Home > Black Hearts (Sins Duet #1)(4)

Black Hearts (Sins Duet #1)(4)
Author: Karina Halle

“He’s good.” I pull up the sleeve of my striped sweater on my right arm and show him his work that’s inked into my skin of my forearm. He did it a few weeks ago, a Tyrannosaurus rex with itty bitty fairy wings. It’s my second color tattoo and Lloyd does color really well. Every other tattoo I have is black and white, courtesy of my father.

I’m not absolutely covered in them like my father or Lloyd is, but I do have my fair share. No surprise that it was my father who gave me my first one, an old-fashioned skeleton key on the inside of my left forearm. I’ve been fascinated with collecting keys since I was young and this one is still my favorite. I was fifteen but felt so much older as I sat in that chair and my dad gave me my own key, perfect down to each rusted detail. It didn’t even hurt, I was just so happy that I was part of the “circle.” My mom, Ben, everyone had them at that point except me.

I also have a bull skull across my back shoulders with a crown of flowers adorning it, a handful of snowflakes to the left and below it, a mermaid on my inner bicep, music notes at my wrist (to match music notes on my mother’s arm), the death star on my other wrist with the words resist underneath, the symbol of my favorite band at the back of my neck, and a colorful sugar skull on my hip (also courtesy of Lloyd). Okay, sounds like a lot when I list them off like that, but both my dad and Ben are covered in them by comparison.

And now, of course, the dinosaur.

“You know what your next one is going to be?” Lloyd asks, pushing his straggly hair out of his eyes.

I shrug. “I think I’m done for a while. Unless something strikes my fancy.”

My dad laughs, his focus intent on the man he’s working on. “Violet, you and your fancies are going to get you in trouble one day.”

He’s kind of right. I have this tendency to get really obsessed about things for a few months, sometimes even for a year, and then suddenly I lose interest and move on to something else. Just like that. I have a feeling that one day my body might be a map, like that guy in the movie Memento, except mine will remind me of all the things I stopped caring about.

I don’t spend too long at the shop, I just wanted to say hi. My dad will probably work until seven tonight, just before dinner, and it’s only three in the afternoon right now.

Still, that restlessness, a strange twinge of unease, is running through my veins. I’m half-tempted to head into the Magnolia bar for a drink—the owners know me and don’t care that I’m not twenty-one, even though I have a high-tech fake ID thanks to some of Ben’s computer handiwork—or even rifle through the stacks at Amoeba Records, just for something to do, some time to kill.

I go home instead. It’s just around the corner, a periwinkle-colored Victorian. Not as big as many others in the area but now seems oversized with Ben living in Santa Cruz for school. I know when I’m done with school I probably should move out, but that means moving out of San Francisco since there’s no way I’ll be able to afford an apartment here, not unless I have a million roommates, and even then we’ll probably be relegated to the Tenderloin.

“Mom?” I call out as I take the key from the lock and step inside the foyer. The house is humming with silence. She must be out.

I look down at my feet as I nearly crunch a stack of envelopes and quickly bend down to pick up the mail. Some fliers and bills. As usual, nothing important or interesting.

Until I spot one addressed to my father, Camden McQueen, with no return address. I flip it over in my hands as I make my way into the kitchen, placing the rest of the mail on the counter. The stamp is domestic, and the postmark is smudged and hard to read.

I don’t normally snoop through my parents’ mail but there’s something about this that has uneasiness creeping through me again. Maybe because my parents rarely get mail like this, maybe because I’m a brat, bored and curious.

I take the letter over to the stove and put on the kettle. While I wait for the water to steam, I examine it further. It’s a thin envelope and it seems like there isn’t even anything in it. Maybe a slip of paper or a sticky note or something.

Finally, steam begins to rise from the kettle and I hold the back of the envelope over it, just enough for the glue to start to lose its hold. Then I take a knife and carefully slide it under the flap until the envelope is open. I shake out the contents.

I was right about it not being a letter.

It’s a newspaper clipping.

I pick it up gingerly, afraid to harm it.

It’s a small square with the headline: Ex-Sheriff George McQueen Laid to Rest on Sunday above an old photo of a man in his forties. A man that would have looked like family even if I hadn’t see his name.

He has my father’s eyes.

He has our ears.

My hands start to shake as I read the article.

Palm Valley’s ex-Sheriff George McQueen was laid to rest on Sunday afternoon at the First Baptist Church on Main Street. McQueen had been battling cancer for the last year, having been put into the Palm Valley hospice before he started undergoing treatment. Aside from controversial arrests, he was also known for a scandal involving his only son, Camden McQueen, back in 2013. While Camden’s name was later cleared by police, his son was never seen or heard from again, and evidence points to his possible death at the hands of a Mexican drug cartel. The investigation has long since closed.

George McQueen served as Sheriff from 1990-2015 and was an advocate for the church and briefly ran for mayor in 2018 before his health started to decline.

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