave again. I hope you’re happy. You never liked Tony anyway. Spreading your legs for him then trying to tell me he raped you. Stupid kid, you had to go and ruin my happiness with your lies and jealousy.”

As her mother continued to rant and blame her for everything, Karla was transported back to that night. The night Tony had hurt her so bad. It was only a couple of weeks ago, so the memories were still fresh in her mind.

The way his breath smelled of whiskey, the way his callused hands had felt as they touched her in places she’d never been touched before, the pain she felt when he invaded her body. The sickening feeling of him inside her, beating her from the inside like he’d beaten her from the outside in the past. When it was over all she could do was curl up and cry. She told her mother about it the next day, but Tony had already told his version of what happened and, unsurprisingly, her mother believed him.

Shaking with fear, she tried to rid herself of the memories. When she finally composed herself enough to look around she noticed they are on the interstate and was curious about where they were going. “Where are we going mom?” She asked tentatively, knowing the slightest thing could set Diane off.

“Not that it’s really any of your business, but we’re heading to Nashville so I can try my hand at singing”

“How long will it take us to get there?”

“You’re pushing it kid, but I’ll answer ya anyway. It’ll take about ten hours to get there. Now crawl in the back and go to sleep, I’m tired of looking at ya.”

Karla crawled over the seats and stretched out across the ripped cushion. She wasn’t tired so she just laid there, watched the lights of the other cars go past and thought about what her life would be like if she were born as anyone other than Karla Ann Hall.

With that thought in her head she drifted off to sleep and dreamed of such a life.

A few hours later Karla was pulled from her dreams by someone banging on the window of the car, apparently Diane had pulled off the interstate to sleep at a rest stop, not having the money for even a cheap hotel room. Karla cracked her eyes open, but didn’t move another muscle in her body. She saw that the person banging on the window was a man. He was tall, skinny and scruffy looking; just Diane’s type, Karla thought to herself as Diane woke in the driver’s seat.

“Well hey there handsome.” Diane said when she rolled her window down to talk to the stranger.

“Where ya headed beautiful?” The man asked as he looked Diane’s body up and down when she got out of the car.

“On my way to Nashville. Gonna try my hand at singing. What about you?”

“I’m going anywhere you are, if you’ll take me with you.”

Diane nodded her head as her face lit up in a huge smile. “Sure, hop in. Oh, I have a kid, but she won’t cause any trouble, will ya Karla?” Diane said with an evil glare at Karla, who was now sitting up in the back seat.

“No ma’am. No trouble from me.” She said with a sweet smile, knowing if she didn’t Diane would beat the crap out of her at the first opportunity.

“That’s what I thought,” Diane said to Karla, before she turned back to the stranger. “I’m Diane by the way.”

“Nice to meet you Diane, I’m Garrett.” He replied, his eyes never leaving Karla.

As the two of them got into the car Karla thought to herself; here we go again.                            

Chapter Two

             

 

Karla awoke in a dingy, run-down one room apartment over a free-lance recording studio on Second Avenue in Nashville. Six weeks had passed since Diane had picked up Garrett at that rest area and things had gone from bad to worse for her.

Garrett was, in some ways, worse than Tony. He never touched her like Tony did, but he was a mean drunk, like Diane, and Karla was his favorite punching bag. She looked at the clock on the wall and stretched, she instantly regretted moving as pain radiated through her body. She thought Garrett may have broken a couple of her ribs this time.

As she tentatively moved again the music from the recording studio started pounding into the apartment. She felt the drum beats pulsating through her body like a second heart beat, and with every beat the bruises covering her body throbbed harder.

She tried to tune out the music as she wondered where Diane and Garrett were. She looked at the clock again and saw that it was almost nine in the morning, they should be home by now. When her stomach growled loudly she went in search of something to eat.

She looked in the two cabinets above the sink, in the small refrigerator, even in the trash can and there is nothing to eat in the apartment. “Why am I not surprised?” She asked out loud to the empty room. Shaking her head she walked to the one bed in the room and lifted the mattress, if there was any money in the apartment, that’s where it’d be.

Finding the hiding place empty, Karla sighed and dropped the mattress back in place. “Well isn’t this just great. I really hate you Diane. You and Garrett can both rot in hell for all I care.”

She turned away from the bed and her eye caught the calendar that was hanging on the wall when they’d moved in. She’d been checking the dates off since she noticed it hanging there that first day.

She walked over to add the red X through yesterday and noticed that today was July 14th, her birthday. She was officially fourteen years old. “Well at least they’re leaving me alone today.”

Not wanting to listen to the growling of her stomach any longer, she went back to her corner in the room, sat on her blanket and hugged her knees to her chest. She laid her head on her knees and let the beat of the drums from below lull her back to sleep.

When she woke up again she noticed that several hours had passed and Diane and Garrett haven’t returned yet, if they had they would have woken her up. It was six o’clock, and she had gone more than twenty-four hours without eating. She was hungry, desperate and more than a little scared when she left the apartment in search of someone who could help her.

After she’d walked a couple of blocks she came across this little market that looked out of place in this big city. She decided to try her luck, hoping that since it was clearly a family-owned market, there wouldn’t be any security and she could steal just enough food to survive; it wouldn’t be the first time she’d had to steal food in order to survive.

She walked into the cool, air-conditioned building and just stood there a minute, looking around at all the food lining the shelves. She only saw one person besides herself in the store and he was over by the cold foods. If she could sneak down the canned food aisle and snag a couple cans of spaghetti and meatballs, and maybe a jar of peanut butter and some crackers, she’d be able to eat for a couple of days.

She got the spaghetti and meatballs into her bag without incident, but when she went to drop the peanut butter in, a hand came down hard on her shoulder, making her wince in pain from Garrett’s most recent beating.

“Hold it right there young lady. Just what do you think you’re doing? The stuff in this store ain’t free.”

Chapter Three

 

 

“I’m..I’m…I’m..sorry sir. I’m just so hungry and I don’t know where my mom and her boyfriend are and I haven’t eaten since yesterday. I’m sorry, I’ll put it back.” Karla stammered, as terror filled her.

“Calm down kid. What’s your name?”

“I’m Karla, please don’t hurt me. I’ll put it back, I swear.”

“Well Karla, it isn’t that easy. See, I’m a police officer and I saw you putting that stuff in your bag. That’s shoplifting, and it’s a crime, so I don’t have any choice but to call your parents. If you put the stuff back it’ll help though.”

Karla, afraid of what Diane and Garrett would do to her if they found out, erupted into tears. She’d get the beating of a lifetime for this one.

When the police officer patted her back to try and calm her, she cried out in pain. He looked at her with a curious expression and moved to touch her back again, only to have her move out of his reach.

“Karla, I’m going to ask you some questions and I want you to answer them honestly. If you lie to me you’ll be in a lot of trouble. Do you understand?”

Karla nodded her head yes, but took a small step away from him.

“First I want to introduce myself. My name is Trent, or Detective Greeves, you can call me either. Now, what’s your full name?” Trent asked as he pulled a small, black notebook and a pen from the pocket on his shirt.             

“Karla Ann Hall”

“Okay Karla, what’s your address?”

“I don’t know the address. We’ve only lived there for a few weeks, but I can tell you where it is.” Karla answered, trying not to show how scared she was.

“Okay then, tell me where you live.”

Karla hesitated, her fear taking over for a minute, as she wondered if this man really was a police officer or if he was just trying to get her to tell him where she lived so he could hurt her later.

“How do I know you’re really a cop and not just someone else trying to hurt me?” She finally got the courage to ask.

“That’s a very good, and very smart, question Karla. Would you like to talk to a few people that know who I am?”

“Yes please.” Karla answered in a quiet voice, feeling relieved that he didn’t hit her for questioning him.

“I’m going to call my Captain and have him come down here, in uniform, so you can meet him. Will that help?” After Karla nodded Trent continued. “While I make the call I’m going to have the owner of this store come over and talk to you, okay?”

Karla nodded her head again because she was too afraid to talk.

“Come with me and I’ll introduce y’all before I call my Captain.” Trent took her hand gently and led her to the front of the store. When they got to the only cash register in the store he smiled at the older lady behind the counter. “Mrs. Jones, this is Karla. Can you keep an eye on her for me while I call my captain and get him down here? She doesn’t believe I’m a cop.” He shrugged his shoulders and chuckled like it was inconceivable that anyone would question his being a cop.

Mrs. Jones looked at Trent with kind eyes and smiled. “Of course I don’t mind keeping an eye on her while you make your call.”

“Thanks Mrs. Jones. Karla, are you okay staying here until I’m finished? I’ll be right outside the front door.”

Karla nodded, not missing the hidden message in his words.

When Trent walked off, Mrs. Jones looked at Karla and smiled again. “Would you like a glass of milk and some cookies while we wait?”

Karla, afraid to accept Mrs. Jones’ offer, but more afraid of being disrespectful answered, “Yes ma’am, thank you,” and followed Mrs. Jones to the small office beside the front counter.

Chapter Four

 

 

As Trent walked out the door he looked back and saw Mrs. Jones leading Karla into the small office beside the front desk. He shook his head and smiled. That’s one frightened little girl, he thought to himself as he pulled his cell phone from his pocket and called his Captain.

“Captain McGraw” A gruff voice answered after the second ring.

“Captain, Greeves here. We have a bit of a situation at Jones’ Market over here on fourth. A young girl, between the ages of eleven and thirteen, is in here and I caught her shoplifting. Now, normally I’d just make her return what she took and take her home, but this situation is more complicated than that. There are visible signs of abuse and neglect, she’s scared to death just talking to me and she doesn’t trust that I’m a police officer. I think she’s afraid I’m gonna hurt her.”

“What are you thinking about doing? Procedure says you have to arrest her or take her home.” McGraw said in his deep, gravelly voice.

“There’s no way I’m taking her home, plus she said her mom and her mom’s boyfriend weren’t there. I have a favor to ask, sir. I need you to come down here in your Captain’s uniform and talk to her. Maybe then she’ll believe I’m a cop and will give us some more information.”

“Son, you’re lucky I have a press conference later today and I’m already in my uniform or you’d be gettin’ a flat out NO to that request. Since I am, I’ll be there in about fifteen minutes, ten if I use my lights and sirens.”

Trent chuckled a little at the thought of straight laced McGraw abusing his position to get somewhere faster. “I’ll see ya in fifteen sir.” Trent responded before he ended the call, slid his phone back into his pocket and walked back inside the air conditioned market.

When Trent looked in the office he saw Karla and Mrs. Jones sitting side by side on the small couch, looking through photo albums. He stood there and watched them for a minute, remembering all the time he spent in this very office as a child, before he cleared his throat to let them know he’s there.

Karla jumped like she’d been shot at and looked up at Trent with a deer in the headlights expression on her face. She kept her eyes on him as he slowly moved into the office and sat in the chair beside the small desk. “Captain McGraw will be here in a few minutes so you can see that I am really a police officer,” Trent said to Karla. “Would you like to see my badge before he gets here?”

Karla nodded and murmured, “Yes, sir. If you don’t mind.”

Trent pulled his badge from his pocket and handed it to Karla. She took it from his hand, without touching him, and looked at it intently for a couple of minutes before handing it back to him. Her fear seemed to ease just a bit as she looked at Mrs. Jones and asked in a soft voice, “Can I please use the restroom ma’am?”

Mrs. Jones looked at Karla with kind eyes, “Sure honey, the bathroom is right over yonder on the other side of the desk.” When Karla went into the bathroom and shut the door Mrs. Jones looked at Trent with sad eyes and said, “That child’s been beat by somebody.”

“Yeah, that was my observation too ma’am.”

“Young man don’t you go all official soundin’ on me. I remember when you were nothing but a scared little kid yourself, comin’ in here talkin’ like you were all big and tough. Ya found a nice family who straightened ya out. Now, what’re ya gonna do about that scared little girl in there?”

Unable to hide his smile at her words, Trent just shook his head. “That’s not my call, but I can tell ya the Captain won’t send her home. Not with those bruises.”

“That Captain of yours better not or he’ll have me to answer to. I may be old, but I can still whip his scrawny butt.”

Just then they heard the automatic doors swish open and stood up. When they walked out of the office Captain McGraw was standing by the counter in full uniform. “Alright son, where’s this little girl I need to talk to?”

Karla walked out of the office, took one look at Captain McGraw and burst into tears.

Chapter Five

 

 

Karla was crying for the first time in years. She couldn’t remember when the last time was that she’d cried, but she knew it was before Pops had died, and she had just turned eight when that happened. As her tears started to slow she looked up at the three adults in the room.

Mrs. Jones was looking at her with concern in her eyes, Trent was looking at her with a worried expression and the man she assumed was Trent’s Captain, was looking at her in confusion. When Trent offered her a handkerchief she took it and wiped her eyes. “Thank you, sir. I’m sorry, I usually don’t cry like that.”

“Karla, honey, it’s alright to cry. We all cry at times, even me.”

“Not me, I haven’t cried in a long time.”

“Karla, if you’re feelin’ better can we have that talk now?” Trent asked, cautiously.

Karla sniffed loudly and nodded her head. “Yes sir, I’m good now.”

“Karla, I’m Captain McGraw. Can you answer a few questions for me?”

“Yes sir.”

“Detective Greeves tells me your name is Karla Ann Hall.” Karla nodded and Captain McGraw continued, “Can you tell me your mama’s name?”

“Diane Virginia Hall”

“Okay Karla, thank you. Where are you from?”

“Well, we’ve moved around a lot, but we came to Nashville from Daytona Beach Florida about six weeks ago.”

“Alright, where do you live here in Nashville?”

“In an apartment over a recording studio on Second Avenue.”

****

As Captain McGraw questioned Karla, Trent walked out of the office to run her mom’s name and see if he could track her down. He called his partner to have her name run. “Lieutenant, I need a name run through here and Daytona Beach Florida.”

“Hit me with it partner.”

“Diane Virginia Hall, I don’t know her age.”

“Running it now and I’ll call ya back if I get a hit.”

“Thanks Lieutenant. Captain McGraw is in with her daughter right now and we really need her info ASAP.” Trent disconnected the call and started to walk back into the office when his cell phone rang. “Greeves,” he answered without looking at the caller ID.

“Greeves, you ain’t gonna believe this crap, but I think we have your lady here in lock up. She was brought in just after midnight on drug soliciting charges. I’ll send her picture to your cell and you can show it to the kid to see if it’s her.”

“Well that would explain why Karla said she didn’t know where her mom was. Sure send it to me, but I have a feeling she’s gonna confirm this is her mama. Thanks Lieutenant.”

“No problem, Greeves. Hope this info helps. If you need anything else just give me a holler, I’ll be here.”

Trent hung up and his phone immediately signaled an incoming picture message. When he downloaded and looked at the picture he knew, without a doubt, that this was Karla’s mother, they looked just alike.

When he walked back into the office Captain McGraw was still questioning Karla. “Captain I hate to interrupt, but can I talk to Karla for a minute?”

“Yep, I’ve asked what I needed too.”

“Karla, I talked to my partner and he sent me a picture of a lady that I think is your mama. Would you mind looking at it for me?”

Karla’s eyes went wide as she nodded her head, unable to speak. Trent pulled the picture up on his phone and turned it around for Karla to see. She took the phone from him, looked at it for about fifteen seconds and nodded her head again, “Yes sir, that’s Diane..ummm… I mean my mom.”

“Captain, can I talk to you outside for a second?”

McGraw started to nod, but Karla interrupted him. “You can talk in front of me. I’ve dealt with it all before.” Karla dropped her head and continued quickly; fear lacing her words, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have interrupted you. Please don’t hit me.”

Mrs. Jones’ eyes widened in surprise as Captain McGraw looked at Karla and reassured her, “Honey, ain’t no one here gonna hit you. I can promise you that.”

“But..but..I was disrespectful. I have to be punished.” Karla stammered, afraid of what they may do to her.

“Karla, no one here is gonna hurt you in any way. Want to tell why you think you need to be punished?”

“It’s just what grow-ups do. Can I ask a question?” Karla asked, trying to change the subject. When Trent nodded she continued, “Why do you have a picture of my mom on your phone?”

Taking the hint, Trent dropped the subject. “Captain, Karla, Diane Hall was arrested a little after midnight on drug soliciting charges. She’s in county lock-up.” He looked at Karla and continued, “That’s why she didn’t come home.”

Karla’s mouth dropped open in shock as her world was flipped upside down.

Chapter Six

 

 

Karla was still in shock fifteen minutes later when Captain McGraw called the Department of Children’s Services.

“Department of Children’s Services. This is Maggie, how may I direct your call?”

“This is Captain McGraw, Metro/Davidson County PD. I need to speak with a supervisor please.”

“Captain, if you’ll hold please I’ll connect you with Mr. Jennings. He’ll be able to help you.”

“Thanks Maggie. ‘Preciate it” While McGraw waited he watched Karla. She had finally calmed down and snapped out of it.

****

“Detective Greeves. Can I ask you something?” Karla asked quietly.

“Sure Karla, you can ask me anything.”

“What’s going to happen now? Where am I going to go?”

Trent scratched his head as he tried to figure out how much to tell Karla. “Well, Captain McGraw is on the phone with the Department of Children’s Services and they’ll send someone out to talk to you. From there you’ll be turned over to them and they’ll find you a safe place to sleep.”

“But..but..why can’t I stay at my apartment? If Garrett comes home and I’m not there…” Karla started, but trailed off without finishing.

“Karla, who’s Garrett?” Trent asked, figuring out that Garrett is the one Karla was truly scared of.

“My mom’s boyfriend.”

“What’s his last name?”

“I have no idea. She picked him up at a rest area on the way here.”

Trent wondered to himself why the mother of a young teenager would just pick up a strange man at a rest area. He’d never met anyone that irresponsible before.

“Can you tell me what he looks like?”

“Umm..yeah. He’s tall, about your height I guess. He has brown hair and really big hands. He has a tattoo on his chest, but I can’t remember what it is.”

“That’s okay Karla. What about your father? Can you tell me anything about him?”

“I only know that his first name is Alexander and he’s originally from Puerto Rico, but she met him in Dallas, which is where she’s from.”

“Alright Karla. I’ll see what I can find out about him from your mama. Anything else you can tell me about your family?”

“My mom’s parents lived in Dallas, but they’re dead now and she was an only child.”

“Okay Karla.” Trent said, before he walked over to where Captain McGraw stood.

“How’d it go Greeves?”

“She doesn’t know anything about her father and her grandparents are dead. Garrett, the boyfriend, is a piece of work and so is her mama. She picked him up at a rest area somewhere in Georgia and I’m pretty sure he’s the one who put all those bruises on Karla.”

“Do we have a last name on him?”

“No, sir. Karla could only give me a basic description, but she did say he has a tattoo on his chest. That may help if she can remember what it is.”

“We’ll see what we can figure out, but in the meantime DCS is on the way here. Think Mrs. Jones can keep Karla busy while we talk to them?”

“Sir, if anyone can keep a teenager busy and out of trouble it’s Mrs. Jones.” Trent replied with a smile, remembering how much trouble she’d kept him out of as a teenager. “I’ll go talk to her and let her know what’s goin’ on.”

“Thanks Greeves. I’d ‘preciate it if you’d ask her to keep Karla in the back for a while. I don’t wanna upset that little girl more than necessary.”

“No problem, Captain. Anything to help Karla. She seems so lost.”

After Captain McGraw walked outside to wait for DCS, Trent walked over to where Karla and Mrs. Jones talked quietly. He crouched down in front of Karla until he met her startling green eyes. “Karla, would you mind hangin’ out in Mrs. Jones’ office for a while? Captain McGraw and I are gonna talk to the representative from DCS and then we’ll be back there to talk to ya.” He waited for Karla to nod her agreement before he turned to Mrs. Jones. “Do you mind hangin’ out with Karla for a bit?”

“Of course I don’t mind spendin’ time with this sweet child. You and McGraw do whatcha need to do. We ain’t goin’ anywhere.” Mrs. Jones grabbed Karla’s hand gently and led her into the office as Trent walked outside to wait with Captain McGraw.

Chapter Seven

             

 

Bob Jennings pulled into the parking lot of Jones’ Market fifteen minutes later and immediately saw Captain McGraw, a longtime friend of his, and Detective Greeves, a decorated officer who’d been with Metro/Davidson Police force for more than ten years. After he stopped the car he stepped out into the oppressive July heat and walked over to where they were standing, just outside the front doors of the store.

              “John, Trent, how’s it goin’? Whatcha got for me?”

              “Hey Bob, we have a girl, 14 years old, inside the store. Greeves caught her shoplifting and noticed signs of serious abuse and neglect. Her name is Karla and her mama’s sittin’ in lock-up at the moment on drug solicitation charges. I’m gonna be adding child abuse and neglect just as soon as I make it back to HQ.”

              “Think she’ll talk to me?”

“Maybe if Trent or me are there. She’s very scared and doesn’t trust any of us very much.”

“Alright, let’s do this. I’m supposed to be at supper with my baby sister tonight while her husband’s working.”

“Alright Bob.” Trent responded as he turned and walked back into the store. McGraw and Jennings followed closely behind him.

When they entered the office Karla and Mrs. Jones were sitting on the small couch again talking softly. “Karla,” Trent began “this is Mr. Jennings, He’s from DCS and needs to ask you some questions.”

Karla’s eyes locked on Bob and she moved closer to Mrs. Jones, practically sitting in her lap. “Will you stay with me?” She softly asked Mrs. Jones.

“Of course I will dear. I’m sure Detective Greeves and Captain McGraw will too, if you want them too.” Mrs. Jones looked pointedly at Trent and John, who both nodded and smiled reassuringly at Karla.

After taking a deep breath Karla looked at Bob and nodded, letting him know that she’d answer his questions.

Before he started Bob pulled a small recorder from his pocket, turned it on and set it on the table between them. “Hello Karla. My name is Bob Jennings and I’m a supervising agent from the Department of Children’s Services here in Nashville. Do you know what DCS is Karla?” Bob waited for Karla to nod before he continued. “I’m sure Detective Greeves and Captain McGraw have already asked you this, but I need you to tell me your full name.”

“Karla Ann Hall.”

“Alright. What’s your date of birth?”

“July 14th, 2000.”

“So you’re 14 today. Happy birthday.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“When was the last time you saw your mama?”

“She left for work about nine last night.”

“Did she leave you alone?”

“I was supposed to be alone, but Garrett stayed.” Karla visibly shuddered at Garrett’s name.

“Wanna tell me who Garrett is?” Bob noticed the fear that ran through Karla at the mention of Garrett’s name.

Karla dropped her head, not meeting anyone’s eyes, and whispered, “Mom’s boyfriend”

Anger flashed in Bob’s eyes at the fear radiating through Karla. “Is there anything you can tell me about him?”

Before Karla could answer Trent interrupted. “Bob, I have all the info she has on him. I’ll give it to ya before ya leave.”

“Alright Trent. I’ll get that from you later. What about any other family?”

“I have that info too Bob. I’ll make copies of all my notes for ya.”

“That works. Thank you Trent.” Bob looked at Karla and continued in a soft voice. “Anything else you wanna tell me? Like maybe, where all those bruises on your neck, arms and legs came from?”

Karla shook from head to toe, softly whispered “Garrett” and buried her head in her hands. Trent, Mrs. Jones, John and Bob all looked at each other before Bob looked back at Karla.

“Karla, I’m going to take you to the hospital so they can check out your injuries, make sure you don’t have any serious ones and get some pictures of the bruises. Are you okay with that?”

Karla, too scared to speak, shook her head. She clearly didn’t trust him.

“Karla, would you feel better if Trent or John took you?”

Before Karla could answer, Mrs. Jones spoke up. “Gentlemen, I think what this child needs is someone who she ain’t scared of. If it’s alright with y’all I’ll ride with ya so she feels better. Would that help ya feel more comfortable honey?” She asked, looking at Karla.

“Yes ma’am.”

“It’s settled then. Just lemme call Harold to watch the store and I’ll ride with ya to the hospital.”

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