Pricked (Page 40)

For the rest of the day it comes in waves—one minute I feel everything.

The next minute I feel numb.

Some minutes I don’t know what I feel.

It’s almost like I’m broken—like that butterfly Madden caught as a child and set free.



Another full weekend of silence.

I won’t say I don’t deserve it, but I’m not sure how much more of this I can take. Even if she’d text me to tell me she hates my fucking guts, at least it’d be something.

Despite the fact that I miss her like hell, I just want to know she’s okay.

Dragging myself out of bed Monday morning, I get cleaned up and head down to the coffee shop on the corner to grab a drink and a bite to eat, and on my way back, I check the mail. It’s mostly junk, as per usual—until I get to the last piece: another letter from my dad.

I’m not sure what compels me to open this one. Most of the time I toss them in the garbage without a second thought, but I rip the side of the envelope and unfold the single sheet of lined paper.


I know I don’t deserve your time, but it would mean the world to me if you could come down for a short visit. There’s something I want to tell you. Something I’ve wanted to tell you for years. And if you hear me out, I’ll never bother you again.



I chuckle at the fact that the bastard had the audacity to toss the word “love” in there when he never once said it to any of us when he was a free man.

Guess he’s had a lot of time to think too …

I give the letter another read.

And another.

As much as I don’t want to see him, I do want to know what he needs to tell me.

With a resigned sigh and nothing more to lose, I grab my phone and look up visiting hours at the Wheatonville Penitentiary.

I sign in at the visitor’s desk Monday afternoon and take a seat in the waiting area until someone calls to take me back. When I woke up this morning, the last place I planned to be was here, visiting a man I haven’t seen in over a decade, but I’m here now and it’s happening.

“Madden Ransom?” A man dressed in head-to-toe light brown calls for me from behind a secured door. I follow him back to a room lined with semi-private sections and payphone-looking receivers separated by thick glass partitions, exactly the kind of thing you see in the movies.

The guard leads me down a ways, and as we get closer to the end, I spot my father before he spots me.

I’m not sure why I expected him to look exactly the same as he did before, but the only thing I recognize are his dark, hooded eyes. His hair has turned from inky black to silvery gray, and he’s much paler than he was before. No more of that blue collar glow he used to sport from his days spent delivering mail.

That’s right.

Before he became a cold-blooded killer, he was your friendly neighborhood postal worker.

I take the seat across from him and lift the receiver. He grabs his.

“Madden,” he says, beaming like a proud father. “Look at you.”

I’m sure my change in appearance is just as drastic as his. The last time he saw me, I was sixteen. Tall and scrawny. Longer hair. Attitude of a rebellious punk (though that part hasn’t changed much).

“All right,” I say. I don’t have time to sit here and shoot the shit, nor do I care to. “You got me here. What’d you want to tell me?”

He offers a tender smile, which is an ironic look on a hardened criminal, and then he cups his receiver with both hands.

“I just wanted to tell you I’m sorry,” he says.

I keep a straight face despite the fact that I’m annoyed as hell. He made me come all the way here just so he could apologize?

He couldn’t have done it in a letter?

“Okay. Well. Good talk.” I rap my knuckles against the table and hang up the phone.

He motions for me to pick it up again.

For whatever reason, I oblige.

I blame curiosity.

“Don’t go yet,” he says, an air of desperation in his voice.

“I’ve got work to do,” I say. It occurs to me that he probably doesn’t know what I do for a living. As far as I know, Mom hasn’t visited him but once since he got locked up, and that was only to get him to sign the divorce papers. She won’t let Dev see him because she claims she’s too young to understand, but I think she just doesn’t want to make the time to take her.

“Come on.” He chuckles. “Surely you have a few more minutes for your old man. You came all this way …”

Exhaling, I say. “All right. Fine. Since I came all this way, I do have one question I’ve always wanted to ask you.”

“Of course. Ask me anything.” He nods like an eager-to-please puppy. Not a good look for him.

“Why’d you do it?”

His eager expression disappears, replaced with furrowed brows and hard lines.

“Son, if I told you, you wouldn’t believe me,” he says.

He’s probably right.

“Try me,” I say. “I’m willing to listen.”

My father clears his throat. “Jesus. Okay. Where do I start?”

I listen intently as my father tells me his version of events … and he’s right. I don’t believe him—at first.

And then it all makes perfect sense.

When I leave the prison, I make a detour to Park Terrace—to the office of Charles Karrington, President and CEO of Monarch Pharmaceuticals.

The entire drive there, I practiced everything I was going to say … my epic confrontation. I was going to tell him I knew all about what he did, how he hired my father to kill his in-laws so he could inherit the pharmaceutical company they started from the ground up. I was going to tell him I knew how much he paid my father down to the penny and how he ran into my father—his former classmate—one night, saw he was struggling to provide for his young family, and then made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

But here I stand in front of his receptionist who claims he’s in a meeting and asks if I’d like to leave a message, like this is some fucking phone call.

“No.” I’m seething. “I need to speak to him immediately.”

She stammers as she asks me to have a seat, and then she trots off, disappearing into one of the hallways.

I think about what my father told me, and while I’m still struggling to wrap my head around how someone could so easily put a dollar value on a human life, I will say that I was shocked to hear he took the fall for the whole thing because if he ratted Karrington out, he wouldn’t have been paid a single dime, and he only did it so his family would be provided for.

He claims he gave the quarter million to Mom.

I don’t tell him we didn’t see a single cent of it.

I can’t be certain, but I’m guessing most of it went to the Wild Rose Casino just off the highway.

Before I left today, I asked him one more question—I wanted to know why he took Dallas with him that night. The old man surprised me once more by getting choked up the second I mentioned my brother’s name, and then he started rambling on about how Dallas was always his little shadow, worshipped the ground he walked on and all that. He claimed he needed someone else with him for alibi reasons, and he told Dallas to stay in the car, that he had to run in and chat with a friend for a couple minutes. But for whatever reason, Dallas got out of the car and went into the house, and as soon as he walked in that front door, Karrington’s father-in-law was standing there with a loaded handgun. Shot him at point-blank range. That’s when Dad shot the old man and then his wife came running down the stairs, screaming, a cordless phone in hand, and he shot her too. After that, he threw Dallas over his shoulder and rushed him to the nearest hospital, but he’d already bled out by the time they got there.

Charles’ assistant returns from the hall. “He’ll be with you shortly.”


Every second that ticks by only adds another layer to the animosity I feel toward that sick son of a bitch. While my father is a fucking moron and deserves to rot in prison the rest of his life for what he did, Charles Karrington is just as guilty, and yet he’s been living high off the hog for the last decade.

How he looks himself in the mirror every day is beyond me.

“Madden.” Charles appears from the hallway, greeting me with an audacious smile. I’m guessing he has to put on a show for his employees. God forbid they catch a whiff of his true persona. “Come on back.”

He leads me down a long hallway, toward a set of double doors engraved with Monarch Pharmaceuticals’ logo.

I don’t wait for him to shut the door before I start laying into him.

“You piece of fucking shit—” I begin to say.

“—no,” he interrupts. “You don’t get to march into my goddamn office in the middle of a goddamn work day and make a scene. Now I don’t know what the hell you think you’re doing here or why you think it’s okay to walk in here calling me a piece of shit when the real piece of shit is the small-town loser who knocked up my daughter.”

For a second, I disregard everything I came here to say.

“What are you talking about?” I ask.

“You got her pregnant, you prick,” he says. There’s nothing but contempt in his eyes, like I’m the fucking monster out of the two of us.