Dawn was approaching in the town of West Valley, the sky tinged with dark blue. Most of the town was still asleep at this hour, secure in their beds. Unaware of the horror that had reared it’s ugly head hours before. For no one was sleeping at the Jacks house, where chaos reigned. Police, detectives, the coroner, paramedics and the media had come and gone from there. A horrible crime had been committed there earlier that night. If you listened carefully, you could still hear the screaming and the crying that echoed through the house. If you were to walk into the backyard, you would see the grass and the wooden deck stained with crimson. A reminder of just how brutal the crime had been. For someone had been killed there. Richard Jacks, found beaten to death out in the backyard by his wife Lynn, now a widow.
An innocent trip outside to water the lawn had ended in tragedy. With his wife, his daughter Ellie and his grandson Tyson just inside the house, no one had heard anything out of the ordinary. When Lynn had ventured outside to see what was taking him so long to return, she discovered the grisly scene. Her husband of over thirty years, dead. Her screams had alerted Ellie, who ordered her son Tyson to stay inside, as she had ventured out to see what the commotion was all about. To her great shock and horror, she found her mother kneeling in the grass by her father’s body. Her mother’s screams made her ears ring as she tried to process the situation. At first Ellie thought her father had fallen, but then she caught sight of the dark red blood. A few spots on the wooden deck, but there was a lot more that stained the grass and her father’s body.
When she saw that part of his skull had caved in, that’s when Ellie screamed alongside her mother. Her heart jackhammered in her chest, turning away from the grisly sight, feeling like she was going to faint. Yet somehow, she was able to make her way back inside the house, ignoring Tyson’s questions as she grabbed the phone and quickly dialed 911 with shaky fingers. She barely heard the dispatcher as she gave her name, address and explained what had happened. She tried to focus, ordering Tyson to sit down on the couch and not move a muscle. He did what he was told, realizing something serious was happening. Ellie was able to make her way back outside, wobbling on shaky legs. Her stomach churned as she closed the back door behind her, when she suddenly bent forward, and vomited.
After that, everything was a blur. The paramedics came first. And then the police, the detectives, and the coroner. She caught word that WVNC, the local newstation, was outside the house. She answered some questions, trying to focus on the detective that interrogated her. Questions like had she heard anything? Did she maybe see someone in the backyard? Did her father have any enemies? The detective even found the audacity to ask her if she was alright. She had shook her head, tears streaming freely down her face. Before he could say more, the coroner had called the detective over. They stood off to the side, speaking softly. Ellie had zoned out, she felt numb. As if someone had submerged her in ice cold water. It all had seemed like a bad dream, and Ellie was expecting to wake up.
A firm hand on her shoulder snapped her back to attention, as she looked up into the stoic face of the detective. He revealed to her that he had spoken to the coroner, who had came to the conclusion that her father had been murdered. Her mother, who was sitting nearby, heard the news and let out a cry of anguish. All Ellie could do was nod. Murdered. Just like Felicia. she had thought to herself, wiping at the tears that stained her cheeks. The crowd inside the house began to disperse. First, the coroner, wheeling her father’s body out on a gurney in a black body bag. They had loaded it up into their van, and had driven off. They were followed by the police, and then the newsvan. Explaining that he would be in touch, the detective left soon after. The last to leave had been the paramedics. Ellie had spaced out again, not sure how much time had passed.
With dawn approaching, Ellie now found herself on the couch. She felt hollow inside. Her eyes were dry, she felt like she had used up all her tears. Tyson was asleep next to her, snoring softly. She would have smiled at that, but couldn’t find the power to do so. Her son adored his grandfather. How could she explain to him that he would never see him again? Ellie had never spoken to Tyson about death. Would he be able to comprehend it at such a young age? She had learnt about death when she was about the same age as Tyson. She had found her goldfish, Minnie & Doc, dead in their aquarium. Their little bodies floating in the water. Her father had sat her down and explained to her what had happened. Now, thinking about it, Ellie realized how ironic it was. She’d have to explain to her son why his grandpa was never coming back.
The realization hit her like a fist to the stomach. She found herself gasping for air, trying to calm her breathing. Her father was never coming back. She would no longer hear his tinkling laugh, see his smile, help him out in the garden, or sing along with him to his favorite music like Elvis Presley or Elton John.
“Mom? Do you want to come sit down?” Ellie asked her mother, who was puttering around in the kitchen.
“Oh no, dear. I’m fine. Do you think your father needs help out in the garden?” her mother asked.
Ellie blinked hard. Her mother was taking this exceptionally hard. Denial, one of the five stages of grief. Ellie’s heart broke for her mother. She saw how lost she looked, trying to keep herself occupied in the kitchen. Ellie got to her feet, and walked over to where her mother was standing. She took the older woman in her arms, trying to comfort her.
“Mom. I don’t know what to say.” Ellie said, holding the shaking woman in her arms. “But I know what you’re feeling because I feel it too. Dad would want us to be strong, to be there for one another. The police are going to find the monster who did this to him. And I’m going to make sure they rip him apart limb by limb. I love you, mom. Daddy loves you. We’ll get through this. I promise you.” Ellie said, holding her mother tight.
“My beautiful daughter.” her mother said softly. They clung to each other, watching the sun begin to rise.
The death of Richard Jacks had made the morning news. In the eleven hours that had passed since the brutal crime, there was already a new piece of information that had been released. According to WVNC, who had somehow gotten a hold of the coroner’s report, Richard Jacks was believed to have been beaten to death with a shovel. A shovel that had gone missing, nowhere to be found. The police believed the killer had taken the murder weapon with him, or her. Whoever the killer was, they had made sure to not leave behind any evidence. The police were asking anyone with information to come forward. With no eyewitnesses, and no evidence, the police force and even the detectives working on the case, were stumped. They were nowhere near solving the crime. Let alone finding out who the killer, or killers were.
Perched on the couch, Gwen Tiller sat in stunned silence. She knew the Jacks family. Back in high school, before she turned goth, Ellie and Gwen had been friends. Gwen was the more studious bookworm, while Ellie was more laid back and outgoing. They had met at peer tutoring. Gwen was so advanced that she was helping tutor older students, and Ellie had been assigned to her for help in math. They became friends rather quickly. Gwen would tutor Ellie on her own time, getting to know her. They both had a love for cookie dough ice cream, and they both thought that Justin Timberlake was a total babe. They talked all hours on the phone, studied together at the library, went on bike rides, and slept at each other’s houses. Ellie was even there for Gwen when her mother had succumbed to breast cancer. They would talk about how precious life was, Ellie being a shoulder for Gwen to cry on. They even went on a vacation together to Alcapulco.
Ellie enjoyed the nightlife and the beaches, while Gwen was fascinated with the lifestyle and history. Ellie had even introduced Gwen to her boyfriend, Marco Selby, who was good friends with Owen Talley, Ellie’s boyfriend at the time. That’s when things began to change. Ellie began running with a tougher crowd, and slowly started distancing herself from her friends. Gwen tried her very best to hold on, but it was too late. Ellie changed her look, and cut ties with her. Gwen, Marco and Owen remained in touch. Gwen and Marco kept dating, eventually moving in together. They had heard about when Ellie returned to town, pregnant. Yet they kept their distance from her. They had seen each other around town, but hadn’t spoken until the day of Felicia Talley’s funeral. Gwen was surprised to find Ellie there, coming to give Owen her respects. At another point, she had seen Ellie and Marco talking seriously. But Gwen had kept her distance, until Ellie had approached her at the refreshment table.
“Hey Gwen. How’re you doing?” Ellie had asked while Gwen was pouring herself a glass of Sprite. Gwen was so surprised, she kept pouring until the glass overflowed.
With a soft curse, Gwen dabbed at the stained tablecloth with a napkin before she looked over at Ellie. “You’re talking to me now?” Gwen asked with an arched eyebrow. She had been surprised at how bitchy she sounded.
“Well since we’re at the funeral of old friend’s wife, I thought I’d try to be decent.” Ellie had responded with a soft shrug.
“I’m fine. Just worried about Owen.” Gwen had replied. She had looked over Ellie’s shoulder to find Marco giving her a curious look. “Marco’s calling me, I got to go.” she had said before walking away, and leaving Ellie by the refreshment table.
Now, sitting on the couch in the comfort of her own home, Gwen wished she hadn’t ended the conversation with Ellie like that. She was shocked and saddened to hear the news about Mr. Jacks. That was the second murder in two weeks. An uneasy feeling wrapped itself around Gwen, holding her tight in its grasp. A figure suddenly slid into the room behind her, its presence unknown to Gwen.
“Good morning!” a cheerful voice said from behind her. It was her boyfriend, Marco. He was a morning person, and always woke up in a good mood. He stopped in his tracks and frowned when he saw the look on Gwen’s face. “What’s the matter?” he asked her.
“There’s been another murder.” Gwen answered.
“Another one?” he repeated, his eyes wide in surprise. “Who was it this time?” he asked warily.
“Richard Jacks.” Gwen said simply.
“Richard Jacks?!! Ellie’s father?” Marco asked in disbelief. “What happened?” he asked with a frown creasing his forehead.
“Mrs. Jacks found him beaten to death in their backyard.” Gwen explained, swallowing down the lump that formed in her throat.
“Holy shit! That’s horrible. What the hell is happening in this town?” Marco asked.
“I wish I knew! But something is telling me to reach out to Ellie. She was there for me when my mom died.” Gwen pointed out.
“By all means, go for it. Man, poor Ellie! She doesn’t deserve this.” Marco said as Gwen reached over for the phone.
Fallon had woken up that morning with an uneasy feeling in her stomach. She couldn’t seem to leave the comfort of her own bed. The thought of facing the outside world seemed to root her in place. Outside the window, she saw grey clouds obscuring the sun. The weather seemed to match her mood, for all she wanted to do was lie in bed all day. She could hear her housemates puttering around the house as they did every morning. She knew their schedules by heart. Blake would be off to the gym, and Scott would be off to work. That would leave herself and Naomi in the house. Naomi was trying her best to keep Fallon’s mind off of Felicia’s murder. Fallon was greatful she had a friend like Naomi in her life, she watched out for her. So when a knock sounded on the other side of the door, Fallon couldn’t help but smile thinly. Naomi must have read her mind, even though her friend would make sure she was awake every morning.
“Wakey wakey, dear. You better be getting dressed because we’re going out for breakfast, just us girls.” Naomi said from the other side of the closed door. Fallon knew better than to argue, so with a roll of her eyes and a deep sigh escaping her lips, she rised from the bed and went to get dressed.
Once they were dressed, the girls exited the house, Fallon locking the door behind her. Because the clouds threatened to bring rain, the girls hopped into Naomi’s car and they drove downtown. During the drive, Fallon forgot her troubles. Naomi was distracting her, urging her to sing along to the car sound system that blared out “Left Behind” by CSS. After a few nudges, Fallon gave in as they sang together, watching the streets zoom by as they made their way downtown. When they finally reached their destination, Naomi parked the car at the curb, turning it off. Fallon unbuckled her seatbelt and pushed the passenger side door open before stepping out onto the concrete. She closed the door behind her as Naomi came around the front of the car and stepped up next to her. Fallon looked up at the building in front of them. They were standing in front of Chleo’s Cupcake Cupboard.
“Cupcakes for breakfast?” Fallon asked with an arched eyebrow in Naomi’s direction. The other girl smiled in response.
“Genius, right?” Naomi replied.
“If you’re looking to feel like you weigh six hundred pounds for the rest of the day.” Fallon answered.
“Oh, come on! You love this place. And we have lots to talk about.” Naomi said.
Fallon rolled her eyes, giving in as she followed Naomi into the bakery. Once inside, they saw it was empty, they had the whole place to themselves. Naomi led the way, finding a table near the counter as they sat down. Fallon came there often, they had a variety of different cupcakes you could choose. Chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, a different assortment. The smell inside was heavenly, Fallon took a deep breath, letting it invade her senses.
“You’re glad we came here. I can tell, you’re almost drooling.” Naomi revealed with a giggle.
“Who can say no to my favorite cupcake place?” Fallon said, a small smile playing on her lips. “But you’re right, we do have quite a bit to talk about. Let me go first.” she told Naomi. Fallon took a deep breath before she continued. “I know I haven’t exactly been the funnest to be around these past two weeks. Felicia’s death, it really came out of nowhere. It was murder, and that hardly happens here in West Valley. It just really freaked me out. I can’t seem to wrap my head around the fact that I’ll never see Felicia again. But now, with Mr. Jacks’ death, I realize someone out there is doing this. And I have my theories about who I think it is. As far as I’m concerned, it’s Brandon Covington. There’s no proof showing that he’s dead, or living far away from West Valley. But I don’t want to live in fear until they catch whoever it is that’s doing this. It’s not zombies or demons, we’re dealing with a flesh and blood killer, and they will catch him.” Fallon told Naomi.
“So what does this mean?” Naomi asked curiously.
“It means I want to live my life. Like I did before there was a murderer on the loose. I can’t just crawl under a rock and wait for the police to catch this guy.” Fallon revealed.
“You’re right. I miss Felicia too, but we shouldn’t let this psycho decide how we’re going to live our lives.” Naomi said from across the table. She watched as Fallon got up, and made her way over to the front window of the bakery. Fallon peered out through the glass to the world outside. Naomi’s words rang true for her. She wouldn’t let the killer run her life. She was tired of being scared. She was tired of worrying. She was finding her sense of confidence again. As she gazed out the window, a slight blur of movement caught her attention. Fallon froze, eyes widening slightly. Who is that? she thought to herself. Standing in the park across the street, a black clad figure watched Fallon. She couldn’t see their face, it was hidden behind a black robe and hood. Fallon couldn’t tell if the person was male or female, but they were definitely watching her. She could feel the person’s intense stare on her. It made an icy cold shiver of fear snake down her spine.
“Naomi….someone’s watching us.” Fallon told her friend.
“What? Who?” Naomi said, standing up from her chair.
“No idea. I can’t see their face, they’re all dressed in black.” Fallon said, stepping away from the window.
“Probably just some creep. I’m going to give him a piece of my mind!” Naomi said as she made her way to the door. She pulled it open and stepped outside. Fallon followed close behind. They stood on the bakery’s porch, peering out to the park across the street.
“I don’t see anyone.” Naomi said, her eyes scanning their surroundings.
“I swear. They were right there. Watching us from the park.” Fallon said, her jaw clenching.
“I believe you. Let’s get some cupcakes to go and we’ll get out of here, okay?” Naomi told Fallon, who nodded in eager agreement.
A few doors down, at The Blue Plate, a restaurant, the mood was lighter. Ruby made sure she was early, giving her enough time to find a free table. Her date with Jeremy Ashford had finally come. She and Meredith had spent the whole night before trying to find the right outfit for her. They had finally chosen one, and by the way people were glancing her way, she was sure she looked good. Ruby tried to ignore the butterflies fluttering in her stomach as she sat waiting for Jeremy to arrive. She wanted to pinch herself, she actually had a date with THE Jeremy Ashford, heartthrob actor. For a moment, she hoped he would actually show up. What if he didn’t like her?
Don’t think like that. she thought to herself with a frown. He seemed genuinely interested in meeting her, so she pushed those negative thoughts out of her mind. She wondered what kind of entrance he would make. Would he be in disguise? Would he have an army of photographers following him? Would they gather around them as they had their date? Ruby really wasn’t in the mood for camera flashes going off in her face every five seconds.
Before she could reconsider, someone slid into the seat across the table from her. She ticked her dark eyes up into the face of a god. It took her a moment to process who was sitting across from her. Her heart skipped a beat as a wide smile played on her lips. She’d recognize that face anywhere. She’d seen it on her television, on the big screen at the movies, and in the pages of magazines. Holy crap Jeremy Ashford is here to see me! Ruby thought to herself, her heart racing. He looked even better in person, and Ruby could feel herself blush as Jeremy looked over at her with a confident smile.
“Ruby! It’s so nice to meet you!” he told her. His voice was deep and smooth. She loved his voice, and hearing it in person, saying her name, she had to try hard to focus. She didn’t want to fangirl out and scare him off. The butterflies in her stomach intensified. She tried to keep calm.
“Hi Jeremy! It’s great to meet you, too!” she told him with a shy smile.
“Thanks for agreeing to this. You seemed really down to earth when we were chatting! Most girls would have been losing their minds, finding out they were chatting with me.” Jeremy explained, flashing her his million dollar smile.
“Oh, haha! I wouldn’t blame them! I mean, Jeremy Ashford, in West Valley? Wow!” Ruby said.
Jeremy laughed in response. “You’re probably wondering why I’m here. Big actor like me, leaving Hollywood to come to this small town. Well, truth be told. I was tired of Hollywood. It’s so superficial. All people cared about was how they looked, how tan they were, what they drove, and who’s house cost more. I got annoyed with that and decided to give the small town life a try.” Jeremy told Ruby.
“How are you liking West Valley so far?” Ruby asked him.
“Besides the murders and all, it’s great!” he told her with a smile playing on his lips.
“It’s weird with the murders. West Valley is usually a safe little town. There’s barely any crime here.” Ruby explained.
“Everly can’t wait to get here. She thinks it’ll be good publicity for her.” Jeremy said with a soft chuckle.
Ruby laughed. “I can’t believe Everly Martin is coming here. What’s she like?” she asked curiously.
“Everything you read about her in the tabloids is true. Except the whole story about us being secretly married! Everly and I have been friends for years. This will be our sixth movie that we’ve costarred together.” Jeremy explained.
“Wow, the sixth movie! How did you get started in the business, anyway?” Ruby asked.
Jeremy smiled, getting a far away look in his eyes. “Well, I started off as a child model. I was discovered by an agent eating at a restaurant at the age of seven. A week later I was doing my first photoshoot. I modeled for years, and once I turned thirteen, my agent thought it would be a good idea to try out acting. I got a starring role not long after. Have you seen Future Kingdom? It’s about a girl who gets transported three thousand years into the future to this kingdom, I played the young prince.” he explained, smiling proudly.
“I don’t think I saw that one. I only started following your career once you did The Files Of A Sixteen Year Old Detective.” Ruby revealed sheepishly.
“That was probably my favorite movie that I’ve ever worked on!” Jeremy explained, his eyes shining with excitement.
“What’s this new movie that you’re working with Everly about?” Ruby asked, leaning forward in her seat.
“Oh, it’s great! It’s called Following Lust. It’s an erotic thriller. It’s about a guy who’s backpacking abroad. And he hooks up with this gorgeous girl. He thinks nothing of it and returns home to the states, but then he realizes this girl followed him back.” Jeremy explained.
“Let me guess, Everly plays the girl?” Ruby asked with a smirk.
“She does. She hopes this role will make people see past her party girl persona. Although once the cameras stop rolling, she’ll probably do something stupid and make the tabloids again!” Jeremy revealed with a chuckle. “But enough about me, tell me about yourself!” he said, turning the attention on Ruby.
“There’s not much to tell! I’m not very interesting. But since you asked, I guess I’ll try.” Ruby said before continuing. “I’m twenty one. I’m a student at the art college. I live with my best friend, Meredith. Who is dying to meet you, by the way! I come from a big family, I have two brothers, and three sisters, all younger than me. They live with my parents out in Longview. It’s a small town west from here, about three hours away. I don’t see them very much.” she explained to Jeremy.
“I know what you mean. My family is out in Tampa, Florida. That’s where I grew up. I miss them sometimes.” Jeremy revealed.
“Isn’t your brother close to finding the cure to morning breath? I saw it in the news.” Ruby asked curiously.
“My older brother, William. He is pretty close, actually! I’m very excited for him.” Jeremy explained. He continued. “So, how about we get to reading some lines? It is part of the reason why I asked you here today. But maybe we can go out on a real date sometime soon?” he asked, a hopeful tone in his voice.
The butterflies in Ruby’s stomach returned. He asked me out again! she thought to herself. She couldn’t help the wide smile that broke out on her face. “Of course I’d love to go out again!” she told Jeremy.
It was almost lunchtime by the time the Roe household was up and about. Campbell Roe shared his house with his younger brother, Thomas. It was just the two of them. Their mother had died a few years back, the victim of a hit and run. And their father was out of the picture since they were in their preteens. Campbell was the brains of the brothers, while Thomas was the more ambitious one. Living together had taken some getting used to. It was a hard adjustment at first, but the brothers had gotten used to it. It wasn’t the same as when they were growing up, living with their mother. They each had their own life now. It was rare that they were both home at the same time. But when they were, they bonded, almost inseperable. Waking up at almost noon on the weekends was not uncommon for them. Thomas was not a morning person, and Campbell usually got in by the time the sun was out, shining in the sky. Today was no different, as Thomas came down the stairs, he found his brother sitting on the couch.
“When did you get in?” Thomas asked before sitting down next to Campbell.
“About an hour ago.” Campbell replied.
Thomas shook his head. “I still don’t know how you function like that.” he told his brother.
“A lot of coffees.” Campbell explained with a chuckle escaping his lips.
“Are things so interesting at the Technology School that you pull all nighters?” Thomas asked with a devilish grin on his face.
“Hardly! It’s just so quiet I can get my work done.” Campbell told Thomas.
“You need to find a girlfriend, pronto. It’s been over a year since you broke up with Robin.” Thomas said.
Campbell smiled knowingly. “Well, I saw Scott the other day. And he told me about that new girl, Darcy. She’s friends with Fallon, and she’s single.” he told his brother.
“You should make a move, bro. You should ask her out or something. Unless you’re too chicken.” Thomas said with a smirk, challenging his older brother.
“I’m not chicken! I just have to get to know her first.” Campbell explained.
“Well, there’s no time like the present. Better get to it before someone else does.” Thomas answered.
“All in due time, all in due time.” Campbell told his brother.
Hanna was late. She had stayed longer than expected at Skye’s. She had told her mother she would be home for breakfast, but it was now after lunchtime. As she hurried down the sidewalk, the sun shining above her, Hanna blamed Skye. The sleepover the night before had been really fun. The two friends had escaped to Skye’s room. They gossiped about boys and their fellow classmates. They prank called Charlie Olsen. They made their own nailpolish, some concoction Skye had read in one of her magazines. They listened to the latest Taylor Swift, and Rihanna albums while pigging out on chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. They ended the night with a scary movie, The House Of The Devil. So that Skye’s parents didn’t wake up, they screamed into their pillows at the horror unfolding on the television screen.
Hanna had a difficult time falling asleep, and by the time she did, it was almost four in the morning. When she awoke, she saw it was a little past eleven, and that she had two missed calls from her mother. She called her mother back, assuring her she was fine, and that she would be home as soon as possible. Skye was nowhere to be found, so Hanna got dressed and headed downstairs into the Cosgrove’s kitchen. Skye was already seated at the kitchen table, a bowl of fresh fruit and quinoa cereal in front of her. She insisted Hanna stay for a late breakfast. Hanna explained how her mother was waiting for her, but all Skye did was give her a withering glance. With a sigh, Hanna sat down across from her friend, who then flashed her a wide smile. Hanna ate as fast she could, choking down her breakfast. Skye spoke the whole time, about what kind of car she wanted, about the Miss Teen West Valley pageant, and about how she was excited for the summer.
Hanna nodded enthusiastically, eyeing the stove clock the entire time. Once she was done, Hanna had placed her plate in the sink and told Skye she really had to go. Her friend scoffed in reply, but waved, so Hanna hot-footed it out of the house, closing the door behind her . She hurried for the sidewalk, heading home. Hanna wondered what kind of mood here mother would be in when she returned home. If her mother was home at all. Her mother kept busy, more so on the weekends. She was always off doing something. Tennis lessons, out jogging, doing the groceries, planning events at city hall. Lately her mother was keeping busy with the upcoming pageant. Hanna was going to be participating. She dreaded the pageant, she had always came in second place, Skye always won first.
She found it to be pointless, but she entered for the sake of her mother. All she would go home with was a gift certificate for the mall. And it was for a measly amount, she spent more when she went shopping on her own. With the thought of planning a mall trip in the back of her mind, Hanna hurried home. The cloudy weather of the morning had dissappeared, replaced with sunshine. Children played in their yards, people walked their dogs. A few moments later, Hanna found herself crossing her front lawn, heading up to the door, and pulled it open, stepping inside the house as she closed the door behind her.
“I’m home!” Hanna called out.
“There you are!” a voice said, startling Hanna. Her mother stepped out of the kitchen.
“Mom! Sorry I’m late. You know Skye, she always has something to talk about.” Hanna said with a nervous chuckle. She took in the expression on her mother’s face. She didn’t look mad, but she didn’t look overly thrilled either.
“You missed mother-daughter pilates.” her mother pointed out. Hanna mentally kicked herself. The pilates class was something she and her mother did to bond. Hanna actually enjoyed it. It was better than the sports she dreaded to play in gym class at school, like volleyball or soccer.
“I know. I’m really sorry.” Hanna told her mother. “We can always go tomorrow!” she suggested.
Her mother shook her head. “Your father and I are going up to the vineyards in Longview tomorrow. We’ll be gone all day. Remember, we asked you to babysit Quintin?” she reminded Hanna. Hanna had forgotten, she had agreed to babysit her little brother, Quintin.
“Was that tomorrow?” Hanna asked with a frown.
“Yes, it’s tomorrow. So you should go up to your room and finish your homework so Quintin has your full attention tomorrow.” her mother ordered.
Hanna rolled her eyes in response. Fine. she thought to herself as she turned and made her way for the stairs that lead up to the second floor of the house. She stomped up the stairs until she reached the second floor landing. Babysitting her little brother was not the way she wanted to spend her sunday. She was hoping to go to the mall with Skye for some retail therapy, but it looked like those plans were thrown out the window. She reached her closed bedroom door, grabbed the doorknob and turned, pushing the door open as she stepped inside her room, closing the door behind her. She liked having her privacy. Her family knew that when her door was closed, she didn’t want to be disturbed. Her eyes scanned the room, looking for her backpack. She spotted it, and began to move towards it when the ringing of her phone stopped her in her tracks. Hoping it was Skye calling, she fished out her phone and answered it.
“Wow, Skye. Took you a whole fifteen minutes to call me. Do you miss me that much?” Hanna said with a giggle into the phone. No reply on the other end. “Skye? Hello?” Hanna said with a frown creasing her forehead.
Hanna heard breathing on the other end of the line, and before she could protest, the caller spoke.
“Who’s Skye?” a distorted voice from the other end of the line asked.
Hanna frowned, not recognizing the voice on the other end. It sounded vaguely male, but she wasn’t certain.
“Oops. Sorry! I thought you were someone else.” Hanna explained.
“That’s alright. I am technically someone else.” the voice said with a seductive chuckle.
“Who are you calling for?” Hanna asked curiously.
“What if I said I’m calling for you?” the voice asked.
Hanna’s interest was piqued. “Well it would help if I knew who you were.” she said. She paced the length of her bedroom.
“Think of me as an admirer. Watching you from afar.” the voice said seductively.
Hanna couldn’t help the sly grin that played on her lips. “Do you go to West Valley High?” she asked.
“Maybe. Maybe not. But I’ve seen you, and I think you’re beautiful.” the voice revealed.
“Beautiful?” Hanna repeated, feeling herself blush.
“Will you still be beautiful when you’re dead?” the voice asked innocently.
It took Hanna a moment to realize what the voice on the other end of the line had said.
“What?” she said in disbelief. “Who is this?” she asked, her tone changing from flirty to serious.
“Someone who can’t wait to cut you open and play with your insides.” the voice said menacingly.
Hanna couldn’t help the small shriek that escaped from her lips. “Charlie Olsen is this you? I swear to god if it is, I’m suing you and your whole damn family!” she cried, her heart racing in her chest.
“This isn’t Charlie. But you’ll find out soon enough…Hanna!” the voice snarled with menace before suddenly hanging up.
Hanna felt a chill course through her body as she lowered the phone. A deep frown creased her forehead as she stood in the middle of her room, unable to bring herself to move. The menacing voice’s words still resonating in her ears.
The hours passed, the sun dissappeared and was replaced by the moon. It lit up the endless black canopy that was the sky. The street lamps blinked on, lighting the way for anyone was still out on the streets. Yet the light didn’t touch all areas, where the thick shadows danced. Where if you were walking, you would glance behind your shoulder, walking faster to make it back into the safe glow of the light. People hurried home, cars pulling away from the curbs. It was safer to be inside, secure behind locked doors and windows. But even then, it wasn’t completely safe. All it took was a moment of carelessness, an honest mistake, and your safety could be compromised. It’s what had happened to Richard Jacks. With two murders that had occured, the town of West Valley were sitting on pins and needles. Knowing in the back of their minds, that tragedy could strike again. Who the next victim was, only time would tell.
The murders were the last thing on Darcy’s mind as the last customer hurried out of the store. It had been a busy day and she had made a lot of sales. She had even had a few requests by phone. Stephanie Workman and Olivia Cosgrove had called the store. They had asked for her to put aside some dresses for their daughters, Hanna and Skye. There was a beauty pageant coming up in about a month, and they wanted to make sure their daughters had the best dresses to wear. Darcy had taken notes on a sheet of paper, and had asked them to come in sometime during the week. Now, her day at work was over. She let out a sigh, peering out the glass doors to the world beyond. Night had fallen and barely any people walked the downtown area. Darcy would have loved to be one of them, to head home to take a nice hot bubble bath and drink a cup of tea.
But she had a few things to do before she could think of heading home. She had her sales to add up, restock some displays, and put the money she made into the safe. Darcy made her way across the store and around to the counter.
She turned the sound system off, cutting off the Lana Del Rey song that was blaring from the speakers. The store was now silent. Pressing a few buttons on the cash register, the drawer sprung open, the noise echoing through the empty store. Darcy pulled out a pile of receipts and began to count. She stopped, listening carefully when she heard a rattle. Trying to pinpoint where the noise had come from. Her eyes scanning the dimly lit store. Another rattle. Instead of being scared, a soft smile played on Darcy’s lips. She realized it was just the soft wind rattling the glass of the store’s doors. You’re getting paranoid. she thought to herself as she went back to counting the receipts. It didn’t take her very long and soon she was putting the receipts in a neat pile on the counter top. Putting the money in the safe would come last, but first, she had to head up to the second floor of the store.
With her footfalls echoing off the walls, she made her way around the counter and headed for the stairs, stopping briefly to peer at the mirror on the wall by the door. She remembered the message that someone had scrawled on the mirror in blood red paint. SOON. it had read. She had reported it to the police but they thought it was nothing more than vandalism. Darcy hoped they were right.
The second floor of the store was made up of a few storage rooms where Darcy could store boxes of clothes, and a bathroom. She hadn’t had a break in a few hours and now was the perfect time to use the bathroom. She ascended the stairs, trying to ignore the fact that there wasn’t much light on the second floor. Once she reached the second floor landing, she made her way into the bathroom, flicking on the light and closing the door behind her. She looked at her reflection in the mirror before she approached the toilet. A few minutes later, she flushed, making her way to the sink to wash her hands. She turned on the faucet, sticking her hands under the running water and washed them quickly before turning the tap off. She hummed to herself as she dried her hands on a towel. She stopped humming when she heard a faint noise on the other side of the door. It sounded like a creaking floorboard. With a frown, Darcy made her way to the bathroom door.
She grabbed the doorknob, and turned, pushing the door open. Only it wouldn’t open. It was stuck. She rattled the doorknob and tried again. The door didn’t budge. Darcy slammed her hands against the door. Nothing, the door didn’t move an inch. Panic welled inside Darcy as she slammed her shoulder against the door.
“Hey!” Darcy cried. She looked quickly around the bathroom. There was a window, too small and too high for her to reach. She kicked at the door, nothing. Call for help. she thought to herself. And then remembered that she had left her phone in her purse downstairs. A whimper escaped from her lips as she pushed against the bathroom door, to no avail. She took a step back, trying to keep calm. That’s when she smelled something. She sniffed the air. It smelled like smoke. She looked up again, at the small vent high in the wall. A plume of smoke was wafting out of it. “Oh god!” she found herself saying. She beat against the door, pulling at the doorknob. There was a hiss, and suddenly clouds of smoke began to pump into the small bathroom. A scream escaped Darcy’s lips.
She realized if she didn’t get out in the next few minutes, she would suffocate. She slammed her shoulder into the door, once, twice, and still the door didn’t open. “HELP! Somebody! Please help!” she screamed, coughing as smoke poured into her mouth. The bathroom was completely covered in smoke, all Darcy could see was white as she coughed, her hands gripped around the doorknob. She struggled to get the door open, as black spots began to dance around her eyesight.
Darcy let out another scream as her vision began to go dark. She coughed, gasping for air as a sea of smoke filled her lungs. The darkness closed in on her, swallowing her whole.