The booming sound of an explosion threw Victoria into a state of panic. She leaped from the toilet seat she was on, hurriedly pushed down her long dress, and dashed out of the mini mart's grimy toilet not even bothering to wash her hands which was something she had never failed to do before that evening.
"What the hell is going on out there?" She wondered as she burst through the doors of the toilet and into the shopping area of the mart where she was supposed to get drinks for herself and Naomi after relieving her bladder.
The mini mart's manager who had directed her to the toilets was nowhere to be seen. She didn't waste any time figuring out his whereabouts but instead rushed through the glass doors of the mart in a frenzy. The unmistakable smell of gasoline and smoke filled her nostrils and lungs causing her to cough painfully into her palms.
She took tentative steps forward, her hands covering her nose and mouth as she searched for the source of the smoke; till she saw the gory sight ahead.
The car, Naomi's car was ablaze. It was completely engulfed in hot flames licking every part of the car. She could hardly believe her eyes. she had only been gone for a few minutes so how could this have happened?
Suddenly, she remembered that she had left Naomi standing by the side of the passenger door and the knowledge gave her a bit of hope and relief that she wasn't in the car at least, perhaps she had stepped away from the car before it exploded.
A part of her knew hope might be futile as Naomi was so transfixed on the moon that she might have still been standing by the car as it exploded, but she pushed the gnawing voice inside of her aside and held on to the hopes that she wasn't caught in the explosion.
She rushed forward in the direction of the car which was parked in the parking space of the gas station, ignoring the growing heat around her caused by the fire. Her entire focus was making sure that Naomi was safe and unharmed, maybe a little shaken from witnessing an explosion, but unharmed nonetheless.
However, the gnawing voice of fear and doubt in her head was right as she came across a badly misshapen and charred body a few feet from the car.
She stopped short, her eyes refusing to believe the scene right in front of her, and she crashed to her knees in front of the body in shock.
"No, it's not my Naomi. It can't be. Someone else must have been caught in the blast. It's not her, Victoria," She muttered, choking back a sob.
As she knelt there in front of Naomi's corpse, something strange happened. Naomi's eyelids fluttered as if they were trying to open and her fingers moved slightly, but just as it happened, it was over before Victoria could notice it.
The mini mart's manager, a short, squat man in his late forties came in from the main road and approached Victoria, his steps uncertain as he made his way toward her.
"Miss?" He called softly but received no response. Swallowing nervously, he loosened the tie on his neck a bit, reached out, and shook the shoulder of the distraught woman softly.
She jerked from his touch, causing him to take a step back.
"What?" Victoria asked, her voice a hoarse version of itself.
"I assume you know the victim, yes? I have called 911 and they should be here any minute now," He said softly, his heart going out to the woman in front of him who looked young enough to be his daughter.
"I don't know this person. This person is not my Naomi. She must have gotten impatient and gone for a walk or something. She's going to be back any minute, you'll see," She nodded, resolute in her belief.
"Pardon me, but from the window at my counter, I saw the two of you come in with your car and when you came in to use the toilet, she was still standing outside. I know this must be hard for you, but she's gone, my dear. She is," He said, trying to offer her some comfort.
"No." That was all Victoria said before she turned her attention away from the manager and the corpse to the burning car ahead.
She didn't move an inch when an ambulance and a fire truck pulled into the parking lot and didn't pay attention even when they began loading the body onto a stretcher until a slightly charred bracelet fell from the wrist of the body.
The metallic glint of the bracelet caught her eye as it fell. It was unmistakable. She could recognize the bracelet anywhere even in its charred state as she wore a similar one on her wrist.
Her eyes snapped up to the paramedics in the process of putting the body, Naomi's body, into the ambulance.
She sprang to her feet, surprising the manager who still stood behind her, as she rushed to the ambulance.
"Naomi! Naomi!" She cried out, wailing in anguish as tears poured in torrents from her eyes.
"Please, Miss, you can't touch the body," A female paramedic said but her words fell on deaf ears as she stretched her hands to touch Naomi's body which caused the manager and a male paramedic to hold her back as the female paramedic and a second male paramedic loaded the body into the ambulance fully.
"No! Let me go! Let go of me!" She thrashed and struggled against the people holding her back, managing to get out of the grip of the manager but the male paramedic who was stronger than she was, managed to hold her in place.
"Naomi!" She yelled a painful cry that pierced the evening, drowning out the combined wail of the ambulance and fire truck.
Drained, she sank to the ground, her shoulders shaking as she sobbed bitterly. Seeing that she had no will to struggle anymore, the male paramedic let go of her and nodded to the manager, a signal for him to watch over her as he left with the ambulance.
"It'll be alright, Miss. It will," The manager said, rubbing her shoulders as he tried his best to offer solace to her.
His words did nothing to soothe her though as she succumbed to grief. Just then, her phone rang from the hidden pocket in the folds of her dress.
She let it ring, making no move to answer but as it kept ringing, she fished it out of her pocket and answered shakily.
"You must have seen what happened to your friend or should I say, your lover?" A deep, masculine voice chuckled maliciously.
"Who the hell is this?" She asked coldly, her grief momentarily replaced by annoyance.
"That is not important. What is important though, is you not being as foolish as Naomi to try finding out the truth behind Gabriel and Marilyn Walker's death," He paused and then continued after a moment. "Unless you want to end up as she did," He threatened and hung up before Victoria could respond.
Victoria lowered the phone to her thighs, shaking with unbridled fury. Someone somewhere had killed Naomi all because she wanted to find out what had happened to her parents, and now, she was being threatened.
Wiping the tears from her eyes and cheeks, she rose to her feet, ignoring the manager's questions as her eyes hardened with cold anger and resolve.
She was going to find out who had killed her Naomi and had taken her parents away from her as a teenager, even if her life would be in danger because of it.
Back in Los Angeles, a man dressed in a tailored black suit sat back in his chair with a smoking cigar in his mouth and a dangerous smirk on his face as he drew an 'X' over a photo of a smiling Naomi Walker, set it inside a file with photos of two other people, each struck across with an X.
Satisfied, he closed the file which had 'The Walkers' written at the top in red ink.