Darcy was glad to be back home. The past two months had been something out of a nightmare. It had started the day of her wedding. Minutes before she was supposed to marry Campbell, she had been abducted by the West Valley killer. She had been held captive in a chamber below the abandoned train station. So had Faye Abernathy, the two girls had been tied to chairs while time passed. Darcy had thought she would have never gotten out of there. But she had. She had escaped, alone. Faye was dead. She had been chainsawed through the torso. Darcy would never forget the sound of the saw blade cutting through the other girl’s flesh. Or the feeling of Faye’s blood as it splattered in her face. It was an image that Darcy feared would be forever etched in her memory.
She wished she could have saved Faye. In a perfect reality, they would have escaped together. But their lives were in the killer’s hands. He was playing god, and one of them was going to die. Darcy had been sure it was going to be her. The killer had a personal vendetta against her. Was it because she was Rose, the object of Brandon Covington’s affections? Was the killer Brandon himself? He was still alive, somewhere out there. Was the killer someone else entirely? Someone who was working for Brandon? Darcy wished she had the answer. The killer’s identity was a mystery. Just like it had been for the first killer, Scott Emerson. He was dead, but Darcy thought perhaps he had an accomplice that no one knew about. The killer’s image flashed through Darcy’s mind. A cold shiver of fear snaked down her spine.
She made her way out of the kitchen, heading into the living room. She scanned her surroundings. Darcy hadn’t been living in the new house for long before she had gotten abducted. Now that she was back, she was getting familiar with it again. She had moved out of her little place that she lived on her own, and had moved into a bigger house with her fiancee, Campbell. He should be my husband by now. she thought to herself with a slight frown creasing her face. It had been four days now that she was back home. But they hadn’t spoken about what they were going to do. Despite everything that had happened, all the horror she had faced, she still wanted to get married. She hoped Campbell felt the same way. She planned to ask him once he returned home.
He had gone off to work, despite wanting to stay home with her. She had insisted she was fine. In a way, she was. She had seen so much. The two months held in the chamber had been the most terrifying experience yet. She didn’t think anything could get worse than that. Finally, she had convinced Campbell to head out. He had left, locking the door behind him as he did so. Darcy had gone over to the alarm system and armed it. She was being cautious. And she needed to be alone with her thoughts. She thought back to that night, four days ago. After she managed to escape, she had locked the killer inside the chamber with Faye’s dead body. Once she had burst outside into the night, she saw she was at an abandoned train station. She had dropped the chamber keys into the overgrown grass as she fled into the night.
She had held the bottom of her wedding dress up as she had ran, weaving through a wooded patch before she had found herself on the side of the road. She climbed the embankment, running along the side of the road. It was deserted, and for a moment Darcy had thought no one was going to find her. But after a few minutes, she had seen the twin light of headlights approaching. Darcy waved her arms, praying the car would stop. It did. She had thrown herself inside the passenger seat, slamming the door shut. An elderly man sat behind the steering wheel. He had taken in her disheveled appearance. For a moment, she thought he was going to kick her out. Instead, he had asked her where she needed to go. I wanted to go home. she thought to herself, remembering as she stood there in the living room.
Instead, she had said she wanted to get to the nearest police station. The elderly man nodded, staring straight ahead at the road as the car picked up speed. It was as if he knew something was terribly wrong. But he didn’t ask. He could see it on Darcy’s face. She had witnessed terrible things. They drove a few minutes in silence before the man introduced himself. His name was Stanley Marx. For a brief moment, Darcy had wondered what he was doing out on that quiet road. As if reading her mind, he explained he was on his way back from visiting his son. Darcy listened, trying to keep her mind off what had just happened back at the train station. A few minutes later, the car was pulling up to the police station. Darcy had hurried inside, making her way to the front desk.
She didn’t have to explain much. One look at her and the officer behind the desk knew who she was. He was surprised to see her. As if he expected her to be dead. She explained about what had happened. How someone was dead, and that the killer was trapped in the chamber. A few moments later, at least eight police officers went running out the door, heading for the train station. The officer behind the desk called Campbell for her. He had passed her the phone, and she had spoken to him herself. He sounded so relieved that she was alive. He was almost crying. He had told her he would call her parents and let Fallon know while he was going to come pick her up. After hanging up the phone, Darcy had gone to the restroom. She washed the tears and blood off her face before she headed back out into the lobby to sit down.
An hour later, she had been sipping a cup of hot tea and wrapped in a blanket when Campbell ran in. He took one look at her and dived at her. Wrapping her in a hug, holding her tight in his arms. They kissed, clinging to each other. He told her her parents and Fallon were at the house, waiting for her. She thanked the police officer as they headed out to the car. Darcy noticed it was her car waiting outside. The car Campbell had gotten for her for their engagement. He drove, the drive home was quiet. That was fine with Darcy. She stared out the passenger side window until they reached their home. Stepping out of the car, her parents and Fallon had wrapped her up in a group hug. Her mother was sobbing loudly. Her father and Fallon had looked so relieved. They headed inside the house, closing and locking the door safely behind them.
That’s when there was a knock at the door. Darcy snapped out of her thoughts. Who could that be? she thought to herself. She wasn’t expecting anyone to come over that day. She made her way slowly out of the living room and into the front entryway. She went over to the alarm system, punching in the code. The alarm chirped in response. Darcy went over to the front door, unlocked it, and pulled it open without hesitation. Standing on the other side was Fallon. Darcy let out the breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding in. The two girls smiled at each other.
“I hope you don’t mind me showing up without calling first.” Fallon replied.
“Not at all! I’m glad to see you.” Darcy said as she stepped aside to let Fallon in.
“I wanted to see how you’re holding up. I thought you could use some company.” Fallon said as she closed the door and locked it behind her.
“I definitely can. Come sit down!” Darcy said as she lead the way into the living room. They sat down on the couch. Darcy turned to her friend, noticing something different. “Hey! Where are your glasses?” she asked curiously.
A soft giggle escaped Fallon’s lips. “I dont wear glasses anymore. I got laser eye surgery while you were… away.” she said, choosing her words carefully.
Darcy smiled thinly. “Well it looks great!” she told her friend.
“And how are things with Jane?” Fallon asked.
“Good! She told me to take my time until I feel ready to start this new job.” Darcy replied.
“You and Jane Porter making clothes together. I’m so excited for you!” Fallon said.
“I know. I can’t wait! What an opportunity!” Darcy replied, excitement flashing in her eyes.
“Have you heard back from the police?” Fallon asked, changing the subject.
Darcy shook her head. “No. Nothing for the past four days.” she said, worry glinting in her eyes. She wondered what was taking them so long to contact her. Had they found the killer?
“There was no way out of that chamber, right?” Fallon asked.
“As far as I know.” Darcy replied softly.
“I’m not trying to upset you. God knows what you went through. We’re all going through it together. But if the killer’s been caught, it would be all over the news.” Fallon pointed out.
Darcy nodded. She knew Fallon meant well. She’s just worried. she thought to herself. She was worried too, but she was trying to keep the feeling buried deep inside her. She was home now, she was alive and she was safe. She feared that thinking about it too much would send her over the edge. That she would start sobbing and never stop. There was plenty to cry for. But she had to focus on the future. She couldn’t hide under a rock from the rest of the world. She wanted to live. Too many people around her had died. If that meant that she had to fight, that’s what she would do. She just couldn’t stand back and watch more people fall victim to the killer. She had to do something. It was time to take matters into her own hands.
When all of the horror was over, she wanted to be one of the one’s left standing. She turned to Fallon.
“I know this is a random question, but do you still have that gun at your house?” she asked her friend.
Fallon nodded. “I do. Why?” she asked curiously.
“Because it seems like the killer may have gotten away. I want you to teach me how to use the gun. Because next time I run into him, or her, they’re going to be the one dying.” Darcy said, stone faced.
I can’t believe Faye is dead. Ellie thought to herself, sadness glinting in her eyes. She stared at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. She was getting ready to head out to work. It was early evening, and her shift at Surge was about to start shortly. Since Gage had taken Tyson, her son, Ellie focused most of her time on work. It kept her distracted. She missed Tyson terribly. She spoke to him on the phone once a week, which wasn’t enough for her. Two months later, and she still wasn’t used to not having him around. It was just her now. Tyson was gone, her mother was dead, and now so was Faye. She had become friends with the girl, had taken her into her house when she had come to town. Faye had come to West Valley to help find the killer.
First, she was a known podcaster. She had interviewed the townspeople, asked questions. Anything to shed light on the killer’s identity. Eventually, the killer had been caught. Scott Emerson. He had been under their noses the whole time. With the killer dead and gone, Faye had contemplated leaving town and heading back to Oasis Springs, where she was from. It was Ellie that had talked her into staying. She had been the one to suggest to Faye to write a book about the murders. And she had. The book was released, and it was an instant hit. The book release party had been held at Surge. And it had ended in tragedy. While everyone was out celebrating at Ellie’s club, her mother was murdered at home. Tyson had been at home when it had happened. He was the only family Ellie had left.
She didn’t have to worry about Tyson’s safety. He was far away from West Valley. At least he was safe where he was. Bad things tended to happen to the children in town. Kaitlyn Biggs had been abducted by the killer. She had been eventually set free. Her sister Taylor had been hit by a car a few months later. The little girl had just woken up the day before, she had been in a two month long coma. Naomi and Warren, I would have never expected that. Ellie thought to herself. It was the discovery of their tryst that had sent Taylor running into the path of a speeding car. She couldn’t imagine what she would have done if that had been Tyson. She didn’t want to think about it, it was too horrible. She shook the grim thoughts out of her head as she ticked her gaze back to the mirror, smoothing her hair back.
She made her way out of the bathroom, very aware of how quiet the house was. It had once belonged to her parents. She had moved in with them once she had Tyson. They were both gone. Both murdered. Ellie wondered if they were reunited up in heaven. Assuming there was one. She was never the religious type. But she wondered if they were looking down on her? Making sure she stayed safe? It hurt to think about them. Sure, they were elderly, but they had left this mortal plane before their time. Both their deaths had been sudden and shocking. Ellie never saw it coming. It had taken her a while to accept that her father was gone. He had been murdered first. She was just getting used to him not being around when her mother had been killed. It was like a slap in the face.
She made her way out the door, stepping outside. She closed and locked the door behind her as she looked out beyond the front lawn. The air was warm and smelled like lilacs. Ellie took in a deep breath, a small smile playing on her lips. You couldn’t tell by looking at her, but summer in West Valley was her favorite season. Sure, it was nice and warm all year round, but there was just something about the summer months that she enjoyed. She listened, the neighbourhood was fairly quiet. She could hear the splashes of people in a pool somewhere off in the distance. They sound like they’re having fun. she thought to herself as she headed down the porch steps, making her way to the sidewalk. Her heels clicked against the pavement as she headed downtown. She stared up at the sky, the sun had begun to set behind the clouds.
Ellie was lost in her thoughts, heading down the sidewalk when she heard the sound of running footsteps behind her. Whoever it was, they were coming up behind her fast. Her heart jumped to her throat as she spun around. For a brief moment, she thought it could have been the killer. But she relaxed when she saw it was only Darcy. The other girl was out for a jog, dressed in workout clothes. She stopped for a few moments to talk to Ellie. She was glad that Darcy was alright. She had been missing for two months. She had escaped, and was now back in town. It had been Darcy who had let Ellie know about Faye’s death. Ellie hadn’t known that Faye had been captured as well. That she had spent those two months in the same chamber with Darcy. Ellie had assumed that Faye was still out of town trying to locate Brandon Covington.
Thinking about it now, it did seem weird to Ellie that she hadn’t heard from Faye in those two months. No phone call, no text, not even an e-mail. But there was no reason to think Faye had been in danger. Everyone had been so focused on finding Darcy. I’m so sorry, Faye. she thought to herself. She looked at the time on her phone. She needed to get going. She said goodbye to Darcy, watching the other girl run off before she kept moving down the sidewalk. She crossed the street and turned the corner, spotting the lights of downtown a few blocks away. As she passed by the children’s park, she found herself stopping in her tracks. She couldn’t quite put her finger on what had made her stop. Maybe it was because she had brought Tyson to that park many times.
Maybe it was because of the little boy and his friend that rushed past her to get home before dark, had reminded her of Tyson. She decided that once she got to Surge, she would head up to her office where it was quiet, and call him. She kept moving, but stopped once again. This time, it wasn’t because of her son. It was the new clothing store, the one that Jane Porter had just opened. It was closed now, but she had heard that Darcy had gone into business with the other woman. Ellie reminded herself to go check out the store once Darcy started working there. She passed a few more buildings, and then was met with the sound of thumping music. It was coming from Surge. She took great pride in her nightclub. She had been the original owner since it opened.
Christy Whitlow now co-owned it with her. She was there when Ellie wasn’t, making sure things were running smoothly. Ellie needed all the help she could get. Surge was a very popular spot. It was open twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Ellie liked to think that’s what made it a go-to place in West Valley. She always wondered why the other clubs would close their doors at three in the morning. The idea came to her of having a club that never closed. If people felt like going there for a drink and dancing during the day, they could. Ellie headed over to the entrance, pushing open the door and stepping inside. Music blared from the speakers all around the club. Nodding her head to “Boys” by Charli XCX, she made her way to sit down at the bar.
A quick drink before I start working. she thought to herself. The bartender, Sebastian, came over to her right away. She ordered a vodka redbull. Of course, it was on the house. She never payed for her drinks. Sitting at the bar, waiting for her drink, Ellie took a glance around. There weren’t many people inside the club at the moment. It was still fairly early. No one started heading out until around ten. That was if they felt daring enough to head out once darkness had fallen. Ellie snapped back to reality as her drink was placed down in front of her. She thanked Sebastian, and brought the glass to her lips. A few sips later, her glass was empty. She was tempted to order another, but decided against it. She got to her feet, and headed away from the bar.
She waved at Ivy Corbin and Beth Myers as they walked through the door. They looked ready to party. The two girls were checking out the room. Ellie had no doubt in her mind that they were looking for guys. A slight chuckle escaped her lips as she kept making her way across the club. She looked around, there was no sign of Christy. Did she leave already? she thought to herself with a slight frown creasing her forehead. She shrugged and headed for the stairs that lead to the second floor. Her office and a bathroom occupied the space above the club. It was quiet up there, and she could call Gage and speak to Tyson with interruptions. She ascended the stairs, making her way to the second floor landing. A light in the upstairs hallway had burnt out, shrouding it in dancing black shadows.
An uneasy feeling wrapped itself around Ellie. But she kept moving, reaching the office door. She grabbed the handle and turned, pushing the door open. Someone inside the room let out a small shriek of surprise. Ellie’s heart jumped to her throat once more before she peered at the person standing in the office. She couldn’t help it, a laugh escaped her lips. It was just Christy, who had jumped to her feet from the chair she was sitting in. Ellie saw the computer on the desk was on.
“Sweet Jesus on a bicycle! You scared me!” Christy said with a chuckle.
“I scared you?! You scared me!” Ellie replied. “I thought maybe you had headed home already.” she explained.
“I was just going through last month’s budget, waiting for you.” Christy replied, motioning to the computer.
“Well, I’m reporting for duty. You can head out.” Ellie told her.
“I don’t know how I’m going to drive home after that heart attack you just gave me!” Christy said.
Ellie chuckled. “Want me to call you a cab?” she asked.
“No. No, I’m good. I’ll get going now.” Christy said as she grabbed her purse. She headed for the door, but turned and looked at Ellie. “That’s new.” she said, pointing to Ellie’s bright yellow hair.
“I did it this morning. It’s my version of blonde.” Ellie replied with a soft chuckle.
Christy shook her head with a smile. “Goodnight. See you tomorrow.” she said with a wave as she disappeared out the door.
“See you!” Ellie called out.
She sighed. She was alone, which means it was the perfect time to call and talk to Tyson. She went over to the desk and sat down in the chair, pulling out her cellphone. She punched in Gage’s number. What she heard on the other end of the line made her frown. She hung up and tried again. Eyes wide, she jumped from the chair. This isn’t happening! she thought to herself. She punched in the number again, bringing the phone to her ear. There was a beep, and then a recording.
“We’re sorry. This number is no longer in service. Please hang up and try your call again!” chirped the cheerful voice on the other end of the line.
It had been nice to finally sit down and have dinner. Dinnertime was Joanna’s favorite. It’s where everyone sat together, talking about their day over a nice meal. The menu for that particular night was rice and lamb chops. Joanna had prepared it herself. She had spent most of the afternoon in the kitchen. And before that, she had been running errands that took up most of her time. A trip to the grocery store, a quick stop to pick up Barry’s suit from the tailors, she had gotten the car washed and waxed. She had been on the go since that morning. So had the rest of the family. Barry had gone off to work. Carly and some friends had gone to spend the day at the water park. Even Travis had plans, he had gone over to a friend’s house to play some new video game he was dying to try out.
The house had been too quiet while Joanna prepared supper. So she had put on the radio, the sound of classical music filling the house. She liked listening to it every once in a while, she found it soothing. Soon enough, as she had been setting the table, the rest of the family came home, one after the other. Travis had been first. He had been on his way up to his room when Joanna had stopped him. She asked him to help her finish setting the table. He did, and was off like a shot after that, seeking refuge in his room. Barry came home next, dropping his briefcase and loosening his tie as he commented on how good the food smelled. Carly was the last to arrive, a towel slung over her shoulder, her hair wet. She was in a good mood, suggesting the family go to the water park when they were all free.
The food had turned out great. Everyone had complimented Joanna. While they ate, sipping from their glasses of sparkling water, they talked about their day. Travis had played a new video game named Dead By Daylight. The purpose of the game was to escape the clutches of a killer. Joanna had frowned at that. She found it to be in poor taste. Why play about killers when there was a real one stalking the streets of their town? But Joanna kept her mouth shut, not saying anything. She listened, pretending to be interested. Carly had a good time at the water park. She had gone with a group of her peers from school. Riley Kinsey, Liam Alston, Austin Boswell, Emily Novak, Amanda Gant, and Molly Fyres.
Barry spoke about work. He was excited. There was talk of him getting another raise. Joanna arched an eyebrow in response. The whole reason they had come to West Valley was because her husband had got promoted, and relocated. He was making more money than he had before. He must be doing really well here to already be getting a raise. she thought to herself. The kids were excited. Carly wanted to get a horse with the money her father would make. Barry shook his head, laughing. He shot down the idea, but mentioned paying for riding lessons if she was interested. Travis thought they should get a new car. They already had two. Barry seemed to be contemplating about the idea. He said he would get back to Travis about that. Joanna sat back and watched the three of them talk excitedly among themselves.
It brought a smile to her lips. For only two months earlier, tragedy had struck their family. Joanna ticked her gaze over to Travis. He had recuperated well. A strong contrast to how she had found him that particular day, two months ago. It flashed through her memory. It had all started with a confrontation between Travis and some classmates. He had punched one of the boys for making a rude comment about Carly. And it hadn’t been the first time he had gotten into trouble. Even before they lived in West Valley, Travis had run with the wrong crowd. It was something they were trying to get past. Joanna had thought the move would have been good for her son. After realizing that he hadn’t returned home, she had gone to look for him. It was just like Travis to disappear when they had something important to do.
In that case, it had been attending Darcy’s wedding. So Joanna had gone searching for him, making her way through the neighborhood. Suddenly, everything changed drastically. She had pulled out her cellphone and had called him. She had been met with the sound of his phone ringing. The noise had lead her to an alleyway between two houses. And there, lying on the pavement, was Travis. She thought he had been killed. He sure looked like it. He had lacerations on his forehead, both his eyes were swelled shut, ringed with dark purple. His nose seemed to be broken, and there was a small trickle of blood seeping out from the corner of his mouth. Even now, months later, Joanna couldn’t shake that image out of her head. Sensing her eyes on him, Travis turned and smiled at her.
It had taken weeks for Travis to heal. While he was in the hospital, Joanna had found out the identity of the boy that had done that to him. She had gone to the police, to the principal, the school board, and even the media. She wanted everyone to know that her son could have been killed just for sticking up for his sister. The boy, Ethan Seymour, had been expelled from school. Joanna found it ironic, since the school year had almost been over. Once classes started up again in the fall, Ethan would be going to Ford High, a public school in the next town over. It didn’t have a good reputation. There was also a restraining order against him. He wasn’t allowed within five hundred feet from Travis. The police had done well.
Now if only they could catch the killer. Joanna thought to herself with a frown creasing her face. With dinner done, she got to her feet, collecting everyone’s plates. Balancing them carefully in her hands, she made her way into the kitchen. She placed the plates down on the counter top before loading them up into the dishwasher. As she headed back into the dining room, Barry and Carly got to their feet. Carly was off to her bedroom to call Emily. Joanna shook her head. Her daughter had spent the whole day with her friend, what else could they talk about? Before she could ask, Carly was bounding up the stairs to the second floor of the house. Barry had brought some work home with him, and was headed to the study to get it done.
He made it clear he didn’t want to be bothered unless it was something serious. Once Barry was in his study, Joanna made her way into the living room. She sat down on the couch, grabbed the remote and turned on the television. A few moments later, Travis entered the room and sat down beside her. She flashed back to the hospital, how she sat by his bedside on pins and needles. How it had been a great relief when he had woken up. She remembered helped feeding him, pushing him around in his wheelchair. How she took in his appearance while he slept. She’d often wander the hospital halls while he slept, crying. She didn’t want him to hear her. Once he was finally home, she had even slept in his bed with him for a few days, despite his protests.
“How’re you doing?” she asked him.
Travis rolled his eyes in annoyance. But a smile played on his face. “Mom, I’m fine. Really. You need to stop worrying about me.” he told her.
“I feel like a bad mother. Seeing you in that hospital bed..” she trailed off with a frown.
“Don’t even think that. You’re a great mom. It’s me. I wish I turned out the way you wanted me to.” he told her.
“The move here was not just because of your father’s job. It was also to give you a fresh start. A second chance. I know Ethan started it. And I know you were only sticking up for your sister.” she replied.
“What was I supposed to do?” he asked her.
“Be the bigger man, and walk away.” she replied.
Travis rolled his eyes. “I’ll try and remember that next time.” he told Joanna.
“Please don’t go looking for trouble. Don’t give the police a reason to drop the restraining order against Ethan.” Joanna replied.
As they spoke, they didn’t sense the presence on the front porch. They didn’t hear the front door unlocking with a soft click. Behind them, the front door slowly creaked open. A shadowy figure slipped inside the house, closing the door softly behind them. The figure took in their surroundings. They could hear the television playing in the other room. Slowly, the figure creeped forward. They stopped in the doorway, looking into the living room. Joanna and Travis were oblivious to the shadowy figure who stood just behind them. They continued talking, unaware of the danger that lurked a mere few feet away. Joanna laughed at something her son had said. It sounded so cheerful, it made the killer clench their fists. The figure took another step closer to the couch.
They were close enough to reach out and seize the mother and son. The killer looked up at the ceiling when they heard the footsteps from above. There were other people in the house. The killer quietly slinked back away from the couch. With the agility of a cat, it reached the front door, pulled it open, and disappeared out into the night. Humming cheerfully to herself, Carly headed down the stairs. I hope there’s some ice cream left in the fridge. she thought to herself with a smile. As she passed by the front entryway, she stopped in her tracks. A deep frown creased her forehead. The front door was wide open. With an uneasy feeling wrapping around her, she made her way over to the door. She peered out into the night beyond. A lazy crescent moon hung in the black velvet sky.
A light breeze ruffled the leaves of the trees. Out of the corner of her eye, something moved in the thick shadows along the side of the house. Carly’s breath caught in her throat. Someone was watching her. She could feel their eyes burning into her. With a soft gasp escaping from between her lips, Carly stepped back inside the house. She slammed the front door shut, locking it tight. She leaned against the door, waiting for the pounding of her heart to subside. Yet she couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was still watching her. She closed her eyes, sucking in a deep breath. She slowly counted to ten. Opening her eyes, she looked through the small window on the side of the door. Her eyes scanning the darkness. She expected for someone to pop up on the other side.
However, nothing happened. With one last glance through the window, Carly hurried for the kitchen.
The rest of the night had passed uneventfully. The town of West Valley had gone to sleep. There had been something eerie with just how quiet it was during the witching hour. However, it was a good sign. It seemed as if even the killer had retired for the rest of the night. There was no black clad figure hunting the streets while the townspeople slept in the safety of their own homes. Hours passed, the first rays of daylight breaking the darkness of the sky. Slowly, the town had begun to wake up. Another beautiful summer day was in store. Inside the Dupree house, silence. Ruby and Meredith still slept. In Meredith’s room, the alarm clock announced the time. It was a little past seven. Under the mound of covers on the bed, Meredith slept. Her breathing slow and steady. A soft sigh escaped her lips, a ghost of a smile playing on her face.
She was clearly dreaming. One that didn’t involve screams, blood, and murder. Pleasant dreams were seldom when you were living in a waking nightmare. Never knowing when your time was up. Watching the people around you die. Meredith turned over in her sleep, and crashed to the bedroom floor. Her eyes shot open, a small shriek escaping her lips. Her eyes wild, she scanned her surroundings. Expecting to see the killer looming over her. Taking in the sheets pooled around her, she realized she had fallen out of the bed. Way to go. she thought to herself as she got to her feet. Sunlight poured into the bedroom from the window. She hoped she didn’t wake Ruby up. But the bedroom door stayed closed. Her gaze ticked to the bedside clock, it was early. But she was wide awake now, and she wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep.
Meredith went over to her dresser, pulling out some clothes. She made her way across the bedroom floor and went over to the door. She pulled it open and listened. The house was quiet. Ruby was still asleep, despite the clatter she had made. Shaking her head, Meredith made her way into the bathroom. A few moments later, the shower went on. Minutes passed before the shower was turned off. She exited the bathroom, a cloud of steam billowing out after her as she made her way back into her bedroom. She got dressed for the day, even though she didn’t really have any definite plans. She made her way out into the hallway, descending the stairs to the main floor of the house. She made her way into the kitchen, heading straight over to the coffee machine.
She pressed the start button, the machine coming to life. While she waited for it to brew, she made her way out of the kitchen and over to the front door. She unlocked it, pulling it open as she stepped out on the porch. She seemed to be searching for something, which she found in the flower bed, as usual. She rolled her eyes, bending down and picking up the newspaper. Straightening up, she made her way back into the house, closing the door behind her. The smell of coffee invaded her senses as she made her way back into the kitchen. Let’s see if there’s some good news in there. Meredith thought to herself as she sat down at the kitchen table, opening up the newspaper. Nothing seemed to catch her interest. There was the weather forecast for the rest of the week. It was no surprise that it would be sunny and hot.
There was an article about St-Gregory’s. More people were starting to attend mass there since the killings had started. Meredith hadn’t been. She wasn’t the religious type. Neither was Ruby. Meredith looked up from the paper when the coffee machine chirped. She got to her feet, made her way over to the counter, finding a cup. She filled it with coffee, making her way back to sit down. She took a sip from her cup, turning the page. That’s when something caught her eye. It was an article about Shannon Wiles, Brandon Covington’s aunt. Meredith read the article, taking another sip from her cup. She almost spit out the coffee, her eyes widening in surprise. Shannon was offering a five hundred thousand dollar reward for the capture of her nephew. Meredith couldn’t believe it, that was a lot of money.
Shannon Wiles is rich, five hundred grand is probably nothing to her. Meredith thought to herself. What would she do with all that money? It would be enough to leave West Valley and start a new life elsewhere. It was something that had crossed her mind before. With the killings happening around her, she felt like she should leave. That she and Ruby would just pack their things and drive away into the sunset, never looking back. But that was easier said than done. They both had set up a life there. They had made friends, people they cared about. If they just left, it would be like they were abandoning them. Especially now when they needed them the most. They needed to band together as a community, and end the killings, once and for all. Meredith had faith that they could do it.
“Something smells great!” a voice said. Meredith looked up to see Ruby walking into the kitchen.
“There’s coffee in the pot.” she told her friend with a smile.
“Great. I could use a cup!” Ruby said as she grabbed a cup and poured the coffee into it. She made her way to the kitchen table, sitting in the chair across from Meredith.
“Take a look at this!” Meredith said, her eyes shining in excitement as she slid the newspaper to Ruby.
Ruby looked down at the paper, scanning the words. Her eyes widened. “Holy crap! Five hundred thousand dollars? That’s half a million!” she exclaimed.
“Just to find Brandon!” Meredith said.
“Faye was out looking for him. But he found her first.” Ruby replied with a frown.
“I liked her. She was nice.” Meredith said, looking down sadly.
“Me too. And her book was great. It was so truthful. Some authors like to spin the truth a little bit, make it seem more dramatic. But not Faye. She told the story as it really happened, down to the last detail.” Ruby explained.
“She did her research.” Meredith agreed, nodding.
“She even thought to go as far as getting in touch with Brandon’s family. That would have never crossed my mind.” Ruby said.
“Is anyone keeping in touch with Shannon Wiles now that Faye is… gone?” Meredith asked curiously.
“Fallon is, apparently. She was visiting her a lot while Darcy was missing.” Ruby replied.
“Poor Darcy. She’s been through so much.” Meredith replied, shaking her head sympathetically.
“I could only imagine what she was going through when she was captured. And to see Faye die like that..” Ruby trailed off. She shivered.
“And yet Darcy is back. Instead of getting the hell out town, she’s staying. She’s putting what happened behind her.” Meredith said.
“Well, she can’t crawl under a rock. I think she’s stronger than she looks. I’m surprised she hasn’t lost her mind. I would have.” Ruby explained.
“Anyway, how about we talk about something less grim? What would you do with the money?” Meredith asked with a small smile on her lips as they bent over the newspaper.
Preston gave the computer a dirty look. It was two months later, and he still didn’t feel any better. He still felt ashamed of the video that had been leaked online. A video he had desperately tried to hide from the town. He hadn’t even known the video existed until that one fateful day. It was of him and Alexander in an intimate moment. Preston couldn’t wrap his head around why Alexander had taped that. What was he hoping to gain from that? Was it just something that he could look back on when he wanted? Or had it been his intention to expose Preston all along? Preston still didn’t have the answer to that. All he knew was that the video was out there, and a lot of people had watched it. His stomach churned noisily as he made his way across the floor and into the kitchen.
Beth was still asleep upstairs. She had been a good friend by being at his side once the video leaked. She wasn’t one to judge, that’s what was so great about her. She had reassured him that everything was going to be fine. He believed her, but he also believed that it wasn’t something that was just going to die overnight. He had to face the town. And it hadn’t been an easy thing to do. What a shitty way to be outed. he thought to himself as he puttered around the kitchen. He had felt helpless, there was nothing he could do once the video had been posted online. He was livid. It was one thing to hold the video over his head, but he never imagined Alexander would end up posting it. And for what? That had been the last Preston had heard from him.
As much as he wanted to hide away from the world once the video was out, Preston couldn’t. He couldn’t stay cooped up in the house all the time. There were things to do around the house, errands to run. He couldn’t let Beth take care of it all. So the day after the video had leaked, Preston had ventured out of the house. He remembered that he was only on his way over to the supermarket. But as he had headed down the sidewalk, he remembered the looks that the people passing by had given him. A lot of people had stared. Some had frowned and given him shame on you looks. Some, mostly the teenagers, had pointed at him and laughed. Some whispered between themselves, glancing uncomfortably in his direction. Preston had felt like turning on his feet and running back home. But he didn’t.
Instead, with all the courage he could muster, he had held his head high and walked towards his destination. Once he had reached the supermarket, he expected to see the video image on the cover of the newspaper. He had worried for nothing. Instead, the cover story was about Darcy’s disappearance. For a brief moment, he had felt that the video leaking was the least of the town’s problem. They were searching for Darcy, and they had hoped to find her as quickly as possible. And now she’s found. Preston thought to himself with a small smile on his lips. He gazed out the kitchen window, at the cloudless sky above as he flashed back to that day in the supermarket. It was no different inside than it had been on the way over. People passed him, stopping and looking over their shoulder as they recognized him. Preston remembered wishing that the floor would open up and swallow him whole.
But he had kept moving, pushing his shopping cart along. He had been heading down the cereal aisle when he had heard someone calling his name. He had turned to see Julie Whitlow and her boyfriend Aiden Greene heading down the aisle towards him. He liked Julie, she was nice. He didn’t really know Aiden very well. This was the second or third time they had run into each other. Julie had a sympathetic glint in her eyes while Aiden stood back. There was nothing to be ashamed of, Julie had told Preston. She explained this was the twenty first century, that they weren’t back in the olden days. She reassured him that people would forget about the video. And that there was nothing wrong with same sex relationships. Despite thinking she sounded a little corny, Preston thought Julie had made a good point.
He remembered laughing as Julie and Aiden had walked away. Since she was going back to study law, she had mentioned to Preston about suing Alexander. That would show him. he thought to himself as he snapped back to the present. He contemplated if he should actually look into that. It was an invasion of privacy, in a way. He could just see Alexander’s face when he would get the news that he was being sued. Preston couldn’t suppress the small laugh that escaped from between his lips. He was still smiling after a quick breakfast as he made his way out of the kitchen and over to the front door. He unlocked it, pulling it open and stepping out into the sunshine. He took a deep breath. The air was warm and sweet. He watched as someone walked by the house, taking their dog out on a walk.
Preston wanted a dog. He wondered if Beth would agree to the idea, since she was more of a cat person. He found cats to be boring. You couldn’t play with them as much as you could with a dog. And dogs had actual personalities. Cats usually just lounged around all day. That didn’t interest Preston. He headed down the walkway and over to the sidewalk. Suddenly, someone called out a warning. He stepped aside as Hanna Workman zoomed by on her roller blades, her long dark hair flying behind her. He had no clue where she was heading to, but she seemed to be in a rush. He remembered being her age, not that long ago. Were things more simpler back then, when he was struggling with his sexuality? Not really. he thought to himself with a slight frown creasing his forehead. In a way, things were simpler now.
Or at least they were. He was glad that the video hadn’t gotten to his parents. He could just imagine the shock and the shame if they ever got around to watching it. Preston would make sure they wouldn’t. They wouldn’t be able to look at him the same way again. Would they even believe him if he had told them he had no clue the video had been made? Should he warn them beforehand not to watch it, in case the situation arose? Mom, dad. Don’t be mad, but there’s a video of me out there. Having sex with another guy. Whatever you do, don’t watch it. he could imagine himself saying into the phone. First, he had to work up the nerve to do it. And right now, he couldn’t. He was nervous, his palms sweaty, throat dry. Just thinking about doing it made his stomach churn once more.
Preston closed his eyes, taking in a deep breath of fresh air. Suddenly, behind him, the front door of the house opened. It snapped him out of his thoughts as he turned towards the house. Beth closed the front door behind her as she made her way down the walkway. She was dressed for the day, looking put together and great. She arched an eyebrow in his direction as she spotted him standing on the sidewalk in front of the house. She walked over to him, a small smile playing on her lips.
“There you are. I was calling and calling you, I didn’t even realize you weren’t inside.” she told him.
“Just getting some fresh air.” Preston replied.
“It’s almost always sunny here. It hardly ever rains.” Beth said, gazing up at the sky.
“Since when did you become all emo?” Preston replied with a soft chuckle.
“I happen to look good when I’m all wet!” Beth pointed out.
Preston chuckled again. “I wouldn’t know. Now, if you were Ryan Gosling..” he trailed off.
“I see despite everything happening, you still have your sense of humor.” Beth replied.
Preston smiled softly. “Just because I’m cracking jokes doesn’t mean I’m terrified.” he explained.
“Of the thought of me wet?” Beth asked.
“Of being murdered. And of my parents seeing that video.” he replied.
“What could they possibly do if they saw it?” Beth asked curiously.
“Disown me.” Preston explained.
“My parents disowned me a long time ago.” Beth replied, looking down at the concrete.
“That’s because you were a problem child. I was always on my best behavior.” Preston pointed out.
“You’re making it sound like I was the Omen or something. I wasn’t that bad.” Beth said with a slight frown.
“A normal teenage girl wouldn’t sleep with her teacher.” Preston replied.
Beth’s mouth opened slightly in shock. “I thought it would bring my grades up! And he was always flirting with me!” she replied.
“Didn’t he lose his job because of it?” Preston asked.
“And could never teach again. Anyway, I was heading out. You want to come with?” Beth asked.
“Where are you going?” Preston asked.
“Meeting Wendy and Derek for breakfast.” she replied.
“Well… okay. Sure. Sounds good.” he told her.
“Great! Let’s go!” Beth replied, leading the way towards the car.
Darcy waved goodbye, closing the front door and locking it behind her. Campbell was off to work, he had decided to walk instead of taking the car. Darcy could still taste his lips on hers. A sigh of contempt escaped her lips. She was very much in love with him. Even after everything she had gone through. She thought she would become hard, that she would be so traumatized, she would shut off her emotions. But that wasn’t the case. She felt more alive now than ever. Sure, they hadn’t gotten married. But the time would come soon. She had spoken to Campbell about it. She had briefly worried he wasn’t ready to get married after all the horror that had happened on the day she had been abducted. But she had been wrong. He was ready, and together they had come up with a decision.
They decided they would head over to get married at city hall. Just the two of them. They’d probably have a small get together at home after with their families and closest friends. They wanted to keep the guests at a minimum. Anyone, someone they thought could be trusted, could be the killer. Darcy felt guilty of thinking of that, but they wanted to be more safe than sorry. Look how I trusted Scott. Darcy thought to herself with a slight frown creasing her pretty face. She decided she would write up a list of who to invite. She headed up the stairs to the second floor of the house. She made her way over to the desk, pulling the chair back and sitting down. She grabbed a pen and a piece of paper. The first names on the list were those of her parents.
Even though it wasn’t her fault, she knew how worried they had been. They still were. Darcy had put them through a lot. She shook those thoughts away as she continued writing. Next on the list was Fallon. That was a given. She was her best friend. Derek Vance and Wendy Elliott were next on the list. Derek was friends with Campbell, and Wendy was Derek’s girlfriend. I wonder when they’re going to get married. Darcy thought to herself. They had been dating for longer than she and Campbell had. Maybe wedding bells were in the near future for them. Next on the list, the whole Whitlow family. She also added Ellie on the list. They were friends, and Darcy felt bad that Ellie’s son had been taken away from her. He was away living with his father for a few months, and Ellie had no one.
Next on the list was Jane Porter. She definitely had to invite her. Darcy had yet to start working with her. Whenever she was ready. She was supposed to go see Jane later on. She had to bring her some sketches she had done. She had done it on her free time, and Jane had wanted to see them. I hope she likes them. Darcy thought to herself. She tapped her pen on the desktop. Who else did she have to invite? The Cosgroves. Even though she didn’t really want to. Something was going on with them. Darcy had heard they were in some kind of financial trouble, but she didn’t know the whole story. She wrote them down on the list. She added Preston Downs and Beth Myers. She looked over the list. It seemed good to her. She pushed her chair back, standing up.
She would go over the list with Campbell later when he returned from work. Leaving the list on the desk, she headed into the bedroom. She made her way over to the closet, pulling the door open. She had gotten rid of her old wedding dress. It was dirty and ruined beyond repair. But there was another dress she had for when she and Campbell married at city hall. She stared at it hanging in the closet. It was a more simple dress than her first one. Yet Campbell hadn’t seen it. He didn’t even know there was another dress. He had felt bad knowing the other was destroyed. He had seen all the work she had put into that first dress. She wondered if he would like the new one. She wondered if they would all like it. She couldn’t help the smile that played on her lips.
That’s when the phone suddenly rang. Without much of a second thought, Darcy pulled out her phone and answered the call.
“Hello?” she said.
“Hello, Darcy.” came the distorted voice from the other end of the line.
It was the killer. Instead of being scared, Darcy felt angry. “I wondered how long it would take for you to call me.” she said.
“I miss you, Darcy. I don’t have you anymore to keep me company.” the killer chuckled.
“You mean for me to rot away in that cell? I would have rather died.” she said, her voice dripping with cold.
“Did you think you were going to? Did you think those were your last moments alive?” he asked.
“I didn’t. Because I knew I was going to get out.” she told him. “But how did you?” she asked.
“Because I’m smarter than you think I am. There was an extra key behind one of the bricks in the wall.” the killer explained with a chuckle of glee.
“You may think you’re smarter than me, but you’re the one who is going to die before I do.” she told him, seething.
“Do you really think so?” he asked her.
“I know so. I’m going to find you. And I’m going to pull that hood off before I shoot you in the face.” she replied.
“Whoa! So violent!” he replied.
“I think you’re testing me. Trying to see how long it will take before I break. Well I’m not going to. You’re not going to get that satisfaction.” she told him.
“You got this all wrong, bitch. You’re alive because I’m keeping you alive. Don’t think you can beat me. Because you can’t. No one can.” the killer replied, his voice angry.
“So then why don’t you come for me, you fucking coward!” Darcy seethed into the phone.
“All in due time, Darcy. All in due time. As I like to say in my messages that I leave for everyone… Soon.” the killer said ominously before hanging up without warning.
Darcy lowered the phone, the killer’s words echoing through her head.