Valley of Shadows-Chapter Thirty-Three

Harriet left Reverend Mother’s house and walked two blocks to the car that she had requested from Ryker when he issued his latest order.  It was important that no one knew she was using the car.  If anyone should come looking for her or try to place her at the scene of some…unfortunate incident, then the last thing she wanted was a nosy neighbor tying her to the car.

Ryker preferred to send drivers to chauffeur her around whenever she was working for him.  Harriet felt that drew too much attention.  People in the circles she found herself in recognized that car and many of them were less likely to share any useful information, knowing who would ultimately be on the receiving end of it.

Besides, she didn’t trust the drivers not to reveal her sources to Ryker.  If he sussed out her methods, then she would be of no use to him.  Harriet’s usefulness was the only thing keeping her father alive in prison.  The work she did for Ryker kept her father protected by helping to repay some big favors.  The problem was that he would be in there for a long time.  She didn’t know how much longer she could keep paying down his debt.  It was slowly taking over her life.

Ryker was asking her to do increasingly dangerous things.  Harriet felt trapped.  It frightened her and made her angry at the same time.  Why should she have to put her life on the line for a father who was in jail more than he was ever around when she lived under his roof?

The memory of Richard and Rachel laughing at her was a painful reminder that Harriet had no one else.  There was a time, when she first came to live with Reverend Mother, that Richard had been fiercely protective of her.  She felt more love than she had ever felt in her entire life back then.  As a teenagers, they began to drift apart.  Richard was always hanging out with his friends.  Next, came an assortment of girlfriends whose names escaped her.

High school was a lonely time for her.  She never really fit into any of the social groups which had formed in grade school, before she had come to live with Reverend Mother.  Harriet was painfully shy, sensitive and self-conscious, which made her a natural target for bullies.  Becoming a loner was easier than opening herself up to more rejection.

Richard protected her whenever he was around.  But he fell in with a rough crowd and was always ducking out of school to hang out with them.  It wasn’t long before he was only coming home to eat and sleep.  Reverend Mother had even given up on trying to make him go to church with the family on Sunday.  It was easier to make excuses whenever the parishioners asked about him.  That left Harriet to fend for herself.  The one constant in her life was her father, who was a phone call away behind bars.  He had a friend of his secretly pose as her mother, so that she could visit him without Reverend Mother knowing about it.

Harriet made the best of a bad situation.  In her efforts to be her father’s eyes and ears out in the world, she discovered a natural talent for tracking people and getting information out of them.  She had even figured out how to earn a few duckets for herself from time to time.  That money had paid for her ballet training.  Harriet had never told her family that there was no scholarship.  Taking on odd jobs ended, when she graduated from high school.  Performing was a dream come true.

However, all good things must come to an end at some point.  Dancing was a young woman’s game.  Harriet wanted to be financially secure when the curtain came down on her career.  Her newest order from Ryker was to find out why profits were down in the dope hole distributing his illegal pharmaceuticals.  For some reason, the Oxycontin wasn’t selling well yet the inventory seemed to continue disappearing.

Harriet could trade on her name as the daughter of Jericho Jones, but that name no longer inspired fear in anyone.  He was old school.  The young bucks coming up in the streets nowadays had no respect for their elders.  However, her father’s name would buy her a certain level of acceptance.  Trust was a different story.  Drug dealers rarely trusted anyone.

Another option was to be upfront and tell the dealers that Ryker had sent her and why.  Harriet quickly dismissed that idea.  They would just get defensive and back one another’s stories. Of course, it would be possible to weed out lies until she gleaned enough of the truth to figure things out.  That took more time than Ryker was willing to give her.  There was also the risk of one of them getting rattled enough for her to end up buried in a shallow grave with a bullet in her temple.  Somehow, she didn’t think Ryker would lose too much sleep over her death.

So, she woke from a night of restless sleep without combing her hair, dug some sweaty workout clothes out from the bottom of her hamper, put them on and went to hang out in the neighborhood.  The idea was to become a regular customer of the dope house.  Her unnaturally thin dancer’s body helped complete her disguise as a drug addict.  Who better to scope out the day-to-day activities in the house?  She could also hang around outside.  If she played her cards right, no one would ever suspect that she was surveilling the place.  That was crucial because, the neighborhood around a drug house was always full of addicts eager to trade information for drugs.

In the past, Harriet would have found being around such desperate people unnerving.  But her mood had sunk so low that she felt at home with the hopeless, dejected group.  There was something freeing about taking a break from keeping up the façade of success and happiness for a few hours.  Some of the addicts were aggressive and suspicious, but others were actually friendly.  Later, she learned that one of the dealers, whose name was Deuce, tended to leave the drug house with a bag that was suspiciously full and it was empty when he returned.

Harriet followed him for a couple of nights and saw him entering various clinics.  She called Ryker and asked him if they were part of his trade.  He had no idea what she was talking about.  Tonight, she arranged for two of his men to trail behind her at a distance as she shadowed Deuce on his nightly delivery.  They parked at the end of the block and awaited a text from her.  She explained that request as a desire to catch him with cash in hand.  Harriet followed Deuce to a darkened clinic which was clearly closed and watched while he made his way around to the side door.