Stephanie Workman closed the front door and locked it. Another neighbor had come and gone. She was in such a daze she had to stop and think hard for a moment. Who had just came to visit? Ivy Corbin, she finally remembered. She had been sitting on the couch, looking through a photo album when the doorbell had rung. Putting the album aside, she had gone to open the front door, surprised to find Ivy standing on the other side. The young woman had brought Stephanie a tuna casserole. Stephanie had stepped aside and let Ivy in. After putting the casserole in the fridge, she had joined Ivy on the couch. She had looked up from the photo album with a sad smile. Stephanie had been looking at pictures of Hanna. Mostly pictures of when she was a toddler.
A picture of Hanna dressed as a ballerina was staring back at her. With a heavy pang of sadness, Stephanie had closed the photo album and put it down on the coffee table. It had been a week since Hanna’s murder. Her daughter was dead. Killed by the West Valley killer at the homecoming dance. Stephanie would never forget that night for as long as she lived. She had been in the kitchen, just finishing doing the dishes. Quintin was in the living room watching some cartoon on the television. Her cellphone had rung, and after a few moments of searching for it, she had answered the call. It was Jane Porter on the other end of the line. And she was hysterical. It took her a few tries, but finally she had explained to Stephanie what had happened.
At first, Stephanie had thought Jane was playing a sick joke on her. That was until the sheriff got on the line. He told her two girls were dead, one of them being Hanna. Stephanie didn’t want to believe him. She had just gotten a text message from her daughter a few hours before. A picture of her in her homecoming dress. Hanna looked stunning. The sheriff had told her to make her way down to the high school right away. She had left Quintin with the neighbors and had jumped into her car and sped towards the school. Surely there was some kind of mistake, it couldn’t be her daughter who was killed. With a block of ice in her stomach, she had pulled up to the curb in front of the school in record time. She had just stepped out of the car when she had seen the crowd of people.
The school had been evacuated. Students stood on the lawn, some looking anxious, some weeping. She noticed the sheriff’s cruiser, four police cars, and the coroner’s van. The block of ice in her stomach seemed to sweep upwards to Stephanie’s throat. She had spotted a teacher, Mrs. Ulrich, who pointed her in the direction of where the sheriff stood. As Stephanie had approached, she could see the grim glint in his eyes. He was shaking his head in disbelief. That’s when the first body bag came rolling out. Emily Novak’s parents were hurrying alongside it, wailing at the top of their lungs. Tears streamed down their faces like a waterfall. Stephanie’s eyes widened in surprise as she clapped a hand over her mouth. The sheriff lead the way into the school, Stephanie following after him.
Someone had turned on the lights in the hallways. Stephanie suddenly stopped in her tracks, clutching the wall. Down the hallway was the aftermath of a murder. There was blood, still fresh, splattered on the walls and floor. Stephanie thought she was going to be sick. She closed her eyes for a moment, taking a few deep breaths. The sheriff pointed out that had been where Emily had been killed. He had lead the way into another hallway. Stephanie had stopped in her tracks once more. Just a few feet away was a body lying on the floor. It was covered with a white sheet. She dug her nails into her palms. The sheriff knelt down by the body. Looking up at Stephanie. He explained he could only show her the bottom part of the body. Hanna had been decapitated, and to show her that would just be cruel.
Slowly, he had lifted the sheet. Stephanie recognized the high heels right away. She had worn them herself a few times. And the bottom of the dress. Stephanie had turned away, her legs giving out from under her. She toppled to the ground. Bent over on both her hands and retched. It’s Hanna! My Hanna! Dead! she had thought to herself. The sheriff came to help her up. He asked her if it was her daughter. Stephanie had nodded. Hanna had been the killer’s latest victim. Stephanie had watched in disbelief as the coroner loaded up Hanna’s body in a black body bag. She had followed them out of the school as they wheeled the body bag out on a gurney towards the coroner van. By the time they had stepped outside into the night, it had become utter chaos.
Several news stations had shown up, so had at least a dozen of reporters as well. They were stationed on the front lawn of the school. Stephanie vaguely remembered several microphones being shoved into her face for a comment. Grabbing her arm, the sheriff helped to push her through the crowd. One of his deputies would drive her home. There was not much she could have done. She’d be expected to be at the hospital the following day. Once she got home, the deputy waited for her to get Quintin. He could tell by the look on her face that something had happened. Choking on tears, she gave him the terrible news. He had hid his face into her side and sobbed loudly. Mourned for his older sister. First my husband and now my daughter. Stephanie thought to herself.
The following day, she had gone to the hospital. Again she had left Quintin with a neighbor. He wasn’t going to school, and there was no way she was bringing him with her. After the hospital, she made arrangements with the funeral home. Due to the brutality of the murder, the service was going to be closed casket. She didn’t even remember the funeral. It was all so blurry. Like she was there in body, but not in mind. She snapped back to reality once the service was over. Once she and Quintin were home. They had both gone up to their rooms, closing the doors behind them. Curled under the covers of her bed, Stephanie sobbed and sobbed. Until it felt like she could not cry anymore. With her eyes finally dry, now all she felt was numb.
It was like she had been submerged into icy cold water. She couldn’t feel anything. Not even now as she made her way back into the living room. She picked up the photo album and put it back where it belonged. The house was quiet. Quintin was at school. Stephanie had yet to return to work. Her boss completely understood and told her to take as much time off as she needed. She was grateful. Right now, work was the last thing on her mind. Her daughter was gone forever. She would never see her again. It was just her and Quintin now. She had to try and stay strong, no matter how difficult that seemed. Even though she was still alive, she felt like a victim. The killer, whoever it was, had destroyed her family. She wished she had died instead of her husband Frankie, and Hanna.
She went over to her purse and pulled out a bottle of pills. It was for her depression and anxiety. Her doctor had prescribed them to her. For a brief moment, she contemplated taking them all and overdosing. She had done that one time before, when Frankie had been killed. Instead she took one pill, not bothering to swallow it down with water. With a deep sigh, she went and sat herself down on the couch. She didn’t bother turning on the television. She knew what she would see. Everyone was talking about the murders, that’s all that played on the news. So she sat there in silence, waiting for the effects of the pill to kick in. She must have dozed off, because she was startled awake by the sound of the doorbell. She got to her feet, a slight frown on her face as she made her way out of the living room and into the front hall.
Now who could that be? Stephanie to herself as she made her way to the front door. She wasn’t expecting any more visitors. Not that it mattered, for they usually showed up at her home unannounced. Before unlocking the door, she peered out the window. A familiar face stood on the front porch. Stephanie unlocked the door and pulled it open.
“Stephanie, hi. I hope I’m not interrupting.” Joanna Stanton said from the front porch. She had a sympathetic glow in her eyes.
“Not at all. Did you want to come in?” Stephanie asked, standing aside so Joanna could enter.
“If that’s alright with you. I know you’ve probably been bombarded with visitors already.” Joanna said as she stepped inside the main hallway. Stephanie closed the door behind her.
“I have, but it’s fine. You’re all worried. And it’s better to have company than be alone and drive myself crazy with my thoughts.” Stephanie confessed, shrugging her shoulders as she lead the way into the living room.
“I know it can’t be easy. And that you probably need someone to talk to. I don’t know if I can give any advice, but I am a great listener.” Joanna explained as they sat down next to each other on the living room couch.
“That means a lot. It’s not like I can talk to Quintin about it. He’s too young. I wouldn’t want to make him any more sad than he already is.” Stephanie replied with a sniff, blinking back tears.
“Does he understand what’s going on?” Joanna asked, clasping her hands together.
“That the killer got his sister and now she is up in heaven with her father? I tried my best to explain to him. I feel like such a failure.” Stephanie replied.
“A failure?” Joanna repeated with a frown playing on her face.
Stephanie nodded. “A failure as a mother. That I wasn’t able to protect my own daughter.” she explained.
“There was no way you could have known where the killer was going to strike next.” Joanna reassured her.
“But I knew the killer was still out there. I should have put my foot down and forbid Hanna from going to the dance.” Stephanie replied.
“Even if you had, don’t you think she would of somehow ended up going anyway? From what Carly has told me, Hanna was pretty self-reliant.” Joanna said with a small smile.
“Probably. But what am I going to do without her?” Stephanie said, blinking back tears.
“Focus on healing. For you and Quintin. I imagine it won’t be easy, but you have to try. And if you ever need anything, or anyone to talk to, I’m here.” Joanna said encouragingly, patting Stephanie sympathetically on the back.
A soft sigh escaped from between Darcy’s lips. She watched as her current customer headed out the door. The store was now empty. For the time being. It had been a busy morning, and now it was time for Darcy to head to lunch. She moved around the counter and went over to the front doors of the boutique. She flipped over the sign on the door, it read CLOSED FOR LUNCH, BACK IN AN HOUR. She turned the bolt on the glass doors, locking them. Not just for safety reasons, but also because she didn’t want any interruptions in the form of customers while she was on her lunch break. She was running the store alone that day. Darcy had been running it for the past few days now. Jane had yet to return to work. She was still affected from what had happened that night at the homecoming dance. Hanna Workman had been killed right in front of her.
The day after it had happened, Jane had called Darcy up and explained. Darcy couldn’t believe that someone else had been killed. Another teenager. Another person she knew. Jane had given her all the details, and she had also seen it on the news. It was a traumatic experience for Jane, who thought it was a good idea that she took some days off from work. Darcy didn’t want to push, she told Jane she would take care of the store, to focus on getting better. To push the horrors she had witnessed out of her mind, no matter how long it took. Jane had thanked her, and that was the last Darcy had heard. I should call her later tonight and see how she’s doing. she thought to herself as she headed back towards the counter.
Darcy’s lunch was waiting for her in the fridge in the backroom. She made her way over to the fridge, pulling it open and pulling out her Tupperware she had brought from home. Another day, another healthy meal. Quinoa salad. She closed the fridge and made her way out of the back room and sat down at the counter. It had been a busy day so far, by the time she had opened the doors to the store, there had been a line of people waiting to get in. Darcy welcomed this time of silence, she needed it. Maybe it was time to start looking for a new employee. She’d have to run the idea by Jane first. The store had grown in popularity, it was the place to shop at if you were a female in West Valley. The clothes were stylish, yet affordable. Jane and Darcy both took turns designing the clothes, and the women of the town flocked to the store whenever they heard that new designs were in.
Work wasn’t the only thing on Darcy’s mind. So was catching the killer. She had gone out again the night before. Once again waiting until Campbell fell asleep. Another night of slowly sliding out of bed and getting dressed in the darkness of their bedroom. Heading down the stairs and out the front door into the night. A gun hidden in her purse, hoping, praying that tonight would be the night she would come across the killer. That she would put an end to their reign of terror. Either the killer knew Darcy was searching for them, or they just weren’t crossing paths. It frustrated her, but Darcy wasn’t going to give up. Not that easily. If the killer, whoever it was, was murdering people because of her, she felt like it was up to her to stop them. To finally unmask them.
Unfortunately, her search was unsuccessful. In the darkness of the night she had returned home, undressing and sliding back into bed with Campbell. Listening to his soft breathing from the spot beside her as she lay wide awake, staring up at the ceiling. Soon enough she had drifted off into a peaceful sleep, waking up to the sound of her alarm clock signaling another day. What would Campbell think if he knew what I was doing? Darcy thought to herself with a slight frown playing on her pretty face. Would he be upset with her for taking matters into her own hands? Or would he encourage her? Maybe even ask to join her? Darcy couldn’t help but giggle, picturing them stalking the night like some crime fighting duo you’d see in a comic book. She knew Campbell, no matter what, he would be worried about her.
She had been targeted by the killer a few times now. Had come close to dying as well. She pressed her hand against her stomach where she had been stabbed. She had barely made it, but she had lived. It came with a price. She couldn’t have children because of the stab wound she had received from the killer. It had happened the night of her engagement party. That seemed like so long ago, she and Campbell were married now. Lately, they had been talking a lot about adopting. Hopefully some day soon, when the killer was caught. Now wasn’t the best time to bring a child in the picture. She didn’t know how Amy Rayburn did it. Wasn’t she afraid? That the killer would do something horrible to her newborn daughter? It sent an icy cold shiver snaking down Darcy’s spine.
Suddenly, a knock at the door caught Darcy’s attention. For a brief moment she thought it was a customer trying to get in. Annoyance flashed in her eyes as she looked up in the direction of the door. There was no one standing on the other side of the door. The look of annoyance in her gaze was replaced with a look of slight unease. She stood up, pushing her lunch aside as she made her way slowly across the store and over to the glass doors. Darcy ignored the fast fluttering of her heart in her chest as she peered through the glass. Whoever had knocked was gone now. She reached out, her hand wrapping around the bolt on the doors. Was someone playing a joke on her? Or was it something far more insidious? Darcy sucked in a breath, pressed her face against the glass of the doors. Suddenly from the other side of the door, a hand came flashing out and knocked on the glass right in front of her face.
A small shriek escaped Darcy’s lips as she jumped back, her heels sliding on the floor. That’s when she spotted the familiar face staring at her from outside. With a deep frown, Darcy went over to the doors and unbolted them, pulling them open.
“Are you out of your mind?! Were you trying to scare me?” she asked Fallon as her friend stepped through the doorway.
“Why would I want to scare you? I knocked and then I noticed you hadn’t picked up your mail so I went to get it for you and then the breeze picked up and I had to go chasing after it.” Fallon replied with a sheepish look on her face, she waved a small stack of envelopes and brochures in her hand.
Darcy relaxed. “Sorry, I guess I’m just a little on edge today.” she explained to Fallon. She took the mail from her.
“You’re stressed. I get that. Work must be hectic without Jane.” Fallon replied as she followed after Darcy.
“A little. I’m more stressed about what happened to Hanna. I can’t imagine what Stephanie is going through right now.” Darcy confessed.
“Are they ever going to catch this guy? Or girl? Or them?” Fallon asked, worry etched on her face.
“At this point, doesn’t seem like it.” Darcy replied.
“Who do you think is behind this? Brandon?” Fallon asked as she crossed her arms over her chest.
“Maybe? It just sucks that they can’t find him. We know he’s alive, somewhere. Out there.” Darcy replied.
“If it is him, do you think he is ever going to stop?” Fallon asked as she went over and sat down on the couch.
“Not until I’m dead, maybe. Or until there is no one in town left alive. Or until he gets gunned down by the police.” Darcy said, joining her on the couch.
“I don’t want it to come to that. I don’t want you to die. Or anyone else, for that matter.” Fallon replied, worry glinting in her eyes.
“Then we need to find him. Or whoever the fucking coward is under that costume. This has been going on for over a year now.” Darcy explained to her friend.
“Do you think someone is working with Brandon? An accomplice, maybe?” Fallon asked.
“That, or Scott had an accomplice. Or it could be someone entirely different that idolizes Brandon and Scott as is continuing in their footsteps.” Darcy explained.
“Well who could that be? Do you know anyone who is really into serial killers and stuff?” Fallon asked with a frown.
“It’s West Valley, everyone is interested in the town’s history and is into serial killers.” Darcy replied.
“Not me. No thanks.” Fallon replied with a shiver.
Darcy was about to reply when a flutter of movement by the door caught her eye. She turned to look just as someone ducked out of sight from outside the glass doors. Was she imagining things or was that a black hood? Someone with dark hair? Whoever it was, had ducked out of sight too quickly. Darcy wasn’t sure if it was a male or a female. Or someone in a costume. she thought to herself as she sucked in a breath of surprise.
“What is it? What’s the matter?” Fallon asked, looking in the direction Darcy was gazing.
“I don’t want to scare you but…” Darcy trailed off as she jumped to her feet and hurried to the door. She peered outside through the glass.
“But..? Darcy…but what?” Fallon asked, worry in her eyes.
Darcy turned around, facing her friend. “Someone was watching us!” she exclaimed.
Isabel closed the newspaper and folded it, pushing it aside on the table. She shook her head in disbelief. What was she still even doing in West Valley? She was beyond scared. People were dying around her, people she knew. People she cared about, considered as her friends. Recently, Preston Downs had been killed. That had come as a shock to Isabel. She had not expected him to fall victim to the killer. Not after everything he had to endure as a gay man. The challenges and adversity to coming out. He was one of the few gay friends Isabel had, and now he was gone. Forever. She missed him terribly. Sometimes, she had forgot he was dead, and had picked up the phone to call him before she had to remind herself he wasn’t there any more to pick up the call. A pang of sadness hit Isabel as she sat at the dining room table.
Things had been quiet for a few days until someone else had been murdered. Hanna Workman. She didn’t really know the teenage girl, but she knew her mother, Stephanie. It came as another shock to Isabel. Hadn’t Hanna already escaped death one time before? Isabel had remembered hearing about a night of terror at a slumber party Hanna had held for her friends. The killer had crashed the party, several of Hanna’s friends had been killed. Jillyan Rayburn would have been killed as well, had it not been for Hanna’s quick thinking. She had saved her friend from death’s clutches. Yet no one had been able to save her. Isabel thought to herself with a deep frown creasing her pretty face. Like many of the townspeople, Isabel had attended Hanna’s funeral. Since living in West Valley, she had attended many funerals lately.
Isabel stood up from the table, pushing the chair back as she wandered around the main floor of the house. It was quiet, Derek and Wendy had gone out somewhere, and Sasha was out back in the backyard. Isabel went over to the back door and peered out into the sunshine. She spotted Sasha, who was sitting in a patio chair, reading a book. Isabel wasn’t in a particularly chatty mood that day, so she didn’t go out and join her housemate. She made her way into the kitchen, over to the fridge. She pulled the door open and gazed inside. Maybe something to drink would keep her mind off all the deaths she couldn’t help but think about. She spotted a bottle of white wine. She remembered Derek had bought it, but he wasn’t there to stop her. With a shrug, she pulled the bottle out and went in search for a wine glass.
Once she had found one, she had poured herself a glass. She stood by the kitchen counter, enjoying the sweet liquid that flowed down her throat. The back door opened, Sasha entering the kitchen. She looked over at Isabel with an arched eyebrow, but said nothing. Instead, she explained that she was heading out for a walk and would be returning in a while. Isabel nodded, watching as Sasha headed for the front door. A few moments later, the door closed. And Isabel was alone. She took another sip from the wine glass. She listened, the house was silent. It sent a feeling of unease down Isabel’s spine but she remained standing by the kitchen counter until the wine in her glass was finished. She poured herself another glass, and took another sip. She hoped Derek wouldn’t be too mad at her if she finished the bottle.
You should leave some for him. she thought to herself. She put the bottle back in the fridge and placed the wine glass in the sink. She made her way out of the kitchen and into the living room. She felt good, the wine had helped her calm her nerves. She couldn’t help but think about how life was like before all the murders. How everyone was happy and care-free to do what they wanted with their lives. What Brandon had done was in the past, it was just a ghost story. Something you told your friends to spook them. Back then, no one knew that the story would soon become a reality again. That Brandon was alive, and that he, or someone else, was bringing the horror back to the town of West Valley. Isabel herself had a run in with the killer, a few months earlier when she had been visiting Amy Rayburn in the hospital. It was something she would never forget.
She remembered being locked in the hospital stairwell. She remembered the footsteps of the killer heading down the stairs towards her. How her heart thundered in her chest. How if she didn’t find a way out, she too was going to be one of the killer’s victims. But, fate was on her side that day. Somehow, she had found an unlocked door, had made her way through the hospital halls with the killer stalking not far behind her. She remembered the swishing sound the killer’s hooded robe made. It was like the grim reaper himself was chasing after her. Yet the killer wasn’t some mystical being. There was a flesh and blood human being under that costume somewhere. Yet trying to reason with them was out of the question. You lived until the killer wanted you to. You also died when the killer wanted you to.
Sure, a few people had been able to keep the killer at bay. To live to see another day. The second time around the killer came for them, they hadn’t been as lucky. Their time had come, they had died. They were gone and never coming back. Adam, one of her housemates, had been one of the killer’s victim. Sure, he wasn’t the best guy. He was known to drug girls to have sex with them. Isabel had imagined the killer had done Adam a favor, killed him so he wouldn’t have to answer to the police. Something like that had also happened to Edwin Cosgrove. He had been killed to avoid jail time for tax evasion. His wife, Olivia, hadn’t been so lucky. She was behind bars right now. Serving a sentence of five years. Isabel found it somewhat ironic.
Everyone in town had their secrets, whether they died with them, it seemed like they would be exposed either way. Even Isabel had her own secret. But it was something she was able to hide for all these years. Her secret involved sticking her fingers down her throat after she ate, and throwing it back up in the toilet while she let the water run from the sink to cover up the noise. She had been doing it for years, even while she was in high school. She had started doing that while she was in her junior year. Up until this day, not even her parents had found out. People always wondered how she always kept her body in great shape. She always told them it was by working out. That was somewhat true. She also went to the gym when she could. People had seen her there, so she made them believe it was that and eating well.
Isabel made her way back into the kitchen and over to the back door. The backyard stood empty. It was another beautiful day outside. Yet there was something in the air. Something that lingered over the house. Like the feeling of unease Isabel felt was somehow outside as well, closing in on the house with her alone inside. She scanned the surroundings of the backyard from behind the safety of the door. In the reflection of the glass, something moved behind her. Isabel spun around with a gasp. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I was just imagining things. she thought to herself, rolling her eyes in annoyance as she headed back into the living room. Perhaps she would feel safer when someone else was home with her. Even if it was broad daylight outside, it wouldn’t stop the killer from striking. Day or night, if the killer had an opportunity to strike, he, or she, or they, would.
So then why did she feel like eyes were piercing into her back? Isabel stood in the doorway of the living room and looked around. Nothing seemed out of place, any places where the killer could be hiding were clear. That’s when she heard it. A noise, coming from upstairs. She hadn’t imagined that, she was sure. She tilted her head up towards the ceiling. Had Sasha come home, that she was too wrapped in her thoughts that she hadn’t heard her come in? Isabel ticked her gaze to the clock. No, only a few minutes had passed. Unless Sasha had turned around and had headed back inside. Isabel frowned, she hadn’t heard the door. She sucked in a deep breath. Called out to Sasha. Waited a few moments. No reply. Something in her mind was telling Isabel to run, to get out of the house, yet she couldn’t seem to move.
Her feet stood planted in place on the living room floor. If only she could move towards the front door. Her eyes gazed across the room until they fell on the fireplace poker. She found herself moving suddenly across the floor. Yet instead of heading for the front door, she went over and grabbed the poker, pulling it out from it’s stand. She gripped it tightly in her fist as she moved slowly, cautiously towards the stairs. She made her way up the steps towards the second floor of the house. Once she reached the landing, she held the poker out straight in front of her as she made her way into the first doorway on her left. It was her own room, styled stylishly and painted a light mauve color. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Slowly, Isabel backed out into the hallway. The door across the hall lead into the upstairs bathroom. It was wide open, and from where she stood, it was empty.
No one hiding in the shower, which thankfully, the door was made of glass. Isabel made her way over to the next door, ready to swing the poker if danger suddenly popped out at her. She stood in the doorway and peered into Sasha’s bedroom. It was wallpapered and demure, like her. No one hiding behind the ceiling to floor flowered curtains. Isabel stepped into the room and slowly made her way over to the closet door. She sucked in a deep breath before quickly yanking the closet door open. No one hiding in here. she thought to herself with a quiet sigh. She made her way out of the room. The next door was closed. Derek and Wendy’s room. It occurred to Isabel she had never been inside their bedroom before. She reached out slowly, grabbed the doorknob and pushed the door open. She stepped inside, the fire poker held high above her head as she did so.
She didn’t know what to expect from Derek and Wendy’s bedroom. For some reason she thought she was going to find a sex swing hanging from the ceiling. But their room was also pretty stylishly decorated and normal. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary in there as well. Isabel’s eyes fell on the object on the floor. Slowly, she made her way over to get a closer look. It seemed like a statue had fallen off the night table and onto the floor. A deep frown creased Isabel’s face. It looked to heavy to have fallen all by itself. Gazing around the room, her eyes fell on the window. The open window. A breeze was fluttering the curtains framing it. Had the breeze knocked it over? Isabel knelt down, placing the fire poker beside her on the floor. She picked up the statue in her hands, it was quite hefty. Behind her, a shadowy figure suddenly appeared in the doorway.
Holding the statue in her hands, she got to her feet and put it back on the night table. She turned around to grab the poker off the floor, when she was suddenly grabbed by the arm. A scream erupted from her throat before she recognized the person standing before her. He let go of her arm and took a step back. It was Derek.
“Did I just catch you about to trash our room?” he asked, nodding to the poker lying on the floor.
“No! I heard a noise up here and got scared. I came to investigate. That statue fell.” she explained to Derek.
“Wendy’s doing. She always knocks it to the edge of the night table.” he replied with a frown.
“I think it might have been the wind that knocked it over. The window was open.” Isabel explained.
“Also Wendy’s doing. She likes to let in the fresh air once she wakes up.” Derek explained.
“Doesn’t she know there’s a killer on the loose? Leaving the window open is like an open invitation.” Isabel replied.
“I’ve told her many times. You know how she is. Her way or no way.” Derek said with a slight chuckle escaping his lips.
“That sure sounds like Wendy, alright.” Isabel replied with a thin smile.
“I’ll talk to her. She’s down in the kitchen. Let’s get down there before she finds us in here and gets the wrong idea.” Derek told her as he closed the bedroom window.
“Sounds like a plan.” Isabel replied as she grabbed the poker off the floor and followed Derek out of the bedroom.
Megan blinked softly, turning to look at the vacant desk to her right. The desk Hanna sat at. More like used to sit at. Megan thought, correcting herself. She sat in math class, the last period of the day before school was over. She ticked her gaze to the clock on the wall. It seemed like time wasn’t moving at all. How was there still ten minutes left? For a brief moment, Megan thought maybe the clock was broken. But pulling out her cellphone from her bag, she saw it was the correct time. She was just anxious to finish the school day. And gazing at the empty seat next to her was just a constant reminder to what had happened to Hanna. A soft sigh escaped from Megan’s lips as she drummed her perfectly manicured nails against the desktop.
From her desk at the front of the classroom, Mrs. Myers cleared her throat loudly. Megan ticked her gaze to see the teacher looking at her with an arched eyebrow. The drumming of Megan’s nails on her desk had been a little too loud and had alerted the teacher. She pulled her hand back and shrunk into her seat. The teacher was strict, took no nonsense. It was better that Megan stay on her good side. If Hanna had been there, she would have answered the teacher back, challenged her. Besides the killer, not a lot scared Megan. But Mrs. Myers did. Of course Megan would never admit it. She had her own reputation to maintain. She was the once edgy girl who had gotten a makeover from the school’s queen Bee.
Her fellow classmates no longer avoided her, she was now one of the most popular girls in school. And that was thanks to Hanna. Megan would have never thought they would have become good friends. But they had. Now that Hanna was gone, the other popular girls were waiting for Megan to make a move. To announce that she would be the next queen Bee of West Valley High. I’m still unsure about what I want to do. she thought to herself, looking up at the clock again. Did she really want to rule the school? She wasn’t a Mona Vanderwaal. She was more of a Aria Montgomery. Maybe she’d give the opportunity to Jillyan Rayburn or Carly Stanton. Just because she wasn’t queen Bee didn’t mean she couldn’t still run with the popular crowd. She didn’t want to go back to being a nobody.
She felt like she owed it Hanna to keep running with the popular crowd. Hanna had taken her under her wing. It was alright to make Hanna proud, wasn’t it? She had gone out of her way to get to know Megan when she could have just ignored her like everyone else had. The ringing of the bell startled Megan out of her thoughts. All around her, her classmates were getting to their feet, collecting their books. Finally, the end of the school day had arrived. Megan got to her feet, putting her math book in her bag. Sliding the chair against the desk, she headed out of the classroom. Muttering a quick apology to the teacher before stepping out into the crowded hallway. Making her way through her fellow students until she got to her locker. She spun the combination on her lock, pulling the locker door open. She smiled sadly at the pictures on the inside.
A picture of her and Charlie holding hands by the waterfront. Another picture of her and Hanna posing in front of a mirror. A pang of sadness hit Megan as she peered out from behind her locker door to a locker a few rows down. Hanna’s locker, decorated with notes and flowers of sympathy. The baby blue teddy bear sitting in front of the locker was from Megan herself. Blinking back tears, Megan turned back into her locker, grabbing another book and putting in her bag before closing the locker door. She waved to Noelle Perrin, who was headed to cheerleading practice as she slung her bag over her shoulder and headed down the hallway. She walked past the spot where Hanna had been killed. A shiver of fear snaked down Megan’s back as she did so. She flashed back to the night of the homecoming dance, it was still fresh in her mind.
She had been enjoying herself at the dance. She was mingling, dancing, having punch with her fellow classmates. Brady Hodges had come up to ask her if she wanted to dance. A slow song had come on, Monster In Me by Little Mix. She had agreed and was following him to the dance floor when suddenly, all hell broke loose. The gym doors had slammed open, banging loudly against the wall and Jane Porter had stumbled in. She was clearly in distress. Tears streamed down her cheeks, her eyes wide in terror. As if she had witnessed something unspeakable. Megan knew, just by looking at her, that something terrible had happened. She watched as Jane had stumbled over to the principal, explained something to her before sinking into a chair and sobbing into her hands. Excusing herself, Megan had hurried away from Brady and had gone to find Hanna.
She had seen Hanna and Emily Novak step out of the gym. She assumed they had gone to use the restroom. Yet once she had reached the gym doors, the vice principal forbid her from leaving the gym. For her own safety, he had revealed. It was possible that the killer was still on the school premises. So all students who were in the gym had to wait until the police gave them the okay to evacuate. She remembered hoping that Hanna and Emily had been able to evacuate, that they were somewhere outside, safe and sound. Megan had turned away from the doors, heading to talk to Jane Porter. She had tapped her on the shoulder, asking her what was going on. Jane probably didn’t realize Hanna and Megan were friends, so she explained what had happened. Hanna was dead, another victim to the killer. Jane explained she had seen Hanna die right in front of her eyes.
Megan thought her heart had stopped as she listened to the grisly details. Hanna had been decapitated. Emily had been killed as well, axed to death mere minutes before Hanna. Feeling faint, Megan had to sit down as well. Two of her friends had been killed in the same night. Soon enough, word had spread through the gym about the murders. Carly had come to sit down next to her. Megan couldn’t help it, she had started to cry. Tears streaming down her face, her mascara smudging. Soon, the police had arrived and had escorted them out of the school. Megan had stayed, joining the crowd on the front lawn as Hanna’s mother had arrived. She would never forget the look on Stephanie’s face as the police escorted her into the school. A few minutes later, two body bags were being wheeled out towards a coroner van parked at the curb.
How did I get home that night? Megan thought to herself. Then she remembered, Julie and Aiden had come to pick her up. She was in shock, that once they had gotten home, she had gone to bed right away. She didn’t even bother changing out of her dress. She snapped back to attention as she walked past the guidance counselor’s office. She had already gone to speak to someone. It had helped, talking about her feelings. About her fears and her sadness now that Hanna was gone. The school had brought in extra grief counselors for anyone who felt like they needed to talk. The school was once again mourning the untimely deaths of their fellow students. Megan peered through the glass into the office. Andy Kerr sat inside, sitting across from a counselor who was nodding and jotting things down on a pad of paper.
Megan moved on, pushing the doors open and stepping out into the sunlight. The doors swung shut behind her as she made her way down the steps. She looked around, no sign of Jillyan or Carly. They must have gone off without her. She didn’t mind. She wanted to be alone with her thoughts for a little while. She began heading in the direction of her house, walking across the parking lot. The last of the school buses pulled away, driving off with a roar. In all her years in high school, Megan didn’t take the bus. Everything in West Valley was in walking distance. She’d either get to school on foot or sometimes her mom, or her sister Julie would drive her if they weren’t busy in the mornings. Next year, Megan would be off to college. She had yet to decide if she was going to stay in West Valley or go to school in another state.
If the murders weren’t over by then, she could see herself going away for school. She pictured herself living in a nice apartment off campus somewhere. Working as a coffee barista part-time. She didn’t think she’d join a sorority. High school was full of mean girls as it was. Megan had her fair share. She stopped at the edge of the curb to look both ways before she crossed the street. Julie was taking law classes at the community college. Megan saw herself doing something completely different than her sister. She could see herself as an art major. The thought of that brought a small smile to her lips as she continued heading her way home. Her heels clicking on the sidewalk. She didn’t have that much homework to do that night. Just a chapter of a book to read for the following day. It wasn’t going to take her too long. After her homework was done, she was going to probably call Jillyan.
As Megan made her way home, she passed by the elementary school. The kids were just being let out. She recognized Tyson Jacks, who was being picked up by his father Gage. Megan remembered when her father would come pick her up. A wistful smile played on her lips. He was dead, and she missed him terribly every day. She kept moving, just a few more blocks and she would be home. She turned the corner and out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw movement coming from the side yard of the Biggs house. Megan stopped in her tracks, frowning. She knew Warren and his family would be back from vacation that night. Had they come home early? The car isn’t there. she thought to herself. Was someone prowling in their yard? An intruder, perhaps? Before she could stop herself, Megan headed towards the Biggs house.
The house loomed over her as she stepped onto the front lawn. A quick look into the living room window revealed the house was dark and empty. So Warren and his family had not returned yet. Who had Megan seen moving through the yard? She made her way over to the back gate and pushed it open. It responded with a loud creak as she stepped through. She closed the gate behind her, standing in place, listening. Birds chirped happily, there was light breeze ruffling the trees. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary as Megan slowly made her way deeper into the backyard. Someone had left a hand rake lying around by the rose bushes. Megan grabbed it and gripped it in her hand. She felt safer with a weapon. She just hoped she didn’t have to use it. Even with it being daytime, a feeling of unease seemed to wrap around her as she scanned the backyard.
As far as she could tell, the backyard was empty. But she wasn’t imagining things. She knew she had seen movement coming from outside the Biggs house. Maybe it was just a squirrel. Megan thought to herself as she put the hand rake back down where she had found it. She tossed her hair over her shoulder as she headed out of the backyard, making sure she closed the gate behind her. She took another look back at the house, a frown creasing her pretty face. Maybe it was paranoia, but something hadn’t felt right. Megan doubted it was just her mind playing tricks on her. She sighed, making her way off the curb and crossed the street. A few moments later, she felt better. She was standing in front of her own house. She made her way up the walkway towards the front door. She pulled out her keys and unlocked the door, stepping inside.
The house was quiet. Megan called out to her mom. To Julie. No reply. She was home alone. She shrugged as she closed the front door behind her, locking it. She slipped off her school bag, putting it down on the entryway floor. Megan made her way into the kitchen. There would usually be a note on the fridge waiting for her. But today, there was none. Did everyone forget me today? she thought to herself with a frown as she puttered around the kitchen. Since no one was home maybe it was wise to start making dinner. Or to at least plan what to make for dinner. Megan went over to the fridge and pulled it open. She looked inside. There was nothing interesting, it seemed. Closing the fridge door, Megan grabbed a menu off the kitchen counter. Ordering chinese food for dinner seemed like a good idea.
Megan placed the menu down by the phone. She wanted to get out of her school clothes first. She hummed lightly to herself as she made her way out of the kitchen. She made her way down the hallway until she reached the stairs leading to the second floor. She made her way up the stairs to the second floor landing. Megan headed down the hall and over to her bedroom door. She pulled it open. She liked her privacy, so every morning when she left for school, she closed her bedroom door. Her mom and Julie got the message loud and clear. She wanted them to keep out. She made her way into her room, scanning her surroundings. Everything seemed the same way she had left it that morning. She made her way across her room to the closet. She reached out and pulled the closet door open. She went to reach for a top when suddenly, from downstairs, the doorbell rang.
Who could that be? Megan thought to herself, turning away from the closet. She closed the door and hurried across her bedroom and out into the upstairs hallway. She made her way back downstairs and over to the front door. Before pulling it open, she peered out through the peephole. The front porch stood empty. With a frown, Megan pulled away from the door. She put the chain on the door before pulling it open and peeking out. There was no one there. Megan’s heart began to beat a little faster as she closed the door. She took a step back away from it. She thought hard for a second before unlatching the chain and pulling the front door open. She took a step out onto the porch. That’s when she spotted the plain white box on the porch. MEGAN was scrawled on the top of the box in black marker.
What is this? Megan thought to herself. She bent down and grabbed the box. She made her way back inside. Holding the box in her hands as she made her way into the kitchen. She placed the box down on the kitchen counter before grabbing the lid and pulling it off. She stared down at the contents of the box. It took her a moment to register what she was looking at. Her eyes went wide with fear. It was a dress. She knew that dress. She had seen someone wearing it, very recently. The dress Hanna wore the night of the homecoming dance. Megan jumped away from the box with a small shriek. Who had sent her the dress? And why? How had they gotten a hold of it? It was still splattered with Hanna’s blood. It had dried, ugly red stains all over it.
Megan felt sick to her stomach as she clapped a hand over her mouth in disbelief.
The storage room door opened and Ellie stepped out, carrying a box of bottles. It was heavier than she expected. The bartender on duty had offered to do it himself, but Ellie had declined his offer. Nothing she couldn’t handle. Now, as she lugged the box over to the bar, she had wished she had accepted. Oh well, it’s done now. she thought to herself with a shrug as she placed the box on the bar top. Ollie the bartender had gone off to clean up a spill at one of the tables. An embarrassed looking patron stood by the side of the table, watching him clean up the mess. Ellie couldn’t help but smirk to herself. A mess wasn’t uncommon at Surge. Whether it was a spilled drink, a clogged toilet or someone getting sick and vomiting right there on the floor. Ellie began placing the bottles as Ollie walked back around the bar in a huff.
Ellie told him to get the patron another glass of the same drink, on the house. And then after that to take a short break. It looked like Ollie needed one. He thanked her, pouring a glass and making his way back to the patron. Ellie watched from behind the bar as Ollie made his way to the exit, pushing the doors open and disappearing outside. There was more staff scheduled to work in the next few hours. Soon it would be dusk and more patrons would fill up the night club. Ellie was on her own today. Christy had gone to look for wedding dresses for her daughter, Julie. Christy was over the moon that her first born was getting married. Ellie was impressed, Julie was younger than she was and she was already getting married. She had seen Julie’s ring, it was a rock of a diamond. Not that it was important, but Ellie couldn’t help but wonder if she would get married herself one day.
Gage was back and he was doing everything he could to stay on her good side. And so far he was succeeding. Ellie couldn’t help but admit he was being a wonderful father to Tyson. He had even gone to pick him up from school that very day. She knew with Gage, Tyson was safe. She didn’t have to worry about having anything bad happen to him. She also felt safe, having Gage there with them. It was just her alone until Gage and Tyson had returned to West Valley. She was happy to have Tyson back. Gage had him for several months. Finished with placing the bottles, Ellie stepped out from behind the bar. Music blared from the speakers. Soon, the DJ would arrive and get himself inside his booth. Ellie wondered how busy it would get that night. Would things run smoothly or would she be running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off?
Hopefully not the latter. Ellie thought to herself with a slight frown creasing her pretty face. She made her way across the floor and over to the stairs that lead up to the second floor of the club. The office was up there, and while she still had some free time, Ellie thought it would be wise to check her emails. At least a dozen came in daily, she wanted to make sure she replied to all of them. She headed up the stairs, the music becoming a little less loud as she reached the second floor landing. She made her way over to the office door, pulling out her keys from her pocket. She kept the office door locked now, only she and Christy had a key. Ever since a bag of money had been stolen, and then returned, Ellie wasn’t taking any chances. She unlocked the door and pulled it open, stepping inside the office.
Everything seemed the way she had last seen it. Ellie let out a sigh of relief. She went over to the desk, pulling the chair out and sitting down. She fired up the computer, resting her chin in her hand as she waited for it to load. A few moments later the home screen appeared. She clicked on the bottom right of the screen, bringing up the emails. Spam, spam, ten percent off on a new DJ…what’s that? Ellie thought as she scrolled down and saw a new email message. It caught her attention. There was no return address, sent by UNKNOWN. And the heading of the email exclaimed “CLICK TO SEE WHO STOLE YOUR MONEY!”. Ellie couldn’t help it. She clicked on the email. There was an attachment, a video clip. Her curiosity getting the best of her, Ellie clicked on the video.
Ellie watched in stunned silence. There was the office. It was taken from a different camera angle than usual. Ellie frowned deeply and looked up at the ceiling behind her. Had someone put a secret camera in there without her or Christy’s knowledge? Even the police hadn’t been able to find out who had stolen Surge’s money. Ellie had a bad feeling about it. But she would check after the video was over. She watched as on the video, Beth Myers came into the office, holding the bag of money and putting down on the floor. She took an uneasy glance around the office, clearly not spotting the camera before she hurried away. The video suddenly stopped. That’s all Ellie needed to see. She jumped to her feet. Her first impulse was to call the police. But then she had a better idea.
That bitch! I’ll show her to never steal from anyone again! But first… Ellie thought to herself as she pulled the chair over to a spot in the ceiling. She hopped onto the chair, making sure to keep her balance. It wasn’t easy to do in spiked heels but she managed. She pulled back a part of the ceiling and stuck her hand inside. At first she was slightly worried she would pull out a spider or some sort of creepy crawly but no. When she pulled her hand out, it was wrapped around a camera. It was small, compact. A red light flashed on it, meaning it was still recording. There was a power button, she pressed on it and the light stopped flashing. She put the ceiling back in place, she didn’t want Christy to see and question it. Ellie hopped off the chair and slid it back into place.
Despite the uneasy feeling that wrapped around her, Ellie had a feeling she knew who had hidden the camera and had sent her the video. She turned the computer off, making her way out of the office. She remembered to lock the door once again before she hurried down the stairs and back to the main floor of the club. With determination, she went over to Ollie, who was back from his break. She asked him to watch the club for about twenty minutes as she had something important to do. He arched an eyebrow at her before nodding. He knew not to question her. She was his boss, after all. She made her way across the floor and out the exit. Someone called her name in greeting but Ellie didn’t stop to see who. She kept moving, heading down the sidewalk with her heels clicking.
It only took Ellie a few minutes to head out of downtown and into the residential area of West Valley. She didn’t have the car so walking was the only option. She just hoped Beth was home. That she didn’t go all that way just for nothing. Ellie’s jaw clenched as she walked. She could just imagine the look on Beth’s face when she opened the door and saw her standing there. I hope it’s priceless. Ellie thought to herself as she crossed the street. Who did Beth think she was? Stealing money from her? From her business? As far as she knew, Beth didn’t work. Preston did, but now he was dead. Ellie should have felt remorse for the other girl, but she didn’t. Beth was old enough to know what she did was wrong. A few minutes later, with the sun setting in the sky and dusk approaching, Ellie found herself standing in front of Beth’s home.
The lights were on inside and the car was parked in the driveway. Sucking in a deep breath, Ellie made her way up to the door. She rang the doorbell. From inside she heard footsteps and then the front door was pulled open. Beth looked out at her with a small smile playing on her lips. Something in Ellie’s view blazed red as she lashed out with a fist. She punched Beth across the face. The other girl let out a shriek of surprise and fell back onto the hallway floor behind her. Ellie stepped inside the house, closing the front door behind her. She waited as Beth sat up, her eyes wide in surprise. Her hand covering an already forming bruise under her right eye. I shouldn’t have done that but I can’t take it back now. Ellie thought, crossing her arms over her chest as Beth got to her feet.
“What the hell! What was that for?” Beth exclaimed.
“You bitch! Don’t pretend you don’t know! I ought to call the cops on your skank ass!” Ellie replied.
“What..what are you talking about?” Beth replied, rubbing her cheek. She had a deer in the headlights look on her face.
“I know you stole that money from Surge! Do you want to tell me why or do you want me to mangle your face some more?” Ellie said, raising a fist in warning.
“Stop! I’m sorry! But..how did you find out?” Beth asked.
“Let’s just say an extra pair of eyes helped me out. I’m too mad right now to consider it might have been the killer.” Ellie explained.
Beth let out a sigh of defeat. “I don’t know why I stole it, I’m sorry. But I brought it back! The killer threatened me to.” she replied.
“So you didn’t do it out of the goodness of your heart? I ought to knock you out, you bitch!” Ellie seethed.
“Haven’t I payed enough? I brought it back, and Preston was still killed. He was my best friend. Please don’t call the cops.” Beth said with sadness glinting in her eyes.
“What were you planning on doing with the money anyway?” Ellie asked.
Beth shrugged. “Get my own place? Go for vacation?” she revealed.
“You’re unbelievable.” Ellie said, shaking her head with disgust.
“Just don’t call the cops. Please. I’ll do anything. I’ll stay away from you. And Surge.” Beth explained.
“Actually, I have a better idea. I could always use an extra set of hands. How about you work for me at Surge, and I won’t tell the cops?” Ellie replied with a fake smile.
Beth seemed to think about it for a moment. “Okay. Fine.” she said.
“Good choice. It’ll be fun. You’ll see.” Ellie told her, a fake smile still playing on her lips.
Night had fallen. The sky now dark, the moon high up in the clouds above. The townspeople of West Valley began to hurry inside the comfort of their own homes. Street lamps blinked on, illuminating the darkness. Porch lights turned on, meaning someone was home inside. Yet the light didn’t touch everywhere. There were still areas where the thick dark shadows danced in the light breeze of the night. A perfect spot for someone to hide, to lurk. Somewhere in the distance, a car door slammed. A dog barked to be let in. The silence surrounding the Biggs’ house was suddenly broken by the sound of a car engine. The twin beams of headlights washed over the house as a car came to a halt at the curb. The engine idled before switching off. The driver side door opened and Warren Biggs stepped out onto the street, closing the door behind him.
He looked up at the house. Home sweet home. he thought to himself. The back doors of the car opened and his daughters Kaitlyn and Taylor tumbled out. They squealed in excitement, they seemed happy to be back in town as well. Which Warren found a little odd. They had enjoyed their vacation so much. They had complained they didn’t want to return home. But now it seemed otherwise. Perhaps they were excited to return to school, to see their friends. They’d be going back in two days. Warren figured one more day off to get settled back in West Valley wouldn’t hurt them. The school was already aware. His mother Colleen climbed out from the backseat, a look of relief on her face. She had been stuck back there with the girls since they had got into the car at the airport. Warren couldn’t help but let out a soft chuckle at the look on his mother’s face.
They had left the car parked at the airport. So that they didn’t have to catch a taxi to get home. The airport wasn’t exactly close, and the fare for a taxi these days were expensive. Colleen closed the car door behind her, clutching a book in her hands. Warren went over to the opposite side and closed the other door as the passenger side door opened and Naomi stepped out. She smiled thinly at him as he closed her door. Warren handed her his keys and watched as she, Colleen and the girls headed up to the front porch. The house lights were on, programmed on a timer. It was just for safety. There were many stories about houses being robbed while the owners were away on vacation. He hadn’t heard about any recent robberies in West Valley. People had much more worse things to worry about.
The killer, who struck again. Warren thought to himself as he watched Naomi unlock the front door and pull it open. The girls ran inside first, then his mother, and then Naomi, who looked back at him. He had something to do first. He had gotten a text message from Christy Whitlow, he had seen it once they had landed and he had turned his cellphone back on. Her daughter Megan had told her that she thought she had seen someone lurking in the backyard earlier that day. Warren thought that was nice of her to let him know. He waited until Naomi closed the front door before he headed around the side of the house to the backyard. He moved slowly over the grass, trying to keep the noise at a minimum. If someone was lurking around his house, it was better to do so now that night had fallen.
He could hear Naomi talking to the girls from inside the house. They were probably asking her if they could stay up a little later than usual. A soft smile played on Warren’s face. Kaitlyn and Taylor had really come to accept Naomi as his girlfriend. They were official now. That was part of the reason why they had gone away on vacation. He wanted to see if his family accepted her. His friends already did. It wasn’t easy, dating someone new after your wife had been murdered. But Warren felt like he needed to try again. To get his heart out there. So far it was going really well and he really liked Naomi. Who knew, maybe one day they would be married. Suddenly, Warren stopped in tracks. A hint of movement caught his eye. He sucked in a quiet breath.
He turned to look, his shoulders tense. And then he relaxed, rolling his eyes. It was just a bush dancing in the light breeze. His eyes scanned his surroundings. As far as he could tell, the backyard seemed empty. Good. he thought to himself as he turned and began heading back to the front of the house. Across the street at the Whitlow house, he could see a lone light glowing in an upstairs window. Maybe in the morning he’d go see Christy. It was far too late now and he didn’t want to disturb her. As he walked by his car, he reminded himself to get the keys from Naomi. He was going to bring the luggage in. He kept moving, heading up the walkway to the front door. He pulled it open and stepped inside. From upstairs in the room they shared, he could hear Taylor and Kaitlyn laughing.
Smiling to himself, Warren made his way into the kitchen where Naomi was standing by the fridge. She had a glass of water in her hand. She looked over at Warren with a smile.
“Happy to be home?” she asked, taking a sip.
“Despite the news of Hanna Workman’s murder, I am, I guess.” Warren replied.
“Back to reality, huh? Maybe we can go away sometime, just you and me.” Naomi said, giving him a sexy wink.
“Hmm. Sounds like fun. How about you help me with the luggage in the car and we can talk about it?” he told her with a chuckle.
“Be right out. You may need these, though.” Naomi replied, grabbing the keys off the kitchen counter and tossing them at him.
Warren caught them easily. He flashed her a smile before turning and walking out of the kitchen. In the hallway he ran into his mother, who was in a robe, freshly showered. She raised the book in her hand with a smile before heading into the living room to read. Before heading out the front door, he called up to the girls. Telling them to get ready for bed, he would come tuck them in shortly. He made his way to the front door, pulling it open and stepping out into the night. Warren closed the door behind him as he tossed the keys from one hand to the other as he made his way off the porch. He headed down the walkway and over to the car parked at the curb. He went to the trunk, sliding the key in and turning it before pulling the trunk open.
Warren grunted as he pulled a luggage out of the trunk and placed it down on the street. Suddenly, there were footsteps behind him in the darkness. Warren turned around, expecting to see Naomi standing behind him. It was someone else. A familiar face. Warren smiled.
“Oh hey! What are you doing out here so late?” he asked.
“Just out for a walk, heading home now. How was your vacation?” the person asked.
“It was great! I didn’t want to come back.” Warren replied with a chuckle.
“I can’t wait to hear all about it! Do you need help with those bags?” the person asked.
“Sure! That’d be great! Doesn’t seem like Naomi is coming out to help, after all.” Warren replied with a chuckle.
“That’s Naomi for you. Always thinking about herself.” the person replied, rolling their eyes.
“She’s gotten better.” Warren replied, turning and leaning into the trunk to grab another luggage.
“I’m sure she has…” the other person replied, taking a step closer to Warren.
A few minutes later, the front door opened and Naomi stepped out onto the front porch. She closed the door behind her, dressed in a different outfit than what she wore earlier. Alright, let’s do this. she thought to herself as she headed down the walkway and over to the car. She stopped, looking around, a deep frown creasing her pretty face. No sign of Warren.
“Warren? Where did you go?” she called out.
No reply. She looked around. The street and sidewalk was empty. Void of any life. She called out Warren’s name again. He didn’t appear. She turned back to the car, noticing the trunk was closed. The keys hung from the lock. With a frown still on her face, she turned the lock and pulled the trunk open. Went to grab a luggage, when suddenly her eyes widened in fear. She jumped back from the car. Warren lay inside the trunk among the luggage. He’s dead! Naomi’s mind screamed back at her. There was blood splattered all over the inside of the car’s trunk. And Warren’s body, very much dead. His throat slashed, his eyes gouged out. Naomi stumbled back, her breath coming out in ragged gasps as she backed away from the grisly sight.
“WARREN!” she cried.
Finally finding her voice, Naomi screamed. And screamed. Her screams echoing through the night.