Flashing blue and red lights illuminated the night sky. That could only mean one thing. That someone else had been killed. Julie wondered who it could be as she sat in the passenger side of Aiden’s car, tense. He was bringing her home after their date. As the car turned on her street, Julie could see the police cars and the morgue van parked outside the front of her house. A loud gasp escaped Julie’s lips as the car slowed down to a stop in front of the neighbour’s home. Without thinking, she pushed the passenger side door open and leaped out onto the sidewalk. She ran, heading towards her house, dread filling up inside her. She was barely aware of Aiden who was hurrying after her. She ran across the grass of her front lawn, being stopped by the strong arms of a policeman.
Helplessly, Julie turned her eyes towards the front porch of the house. The morgue attendants were wheeling out a body on a gurney. Her sister Megan’s body. The girl’s eyes were unblinking, opened wide in terror. Julie let out a shriek, her legs giving out from underneath her. That’s when she woke with a start, sitting up in her bed. She took a look around, taking in her surroundings. The familiar walls of her bedroom with the posters on them, her dresser with makeup placed neatly on top. She let out a deep breath, running her fingers through her hair. It was just a nightmare. she thought to herself as she climbed out of bed. Only it wasn’t. The events from her dream had really happened, four days earlier. Only it hadn’t been Megan who had been gruesomely murdered.
Charlie Olsen had been the latest victim. He had been killed right there on their front lawn. Killed is an understatement. Julie thought to herself with a frown as she went over to the window. It was early morning, the sun barely making his presence known. She looked out at the police tape that bordered the spot where Charlie’s body had been found. Megan had found him hanging from the tree in their front yard, his body gutted. It was like something out of a horror movie. Julie shuddered, turning away from the window. She made her way over to her dresser, pulling it open and taking out some clothes. Yawning softly, she made her way out of her bedroom. The rest of the house was quiet. Her mother and Megan were still tucked away in their beds sleeping.
Making her way into the bathroom, Julie disrobed before getting into the shower. As the warm water washed over her, she thought back to that night. By the time she got back with Aiden, her mother had already returned home. Getting out of the car, Julie had seen her mother holding Megan on the front porch, her younger sister sobbing loudly into their mother’s shoulder. Julie had watched as the gurney was wheeled past her, but she had no idea who was under the sheet. Once she had made her way over to her family, she had found out. Julie couldn’t believe it. And she felt absolutely terrible for her sister. Megan and Charlie had been a couple for months, with a short break up in between. They had just recently gotten back together, which Julie had been glad about.
There wasn’t much she could do for Megan except be there for her if she ever needed to talk. Which she had told her the following day after Charlie’s murder. Megan had just nodded a reply and had gone off to hide in her room. Done with her shower, Julie stepped out onto the tiled floor of the bathroom, wrapping a towel around her as she got ready. A few minutes later she exited the bathroom, hearing someone puttering around in the kitchen. She made her way into the kitchen, seeing her mother Christy standing at the counter. Her mother turned and gave her a sad smile. Julie went over and gave her mother a hug. It wasn’t just Megan who had been affected by Charlie’s murder. Julie had as well. She liked Charlie, she thought he was good for her sister. And now he was gone forever.
She couldn’t imagine how the Olsen’s felt. They were a big family. And tragedy had struck them even before Charlie’s death. Regina, the matriarch, had also been brutally murdered. She had been decapitated and found by her daughter, Dawn. Poor Dawn. Julie thought to herself with a pang of sadness. Her mother had called Dawn that night to tell her to come to the house right away. That something terrible had happened to her son. Dawn had driven over, arriving in record time. Her screams of grief had echoed over the neighborhood when she had seen what was left of Charlie. She had collapsed right there on their front lawn, hard sobs racking her body as they loaded the body into the morgue van. Thinking about it now, it brought a few tears to Julie’s eyes. She blinked them away.
She didn’t want to be seen crying, in the case that Megan would decide to suddenly walk into the kitchen at that moment. Instead, she decided to help her mother make breakfast. While her mother cooked, making scrambled eggs and bacon, Julie took care of making the coffee. It was a dark roast, a strong blend. She felt like that’s what they needed, instead of turning to alcohol. Julie noticed her mother was in her street clothes, which meant she wasn’t planning on going to work that day. She hadn’t gone since the day after Charlie’s murder. She wanted to be home and close to her daughters. Ellie didn’t mind and gave her the okay. Julie didn’t mind either. It was comforting, knowing her mother was there. It made her think back to when she was a little girl.
If something had happened, or if she had been scared or worried, she would run to her mother. Megan had done the same. Back then, it seemed like there was nothing Christy couldn’t fix. But that wasn’t the case now in the present. Julie wished she could hear her mother say that everything was going to be alright. But she didn’t. There was no certainty in anything these days. Which secretly terrified Julie. You never knew who was going to be alive one moment, and dead the next. A soft sigh escaped Julie’s lips while she waited for the coffee machine. At the stove, her mother looked over at her. Julie smiled softly and went to pull out two cups. She doubted Megan would join them for breakfast. She hardly ever did in the mornings, even when school was in session.
“What did you think of the service?” Christy asked Julie as they sat down.
Charlie’s funeral had been held the day prior. “It was nice… but also really sad.” Julie replied.
“I’m surprised they got Finn to say a few words. He’s just a little kid.” Christy said.
Julie nodded. Finn Olsen was only eight years old. “Yeah but Charlie was his role model. I think it was sweet he got to speak.” she said.
“I thought Megan would have said a few words as well.” her mother replied.
“I don’t know, mom. She still seems pretty torn up about what happened.” Julie replied with a frown.
“If Dr. Greene was still around I would have made Megan go speak to her.” Christy explained.
“I would probably still be going to see her myself.” Julie said. “If she wasn’t dead.” she added.
“What a small world that you’re now dating her son.” Christy replied.
“He’s been there for all of us.” Julie pointed out.
“I know! And I’m grateful. You can tell he really cares about you.” Christy said.
Julie nodded, a soft smile playing on her lips. She didn’t know what she would do without Aiden. I’d probably go crazy. All these deaths, it’s too much. she thought to herself. “I really care about him.” she told her mother.
Her mother opened her mouth to reply when they both heard the sound of running water. Someone was taking a shower. “Looks like your sister is awake.” Christy revealed.
“Maybe you can talk her into joining us for breakfast.” Julie replied.
“Let me see.” Christy said as she got to her feet and walked out of the kitchen.
Julie heard the low murmur of voices talking. She drummed her nails on the countertop. A few moments later her mother returned into the room. Julie looked over at her with a hopeful glance.
“She’ll be right down.” Christy explained with a small smile on her face.
Olivia had a lot to do that morning once she had woken up to the sound of her alarm clock. But first, she had treated herself to a nice bubble bath. There was something soothing about being surrounded by all that foam, a charcoal mask on her face and a glass of champagne in one hand. Today was the day of Darcy and Jane’s fashion show, to which Olivia was not only apart of, but she was also helping out. She was looking very forward to it. Jane Porter herself had asked Olivia to help plan the fashion show with her. How could she say no to an opportunity like that? She loved Jane’s clothes. Darcy had seemed wary at first when Jane told her that Olivia would be joining them, but she finally seemed to accept the fact that the other woman was going to be working on the fashion show with them.
After her bath, Olivia had made her way back into her bedroom to get dressed for the day. She had to look flawless, and she had already picked out an outfit. As she got dressed, she thought of how she had gotten to know Darcy a little bit more. She didn’t reveal it, but she actually liked the younger woman. She was quick on her feet, able to speak her mind, and had heaps of knowledge on fashion. Impressive, despite everything that has happened to her. Olivia had thought to herself with a slight frown as she continued getting ready. Once she was contempt with her reflection in the bedroom mirror, Olivia made her way downstairs. It was a beautiful day outside as she made her way over to the backdoor, unlocking it and pulling it open before stepping out onto the back porch.
Olivia almost expected to see her husband Edwin sitting out there, with a cup of coffee in one hand and a newspaper in the other. But no, she would never see him again, he was dead. It still didn’t seem real. She was alone, she had the whole house to herself. Her daughter Skye, had also fallen victim to the killer. Olivia missed her terribly. At times she would go into Skye’s room, which had been left untouched. She would just stand there silently in the middle of the bedroom, taking it all in. As if in the blink of an eye, all traces of her daughter could be gone. A heavy weight seemed to press down on Olivia’s heart as she let out a sad sigh. Skye would have loved to attend the fashion show. she thought to herself as she turned and headed back inside the house.
Skye had been very fashionable, even at her young age. She had gotten it from Olivia. Before she could even talk Olivia had dressed her daughter in designer clothing. They were rich, they could afford it. She was even more rich now since Edwin had been killed. At times, Olivia felt guilty about it, but mostly she embraced the fact that she was the richest woman in West Valley at that moment. Even Jane Porter herself didn’t come close. Thinking about that, a small smile formed on Olivia’s lips as she made her way into the kitchen. She wouldn’t have all this if she and Edwin had been arrested for tax evasion. They had been under investigation, only they had known they were guilty. The police were close to finding out the truth. So to save herself, Olivia had to take action.
She had framed her own husband. The father of her child. She couldn’t go to jail. So once the police had enough proof, they had gone to arrest Edwin. Only the West Valley killer had gotten to him first. Edwin had been found by the police, dead on front porch of the house. Olivia had been genuinely surprised when she had found out the news. It almost seemed like the killer had done her a favor. Or was it a punishment? she thought to herself with a slight frown creasing her forehead. Only she knew what she had done. Sure, there was talk around town, people were suspicious of how everything had played out. How she had saved herself out of being thrown in jail. They whispered, wondering if she had known about her husband’s crime. She knew, she knew very well, she was just a good enough actress to keep it all to herself.
What would Skye think? Olivia thought to herself. When Skye was alive, she would always side with her mother. She’d only go to her father when she wanted something. Olivia herself would also go to Edwin when she wanted something. She had her own money, but preferred to spend his instead. Now, she had too much money to count. She had ideas of how to spend some of it. A new house, maybe. Something bigger than the modest sized one she lived in now. A vacation to an island? That was something that tempted her. Sure, it was nice and warm in West Valley all year round, but it didn’t compare to a nice island with a beach. Like Aruba. Olivia thought with a small smile on her lips. She shook her head, with the money she had, she could move to Aruba!
Maybe that’s what she needed, to get away from all the insanity that was occurring in the town of West Valley. To move away where no one knew her name or what she had done. Even if she did move away, it still wouldn’t bring her family back. Edwin and Skye were gone forever. Another pang of sadness hit her as she ticked her gaze to the tiled floor. She wouldn’t admit it, but it was lonely at times. Maybe that’s why she had returned to the country club, why she was helping out with the fashion show. She needed to keep her mind off things. She needed to keep busy and not focus her attention on things that would make her miserable. She was alive, and wanted to live life to the fullest. In a way, it was almost like she was doing it for her family. She snapped back to attention, standing in the middle of the kitchen.
She remembered she had things to do for the fashion show. She had phone calls to make. Olivia pulled out her phone, dialing a number. First, it was to the banquet hall, where they were holding the fashion show. She would have preferred to have it at the country club, but it had been already reserved for another event. Some teenager’s birthday. she remembered. The banquet hall would do. The phone rang on the other end of the line before someone picked up. Olivia spoke for a few minutes, reminding them to start setting up the tables and chairs. Tickets to the fashion show were sold out, they were expecting two hundred people to attend. Olivia quickly did the math in her head, wondering if she would get a percent of the profits. Jane had reassured her she would. She wasn’t helping them for free.
Olivia didn’t help with anything unless somehow it was convenient for her. That’s just the way she was. Maybe that’s why hardly anyone ever came to her for help. Because they didn’t have some ulterior motive like she did. No matter, it was more of a nuisance to Olivia when people came to ask for help, so if they didn’t, it wasn’t something she was losing sleep over. Hanging up the phone, she dialed another number. Campbell’s number. She had gotten it from Darcy herself. They needed someone to DJ and MC the fashion show, someone who had the knowledge of using the equipment. Darcy had mentioned her husband, who was more technically inclined than everyone else. She had called a few days earlier to ask him, which he had accepted. Olivia was calling now just to make sure he had everything ready and settled.
He did, he revealed after picking up the phone. They couldn’t not have music playing while the models walked down the runway. It wouldn’t be a real fashion show without it. Olivia hadn’t heard the songs he had chosen, but he had reassured her they would work just fine. She wanted the show to have a certain vibe. So did Darcy and Jane. Something fun to momentarily forget about all the horrors that had happened in West Valley. Olivia wondered why they didn’t have more events in the town. It would give the citizens something to look forward to. Something else to focus on instead of the horrible murders going on around them. Constantly focusing on all that tragedy could bring one’s morale down. She had seen it happen to many people she encountered on a daily basis.
Finishing up her conversation with Campbell, Olivia hung up the phone. A soft sigh escaping her lips. She made her way out of the kitchen and into the living room. She made her way over to the couch and sat down. She could relax for a few minutes. Now all she was waiting for was to hear from Jane. She was expecting a phone call from the other woman. She grabbed the remote off the coffee table and flicked on the television. She landed on the news, which surprisingly enough, was not talking about the latest tragedy in West Valley. That’s a first. Olivia thought to herself with a scoff. She watched the news report which was about a nearby town called Strangerville. Something about flashing lights in the sky. She frowned to herself. She’d take UFO sightings over a murderer any day.
I’m sure everyone else in West Valley would as well. Olivia thought to herself. She changed the television to another channel. A movie flashed on the screen. One she knew too well. It was the shower scene from PSYCHO. With a cold shiver of fear running down her back, Olivia changed the channel immediately. She didn’t need to see that. She knew how it ended. And it was hitting close to home. Had someone in West Valley been killed while taking a shower? As much as she didn’t want to think about it, the thought crossed Olivia’s mind. No, no one had. Yet. Anything could happen, especially when there was a killer on the loose. She came across another movie, this one more family friendly. It was about a talking monkey.
Her phone rang, snapping her attention away from the television as she looked down at her phone screen. UNKNOWN. flashed back at her. She grabbed the remote, muting the television as she stood, bringing the phone up to her ear.
“Hello?” she said.
“Hello, Olivia.” a distorted voice answered from the other end.
“Jane? Is that you?” she replied hopefully.
An ominous giggle. “Deep down, you know this isn’t Jane.” the voice said.
Olivia’s eyes widened slightly. It was the killer on the other end of the line. “What do you want?” she asked, swallowing hard.
“I wanted to talk to the most guilty person in town. Besides myself, I mean.” the killer replied with another giggle.
“So why call me?” she asked with a deep frown creasing her face.
“Because I know you’re secret.” the killer said.
“I don’t have a secret.” Olivia replied.
“You can tell yourself that to sleep better at night, but I know. I know what you did to your husband.” the killer hissed from the other end of the line.
Olivia swallowed hard again. “I didn’t do anything to my husband. You’re the one that killed him.” she replied, her voice shaking.
“I was doing you a favor. So you wouldn’t be hauled off to jail too. You should be thanking me.” the killer replied.
“By killing my family? By leaving me alone?” Olivia seethed.
“You could reach out to the people around you. But would they ever look at you the same if they knew the truth?” the killer giggled.
“There’s no proof.” Olivia replied after sucking in a deep breath.
“Oh, but I believe there is. It’s hidden in the study. At least it used to be.” the killer replied, gloating.
Olivia’s eyes widened in terror. How had the killer known where she had hidden the proof? The letter that she had hidden in a book in the study. She could hear the killer laughing on the other end of the line as she tossed the phone down and hurried out of the living room. She made her way across the first floor of the house until she was pushing open the door to the study. She went over to the bookshelf, her heart thumping loudly in her chest as she pulled open the glass door. There was the book. She grabbed it, pulling it out and quickly went through the pages. No, please no. she thought to herself as she flipped through the book until she had reached the end. There was no paper tucked away. The paper she had hidden was gone. She flipped through the book one more time just to be sure. Nothing.
Olivia felt like someone had submerged her in ice cold water. She put the book back, closing the glass door. Her mind was processing what had just happened. The proof that she had framed her husband, that he was to be solely blamed for tax evasion, was gone.
Soft sunlight poured into the bedroom from the window. Standing in front of it, gazing outside, stood a figure. Letting the light pour over them. If only she could feel the warmth of the sun’s rays. However, Dawn felt nothing but numbing agony. She was vaguely aware of where she stood, that she was dressed for the day, that a few minutes earlier someone had knocked at the bedroom door. The door was locked, she was aware of that. But she hadn’t moved from her spot in front of the window to go open it. Someone had called her name from the other side of the door. She couldn’t remember who it was. Her brother Michael? Her sister in law, Claire? She knew who it definitely wasn’t. Her son, Charlie. He would never come knocking at her door again. He would never flash her his thousand watt smile. He would never hug her again.
Charlie was gone. Forever. Dawn was vaguely aware of the sob she choked back as the thought hit her again for what seemed like the thousandth time. The thought that seemed to hit her with the force of a bus. Her teenage son had been the latest victim of the West Valley killer. It didn’t matter how old you were, anyone was prone to being a victim. It was up to fate whether you survived or not. Not many people had. Lately, it seemed like the killer was focusing his or her attention on the teenagers of the town. Unfortunately, the latest teenager to lose their life was Dawn’s son. Hasn’t my family suffered enough? she thought to herself, vaguely aware of the question that played through her mind. If anyone was a specific target of the killer’s, it was her family.
Her mother Regina had been killed. Because of her connection to Brandon Covington. Who very well could have been the killer. The one causing all the madness. As of yet, he hadn’t been caught. No one even knew of his whereabouts. It was like he was a phantom. Not even the police could stop him. Which seemed to bring him pleasure. A few had even tried to track him down. To no avail. All it had caused was more death. For a brief moment, Faye Abernathy’s face flashed through Dawn’s mind. The famous podcaster had been killed not long ago. Perhaps it had been because she was getting too close to uncovering something. Perhaps the killer’s identity? Or where Brandon was hiding out? Now, they’d never know. It was like things had gone backwards.
It was frustrating. Not just for Dawn, but for everyone else in town. If the killer, whoever it was, wasn’t as smart as they were, perhaps the police would have caught him, or her, by now. But the killer always seemed to be not two steps, but four steps ahead of everyone. Whoever it was, had plotted everything out very intricately. And Charlie’s murder had just added to the stress Dawn was already feeling. Discovering that her mother had been Brandon’s father’s mistress. That they had a child together. Somewhere out there, Dawn had a half sister. She had just started looking for her when Charlie’s murder happened. It was like the killer was adding to that tragedy to keep her from looking for her sister. It made sense if the killer was Brandon himself. Perhaps he wanted to find his half sister as well. To get to her before Dawn did.
And kill her? Dawn thought, unaware of the frown that played on her face. It was very possible. Brandon was clearly unstable. Despite standing in the warm glow of the sunlight, a cold shiver snaked down her spine. She had to find her sister. It wasn’t going to be easy, she was sure of it. But if she was going to find her sister, she had to push aside the troubled thoughts that swirled around in her mind. She had to turn her attention off of Charlie’s murder, even if that was all she could think about. The pain was all too fresh. It had only been four days since he had been taken away from her, from his family and friends. She remembered getting the phone call, rushing over to the Whitlow residence. She’d never forget the sight of her son strung up in a tree in the Whitlow’s front yard, his body gutted.
Dawn closed her eyes tight, willing the horrifying picture away. She choked back another sob that threatened to escape. If she started crying again, she would never stop. Charlie’s death had affected not just her family, but everyone else in town. He was well known and liked by everyone. Or at least almost every one. Olivia Cosgrove was not a fan of Charlie’s. Perhaps it was because he had chosen to date Megan Whitlow instead of her daughter, Skye. That was before Skye had been also been killed. It had happened some time ago. It had affected Olivia, who had changed. She had became nicer. But it hadn’t lasted. She was back to being her usual bitchy self. As if she was god’s gift to the earth and that the others should kiss the ground she walked on. Dawn rolled her eyes in annoyance.
Suddenly, there was another knock at the bedroom door. This time it snapped Dawn out of her trance. Arching an eyebrow slightly, she made her way across the bedroom floor and over to the door. She reached out and turned the lock, pulling the door open. It was her sister in law, Claire. The other girl had a look of surprise in her eyes. As if she couldn’t believe that Dawn had finally unlocked the door. It had been a few days since Dawn had barely left her room. Only to eat and use the bathroom. She hadn’t even answered her phone calls. There were at least thirty missed calls on her phone, and double of text messages. She couldn’t deal with anyone just yet. Not after just burying her son. A rock of ice seemed to settle in her stomach as she stared blankly over at Claire.
“You opened the door.” Claire said before wrapping her in a tight hug. Dawn could feel the other girl shaking, as if she was trying to keep from bursting into sobs.
“I thought it was time.” Dawn answered as she broke out of the hug. She took a step back from her sister in law. She couldn’t look her in the eyes. She could feel the worry from the other girl’s gaze.
“I’m so glad to hear that!” Claire replied. She swallowed hard before continuing. “It’s hard for all of us. You’re not alone in this.” she explained, taking a step closer.
Dawn nodded. “I know. Thanks.” she said simply.
Concern flashed in Claire’s eyes. “Are you sure you’re gonna be okay? ” she asked. She bit down on her lip.
“I wish I had an answer.” Dawn replied. The chunk of ice in her stomach hardened. Dawn cleared her throat, wrapping her arms around her stomach.
“Everyone’s saying how the… service was really nice.” Claire explained, choosing her words carefully.
Dawn blew out a breath. “I barely remember it.” she replied with a frown. She had been so numbed by grief, thinking about it now, the whole funeral had seemed to pass in a blur.
Claire put a hand on her shoulder. “Try to take it easy. Michael and I can take care of everything until you’re back on your feet.” she told Dawn.
“Where’s Finn?” Dawn asked, referring to her younger son. She usually knew when Finn was inside the house, there was always some kind of ruckus going on. Whether it was playing, the sounds of video games, or the television volume being on too high. Dawn noticed the house was silent. For a brief moment, a wave of worry washed over her.
“Michael took him to the comic shop. He thought it would keep Finn’s mind off things.” Claire explained.
A soft, sad smile briefly played on Dawn’s lips. Finn loved going to the comic shop with Charlie. she thought to herself. She cleared her throat, pushing the thought away to the back of her mind. “We have to do something, Claire. We can’t just stand here, waiting for the next person to die! With the way things are going, soon there won’t be any people left alive.” Dawn said. She finally met Claire’s gaze.
“You’re right. It’s our family that started this, as much as we can’t change the past. But we can end it. We need to accept responsibility for what happened with Regina and Stuart Covington all those years ago. It’s time we take matters into our own hands and stop the killer. Or at least find out where Brandon is hiding.” Claire replied.
“And I think I have just the person in mind to help us.” Dawn replied, taking out her phone and dialing in a number. Claire arched an eyebrow in her direction, watching curiously. The phone on the other end of the line was picked up. “It’s Dawn Olsen. I have something to ask you.” she said, determination glinting in her eyes as she headed out of the bedroom.
Birds tweeted happily in the trees as the door to the Stanton residence was pulled open. Joanna stepped outside, closing the door behind her as she did so. Something was drawing her outside. Perhaps it was the nice weather, which was nothing new in West Valley. It was least once a month where they were hit with rain or a storm. That was just one day, while the rest of the days were sunny and warm. Joanna made her way down the porch steps and over onto the front lawn. She gazed out to the neighborhood around her. To her left were the Whitlow and McQueen homes. To her right were the Biggs and the Rayburn homes. Perhaps she had been drawn outside by something more sinister. A feeling of unease, of worry. As if she expected to step outside and find out she was the last towns-person alive.
Joanna rolled her eyes. She couldn’t let her imagination get the best of her. There were still sounds of life around her. She could hear the splash of someone diving into a swimming pool in the distance. Also, the door to the Whitlow house opened and Christy had walked over to say hello. They chatted a few minutes before Christy excused herself and headed off into town. Joanna watched her until she disappeared from sight around a corner. Maybe you’re just on edge, being home alone. Joanna thought to herself. She took a glance back towards the house. Barry was at work. Travis had gone to look for a job. And Carly had gone to the mall with some friends to shop for some back to school clothes. Joanna had reminded her that she still had another two months to go until school started again.
But Carly was determined to take advantage of the sales at the mall that week. So she had headed out once her friend Zoey Fox had come to pick her up. The other girl had just gotten her license at the end of the school year and had just gotten her own car, which was she was eager to show off. At Zoey’s age, Joanna didn’t have her own car. She was lucky if she even had a scooter. She had her bike, it was pink and purple with a white basket on the front. And it got her anywhere she needed to go. Then again she wasn’t as rich as Zoey Fox and her family. Joanna’s father worked all the time, and her mother had not one, but two jobs to support the family. She had only become more wealthy once she had married Barry. He was the one with the money.
With his promotion that had transferred them to West Valley, Barry was making even more money now. That’s how they could afford a house in the small town. It was a decent sized home, three bedrooms, three bathrooms. It was the price of the home that was a little extravagant. Joanna assumed it was because of the murders that had happened prior to them moving in. Joanna turned to look at the house. Even in the daylight, there was something foreboding about it. A small frown creased Joanna’s face. Maybe it was the fact knowing that a house was supposed to feel safe. But in West Valley, no one was safe. The four walls of a house could not keep the killer out. Many people had been killed or terrorized in their homes. If the killer had his, or her attention set on you, they would find a way into your home.
It didn’t matter where you were. Or what time of the day it was. The killer struck at random. You could be enjoying a nice hot cup of coffee in the comfort of your own kitchen when you’d suddenly get your throat slit from behind. With a small gasp, Joanna spun around. Expecting to see the killer standing behind her. But no one was there. Also, just because you couldn’t see the killer, didn’t mean they weren’t watching. Joanna’s eyes darted nervously as she looked around. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Calm down. she told herself, taking a few deep breaths. Everyone seemed to be more on edge now that Charlie Olsen had been killed. Joanna couldn’t imagine what Dawn was going through at that moment. He was just a teenager, the same age as her own son, Travis.
She had almost lost Travis. He had been badly beaten by some of his classmates, and she remembered feeling so helpless while waiting for him to recuperate. It must have felt ten times worse for Dawn and her family. For Charlie was now buried six feet underground in the cemetery behind Saint- Gregory’s church. She and her whole family had gone to the funeral. It was a closed casket, the Olsen family inconsolable. The news had said Charlie’s death had been extremely brutal. Dawn didn’t even have to go identify his body at the morgue, for she had seen it with her own two eyes at the crime scene. The crime scene which was just over to Joanna’s left. The Whitlow residence. There was still yellow crime tape around their front lawn.
Joanna’s stomach churned as she turned away from the Whitlow residence. She took another deep breath. She needed to get away from there for a little while. She made her way back to porch and over to the front door. She locked it, slipping her keys inside her pocket as she turned and made her way down the porch steps once more. She averted her gaze from the Whitlow house as she made her way down the sidewalk. She decided she would head downtown. A walk would help clear her troubled thoughts. She listened to the birds chirping as she made her way down the street, stopping to glance both ways before crossing the street. She heard someone calling her name. She turned, waving to Amy Rayburn, who was watering her lawn in front of her home.
Joanna smiled to herself as she took in Amy’s appearance. Just a few more months before Amy had her baby. She looked ready to give birth at any second, her belly protruding greatly. Joanna kept walking, humming softly to herself as she crossed another street. A few minutes later, she found herself downtown. She walked by Darcy and Jane’s clothing store. They were going to be throwing a fashion show that night. Joanna was planning on attending, she had already purchased her ticket. It was also an excuse for her to get glam and dressed up. She had actually talked Barry into attending with her. She was surprised when he had agreed. He had mentioned about how they hadn’t had a date night in a while. A smile played on Joanna’s lips as she thought about what a good time they would have that night.
Joanna kept moving. Downtown wasn’t very busy at that point in the day. She gazed into the window of the gym, wondering if she would recognize anyone who happened to be working out. There were no familiar faces so she kept moving. As she passed by an alleyway between two buildings, a blur of movement caused her to stop. For a moment she thought it was a cat scurrying through the alley. She took in the large shadow that was hurrying through the alley, it’s back to her. It was too big to be a cat. It was definitely a person. Joanna’s eyes widened slightly in surprise. She took a step closer for a better look. She didn’t know who the figure was, the shadows of the alley kept their identity hidden. Joanna couldn’t see the person’s face. But there was something about the way the figured moved.
It’s a woman. Joanna thought to herself. The movements of the shadowy figure in the alley were feminine. Joanna looked around. No one else was there to witness what she had seen. For a brief second, Joanna thought of running into the alley and following the figure. But no, it was too dangerous. What if that’s what the figure wanted Joanna to do? What if it was a trap? What if that was the killer? Joanna’s eyes widened more. Her heartbeat picked up it’s pace in her chest. She stepped back slowly, in case the figure was still in the alley. She couldn’t tell if it was empty or not. Joanna turned away and collided with someone. A small shriek of surprise escaped her lips as she tumbled to the concrete. She gazed up at the all too familiar face that looked down at her with worry.
“Travis?!” she exclaimed in surprise.
“Mom! Are you okay?” he asked, extending his hand and helping her up to her feet.
“What are you doing here?” she asked him, arching an eyebrow in his direction.
“I went to apply at the restaurant for a busboy position. I was coming out the door when I saw you. Didn’t you hear me calling you?” he explained.
“I was..uhh.. distracted.” Joanna explained, thinking of the figure she had seen in the alley.
“Yeah you were staring into that alley as if you saw a ghost. What was in there?” Travis asked curiously.
“Nothing..I just thought I saw.. something. It was nothing. So how did the job interview go?” she asked, turning her attention back to her son.
He smiled widely. “I got the job!” he told her.
She smiled, pulling him into a hug. “That’s great! Your dad and sister are going to be happy to hear that!” she told him.
“Let me be the one to tell them, okay?” he asked her.
“Of course! I’m so proud of you, honey! Your first job!” she replied.
“Moooom! It’s not a big deal.” he told her, rolling his eyes.
“It so is! In fact, let’s go for lunch! It’s on me!” she told him.
“Can I order a beer?” he asked her, hopeful.
“Yeah, keep dreaming.” she told him with a laugh as she lead him towards the restaurant. She didn’t let it show that she was still thinking about what she had seen in the alleyway.
Jillyan didn’t want to be cooped up inside with her thoughts. They swirled inside her mind like a washing machine. If only she could get them to stop, but she couldn’t. So she headed outside into the backyard. For a brief moment she had thought of getting into the pool for a swim. But that meant going back inside the house and changing into her swimsuit. She decided against it, instead going over to the backyard table and sitting down in a chair. She put her head in her hands, letting out a small sniff before straightening back up. She was still in shock, Charlie was dead. Someone she considered a friend. She only saw him as that, despite what Megan had thought not too long ago. She had never had romantic feelings for him. But thinking about it now, it made Jillyan wonder.
Could they have become more than friends? If Charlie didn’t want to get back together with Megan. she thought to herself with a small frown creasing her pretty face. It was one of many thoughts that wouldn’t stop haunting Jillyan. There was also the fact that she would never see Charlie again. That anyone else could be the killer’s next victim, including herself. She tried thinking of more light hearted stuff, like the birth of her niece in a few months, but her mind kept going back to the troubling thoughts. She didn’t have to say much for Amy to know she was upset. She knew she could talk to her older sister, but she didn’t want to burden her. Amy already had her hands full. The father of her unborn child was dead. As if that wasn’t enough, she was going to raise the baby as a single mother.
Jillyan would try to help as much as could, but she didn’t know much about babies. Maybe the presence of a baby would bring some joy into their lives. Since the murder of the first victim, Felicia Talley, all West Valley experienced was death and chaos. For another brief moment, Jillyan regretted ever moving to the small town. I should have just stayed with mom. she thought to herself. A killer on the loose would be the least of her worries in her hometown. The police only came out to give speeding tickets. She sighed. She had moved here now and she was going to stay and help Amy. Jillyan would be starting high school in West Valley in just a short amount of time. Maybe she would be too busy with school and life to worry about who the killer was going to murder next.
She was excited for senior year. She was planning on joining all kinds of activities. Prom committee, the yearbook, and cheer-leading were a given. She was also thinking about joining the debate team and maybe the girls volleyball team. If there was one sport she enjoyed, it was volleyball. But she was getting ahead of herself. It was still summer, she wasn’t supposed to be thinking about school just yet. She was supposed to be out, enjoying herself. Which she did. She was glad she had made some friends in West Valley. She was also worried about them. They could fall victim to the killer. A soft sigh escaped her lips as she looked towards the house. Amy had gone out to look for some last minute baby essentials. She had asked Jillyan to go along with her, but she had politely declined.
That’s when from her inside her pocket, the phone rang. Jillyan pulled it out and looked down at the screen. KARINA MUNIZ flashed on the screen. With the corner of her lips curling up into a small smile, Jillyan answered the call. “Karina?” she said in greeting.
“Jill. What are you up to?” the other girl said from the other end of the line.
“Just sitting outside in the backyard. How about you? How was your cousin’s birthday party?” Jillyan asked.
“Pretty good actually. I was able to score some… party favors.” Karina replied with a giggle.
“At a seven year old’s birthday party?” Jillyan asked curiously, cocking an eyebrow.
Karina giggled again. “From his brother, the nineteen year old.” she clarified from the other end of the line.
“Well, you enjoy that.” Jillyan replied with a chuckle.
“You mean WE’RE going to enjoy it. I’m on my way over to you right now.” Karina explained.
“Karina! My sister could be home at any minute!” Jillyan replied.
“It’s just a pill! It’ll be quick!” Karina replied.
“Do you even know what it does?” Jillyan asked.
“It’s supposed to mellow you out! I think we all need that. Especially after Charlie getting hacked to pieces.” Karina said.
Jillyan frowned. Maybe the pills would calm her thoughts. Hmmm. she thought to herself. “Fine. Just hurry up, will you?” she told Karina.
“See you in a few.” Karina said as she hung up the phone.
Jillyan got to her feet. Sliding the phone back inside her pocket. She pushed the chair back against the table as she made her way across the grass. She made her way over to the backdoor, pulling it open and stepping inside the house. She closed the door behind her and went to check what there was in the refrigerator when the doorbell rang. Jillyan turned and made her way out of the kitchen and over to the front door, pulling it open. Karina stood on the front porch, a wide smile on her lips, a small white bag clutched in her hand. Stepping aside to let her in, Jillyan closed and locked the front door as they made their way into the kitchen. Karina sat down at the kitchen table, Jillyan sitting across from her as she pulled out a pill bottle from the white bag.
“Ta-da!” Karina said flashing another wide smile.
“Are you sure about this?” Jillyan asked.
“Yes! Stop being a wuss! Now my cousin said we can take it without water. It’ll starting hitting us within two minutes.” Karina replied as she took out two pills from the bottle. She handed one to Jillyan.
“I can’t believe we’re doing this.” Jillyan said, watching Karina swallow down her pill.
“Would you just take it? Down the hatch!” Karina replied with a giggle. She clapped once Jillyan swallowed it down, they sat back, waiting for the pill to hit them.
The rest of the day was uneventful. Soon enough it was evening. The sun began to hang low in the sky, it would be replaced by the moon in just a few short hours. However, the town of West Valley was still out and about. It wasn’t time just yet to retire within the safety of their own homes. People would usually hurry inside once darkness had fell. Not everyone would stay inside, some would keep going about with their day. They wouldn’t stop living just because there was a killer on the loose. That night was no different. It was the night of Darcy and Jane’s fashion show. They had sent out invitations to almost the whole town. From the replies they had gotten, Darcy knew tonight was going to be a success. It seemed like a lot of people were going to be attending.
Plus, there was safety in numbers. Surely the killer wouldn’t plan on making an appearance if faced against the whole town? I surely hope not. Darcy thought to herself as she slid into the dress she had chosen to wear for that night. She gazed at herself in the mirror, a smile of contempt playing on her lips. She couldn’t help but feel excited. There was also a bit of nerves, but she knew she would calm down once the fashion show was well underway. She knew people liked her and Jane’s designs. Their business was booming. Even people from out of town came to shop at their boutique. Joining forces with Jane was the smartest thing Darcy could have done. Not that running her own business had been a failure.
It was the fact that Jane was a very well known designer and had seen Darcy’s talent. And maybe she had wanted to give Darcy a break. Her store had been burnt to the ground by the killer. Darcy didn’t know what her future held until Jane had come calling. Darcy was beyond grateful for Jane. Applying her lipstick in the mirror, Darcy smiled again. Campbell would be attending the fashion show as well. He was in the shower at that very moment, getting ready. Even her mother was driving in to attend. Her mother had gone back home, she was no longer staying with them. Darcy thought it was safer that way. Considering she had walked in on the killer trying to murder her mother in the guest room just a few weeks prior. It sent a shiver of fear down Darcy’s spine.
Satisfied with her reflection, Darcy headed out of the bedroom. She made her way through the upstairs hallway before she descended the staircase to the main floor of the house. She could hear Campbell singing loudly from the shower upstairs. It made a small giggle escape her lips. Looks like he’s excited too. she thought to herself as she made her way into the kitchen. She looked at the time on the stove. There was still about an hour left before they had to start heading out. Her mother was due any moment, she was going to get a lift with Darcy and Campbell. Darcy hummed softly to herself as she went over and pulled open the fridge door. On the top shelf was a bottle of champagne. That was for her and Campbell to celebrate with later on once they came back home from the fashion show.
Darcy closed the fridge. Upstairs, she heard the shower turn off. She made her way out of the kitchen and into the living room. There was still some time to kill, so she pulled out her phone and dialed Jane’s number as she sat down on the couch, making sure not to wrinkle her gown. Jane answered on the second ring. She also sounded excited, even though she was in the fashion world many years before Darcy. Perhaps it was the fact that she was showing their designs to a new crowd, or because the designs were truly something impressive. Darcy was agreeing to something Jane had said when the doorbell rang. She got to her feet, telling Jane she would see her soon. She disconnected the call and made her way over to the front door. She pulled it open, revealing her mother standing on the other side.
They hugged as Darcy stepped aside, letting her mother into the house. They spoke excitedly among themselves until Campbell came heading down the stairs. He looked great in a suit. For a brief moment it reminded Darcy of when they had gotten married. His eyes widened in surprise once he got a look at her. He kissed her on the cheek, making sure not to smudge her makeup. After making sure the house was locked up and the alarm system was on, they headed out of the house and towards the car that was parked at the curb. Like a real gentleman, Campbell held the car door open for Darcy and her mother as they got in. Her mother sat in the backseat while Darcy made herself comfortable in the passenger seat. With a roar of the engine, Campbell pulled the car away from the house.
A few minutes later Darcy was stepping out of the car. Campbell and Tess were going to find parking while Darcy headed inside and met up with Jane. Jane and Olivia Cosgrove she thought to herself with a slight frown creasing her pretty face. She wondered why Jane had asked Olivia to help, but she hadn’t asked her. She didn’t want Jane to think she was questioning her judgement. Which in a way, she was. So Darcy kept those thoughts to herself as she made her way up towards the banquet hall. She pulled the door open and stepped inside, letting the door swing shut behind her. Music blared from the speakers all around the venue. A song she knew. “You Need To Calm Down” by Taylor Swift. Whether it was the music or the fact that the show would start soon, a wide smile played on Darcy’s lips as excitement rushed through her.
“Who’s the goddess?” a familiar voice said behind her.
Darcy turned and smiled. Looking Fallon up and down. “You are! You look amazing!” she told her friend.
“Only because you made this dress! But you look way better than me!” Fallon replied, hugging Darcy.
“Oh c’mon! We both look like goddesses.” Darcy said with a chuckle as she hugged Fallon back.
“Are you excited?” Fallon asked, her eyes shining.
“I could just pee myself.” Darcy replied with another chuckle. “But I need to find Jane first before I do.” she explained.
“I saw her a few minutes ago, talking to….Olivia.” Fallon said with a grimace.
“Yeah… I need to talk to Jane about that. Tomorrow.” Darcy said with a slight frown.
“Don’t let me keep you! Go find her. We’ll catch up later.” Fallon said with a smile. With a nod, Darcy went on her way to find Jane.
Half an hour and one argument with Olivia later, Darcy stood on the side of the stage with Jane while the models came to see them for some finishing touches. Jane turned to look at Darcy, her eyes filled with excitement.
“We did a great job, partner.” Jane told her with a smile.
“We really did. They all look so beautiful! Tonight is going to be one for the books!” Darcy replied.
“It’ll really put your designs on the map.” Olivia threw in as she walked by them, a smug look on her face.
Darcy wanted to slap that look off of her face. Instead she flashed Olivia a fake smile, turning her attention back to Jane. “Even Olivia was helpful. Which is a surprise. She usually doesn’t care about anyone else but herself!” she told Jane.
“I heard that!” Olivia called out from somewhere in the room.
Before she could reply again, someone was stepping up in front of Darcy. “Everything okay, Gwen?” she asked the other girl.
“My zipper is stuck. Can you help?” Gwen asked, looking slightly stressed.
“Sure turn around.” Darcy said. Gwen did what she was told, and a few moments later, had a wide smile on her lips.
“Thanks!” Gwen said, hurrying away.
“Can’t wait to see you kill it out there!” Darcy called out to Gwen.
Soon enough, the fashion show began. First, Jane and Darcy had stepped up to the microphone and had thanked everyone for coming. The turnout was greater than they had expected. The official number of people attending was a hundred and ten. There was not an empty seat in the banquet hall. As she thanked the crowd, Darcy kept her eyes on Campbell and her mother. They smiled proudly back at her. She had wished her father was out in the crowd as well. He would have been proud of her. She imagined he was there in spirit, looking down at them and clapping. Darcy stepped aside, letting Jane say a few words. She was surprised when Jane called Olivia up to the microphone to say a few words. Darcy kept her face neutral, she didn’t want anyone to tell that she was annoyed with Olivia. So she gazed out at the crowd while Olivia spoke.
After their speeches, they had moved backstage to let the fashion show begin. Fallon was first. She headed towards the crowd, doing her best model walk while people cheered. Darcy clapped extra hard for her best friend. Stephanie Workman was next, smiling as Fallon walked past her in the other direction. Once Fallon had made it backstage, Darcy scooped her up in a tight hug. They stood together talking in hushed voices as Stephanie headed back towards them. The crowd was still clapping. Darcy smiled and clapped as Naomi headed out onto the runway. That’s when someone tapped on Darcy’s shoulder from behind. She turned, saw it was Wendy Elliott. The other girl had a concerned look on her pretty face. Jeez, she’s wearing a lot of makeup. Darcy couldn’t help but think to herself.
“Darcy! We have a problem!” Wendy told her.
“What kind of problem?” Darcy asked cocking an eyebrow.
“I’m up next! And then it’s Gwen! But she’s nowhere to be found!” Wendy explained.
Darcy sighed. “I’ll go look for her. She probably just had another problem with her dress.” she explained to the other girl.
“Well she better hurry or else she’s going to miss her turn!” Wendy replied.
“Okay, okay. I’m on it.” Darcy said as she headed around the side of the stage.
She waved at Ivy who was drinking at the bar with Lilah. Ivy raised her glass in greetings, a smile on her lips. Darcy smiled back too before she pulled back the curtain to the backstage area. It was quiet back there. And cluttered. Darcy scanned her surroundings. There were stacked up chairs, a vanity table where makeup was spread out on top. A blank faced mannequin, which sent a shiver of fear down Darcy’s spine. It looked way too human. She averted her gaze, aware of the clapping coming from the crowd. She assumed Wendy had gone onto the runway. There was a door at the back of the room. It took two tries, but Darcy got it open. She held the door as she stepped out into the side alley of the banquet hall. It was empty, no sign of Gwen. She stepped back inside, the door slamming shut behind her.
It was so loud, Darcy jumped, startled. Her hand pressed against her chest, trying to stop the pounding of her heart. She waited a few moments before she kept moving. She stumbled, almost falling flat on her face. A soft cry of surprise escaped her lips as she grabbed the wall to steady herself. She looked down at what she had tripped over. A pile of bed sheets strewn across the floor. From where she stood, Darcy could see the bed sheets were stained. With red? she thought to herself. A deep frown creased her pretty face as she nudged the sheets with the toe of her shoes. They flopped loose, uncovering the form hidden underneath. The human form. Gwen. Her eyes wide in fear. Unblinking. It took Darcy a moment to realize she had tripped over the other girl’s body.
Her dead body! Darcy thought to herself as she took in the grisly scene at her feet. Gwen had been run through with a pole. It jutted out from her back. It took Darcy a moment to realize the pole had come from her and Jane’s store. They used it to hold up the mannequins dressed in their fashions. Only now it had been used to kill Gwen. Darcy opened her mouth and let out a scream. And another. She turned away from the grisly scene in a never-ending scream that echoed through the banquet hall.