A compelling story of a woman who discovers untapped strengths in the face of unimagined betrayal.
It was a conversation Maggie Cumberland wasn’t supposed to hear. A conversation that rips apart her comfortable, suburban life, leads her to betray the one person she has always depended on, and forces her from the security of her once happy home.
Fearful of retribution after telling police that her husband Daniel might be involved in human trafficking, Maggie must find the courage and resourcefulness necessary to stay one step ahead of her enemies without the help of either family or friends. But who are her enemies? Maggie has no idea, only the knowledge that if she wants to stay alive she can’t afford to trust anyone.
Chapter 1 - Monday evening
Maggie Cumberland froze seconds before her outstretched hand made contact with the kitchen door, her plan to announce her momentary return home to her husband fading at the urgent tone in his voice. It had an unrecognizable edge to it, cold and dispassionate, but it was the subject of his conversation that made her hesitate.
Shipments and delivery dates were not unusual topics for someone in the distribution business but unless Maggie’s ears were playing tricks on her the cargo he spoke of was human. Why else would the words young women, twenty-five and Eastern European belong in the same sentence about shipping?
She shook her head as if to reset her hearing. What was wrong with her? Mastersons Distribution specialized in high-end luxury goods including art and antiques. Daniel could be talking about portraits or other works of art depicting women, perhaps by Eastern European artists or part of an Eastern European collection.
Still, some instinct kept her rooted to the spot, afraid to fully open the door and reveal her presence. She didn’t like to eavesdrop, considered it a transgression which more likely than not would have a regrettable outcome, but she could hardly avoid hearing Daniel’s side of the phone call as his voice grew louder and more animated.
She stifled a gasp as he answered some unheard question with, “They’ve been drugged so they’ll cause no problems in transit.”
She started to tremble. So, no inanimate objects excuse. Her eyes widened as the full implication of what she’d overheard sank in. But it couldn’t be her husband talking. It had to be some stranger, some monster.
She backed quietly down the hallway, terrified the kitchen door would open before she could escape. Thankfully, in her rushed return home to collect the tennis balls for her club league match that evening, she’d left the front door open on her way in. She eased it gently closed behind her with only the slightest telltale click. Hopefully Daniel wouldn’t hear it from the kitchen.
She dashed to her car, drove around the corner before pulling over again. If someone she knew saw her she didn’t know how she would explain why she was sitting in that spot, but she didn’t dare drive any further. Not until she got herself under control. She gripped the steering wheel tight and pressed her feet hard against the floor in an effort to stop her limbs shaking. Snippets of Daniel’s words replayed in her mind.
Shipments. Girls. Drugs.
She tried desperately to view them in a different light, to turn them into something innocent, but to no avail.
What was she supposed to do? Should she go to the police? But with what? A few overheard words? They’d think she was crazy. And what if the police did believe her but she was wrong? Think of the havoc she’d cause. Daniel would never trust her again and with good cause. What kind of wife rats on her husband of over twenty years based on a few minutes of conversation she wasn’t meant to hear?
She shouldn’t have been there. Nor, for that matter, should Daniel. He rarely came home early, especially if he knew she would be out, her absence giving him an excuse for working late. The forgotten tennis balls were her excuse, but what was his?
She wished she’d slammed the front door on the way in. He would have heard it and come out of the kitchen to check who was there. They would have exchanged their mutual excuses and she wouldn’t have heard any of the awful conversation, which the more she thought about, the more she believed she must have misunderstood. It was the only explanation. Instead of sitting there like an idiot she’d be on her way to her tennis match, a match which, given her opponent’s inability to hit back any ball that didn’t bounce right at her feet, she was guaranteed to win.
She glanced at the dashboard clock. If she was going to make the match on time she needed to leave now. So what to do? Police station or club? Spend the next hour playing tennis, or spend it denouncing her husband as a potential monster to the police?
Daniel, a monster? No, no, no, he wasn’t like that. He was a kind, honest man. There had to be some perfectly innocent explanation which she’d now never know because she could hardly admit she’d been eavesdropping and then fled. What would he make of that?
She should have sailed straight into the kitchen, caught him mid-conversation, let him explain. But it was too late now. So she should put it out of her mind, accept she was making a mountain out of a molehill, and go and play tennis. Sue would be waiting for her. It was too late to back out now. Besides, she couldn’t go home early while Daniel was there and whacking tennis balls would be the perfect way to get rid of all the tension she’d built up inside.
She started the car.
Yes, tennis first, and then home again, and somehow she’d try and raise her concerns with Daniel over dinner.
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