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The Vanishing Girls

Callie Browning

Also Available

Paradise Scandal Series

The Girl with the Hazel Eyes


The Vanishing Girls

Copyright 2021 © by Callie Browning

ISBN: 978-976-8306-00-5

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, nontransferable right to access and read the text of this book. No part of this text may be reproduced, decompiled, transmitted, downloaded, reverse-engineered or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereafter invented, without the express permission of the author, her estate or duly appointed agents.

With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the author.


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, and some events is entirely coincidental.

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Sections of this book make reference to the lives of the incredible women who have influenced me. I stand on the shoulders of giants and for that I am eternally grateful.


Trigger warnings

Violence against women.

Misogynistic language.


Chapter 1

The Light in the Dark


Office Assistant for growing business in Bridgetown.

Must be comfortable around blood & entrails.

Must own a car.

Able to work flexible hours.

Apply in person to 444 Buckworth Street, Bridgetown.

Holden looked at the ad again and wondered where he had gone wrong. Not a single applicant who turned up had fit the criteria. One thought Holden was a butcher; she didn’t mind quartering loins of pork but drew the line at cutting up humans. Another lady insisted she could manage flexible hours as long as she could come after 9 a.m. and leave at 2 p.m. since she had school-aged children but no car. Holden ran his finger over the crinkled newspaper and re-read each word four times. Finally, satisfied that the fault didn’t lay with him, he wiped his ink-smudged hands on his crisp white handkerchief.

He reclined in his rickety chair, his back to the world as he sighed at the ceiling. Behind him, a large window covered by sun-bleached industrial blinds overlooked Buckworth Street. It was one of the busiest roads in the city, lined with all manner of reputable businesses like supermarkets, welders, and accountants. But at dusk, when flickering street lamps cast a polka-dotted line of light along the sidewalks, the street reduced itself to seedier trades. The steady cha-ching of cash registers turned into the steady click-click of high heels as ladies of the night bustled past, followed by the shameful shuffling of their clients’ shoes. These ladies gathered at a grimy alcove next to the pharmacy just up the road. Holden had heard of their existence but had never encountered them.

Restless, he wandered to the room at the back of the building where he kept the corpses. He stared at the space, his mind awhirl with thoughts as the smell of formaldehyde made him wrinkle his nose. Despite being only thirty years old, his life already felt hard-lived. His desperation was so pronounced that he feared it would ooze from his very pores. All of the action happened at the front of the building where the bills were piling up, but the situation at the back was a stark contrast because the work wasn’t. The mahogany clock on the wall chimed seven times, each peal a hollow sound that echoed off the white tiled floor. Surely no good could come from worrying about things he couldn’t fix at this hour. He fastened the door and returned to his desk.

Holden packed his attaché case with files and took his time turning off the lights. He was securing the last window at the front of the building when he heard a quick rap on the door. Peering between the vertical blinds, Holden saw nothing. He shrugged and picked up his case. No sooner than he stepped outside, he heard a voice.

“I thought you’d never open this door,” said the person silhouetted by the streetlight behind her. She was shorter than he was, and shapely, with a crown of poofy hair atop her head.

Startled, he squinted at the silhouette. “Who are you?”

“Eileen. I’m applying for the job you advertised,” she said, stepping into the light. Her dark skirt was short, and her blouse was fashionable, even if it was too low-cut to be entirely respectable. Surely, she too had not read the description correctly.

Holden rolled his eyes. “Ma’am, are you sure you’re at the right place?”

Eileen grinned and quirked an eyebrow at him. “Blood, guts, my own car, flexible hours? If that’s the opening, then yes, I’m at the right place.”

She flicked the photocopied ad that was stuck to the door and eyed him warily. “Maybe I should talk to your boss instead.”

Holden bristled, his pressure rising at the inference. “I am the boss.”

“Hmm…you can’t blame me for thinking otherwise,” she said, tapping her lips. “You’re trying to intimidate instead of interview, which runs counter to the whole ‘you’re in charge’ thing.”

He clenched his jaw. “This job wouldn’t be a good fit. You’re too…” he waved his hands vaguely, unsure how to say “unsuitable” without sounding arrogant.

He caught the subtle shift of her posture, the steely resolution that took hold and told him that she was sturdier than he thought. “I’m a hard worker, I’m honest and you could do a lot worse than me."

She was right. Clearly, she was the only one who understood what was required. Holden wanted to turn her away, but so far he couldn’t think of a reason to do so other than she was far and

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