Eyes widened in horror, staring in disbelief. Despite the morning sun in a cloudless blue sky, a chill seemed to have settled on downtown West Valley. A crime had been committed. The fire marshall had called it an arson. It had destroyed the building that had once been Darcy’s Closet, a clothing store. Darcy Adkins had worked hard on her business since she had moved to the small town. She had designed all her own clothes, had gained a clientele. Her store was popular in the town of West Valley and the towns beyond. People came from all over to shop for her reasonable priced designs. If you were looking for new clothes, it was without a question you would go to see what Darcy’s Closet had to offer.
People would be seen walking out of the store smiling, with a bag of purchases in their hands. When the wore the clothes, they would get stopped and asked where they had got that stylish top or dress. Business had been booming lately for Darcy with the arrival of spring. West Valley was warm and sunny all year round, but now people were starting to really pay attention with how they were dressing. It had been in Darcy’s mind that maybe she should have started looking into designing a men’s line, when everything came to a fiery end. It had been a mere hours before when she had received a troubling phone call. It had been past midnight, Darcy had been in the kitchen searching for some food when the phone had rang.
Wondering who was calling at such an hour, she had gone over to answer the phone. It was William Taggart, the fire marshall, on the other end of the line. He had kept it vague, saying there had been a situation at the store. With a frown creasing her pretty face, Darcy had asked him what kind of situation. She wondered why it couldn’t have waited until the morning. A weird feeling had settled in the pit of her stomach as she listened to Mr. Taggart explain. Her store had burned down. Someone had purposely set fire to it. There wasn’t much of the building left. Darcy felt like someone had slapped her across the face. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Her mind was screaming for her to head downtown, to see what had happened.
Part of her wanted to believe it was just a sick joke. That Mr. Taggart had been told to call and play a prank on her. He explained there was nothing for her to do at that time, that she needed to come by the store in the morning. Darcy had agreed and had hung up the phone. Outside, it had began to pour as she had made her way back to bed. Her fiancée Campbell was peacefully asleep. She wanted to wake him, to tell him what had happened. But she had decided against it. She had gotten into bed and had stared at the bedroom wall for what seemed like hours. So many thoughts swirled through her mind. She hadn’t been able to sleep. Before she knew it, the sun was rising outside the bedroom window. A quick glance at the bedside clock revealed it was almost seven o’clock.
Darcy had gotten up from the bed. She went through the dresser drawers to find herself something to wear. She had headed into the shower, by the time she had got out, Campbell was awake and making coffee in the kitchen. He was in a cheerful mood, offering her a cup of coffee. On any other morning she would have gulped it down, but today she couldn’t. Her stomach churning with nerves, she declined. Campbell shrugged. He didn’t seem to realize that something was bothering her. I still haven’t told him I can’t have kids, how am I going to tell him that the store burnt down? she had thought to herself. They stood around talking, Darcy glancing at the stove clock every so often. She was due at the store for nine o’clock.
Once Campbell was done with his coffee, he was off to shower and get ready for the day. Darcy had kissed him, took the cup and went to clean it out in the sink. Campbell headed off into the bathroom. Once she heard the shower turn on, Darcy grabbed her cellphone, her purse, and her car keys. She was out the front door, closing it and locking it behind her as she stepped out into the warm sunshine. She couldn’t help the shiver of fear that snaked down her spine as she had headed for her new car. It was an engagement gift from Campbell. She didn’t mind walking, but on a day like that day, taking the car would get her downtown faster. She had jumped into the drivers seat, turned the car on, and had zoomed away from the curb with the tires screeching loudly.
Making her way downtown, she had gripped the steering wheel so tightly, her fingers ached. Her eyes were set, staring straight ahead out the windshield. She had got there in record time, the streets weren’t particularly busy that morning. The car pulled up to the curb in front of the store, the engine cutting off as Darcy leaped out of the car. She made her way around the back of the car to step up onto the curb, and stared in silent horror at what once was her store. There was almost nothing left of it. One wall remained standing, exposing the blackened remains of the store’s interior. Darcy sucked in a deep breath, feeling like she was going to pass out. She didn’t know why, but she focused her attention on a small flume of smoke that lingered in the air.
My store. Gone. she thought to herself. Those words kept repeating in her head as she looked down the sidewalk. Other shop owners were milling about in front of their businesses, looking over at the gutted building. Some were shaking their heads sympathetically, and others had looks of relief on their faces. As if they were glad that it hadn’t been their business that had burnt to the ground. Darcy wrapped her arms around herself. The smell of smoke wafted down Main Street. Suddenly, someone was calling her name. She snapped back to attention, looking up to see an older man approaching her. She guessed it was Mr. Taggart, the fire marshall. He stopped in front of her, a stern look on his creased face as he introduced himself.
“William Taggart, fire marshall.” he explained, extending his hand.
“Darcy Adkins.” she replied in a small voice. She couldn’t help but focus on the burnt building over his shoulder.
“There’s been a fire here before, correct?” he asked curiously, a frown creasing his face.
Darcy flashed back to that night she had almost suffocated in the store’s restroom. She nodded in reply. “The fuse box had been tampered with.” she explained, remembering.
“Well this was no tampering. Someone threw a Molotov cocktail through the front window of your store.” Mr. Taggart explained.
“I think I know who did it.” Darcy replied, focusing her attention on the older man.
“You do?” Mr. Taggart replied.
“The West Valley killer. Whoever it is, they’re out to get me. Still.” Darcy explained, blinking softly.
Mr. Taggart shook his head. “I can’t believe these killings are happening all over again.” he told Darcy.
“Sometimes I wonder why I even moved here.” she replied, ticking her gaze down the sidewalk.
“Well hopefully the police will find out who it is before anyone else dies.” Mr. Taggart told her.
Darcy didn’t find his words comforting. She nodded silently. “Hopefully.” she replied, sounding unconvinced.
“Speaking of, the police are on their way. They have to investigate what happened here, of course.” he told her.
“Of course.” Darcy replied.
“We’ll be in touch. Sorry again for delivering the bad news.” he told her sympathetically. He placed a hand down on her shoulder before he turned and walked off down the sidewalk.
Darcy turned and looked back at what was left of the building. Memories flashed through her mind like a broken picture show. She remembered the day she had gone to look at the space. She remembered when the interior designers had come to decorate the inside of the store, following her instructions on how she wanted it to look. She remembered the exact moment she had opened the store up to the public. It hadn’t taken long before she had served her first customer, had made her first sale. She remembered making the dresses for the town beauty pageant. While she remembered the good, she couldn’t help but also think of the bad. Darcy remembered being locked in the upstairs restroom, thick white smoke pumping through the vent.
She remembered suffocating, struggling to breathe before she had passed out. She remembered the countless phone calls from the killer, calling to torment her. To gloat, to threaten her. Scott had even broken in once to leave her a threatening message on the wall. She remembered the red scrawls, spelling out SOON. She couldn’t help but shiver. She blinked back tears as she took a few steps closer to what was left of the building. She had no idea what she was going to do now. The abrupt ending of her career couldn’t have come at the worse time. Her wedding day was coming up, and she and Campbell were in the process of looking for a new place to live. She had some money saved up, but eventually that would run out. Should I start over? Should I look into another profession? Darcy thought to herself.
Before she could come up with an answer, she heard someone behind her.
“Darcy!” a familiar voice gasped.
Darcy turned to reveal Fallon standing on the sidewalk, staring in wide eyed shock at the burnt down building.
“Fallon? How did you..” Darcy trailed off.
“It’s all over the news. When I heard, I rushed over here. I was hoping it wasn’t THIS bad.” Fallon explained.
“It’s all gone. Everything I worked so hard on. That’s worse then bad.” Darcy told her friend, a few stray tears trickling down her cheeks.
“I’m so sorry.” Fallon replied, sadness glinting in her eyes.
“There’s nothing we can do now.” Darcy told Fallon. A wave of emotion hit her, tears streaming down her face as she began to sob.
Fallon reached over, and pulled Darcy close. Holding her in a hug as Darcy sobbed into her shoulder.
“Why is this happening to me?” Darcy said between sobs that racked her body. Fallon wished she had an answer for her.
“Shh. It’ll be alright. It’ll be alright.” Fallon repeated softly. She rubbed Darcy’s back in comfort. Wondering if her friend could see the uncertainty in her eyes.
Ellie scrunched up her nose at the faint smell of smoke that lingered inside Surge. I hope it’s gone by tonight. she thought to herself with a frown creasing her face. They were holding an event there that night. Faye’s book launch party. The day had finally come. Surge was going to be closed to the general public, only those who had got invited could attend. Ellie wasn’t going to take any chances. Whoever tried to attend without an invitation would be turned away at the door. There would be security patrolling the outside of the building. If the killer planned on crashing the party, hopefully he, or she, would be discouraged. There had been enough craziness for the day. Just a few doors down, Darcy’s Closet had burned to the ground.
Ellie had seen it on the way over to work. She had stopped in her tracks and had stared in surprise at what was left of the building. She hadn’t seen Darcy out on the sidewalk, and for one moment had thought the worst. She had thought that Darcy had been inside the building, swallowed whole by the bright red and orange flames. But no. She pushed those morbid thoughts aside when she heard someone mention that Darcy was on her way over. Ellie had wanted to stay and wait for her to arrive, but she had too much to do at Surge. Darcy had been invited that night, she hoped she would show up. Ellie would talk to her then. But for now, she needed to set up for the event. Christy was going to be coming into work shortly to help her. The preparations would take all day.
That’s why Ellie was already dressed for the event. She didn’t plan on going home, and would probably return later on that night. She had seen that Tyson had got onto the school bus that morning. But her mother was going to make sure he got home from school and was going to stay with him until Ellie got home. She had tried finding a babysitter, but the few girls she had called had declined. They were still on edge about what had happened at the sleepover at the Workman house. Ellie understood. Three young girls had been brutally murdered in the span of a few hours. The killer had claimed teenage victims before, but not all in one night. With a sigh escaping her lips, Ellie made her way over to the bar.
She went around to the other side, bending down to check if there was enough bottles for the event. She frowned. Not enough. she thought to herself, straightening up. With her heels clicking on the floor, she made her way back around the bar and crossed the floor. She made her way over to a door, pulling it open. A stock room. She flicked on the light, dim light filling up the dank room. Another door at the back of the stock room lead out to the alleyway behind the building. The stench of smoke was stronger in the room, Ellie coughed as she stepped inside. She made her way over to a stack of wooden crates. She pulled the top off one of the crates, peering inside at the bottles of assorted alcohol. She pulled out a bottle, peering at the label in the dim lighting.
She set the bottle aside, reaching back into the crate to grab another. As she pulled it out, the loose cap came off, and rolled across the floor. Rolling her eyes in annoyance, Ellie placed the bottle down and went in search for the cap. In the back of the room where the light didn’t reach, the back door leading out to the alley became to open slowly. Ellie was oblivious, bending down to push some crates aside to find the bottle cap. She muttered softly to herself as the door behind her opened wider. Soon, a shadowy figure stood in the doorway, watching Ellie. There was a glint of silver from the back of the room. Ellie was too focused on what was in front of her to realize what was going on behind her. The figure stood silently in the doorway.
Aha! Ellie thought to herself with a smile as she spotted the bottle cap. She picked it up off the floor, standing up as she did so. Suddenly, she frowned. Sensing something. As if something was not right. She turned, eyes glancing towards the back of the stock room. And noticed the back door wide open. With a deep frown creasing her pretty face, she made her way slowly towards the back of the room. The doorway was empty. A slow shiver of fear snaked down her spine. The sound of her heels echoed off the walls around her as she reached the door. She took a step out the door, peering into the alleyway. It was empty. No sign of anyone. Ellie stepped back inside the stock room. She closed the door, and locked the deadbolt. With an uneasy glance around, she hurried over to the crate she had opened.
She placed the bottles back inside and carried the box out of the stock room, using her foot to close the door behind her. She couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that seemed to be clinging to her. Her eyes darted around the space of the club, expecting for someone to come jumping out at her. She reached the bar, bringing the crate to the other side as she began placing the bottles. After a few minutes of doing that, the uneasy feeling she had began to dissipate. She placed the last bottle and stood up. Coming face to face with someone. Ellie couldn’t help but let out a yelp, balling her fist, ready to attack. She calmed down when she realized it was just Christy. The other woman took a step back, eyes wide in surprise.
“Whoa!” Christy cried out, throwing up her hands in surrender.
Ellie lowered her fist. “Sorry! You startled me!” she told Christy.
“I can see that! You were ready to punch me out!” Christy replied.
“You don’t just sneak up on people like that!” Ellie replied, a nervous chuckle escaping her lips.
“Sorry! You were busy, I didn’t want to interrupt.” Christy explained.
“You should have! I almost rearranged your face with my fist!” Ellie said.
“Is everything okay?” Christy asked, arching an eyebrow.
“I’m just a little jumpy.” Ellie replied.
“Because of the fire at Darcy’s store?” Christy asked.
“No. The back door that leads out into the alley. It was open. Did you do that?” Ellie asked curiously.
Christy shook her head. “I just got here. And I came from the front.” she explained to the other girl.
Ellie frowned. “Maybe it was one of the bartenders.” she said, a hint of uncertainty in her voice.
“Anyway, are you ready for tonight? You look great!” Christy told her with a smile.
Pushing the uncertain feeling aside, Ellie smiled. “Thanks, so do you!” she told Christy.
Christy looked down at the dress she wore. “Megan helped pick it out. She said since I work somewhere young and hip, I should dress young and hip.” she explained to Ellie.
“You just turned fourty, right? That’s still young in my eyes.” Ellie reassured her.
Christy smiled. “That’s nice of you to say! So what else needs to be done around here?” she asked with an arched eyebrow.
“Do you think you could set up a table and a chair for Faye to sit at?” Ellie asked.
“Sure! I’m on it.” Christy said before she walked away.
Ellie headed in the other direction, but was stopped by Celia, a bartender. She handed Ellie some envelopes, explaining it was the day’s mail, before she hurried off to attend to something behind the bar. Ellie flipped through the mail, a certain envelope catching her attention. What’s this? she thought to herself as she ripped the envelope open. She pulled out the letter, unfolding it, and scanning the words with her eyes. Her eyes widened, she couldn’t believe what she was reading. She blinked hard, almost as if she was trying to will the letter away. But it remained in her clenched hands. This has to be a joke. It has to be. she thought to herself. She felt like she had been punched in the stomach.
She lowered the letter, sucking in a deep breath. She couldn’t seem to bring herself to move. She stood rooted in place. Nearby, Christy looked up. She must have seen the distress on Ellie’s face because she walked over, a frown creasing her forehead. She peered down at the letter clutched in Ellie’s hand.
“Everything alright? What is that?” Christy asked curiously.
“It’s a letter. From the West Valley court.” Ellie explained through gritted teeth.
“West Valley court?” Christy repeated with a frown.
Ellie nodded silently. “It seems Gage is seeking custody for Tyson. Sole custody.” she said softly. She was trying to hold back the rage that was pushing itself to the surface.
“What!? He can’t do that!” Christy cried with wide eyes.
“He’s his father. He can try.” Ellie replied. She balled up her fists, crinkling the paper as she did so.
“What are you going to do?” Christy asked.
“Well first, I’m going to call Gage and bite his fucking head off. Then I’m going to look for a good lawyer.” Ellie replied.
“Do you need me to do anything?” Christy asked.
“Hold down the fort while I go make some calls.” Ellie replied before she spun on her heels and headed for the office. Christy watched her go, shaking her head in sympathy.
Sometimes Bridget was glad she lived on the outskirts of town. In a way, she felt untouched by the insanity that was going on in the rest of West Valley. She hadn’t experienced much terror like the others had. There was that one phone call to the house by the killer. And there was Robin’s murder. Bridget had kept quiet about that, but she was still sort of glad that Robin was gone. The other girl was no longer there to torment her. Bridget didn’t even miss her absence. It was like a great weight had been lifted off her shoulders. She could now walk freely through the house without having to listen to rude comments directed at her. She didn’t have to hide in her room anymore. She didn’t have to sneak into the house, hoping Robin wasn’t there, that she wouldn’t spot her.
Lilah, Hayley, and Ivy still missed her. They would sit around telling stories, reminiscing about the good times they had with Robin. Bridget never joined in. She would usually go and keep herself occupied with something else. Whether it was doing her homework, or having her nose in a book, or even doing the dishes. It’s not like her housemates had asked her to join them. They were all very aware of how Robin treated her. They were usually around when it happened. Yet they had never said anything, it was as if they were scared of Robin. They didn’t want to get on her bad side. She could make your life a living hell. Bridget found that somewhat odd, since Robin was just living in Ivy’s house. It’s not like she owned it.
If Ivy really wanted to, she could have kicked Robin out of the house. That would have been much simpler. Bridget thought to herself. But out of all the housemates, Ivy and Robin were the closest. All the other girls were popular, even happy-go-lucky Lilah. Bridget was not. Sometimes she wondered what she was even doing living under Ivy’s roof. She felt like she didn’t fit in. The other girls were pretty, they were interesting. They dressed in the latest fashions. Guys were into them. That’s not what Bridget was like. She was too smart for her own good. She loved school, she was almost always studying. When she wasn’t at home, she could be found at the library, or at the university’s computer lab.
She wasn’t that outgoing, but when she did speak, it seemed like people had no idea what she was talking about. Her style was casual and simple. And she definitely didn’t catch guys’ attention. They would just walk past her without even a glance in her direction. They don’t even know I exist. she thought to herself with a frown creasing her forehead. Her parents pushed her to do well in her studies. They had done that since she was a little girl. Even though she was now twenty three years old, and had moved out of her parents’ home, they were still making sure that school was her number one priority. But lately they were also starting to mention that perhaps it was time to start looking for a boyfriend.
Could Bridget really find someone with the potential to become her husband one day? There wasn’t anyone really in town who interested her. Either they were already married or seeing someone. Her parents had mentioned about someone she had known in the past. Edison Chan, who’s parents were friends with hers. They had grown up together, but had drifted apart when his parents had sent him to a prestigious boarding school in the eighth grade. Not because they wanted to get rid of him, but because the school was one of the best. It was very difficult to get into, but Edison had aced the entrance exam with flying colors. If there was someone smarter than Bridget, it was Edison.
Bridget didn’t see Edison in that way. He was single, and ready to settle down, her mother had explained. She only saw him as a friend. Sure, they had drifted apart, but she had never felt romantic feelings for him when they were growing up. She saw him more as a younger brother, he was a year younger than she was. He was very successful, according to Bridget’s mother. He was designing airplanes. Bridget was slightly impressed. Hopefully, one day, she would be very successful as well. Another two years of school. she thought to herself. She had class later on that day. It was nice to be at home lounging about for the time being. She had made herself breakfast, had a nice hot cup of tea before going to make herself comfortable on the couch.
She wasn’t much of a television person, but had turned it onto the news. And had seen the report on the fire at Darcy’s Closet. She had never been to the store herself, but her housemates had loved shopping there. They always returned home with numerous shopping bags. Bridget had listened in stunned silence. She felt bad for Darcy, who she had met a few times. Her store, everything she had worked hard for, had disappeared in a wave of red and orange flames. How awful. Bridget had thought to herself. She wondered if her other housemates had heard about the fire. The police were calling it an arson. Someone had deliberately set that fire. It was just another tragedy to add to the list. There was another killer out there.
Whoever it was, he, or she, were still claiming victims. Jeremy Ashford, Adam Raines, and three teenage girls had been murdered so far by this new killer. It sent a shiver of fear down Bridget’s spine as she looked around uneasily. She was home alone. Hayley and Lilah had gone to look for rollerblades for Hayley. And Ivy had gone to visit Gwen Tiller. Bridget made her way over to the window. She peered outside. The sun was shining. In the distance, she could see the steeple of St-Gregory’s church. It loomed ominously in the cloudless blue sky. The church had been the site of several murders. It was a constant reminder every time Bridget caught sight of it. A church was supposed to be a place of worship, a safe haven. Yet blood had been spilled there.
Bridget stepped away from the window. The house was too quiet. It made her feel uneasy. So she made her way over to the sound system, and turned it on. Classical music blared from the speakers. She loved classical music, she found it soothing. It relaxed her. She made her way across the floor, heading for the bedrooms. She didn’t know why, but she made her way over the closed bedroom door that had once belonged to Robin. It was almost as if she was moving without her own free will. She reached out and grabbed the knob, pushing the door open as she entered the bedroom. It was exactly the way Robin had left it. Her housemates had spoken about emptying the room out, but they couldn’t bring themselves to do it.
Bridget felt a little odd as she looked over to the makeup on the dresser top. She made her way over to the closet door. She reached out and pulled the closet door open. She stared into the closet, at all the clothes hanging unused and untouched. After some contemplation, Bridget reached inside and pulled out an outfit. She slid out of her own clothes, tossing them onto the bed. She slipped into the outfit, sliding into a pair of shoes to go with it. She made her way over to the dresser, inspecting the makeup on the dresser top. She knew how to apply makeup, she usually wore some, so she got to work. Soon, she was done. She stared at her reflection in the mirror.
She looked like a completely different person. She didn’t know why, but it made her smile. That’s when she heard the front door slam shut.
“We’re back!” called out Lilah’s familiar voice. Before she could reply, Lilah was walking into the room. “What are..whoa! Bridget?” she said, her eyes wide in surprise.
“Don’t be mad. I shouldn’t be in here.” Bridget replied, lowering her head in shame.
“Are those Robin’s clothes? You look… amazing!” Lilah replied, ignoring Bridget’s comment.
“I do?” Bridget asked, feeling herself blush. She turned to look at herself in the mirror once more.
“I always wanted to give you a makeover! You beat me to it! Hey Hayley, come look at this!” Lilah called out.
Bridget couldn’t help but smile. A few moments later, Hayley walked into the room, a curious expression on her face. Her eyes widened as she took one look at Bridget.
“Whoa! For a second I was wondering who the stranger in Robin’s room was!” Hayley explained as she looked over Bridget’s appearance. “Who gave you the makeover?” she asked.
“She did it herself!” Lilah explained to the other girl.
Hayley’s jaw dropped in surprise. “Wow. And you waited until now to change your look? Using Robin’s clothes?” she asked.
“I just wanted to see how it would look.” Bridget replied sheepishly.
“It looks amazing! You should dress like that from now on.” Hayley told her.
Should I? Bridget thought to herself. What would my parents think? she asked herself. She frowned. Why was she worried about what her parents thought? It wasn’t like they even lived in West Valley. They barely even visited. Bridget kept in contact with them through the phone.
“I think I will.” she told the other girls. “But I’ll need your help.” she explained to them.
Hayley and Lilah shared a look between each other. “Don’t worry, you’re in GREAT hands.” Lilah reassured her with a wide smile.
The rest of the day was uneventful. Morning turned to afternoon, and afternoon turned into the evening. The sun had begun its descent, the sky seemed to be on fire, tinted orange. It was that time of day where families were clearing up after dinner, or relaxing in front of the television. Some were sitting in their backyards, talking over glasses of wine. Some sat on their front porches, watching the sunset. Once the moon was out, they would hurry back inside the safety of their homes, locking the doors behind them. The front door of the Olsen house opened, Charlie stepping outside. He closed the door behind him. Finally, time to myself. he thought to himself. After a busy day at school, all he wanted was to get out of the house for an hour or so.
He had decided to go jogging. It helped him to think about things. Lately there seemed to be a lot on his mind. He made his way off the front porch, heading down the walkway to the sidewalk. He began moving faster, jogging down the blacktop. The events of the last week flashing through his mind. He couldn’t believe that three girls were dead. Three girls he knew, girls he saw at school every day. He would no longer see them. It was odd not passing them in the hallway, not stopping at their lockers to chat. He considered them friends. They had grown up together, they had known each other since grade school. How could they be there one moment, and then gone forever the next?
Charlie was trying to wrap his head around it. He was still trying to process it. He remembered the day after it happened. It was almost as if a black cloud had hung over the high school. Students were crying freely, there were grief councellors waiting on hand for anyone who wanted to talk about the tragedy. On the dead girls’ lockers, people had set up small shrines and memorials with handwritten notes and balloons and flowers and candles. It almost didn’t seem real to Charlie. It was as if he was dreaming, and he couldn’t seem to wake up. Charlie looked both ways before he jogged across the street, turning the corner. For a brief moment he was tempted to go see Megan, to go ring her doorbell, but he remembered she was out doing something with her sister.
He kept moving, passing by the Rayburn house. He had gotten to know Jillyan a little bit, even though she didn’t go to West Valley High with him. She had been there that night of the sleepover. She had come close to being killed, if Hanna hadn’t rescued her. They were lucky. he thought to himself with a frown creasing his forehead. He had gone to see Hanna a few days after the sleepover. They had met up at a café to talk. After all the horror that had happened at her house, she wanted to meet away from there. Her home was a constant reminder of the deaths that had surrounded her. Not only those of three of her friends, but also the death of her father. She had lost a lot in a few months. Mostly all of them had.
Charlie had lost his grandmother. She too had been killed by Scott Emerson. The image of her decapitated head on the floor of her bedroom was forever burned into Charlie’s memory. That was something nobody wanted to ever experience. Coming across the dead body of a loved one? Let alone being murdered so gruesomely. Even though Scott was now dead, Charlie hated him. He hated what he had done to the Olsen family. Killing his grandmother, abducting his uncle Michael. They had experienced their fair share of misery. Sometimes, Charlie wished Scott was still alive, so that he could have had the chance to kill him himself. It was something that crossed his mind regularly, but something he kept to himself.
Charlie kept jogging down the sidewalk. The sun had disappeared behind a cloud, blue shadows reaching down around him. He thought nothing of it as he kept moving, jogging past houses. He stopped to peer at a flyer on a lamppost. An announcement about Faye Abernathy’s book release party. He had forgot that it was tonight. It wasn’t like he was invited. He only knew because his mother had been invited. She wasn’t going to attend. And he knew that Megan’s mother would be working the event that night. Charlie liked Christy. She was down to earth, easy to talk to, and she cared very much for her daughters. He also thought she was pretty cool since she co-owned a club.
He had been to Surge a few times with his friends, using his fake ID. Now that Christy worked there, he didn’t go as much, in fear that he would be caught. He was underage, after all. With one final glance at the announcement, he kept moving, stepping off the sidewalk and onto the street. He crossed, stepping up onto the curb on the other side of the street. The street lamps flashed on, illuminating his way. He didn’t really have any real destination in mind. He just wanted to run, turn back and then head home. He had homework to do, after that was dealt with, he was planning on calling Megan. They called each other every night, they would talk for hours. Suddenly, Charlie snapped back to attention. Someone was calling his name. He stopped, looking around.
“Charles? Is that you?” a familiar voice called out.
Charlie realized he was passing by the Cosgrove house. It was Olivia who had been calling his name from the walkway. She seemed to be just returning home from work.
Charlie flashed her a quick grin. “It’s me.” he replied.
“It’s been a minute since I last saw you. How are things?” she asked coolly.
Charlie flashed back to Skye’s funeral. Remembering how Olivia had been sobbing over her daughter’s coffin. “I’m fine. How are you and Mr. Cosgrove doing?” he asked curiously.
He had heard rumors from his aunt Claire that they were having some kind of financial trouble. It didn’t show. They still lived in their big house, Olivia still drove her white sports car, and she was still dressed exuberating class. Charlie did notice that she was not wearing her wedding ring. He kept quiet. It wasn’t in his place to point it out. Although he was sure that his aunt would be interested in knowing. He reminded himself to tell her once he got home.
“Oh, we’re fine.” Olivia replied, flashing a very fake smile. “How’s your family? How are you getting along without your grandmother around?” she asked curiously.
Her words stung. Charlie blinked softly. “We miss her. Which is expected.” he replied.
“Your mother must be beside herself trying to run things.” Olivia said with another fake smile.
“We all help out with what we can.” Charlie replied defensively.
“That’s great! Maybe you could help out in the community too. Give back, you know? I mean, you must all feel bad that these deaths are connected to you in a way.” Olivia replied.
Her words stung Charlie even harder. “What do you mean?” he asked with a frown.
“I just mean the whole thing with your grandmother. Being mayor Covington’s mistress. If they never got together, none of this would have happened. Brandon wouldn’t have gone crazy, he would still be a member of this community. No one would have died. My Skye would still be alive. It’s funny, how things end up working out, isn’t it?” Olivia asked.
Charlie didn’t know what to respond. “I.. uhh.. have to go. Tons of homework to do. Take care.” he told her before he turned and jogged away.
With his back turned, he didn’t see the cruel smile playing on Olivia’s lips.
Evening had turned into night. A crescent moon hung lazily in the black ocean that was the sky. Somewhere off in the distance, a dog barked angrily. The Stanton house was quiet, dark. There was no sign of life until car headlights illuminated the front lawn. A car parked by the curb in front of the house. The engine was killed, the driver side door opening and Joanna stepping out onto the blacktop. She closed the door and locked the car as she made her way around the front, stepping up onto the sidewalk. She made her way up the walkway, keys jingling in her hand. She headed up the porch stairs to the front door. She hummed softly to herself as she reached for the lock.
There was movement out of the corner of her eye. Distracted, Joanna turned away from the door. Her eyes scanning the darkness that seemed to be closing in on her. A slight frown creased her face. She stood rooted in place, she couldn’t seem to move. She listened carefully. Whatever she thought she had seen, it was no longer there. Calm down. Joanna thought to herself. She stuck the key in the lock, unlocking the front door and pulling it open. The house was dark, there was no one home. Joanna thought nothing of it as she closed the front door and locked it behind her. Barry had taken Travis to go see a movie. And Carly had gone to the gym with one of her classmates. Joanna was coming back from the mall. It was nice to have some time to herself.
She hadn’t bought anything. She had mostly window shopped but reminded herself to go back another day. Joanna put her purse down on the floor and reached out to turn on the light. The house remained dark. Frowning, Joanna flicked the light switch a few more times. Still nothing. Great. A power outage. Joanna thought to herself. Not one to be scared of the dark, Joanna moved through the dark house, her eyes adjusting. She made her way into the living room. Outside the window, she could see the street lamps illuminating the darkness. Her frowned deepened. She found that odd. Her heels clicking on the wooden floor, she made her way into the kitchen. The silence in the house was what she found the most eerie. The sound of her footsteps broke the silence as she made her way through the dark house.
She circled back around, making her way back into the living room. Once more, she peered out the window. The other houses on the street had power. Lights blazed through their windows. Joanna swallowed down the lump rising in her throat. It could just be the fuse box, no big deal. she reassured herself. It was something Barry could fix once he got home. She took a few deep breaths, making her way out of the living room and over to where she had left her purse. Finding it on the floor, she fished through it before she found her cellphone. She pulled it out, glancing at the time on the screen. Someone would return home soon, everyone had work or school the next day. Gripping the phone in her hand, Joanna made her way back towards the kitchen.
She had stepped through the doorway when the phone in her hand rang. She jumped, startled, almost dropping it. She couldn’t help but let out a nervous chuckle as she peered down at the screen. Expecting to see Carly or Barry calling. Instead, UNKNOWN NUMBER flashed on the screen. Joanna frowned, but accepted the call, bringing the phone to her ear.
“Hello?” she said. She couldn’t help but notice how tense she sounded.
No reply from the other end. Joanna frowned. “Hello?” she repeated.
There was the crackle of static, and then someone spoke. A distorted voice. “Hello?” the voice said from the other end of the line.
“Yes? Who’s this?” Joanna asked.
“Who’s this?” the voice asked from the other end. There was a soft chuckle.
“This is Joanna.” she replied. She didn’t recognize the voice.
“Joanna. That’s a pretty name.” the voice said.
“…Thanks. And who are you?” Joanna asked curiously.
“I can’t give my secret away this quickly! You have to learn who I am.” the voice replied with a seductive chuckle.
She didn’t know why, but a shiver of fear snaked down her spine. “Look, if you’re not going to tell me who you are, I’m going to hang up.” she explained.
“That wouldn’t be such a good idea, Joanna.” the voice replied.
She sighed. “I don’t have time for prank calls.” she said.
“You have a lot of time. I don’t think there’s much for you to do in that dark house, is there?” the voice asked.
Realization hit Joanna. Her eyes widened slightly. “How.. but what..I mean.. how do you..” she stammered nervously.
“You’re wondering how I know this?” the voice asked teasingly.
“Who is this?” she asked, her voice slightly trembling.
“Someone who’s close by. I could be right in the next room.” the voice chuckled.
Joanna tried to stay calm, despite her heart thundering in her chest. “That’s not funny! Cut that out!” she seethed.
“That’s not the only thing I’ll cut out.” the voice replied ominously.
Joanna’s breath caught in her throat. She was scared now. “I’m two seconds away from calling the police!” she cried into the phone.
The killer laughed. “The police? They’re not very good at their jobs. I’ve killed all these people already, and they still have no clue who I am or how to find me!” he explained.
Joanna’s eyes widened even more. She was talking to the West Valley killer. “What do you want from me?” she asked.
“To see your blood all over my hands.” the killer replied.
A small shriek escaped Joanna’s lips. “That’s it! I’m calling the police!” she cried.
“Hang up on me and your family dies!” the voice growled menacingly.
Joanna stopped in her tracks. “Please. Don’t. Don’t do this.” she begged.
“I’ll kill you first. I would love to see their reaction when they find you hanging from a tree outside, split open from end to end.” the killer explained.
Joanna nearly toppled over in shock. She struggled to hold the phone, scrunching her eyes shut. “Leave me alone!” she was able to gasp out.
“You don’t want to die. Right, Joanna? So I suggest you keep talking to me.” the voice replied.
“Why me?” she asked, struggling to breathe.
“Think of it as my warm welcome to West Valley.” the killer replied with a chuckle.
“Please. Stop.” Joanna said into the phone.
“You’re lucky, Joanna. I just called to introduce myself. You’re safe for tonight. But there will be another murder in just a few hours. I have to go prepare for that. Be seeing you.” the killer replied before suddenly hanging up.
Joanna lowered the phone, letting out a cry. Did that just happen? she thought to herself as she put the phone down on the counter. On unsteady legs, she made her way out of the kitchen and into the living room. Which is when the front door suddenly opened. Joanna couldn’t help it, she let out a loud shriek. She looked with wide eyes as Barry and Travis walked into the room. They seemed startled by her sudden outburst.
“It’s just us! What’s going on? What happened with the lights?” Barry asked with a frown.
Without another word, Joanna threw herself into his arms.
Meanwhile, at Surge, the mood was lighter. With a small smirk playing on her lips, Ellie headed out of the office. She had just called home to check up on Tyson and say goodnight to him. He had promised to be in bed shortly. He understood why she couldn’t be there to tuck him in, but she would be there once he woke up in the morning. Once she was done speaking with him, she had spoken to her mother, who reassured her that everything was fine. She was about to get to bed as well. Ellie had hung up the phone, no worries on her mind. I just hope tonight goes well. she thought to herself as she made her way back into the main room of Surge. After all the preparation, Faye’s book launch party was finally here.
The doors would open shortly for the guests. First, Faye had to arrive. She was running a bit late, but had promised Ellie she would get there on time before the guests would enter. Christy was around somewhere, keeping busy to make sure they had everything they needed. Ellie made her way over to the bar, going around to double check that everything was stocked and ready to use. So far, this was the biggest event that Surge was hosting. Ellie hoped it would lead to bigger and better things. There was no such thing as too much publicity. Surge was one of the very few clubs around. It was popular. People enjoyed coming at any time of the day to drink, dance, mingle and listen to great music.
“Right By You” by Lincoln Jesser blared from the speakers in the corner of the room. Ellie bopped her head as she made her way back around the bar and moved across the floor. Security from outside peeked in from the door, smiling and giving her a thumbs up. The event was about to start. That meant that the guests would have their invitations checked before they began filing into the building. Ellie took a glance around. Still no sign of Faye. Come on. she thought to herself. They couldn’t start the event without the host. Letting out a deep sigh, Ellie made her way across the floor. She stopped in her tracks, spotting a familiar face. A smile played on her lips. It was Faye.
“Big night, huh?” Faye said in greeting. She looked stunning.
“There you are! I was wondering where you were.” Ellie replied.
“I just needed some time to myself. It’s a big night for me.” Faye explained.
“Are you excited?” Ellie asked.
Faye nodded. “I am. And a little nervous. What if no one likes the book?” she asked, arching an eyebrow.
“From what you let me read, it’s amazing! I’m sure it’ll be a big hit!” Ellie reassured her.
“You always believed in me. Thank you. I think I own you a signature.” Faye replied with a smile.
She turned, heading over to a table and grabbing a book and a pen. She walked back over, flipping open the book to the first page and signed something. She closed the book and with a smile, handed it over to Ellie. Ellie opened the book and read out loud.
“To Ellie, I hope you like this book. Thank you for taking me in and believing that I had what it takes to finally be here tonight. Your friend, Faye.” Ellie read out loud. She lowered the book. “You’re more than welcome!” she told her. “Come here.” she said, wrapping Faye in a tight hug.
“And I hope the book sheds some light on what other people are going through. You’re not the only one who lost someone. You’re not alone in this. I just wanted to tell you that.” Faye explained, ticking her gaze shyly down to the floor.
“Aww. You’re getting sentimental! I just want to have fun tonight and let you have your moment!” Ellie replied.
Faye smiled and both girls turned to see the doors opening. People began entering the club. All familiar faces. “Wow, even Darcy showed up!” Faye said in surprise.
“I think she needs to get out and forget about things. I don’t blame her.” Ellie replied, thinking to the letter she had gotten in the mail earlier that day. She couldn’t believe Gage wanted sole custody of Tyson. She waved to Darcy before she turned back to Faye. “Let’s go get some drinks!” she said, trying to keep the mood light.
Both girls headed over to the bar. Faye ordered a rum and coke, and Ellie ordered herself a dirty martini. They looked around as more people entered the club. Getting their drinks, Ellie and Fayed cheered, clinking their glasses together before bringing it to their lips.
“So are you going to be planning another book?” Ellie asked curiously.
“Oh, I don’t know!” Faye replied with a soft chuckle.
“Maybe when they find this new killer?” Ellie asked, taking another sip from her glass.
“Hmm. I guess that would make for another good read. So, maybe?” Faye replied.
“Hey guys.” a voice said. It was Darcy, a serious look on her face. As if she didn’t really want to be there. It was understandable, she had much on her mind. Her store had just burnt down, a few doors down from Surge.
“Darcy, hi! I’m glad you came!” Ellie said cheerfully.
“Thanks for inviting me.” Darcy replied.
“How are you doing?” Faye asked.
There was a sudden glint of sadness in Darcy’s eyes. She shrugged. “Hanging in there. Or at least trying to.” she explained.
Ellie knew what the other girl was thinking. So she decided to quickly change the subject. “So, you’re wedding is coming really soon! Only a few weeks left, right?” she asked Darcy.
Darcy smiled, a quick smile. “I can’t wait.” she told Ellie.
“Once you marry Campbell, it’s game over.” Ellie replied with a soft chuckle escaping her lips.
“I’m fine with that.” Darcy explained with another quick smile.
“What does Fallon have planned for the bachelorette party? Did she give you any hints?” Ellie asked curiously.
“I told her I didn’t want a bachelorette party.” Darcy revealed.
“No bachelorette party? But it’s a proper send off before you get married!” Ellie said with wide eyes.
“With everything that’s happened, I just don’t feel like doing anything.” Darcy explained.
“Look, I know it sucks. We all know what it’s like. Bad things are happening. But they’re happening to all of us. You’re not alone in this.” Ellie reassured her.
Faye looked over with a smile, hearing her words being repeated. “She’s right. We’re all in this together. After tonight, I’m going to be looking for this killer. I’m not stopping until we find him. Or her. And they’ll be arrested. And we can finally get back to our lives.” she told Darcy.
“I guess.” Darcy replied, not looking too convinced.
“It can’t get any worse, right?” Ellie said, giving Darcy a hopeful smile. If only she knew how wrong she was about to be.
Lynn knew she was dreaming. She knew that she was actually in her bed, asleep. There was no way she was with her husband, Richard. He was dead. And there was no way that they were both young again. While she couldn’t pinpoint her exact age, she just knew it was before Ellie had been born. It was just a feeling she got. She and Richard walked hand in hand, walking through a beautiful garden. There was a kaleidoscope of colors around them. Bright greens, and whites, oranges and blues. Lynn felt calm, everything was so peaceful and serene. She looked over at Richard with a smile, who smiled back at her. His teeth gleamed white. He was so handsome when he was younger. She had always thought he looked like James Dean. She stopped to smell some flowers, letting go of Richard’s hand.
He kept moving, almost gliding across the lush green grass. Realizing she had fallen behind, Lynn picked up the pace, trying to catch up to him. She called out to him, but no sound escaped from her lips. Suddenly, he stopped. And turned to look at her. Lynn stopped, her eyes widening in horror. Richard’s eyes were filling with blood. He smiled, his teeth falling out as he reached out towards her. With a start, Lynn awoke. She gasped for breath, looking around the dark room. Expecting to see Richard standing there. But the room was empty. She tried shaking the nightmare away as she pushed the covers back and got to her feet. She peered at the clock. It was almost midnight. A sigh escaped her lips. She didn’t think she would be able to fall asleep again.
I’ll go read a book. she thought to herself. She made her way across her bedroom floor to the door. She pulled it open and stepped out into the hallway. It was dark. Lynn was about to flick on the light, but decided against it. She made her way down the hall, stopping in front of Tyson’s bedroom door. She peeked inside, he was sleeping tucked under the covers. With a small smile on her lips, she moved on, heading down the stairs to the main floor of the house. She flicked on the light as she entered the living room. She went over to the bookcase, scanned the book titles before pulling out a novel. She went over to sit down on the couch. She opened the book, and began to read. Losing herself in the words.
Outside the living room window, a shadow passed. Lynn was oblivious. Until she thought she heard something. She lowered the book, listening carefully. What was that? she thought to herself. For a moment, she thought Tyson was awake. She called out his name. No reply. With a sigh, she got to her feet. She put the book down on the coffee table as she headed across the floor on bare feet. Heading into the hallway, she gazed up the dark staircase. No sign of movement. She called out Tyson’s name again. Still no reply. A deep frown creased her face. She stood there for a moment before she made her way back into the living room. She headed back for the couch, reaching to grab the book on the coffee table. But stopped in her tracks as she did so.
The book was no longer there. The top of the coffee table was bare. An uneasy feeling wrapped itself around Lynn. She glanced around the room, not sure what to think. What’s going on? she thought to herself. Another noise, it seemed to be coming from the other room. With her heart thudding in her chest, Lynn made her way back into the hallway. As she glanced up the staircase once again, someone burst out from the dining room. Lynn turned, her eyes wide as she let out a scream. It echoed through the house as the black clad figure was instantly upon her. There was a flash of silver, the overhead light catching the reflection of the knife blade in the killer’s hand.
Another scream erupted from Lynn’s throat before blood splattered on the floor. It was already over. The killer ran, disappearing into the living room and out the back door that lead to the backyard. Lynn’s body dropped to the floor, blood pooling around her. Her eyes wide, mouth distorted in a silent scream of horror. She was dead.