"Can you be a vigilante and not remember it?"
Reviewed by Vicky Gilpin
Posted March 16, 2009
Even as a child while being used to help her adopted mom's
sham psychic act, Gemma has always had trouble with a
spotty memory. She will lose periods of time or interact
with her friends and not remember it, or worse, not
remember them. When she wakes up in a hospital with no
memory of how she got there or how she got injured, Gemma
is disturbed but hardly surprised.
When the reports of her friends cause Gemma to suspect that
she has become a vigilante against abusive men, she fears
she will have to discover the facts of her fugue-time
before the handsome detective Will Tanninger does. However,
as they both dig deeper to find the truth of her patchy
past, Gemma realizes that elements just aren't adding
up...except to place her in danger.
UNSEEN is an excellent suspense with a touch of romance;
neither dip into those genres seems gratuitous, and the
plotlines are richly detailed on both counts. This is a
story that will actually "keep you guessing" and make you
race to the end in order to discover if you figure out the
truth before the characters.
Learn more about Unseen
She Woke Up With No MemoriesâŚ
wakes up in a hospital room...bruisedâŚbloody...confused. She
knows her name is Gemma La Porteâbut thatâs all. She doesnât
remember smashing her car. She doesnât remember anything
from the last three days. But a policeman, Deputy Will
Tanninger, is waiting for answers and wants to know if sheâs
responsible for a fatal hit-and-runâŚ
But Remembering Her Past Could
Hoping to restore her shattered memory, Gemma
has no choice but to put her trust in Will. But if it turns
out sheâs guilty of murder, he has no choice but to arrest
her. Torn by her growing feelings for Will, and haunted by
her shadowy past, Gemma is determined to learn the truth.
But, in this case, the darkest truths are unknowableâand
the deadliest enemies are unseenâŚ
A yellow moon rose over the line of fir trees, so close and
huge that it seemed like an artistâs distorted vision, not
the real thing. He watched it climb slowly upward
through dispassionate eyes. It sent an uneven strip of
light across the field behind his one-room home and
glimmered in the pond that was ruffled by a light wind.
As if in response to the moonâs appearance, a light switched
on in the main house across the field. Equally
yellow. An evil color. A witchâs color. He
was glad the house was so far away, wished it even further.
For a moment he saw her standing in the field, dark,
near-black hair flowing around her shoulders. She wore
her witchâs garb and she stared back at him, her eyes black
pits, her mouth curved.
âCâmere, boy,â she said, and he wanted to go, but she wasnât
beckoning him. Sheâd never asked for him.
Still, she stripped off her clothes and melted into the
pond. A moment of shadowy reflection and then just
She was a witch. She had to die. And he was the
He gazed hard at the moon, now glowing a ghostly blue-white,
shed of its earthly restraints, higher in the sky, smaller,
more intense. He closed his eyes and saw its
afterimage on the inside of his eyelids.
Witches had to die. Heâd already sent two back to the
hell theyâd sprung from. But there were more.
And some of them were filled with an evil so intense it was
like they burned from the inside out.
Heâd found the one whoâd stolen from him. Heâd been on
a search for her, but sheâd eluded him until last
night. In a moment of pure coincidence, heâd seen her
walking across the street. Wearing her witchâs garb,
hair flying behind her and tangling in the wind that swooped
down, bitterly cold for such a mild autumn.
Heâd followed her and it had been a mistake for sheâd
entered a shop and for a moment heâd gotten too close.
Sheâd sensed him. She turned to look at him and he
turned sharply away, afraid sheâd recognize him.
But now he knew where she haunted. Now he knew where
to find her. Soon, he would strip her bare, crush her
naked body with his, thrust himself into her again and again
as she howled and scratched and screamed.
Then he would throw back his head and roar because he was
the hunter. A wolf. Hunting his prey.
Jaw tense, he threw another look at the moon, now a white,
hard dot in a black sky. The nativeâs called it a
hunter moon. The full moon seen in the month of
October. . .
The witchâs month.
He was the wolf. And it was time to hunt the
She wished him dead.
She knew about him. Witnessed the way his gaze ran
lustfully over some preteen girl. Saw how his eyes
glued to their athletic limbs and small breasts and his lips
parted and his cock grew hard.
But wishing wasnât enough. It almost was, but it
wasnât quite. Sometimes wishing needed a little
push. So, she waited for him to go to an unlucky
place, the kind of place where bad things happened.
Deaths. Accidents. Poisonous secrets. She
knew about those places better than anyone because bad
things had happened to her at an unlucky place a long time
ago and sheâd spent many formative years getting payback for
those bad things.
She waited with her jaw set. She was good at action,
not patience. But today it had all come
together, his unlucky place had materialized: a soccer
field, with lots of âtweensâ, their limbs flashing in nylon
shorts and jerseys. She herself was very
lucky and when people asked her name, which wasnât often
because she avoided encounters with strangers as a rule, she
told them, âLucky,â and they generally oohed and aahed and
said what a great name it was.
People were stupid, as a rule.
The soccer fields were full of young bodies. A
Jamboree was taking place: kids of varying ages playing half
hour games and then moving onto another field to challenge
another team. The boys were playing on the north side
fields, over by the water tower. The girls were closer
in, on the hard-packed dirt of the south side fields â
fields that looked as if theyâd been forgotten by the
parkâs department. Fields good enough for girls, not
Her lip curled. Figures, she thought. She wasnât
a man-hater, but she had definite thoughts about certain
members of the male sex. She was responsible for the
deaths of three of their gender and didnât regret any of them.
She waited in her stolen car. Well, not stolen
exactly. Appropriated for a specific
purpose. Sheâd learned a few things during the
twenty-seven years sheâd been on the planet. She knew
how to take care of herself. She could accurately fire
a gun up to twenty yards. Well, fairly
accurately. And she could break into and steal older
model vehicles â the only kind she would drive because she
distrusted air bags. Those things could kill
you. She knew a guy who would dismantle them for her,
which was a good thing, because it was getting harder and
harder to find vintage available cars for her purposes,
although she currently had a ready supply from Carlâs
Automotive and Car Rental. Hunk OâJunks. Thatâs
how they were advertised by the amateurish spray-painted
sign posted off Highway 26, about fifteen miles east of
Seaside, Oregon. Hunk OâJunks.
Yessirree. They could be rented for $19.99 a day, but
Lucky didnât bother with that. A sorry line of
tired-looking vehicles they were, too, but they served the
purpose. No one noticed when they were gone. No
one commented when they were returned.
Cars were a simple matter to hotwire. And she was
adept at using a flat bar to slide down the inside of the
window and pop the lock. It was then childâs play to
dig under the dash, yank the wires, spark the ignition and
But the Hunk OâJunks were perfect in one more aspect: Carl
left the keys under the mat. In the early hours of
this morning sheâd simply helped herself to the one furthest
from the flickering vapor light at the corner of the
automotive garage and driven away. The horny mechanic
and sometime car thief whoâd shown her the ropes and
introduced her to Carlâs Automotive had been as unfaithful
as a rutting bull. Sheâd used him as a means to an end
and theyâd almost parted friends. But heâd pushed it,
had actually attempted to rape her. Lucky had been
down that road before and nobody was going to try
that again and live. Sheâd grabbed one of the
nearby table lampâs electrical cords and wrapped it
around his neck. Heâd been bullish enough to scarcely
notice, so involved was he in spreading her thighs and
jamming himself into her. Sheâd pulled the cord taut
with all her strength, with all the rage of injustice sheâd
nursed from years of abuse. He passed out and she held
on. It hadnât been his face she was envisioning; it
was someone elseâs. Someone faint in her memory, yet
dark and looming. Twenty minutes later sheâd surfaced
slowly, as if awakening from a long illness, her fingers
numb, her mind clearing. She didnât have much faith
that anyone would believe her about the attempted rape, so
she gathered up the lamp and its cord from the dirty and
sparse living room he called home, wiped down everything
sheâd touched, and left someone else to find his body.
Sheâd made the mistake of entering his home after their last
car thieving lesson because sheâd begun to think they were
She hadnât made that mistake since.
Now, she slouched behind the wheel of her current Hunk
OâJunk, her gaze centered on a light brown van parked near
the Jamboree lot exit. This maybe wasnât the best
venue for what sheâd planned, but it could be worse.
And it was where he trolled. And it had that
unlucky feel she could almost taste. Edward Letton
wasnât aware that he was being followed. Didnât know
sheâd found him out, that sheâd tailed his van through parks
and malls and schools, the environs of little girls.
Lucky had originally picked up on Letton by a means she
didnât fully understand herself. Theyâd crossed paths
in a small clothing store in Seaside, a place that
specialized in beach togs and gear. Sheâd brushed past
him and read his desire as if heâd suddenly whispered his
intentions in her ear, making her skin crawl. Glancing
back, she saw the way his gaze centered on a young girl who
was trying hard to display her breast-buds as the real deal,
the tiny buttons pushed-up by an underwire bra, the girl
thrusting them forward, her back arched like a bow.
She was around eleven. Gawky. Unformed and
unsure. She both hung by her mother for protection,
and stepped away from her scornfully, as if she couldnât
bear the idea that Mom was so old and completely uncool.
Letton stared and stared. He was so hungry Lucky felt
his lust like a living thing. It filled her senses as
if he were secreting pheromones. Made her ill.
So, she started following him. That day she tailed him
a good fifty miles, all the way back to Hillsboro and the
untidy green-gray house with his adoring, mentally-suspect
wife. Not the brightest jewel on the necklace,
her. Letton was some kind of middle-grade manager at a
machine-parts company. Lucky had watched him from the
parking lot of his workplace and followed him at lunch to an
all-you-can eat restaurant where she seated herself in the
booth in front of him, her back to his. Even though he
was with a co-worker, he unerringly watched the girl serving
soup in the T-shirt whose chest was so flat she could have
been a child.
He didnât drive the van to work. It was parked in his
garage and Lucky didnât know about it at first.
Neither did his dimwit wife. His garage was his
domain. He drove a Honda Accord to work, new enough to
be reliable, old enough to be forgettable.
She knew those kind of cars well.
And then she realized he used the van when he went
trolling. Nobody had to tell her what he was
planning. She knew that hunger. That
build-up. That need. Sheâd been on the receiving
end of it and it hadnât been pretty.
He almost grabbed a girl at the mall, but she was with
friends and hard to snatch. Lucky watched him, her
gloved hands tensing on the wheel of her appropriated
car, but he passed up the chance though he climbed
from his van and paced around it, watching with distress as
his victim and friends meandered across the parking lot,
ponytails flouncing, out of his reach.
But here he was, a scant week and a half later.
Saturday morning. Cruising past soccer fields was one
of his favorite past-times. Sheâd parked todayâs Hunk
OâJunk, an early 80's model, a half a block down from his
house, dozing a bit as sheâd risen before dawn. When
he backed the van out of the drive, she let it disappear
around a corner before she started to follow. He
didnât try any tricky moves on the way to the fields.
He drove straight to the Jamboree. Once there, he
circled around, parking at the end spot near the girlsâ
fields, nose out. It was early, so Lucky parked her
sedan across from him, a couple of slots down, and let him
see her as she locked the vehicle and strolled across the
road toward a strip mall with a coffee shop just opening in
the cool morning air. She wanted him to think she was
just another soccer mom, biding time before the games with a
latte or mocha.
As soon as she was across the street, she circled the east
building of the strip mall and settled behind a row of
arborvitae directly across from the Jamboree parking
lot. Hidden behind them, she put a pair of binoculars
to her eyes, watching Letton through the foliage.
More cars arrived. Teams of boys and girls.
Letton watched and waited as the girls banded into teams,
running in their uniforms, blurs of red, green, yellow and
blue, young legs flashing in heavy shin guards and cleated
She had never played soccer herself. That had not been
the kind of childhood sheâd experienced. Mostly sheâd
plotted and dreamed of escape. Sometimes she had
thought of murder.
Now she waited until another crush of people arrived â more
vans spilling kids and equipment onto the pavement â then
hurried back, blending in with the other moms, sliding into
her silver car. Letton was too enthralled by the
bounty of adolescent flesh to even notice her. She was
pretty sure he was jacking-off in the driverâs seat.
The teams began to gather in groups, readying for
play. Every group was a tight, wiggling pack, like a
hive of bees.
And then a young girl, ponytail bobbing, broke free, running
across the fields toward the parking lot, her gait
stuttering a bit as her cleats hit the pavement. What
worked on grass didnât offer the same kind of purchase on
asphalt. She was clomping toward the portable
bathrooms, passing directly in front of Edward Lettonâs
van. He called to her. Lucky had rolled her own
window down and now she turned the engine and slipped the
car into gear, foot light on the brake.
âHey, youâre with the Hornets, right?â Letton called
to the girl, climbing from his seat. He was obviously
quoting from the back of their jerseys which displayed their
teamsâ names in block letters. He left the door ajar
for a quick getaway. She could hear the thrum of
excitement in his voice as he headed toward the side door of
the van, sliding it open. His pants were still unzipped.
âYeah?â the girl said warily.
âIâve got those extra balls your coach wanted. Let me
get âem. Maybe you could take some back.â
âIâm going to the bathroom.â
But Letton was already reaching into the van. The girl
hesitated. A soccer ball rolled out and started
heading toward her. She automatically went after it,
the movement drawing her closer to the van. She picked
it up and said, âI canât take it now. Iâll come back
for it,â reaching toward him, intending to hand it to
him. He didnât make a move to meet her, just waited
for her to approach.
Donât go, Lucky thought, foot off the brake.
The girl hesitated. Lucky could practically feel when
she made the decision that Letton was âwithâ their team.
Before the girl could take another step forward Lucky
smashed her foot down on the accelerator and jammed the horn
with her fist. The car leapt forward like a runner at
the gate. The girl jumped back, startled. Edward
Letton forgot himself and lurched for the girl, but sheâd
automatically moved out of range of the silver car shooting
down on them, running for the safety of the soccer
fields. Letton glanced up darkly, his plan foiled,
glaring murderously at Lucky. His mouth open to. . .
what? Berate her for unsafe driving? He looked
mad enough to kill.
She slammed into him at thirty and climbing. Threw him
skyward. Threw herself forward. The steering
wheel jumped from her hands. The sedanâs grill grazed
the back bumper of the van. Someone screamed.
She grabbed the wheel hard, turning, both arms straining,
sensing calamity. Then she spun past the van, tires
squealing. Lettonâs flying body thunked off the roof
of her car and bounced onto the asphalt, an acrobat without
a net. He lay still.
In her rearview mirror Lucky stared hard at Lettonâs
body. She drove away with controlled speed,
slowing through a tangle of neighborhoods, weaving her
way, heart slamming hot and fast in her chest, zigzagging
toward Highway 26. She had to get this car out of the
area and fast.
It was only when she was safely away, heading west, keeping
up with fast-moving traffic, that she saw the blood on her
A glance in the rearview. Her face was covered with
blood. The impact had smacked her face into the
steering wheel. Her left eye was closing. She
hadnât even noticed.
There was Windex in the back. Rags.
Bleach. She would wipe up the evidence, clean herself
and the car. All she had to do now was keep the
growing pain and swelling under control. Her vision
She had to get to an off-road near Carlâs Automotive, one of
the myriads of turn-outs on this winding highway through the
Cascade Mountains. Later tonight she would sneak the
car back onto the weed-choked gravel lot and hope that the
front grill, lights and body werenât too damaged. The
vehicle needed to stay undiscovered at the Hunk OâJunk lot
for a long time.
She swiped at the blood running down her forehead, blinding her.
Not good. Not good at all.
But she was lucky. She would get away with it.
She would. . .
She just hoped to hell sheâd killed him.
* * *
Surfacing from a yawning pit of blackness, her eyes adjusted
to an unfamiliar room: cream vertical blinds, cream walls,
television on a shelf bolted high on the wall, blankets
covering what must be her feet, wood veneer footboard.
A hospital room.
Automatically, her hand flew up and touched the bandage
wrapped around her head. One eye was covered.
She didnât know why, but it wasnât the first time sheâd
blacked out. Far from it. But this time sheâd
hurt herself, maybe badly. What had happened?
She had a moment of not knowing who she was.
Her heart clutched.
Then she remembered.
Iâm lucky, she thought, memory slipping back to
her, amorphous, hard to grasp, but at least it was
there. At least some of it was there.
And she was angry. Hot fury sang through her veins
though she couldnât immediately identify the source of her
rage. But someone had to pay. She knew that.
A nurse was adjusting a monitor that was spitting out paper
in a long, running stream. Red squiggles wove over the
paperâs lined grid. Her heartbeat. Respiration,
maybe? She closed her eye and pretended to be
sleeping. She wasnât ready for the inquisition,
yet. Wasnât ready to find out the whys and wherefores
of how sheâd come to be at this hospital.
She heard the squeak of the nurseâs crepe soles head toward
the door. A soft whoosh of air, barely discernible,
said the silent door had been opened. Not hearing it
close, she carefully lifted her eyelid. As suspected
the wheelchair-wide door was ajar. Anyone could push
inside and stare at her which consumed her with worry.
She had to stay awake.
The last vestiges of what seemed to be a dream tugged at her
consciousness and she fought to hang onto the remnants but
they were slippery and insubstantial, spider threads.
She was left merely with the sensation that she was heading
for a showdown, some distant and unwelcome Armageddon that
was going to shatter and rearrange her world. Maybe
not for the better.
But then she always felt that. Always awoke with that
lowgrade dread which followed the gaps in her memory.
Maybe someday she would wake up and not know who she was at
all. Maybe her memory would be gone for good.
What would happen then?
The door swung in noiselessly and a man in a light tan
uniform entered the room. He was with the county
sheriffâs department and seeing her looking at him, he said,
âHello, maâam. Iâm Detective Will Tanninger with the
Winslow County Sheriffâs Department.â
She nodded, eyeing him carefully. He was in his
mid-thirties with dark brown hair and serious eyes, but she
could see the striations at their edge from squinting them
in either laughter or against the sun. âWhere am I?â
âLaurelton General Hospital. Youâve been admitted as a
Jane Doe. Could you tell us your name?â
He was steely polite. Alarm bells rang. What had
she done? It took her a long moment to come up with
her name. âGemma LaPorte.â She hesitated, almost
afraid to ask. âAre you here to see me?â
âWe donât know how you got here, Ms. LaPorte. You
walked into Emergency and collapsed.â
Her hand fluttered to her head once again. âOh. . .?â
âDid someone bring you? Did you drive yourself?â
Gemma moved her head slowly from side to side. âI
Will paused, regarding her with dark, liquid eyes.
Everything about him seemed forced and still. âYou
donât remember the circumstances that brought you here.â
âWhatâs your last memory?â
Gemma thought about it a minute. âI was making myself
breakfast at home. Oatmeal and cinnamon. I was
looking out the window and thinking we were drowning in
rain. It was a downpour. The dirt was like
concrete and the water was pouring over it in sheets.â
The deputy was silent for so long that Gemma felt her
anxiety rise. She sensed that he was deliberating on
âWhat?â she asked.
âIt hasnât rained for three days.â
© All Rights Reserved by Nancy Bush and Kensington
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