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Ripter

Other Books by Jon Broeke

 

The WitchWood Series

Bethany

Noel

Felise

Rachel

Lillian

 

The Binded Trilogy

Guardian

 

ROMANCE

Love From Above

Interview with Destiny

 

YOUNG ADULT ROMANCE

Anyone but You

 

 

 

 

 

Ripter

 

 

Jon Broeke

 

www.jonbroeke.wix.com/author

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Prologue

 

He was as good as dead. He knew it. He knew there was no escape from the barrage of bullets that would no doubt come through the door at any moment. And he loved it.

He has never felt so alive in all his life. Not even the killings gave him this kind of rush. He wasn’t afraid of death. He’d made too many deals with the devil to still be scared of death. Death was merely a stepping stone to something else. Something better.

Something bigger. He smiled. This thought made the corners of his mouth curl up like horns. He‘d be back. No matter what they did.

He tightened his grip around the little girl’s throat, and looked down at her face. She was terrified. He’d seen it many times before. In all the faces of all the kids he has sacrificed for the greater good.

HIS greater good.

His lord demanded sacrifice. He was only too happy to provide it.

He has been providing it for little over a year now.

Until Rebecca.

Of all the people in the world she was the one he thought he could trust with anything. The one person he thought would love him in spite of what he had done. That’s why he gave it to her in the first place – for her love.

And then she betrayed him. Betrayed his trust, betrayed their love. He knew it wasn’t her fault though. It was the others’ fault. Her father, her friend, even his friends. He blamed them.

But they would pay… All of them would pay.

But he first had to deal with now…

He turned the girl around to face the door. He wrapped his arm tightly around her neck and lifting her slight frame against himself, he charged towards the door. She screamed as they crashed into it. It swung open, exposing five of the police cars that surrounded the barn. There were four cops to every car, and every one of them had a gun pointed at the door. He looked at their faces, and saw the fear and panic in their eyes. Their bewilderment was almost tangible.

They always knew that he had a hostage, but the sight of it still shocked them visibly. This made an indescribable glee bubble up inside of him. He was having the time of his life.

He tightened his grip around the girl’s neck and touched the point of the bowie knife to her cheek. She whimpered softly. The sound delighted him in a way words couldn’t express.

One of the policemen shouted something at him through a loudspeaker. He didn’t recognise the words, only who they came from. It was Rebecca’s father, Police Superintendent of this sunny little piece of heaven they called home. Only now it was a little less heavenly. Thanks to him. He smiled again. The same cruel, malicious smile from before.

”Send Rebecca my love!” he shouted to the Superintendent. “Tell her I’ll see her soon!” The Superintendent’s eyes widened. The loudspeaker dropped from his lips as he realized what was about to happen. What this blade-wielding monster was about to do.

The Superintendent’s jaw dropped, but it was too late. The malicious maniac smiled again, then slung back his head and screamed. “Not even death can stop me!”

He tore the blade viciously across the little girls’ throat.

Blood gushed from the open wound. It felt warm and sticky as it pored all over him.

The girls’ body collapsed and as she fell forward onto her knees, he began to laugh. The next moment his body started convulsing, and shook uncontrollably as the bullets from the policemen’s guns ruptured through his entire body. There wasn’t a body part that didn’t feel the policemen’s vengeance of the girl.

He fell.

He saw the cops run out from behind the cars towards the girl. She was dead, he was certain of it. He’d done it often enough to know. More glee… Then, nothing.

Chapter 1

 

Tomorrow. It was the day. Exactly one year. Rebecca had been dreading today since the day it happened. Totally dreading it. Lying in her bed, under the soft, familiar covers, she felt no comfort. She didn’t want to sleep, but her eyelids became heavier and heavier until sheer gravity forced them closed and she drifted into a deep sleep. No sooner had her eyes shut than a shadowed figure stepped out from the darkness, drawn out by the onset of her sleep. He looked closely at her. The only sound in the room the mixture of her breath and his. She was his. His Angel of Destruction, and it would not be long now…

*

Rebecca Carmian looked out of the car window as the 4×4 came to a stop at its destination. Most of the time she didn’t mind attending Golden Plains High School, but today was a bad day. A really bad day.

Her father released his seat belt and shifted in his seat, turning towards her, as she sat in the passenger seat. She didn’t look back, though part of her wanted to. She knew he understood what this day meant to her, how it made her feel. She could tell he felt it too. Justin had been like a son to him. Right up until the end.

He sighed deeply.

She knew it was an attempt to get her attention, a trying-to-not-be-too-subtle, not–too-obvious attempt. She turned in her seat and looked at the middle-aged balding man sitting behind the steering wheel. Superintendent Carmian smiled at his daughter. A comforting smile. Rebecca tried to smile back, but her heart wasn’t in it. He could tell.

“You could stay home today,” he said, the concern transparent in his voice. ”No one would think, or say anything about it.”

Rebecca looked back at the school. At the other kids going about their business, oblivious of what day it was… of what it meant. For a second she seriously considered her father’s offer, but then she pushed it out of head.

“No,” she said. She brushed a loose strand of her golden blonde hair back with her fingertips, tucking it behind her ear, before turning back to him. ”I can’t let this thing control my life. Not anymore.”

He simply nodded. She knew he understood. It controlled both of their lives for a long time. He lent forward and kissed her on the forehead. She felt safe, protected. As if nothing and no one could hurt her. She knew however, that as soon as she opened the door of the police-issue 4×4 she was sitting in, that feeling would vanish.

She was right.

She released the seat belt holding her in the car, opened the door and stepped onto the sidewalk. Some of the kids who were walking towards the school looked at her sideways. Some hushed what they were saying as they hurried passed her onto the school grounds. They did it in such a way that she could tell they hoped she didn’t notice, but she did. A few months ago it would have really bothered her, but she’d got used to it. She guessed a few of them did know what today was after all. She pretended not to notice, moving to the back door of the 4×4 and opening it. She took her suitcase from the back seat and put it down next to her on the pavement. She reached back into the car, grabbed the black blazer and slipped it on over her white button-down school shirt and bright canary-yellow skirt. She looked up and saw that her father had moved around the car. He had his arms crossed and was leaning back against the car, a pose he’d perfected after years of practise. It made him look like a TV series cop, but the concern was still obvious on his face.

Rebecca wanted to say something to make him feel better, anything to comfort him, and in doing so maybe comfort herself. She was sure that he wanted to say something to her too, but the words didn’t come to either of them. Instead she reached out with her arms, wrapping them around his neck. He wrapped his arms around her waist and held her close. They stood that way for a few seconds, until they heard the bell ring.

Rebecca and her father let go of each other. She smiled up at him, not sure if she was trying to reassure him or herself. She then picked up her suitcase and ran through the gate into the school grounds, not looking back as she did. She didn’t have the strength to. She was afraid that if she did she would respond to the uncontrollable need deep inside her gut to run back into her father’s arms. To hide from this day. From the memories that raced through her head. She so desperately wanted to do that, but she knew it wouldn’t solve anything. In fact, she knew it would make things worse.

That, however, was about the only thing she thought she knew for sure. She felt as if she was back at the beginning. Back at the time just after Justin’s death. Like none of the therapy had ever happened. God, how many therapy and counselling sessions has she been in? How many conversations has she had to endure? Everyone gave their advice – whether asked for or not – and left her with a hundred different methods that would help her deal with her pain, her anguish. But none of these made a difference, none of them helped. At least, not at first. At first her denial was too great. All she could think about was the time she had spent with Justin. The good times… Like that night in her bedroom…

Chapter 2

 

Rebecca flipped over a page of the teen magazine she was reading. Another story about some Hollywood film star leaving his wife for a younger actress he met on a film shoot. She smiled, the corners of her mouth curling up slightly to the dreams passing through her mind. Like so many young girls, she dreamed and delighted in the fantasy of moving to Hollywood to become a famous actress. She flopped back onto the big, pink, fluffy pillows that inhabited her bed and closed her eyes. She imagined a rich, handsome film star falling head over heels for her and sweeping her off her feet. Her smile grew as the fantasy progressed.

Tap.

Her eyes snapped open at the sound. She shot up to a sitting position and looked around the room for its origin, but saw nothing. She sat in silence for a second.

Tap.

It was at the window. Tapping at the window. Her whole body relaxed. Only one person was stupid and crazy enough to risk the climb up to her window. And he was about as dangerous as a two day old puppy. Rebecca’s smile returned. This time with a hint of excitement. A hint of Anticipation.

She bit her lower lip, jumped off the bed, and ran over to the thick pink curtains hanging in front of the window. She flung them open and saw the face of the boy she’d hoped to see. His dusty blonde hair was gelled up into a thousand spikes, like it always was, and he was wearing a black T-shirt tucked into a pair of blue jeans.

Justin was by far the best looking guy at high school. He was smart, funny, and popular. Rebecca felt like she had to pinch herself every time she remembered that he was her boyfriend. He smiled at her. His whole face lit up as she pushed open the window.

”Hey babe” he said, leaning in through the open window.

”Hey,” she said, feeling her breath get caught right in the back of her throat, the way it always did when she talked to Justin. It was silly, she’s been his girlfriend for three months already, but she still felt the same way she had felt on their first date every time he came near her. She was in love with him. She was young, only fifteen, but she knew that this was love. What else could it be?

Justin slipped into the room with familiar ease, moved past Rebecca and sat on the bed next to the magazine she was reading before looking back at her

She felt as if his bright blue eyes could pierce her clothes, her skin, and her very soul. She felt completely naked and vulnerable. She pulled the thin, nearly see-through pink robe tightly around her body, crossing her arms over her chest and looking anywhere but in his eyes. He smiled his crooked smile at her before he looked down at the magazine.

”Still dreaming about Hollywood?” he reached down, picked up the magazine and looked at the front cover. A small smile returned to Rebecca’s lips as she began to feel more comfortable. She moved closer to the bed and gently took the magazine from her boyfriend’s hand. She looked down at the cover and thought about the dream she’d been having. Her smile deepened.

”Got to have dreams, right?” she said. She looked at Justin. He was looking directly at her. There was a strange look on his face, kind of like awe mixed with a smile. She looked away again. She wasn’t uncomfortable anymore, actually rather embarrassed. She looked back at him out the corner of her eye. He was still looking at her in the same way.

”What?!” she exclaimed. His smile grew.

”You’re amazing” he said, his eyes not leaving her face.

Her heart began to beat a hundred beats faster, so fast she thought it might burst right out of her chest. Her face became so hot it felt as if her ears might catch fire, but Justin just sat there, not taking his eyes off her face. Again she bit her lower lip, only this time it was out of nervousness at being so close to him. Slowly Justin stood from the bed, standing inches from Rebecca. He put his hand behind her neck and pulled her towards him. Their lips touched. Rebecca felt electricity pass through her entire body. It was their first kiss. Their first real kiss. When he pulled away he took all her breath with him. She thought that she was going to faint, but it felt kind of nice. Actually, it felt incredible. It took her a second to regain her composure, and then she looked straight into Justin’s eyes, afraid that if she turned away again he might disappear and she might find that it had all been a dream.

But this time he looked away, turning his eyes towards the ground. Rebecca suddenly got the feeling that there was something wrong, something hidden behind the brilliant blue of his eyes.

”What’s the matter?” she asked. He looked back at her, a smile on his face, but it was a different kind of smile to the one he’d given her earlier. It was somehow superficial. The feeling inside her grew stronger.

”What is it?” Rebecca asked again.

Justin watched her for a moment. She thought maybe he was going to say something, like there was something on the tip of his tongue and if he’d only opened his mouth it would have leapt out and made itself known, but she didn’t. He shook his head and looked down at the floor again.

”Nothing” he replied. He flopped back onto the bed, landing on the magazine and leant back onto his elbows. The feeling that there was something wrong lingered with her, but she didn’t push it. Their relationship was too young for her to expect him to confide huge secrets in her, she knew that. Instead she moved away and leant against the vanity table on the other side of the room. She watched Justin the whole time. For a moment she thought she saw something in his eyes, a pain, or a fear of some kind. It disappeared as quickly as it came though, and when he looked up at her again and smiled, it was a deep and heart-felt smile. He adjusted himself on the bed and reached into his back pocket.

”I got you something,” he said, the excitement obvious in his words. Rebecca heart skipped a beat as her breath caught again. He had something for her? She stepped away from the vanity table, curious about what he was retrieving. He rummaged in his back pocket for a moment before he pulled out a thick, golden chain. It looked like a golden snake with its head eating its tail. Hanging from it was an oval-shaped golden amulet, about the size of a large acorn, but flat. There was a bright red ruby set in the middle.

Rebecca’s mouth dropped open as she saw it glimmer in the light of the room. It was as if the ruby caught all the light around it and sucked it up inside it, causing it to shine as brightly as the globes that lit the space.

Justin stood from the bed, smiling at the look on her face, and walked over to her. He slipped the tail smoothly out of the serpent’s mouth, opening the chain, before he placed it around her neck, sealing it by pushing the tail back inside its mouth. Rebecca reached up and took the amulet in her hand, looking closely at the jewel, as Justin moved back, sitting on the bed again. There was some strange writing on the amulet, on the smooth surface of the gold encasing the ruby. A strange language of glyph’s and signs that she didn’t understand. She stared into the ruby. She could see her reflection for a moment, and then it seemed to vanish, as if, along with the light in the room, the ruby had somehow managed to suck it into its fiery red depths.

The look of wonder changed to a look of confusion as she suddenly felt cold, as if all the energy and heat was being drained from her body.

”What do you think?” Justin asked.

It took a lot of effort, but Rebecca tore her eyes away from the ruby, and looked at him. All the energy and heat returned to her, as if they’d never left, and the feeling of confusion along with the cold, disappeared from her memory, as if magically erased like unwanted words from a computer screen. She smiled at Justin.

”It’s beautiful,” she said. She wrapped her fingers tightly around it and moved towards the bed.

”It was my grandmother’s,” he said. She stole a quick glance back at the amulet.

”It’s simply beautiful. What does the writing mean?”

She looked back at him, but he looked down at the floor.

“I don’t know,” he said. The words sucked the life out of the conversation, just as the ruby had sucked the light from the room. Rebecca got that feeling again that he was hiding something from her, but again she didn’t push the subject. They sat still, looking into nothing, in silence, until Justin stood. In fact, he got up so abruptly that Rebecca had to step back away from the bed to avoid being knocked over.

”I should go,” he started walking towards the open window he came in through.

”If you have to,” Rebecca still sensed that there was something he wasn’t saying. Something he wanted to tell her, but hadn’t, for whatever reason. She didn’t know what it was, but she knew she didn’t want him to leave. She considered saying something, but chose not to. He would tell her when he was ready.

He stopped and turned, smiling again. One of those smiles Rebecca loved. The ones that lit up his whole face.

”You are so beautiful,” he said.

Rebecca felt her face flush again. She looked away, biting her bottom lip nervously. When she looked up again Justin was right in front of her. She stopped breathing as he lent forward and touched his lips to hers. Again, the little breath she had left escaped her as he withdrew. She stood, transfixed, looking into his eyes.

”I’ll see you at school tomorrow,” he said, and then he was gone. He went out the window, down the trellis and disappeared into the darkness of the night.

Rebecca stood at the window watching him until she couldn’t see him anymore. Then she collapsed onto her bed, giggling by herself. She looked at the amulet again, thinking about Justin, closed her eyes, and drifted off into a blissful sleep.

Chapter 3

 

He was doing the right thing, he thought. The only thing. He had no choice. ’It was time,’ he thought. Time to begin. It had to be done! It had to be done so that he could win.

Insurance. That’s what she was. Insurance. He needed insurance, and she was it. Then why did he feel so bad? He knew what he was about to do, and he didn’t feel bad about it. He only felt bad about what he did to her. Then again, he loved her. He didn’t love them. He didn’t even know them… Not that it would have mattered if he did. He took the last few steps. His hand reached out and pulled open the barn door. He stepped into the cloth of darkness and pulled the door closed again behind him. In complete darkness he walked to where he knew the trap door was. He pulled it open and walked into the light emanating from the room under the barn. The room nobody, but himself, knew existed. No one except for the little girl lying bound, gagged, and whimpering in the corner. Her name was Tracy. At least he thought it was. He wasn’t sure. It didn’t matter. He pulled the trap door closed above his head hiding the light from the outside world. Moments later a muffled scream penetrated the air in the barn, followed closely by maniacal laughter. And then, graveyard silence.

 

Chapter 4

Rebecca stopped running. She was standing in front of a face-brick wall. She leaned her head up against it, her eyes closed. She was at the back entrance of the school, in the teachers’ parking lot. Most students didn’t use this entrance, they used the front. So she was mostly alone. Mostly. A couple of other students saw her standing with her forehead against the wall, but they didn’t say anything. They just moved on, pretending they hadn’t seen her. She was glad that they did. She didn’t want to talk to any of them anyway. A thousand thoughts raced through her head, making it feel as if it was about to explode. Why was she there? Why didn’t she just go home? She wanted to. Desperately! No matter what anyone said, or what she tried to tell herself, she knew that she didn’t need this, that she didn’t need to be there, that she really didn’t want to be there.

She reached down and picked up the small, black, plastic suitcase that contained her school books and turned back towards the car. She knew her father was still waiting outside. Waiting to rescue her. To take her away from the school. Away from the memories. She started walking, but stopped as soon as she heard his voice.

”Wasn’t sure you’d come in today.”

Rebecca knew who the voice belonged to before she turned and saw his very blonde crew cut and boyish good looks.

”Hey Ryan,” she said, looking into his face. A feeling of quiet desperation crept into her heart. Ryan O’Bannon obviously noticed.

He smiled. Rebecca had seen his reassuring smile a hundred times, and it worked every time.

Ryan took a step forward and placed an arm around her neck. She sunk her head into his shoulder and closed her eyes. Again the memories of Justin rushed behind her closed eyes. She opened them again and pulled away. Ryan looked at her for a long moment as he dropped the arm from her shoulder.

”You shouldn’t be here,” he said. There was concern in his voice. ”Not today.”

”I’m okay,” she said.

Ryan looked at her in a way she knew meant who are you trying to fool? She smiled at her friend.

”Really,” she said.

”Okay,” he replied, not sounding or looking, entirely convinced.

”Bec!” someone shouted from behind her. She turned and looked towards the open gate she’d come through moments earlier, and had planned to escape through until Ryan arrived. Again she recognized the voice before she saw the face. It was Stacey Basson. Her best friend since forever. Stacey moved quickly towards Ryan and Rebecca, waddling from side to side as she did, but as she reached them she slowed down as if she was running in slow-motion, clearing the few steps separating her from the other two, her short red bob bouncing above her shoulders as the rest of her ample bulk wobbled around in her uniform. When she reached them she pushed right past Ryan, sending him flailing, the back pack he had over his shoulder falling onto the ground. She wrapped her arms around Rebecca with her usual dramatic flare. Rebecca couldn’t help but laugh at her friends’ actions. She knew it was the way Stacey dealt with most things in her life – with as much dramatics as possible. The more outrageous the better.

Deep down Rebecca knew that today was as hard for Stacey as it was for her. Stacey released Rebecca from her grip and stepped back.

”Well?” she asked dramatically, rolling her eyes at them. ”Gimme the verdict then…” she clutched her chest and put her hand against her temple, turning her eyes up towards the sky. “Was I fabulous enough?” She peeked down through her one eye, clearly concerned that her act wasn’t ‘over-the-top’ enough to save the situation. Although Rebecca didn’t feel much like it before, she now found herself cracking a smile at Stacey’s usual number.

”You were doing fine,” Ryan called from where he was retrieving his back pack off the ground, “except for the part where you tried to kill me.”

Stacey moved over to him, her hands together like she was about to say a prayer. ”Not kill you, never kill you” she said in the voice of Dobi the house-elf when he defended himself against Harry’s considerably deeper concerns. Her impersonation of him was uncanny. Rebecca couldn’t help but laugh a little louder. Stacey and Ryan looked at her, and then at each other.

“Do you think she’s okay?” Stacey asked Ryan, feigning concern.

“I think she’ll be fine,” Ryan replied. At that moment Rebecca was so thankful she had such good friends she walked over to them and gave them each a big hug. The good feeling Stacey had given her didn’t last though. It disappeared as she heard a new voice behind her shoulder. She recognized this voice too.

“Hey Becca.”

She released Stacey from the hug they were in the middle of, and turned. The voice came from a boy the same age as the others. His sun-faded blonde hair reflected the morning sunlight making it almost glow. It was obvious from his wide shoulders that he worked out, and he was quite handsome. Rebecca knew him quite well and had nothing against him.

On any other day.

She just didn’t want to see him on this particular day. Jack Stone represented too many bad memories for her. And who could be surprised at that? He had been Justin Ripter’s best friend after all. At least until he’d found out who Justin really was. Until the day of the shooting.

“Hey Jack,” Rebecca replied, avoiding eye contact.

Jack obviously noticed, because he too looked away, down at the floor. A silence fell over the group. Rebecca knew they were all racking their brains thinking of something to say. But what do you say in this situation. Jack finally gave up.

“See you,” he said as he walked past them, around the corner, and disappeared into the school grounds. Rebecca felt bad. Jack had only been trying to be nice. This day was as hard for him as it was for all of them. Harder.

She looked up at Stacey and Ryan. They obviously understood the look on her face. Stacey moved towards her again and put a hand on her arm. Ryan slung the bag he’d retrieved off the ground onto his shoulder. He gave Rebecca a long look, half consoling, half pleading. She nodded softly, smiling as best she could. Ryan returned her nod before he took off running after Jack, shouting his name as he did.

Rebecca watched him go before looking at Stacey again. She felt the hot tears coming to her eyes. She fought as hard as she could to fend them off. It was the first set of tears she’d had in the day and she was damned if she was going to cry. She’d cried enough over the last two years. Stacey smiled softly.

“It’s okay,” she said. “It’s going to be okay.”

They stood there in silence for a moment. Then, without another word from either of them, Stacey led Rebecca around the corner and into the school.

Chapter 5

 

Stacey and Rebecca always sat together at the back of Mrs Michelle’s classroom for registration, and today was no different.

The slightly bent over, relatively ancient teacher read out one name at a time from the register, peering over her bifocals as the person, whose name she’d just read, called out to confirm their presence, as if reciting a shopping list that someone else had written, therefore it meant nothing to her. It was the way she’d done it every morning since the beginning of the year, but this morning it was even agonising for Rebecca, especially when she paused as she read out Rebecca’s name and heard her response. From the expression on her face, the response was obviously unexpected. She regained her composure quickly though and continued reading. She finished just as the bell rang marking the end of registration and the beginning of the first period. Rebecca and Stacey picked up their bags and headed for the door.

As they reached it Rebecca looked back at Mrs Michelle. She had moved over to her desk, had put the registration form on it, and was now watching them leave.

Rebecca could tell by the way she was watching her that she wanted to say something, but she was rather glad that she didn’t. Mrs Michelle had treated Rebecca like a surrogate child ever since her mom had died a few years earlier. Normally Rebecca appreciated, even liked, the extra attention, but today the less people that said things, or tried to help, the better. Rebecca quickly looked away and hurried out the door, avoiding any further eye contact Mrs Michelle might construe as a cry for help.

Moments later she and Stacey were standing outside the math class, room 64, in the middle of the first floor of the school. The whole class was milling around, waiting for Mr Simmons to arrive. Rebecca was standing looking over the face brick balcony at the ground below. She was watching the other children rushing to reach their classes before the second bell went. Stacey was standing next to her, leaning against the same balcony. Every now and again she would turn to Rebecca and open her mouth, as if to say something, but no sound came out. She would then close her mouth again quickly and look away. Rebecca didn’t look directly at her. She kept looking at the ground level. She knew she should say something. Console her friend to let her know that she was okay, but she knew it was a lie, and that Stacey would know it was a lie, so she said nothing. Instead, she just stared at a straggling eighth grader with red hair, trying to find the class room she belonged to. The poor girl walked from window to window looking at the children inside, wondering if they were her class. Rebecca knew how she felt, but she felt it about her life, not just about a class. She looked away from the girl as the tears started to grow in her eyes again. It was at this moment that she heard sound of sniggers behind her back. Curiosity getting the better of her, Rebecca turned and saw three girls huddled together. They were whispering, giggling, and pointing, discretely in her direction. She recognized the flurry of perfectly groomed raven-black, golden brown and sunshine blonde hair immediately. From the first day she’d seen the girls huddled together they had reminded Rebecca of a couple of hyena’s feeding.

To say Gina Hart was Rebecca’s enemy would have been harsh, but to say she was her friend, or even tried to tolerate her, would have been laughable. Usually they just went about their own business, ignoring each other. That was, until Rebecca and Justin had got together. Gina had always had her eye on Justin. It had infuriated her that he had chosen Rebecca instead. For the eight months that Justin and Rebecca had been going out Gina Hart had become Rebecca’s nightmares personified. Taunting and ridiculing her every chance she got. It had stopped in the weeks after Justin’s death, though Rebecca hadn’t been in a frame of mind to notice, or care. After that, when things had gone back to normal, Gina and Rebecca had gone back to normal as well, ignoring each other again and going about their business, and it had been that way ever since, but it seemed Gina had decided today was the day to take a stroll down memory lane.

“What?” Stacey spat at her, immediately in defensive mode for her friend. She’d heard the giggling and seen the pointing and she knew Gina and her friend, Angela Van Langerveld, were making fun of Rebecca behind her back.

“Nothing,” Gina said. Her voice so falsely sincere it made Stacey want to gag. Angela smiled at Rebecca. She could sense something was coming, but knew she couldn’t do anything about it.

Gina turned to her and flashed a malicious smile.

“I like your necklace.”

Rebecca immediately raised her hand to the snake necklace around her neck. Some of the gold was sneaking above the collar of her white button down school shirt. She pushed it back behind the material, going slightly red.

“Where did you get it?”

Rebecca knew Gina knew Justin had given her the necklace. She was just trying to goad her.

“American Swiss,” Stacey interceded before Rebecca could say anything. “Mind your own business.”

Rebecca looked over at her. She had stepped away from the balcony. Her arms were crossed, but Rebecca could see her fists were clenched. She was glaring at Gina like a guard dog at an unwanted intruder.

“No one asked you,” Gina said to Stacey. The fake sincerity swimming on her voice. Her mouth curled up into a smile, but there was a real nastiness behind it. Stacey uncrossed her arms and stepped towards Gina. Her face was becoming red with anger, and her knuckles were white from the force of her clenched fists. Stacey had a temper. Everyone knew it, especially Rebecca, and she was afraid what she night do to Gina if provoked too far.

“It was a gift from Justin,” Rebecca said, deciding it would be better to intercede, rather than to let them fight it out. “You know that.” Gina turned her attention back to Rebecca.

“Yes,” she said, the smile crossing her lips again. It had disappeared when Stacey had confronted her. “I was just wondering though,” the smile deepened. “Why are you still wearing it?” Rebecca could feel the eyes of the entire class on her. Gina and her having it out was a serious crowd draw. She felt heat coming to her ears and cheeks. She knew she shouldn’t answer, but felt as though she had no choice. She looked at Stacey, hoping she’d step in again. From the look on her face Rebecca could tell she wanted to, but didn’t know how. Stacey knew the answer to Gina’s question, and she also knew what the reaction from the class, and Gina, would be.

“I can’t get it off,” she said. The look on Gina’s face said it all. It was complimented by the looks on the faces of every other child in the class, except Stacey. None of them believed her. They were all looking at her as if she’d lost her mind and Rebecca knew it sounded as if she had, but it was the truth.

After the shooting she’d tried to take it off, but hadn’t been able to. She, Ryan and Stacey had even gone to a jeweller to get it cut off, but even that hadn’t worked. The jeweller hadn’t been able to work the catch, and when he’d tried to cut it off, the cutter-thing that he’d been using exploded in his hand, almost taking it off. After that Rebecca had just decided to just keep it on, but to keep it hidden at all times. Unfortunately, it hadn’t been totally hidden today.

“Right,” said Gina, sarcasm replacing the fake sincerity. Rebecca and Stacey knew she was about to capitalize on what had just been said, and she did.

“I think,” she started. “That you don’t want to take it off.” She started stalking towards Rebecca as she spoke. A large, raven-haired cat stalking a blonde bird. Rebecca wished she could melt into the floor.

“I think you like the attention that comes from it. You like everyone thinking about him when they look at you. Thinking about what you went through. Making them feel sorry for you. Or…” She raised a hand, covering her mouth, as she released a very fake gasp. “Maybe somewhere in that sick little mind of yours you want him back. Is that it? Do you want your child murdering lover back, hmm?” Rebecca’s mouth dropped open. She couldn’t believe what Gina had just said. She couldn’t speak. Couldn’t react at all.

She looked at around at her class standing around her. The initial looks of shock were beginning to dissolve. Some of the students had smiles and sniggers on their faces, while others looked at her like she was guilty of some hideous crime. Her entire body began to shake with rage and anguish. She felt her entire body heating up. Tears rushed to her eyes again and an immense lump grew in the back of her throat. She knew she was about to burst into tears, and that this time no amount of hoping or praying, or willing herself not to, would stop it. So she did the only thing she could think to do. She threw down her suitcase and ran as fast as her legs would carry her. She faintly heard the sound of Stacey shouting something behind her. She wasn’t sure if it was aimed at Gina, or at her. It didn’t matter. She didn’t care. She just kept running.

Chapter 6

 

Rebecca stood alone in the bathroom. A hundred thousand thoughts running trough her mind. She looked at herself in the mirror and sighed, her face streaky and splotchy, her eyes all red and bulging, all caused by the crying she’d been able to stop doing only a few moments earlier. She felt somewhat stupid for letting Gina get to her so much. She didn’t quite know why she had. Gina had disliked her for so long she thought she was used to her taunts, even though they hadn’t happened for a while. Maybe it was just the day.

This day. The anniversary of his death. The anniversary of the day Justin Ripter had been shot. Giving it a name seemed to make it easier to cope with, easier to survive, or so Rebecca was trying to convince herself. She raised a hand and turned on the tap in front of her before she placed her hands under the cold running water. She lifted her hands, splashing the water on her face. The coolness of the water helped calm her down and gave her something else to think about, besides the day and Gina and Justin. Things she didn’t want to think about anymore. She looked back in the mirror, at the droplets dripping from her chin, and then she heard it.

Mumbling.

It was coming from behind her. It was almost inaudible, but she could just make it out. She couldn’t hear what was being said, but could make out a voice, the sound of it, the texture of it, and it made her blood run cold. It sounded young, maybe seven or eight, and a girl, maybe, but more than that it sounded terrified, in serious trouble of some kind. Rebecca turned and looked around the bathroom. Water dripped from her hands, falling onto the tiled floor of the bathroom.

Her back was against a row of five basins and there were five grey-painted, wooden cubicles holding toilets in front of her, all of the doors closed. She looked to the right and saw the edge of the red-painted door leading out of the bathroom, but if she took one more foot to the left it would be concealed from her. Rebecca listened hard, but couldn’t hear anything except the perpetual fall of the water still coming out of the faucet. She quickly turned and turned off the tap before turning her attention back to the cubicles. As she did she heard the mumbling again. It was definitely coming from one of the cubicles, but she couldn’t tell which one. For some strange reason the sound was oddly familiar, as if she’d heard it before, somewhere else, and it freaked her out.

“Hello?” she tried to call out. What came out of her mouth was more like a squeak than a call. She swallowed and tried again.

“Hello?” the voice that came out of her mouth was still not hers, but the meaning was clear. She was also sure that whoever was in the bathroom with her had heard, but there was no response.

There wasn’t a sound in the bathroom. Even the mumbling had stopped. Rebecca began to steadily get more and more freaked out. Her heart beat got louder and louder, pounding in her ears until she was sure the whole school could hear it when… She heard it again.

Mumbling.

Like someone talking to themselves under their breaths, hoping no one else could hear.

“Hello,” she squeaked again, leaning closer to the cubicles. Silence fell again. Then the distinctive sound of crying. Without thinking Rebecca stepped forward towards the first cubicle closest to the red painted exit, the cubicle she was convinced the sound was coming from. The feeling of freakiness was palpable, and almost all-consuming, but she fought it off with all her might and tapped on the cubicle door with her fingertip. Immediately silence fell once more. Rebecca fought with herself. A large part of her wanted to run. To go through the red door into the sunlight and pretend she hadn’t heard the sound at all, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t walk away. She had to do something.

“Are you okay?” Rebecca asked as she lent lightly on the door. It gave way under her weight, swinging inwards in slow motion exposing a completely empty cubicle. Rebecca looked through the opening as the door moved, a deep frown creasing her forehead. The sobbing began again, only now she was sure it was coming from the next cubicle.

For a second she didn’t move. She didn’t even breathe. She just stood looking at the door of the cubicle. Then school taught logic stepped in, as he figured she must have mistaken where the sound was coming from, that’s all. She took a deep breath and moved to the next door.

“My name is Rebecca,” she said to the closed door. “Is everything alright?”

This time the sobs didn’t stop. They became louder, more high pitched. Rebecca was now convinced that it was a child crying. A little girl, around seven or eight. She wasn’t sure why a child that young would be in the cubicle, but the sound was unmistakable.

“It’s okay,” Rebecca said. “I’m not going to hurt you.” She touched the door and it gave way and swung forward just like the last one had, but the little girl Rebecca had expected to see wasn’t there. The cubicle was empty like the last one. The door swung slowly, but as soon as it hit the wall of the cubicle the crying stopped and silence fell over the bathroom again, but it wasn’t an ordinary silence.

It was literally a deafening silence.

Like when you go deep under water, or in an aeroplane, and the pressure is wrong, and your ears just won’t pop. That’s what it felt like, like her head was going to be crushed from the pressure. Rebecca lifted her hands to her ears as they began to hurt. They felt like they wanted to pop, but they were going to take her whole head with them. Then as suddenly as the silence had fallen, it was lifted. Rebecca slowly lowered her hands from her ears, looking around the bathroom. She then noticed the sobbing had started again. Only this time it was coming from the cubicle furthest from the door, and it was louder, much louder than before. The feeling of freakiness that had filled Rebecca before was fast turning into a feeling of complete dread, so she did the smart thing. She turned and started moving towards the red painted exit. She wanted to get out of the room, away from the crying and the freaky feeling, but as soon as she took the first step the doors of the remaining three cubicles started to fling themselves open. One by one, starting with the one closest to the exit, they slammed open. Rebecca quickly moved away, putting her back against the basins as she tried to get as far from the free moving doors as she could. She just stared at the doors as the moved all by themselves, her mouth hanging wide open. She was unable to move, frightened out of her wits. The sobs grew louder as the doors slammed open one after the other. It all culminated in a blood curdling scream as the last door struck the side of the cubicle so hard, they both splintered. Then there was silence. No pain in the ears, or fear of an exploding head. Just silence. Without wanting it too, a thought popped into Rebecca’s head.

This is what it’s like to be dead.

“Hey babe.”

The voice came from behind her shoulder, and it was like ice water being poured down her back. Her entire body froze. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move, though she was trying with all her might to run. Tears filled her eyes. Her whole body began to shake uncontrollably. Then it felt as if the shakes began to think for themselves. As if her body had a different master than her.

She started to turn towards the voice. It was like she had to turn, like she had no choice, no matter how hard she tried to stop herself. She was the puppet and someone else was pulling the strings. She wanted to shut her eyes tightly and pray that she would wake, safe in her bed, but even her eyelids weren’t working. So she turned, inch by inch, until she was facing the mirror above the basin. She was looking at what should have been her own reflection in the shiny glass, but it wasn’t her. It was a figure cloaked in shadow, masked in darkness. All she could make out were the eyes. They were cold, dark and ruthless, and yet warm and inviting. The kind of eyes she’d wanted to drown in a year ago. Now they seemed to glow out of the darkness, as if they were on fire. The figure reached a hand out towards her and it came out of the mirror into her reality, like something out of a horror film. Worse was that it wasn’t a hand at all. It was more like a hook, only it wasn’t a hook either. It was more like a grappling hook. Three long blades set triangularly around a silver dome where the hand should have been. The blades reached out about 8 inches and reached back to the figure’s elbow, and Rebecca could tell just by looking at them that they were as sharp as scalpels. One of the blades touched her forearm, just a few inches from her wrist, but instead of cutting into her flesh, it began to burn her like it was white hot. She could smell the roasting flesh. Then suddenly her body was hers again and she screamed. It was louder than she’d ever screamed before, or had even heard anyone scream in her whole life. She fell backwards, away from the basins and the figure in the mirror, onto the cold, tile covered floor. Shutting her eyes tightly, her hand wrapped around the burn on her forearm. She began thrashing out with her arms and legs, fighting off the attacker, fighting off the faceless monster that could burn her with the gentlest touch. She felt her hand connect with something solid and heard an obviously connected cry out in pain. Only the cry wasn’t what she’d expected it to be. She’d expected an evil, monstrous shout to go with the devil with the burning touch, but instead this was high pitched, even girly, and strangely familiar.

In fact…

Rebecca opened her eyes and saw Stacey sitting on the floor next to her. She was rubbing her cheek with her hand, looking at Rebecca like she was crazy, but Rebecca didn’t notice the look right away.

“Stacey!” Rebecca shouted, wrapping her arms around her friend and burying her face in the blazer covering Stacey’s shoulder. Stacey must have thought Rebecca had lost her mind, and it was apparent in her voice.

“Rebecca, what’s going on?” she asked. Rebecca let go of her friend for a second.

“He was here,” she said. She was still shaking, terrified half out of her mind.

“Who?” Stacey asked, concern drawn all over her face, along with the starting of welts on her cheek where Rebecca’s hand had connected her face. Rebecca looked Stacey straight in the eyes. The figure in the mirror that could burn her with a gentle touch. The one she’d recognised the moment he’d spoken in that voice that had made her blood run cold. She forced out one word before burying her face in Stacey’s shoulder again.

“Justin.”

Chapter 7

 

Games. Childish games. Frustrating, childish games. That was all these were. He knew it, but it was all he could do.

For now.

It connected her to him. Allowed her to see him. If she was alone and if he wanted her to. It was ridiculous. He knew. It didn’t mean anything.

Only games.

But fun, none the less. Soon. Soon they wouldn’t be games. Soon it would be real. Soon the metal would drink. Drink to its contentment, but for now.

Foolish, frustrating, childish games.

Chapter 8

 

“It couldn’t have been,” Stacey said. It was break, about an hour since the incident in the bathroom, and it had taken Rebecca almost that whole time to calm down. She was okay now, even though she was still pretty shaken up. She and Stacey were sitting on the bottom step of the stone bleachers that covered the entire one side of the school field while Ryan was sitting cross-legged on the grass in front of them. He was peeling off the transparent plastic that covered his sandwiches while he listened to the two girls talking to each other.

“It was him,” Rebecca said. She was convinced. There wasn’t a doubt in her mind that it had been Justin in the bathroom.

Well, maybe a small doubt. “I’m sure it was him.”

Stacey looked down, shaking her head softly, but not saying anything. She didn’t want to argue anymore. It was all they’d been doing since she had found her in the bathroom, and been slapped as payment for trying to help her friend. She had thought Rebecca was having a seizure or something, and after what she’d said, and what she was still saying, she wasn’t sure she hadn’t. Ryan didn’t keep quiet though. He was in a different class and didn’t know they had been arguing about it for the last hour.

“But it couldn’t have been him, could it?” he said. He sniffed the cheese sandwich he had successfully unwrapped and pulled a face at it. “In case we’ve forgotten during the course of the day, he’s…”

He trailed off the last part of the sentence, realizing what he about to say. It hadn’t been that long since he’d had Rebecca almost crying on his shoulder over what day it was. He looked up at Rebecca, trying to make out what effect, if any, what he’d almost said had had on her, but she seemed okay. She did, however, look away as he looked at her.

“It’s okay Ryan,” she said, as she looked up again. “He’s dead. I know he’s dead.” She paused for a few moments, thinking. “But it was so real. I’m sure it was him.” But she wasn’t sure anymore. She doubted what she’d seen even more with every second that past. Had he been there? Could he have reached out at her through the mirror? It had seemed so real, but come on. Maybe it was just what Gina had said outside the classroom. That coupled with the fact that she had Justin on the brain today. Had she imagined the whole thing?

“It wasn’t real,” Rebecca said, stating the obvious. Stacey and Ryan both shook their heads. It couldn’t have been real, and they all knew it.

“You’re just having a bad day,” Stacey said. “It’s that day, and you’re thinking about… Him, and remembering… Stuff, and…”

“Feeling guilty,” Rebecca finished the sentence. Stacey looked at her. There was a mixture of sadness and compassion in her eyes. She’d heard Rebecca talk like this before, just after it had all happened. She’d spoken about how responsible she felt for Justin’s death. That it was her fault, even though she knew what he’d been doing, she still loved him. Rebecca suddenly had a funny feeling in her stomach, like the feeling you get when you’re supposed to do something, but you can’t remember what it was you were supposed to do. She wrapped her arms around her waist.

“It wasn’t your fault,” Ryan blurted. Stacey and Rebecca jumped at his outburst. They both looked over at him. Their eyes wide. He’d put down the sandwich, obviously loosing his appetite because of the subject under discussion.

“You did what was right,” he was speaking a little softer than before, but the forcefulness was still there. “It was the only thing you could do.” She’d heard it time and time again. From everyone. Her father, her therapist, both of her friends, but somewhere deep inside her she felt as if it was her fault. That if she’d just been quiet, if she’d just let it go, maybe he’d still be alive, but then would he still be killing. She didn’t know. All she knew was what had happened that last night. The last night she’d seen her boyfriend.

Chapter 9

 

Rebecca was sitting at the small, wooden desk in her room, staring through the page her algebra homework was written on. It might as well have been written in ancient Arabic. In fact it might even have helped. Besides, her mind was elsewhere. Justin was sitting on the bed, his legs crossed under him, placing his boots on the covers. Rebecca had asked him not to put his shoes on her bedspread and he’d listened, uncrossing his legs and taking his boots off the covers, the only thing was, as he read his magazine, without thinking, he crossed his legs again. After the ninth time of asking him to uncross his legs and of him crossing them again she’d given up. Instead she turned her attention back to looking through the page in front of her, her mind still on other things, the least of which was Justin’s boots on her bedspread.

She heard Justin close the magazine and throw it too one side. Looking up, she turned to face him, thankful for the distraction. He was looking down at the floor, deep in thought. He obviously had other things on his mind as well. He’d been fidgety and pre-occupied ever since he had arrived.

“What’s wrong?” Rebecca asked. He looked up, deep concentration on his face for a moment, but it disappeared as he smiled dismissively.

“Nothing,” he replied. Rebecca could tell he was lying. It would have been completely obvious to anyone. She raised her eyebrows in non-belief, lent forward onto her legs and asked again.

“What’s wrong?”

Justin obviously sensed that nothing wasn’t going to get him out of the conversation.

“Just got a lot on my mind,” he said, looking away.

“The murders?” she probed. The very thing that was on her mind. Rebecca had been looking for a way to bring up the subject since Justin had arrived. She knew he didn’t want to talk about it, but she did. She needed to. It had been the only thing on her mind for the past few weeks. It was the reason she was having such trouble studying. Justin’s eyes shot back at Rebecca. There was deep shock in them. He looked at her for a moment before looing away again and returning to his fidgeting. Rebecca could tell he was nervous. He was always nervous when Rebecca bought up the murders.

“What… Why, why would I be thinking about the murders?” he asked, not looking her in the eyes.

“Because it’s the only thing that’s been in the papers and on the news for weeks. Who isn’t thinking about them?” she asked.

“I guess,” he said. He didn’t look up, instead just staring at the carpeted floor of her bedroom. He seemed very uncomfortable, like a cockroach under a flashlight. Rebecca was beginning to feel the same way.

The murders were the worst thing to ever happen in Golden Plains. The worst thing she’d ever heard happening anywhere. It made her shiver to think about them, but they were all around her, especially with her father being the superintendent of the Golden Plains police force. He believed in being open with his daughter about his work, talking to her about it. As a result the only way Rebecca could deal with things, was by talking about them.

Justin, however, internalized everything. He really didn’t like to talk about anything important, instead keeping it inside and pretending it didn’t matter. Like most boys, she guessed, but it was an issue for her. Every time she’d tried to talk about things, anything, he’d leave suddenly, especially every time she’d bought up the murders. She was waiting for him to do the same again, but, strangely enough, this time he didn’t.

“Do you think the killer is crazy?” he said, still not looking up at her. Rebecca frowned at the strange question, looking at the hair on the top of his head.

“He, or she,” she added quickly, “is killing little girls. They’ve killed, like, a dozen in the past six months. Yes, I think it’s safe to assume that they are insane.”

Justin looked at her, his face as serious as a car crash. Rebecca was taken aback.

“What if they had a good reason?” he asked. It took a moment for what he’d just said to actually sink in, but when it did Rebecca was sure she’d heard him wrong.

“What?”

“A good reason. A reason for doing what he’s doing?”

The shock of the question numbed Rebecca’s mind for a moment so it took her a few seconds to formulate an answer.

“What good reason could there be for killing little girls?” she asked. Part of her couldn’t believe they were having this conversation, but another part of her thought something else. That part of her wasn’t even surprised, which concerned her even more. Justin stood from the bed and walked over to the window.

“Maybe he was told too?” he looked out the window at the darkness in the street below. He didn’t look at her as he asked the question, but it was as if Rebecca could feel his eyes on her anyway. She frowned deeply, a cold shiver passing down her spine, the part of her getting bigger.

“Who would tell him to do such a thing?” she paused for a moment. “And why would he listen?”

Justin didn’t turn around. He continued to stare out the window as he spoke.

“Maybe it’s the only way.”

Rebecca stared hard at the back of his head. Hoping his thoughts would jump out at her, but they didn’t. Instead she felt further away from his thoughts than she ever had, she was also beginning to feel very uncomfortable. She hadn’t felt this uncomfortable since the first time he’d been in her room, only this time it was different. Instead of the uncomfortable anticipation she’d felt then, she felt uncomfortable dread. She felt it pouring off of Justin and knew he was feeling it too. She wasn’t sure why, but she knew he knew more than he was letting on, and she suddenly knew why he left every time. If this was how he felt every time, it was little wonder.

“The only way for what?” she asked. Something told her to try and push the conversation to its conclusion, whatever that conclusion may be.

“To get the prize,” Justin said. That sentence completely lost Rebecca.

“What prize?” she asked. Suddenly Justin’s whole demeanour changed. He turned and walked over to her, smiling. When he reached her, he crouched in front of her and took her hand in his.

“Why don’t you come spend the weekend?” he said. Rebecca went into a kind of semi shock. One second they’d been talking about getting prizes for killing people. Now he was inviting her to come over for a naughty weekend.

“What?” It was the only word that would come out of her mouth.

“My parents are away, so the farm is all mine. I thought…”

“What about the dead kids?” Rebecca interrupted. The smile on Justin’s face disappeared. Rebecca began to feel very nervous, like she’d seriously bitten off more than she could chew.

“What about them?” His voice was cold and distant. Rebecca had never heard it like that before. It took a moment for her own voice to work again.

“A moment ago we were talking about the killings,” There was apprehension in her voice. She wasn’t sure what Justin’s reaction was going to be. “And now… You just changed the subject.”

Justin didn’t disappoint. He stood violently.

“I don’t want to talk about some little twit’s that probably asked for it anyway.”

Rebecca was so shocked at this she couldn’t talk. She couldn’t think. Justin looked at her, seeing the look on her face. He looked down as he turned and walked slowly to the window again, the anger on his face disappearing, being replaced by shame. He looked out the window again, back into the darkness as he crossed his arms over his chest as if cold. Rebecca just watched him. She had no idea what to do.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I just don’t want to waste my time talking about some freak that bleeds little girls to death.”

That made sense to Rebecca. She was a little desensitised to death since her father started sharing his work with her, even the crime scene photos. He felt that she needed to see things, that she shouldn’t be protected from the horrible world, so when the killings had started she’d been privy to the photos, the case files, everything, and to say they were graphic was a gross understatement. Rebecca closed her eyes, trying to block out the images that had appeared before her. Images of little girls. Their jugular veins slit. All their blood drained. Horrifying. Too horrifying even for the newspapers.

Her eyes shot open as she suddenly realized something. Slowly she looked back at Justin. He was still standing, staring out the window.

“How did you…?” She let the question trail off. The true impact of the thoughts going through her head sunk in. She understood now why she’d kept pushing. Why part of her hadn’t been surprised by what he’d said. Her voice suddenly didn’t work. Justin didn’t turn from the window. He just tightened his arms around his chest, but that little gesture was all it took. She knew she was right, and he knew that she knew, and suddenly she was very afraid.

“What?” he asked, still not looking at her. Rebecca wasn’t sure what to do. Was she being crazy? It couldn’t be true, could it? Deep down, she knew the answer already. There was no other way he could have known.

“Nothing,” she replied, trying to sound as natural as possible, but failing miserably. She waited with bated breath, staring at the back of his head. He didn’t move. It looked like he wasn’t even breathing. Had he believed her? She started playing with the tassels on her shirt. Nervous tension.

“I should go,” he said. Slowly he turned and moved across the floor towards the bedroom door. Rebecca watched him go, but he didn’t look back at her. He just looked ahead at his destination. He stopped as he opened the door, still not looking at her.

“I’ll see you on Monday at school,” he said from the door. Rebecca didn’t answer. She just looked at him, standing in the door frame, silhouetted by the sunlight coming in through the open door. She smiled softly. She even meant it. For a moment she forgot everything that had happened in the last few moments and he was just her boyfriend again. The boy she loved. She nodded gently. He smiled back, also a genuine smile, the smile that Rebecca loved so much, before he turned and left, closing the door as he did. Rebecca sat alone for a few minutes as the truth of what had happened shattered down on her world again, crushing the image of her loving boyfriend and replacing it with images of blood filled pictures. She sat in silence for a long moment, wondering what to do. Maybe she was wrong. Maybe she’d imagined it all. Maybe it was all in her head. But she knew it wasn’t. She knew it was true.

Slowly, breathing out a control breath, she stood and walked out of the safety of her bedroom, down the stairs, past the front door at the base of the stairs and into the living room. It was there that she found what she was looking for. Her father. He’d come home from work and was sitting on the couch watching a rugby match he’d taped a few weeks ago. Rebecca could smell dinner wafting in from the kitchen through the open door on her left and the smell of the half smoked cigar that always indicated that her father was home. He noticed her standing in the room and turned from the game for a second to look at her. He flashed a grin before turning his attention back to the scrum that was about to happen.

“Saw Justin leave,” he said, keeping his eyes on the TV. “He seemed in a hurry. Everything okay?” Rebecca didn’t answer. She stood in the doorway and wrapped her arms around herself, leaning her right shoulder against the wooden frame. Her father looked away from the TV again when she didn’t answer and saw the look on her face. Immediately he sat up, looking closely at his daughter.

“Rebecca, what’s wrong?” he said. Tears began to fill Rebecca’s eyes as the true impact of what she was about to do finally struck home and the consequences it would undoubtedly cause. Her father stood from the couch. He moved in front of her before placing a hand on her shoulder. She looked up at him through the tears in her eyes.

“Daddy,” she began, “I think Justin knows something.” She swallowed hard and took a deep breath before continuing. “About the murders.”

Chapter 10

 

She knew. He could tell she knew. The question now was, what was she going to do? Would she tell? Would she keep quiet? But he knew exactly what she would do. Chances were she’d gone to her father as soon as he’d left. Part of him was angry at her. He knew she’d told. That she’d betrayed him, but a part of him didn’t blame her. What else could he really expect?

It was cool. It would play itself out for the best. That was the point of giving it to her. He knew he couldn’t go on forever, but with it he could and no one could stop him, not even the policemen and women who would be outside his barn in moments, considering the growing strength of the blaring sirens.

He smiled, looking down at the little girl lying bound on the floor. He’d removed the gag. No point, seeing as everyone would be at the party within moments anyway. He reached over and retrieved the rather large knife from the table. He could still smell the blood of the others on it. He looked at her. A look of complete terror covering her entire face. He smiled.

 

“Show time.”

Chapter 11

 

Rebecca thanked God as the final bell rang signifying the end of the school day. Gina had been glaring at her ever since she had returned from break and even though Stacey was trying her best to shield her, Rebecca could still feel the stabs of Gina’s hateful looks. Rebecca wasn’t sure what she’d done since yesterday to make Gina hate her so much, but by this point, she didn’t really care.

She just hoped that by tomorrow they’d be back to their traditional ignoring of each other. Stacey and Rebecca took their time clearing their desks, allowing the rest of the class to clear, before making their way to the door. When they reached it the corridor outside was crawling. It seemed like the entire student body was outside that specific classroom, making their way towards the main gate, and freedom.

Rebecca and Stacey waited for the throng to clear before walking away from the door into the school corridor. They then headed towards the rear entrance where they’d met earlier that morning. They’d walked down two corridors before they saw Ryan standing outside another classroom. He knew their route to the exit and, since the class was on it, he had waited for them. They moved towards him when Rebecca stopped in her tracks. Stacey stopped a second later and turned to her. She saw the look on Rebecca’s face before looking back at Ryan, but Ryan wasn’t alone. Jack had walked out the classroom door and was talking to Ryan, his back to the girls. Stacey turned back to Rebecca. The look on her face asked Are you okay? Rebecca took a breath, and calmed herself down before she nodded and continued walking. In truth she was a little embarrassed Jack’s mere presence had worried her so much, but after the incident in the bathroom she wasn’t entirely surprised. She walked past Stacey, who watched her for a second before joining her, and they walked towards Jack and Ryan. Jack turned and saw them as they reach the two boys. He looked like he wanted to disappear. In fact, Rebecca half expected him to dive back into the classroom. She smiled as best as she could, and he returned it.

“Hi,” she said.

“Hi,” he replied. They all stood in awkward silence for a few moments, all looking around, not making eye contact.

“Well, this is awkward,” Stacey said. The other three looked at her in shock for a moment, but then couldn’t help but smile. She smiled herself. “Heading to the exit?” The question was aimed at Jack and he nodded.

“As a matter of fact.” They all smiled again as they picked up their bags and took off again, heading for the exit. They walked all the way to the teacher’s parking just inside the gate before anyone spoke again.

“So we all survived,” Ryan said. He wasn’t talking to anyone specific, only putting words into the air to break the silence that had fallen over them as they walked.

“Yeah,” replied Rebecca, also not to anyone specific. Silence fell again, broken by a snigger that came from behind the group.

Rebecca closed her eyes and let out a sharp breath of frustration, but she didn’t stop walking. She knew the snigger belonged to Gina and that the accompanying chort belonged to Angela. She thought she’d escaped them for the day, but apparently she was wrong.

“And then she said it was him,” Gina was pretending to talk to Angela, but it was just a very bad front. She was talking so loudly the people, who lived opposite the school, on the other side of the road, could have heard her.

“Really,” Angela responded as loudly as Gina, giggling slightly as she did. “That it was him.”

Ryan stopped walking and turned to face the two girls who were no more than a few feet from the group.

“Why don’t you go and pick on some one with your own brain capacity?” he said, his anger apparent. Stacey had told him about Gina’s interrogation outside room 64 and he hadn’t been impressed. “At the zoo, maybe.”

Gina looked straight at him. She smiled one of the ugly smiles she’d given Rebecca earlier.

“Funny,” she said, the sarcasm dripping from her words. “You know, you better watch your friend closely.” She was looking closely at Rebecca now. “After seeing ghosts of child murderers, there’s no knowing what she’ll do,” Gina paused for a moment as she looked back at Ryan, giving him another one of her smile. “But then again, you’re always watching her so closely, it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Ryan’s whole face suddenly lit up like a traffic light trying to stop a runaway truck. Everyone knew about his crush on Rebecca. He’d had it since primary school, long before Justin had ever entered the picture. Even Rebecca knew about it, but she’d never done anything about it. She’d just, kind of, ignored it. In primary school her father hadn’t allowed her to date, and the there’d been Justin and after the whole Justin thing she wasn’t in any state to have another relationship, not with anyone, not even Ryan, not even a year later. Not that he’d ever actually asked her out anyway.

He cast Rebecca a shy sideways glance before dropping his eyes and backing away. Rebecca felt she should come to his rescue, like he’d tried to come to hers, but she knew that would just make things worse, and give Gina more ammunition to use against her, or worse, against him, but at that moment she didn’t care. She opened her mouth to respond, but, thankfully, nothing came out. She looked over at Stacey. Her hands were turning a yellowish-white from the force of the fists she was making. She looked furious, but her mouth was a tight slit. Rebecca knew she was afraid of saying something that would come back to bite her, or Ryan, or Rebecca herself.

Rebecca turned back to Gina, resolved to defend her friend, but someone else did before she could.

“Just get lost Gina.”

Jack had been silent during the walk to the gate, but he’d found his voice at the best of moments as he stood up for Rebecca and Ryan. Rebecca was thankful that she didn’t have to. Gina, however, was furious. She turned to Jack, the smile completely gone and in its place a look of pure contempt, so blatant it chilled Rebecca to the bone. She opened her mouth ready to throw another insult at him or Rebecca, but Jack shot her a look which made her close her mouth quickly. The two had dated for a while after Justin’s shooting and obviously he knew something that she didn’t want the rest of the group to know. Nothing else would have kept her quiet. She glared at him for a long moment, which he just returned, and then, without another word, she turned and stormed away towards the main gate, Angela close behind.

Rebecca breathed a silent sigh as she watched Gina prance away. She then looked at Ryan. His face was still the colour of a fire truck and he was looking down at the floor. She felt bad. His embarrassment was partly her fault, but she knew saying something to him about it would only make it worse, so instead she turned her eyes away and left it to someone else to say something. Stacey didn’t disappoint.

“Well that was fun,” she said, sarcasm rife. Rebecca tried to smile and looked back at Ryan. The redness was beginning to drain from his cheeks and he was beginning to look like himself again, but he still wouldn’t look at Rebecca. Without another word, the group started walking again and soon were standing at the gate.

When they reached it Rebecca saw something she hadn’t expected. Her dad was sitting in his car in a parking space on the side of the road.

“Is that your dad?” Stacey asked.

“Yes,” Rebecca answered. Her father hadn’t picked her up from school in about five years. She’d walked home everyday with Ryan and Stacey, Stacey living on the same street as Rebecca, and Ryan living two streets up.

“Guess he’s feeling a little over-protective today,” Stacey said. Rebecca knew he was. Deep down inside she wasn’t really all that surprised to see him sitting outside the school. “Guess you’re not walking with us today then?”

Rebecca smiled at her.

“He’ll give you a lift, you know,” she said. “We’re all going to the same place. It’ll be nice not to have to walk for a change.”

“I suppose it would be nice,” Stacey said as if the thought hadn’t even crossed her mind. Rebecca knew it had and she smiled again at her friend before turning to Ryan. He still wasn’t looking at her. It made her a little reluctant to speak to him, but she pushed the reluctance aside and did anyway, hoping Ryan had recovered enough from Gina’s onslaught.

“Would you like a lift?” she asked. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, playing with the strap of the back pack he had over his shoulder as he answered.

“Sure,” Was all he said. Rebecca felt the urge to say more, to apologise, but she fought it. Ryan Had been embarrassed enough and she didn’t want to make it worse, which she would if she lingered on it, so she just nodded and left it at that. She looked around and realised that Jack had left the group. He was walking away down the road. He wasn’t one for goodbyes.

“Later Jack,” Ryan called out after him. Jack waved over his shoulder, not looking back at them, as he headed for his mother’s car, which was parked a little way from Rebecca’s dad’s car. Rebecca watched him go, as she suddenly had the feeling that she’d forgotten to do something important. She shook it away and followed the other two to her dad’s waiting car.

Chapter 12

 

The green-robe clad woman watched as the three crossed the road and piled into the 4×4. Police was stamped on the side of the police issue 4×4, in yellow letters. She leant forward, her nose poking somewhat out of the bush she was standing behind. It was on the front girl. She could feel it. She could also sense the power.

His power.

It made her blood run cold and goose flesh appear on her arms. She wanted to run. To run as far and as fast as she could, but she couldn’t. Not now. Not after everything. She was late as it was. It would start tonight. It had taken her this long to find her.

No.

She would stay. She would do what she could. Whatever she could. Suddenly darkness appeared at the sides of her vision. Her sight began to blur. She closed her eyes, willing away the unwanted dark, but it would not leave. It took form behind her closed eyelids.

The form of a monster. A monster that used to be a man. A man she’d seen for months. The man she was here to stop, or at least try to stop.

No.

She had to stop him. She couldn’t fail. She just couldn’t. As suddenly as it had appeared, the darkness lifted. She opened her eyes again. The 4×4 was gone. She cursed her luck. She wouldn’t give up. She had found her. She was here. In this small town. She would find her again and she would do what she could.

Whatever she could.

Chapter 13

 

Jack threw the towel onto the hook next to the exercise bike before mounting it. He started peddling, tapping a few buttons on the console in front of him and the bicycle whirred to life.

He closed his eyes, letting the beat of the rock music that was playing in the background take control of the pace of the peddling. For the first time that day he felt normal. The thoughts of Justin, Rebecca and the others left his mind.

The music sank through his very pores as he took a deep breath and blew it out, peace filling his entire body, until he heard a noise.

Thunk.

He whipped his eyes open and looked around the converted garage that was his exercise room. The large, metal garage door stood on the wall in front of the exercise bike, and was still as closed as he’d left it. The dumbbell set was too his right, pushed up against the wall, and the punching bag was hanging from the roof close to the other wall. He listened closely for a few moments, trying to hear over the music, but he heard nothing, so, thinking he must have imagined it, he closed his eyes again, letting the music flow through him once more.

Thunk.

Jack’s eyes whipped open again. He knew he heard something that time. Frowning, he stepped off the exercise bike and walked over to the door. He grabbed the handle and pushed it up, sliding it open easily, before he stepped outside. The air had become slightly chilly as the sun had disappeared. He looked down at his watch. It was just after six. The sun had just gone down behind the mountains.

He blinked a few time, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the new darkness and, once they had, looked around for the origin of the noise. His parent’s house was about twenty feet away from where he stood. Most of the windows were lit up by lights inside. It looked peaceful. Nothing out of the ordinary.

He turned and looked at the walls of the exercise room itself. Painted a beige colour that had become increasingly dirtier over the years, it looked fine, exactly as he’d expected it to look. He walked a few feet and looked around side of the exercise room, but there was nothing there either. Only the faint outlines of trees in the distance he could just make out in the darkness. Shaking his head softly he turned back to the still open door, but he stopped before he took even one step.

There, illuminated by the light coming from inside the room, was a figure.

He was wearing a long black jacket that reached all the way to the middle of his shins and a wide brimmed circular hat that masked his entire face in shadow. Jack frowned. He didn’t remember his father owning a hat like that.

“Dad?” he said. The hat moved slightly from side to side. The figure was obviously shaking his head. Jack began to feel very nervous.

“Who are you?” He suddenly realized the figure had his right hand behind his back, which made him feel even more nervous. No answer came from the figure. He didn’t move.

“What do you want?”

Jack balled up his fists. He had a feeling he might have to fight this man. He was ready for a fight, but not for what happened next. A voice came out of the darkness hiding the figures face. A voice that froze Jack’s blood, turning him white as a sheet.

“Hey Jacko.”

Only one person had ever called him that. Only one person had that voice, but it couldn’t be.

“Just?” The figure lifted his chin slightly, tilting the hat and allowing light to flood over his face. It was him.

It was Justin Ripter.

Jack thought for a second he must be imagining the whole thing, so he closed his eyes tightly, but when he reopened them the figure that was his best friend was still standing there, as alive as he was.

“But… It can’t… You…” Jack stammered as words failed him. Ripter smiled and Jack felt a chill roll down his spine. The smile wasn’t friendly, not in any way. Instead it was cruel and deeply malicious. Jack swallowed hard, frozen on the spot, not sure what to do, or even what to think. Then Ripter moved.

He pulled his right hand out from behind his back, only his hand wasn’t there anymore. It had been replaced by a feature for death.

It glinted in the moonlight like the eyes of a cat, frightening, yet fascinating. The triangular blades reached down, away from his hand about eight inches, and up all the way to his elbow.

Jack’s mouth dropped open. He couldn’t move, he couldn’t even breathe. Ripter smiled again and it shook Jack enough for him to take a step back. Every impulse in his entire body told him to run, but he couldn’t do more than just step. Ripter saw it and lifted his claw towards him quickly. The grappling hook leapt from its resting place without a sound, shooting towards Jack, a chain of shining silver trailing behind it, somehow connected to Ripter’s dome-hand. As if it had a mind of its own, the hook swung sharply around behind Jack. It swung in a tight loop a few more times until it had wrapped itself tightly around Jack’s neck.

Jack fell to his knees from the excruciating pain, clutching at the chains digging into the skin that covered his neck, but he couldn’t even move a single link. It felt as though his lungs would burst as the chain tightened, cutting off all the oxygen he needed to survive.

Ripter walked forwards, slowly towards Jack, the chain contracting back into his arm as he approached. Jack’s eyes became bigger and bigger with each passing step. He knew what was coming. This monster. This misshapen, demonic version of his friend was going to kill him.

Tears began to flow down his cheeks as darkness began to surround his vision.

This is it. He thought. I’m dead.

Suddenly the chain loosened. Jack took the deepest breath he had ever taken in his life, choking slightly on it as he did. The pain was still excruciating, but the incredible pressure on his windpipe was gone. He looked up and saw Ripter standing over him, looking down at him. It wasn’t Justin’s face, not anymore. It wasn’t the face of a person, it was the face of a monster, and that was when Jack saw something that made him welcome death. It was the look in Ripter’s eyes. The pure hate that emanated from him. The kind of hate and inhumanness Jack thought didn’t really exist.

Tears ran down Jack’s face again as Ripter smiled and with one swift movement jerked the dome-hand backwards. The chain moved as if connected to an airplane engine. It ripped quickly across Jack’s neck, taking flesh and bone with it. Pulling his head completely off his shoulders.

The grappling hook sheathed itself neatly on the dome as Jack’s decapitated body remained still on its knees. The head had flown off with the force of the chain, but the body remained upright.

Ripter looked at it for a moment, amusement in his eyes, before the body went slack and crumpled to the floor. He continued looking at the sack of meat that used to be his best friend for another short moment before he stepped over it and walked, without a sound, into the darkness.

“One down.”

Chapter 14

 

Gina stared out the window in silence, sitting in the window seat she’d made her father install after she’d seen it in a Nicholas Sparks film. She didn’t feel right. She couldn’t explain exactly what was wrong. She just knew that she didn’t feel right.

Angela was lying on her bed, watching some soap opera she didn’t recognize on the 72 centimetre television in the corner. Angela was sleeping over because her parent’s were busy doing something. She had told Gina what, but she didn’t especially care, so she hadn’t paid any attention. She rarely listened to anything Angela said. She closed her eyes, feeling sleep begin to get the better of her, but it was a false alarm and she opened them again catching sight of the figure of a man standing in the street, looking back up at her.

She couldn’t see his face because it was shrouded by the shadow cast from a wide brimmed circular hat he was wearing, but for some reason she got the feeling that she knew him. She turned to her friend lying on the bed.

“Ang,” she said, “come and look at this.”

Angela didn’t pull her eyes away from the TV screen, enraptured with what was happening in the show.

“What?” she asked, not moving from her perch on the bed.

“Just come look,” ordered Gina. Grunting, her eyes not leaving the soap opera till the last second, Angela stood and waddled over to the window. She looked out into the darkness where Gina was pointing, but saw nothing.

“What?” Angela asked. Gina looked out the window again and realised that the figure she had seen moments earlier was gone.

Gina frowned. “There was someone down there,” she said. “Looking up at the window.”

Angela looked at her, a look of disbelief on her face.

“Sure there was.”

“Whatever,” Gina looked out the window again, annoyed at Angela for not believing her. She felt worse and couldn’t get the figure out of her mind. She pulled her knees up to her chest. Wrapped her arms around her legs, and shifted on the pink-cushioned bay-window seat she was sitting on.

Knock, knock, knock.

Gina jumped at the sound of the first knock, turning her face to the door and dropping her bare feet to the floor. Her heart was pumping hard in her chest as she lifted a hand to it too slow the organ down, feeling a bit silly about getting such a fright about one of her parents knocking on her door. After all who else could it be?

Angela looked over at Gina, but saw that she was making no move to check the door, instead sitting with a hand on her chest like someone having a heart attack. Angela rolled her eyes and rolled, sloth-like, off the bed before approaching the door. When she reached it she lifted her hand and touched the door knob, but it turned in her hand as the door opened in front of her. It opened as if in slow motion as Angela looked up. Her eyes went wide as she gasped suddenly and was lifted off the floor, as if an invisible force was pulling her off the ground by the back of her pink-satin pyjama top.

For a second Gina didn’t know what was happening. She frowned at Angela’s bare feet, inches off the ground, until she saw three slowly growing pools of red liquid on the back of Angela’s shirt. Suddenly the whole morose picture came into sharp focus. The same man she had seen in the street was now standing in her door way and he had stabbed Angela.

Gina wanted to scream, but no sound would come from her mouth. The man dropped Angela at his feet and looked straight at her. The eyes were vaguely familiar and totally terrifying.

Gina stood. She wanted to run, but he blocked the only exit from the room. She considered jumping out the window, so she turned and looked out the glass, but she realised she would never survive the drop to the pavement below. She was trapped.

She turned back towards the door and a whine escaped her lips as she realised that the man was now right in front of her. Her heart almost leapt from her chest. Her breathing was fast and shallow. She looked down at his hands, but instead of a right hand he had some kind of three-pronged claw. The claw he’d used to kill Angela.

He reached up and took her neck in his hand. His grip was warm, but not a pleasant type of warm, more like when you drink something to hot and it burns your tongue and cheek and everything else on the way down. It was the grip of death.

He pulled her closer to him until she could smell the putridity of his breath, and it was at that moment that she finally recognized the identity of her attacker. He was a dead man.

Her eyes widened as he pushed her with such force that her feet left the ground. She crashed threw the glass of the window and plummeted down onto the pavement below. The last thing she felt was worried. Worried about Rebecca. She wasn’t sure why, but she knew she got off easy compared to her, and that made her sad. A tear formed at the side of her eye, and then there was nothing.

Chapter 15

 

Ripter walked forward. He looked out the shattered window. Gina’s body was lying on the pavement below. Her leg twisted in a most unnatural way. A look of pure horror on her dead face, but a single tear ran down her cheek and fell to the ground.

He cocked his head to one side as he looked at the tear and the rest of her body. Idly he wondered who would cry for her. Her best friend was dead, her parents were both dead, her brother was dead, he’d killed them all on the way to her. He wondered if anyone would mourn the bitch that she had been.

Then he smiled. He was enjoying this more than he’d thought he would. He reached up with his good hand and readjusted the hat on his head before he turned and walked out the room, over Angela’s body. In the background one of the characters on the soap opera screamed.

Chapter 16

 

Without a single sound he moved through the door, up the stairs and into her bedroom. He looked at her sleeping in her bed. Her golden hair rustled around her head like a halo around the head of an angel. She was wearing white pyjamas which accentuated the feeling that she was divine. If he had had any feelings left he would have turned around and walked away, leaving her to sleep, peacefully, but any emotions he had died long ago. A year ago. When the bullets had riddled his body, prematurely ending his life, but now he was back and he was after revenge. Among other things.

Rebecca would be the last too suffer. The last too suffer for his revenge, anyway. After her many more would suffer. After her he could kill whomever he wanted. After her he would be alive. Alive forever.

He looked down to where his hand used to be. At first the grappling hook in its place had shocked him. It had filled him with fear, but now he was used to it, attached to it even, attached to the raw power of being a human killing machine. Well, almost human, more like an angel, or a demon.

Yes. Definitely a demon.

Chapter 17

 

Rebecca was stirred out of sleep by an uneasy feeling in the back of her mind. The fog of sleep still clouding her thoughts, she turned and opened her eyes. In front of her, looking down on her, was the figure of a man.

His face was masked in the shadow cast by a wide brimmed circular hat, but even so, she recognized him. She recognized the way he stood, the way he smelt. He was, after all, the man she’d loved.

“Justin?” she whispered, still half asleep. A small smile curling her lips up.

“Hey babe.” The answer out of the shadow. Just then the sun peaked over the window sill, flooding the room with light. Closing her eyes to the sudden onslaught of light Rebecca, now fully awake, sat up in bed, the covers falling from her chest, and looked back at the place the figure had been standing, but it was gone. There wasn’t a trace left to show it had ever even been there.

Rebecca looked around the room for anything to prove that he’d been there, that it had been real, that she wasn’t losing her mind, but there was nothing. He was gone, without a trace. The memories of the previous day ran through her mind. She thought about the cubicles, the crying, and the burn as she put her hand on her arm. He had been there yesterday, and he’d just been there again. She knew he had, and Rebecca suddenly felt very afraid.

*

The school seemed quieter than normal as Rebecca walked through the rear entrance the next morning. Stacey and Ryan were waiting by the chain link fence and from the looks on their faces, they felt it too. It was as if the school itself was sombre. Rebecca shook off the feeling. She had other things on her mind, like the previous day and that morning, so, without a word, they continued walking, around the corner at the end of the parking lot, and into the school grounds. Ryan left them first, turning into a corridor with a wave of his hand. Rebecca and Stacey both waved back, but for some reason neither of them said anything. The feeling of sombreness was suffocating them both, but they simply tried to ignore it. Up a staircase, along a corridor, down another staircase, and down another corridor they walked until, finally, they were standing outside Mrs. Michelle’s science lab. The rest of the class was already there, but the atmosphere here was different from the previous day as well. Instead of the usual chatting and laughing about what they’d done the day before, or finding homework for today they hadn’t done and needed to copy from someone, the entire class was standing in silence. Rebecca stopped in her tracks, seeing the unusual scene in front of her. Stacey stopped at her side at the exact same time. She’d obviously felt the same strange sensation, seeing the usually loud class, completely silent. Rebecca looked over at Stacey at the same time she looked back. Neither said anything, but the look spoke volumes. Something was definitely off, but neither of them knew what it was. Slowly they turned back to the class and continued walking until Rebecca noticed something. The annoying giggling that was had been emanating from behind her the previous day was missing, as were the scathing remarks that had been passed at her expense. The reason was because Gina and Angela were missing.

Rebecca thought this a bit strange, but secretly was glad for the respite, even if the two of them had to be sick for her to get it. She felt a little bit guilty about feeling that way, but not enough to stop her smiling. Stacey noticed the small smile.

“Noticed they’re missing huh?” Rebecca shot her a shut up look, but she just smiled as she turned back to the class. She and Rebecca took their place at the back of the group, both leaning against the railing as the second bell went and Mrs Michelle’s head appeared above the staircase she was climbing. Rebecca bent over and picked up the suitcase she’d placed on the ground at her feet, before she looked over at the oncoming Mrs Michelle. She looked completely distraught, her eyes puffy, her face red, she’d obviously been crying, and crying heavily.

Rebecca’s stomach lurched as it tightened into a tight ball. The woman had a look on her face that Rebecca hadn’t seen in a while. In a year to be exact. And she knew exactly what it meant before anyone even said anything. She clutched at Stacey’s arm. Stacey looked at her in alarm until she noticed the look on Mrs Michelle’s face as well, at that point she went very pale.

Mrs Michelle walked past the class to the door, the other children catching sight of the look on her face as she did. Puzzled looks appeared on theirs as Mrs Michelle opened the classroom door and walked inside, without a word. The children looked around at each other, not sure what to do, then one at a time, they all decided to enter the classroom. Rebecca and Stacey went in last. Moving quickly to their chairs. Rebecca couldn’t breathe. She knew what was coming, she was sure of it.

The classroom was deathly silent. No one dared say a word. It felt, for lack of a better word, like a funeral.

Rebecca looked at Mrs Michelle as she reached her chair. The teacher was already sitting at her desk, a tissue in her hand, wiping her eyes frequently. Again the children looked around at each other, not knowing what to do, all but Rebecca who had already taken her seat, afraid her legs wouldn’t hold her up. Slowly, one by one, the others followed her lead, sitting until the whole class was sitting in silence, looking at Mrs Michelle, who slowly looked up.

Her bifocals were placed on top of the desk and she looked completely different from the way she normally looked. Normally, she was fully in control. With one word she could put down a charging eighteen year old boy, but today she seemed old, frail.

She stood, looking, for a moment, as if her legs wouldn’t hold her weight, kind of how Rebecca felt, but somehow they did.

She looked around the class before clearing her throat.

“Class,” she began. Her voice was shaky. It broke as she tried to speak. Rebecca thought the old woman might break into tears at any moment. She was afraid she would do the same. “Something terrible has happened.”

Rebecca felt her stomach lurch even more, bile rising into her mouth. She knew that the something terrible had to do with Gina and Angela, and she knew what it was.

“Two of your class mates,” Mrs Michelle paused for a second, swallowing her tears back. “Gina Hart and Angela Van Langerveld…”

She couldn’t continue as she broke into soft sobs. It took a moment of deep breathing before she spoke again.

“They passed away last night.”

Shocked gasps rang out in the classroom. A couple of the girls sitting in the front started to cry. Rebecca closed her eyes. She knew the news was coming, the same way it had come a year ago when they class had been told about Harriet and Margie, the first girls on Justin’s log list, but hearing it out loud, confirming her suspicions made her ill to her stomach. Add to that the memory of being happy Gina and Angela weren’t there and more bile seeped into her mouth. She quickly swallowed it back, gagging a little as she did.

“So did someone not in our class. Some of you might have known him. Jack Stone.”

The words hit Rebecca like a sledge hammer to the gut. She whipped her eyes open and looked at Mrs Michelle, half convinced she’d heard her wrong. She looked over at Stacey. Her mouth was open wide and all the colour had drained from her face as tears filled her eyes and began to run down her cheeks. She’d started to cry. Rebecca was so in shock that she couldn’t cry. She just sat there looking at her friend as she lifted her hands to her face to cover her offending eyes. Rebecca’s mind went blank. She saw images of Jack from yesterday, from weeks before, from years ago, smiling and joking with Justin, and a tear fell from her eye. She tried to breathe, but it was hard, as if the news had taken the oxygen out of the room. She just sat there, looking at her distraught friend, and trying to breathe as more tears spilled from her eyes, running down her cheek.

Chapter 18

 

The initial shock of the news Mrs Michelle had delivered had worn off, but Rebecca and Stacey were still very shaken up. They were sitting in silence on a patch of grass outside the hall. They’d been sitting there for a while.

Mrs Michelle had told the students that classes had been cancelled for the rest of the day and that their parents had been called. Rebecca hadn’t actually heard her. She’d stopped listening after the news about the deaths. One of the other students in the class had told Stacey, and she’d, in turn, told Rebecca. Mrs Michelle had also told them that the police were on school grounds, and Rebecca knew that meant that her father was among them. He was a superintendent whom liked to be involved in everything, a very hands-on type of boss. So a lift home was out of the question. Ryan’s mom and dad both worked for the gold mine, the same as almost all of the parents of the kids they went to school with. Golden Plains was a mining town, an old fashioned mining town at that. It had been built around a gold mine in 1964, and the mine was still the biggest employer in the town. Ryan’s mom and dad worked management, so they had to wait until all the miners were out of the mine before they could leave, which could end up being rather late every night. That was the reason why he walked home with the girls every day.

Stacey’s mom also worked for the mine, but in a different department all together. She had agreed come and pick up the kids, after Stacey pleaded for around ten minutes on her cell phone, but they’d have to wait a little while until she could get off. So they’d been sitting on the grass, in silence, waiting for her to arrive. She was going to take them to Rebecca’s house because she had to go back to work.

Rebecca stared into nothing. She was over the shock of being told about the killings, and was now entering the need to talk about it phase. She’d spoken to her father not long ago, but he hadn’t told her anything.

That worried her. He told her everything, and if he wasn’t telling her everything, he must have had a good reason not to. The last time he’d kept something that involved his work from her was when he’d suspected Justin. Then she hadn’t been allowed to see any files, or look at any pictures, or even talk about it. Knowing that, and remembering all the times she’d seen Justin in the past couple of days, made her very nervous, but also a little curious.

“I wonder how they died,” Rebecca said. She was thinking it and hadn’t meant to say it aloud, but unfortunately she had, and Stacey had heard.

“Who cares?” Stacey said. Rebecca realized she’d voiced her thoughts, and immediately regretted it. She thought for a moment whether or not she should say anything else, but decided, since she’d already said something…

“It’s just,” she started, “my dad’s acting really strangely.”

Stacey and Ryan looked at her, puzzlement painted on both of their faces.

“Last time he acted like this was…” She trailed off. Not sure whether or not to tell them, but again, since she’d said this much already…

“When Justin was killed.”

The looks on their faces made Rebecca wish she had just kept her mouth shut.

“I don’t want to know how they died,” Stacey snapped. “And I don’t care if your father’s acting strangely. I don’t care if he’s dressing up in tutus and doing Swan Lake.”

“Sorry,” Rebecca knew how it made both Ryan and Stacey uncomfortable when she spoke about police matters, even more so when the police matters affected them directly. She thought carefully about her next words before saying them.

“I just need to know,” she said. “You know how I need to talk about everything.” Stacey seemed to calm down a little, well, she sighed deeply. Rebecca knew she knew her issues and accepted them.

“Yeah, I know,” she said. Rebecca smiled a little.

“Come on,” Ryan said. The two girls looked over at him, shocked by the tone of his voice. He was looking down at the ground, but looked up at them as he continued to speak.

“We’ve all heard the rumours,” he said. “They were killed. I heard that whoever did it, wiped out Gina’s whole family. Her mother, her father, and her brother before doing her and Angela.”

“That’s just a rumour,” said Rebecca. “We can’t be sure that’s true.”

She could tell he was angry and she didn’t blame him. He had been distraught when they’d met up with him in the quad after finding out about Gina, Angela and Jack. Jack had been a good friend of Ryan’s, especially after Justin’s death. The two of them had kind of hung onto each other for support. He was taking news of Jack’s death very hard.

“Maybe,” he replied. “Maybe not.”

His anger had subsided for the moment and again he sank into silence, looking back down at the floor.

The silence spread over the girls and for a long time none of them said anything. In the silence though, Stacey crept over to Rebecca and whispered in her ear.

“What if they were killed?” She was obviously trying to not let Ryan hear them. Rebecca knew she didn’t want to upset him, and neither did she.

“What do you mean?” Rebecca asked, also whispering.

“We know what yesterday was,” she replied. “You know what it could mean. What everyone is going to think.”

The figure cloaked in darkness, wearing his wide brimmed hat and brandishing his hook suddenly appeared in front of Rebecca’s eyes. He was gone again as quickly as he’d appeared.

“That Justin’s come back for revenge.”

Stacey leaned away from Rebecca, looking at her as if she’d gone mad. Rebecca suddenly felt really foolish.

“No.” Stacey said, concern covering her face. “I was thinking more along the lines of a copycat,” she paused for a moment. “Why? Do you think he has?”

Rebecca didn’t answer. She wasn’t sure what she thought, but whatever it was, she wasn’t ready to share, not yet, so she just looked away, and once again they fell into silence.

Chapter 19

 

Rebecca sat on the living room couch. Her socked feet up next to her as she paged through another celebrity magazine, not really paying any attention to it.

Stacey was sitting on the floor. Her back leaning against the couch Rebecca was sitting in. She was paging through an old issue of the same magazine Rebecca was reading, but she wasn’t really reading it either, instead she just paged through it, trying to get her mind off other things.

She, Ryan and Rebecca had left the school with her mother, who had dropped them off at Rebecca’s house, before going back to work. That was hours ago and they’d been there ever since. Pacing backwards and forwards, wasting time. They’d taken a slow walk up to Stacey’s house so she could get out of her school clothes, but that had only filled up about half an hour. When they got back to Rebecca’s house they’d tried to watch a movie, but lost the story line so many times that they’d eventually just gave up. That was when they’d picked up the magazines. The ones they had been reading for the past hour.

Ryan discarded his magazine, also an old copy of the same celebrity one the others were reading, and ambled into the kitchen. Rebecca wasn’t sure if it was to find food, or just in an attempt to keep occupied, though which was more important at the moment, she wasn’t sure.

He emerged minutes later, three cups of coffee and an assortment of biscuits in his hands.

“I raided the cupboards,” he said, placing the cups on the coffee table in the middle of the encirclement of couches. “Hope you don’t mind.”

Rebecca shook her head. She was thankful that he had. He placed the biscuits on the table next to the coffee before Rebecca and Stacey both took a few and started too munch. Ryan plonked down on the single-seated couch directly opposite the two seated one Rebecca was sitting in. He leant over to the free standing lamp next to the chair and switched it on before proceeding to nibble on the end of the biscuit he had in his hand. Rebecca suddenly realized that it had become rather dark in the living room.

She reached a hand over the back of the couch and flicked on the lamp that stood on the table behind it.

“What time is it?” she asked, looking over at Ryan. He was the only one out of the three of them who was wearing a watch. He looked at it and raised an eyebrow in surprise.

“It’s around half past six,” he replied. Rebecca looked from him to Stacey.

“Shouldn’t you guys be going home?” she asked.

Stacey raised an eyebrow, tilting her head to look back at Rebecca.

“Why?” she asked. “Trying to get rid of us?” Rebecca just smiled at the jibe. “We told our parents we’re sleeping over, remember?” Stacey continued. Rebecca had forgotten. That morning seemed like light years ago.

“Right,” she replied. Again silence fell on the room like a damp uncomfortable blanket. None of them knew what to say. Rebecca was grateful to have the biscuits to keep her mouth occupied so she wouldn’t have to talk. She finished the last of it before reaching to the coffee table in the middle of the group to retrieve her coffee. She sat back again in the couch and stared into the steaming liquid, blowing it gently.

She felt like there were eyes on her so she looked up and noticed Ryan watching her, a strange expression on his face, like he wanted to say something, but wasn’t sure he should.

“What?” she asked.

“Nothing,” he replied, looking away. Rebecca knew it wasn’t nothing, but wasn’t in the mood to push the issue, so she let it go and went back to her coffee, but moments later she got the feeling again and looked up again. Again Ryan was looking at her, the same expression on his face, only now it was more obvious. He really wanted to say something.

“What is it?” Rebecca asked, a little more forcefully this time.

“I was just thinking about the last time we did this,” he said. “Jack was sitting over there…” He trailed off, pointing to a spot next to Rebecca. “And now… You know.”

He looked away not finishing the sentence. His eyes welled up as he quickly got to his feet and left the room. Rebecca knew he didn’t want her to see him cry. It was a guy thing. She felt really bad for him, but knew she could do nothing, so she turned her attention back to the coffee.

“Poor Ryan,” Stacey said. Rebecca just nodded. “He’ll be okay,” she added.

“I hope so,” Rebecca replied. “I hope so.”

Silence fell over them again. It was broken by a sudden violent crash from the kitchen. For a second both Rebecca and Stacey froze before a terrifying thought popped into Rebecca’s head. Her blood went cold again.

“Ryan.”

Chapter 20

 

Rebecca sprung over the back of the couch, almost sending the lamp flying, as she then ran towards the door leading into the kitchen, Stacey close on her heels. When they reached the inside of the white tiled room they both froze. Ryan was kneeling down on the floor, muttering. There was broken glass and popcorn all over the place.

“I broke a bowl,” Ryan said without looking up. “Sorry.”

He picked up a couple of the larger pieces of broken glass and rose to his feet to throw them away, looking over at Stacey and Rebecca as he did, but he stopped in his tracks, obviously noticing the lack of colour in their cheeks. Concern covered his face as he quickly threw the pieces of glass into the rubbish bin and moved over to them.

“What’s wrong?” he asked. Rebecca couldn’t stop her hands shaking. Her whole body, in fact, was shaking, and it was a little hard to breath. She couldn’t speak either. All she could do was stand and stare at Ryan.

“We thought…” Stacey stuttered from behind Rebecca, she was shaking too, Rebecca could tell from her voice. Ryan frowned slightly at the two of them, then, suddenly, the light above his head came on and he understood. The crash, the killer, of course.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m fine.”

He placed a hand on Rebecca’s arm. She was still shaking, but the feeling of being complete distraught was slowly being replaced by a slight foolishness, it didn’t stop her throwing her arms around his neck though.

“I thought…” she didn’t finish the sentence. She didn’t need to. Ryan returned the hug, wrapping his arms around her. Moment later they both felt Stacey’s arms around them both. They both smiled as they broke the embrace.

“I’m really sorry,” Ryan repeated. “I didn’t think…”

“It’s not your fault,” Rebecca answered, not sounding like herself.

“We’re all a little on edge,” Stacey added. Ryan nodded, as did Rebecca. An uncomfortable silence fell over them as they looked at each other for a moment. Ryan broke it by looking back at the mess that remained on the floor.

“I better…” he motioned to the glass and Rebecca realised what he was talking about. She nodded.

“Thanks,” she said. He shrugged.

“My mess.”

Stacey rolled her eyes and walked out the room. Rebecca smiled again before following her out.

“That was fun,” Stacey said as she flopped into the chair Ryan had occupied earlier.

Rebecca smiled again, but there was something on her mind, and Stacey could tell.

“He’s fine,” she said. Rebecca looked back up, what Stacey said taking a moment to sink in. When it did she nodded.

“I know,” Rebecca replied, but there was still something behind the words.

“Then what’s wrong?” Stacey said again. Rebecca hesitated. She didn’t really want to say anything, but she knew her friend wouldn’t stop until she told her.

“I just thought…” Rebecca started. She looked at Stacey, who was trying to egg her friend on.

“You know…” Rebecca said.

“That Ryan had been hurt,” Stacey said. Rebecca pulled a face that told Stacey that wasn’t quite it.

“That someone had hurt Ryan,” she corrected.

“But he’s fine,” Stacey said.

“I know,” agreed Rebecca.

“So,”

“So, I thought someone had hurt him,” Rebecca emphasised the someone to get her meaning across, and from the way Stacey sat back in the chair a look of reproach on her face it did.

“You mean…” Rebecca nodded.

“The murderer?”

She nodded again.

“Why would he come here?”

“He’s already been here, twice, and he was in the bathroom at school.”

“Oh.” Stacey looked away. She obviously didn’t want to make eye contact with Rebecca. “You mean…”

“Justin.” Rebecca waited for the reply from Stacey, but it didn’t come. She was sure she knew what that meant.

“You think I’m crazy, don’t you?” Rebecca looked down as she said it. She was afraid she might be, even if Stacey didn’t think so.

“No,” Stacey said. She looked back up at Rebecca, only catching the top of her head.

“But…” Rebecca started, still not looking at Stacey. “The whole seeing Justin thing.”

“No,” Stacey said, a little more forcefully this time so Rebecca would believe it. “You are not crazy. You’re just going through a lot right now. People going through traumatic events sometimes see things. It’s nothing to worry about.”

Rebecca looked up at her. “You think I’m seeing things?”

Stacey’s mouth moved, but no words came out, she did shrug though.

“Great, so I’m not crazy, I’m just having hallucinations.”

“Well, what am I supposed to think?” Stacey asked. Rebecca didn’t answer. She just looked at her. “You tell me you’re seeing your dead boyfriend, walking around again, and then people start dying… Bec, I trust you, but…”

Rebecca closed her eyes as she looked away again. “I know,” she said. “I know how crazy it sounds, but it’s true. I’m sure of it.” She looked back at Stacey with such a look of pure hopelessness that Stacey had no choice but to believe her friend. She sighed.

“Okay,” she said. “So say you are seeing him, or…” She hesitated. “That he’s back. What does it mean?” They looked at each other for a long moment. Rebecca wanted to answer, but she couldn’t. She didn’t have an answer, and everything that popped into her head frightened her too much. She didn’t have to say anything though. It was as if Stacey plucked the most terrifying idea out of her head and gave it a voice.

“Do you think it’s what you said earlier?” she asked. “Revenge?”

Rebecca’s eyes lowered to the ground. It was exactly what she thought, but she really didn’t want to say it. Silence fell over them.

Ding dong.

Rebecca and Stacey both jumped as the doorbell rang. They looked at each other, but Stacey smiled at the foolishness of their fears. Rebecca returned the smile, and, not wanting to seem as foolish as she had in the kitchen, Rebecca slid off the couch and stepped onto the carpeted floor. She walked through the arch between the lounge and the entrance hall and stopped in front of the front door. She looked through the two long, vertical, frosted panes of glass standing on either side of a two inch wooden plank in the middle of the door, trying to make out the person on the other side. You could normally see through them, except when it was dark outside, like it was at that moment.

Looking into the darkness at an anonymous figure on the other side of the front door, Rebecca suddenly felt nervous, especially considering the conversation she and Stacey had just been having. The three of them were alone in the house and even if it hadn’t been Justin, even if she had imagined the entire thing, someone had killed Gina, Angela and Jack, and they were still out there somewhere. They could be outside her front door at that second, ringing her doorbell.

Stacey and Ryan walked through the lounge and stopped in the archway. They looked at the door, the back to Rebecca. From the looks on their faces they were obviously having the same thoughts as she was.

What should I do? Rebecca asked with a look. Stacey and Ryan both just shrugged, but their uncertainty was leaning towards backing away from the door and pretending no one was home.

Ding dong.

Rebecca wanted to do just that. Pretend she wasn’t there, but whoever was outside could see the lights and they knew someone was there, so she knew she had to do something. She summed up all her courage.

“Who is it?” she called out. Ryan and Stacey’s mouths dropped open. Calling out the person was obviously not what they would have done.

“I’m a friend,” a definitely female voice called from the other side of the door. “Please let me in.”

Uh-uh thought Rebecca as she looked over at Ryan and Stacey. They were both shaking their heads emphatically, obviously agreeing with the voice in Rebecca’s head. The voice obviously guessed what the reaction on the other side of the door was because she spoke again before Rebecca could reply.

“Please I want to help. It’s already dark. He’ll be here soon. You need to let me in!” the voice was getting more and more frantic with each passing word. Ryan and Stacey were still shaking their heads, but Rebecca wasn’t sure anymore. There was something in the tone of the voice. Something she couldn’t quite explain. Something that made her want to, need to, trust it.

“Who?” she called back through the door. Stacey and Ryan looked at her as if she’d just lost her mind, but she didn’t even look at them, she needed to know what the voice would say. “Who’s coming?”

“The man,” said the voice. “The man with the three blades.”

Rebecca’s blood ran cold. Her breath caught in her throat to such an extent that she thought she might pass out. She looked over at Ryan and Stacey.

Ryan was frowning deeply at what the voice was saying, looking at the closed door, he didn’t know about Justin’s new hand, but Stacey had a look of complete terror on her face. Rebecca had told her about the incident in the bathroom at school, and she hadn’t left out the three blades instead of a hand part. A thousand thoughts ran through Rebecca’s head.

“Please,” the voice came again. Even more agitated now. “We don’t have much time!”

Rebecca wasn’t sure, but for some reason she knew this was real and she knew that she could trust the person behind the voice. Without hesitation she stepped forward, took the handle in her hand, and turned it. The lock released as she did and the door swung open towards them.

In the opening stood a woman. She was in her late thirty’s, or early forties, old enough to be the kids mother, but she didn’t look like a mother any of them had seen before. She had fiery red hair and was wearing a flowing green robe-like dress, with gold and silver rings littering her fingers, at least three on each hand. She also had several bracelets on her right wrist and three chains around her neck, including a large wooden cross attached to a leather strap and a huge pentacle attached to a silver snake, similar to the gold one that hung around Rebecca’s own neck. Rebecca noticed definite dark rings under her eyes, like she hadn’t slept in weeks.

The lady surged forwards. She slammed the door closed behind her, scanning the opening just before she did. She then turned back to the kids.

Rebecca didn’t quite know what to make of this new addition to the group, but she took them all by surprise when she suddenly smiled at them. All at once the doubt Rebecca was feeling melted away. It was a real smile, a genuine one, like the one you’d expect Santa to give the little girl who caught him on Christmas Eve.

Bu it didn’t last as the woman’s face became as serious as a heart attack, returning the sick feeling Rebecca had had earlier in the day to her stomach.

“My name is Martika,” she said. She looked from Rebecca to the others in turn. “And we’re all in grave danger.”

Chapter 21

 

The aging detective peered out the window of the car towards the house across the street. He could see silhouettes through the window of the people moving around inside the house.

Restlessly he ran a hand through his thinning blonde hair.

“Twenty years on the force and we’re stuck doing babysitting,” he said, puffing on the cigarette in his mouth in frustration. He blew a lungful of smoke out the window in an annoyed gust. His older African partner looked over at him.

“It’s not babysitting,” he said, swallowing a mouthful of coffee out of the disposable MacDonald’s cup before continuing. “She’s the superintendent’s daughter.”

The detective looked at his partner. The disdain of their present assignment was obvious on his face.

“I don’t care if she’s the damn president’s only daughter,” he spat. “This is still babysitting duty.”

His African partner opened his mouth to argue, but then thought better of it. His partner’s mood made it obvious arguing would be pointless, even if the superintendent had a good reason for them to be watching the house. He was afraid that the killings of the previous night were somehow connected to the Justin Ripter murders of a year ago, since all the victims had known the boy.

The superintendent was worried about his daughter because of her close relationship with the Ripter boy. The detective had disagreed and that was why he was stuck doing baby sitting duty.

His partner raised his hands in surrender, not saying a word. The detective sank into the car’s driver’s chair, sulking. He took another drag of the cigarette before flicking the sub out the open window.

His partner smiled to himself, careful not to let the detective see, as he looked past him out the window towards the house.

His eyes suddenly went thin as he looked closely at the house. He could swear he saw a shadow, something moving towards the house.

“Partner,” he said, pointing in the direction of the moving vacancy of light. The detective turned his head to look out the window where the pointed finger of his partner was pointing at the silhouette of a woman with fiery red hair creeping towards the front door. She was looking behind herself every second or third step as if expecting someone to be there. He recognized her immediately. He should after the stink she’d caused the previous day at the police station. She was a loon, but not a dangerous one. Besides, there was no way she could have killed that kid’s father, not the way he’d been done in. Without taking his eyes off her, his partner reached for the door handle.

“Let’s check it out,” he said, turning the handle, and releasing the catch that held the door in place.

“Let’s not,” the detective replied not moving. His partner looked over at him, puzzlement on his face.

“You know something I don’t?” he asked. The detective flashed a smile.

“Do you have to ask?”

His partner didn’t find this amusing.

“About the girl?”

The detective’s smile broadened.

“Yeah,” he replied. “She was in the station yesterday. Claims she knows who’s killing these kids.”

“Yeah?” his partner responded. “Who?”

“Justin Ripter. Back for revenge.”

He was answered by silence from his friend. He looked over at him and was greeted with an obvious look of mocking.

“Hey,” the detective exclaimed, “I didn’t say it, she did. We threw her out, crazy old bat.”

“Okay so she’s nuts,” his partner said, looking back at the detective. “But don’t you think her going in there, and telling those kids that Ripter is alive again might cause a panic or something?”

“I guess,” the detective shrugged. He knew his partner was right. He just didn’t want to have to deal with that crazy woman again. Besides, there was no way the kids who survived Justin Ripter the first time would let some strange woman into their house, especially with these killings going on, right? He looked over at the house, expecting to see the woman creeping away, but the front yard was empty. There was no sign of the woman.

“Where’d she go?” the detective asked. His partner was also looking at the front door, also not seeing the woman in green.

“Maybe she went inside?”

The detective looked over at his partner.

“You think a girl who lived through the whole Justin Ripter thing would just let some strange chick into her house?”

His partner shrugged.

“Kids.”

The detective turned reluctantly towards the driver’s side door.

“Damn it.” He pulled on the handle, opening the door as his partner smiled, doing the same on his side of the door.

That was when the detective heard the crash. He whipped his head around towards the cause of the commotion as shards of glass flew towards his face. He lifted a hand to protect his eyes before looking up, looking for the cause of the flying glass. He immediately saw the broken window on his partner’s side of the car. He couldn’t tell what had broken it, only that it was shattered.

“Partner…” he started, but then he stopped. He could tell something was horribly wrong. His partner was staring out the windscreen, but not seeing anything. His eyes were dead and his mouth was hanging open.

The detective knew something was horribly wrong with his partner, but from where he was sitting in the driver’s chair, he couldn’t tell what. He shifted forward in his chair, looking around his partner to see the window better and see what happened to the man. That was when he saw something metal sticking out of the side of his partner’s head, but the second he saw it, it ripped out of the man’s head and flew back out the broken window. The now very dead man flopped forwards onto the dash board, half his face missing.

It took the detective a second to move after the shock of seeing his partner’s dead body, but when he did he almost pushed the door on his side of the car off its hinges opening it. He bolted out the car, pulling his sidearm out of the holster he carried on his belt, and lifting the 9mm berretta up in front of his face. He swung his arms over the roof of the car, pointing the gun in the direction the metal thing flew out of the car, and looking for where, whatever-it-was, had vanished to, and who was behind it.

Then he saw him, standing in the front yard of the house directly across from the house the detective was watching. He was wearing a long black coat and his face was hidden by a wide brimmed circular hat on his head. The detective’s eyes dropped down the man’s body and he saw, what looked like, knives of some kind in his right hand. They were dripping blood onto the grass at his feet, turning the normally green plant black in the moonlight.

The detective aimed the weapon right at the man’s chest, engrained police training taking control of his body.

“Police!!” the detective shouted, not taking his eyes off the man’s chest, what he considered his bull’s eye.

“Throw away your weapons and put your hands up.”

The man didn’t move. The detective knew that the man was looking at him, even though he couldn’t see his face. He also knew he’d heard him, the whole street had heard him, but he still didn’t move.

“I won’t tell you again!” he warned, his grip tightening on the pistol’s grip. Then the man lifted his head slightly, allowing light from a nearby street light to illuminate part of his face, and the detective saw him smile. It was a smile the detective recognized. A smile he’d seen a year ago, at the shooting of a child killer. A smile that was supposed to be dead.

The detective’s blood ran cold as shock took control of his body. It can’t be he thought. He’s dead. For a second the detective’s grip loosened on the gun, but it was more than long enough for Ripter. In one fluid movement he jerked his right arm up to shoulder level and the blades flew at the detectives face. The detective saw the blades flying at his face, but it happened so quickly that he could do nothing but wait until they hit. I’ll be damned he thought. The crazy woman was right. Then there was blackness.

Chapter 22

 

Ripter looked at the blades nestled neatly on the dome that had replaced his right hand. They glistened red. Soaked in blood. The blood of the two police officers he had just disposed of. He smiled his cruel smile. Looked over at the bodies. They elated him. As much as he could be elated being void of human emotions.

He turned. Looked up towards the door of the house. The house the policemen had been watching.

It began to open. He knew it was her. Coming to investigate the screams. He could sense it.

His smile broadened. Then, as if a shadow that was never really there at all, he was gone. Now he would have what he wanted.

Now.

Chapter 23

 

“Who is he?” Rebecca asked. She was standing in the entrance hall, Ryan and Stacey on her left still in the arch between the lounge and the entrance hall. All three were still looking at the red haired woman, standing just in front of the front door. She was trying to look through the frosted windows in the door every few moments, as if she expected to see someone lurking out there, which she did.

She turned back to the three friends before looking Rebecca right in the eyes.

“You know who he is,” she said. Rebecca felt a chill run down her spine as she looked, wide eyed, at the woman. Could this woman be talking about Justin? Could she know?

Rebecca cast a glance over at Stacey. She was cast a glance back at her and, from the look on her face, Rebecca could tell she was thinking the same questions she was thinking herself. Ryan just stared at the red haired woman, a look of part confusion, part annoyance. Rebecca was sure the annoyance had no small part to do with the fact that she’d let the woman into the house at all.

“What are you talking about?” he asked.

Martika turned her head to look at him, standing in the archway, but she didn’t answer, instead she turned back to Rebecca.

“He killed the others,” she said. “All of them.”

Rebecca felt her hands begin to shake, the sick feeling return to her stomach as it twisted.

“He killed Jack,” Ryan spurted. Again Martika looked at him, but still didn’t answer.

Rebecca didn’t look at him. She was looking at Martika, the feeling growing in her, trying to sense from the woman if she was for real, or full of it. She was terrified because every bone in her body was telling her she was for real, and when Martika looked back at her she felt bile enter her mouth. She had a look on her face which was a mixture of fear and pity, and they were both aimed at her.

“And now he’s coming here,” she finished.

“Who!” Ryan shouted at the red haired woman. She was obviously taken aback for a second, looking at him like he was insane, but she regained her composure quickly. She understood how hard this was on them. It was just as hard on her. She looked from one face to another, like she had when she first entered the house, only this time she didn’t smile, and the look of fear and pity was shared with the others in the house

Rebecca knew Martika was about to tell them what she already knew, but she wished she wouldn’t. As long as the woman didn’t say it out loud she could still try and convince herself that it wasn’t true. She closed her eyes and tried to block out what the red haired woman said, but it was no good. The name rang through her ears as she said it, making it all real

“It was Justin Ripter.”

Chapter 24

 

Rebecca slowly opened her eyes. She looked at the woman, whose gaze had settled back on her. She wasn’t crazy. She hadn’t imagined it. Part of her was glad about it, glad that she wasn’t crazy and wasn’t going to be taken away by guys in white coats, but part of her wished she was. It would be a lot easier to explain it that way. What did it mean now that Justin was back? How was he back at all?

She was jolted out of her thoughts by Ryan’s sudden burst of laughter. It wasn’t his usual solemnly amused laughter. It was a lot more sarcastic than Rebecca had ever heard him. She looked over at him. He was looking at Martika and didn’t even notice the look on Rebecca’s face. If he had, he might have known what the woman was saying was true, and then he may not have laughed.

“Is this some kind of joke?” he asked. There were obvious tones of anger in his voice. “Do you have any idea what we’ve been through, what she’s been through?”

He looked over at Rebecca and saw the look on her face. His changed from anger to shock as the look on her own face gave away her belief in the woman.

“Come on,” he asked. “You don’t believe her.”

He pointed at the red haired woman as he said it, as if accusing her. She had a calm look on her face. Rebecca could tell that this reaction wasn’t entirely unexpected.

“Justin is dead. He’s gone.” He looked back at Martika. “She’s just some crack pot.”

Rebecca waited for logic to sweep over her, for the absolute truth that she knew that Justin was dead to reach into her mind and do away with the thoughts she was having, but the sweep never came. She looked back at Martika and she knew, she simply knew, that the woman was telling the truth, that Justin was back and that they were in serious trouble. She looked back at Ryan. He still had the same incredulous look on his face, but she couldn’t be swayed, and he could tell. He opened his mouth to say something, to try and convince her of the woman’s obvious insanity, but Martika cut him off before he could.

“You’ve seen him,” she said.

Rebecca looked back at Martika as Ryan closed his mouth and looked at the woman too. He looked in half a mind to laugh and half a mind to pick her up and throw her out. Rebecca looked scared, the way the woman spoke. It was as if she knew already. As if she’d been there.

“Yes,” Rebecca whispered. Now Ryan looked at her like she was the insane one. His forehead was a deep frown and his mouth was hanging open. Stacey looked away. Rebecca had told her everything, but she could tell that Stacey hadn’t believed her. She wasn’t sure that she believed her, even now.

“It was him,” Martika implored. This drew Rebecca’s attention back to the red haired woman standing on front of the door. “He’s come back to exact his revenge.” She looked away from Rebecca’s face to the amulet sticking out the top of the pink JT Rebecca had thrown on. “And to take back what is his.” She extended her finger towards the golden amulet. Rebecca placed her hand over it, a thousand more questions popping into her head, but they were pushed aside by the sound of breaking glass from outside, which was followed quickly by shouting, and then silence.

Without thinking Rebecca walked over to the door to see what was going on, but Martika moved quickly between her and her destination.

“Don’t go out there,” she said. Rebecca looked directly into her face and saw that the fear behind her eyes had grown into pure terror. She was feeling it as well, but there was something else. She didn’t want to go outside. Every fibre in her body told her not to, but, somehow, she needed to. She couldn’t explain why. It was as if some force from outside was bidding her to go. A force she couldn’t resist. She looked away from the red haired woman’s face, shoved past her to the door and turned the handle.

Chapter 25

 

Rebecca didn’t step outside the building, but she did look out through the now open door on the night around her. At first she wasn’t sure what she was looking for. It looked like a normal evening on the street where she’d lived for her whole life. She could see the rusty red bricks that made up the paving of the path leading to the road, and the black tar that made up the road. Deep and perilous like a black pool in the moon light. She looked around and saw a light blue car parked across the street. It was with that car that the normalcy ended.

The passenger side window was smashed and she could see a man sitting in the front seat on that side. His face was resting on the dashboard and he wasn’t moving. Rebecca wasn’t sure if he was alive or dead, but from his stillness she was sure it was the latter. The driver’s door was standing wide open, but there was no sign of the driver.

She looked up and down the road from the doorway looking for sign of whoever had been driving the car, but there was no sign. Then she noticed the stream of black liquid flowing out from under the car. The most of it was emanating from under the car, but there were several, separate, smaller pools strewed out across the road. She squinted her eyes as she looked closer. She couldn’t tell what it was, but she knew it wasn’t part of the road, and it wasn’t water either. Her eyes glanced on the man in the car again and she knew in a second that it was blood. Again her stomach contracted.

“Let’s go back inside,” Ryan’s words were more a plea than a statement or an order. Rebecca wanted to go inside. She even tried to turn around, trying to follow the sounds of her friend’s footsteps leading deeper into the house, but again something inside her made her stop, something that told her to go towards the car, and something she couldn’t fight. Slowly she took a step out of the house and started walking, just as slowly, away from the house, down the path, and towards the scene that surrounded the light blue car. It took a moment for Stacey, Ryan and Martika to notice that she’d stepped from the house, but when they did they turned in unison and moved quickly to the door, though none of them stepped outside.

“Rebecca?” Ryan called after her. She wanted to turn, wanted to call out to him, to get him to run after her and pull her back into the house, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t scream. She couldn’t run. She couldn’t do anything besides walk towards the car. She moved slowly, obviously there was a little of her still inside, fighting to go back in the house, to stop moving, but still, steadily, her feet pushed her forward towards the road.

She heard hesitant footsteps behind her as she knew Ryan and Stacey had moved out of the house, trying to stop her, but she was too far ahead for them to do anything, unless they ran, and from the sound of their footsteps they were moving as slowly as she was. She prayed they would start running and stop her before she got to where she was heading, but she knew it was already too late, and seconds later she was standing behind the car. She took another step, up onto the pavement on the far side of the road, and turned. She had no idea why she was there or what she was looking for, but she couldn’t move. Then she glanced downwards and she saw him. The detective.

His face had been minced like someone had taken a grinder to it. The features you would normally see on a face were missing. His nose, his lips, all the skin that covered his face was just gone. Blood pooled around his head as he lay on the grass, so much so that it flowed under the car, like a stream down the face of a mountain, mixing with the blood pouring from the bottom of the car door. Rebecca looked at the car again and saw the other man’s head was also almost missing, as if someone had shoved something into it and then pulled it out again really quickly, leaving a hole. The sight in the car, added to the sight of the detective was too much for Rebecca, she dropped to her knees and dry heaved into the grass. She didn’t throw up, but she felt as if she wanted to. When she was done she stayed there, eyes closed, breathing hard, she could feel tears flooding her eyes, and the familiar tightening in the back of her throat. She wanted to get up and run back to the house, and she suddenly found that maybe she could. She started getting to her feet when she heard it. Breathing. It was coming from right behind her as if someone was standing so close they would touch her back and breathe into her ear.

Her first instinct was that it belonged to one of the others, her friends who had followed her from the house, but it wasn’t right. The breathing didn’t sound right. It was long and shallow, with a calm disassociation about it, like it didn’t care about the world. And it was cold. An eerie kind of cold which could freeze you to your bones, the kind that would turn the bravest man’s knees to jelly.

Rebecca slowly stood and, even more slowly turned. The first thing she noticed was the hat. It was big, black and circular, casting his entire head in shadow. Then, just below it, his eyes burned like coals, burning coals that were letting off light and heat all by themselves. There was something very not human about them. They might have been human once, but now there was something sinister about them, something evil, but even so she knew them. She knew them because that face, those eyes, were burned into her memory forever.

Ripter flashed his ex-girlfriend a smile that sent goose bumps down her flesh.

“Hey babe.”

Chapter 26

 

Again Rebecca couldn’t move. Again she wanted to, she wanted to run screaming back to the house and away from what was happening in front of her eyes, partly because she was scared out of her mind, and partly because she thought she might simply be out of her mind. She was seeing her dead boyfriend standing in front of her after all.

It was real. He was real. She knew that much. It was really Justin, but at the same time it wasn’t. She could tell he wasn’t the same, not the man she had loved a year ago. It was his eyes that gave him away. When she’d known him his eyes had been fantastic. They were blue and sparkling and inquisitive and incredible, but now there was something wrong with them, something inhuman, malicious. Something that scared her more than the knives instead of a hand ever could.

He lifted his good hand and reached for her neck.

He’s going to kill me. She thought.

His fingers touched her skin. They weren’t cold like she’d expected, but warm like he’d been holding his hand over a fire.

It felt strange against the cold wind of the night and the colder touch of his breath that she could still feel on her cheek.

Rebecca waited for the fingers to wrap around her neck. For them to choke the life out of her, or maybe jerk the life out of her, twisting her head in such a way as to snap her spine, but it never came.

Instead he took the amulet in his fingers and gazed into the jewel. It was as if he was a small child and the amulet was his very first Christmas present.

Rebecca felt all her strength begin to leave her body, as if she’d just run a long race and had none left. Her mind was taken back to the first time she’d looked at the amulet, when Justin had first given it to her. She’d had the same feeling then, as if her soul was being sucked from her body.

Darkness surrounded her vision as she felt her knees begin to go limp. Then she heard something. Ryan. He was shouting at her, telling her to get away from the man.

All at once her strength returned to her body and her eyes snapped back into focus.

Quickly she stepped back, moving away from the darkness clad man. He looked at her, his hand still lifted where he’d been holding the amulet. He was clearly stunned by her sudden movement. In the shadow that engulfed his face she could just make out the frown that creased his features. He took a step forward towards her, but as he did she took another step back.

He froze, starring at her, the confusion apparent on his face. Rebecca began to feel a little confused to.

Why was he so befuddled by her moving away?

But as the thought crossed her mind the look on his face changed from confusion to a dark determination. Immediately she knew what he was about to do.

He took a step forwards, lifting his arm to grab her throat this time, but she was ready. She dodged to the side, avoiding his grip before she turned and ran towards the house. She could hear his footsteps just behind her, could feel the wind of his arms sweeping behind her trying to catch her as she ran.

She looked up towards the house. Stacey and Martika were standing completely still a few feet from the open front door. Terror was written all over their faces, but Ryan was moving towards her.

He ran straight past her and slammed into Ripter. Rebecca stopped running and turned as the two of them hit the floor in a pile of bodies, rolling for ten feet before coming to a stop both of them lying on their backs. Ryan crawled awkwardly to his feet and hobbled back towards Rebecca, obviously having hurt his leg. He reached Rebecca quickly and she helped him, putting his arm over her shoulder to get him inside, but as she glanced up again, seeing how far Ripter had comes she saw him standing looking at the two of them, as if the impact with Ryan had never even happened.

He had watched the injured young man limp towards Rebecca, a cruel smile on his face the whole time, and now he was watching as Rebecca helped Ryan stand. They both froze on the spot, looking at the monster, waiting for his next move, and it came quickly. He jerked his right arm up towards them, the blades, set in terrible triangle around his wrist, flying forwards towards Ryan, suspended from Ripter’s arm by a metal chain.

Without thinking Rebecca stepped in front of Ryan. The blades were now flying straight at her face.

She wanted to close her eyes, but she was transfixed on the metal weapons flying at her, so instead she just stood there, watching the blades get closer and closer.

Then they stopped, millimetres from her face, and fell to the ground. She watched them fall before looking up at the man who’d thrown them. The smile was gone. He was staring at her with hatred seeping from his eyes.

He jerked his arm back and the chain began to retract back through the dome, into his arm. Rebecca watched as link after link vanished into the dome before she turned. She looked to where Ryan should be standing, but she was missing. She looked over and saw him being pulled to the front door. Stacey and Martika had their shoulders under his arms helping him towards safety. It was then that she realised that he, Stacey and Martika were all shouting for her to get in the house. She took off running after them towards the open door and reached it as the others got inside. Quickly she turned, seeing Ripter moving towards them. Rebecca slammed the door as he reached it, but she felt the impact on the other side of the door as Ripter slammed into it. She lent her full weight against the wood, trying to stop him getting in, but she knew it wouldn’t hold for very long as she felt the monster that used to be her boyfriend pelting against it on the other side.

Stacey, Ryan and Martika joined her all leaning their weight against the door to help, but even with the weight of all three of them against the door they could feel it starting to give way.

“We can’t hold him,” Martika shouted over the thumping of Ripter hitting the door.

“He’s just one guy,” Ryan shouted back. “Sure he’s a freak, but he’s still just one guy.”

A freak? Rebecca thought, then she realised, he hadn’t seen Justin’s face. He didn’t know it was him.

“Surely the three of us can hold it,” he added.

“He’s not a normal man,” Martika replied. “Just our strength will not hold him out. I can do it, for a time, but I need time to prepare.” Ryan frowned at the woman, but none of them had time to explain.

“Then we should move,” Rebecca shouted. She left the door and ran over to the desk standing against a wall in the entrance hall. As quickly as she could she pushed the obviously heavy desk towards the door.

The others saw what she was doing and one by one they moved away from the door, allowing her to place the desk in front of it.

Once it was done they stepped back. The banging hadn’t ceased and the desk was edging away from the door with each hit.

“That won’t hold for long,” Rebecca said, watching it move as Ripter hit the door again.

“I need somewhere with only one entrance, and not too many windows,” Martika said, also watching the desk move. Rebecca thought for a moment.

“The bathroom,” she said, looking at Martika. The red haired woman looked back and nodded before Rebecca looked at the others. Ryan was looking at them all very confused. She could tell that he didn’t quite know what was going on, and why they were acting the way they were acting. He opened his mouth to say something, but Rebecca cut him off.

“Ryan, please,” she started. He closed his mouth. “I’ll explain everything in a minute, but right now we need to go. Please.” Rebecca could tell that he wasn’t happy with the deal, but he nodded and followed Stacey and Martika who had already moved through the door leading to the bathroom.

Rebecca took one last look at the door, the table move than a few inches away now. She pushed it back, delaying the inevitable, before she ran into the bathroom after the others. As soon as she was inside Martika slammed the door shut. She then knelt down in front of it and started chanting something that sounded like a mixture of French and Klingon as she pulled out some herbs from a bag she was wearing, concealed under her robes, and proceeded to rub them into the wood of at the door. Stacey, Rebecca and Ryan looked at the woman. Stacey wasn’t sure what to think, Ryan looked like he was in the Twilight Zone and trying to find the exit. Rebecca thought about trying to explain to them, but knew she couldn’t really, and this wasn’t the time anyway. Ripter could be on them at any second.

The herbs gave off a sickeningly sweet smell, taking Rebecca’s mind off of Ryan and Stacey as they made her gag, but it was a feeling which passed quickly, for a feeling of complete nausea as she heard the front door splinter.

Marking the entry of Ripter.

Instinctively Rebecca stepped backwards, away from the bathroom door, and right onto Ryan’s foot. He yelped and sprung out of the way, landing on Stacey foot, who also yelped, moving aside to avoid him and banging her elbow on the toilet.

There was hardly enough space for one person in the small, immaculately white bathroom, let alone the four of them. Rebecca began to think hiding in the room hadn’t been the best idea, but as soon as she’d had the thought something caught her eye that made any rational thinking go out the window. The door had begun to glow. It was a dull red glow at first, but then it got stronger and brighter until it was almost as white as the bathroom. Rebecca had to avert her eyes it became so bright.

“What the hell?” she heard Ryan say, but no one answered him as the glow suddenly stopped, gone as if it never happened at all. That was when Rebecca noticed the banging on the other side of the door. It seemed soft, as if it was coming from far away, like the door was made out of two feet of steel and someone was banging on it with a rock hammer.

“What did you do?” Rebecca asked. Martika stood and turned look at her.

“It’s a barrier spell,” she said. “It’ll hold him,” She looked back at the door. “For a few hours anyway. It should be long enough.”

“Long enough For what?” Rebecca asked. Martika turned back to her.

“The sun to rise,” she answered.

“Great,” replied Stacey. “So he can see us in the sunlight when he kills us.” Rebecca’d had the same thought.

“No,” Martika replied. “All we need to do is wait until sunrise. He’ll be gone at sunrise.”

“Why is he part vampire?” Stacey asked plonking down on the toilet seat.

“No,” Martika replied. She was trying to remain patient, but it was becoming increasingly obvious that Stacey’s comments were wearing thin. “The magic that bought him back only brings him back at night.”

“Magic?” Ryan asked. “What the hell are you talking about? What happened to the door? Bought who back, Justin? What happened to the door? Magic?” The words ran out of his mouth like a runaway train. He had seen things in the last few minutes that were beyond comprehension and explaining, but his mind was trying to rationalise them anyway. Martika looked at him. She still remained calm. Rebecca could tell that she’d dealt with this type of reaction before. She took a step forward.

“Yes,” she said. “Magic. Justin is the person who’s come back, he wants to kill you and your friends, and me now that I’ve helped you.” Rebecca noticed the woman had her hand in the bag again as she spoke. She frowned. Ryan opened his mouth. It was obvious he was going to argue, or scream, or try and climb out the small frosted glass window that was above his head, Rebecca wasn’t sure which, but it was obvious he wasn’t happy about what was going on, but before he could do anything Martika pulled a pinch of some of the herbs from her bag and blew them softly into Ryan’s face. Stacey and Rebecca were both shocked by her action as she Ryan’s eyes flittered and he slumped to the ground.

“What did you do?” Stacey shouted as she shuffled around to get to him.

“It’s just to keep him calm,” Martika replied. “He’ll be fine in a few minutes.” Stacey bent down over Ryan and Rebecca looked at Martika for a moment before crouching down herself. Ryan was breathing heavily, as if in a deep sleep. Rebecca looked back at the woman.

“Why…”

“He was about to freak out,” she replied, knowing what the question was before it was asked. “I had to calm him down.” Rebecca didn’t like it, but she understood. Stacey, however, was pissed. She stood, right in the woman’s face.

“What on earth do you think you’re doing?” she shouted. “You can’t knock people out like that. It’s like…” She racked her brain for the description she was looking for. “Date rape.” Rebecca could see Martika’s hand back in the bag and decided to quickly intervene, or have two unconscious friends. She stood and got between Martika and Stacey.

“She did the right thing,” she said to Stacey. She looked at Rebecca with an open mouth. “We all need to be calm, we have more important things to worry about.” She motioned to the door with her head. Stacey suddenly remembered the knocking still coming from outside the bathroom and nodded, though she was still happy. She shot Martika a death glare before turning back to Ryan and kneeling again. Rebecca turned back to the woman.

“And you,” she said. Martika was obviously a little taken aback by Rebecca’s tone, but it couldn’t be helped, she was annoyed as well. “Thank you for your help, but don’t knock out my friends. What if Justin gets in here?” Martika opened her mouth to argue, but subsequently closed it again. After a moment she nodded.

“Alright,” she said. “I’m sorry.” Rebecca nodded softly. She looked down at Stacey and Ryan before looking back at the woman.

“Now,” she started. “What is going on?”

“Before we get into that,” she said as she pulled a few of the herbs out of the bag again. Rebecca immediately raised her hand to her face, expecting to be knocked out like Ryan. Martika immediately realised Rebecca’s concern and stopped.

“Sorry,” she said. “They’re not for that.” Rebecca hesitated, but then dropped her hand enough to speak.

“What are they for?” she asked.

Martika pointed at the gold poking out from her pink top. “That.” Rebecca frowned as she dropped her hand. “The feeling you had earlier,” the red haired woman continued. “Like you couldn’t control yourself?” Rebecca nodded. “It came from that.” Rebecca’s frown deepened. She opened her mouth to speak, but Martika cut her off as she moved forward and rubbed the herbs on the amulet after pulling it free from its cover behind the shirt. The same sickly sweet smell Rebecca had sensed from the door wrinkled up her nose. “He has a certain amount of control on you with this. The herbs will counteract it. Sort of.”

“Sort of?” Rebecca asked. Martika looked at her before she shrugged sympathetically.

“I’m not sure how effective it will be, but it’s better than nothing, right?” Rebecca wasn’t sure how to respond, so she simply nodded. Martika finished applying the herbs and stepped back. Rebecca wasn’t sure what to say, or do.

“Thanks,” was all she could think of. Martika smiled.

“Of course.”

“What are we doing?”

They both turned at the voice, which belonged to Stacey. She was kneeling on the floor, by the still unconscious Ryan, and looking up at them. “We can’t stay in here forever.”

“We don’t need to,” replied Martika. “Like I said he’ll be gone at sunrise.”

“Okay,” said Stacey. “So all we need to do is meet at Rebecca’s house every day at sunset so we can hide in the bathroom. For the rest of our lives.” She emphasised the last sentence in her usual dramatic way, but there was real fear behind the drama.

“No,” replied Martika.

“Why? Do you have a better bathroom for us?” Again the sarcasm was wearing on Martika, Rebecca could tell, but Martika stayed calm. Her hand did flitter past the bag though.

“No,” she reiterated. “The magic that brought him back only works for three nights exactly a year from his death. The day before he died, the day he died and the day after. Three nights.”

“So we only have to meet for two more night,” Stacey said partly sarcastically, partly stating fact.

“No,” Martika repeated. “This is second night already.”

“Gina, Angela and Jack.” The names tasted sour on Rebecca tongue as she said them. Stacey looked away, so did Martika.

“Yes,” was all she said.

“So,” Stacey started. “If he gets through that door before the sun rises…” She didn’t finish the thought, but Rebecca and Martika knew what she was going to say, and she knew that it was true. If the barrier didn’t hold, and if he got through before the sun hit the sky and sent him away… Rebecca sat on the edge of the white bath and crossed her arms over her chest. She suddenly felt cold, and she could tell Stacey and Martika were feeling it as well, the chill of possible demise.

He’s going to kill us all, she thought.

Chapter 27

 

Hours had passed since Martika had sealed them in the room. Some of the time had been spent staring at each other, but most of it had been spent staring into empty space, trying not to think about the banging on the door, which they had all noticed was getting steadily louder as time passed. No one said much during the time. There was the odd grunt or groan, and Stacey and Rebecca had both yelped at a particularly loud bang against the door, but other than that silence had prevailed. No one knew what to say. Ryan had woken about ten minutes after Martika had knocked him out, but all he’d done was glare at the woman, partly because he was so mad that he couldn’t formulate words for the feeling, and partly because he was afraid she’d knock him out again if he did say anything. Finally Stacey couldn’t stand the silence any longer.

“How is all this possible?”

The question wasn’t aimed at anyone in particular. She was just asking it to kill the deadlock.

“Magic,” Martika answered. She wasn’t really talking to anyone either, just filling the air. “He came back through magic.” It was the same answer she’d given the few other times Stacey had asked, but it didn’t really explain anything. This time, instead of leaving it at magic, Stacey continued asking.

“But how? Exactly?” Stacey sat up from the toilet where she’d planted herself about an hour ago, and looked over at Martika. She was the only one still on her feet, leaning against the wall next to the door. She glanced over at Rebecca before quickly looking away again, but Rebecca, Stacey and Ryan, who was sitting on the floor, leaning against the tub next to Rebecca’s legs, knew what she was looking at.

“The amulet,” Rebecca said, subconsciously lifting a hand to it.

Martika hesitated, but she eventually sighed and answered. “Yes.” She looked down towards the ground.

“So… He takes it and what?” Ryan asked.

“Well,” Martika said, still looking at the floor, “he put part of his essence, his soul, into the amulet before he gave it to…” She paused, looked up at Rebecca and smiled. “I’m sorry. I don’t know your name.”

Rebecca smiled. In all the confusion of last few hours they hadn’t had a chance to tell Martika their names.

“I’m Rebecca,” Rebecca said. She pointed over at Stacey. “That’s Stacey,” Stacey replied with a wave. “And that’s Ryan.” Rebecca pointed to Ryan at her feet. He nodded at Martika.

“Nice to meet you all,” Martika said. “Wish it could have been under better circumstances.”

Rebecca smiled again as Martika continued.

“Anyway,” Martika continued, “he put a little of his spirit in the amulet before he gave it to Rebecca. All he needs to do is get it, put it on, and he’ll live forever.”

“He’ll be able to do that easily if…” Stacey didn’t finish the sentence. She didn’t have to. They all knew where it was going. They all looked to the ground, deep in their own thoughts, but there was something that didn’t compute in Rebecca’s mind. It came to her in swirl of thought.

“Then why did he stop the blades?”

She hadn’t meant to say it out loud. The swirl had just escaped from her mouth.

“What?” Martika asked.

She looked up at Martika.

“Why didn’t he kill me outside? I jumped in the way of the blades when he threw them at Ryan, but he pulled them back, so they wouldn’t hurt me. Why?”

Martika hesitated again. “I don’t know,” she said, but she looked down again as she said it, and Rebecca suddenly got a disturbing feeling. The same feeling she’d got from Justin when he’d given her the amulet. The red-haired woman was hiding something.

Rebecca was about to pursue the line of questioning when the whole room was shaken by a loud thump. All four of them jumped simultaneously, quickly rising to their feet.

“What was that?” Ryan asked. Martika touched the door with her index finger.

“He’s stronger than I thought,” she said before she looked back at the others, fear once again covered her face.

“He’s breaking the seal.”

Rebecca’s stomach knotted again as she thought about Justin getting into the bathroom and… Doing what he came to do.

“How long?” she asked. Martika touched the door again, this time with all her fingertips. She closed her eyes and stayed that way for a moment before suddenly pulling her hand away as if the door had bitten her.

She shook off the obvious pain, her face a grimace.

“Not long,” she said, looking back at Rebecca. Rebecca looked over at Ryan. Somehow he knew what she wanted without her asking. He looked down at his watch.

“Five thirty,” he said.

“Do you know what time sunrise is?” Rebecca asked. He shook his head. She looked over at Stacey only to be greeted by the same shaking. She looked over at Martika.

No shaking this time, but the grimace deepened.

“Five minutes past six,” she said.

Half an hour, thought Rebecca.

“Can it hold?” Stacey asked. The look on Martika’s face was all the answer she needed.

 

The four all looked away from each other again, their own thoughts going to Ripter and his claws. Rebecca’s heart sank. They were so close to surviving this night. Then a surge came up from her chest and she wanted to survive. She would do anything to survive, with her friends. She looked up.

“We need a plan,” she said. She wasn’t sure where the courage was coming from. Maybe being the daughter of a cop had given her thicker nerves than most people, most, but not her friends, she could tell from the looks on their faces that they were with her. They wanted to survive this too, and they were willing to do whatever she asked them too, but she could also tell they weren’t about to volunteer a plan of their own.

“We can’t just wait for him to knock the door down and kill us,” she said. Her voice was raised. She was angry, angry at the situation, angry at the monster of an ex-boyfriend outside the door trying to kill her and her friends.

“Preaching to the choir here,” Stacey said. “But what do we do?”

Rebecca opened her mouth and then closed it again. She realized she had no idea what to do, she only knew that they had to do something.

“The blades,” Ryan muttered under his breath. He’d been looking down thinking.

“What?” Rebecca asked. He looked up at her.

“The blades, Ripter’s blades. It’s his weapon. If we take it, maybe even cut it off, maybe we can last until sunrise.”

Rebecca wasn’t entirely sure about this plan.

“Cut off his blades?”

“Sure,” Ryan replied. “Your dad still keeps his tools in here, doesn’t” he?”

“Yeah,” Rebecca replied. “In the cupboard under the sink.”

She gestured towards a white porcelain bowl. It was resting on a free standing cupboard in the corner of the bathroom close to the door. Ryan pushed passed Stacey and moved towards it.

“I’m sure we can find something in there.” He moved passed Rebecca and knelt down in front of the cupboard, pulling opening the doors. He emerged seconds later with a large wrench in his hands. “This should work.”

Rebecca was still sceptical.

“Are you sure about this?” she asked.

“Yeah, Super Mario Bro,” Stacey said. “This is not a good idea.”

Ryan looked right at her.

“You got a better one, I’m all ears.”

Rebecca could see Stacey wanted to say something. Rebecca was sure it was partly because she didn’t like losing an argument, but mostly because she didn’t like Ryan putting himself danger, and Rebecca didn’t disagree.

“You don’t need to do this,” Rebecca said. She placed a hand on his arm. Ryan looked away for a second. He then looked her right in the eyes.

“You stepped in the way,” he said. “If you hadn’t…”

He paused and took a deep breath. It was the first time he’d mentioned it since it had happened.

“I need to do this.”

Rebecca got a lump in her throat. She wanted to cry, wanted to wrap her arms around his neck and never let go, but he stepped past her towards the door before she could.

“Martika,” he said.

“I also think this is a bad idea,” she replied. She was looking at the young man as he brandished the wrench like a knight brandishing a sword.

“Tell me a better one.”

Rebecca was sure for a second she saw hope in the back of Ryan’s eyes. Hope that Martika would have a better idea, but she didn’t. She sighed deeply before she looked back at the door.

It was now shaking with every shattering blow Ripter delivered.

“All right then,” Ryan said, also looking at the door.

“It’ll happen quickly,” Martika said. She raised her hands. “The door will glow red again and then nothing. The seal will be broken. It was the only thing keeping the door standing so as soon as it broken the door will crumble to dust, and he’ll be able to get in.”

“I’ll stand here so he’ll throw that blade thing at me,” Stacey said from behind them. They all turned to look at her, shock plastered on all their faces.

“What?” she exclaimed. “You can’t dodge it and cut it off. This way he’ll throw it at me, and you can break the chain.”

Trying to talk her out of it was pointless. Her tone told them all that.

“Are you sure?” Ryan asked.

“Better do it quickly before I regain rational thought,” she said, looking squarely at the door.

“Be careful,” Rebecca felt inadequate saying it, but it was all she could say.

“Be careful all,” Martika said. “Here we go.”

She started to chant something under her breath. She waved her arms from side to side.

Ryan moved to the side of the door. He raised the wrench over his head, ready to strike as soon as Ripter threw the deadly blades.

Rebecca climbed into the bath tub and flattened herself against the wall. She was terrified and from the looks on the faces of her friends, so were they, but they were fighting.

Fighting for her. Ready to give their lives for her. She’d never been so proud to call someone friend in all her life.

The door suddenly began to glow again, dull red at first, but instead of getting brighter and cumulating in a bright white light, it grew dimmer, and in a few seconds was gone.

The banging from the outside was getting louder as the light grew dimmer. It sounded as if someone was hitting the whole house with a bull dozer. The sound was deafening. By the time the light went out the whole room was shaking every time the door was hit.

As the light disappeared Martika crouched down and flattened herself as close to the wall as she could.

Rebecca knew the seal was about to break. Her eyes were glued on the door. Suddenly, the door began to crumble, slowly at first, but then faster and faster. It was as if there was an incredibly hot fire inside the door, but instead of bursting into flame, it was turning into ash before their eyes.

Within seconds the entire door had crumbled, and with a small billow of dust, it was gone. Nothing was left except the darkness of the open space. Then, as if sensing him before seeing him, Rebecca saw Ripter standing in the billow of mist created by the ash of the crumbling door. It was as if he’d stepped out of the shadow itself, as if he was a part of it.

His eyes were shielded by the wide brimmed circular hat, but Rebecca could see his smile, the cruel inhuman smile he’d given her earlier, and her hands began to shake.

“Hey you freak!” Stacey shouted, waving her arms, trying to get his attention. “Come and get me.”

Rebecca could tell her friend was terrified, but she never flinched. She stood tall in front of the stark figure of Ripter.

Suddenly, as if a thought, not a movement, Ripter jerked his arm forward. The blades flew through the gap where the door used to be, and within seconds they had crossed the room and where in front of Stacey, but she was prepared. She dropped to the ground the moment he moved and the blades missed her head, by millimetres only, and landed with a solid thunk in the wall behind her. Rebecca turned her head towards Ryan as the blades sank into the wall.

He was already swinging the wrench. It hit the chain with a force that surprised everyone, even him and with a loud crunch the chain snapped. It fell loosely to the floor, the side still connected to Ripter’s arm flooding back into the dome, stopping a few links before the end.

The smile on his face was gone, but the look of worry, or fear, or even anger Rebecca had expected to see wasn’t there.

No one in the bathroom moved. They were all froze in place, waiting to see the reaction of the monster.

Then he moved. He stepped forward across the threshold of the room, stopping where the broken chain was lying on the floor, right in front of Ryan. Ripter looked over at him, standing against the wall with a terrified expression on his face, the wrench still in his hands, before he bent over and picked up the broken chain. He moved the one end of the chain to the other end, sticking out of the dome, as they all watched, still frozen, as if in a trance, transfixed by the movements of the monster.

All, but Martika who snapped out of it as soon as she realised what he was about to do.

“Hit him!” she shouted at Ryan. He still had the wrench in his hands, but looked at her as if she’d just spoken French.

“Hit him now!” she repeated. Ryan snapped out of the trance as he looked back at Ripter and realised the same thing Martika had. He lifted the wrench to bring it down on Ripter’s head, but it was already too late.

Ripter touched the end of the chains together and hey melted into each other, glowing red hot as if touched by a welder’s torch. A second later the glow disappeared and the chain was repaired, good as new.

With a twitch of his arm the blades ripped out of the wall and flew across the room back onto the dome, and as they found their purchase everyone snapped out of the trance and was on their feet. The site of Ripter, with blades back attached, was enough to get them moving, fast.

Ryan bought down the wrench on the back of Ripter’s head causing the monster to drop to his knee.

He can be hurt, Rebecca thought as Stacey grabbed her hand. She pulled her out of the bath tub as she ran out of the room, past the already recovering Ripter. Ryan followed them out, right on their heels, dropping the wrench as he did.

Martika was lagging back, standing in front of the monster as she dug in her bag again. She pulled out some white powder before looking back at Ripter. He was completely recovered, standing in front of her, looking at her like she was a confusion he needed to expunge. Her eyes went wide as he smiled at her, but she just threw the powder directly into his face. Rebecca wasn’t sure what to expect, but what happened was more than she could have hoped for. Ripter let out a howl as he flung his good hand to his face. Martika moved aside as he doubled over in pain before she took off after the children. They were running again, away from the bathroom, up the stairs, and onto the first floor of the house. Martika stopped at the bottom of the stairs, looking at the kid’s upstairs, and looking back at the open door. She wanted to go out the door, to run into the night and take her chances, but she couldn’t leave the kids. She breathed out hard and ran up the stairs after them. She saw them reach the first door at the top of the stairs and run inside. She followed seconds later and slammed the door behind them. They were standing in Rebecca’s room, and they could hear Ripter’s footsteps coming up the stairs just behind them.

“Seal the door!” Rebecca shouted at Martika.

“I can’t,” she shouted back. “I used the last of an herb I need on him.”

“Shh,” Ryan said. They all fell silent and listened closely. The footsteps had stopped. All they could hear was the sound of their own heavy breathing.

“Maybe he doesn’t know where we are?” Stacey whispered. Rebecca shrugged. She hoped so, but she was sure he’d seen them hide. Then they heard movement outside the door.

“We should hide,” Ryan whispered. The others all nodded their agreement as they all began to move around the room, as quietly as they could. They hadn’t found hiding places yet when the door handle jiggled. They all froze, staring at it. For what seemed like an eternity it was still. They didn’t move, they didn’t dare breathe, afraid any sound would give away where they were. Then the handle turned.

Rebecca, Stacey and Ryan took off running towards the built in cupboard on the wall next to the bed and flung themselves inside, Rebecca slamming the door behind them, as quietly as she possibly could. She saw Martika fling herself under the bed with amazing dexterity for a woman her age as she closed the door, engulfing them in the claustrophobic darkness of the cupboard, and then there was silence. Rebecca and the others crouched down to the bottom of the cupboard, cramming themselves into as little an area of the cupboard as they could, and then they waited, listening for any sign that the monster was outside, and about to find them. They heard movement outside the door.

He was in the room. Rebecca didn’t dare breath, afraid that the creature might hear it through the door. She was sure the other’s felt the same because they weren’t making any noise whatsoever. The footsteps were getting closer. Rebecca tried to push herself further back in the cupboard, but there was nowhere to go.

The handle began to move. She considered reaching up and trying to stop it, but knew she wouldn’t be able too, so she just sat there, watching the handle reach its limit, watching the door slowly swing open, trying to get through the back of the cupboard, through the wall, too safety.

She wanted to keep her eyes open, to see it coming, to see him coming, but the light flooding into the darkness of the cupboard and made her close her eyes.

She wouldn’t see it, but she’d hear it.

She’d hear him kill her friends, but would he kill her? She knew he needed the amulet, but once he had it, would he kill her? Why didn’t he just kill her and take it? Why leave her alive?

She’d soon know, as the end was upon her, only…

“Baby. Are you alright?” It was her father standing in front of the cupboard. Not Ripter.

“Daddy!” she yelled. She flung herself out of the cupboard wrapping her arms around her father’s neck.

She held him tight, not wanting to let go as she looked around the room. Everything was bright. The light that had flooded the cupboard was the sun. It was morning.

They’d made it.

Chapter 28

 

A few hours later the four were sitting in the lounge in silence, each with a mug of steaming coffee in their hands. Ryan, Stacey and Rebecca had squeezed onto the three seated couch Rebecca had been sitting in when Martika first arrived, while Martika sat on the one seated couch opposite them. It had taken some effort to try and explain to Rebecca’s father what had happened to the house, the three holes in the shape of a triangle all over the place, the front door that was now in pieces, not to mention the bathroom door, which wasn’t in pieces, but was missing, completely. It wasn’t as difficult to explain as Rebecca had thought it would be though. They’d just told him that someone had come into the house, they had hidden in the cupboard upstairs, where he’d found them, and that they didn’t know what had happened downstairs to the doors, or how the holes had got there.

Oddly enough he seemed keen to accept the answers they gave him, which was so unlike him, usually looking for the smallest details, even when there’s nothing to find. To make matters stranger it had taken very little to convince him that Martika was just a guidance councillor from their school, come to check on them, who also hid when, whoever it was, came into the house. Rebecca suspected that maybe she’d put a spell on him, which would explain his accepting everything so easily, when normally he would have asked a thousand questions. She was grateful, however, that she didn’t have to answer those thousand questions, so she didn’t mind if she had, as long as the spell didn’t give him an aneurism or something. Rebecca leant her head against the back of the couch and closed her eyes. She was tired. Staying up the whole night will do that. She wanted to sleep, but every time she closed her eyes she saw Ripter’s face, including his cruel smile.

She wanted to put the events of the previous night out of her mind. Pretend it had all been a bad dream, but she knew it hadn’t been and one thing kept returning to her thoughts, and each time it did it made her sick to her stomach. She lifted her head and looked at Martika as she spoke.

“He’ll be coming back tonight, won’t he? Here?” she paused for a second. Not sure she wanted to finish the sentence. “For me.”

The room went even more silent, as if someone had dropped a veil over it preventing any sound from penetrating.

The others stopped looking into their mugs and looked at the red haired woman. Martika looked sad as she nodded slowly. Rebecca breathed out in despair as she looked down into her mug. No one said anything for a while as the fact that it wasn’t over sunk in. Ryan let out a sigh of desperation.

“He won’t stop until he gets the amulet,” Martika said. She looked at Ryan for a second. Then back at Rebecca. “And he only has one night left. He will come,” she took a deep breath. “Only this time it will be worse.”

“Worse?” Stacey blurted. “How could it possibly be worse?”

Martika looked at her.

“He will be desperate. He only has one more night. He will do whatever it takes to get that jewel.” She pointed at the amulet around Rebecca’s neck. Rebecca let go of the mug with one of her hands and covered the jewel with it.

“But all we need to do is last the night? Then he’ll be gone for good?” Rebecca asked.

“Yes,” Martika replied. “He only has power to come for these three nights.” Rebecca nodded, a little reassured by the news, as she dropped the hand again.

“How can you be sure?” Stacey blurted again. “How do you know any of this? Who the hell are you?”

Martika looked at her again.

“I am Martika. That is all you need to know.” She looked away, sipping her coffee. They all looked at her, open mouthed.

“No, it’s not,” Rebecca said. Martika looked up at Rebecca again. “We’re putting a lot of faith in you. The least you can do is tell us who you are, and how you’re mixed up in this.”

Martika looked down again, downing the last of the liquid from the mug before she placed her now empty cup of coffee on the coffee table by her knees. She looked up at the kids again for a moment before she stood, turned and walked, without a word, over to the window behind the couch she’d been sitting on, where she stopped and stared out into the street. Rebecca watched the woman as she moved and stood by the window. She waited for her to say something, and she could tell Ryan and Stacey were doing the same thing, but she wasn’t speaking. She was about to say something else to get the woman to speak when she started telling her story, her voice wistful with memory.

“My name is Martika,” she repeated, still staring out the window. “My ancestors are Celtic gypsies. My mother moved me, from Ireland, here, when I was just a girl. She was a fortune teller, and we moved around a lot. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve had the second sight, I’ve been able to see things before they happened, know things I shouldn’t be able to.”

She turned and looked at the children. They were all staring at her. Ryan looked unconvinced, still sceptical about the whole magic thing, but not arguing after spending time unconscious and seeing Ripter with his own two eyes. Rebecca and Stacey were listening intently to the woman’s story.

“A few weeks ago I had a vision. Something I’d never seen before. Something using terrible magic. Some kind of… Pure evil.”

“Justin,” Rebecca interrupted. Martika nodded in agreement. “I didn’t know who, or what it was, but I knew it was evil, pure and terrible. Those eyes…” Martika closed her own eyes before she shook her head, as if trying to shake out the image of those burning eyes out of her mind. Rebecca understood.

She wanted to shake the image of Ripter’s eyes out of her head too. Martika opened her eyes again before she continued.

“I knew I had to do something, but I didn’t know what. All I knew was that I had to follow this… Feeling.”

“Feeling?” Stacey asked. Martika nodded.

“Like a pull towards a power source. It’s difficult to explain, but it drew me here, that and the dreams. And when I saw you and felt the power coming from that,” she pointed at the amulet. “I knew I was in the right place.”

Again Rebecca lifted a hand to it. Suddenly the thought she’d had the previous night just before Ripter had busted into the bathroom rang again in her ears.

“You never answered my question,” she asked Martika, who frowned. “Why didn’t Justin kill me? Why did he stop the blades outside last night? Wouldn’t it have been easier to take the amulet from me after I was dead?”

Martika looked away again, and again Rebecca got the feeling that she was hiding something.

“Martika,” she said. The red haired woman didn’t look up. She didn’t want to look Rebecca in the eyes. “Please,” she implored.

Martika hesitated before she answered. “He can’t,” she said.

“Why not?” Rebecca asked.

The red haired witch looked Rebecca in the eye finally. “Because he needs you alive.” Rebecca frowned.

“Alive? Why?” Asked Ryan. He had been listening to the conversation and was ready to get involved.

Again Martika hesitated. “It doesn’t work, unless she’s alive,” she said to Ryan, but it was for everyone.

“How does what work?” Ryan asked. “How does that piece of jewellery give him life again?”

Martika paused for a minute. Rebecca knew she was thinking of the best way to explain.

“Do you know what the conservation of energy is?” she asked.

“Sure,” Ryan replied, “law of physics, energy cannot be created or destroyed, only changed.”

“Yes,” Martika replied. “In magic it works, very much, the same way. You can’t create magical energy, or destroy it, you can only change it.”

“You lost me,” Stacey said. Ryan nodded in agreement. Martika sighed in frustration.

“Ok,” she said, “think of a battery.”

“The amulet’s a battery?” Stacey asked.

“Kind of,” Martika said. “It’s more a transfer device.”

“What does it transfer?” Rebecca asked. Martika looked at her.

“Life force,” she said. Rebecca looked down. The realization of what Martika was saying began to sink in.

“You see,” Martika continued, “Justin can’t create his own life force, since he’s dead, his life force, his energy, has changed, it’s left him. So he needs to get a life force from somewhere else. The amulet transfers that life force to him.”

“But where does that other life force come from?” Ryan asked. He asked quietly because Rebecca knew he, and Stacey, both knew the answer before he asked. Martika didn’t answer, she just looked at Rebecca.

“From me,” Rebecca confirmed. All three looked away. Ryan closed his eyes in anguish as the answer he had already known was said out loud. “The amulet takes my life force and gives it to him.”

“But,” Stacey asked. “What happens to you?” Rebecca didn’t answer. She just looked Martika, who looked up back at Rebecca, the sadness in her eyes again. She looked at Martika. “What happens to her?”

Martika kept looking at Rebecca.

“Without life force. Without life energy, there can be no life,” She and Rebecca looked at each other. The sadness in Martika’s eyes changed to pity, but Rebecca only felt anger. Anger that the man she had loved a year earlier had planned the whole time to kill her, and in the worse possible way, to take her life so he could live forever and kill as many as he wanted. She could feel the anger bubbling inside her. She kept looking at Martika as she answered Stacey’s question.

“It’s going to kill me.”

Chapter 29

 

“What if someone else takes it off?” Stacey asked Martika.

“Only the person who put it on can take it off. Besides even if someone else managed to get it off, it would take Rebecca’s life force with it,” Martika paused for a moment. She was watching Rebecca. “If that amulet leaves Rebecca’s neck, she will die.”

“How about after he leaves?” Rebecca asked. “Say we survive tonight, and at sunrise he disappears. What then?”

“Then I will go home and you will continue with your lives.”

“But I’ll always have this amulet around my neck?”

“Yes,” Martika said.

“But if he’s gone can’t the amulet come off?” Stacey asked.

Martika thought for a moment. “I’m not sure,” she said. “I don’t know if the magic will last after tonight. If we survive, it might be possible for you to get it off, but I don’t know if it’s worth the risk. It might still kill you”

Rebecca was frustrated and angry. She tried very hard to get the amulet off just after Justin had died, because it reminded her of him, but now that he’d come back from the dead and had tried to kill her she didn’t fancy having the amulet to remind her of that too.

“I think we’re getting off the point here,” Ryan said. They all looked at him. “I think the most important thing we need to worry about right now is keeping the amulet on your neck. Justin is coming back,” he looked down at his watch. “In about eleven hours and we’re not surviving another night in this house. That plank of wood Rebecca’s dad used to fix the front door wouldn’t keep out a squirrel” He pointed at the front door. It had been patched together with ply wood Rebecca’s father had pulled out of the garage. The other three heads in the room turned towards it as he pointed at it. They couldn’t help but agree.

“Ryan is right,” Martika said. “After we survive tonight maybe I can find a way to help you get the amulet off.”

“Thank you,” Rebecca said. “Now about tonight. Any ideas?”

“More like a comment,” Stacey said. “Your dad phoned our parents,” she was speaking to Rebecca. “Which is why we’re still here. They feel safer having us with the superintendent of the police station, plus they had to work, but,” She paused for a moment for dramatic effect. “I don’t think he’s going to allow us to run around the streets tonight. Or leave the house at all for that matter.”

Rebecca knew she was right. There was no way her father was going to allow her out of his sight, but maybe that wasn’t a bad thing.

“Maybe he can help us,” she looked at Martika as she said it, but the red haired woman was shaking her head.

“Guns and bullets won’t stop Justin,” she said. “All we can do is run. And keep running until sunrise.”

“But that’s the problem,” Ryan said. All heads turned to him again. “Rebecca’s father won’t let us leave. He thinks we’re safer here because he has a gun to protect us, but, as you said, guns and bullets won’t stop Justin, so he won’t be much help, he’s just going to get us all killed. Plus the front door won’t hold, at all, and we’re out of bathrooms.”

“I don’t fancy spending another night cramped in a bathroom anyway,” Stacey commented.

“So what do we do?” Rebecca asked. She looked back at Martika, ignoring Stacey’s comment, but she didn’t have time to answer because at that moment Rebecca’s father entered the room.

Silence fell over the friends as he did and it was obvious that he noticed it was because of him.

“What’s up?” he asked, looking from face to face. All of them avoided eye contact as he looked at them, except Rebecca.

“What’s going on?” she asked. She noticed he had his car keys in his hand. “Going somewhere?”

“I need to go to the station,” he said.

“Really?” she said, sounding a little happier about it than she should have. The frown on her father’s face told her that he noticed that too.

“Really?” she repeated, changing her tone to one of mild sadness.

“Yes,” he replied. “Two police detectives were killed. I’ve got work to do. A couple of uniforms will be arriving any minute to watch you three. Whoever did all this won’t be coming back.”

“Wanna bet?” Ryan said. He said it under his breath, but it was loud enough for everyone to hear, including Rebecca’s dad, who raised an eyebrow. Rebecca flashed him a sharp look, but the damage was done.

“No,” she said, turning back to her father, assessing the damage. “I’m sure they won’t.”

He looked with a curious gaze at the entire group for a moment before he flashed a quick smile at his daughter. He then turned and started to walk out of the room.

“I’ll be in my bedroom. When they arrive give me a shout, would you?”

“Sure,” Rebecca replied, and with that her father was gone, through the arch, up the stairs, and out of sight.

“A bit of good news for a change,” Rebecca said the moment her father was out of earshot.

“What do you mean?” Ryan asked.

“This gets him out of the house,” she said. Ryan looked a little confused.

“So?” he asked.

“Like you and Martika said, guns and bullets won’t do it. If my dad had been in the house when Justin attacked he would have been killed trying to shoot him. This way at least he’s safe.”

“Sure,” agreed Stacey, “He’s safe, but what about us?”

Rebecca looked at her. “I have no idea,” she admitted. She leant back in the chair and closed her eyes again. A headache was starting to form behind her eyes, and the lack of sleep from the night before was catching up with her again.

“Maybe we could creep out of the house and go somewhere to hide,” Ryan suggested. He turned to Martika. “Could we hide from him from for the night?”

Martika shook her head. “No,” she said. “He is drawn to the amulet. There is nowhere Rebecca can hide that he won’t find her.”

“So what do we do?” Stacey asked. “We’ve been talking in circles for so long I’m getting dizzy over here.”

Rebecca smiled. Her friend had a point. They were right back where they started.

“My dad says,” Rebecca began, “when you don’t know what to do, step back, weigh up your options and decide on the best course of action.”

“Okay,” said Ryan. “What are our options?”

“Well,” Rebecca started. She stood and started to pace as she spoke. She always felt she could think better when she was on her feet. “He is coming back, we know that.”

They all nodded in agreement.

“And we can’t leave. My dad is here now, but once the other cops arrive we’ll have no chance of getting out of here without them following us, at least, more likely stopping us before we can get out the door.”

Again the others nodded in agreement.

“Also we can’t hide, wherever I go Justin’s going to follow.”

More nods. Then silence fell over the group. Rebecca was at the end of the list and it looked dismal, to put it mildly.

“So what are our options?” Ryan asked again, a little sarcasm seeping in to his words.

“We can’t hide, we can’t leave, and I think we pretty much proved fighting is pointless last night. I think we’re pretty much out of options,” Stacey said. Rebecca had to agree. All they could do was wait. Wait for Ripter to come back that night, and wait for the police officers, who were on their way, to realize what they were up against and then run screaming into the night, which was what Rebecca was pretty sure they would be doing.

“We wait. When he gets here we run.”

“So we just wait here for this unstoppable monster that used to be your boyfriend to arrive so we can run away?” Stacey asked.

“You have a better idea?” Rebecca retorted. Stacey feigned thinking before she answered.

“Nope,” she said. “Just checking I knew the plan. One question though, why don’t we just run now?”

“My dad…”

“Will get angry and worried and probably look for us, but if we start now maybe we can stay out of Justin’s reach until morning. Maybe find somewhere to hide out.”

“He will find us,” Martika said.

“Yes,” Stacey replied, turning to her. “But maybe not until just before morning. Maybe we can get far enough away so he doesn’t have time to… Kill us and take the amulet.”

“Where would we go?” Rebecca asked.

“We could hide at the smelting plant,” Ryan answered. His father was the manager there so he could get the keys and let them in.

“There are lots of places to hide, lots of space for Justin to search. Maybe it will buy us some time.”

Rebecca wasn’t happy about the idea of hiding in the smelting plant. The place had always given her the willies, but staying in her house wasn’t an option and there was nowhere else she could think of.

“Martika,” she said looking at the red haired woman. “What do you think?”

Martika thought for a long moment. “Hiding isn’t going to help. He’ll find you through that,” she looked at the amulet again. “But we can’t stay here, and the large area, maybe he’ll get confused. I don’t know.”

“Should we try it?”

Again she thought before she nodded. It wasn’t a confident nod, but it was a nod and Rebecca took it.

“Alright,” Rebecca said. “My dad’s in his room upstairs so he won’t hear us, but if we’re going to go, we need to go now.”

“What about food, blankets, whatever?” Stacey asked. They all looked at her like she’d just asked them to donate their kidneys.

“We’ll get MacDonald’s on the way, okay?” Ryan commented. She pulled a face at him as they stood and moved towards what was left of the door, but when they got there they realised that the plan wasn’t going to work, and Rebecca got the sick feeling in her stomach again. Standing outside the make shift door that her father had put together were two uniformed officers in neatly pressed uniforms. Rebecca, Stacey, Ryan and Martika stopped in their tracks as the doorbell sounded. Ryan let out a sigh.

“So much for that idea,” he said. Rebecca turned around to face him and the others.

“Nothing’s changed,” she said. “We just wait until we get the opportunity to give the cops the slip and get out of here, okay?” They all nodded as the doorbell sounded again.

“Bec?” her dad shouted from upstairs. She looked up the stairs for a second before looking back at the others.

“Go sit down again,” she said. “I’ll go call my dad.” They all nodded as they turned and made their way back into the living room, back to their respective perches on the couches. Rebecca watched them go before turning back to the stairs and mounting them.

Chapter 30

 

Thing hadn’t turned out quite the way Rebecca had planned. Once the other cops had arrived and her dad had left they hadn’t let the kids out of their sight. They were both young and good looking guys, and normally Rebecca probably wouldn’t have minded having their attention, but today was not that day, and now the sun was starting to think about setting and Rebecca was getting anxious, and from the looks on their faces and the continuous glances at the clock on the kitchen wall, the others were having the same feelings. They had crept over to the breakfast nook and were sitting huddled together. The officers had positioned themselves at the centre counter in the middle of the kitchen, not even letting the kids have five minutes alone. They must have thought the group was acting strangely, because they were, but they didn’t have time to worry about what they thought.

“Time is running out,” Martika said. She kept her voice down so that the officers wouldn’t hear what they were talking about.

“Thanks for stating the obvious,” Stacey shot back. The others all looked at her. The statement had come across harsher than it had been meant.

“Sorry,” she retorted. “I’m just freaking out over here.”

“We all are,” Ryan responded before he looked at Rebecca. “We need to get out of here.”

“I know,” she replied. “I know.”

“So?” Stacey asked. Rebecca had no idea. She looked over at the officers sitting on wooden stools next to the kitchen counter, five feet away from them, and considered their options. There was no way the four of them could over power two well-trained officers, but that wouldn’t matter if they were still in the house when Ripter arrived, they’d simply be dead meat, but how to explain that to the officers. She couldn’t and she knew that, and so did the others.

“Maybe we should just make a dash for it,” Stacey said. “They can’t catch all four of us. And as long as Rebecca gets out of here…”

“Great, thanks,” Rebecca replied. “And then let me fight off Justin all by myself. Thank you very much. Like I’d stand a snowballs chance in hell.”

“Good point,” Stacey replied.

“Besides,” Ryan said, “I think they could catch all four of us.” Rebecca looked at the young, athletic officers and couldn’t help but agree. They both looked like they could run 100 metres in 5 seconds, and beat them all easily.

“So?” Stacey asked. “What do we do?”

“Whatever it is,” Ryan said, “it better be soon.”

Rebecca looked back at him. He was staring out the window behind her head. She turned and saw the sun was moving quickly behind her next door neighbours’ house. Soon it would be set completely and then he would be there.

Her heart moved into her throat. She looked back at her friends again. The same expression she was sure was on her face, was on theirs and she seriously considered the making a dash for it idea.

They never got the chance though, because a second later the same banging they had heard the night before started at the front of the house and the four of them recognized it immediately.

As one they all turned and looked out the window. The sun was gone.

The night, and Ripter, was upon them.

The officers stood from their stools. They both had frowns on their faces. The black one looked at his partner.

“Stay with the kids,” he instructed his friend who nodded. He then moved out of the kitchen, through the door, which swung closed behind him. Rebecca, Stacey, Ryan and Martika watched him go without a word. There was no other sound from the front of the house except the constant banging. The other cop, a 20 something white guy, was looking at the swing door, waiting to hear something. Rebecca turned back to the others.

“We should tell them something,” she said.

“What?” Ryan asked.

“About Justin,” she replied. “They don’t know what they’re getting into.”

“If we told them your dead boyfriend was back and waiting to kill them, and us, in the front of the house, they wouldn’t listen, or worse, they’d handcuff us so we couldn’t hurt ourselves,” Ryan said. Rebecca opened her mouth to argue, but Ryan cut her off. “They won’t believe you.” At that second the air was shattered by a gun shot that rang out from the front of the house. The cop in the kitchen immediately pulled his firearm from its holster before looking at the kids.

“Stay here,” he said as he pushed through the door and out of the kitchen. The four friends all stood as once, and while Ryan, Stacey and Martika headed straight towards the back door Rebecca headed towards the swinging door out of the kitchen. Martika saw her moving and quickly grabbed her arm, stopping her and turning so she was looking at her.

“You can’t help them,” she said. She held Rebecca to stop her following the officers. “Going after them will just get you killed. And give Justin the jewel.”

“But I can warn them,” Rebecca pleaded. “I can help.”

“Ryan is right, they won’t listen to you, and even if they do, they won’t believe you.”

Rebecca knew Martika was right. She knew they wouldn’t believe her, no matter what she said to them, they would still go off and investigate anyway.

“This is our chance,” Martika said, letting go of Rebecca, but still looking at her, right in the eyes. “They’ll buy us some time, time for us to escape, but we need to go now.”

Rebecca knew Martika was trying to convince her. It would be difficult for them to run if they had to force her. Deep down she knew it was already too late to help the cops, and that every second she spent debating it, Justin was getting closer. She felt horrible. She knew that leaving now meant she was leaving those men to die, if they weren’t dead already.

Tears filled her eyes as an emptiness hollowed out her insides and slowly she nodded. Martika held out her hand and, after a moment of looking at it, Rebecca took it and they moved towards the back door, which Stacey and Ryan had already opened, before they all ran out into the crisp night air and took off running, along the grass at the side of the house and then out into the street, running towards the safety of the gold smelting plant, or, at least, what they hoped would be safety.

Chapter 31

 

The cop never knew what hit him. By the time he made it into the entrance hall, the make shift door was in splinters.

Ripter was inside the house. He hid in the shadows. Not making a sound. One of the perks of being the walking dead. He could be as silent as the dead. If he choose to be. Also he could almost become the shadow. So much so that the cop walked straight past him. Without even noticing his presence.

He was walking like Ripter had seen actors walk on cop shows while he’d been alive. Gun out in front of him. Checking all corners and hiding places, but his ability to hide was too good. The cop missed him, and once his back was to him, he stepped out of the shadow, and made his move.

He stepped from the shadow, lifting the deadly implement above his head and bringing it down on the cops head, splitting it like an over-ripe melon. Blood splattered all over the walls as the cop let out a shot from the gun. He then fell to the ground, the blade coming lose from his skull as he hit the floor. Ripter looked at the blank expression on the cops face for a moment, the open staring of his eyes, the hanging open of his mouth, and then he heard movement coming in his direction. The other cop came around the corner and saw Ripter standing over his dead partner’s body. He hesitated for a second, but as soon as Ripter moved the cop lifted the gun and started firing. Three bullets hit Ripter square in the chest before the monster reached the man, but he didn’t even slow down. He lifted the blades and swung them in a low arch cutting the arm from the rest of the cop’s body. The hand, still holding the gun, fell to the ground. The cop looked at the lost limb before looking back at Ripter. The monster was smiling his cruel, malicious smile right in the man’s face. The cop screamed as loudly as he could, but it only made Ripter smile more as he plunged the blades deep into the cops gut, cutting of his air and cutting the scream short. The cop slumped onto Ripter for a second, as if hugging his executioner, before Ripter pushed him to the floor, pulling the blades out of his body, and stepping over him. He had more people to kill this night.

He walked quickly through the swinging door into the kitchen. The back door was open. The room was empty. He only had until morning to get the amulet. Till morning to place it around his neck. That didn’t leave him much time. Despite that he smiled. Even though his time was limited, he would enjoy the sport. Hunting them before killing them. It would make it more interesting.

In a blink he was gone. As if he’d never been there. He knew where they were going. He could feel the amulet calling to him.

And soon he would have it.

Chapter 32

 

Rebecca sat at the kitchen counter in Ryan’s house while he and Stacey searched for his father’s spare key for the smelting plant. She felt horrible. She’d left those men to die, to die horribly at the hands of that monster.

“There was nothing you could have done,” Martika said. She was standing on guard at the back door to the house, watching for signs of Ripter coming for them.

Rebecca turned to look at the gypsy. She was still looking out the door. It was as if she had read Rebecca’s mind. Then again, she probably had.

“I should have done something. Anything,” Rebecca said.

“What?” Martika turned and looked at the girl. “What could you have done, besides give him the amulet and get yourself killed?”

Rebecca didn’t have an answer, so she didn’t speak. She just turned back around and stared down at the counter, feeling worse.

Martika looked at the girl for a moment before she looked out the door again. The night looked clear and she couldn’t see any sign of Ripter, so she moved towards the counter.

“Sometimes, in difficult situations, we have to make difficult decisions.” She sat down next to her. “It hurts, I know. I’ve made some decisions I wish I could take back too, but given the same situations, I would make the same decisions again.”

“But those men died because of me.”

“No!” Martika replied, so forcefully that Rebecca looked up from the counter into her face. “Those men died because of Justin, and because of his insanity, in life and in death. If you want to blame someone, blame him. He is the one you should be angry with. Not yourself.”

The words helped a little. Rebecca felt some of the emptiness she’d been feeling since leaving the house filling with anger again. Anger for Ripter.

“You did the right thing,” Martika said. “Don’t think otherwise.”

Rebecca smiled a small half smile at Martika as the others came back into the kitchen.

“Found them,” Ryan said.

“And the reason his folks aren’t here,” Stacey interjected. “The Mayor called some kind of meeting at the town hall. We caught a lucky break.”

“How do you figure?” Rebecca asked.

“No one will be out,” Stacey answered. “No one on the street to get in our way, or get in Justin’s path.”

Rebecca felt a little more of the emptiness retreat to anger as she thought about the others Ripter had killed to get to her.

“I can’t believe I ever loved that monster,” Rebecca said. “After tonight I don’t ever want to think about him again.”

“That makes two of us,” Stacey agreed.

“Three,” added Ryan.

“And I make four,” Martika concluded.

“Oh, sweet. They can count.”

The voice was raspy and quiet, like a loud whisper, but unmistakable.

The heads of all four of them turned to the open back door where the word had come from and saw, standing there in the opening, was Justin.

“I think it was a little harsh about me,” he said looking at Rebecca. “But hey, I get it.”

None of them had time to think. Their movements were pure instinct. Martika and Rebecca stood so fast the stools they’d been sitting on went flying backwards before they ran in opposite directions around the free standing counter in front of them. Stacey and Ryan dived behind it at the exact same time so all four of them were crouching behind the wooden counter to protect themselves as Ripter attacked. He let the blades fly with one swift movement, sending them sailing through the air towards Ryan as he dived, clipping him on the side of his leg and grazing him just before he reached the cover of the counter. He didn’t make a sound though as he reached safety, he just turned and plastered his back against the counter.

Rebecca saw the blades move swiftly back towards their master seconds before the click she recognized as them reattaching themselves. Then she heard footsteps, coming towards the counter. They were purposefully slow footsteps, meant to fill them with fear before he killed them. He was having fun at their expense, enjoying their deadly game of cat and mouse.

“What do we do?” Rebecca said to Martika, her voice a harsh whisper. The red haired woman reached under her robes before pulling out a handful of the same white powder she’d used on Ripter the night before.

“On three, run,” she whispered back. “Straight to the smelting plant. Don’t look back.”

The footsteps were right at the counter now.

“One,” Martika said.

Suddenly Ripter stepped around the side of the counter, right in front of them. His triple blades raised high above his head. They all looked at him as he did, horror plastered all over their faces.

“Three!” screamed Martika. She threw the powder into the monster’s face. As it touched it sizzled and burned his skin.

Ripter lifted his good hand to his face, letting out a scream as the pain seared his skin. Again, on instinct alone, all of them were on their feet, running towards the door.

Within seconds they were outside in the night air, running in the direction of the smelting plant.

“What happened to two?” Stacey yelled as they ran. Rebecca never looked back. She just ran as fast as she could, until her lungs burned so badly she was sure they would burst.

They must have run for at least five kilometres before Stacey stopped. She came to a grinding halt, placing her hands on her knees, trying to recapture the air that had escaped her lungs. The others noticed the stop about five steps later and had to come back to her.

“Stacey?” Martika said, also breathing heavily.

“Sor… Sor… Sorry,” Stacey replied. She was trying to breathe, and talk, and not pass out, and almost failing at all three.

“We need to keep moving,” Martika said. She was looking back in the direction they’d come from, looking for any sign that Ripter was about to catch up.

“She needs to rest for a second,” Rebecca replied, also trying to catch her breath. She wasn’t as bad as Stacey, but wasn’t much better either. “We all do.”

Martika nodded. Quickly she shepherded the kids behind some bushes to provide some cover from the street while they caught their breath. They stayed there for a few moments until they couldn’t risk waiting any longer, and they resumed running, but at a slower pace. There was no sign of Ripter and for a second Rebecca let herself think he’d lost them, but then remembered that he’d follow the amulet like a blood hound until he had it, and them with it.

She looked over at Stacey. She was still breathing heavily, but she was keeping pace with the rest of them, probably more out of fear than anything else. Rebecca could relate. She looked over at Ryan and realised that he was limping. She looked more closely at his leg and noticed there was blood seeping through the leg of his jeans.

“Ryan, are you alright?” She asked.

“Just a scratch,” he said, smiling. “You?”

Rebecca smiled. Ryan was always more worried about her than about himself. The memory of what Gina had said that day at school popped into her head. She’d known about the crush, but had never dealt with it, in any way. Mostly she’d just ignored it, but this experience had changed things for her, and she suddenly realised it. She thought about it, about his tackling Justin, about him breaking the chain, about him being there, always being there, and suddenly, as she looked at Ryan, she felt… Something stir within her.

 

“Ryan?” She said. He didn’t hear her because at that moment he took off running ahead of them, stopping at a tall metal fence. He pulled the keys they’d found back at his house out of his pocket and began trying them in the padlock holding the chain together, keeping the gate closed.

He started with the smallest key on the key chain, but it didn’t work. He tried the next one, then the next, until, finally, he found the right one, and the padlock jumped open. He then pulled the chain away from the gate and swung it open before turning back to the others. They had just caught up with him and reached the gate.

“Follow me,” he said before he took off jogging through the gate into the smelting plant, the others close behind. They all ran through a set of open perforated-iron sliding doors, past scaffolding and girders, and up about a hundred stairs, until they reached an office with his father’s name stencilled on the door in little gold letters. Again Ryan pulled the keys out of his pocket and began to try them in the lock. One, then another, one after another until he found the right one. While he was busy Rebecca looked over the edge of the platform they were standing on. They were about fifteen feet up. Under them were three huge vats of glowing orange liquid, with stirrers on top swishing the contents of the vats in a constant, steady circle. It looked like they were making giant, glowing, orange balls of bread dough, only she knew it wasn’t that. She’d been to the smelting plant on a school tour once before and they’d walked past the vats, so she knew they were filled with smelted gold. She could feel the heat from where she was standing, and she was fifteen feet above them.

They were unbelievably hot.

“Ryan,” she said, turning back to the others. Ryan had the door open and the others were making their way into his father’s office. He looked at her as Rebecca spoke his name.

“Are the fires still burning?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he replied. “They never turn them off.”

An idea formed in Rebecca’s head. It must have shown on her face, because before she could speak, Ryan cut her off. He’d stepped over and was standing right next to her.

“Magic, remember?” he said. “Justin is the walking dead, not an android from the future. I don’t think even boiling gold could stop him for long.”

“Maybe not,” Rebecca replied. She looked Ryan right in the eyes. “But I’m sure it could melt this.”

She lifted her hand to the amulet around her neck.

“Sure,” Ryan replied. “But we can’t get it off, can we?”

Rebecca didn’t say anything, but her answer was loud and clear.

“No,” Ryan said. He took Rebecca by the shoulders. “Don’t you even think about it.”

“I can stop him,” she said. “If the amulet is gone he can’t get his life back.”

“It’s not an option, you hear me? Put it out of your mind.”

“What’s going on?” Stacey and Martika were exiting the office to see what Rebecca and Ryan were talking about.

“The smelted gold in those vats would melt his, right?”

Rebecca pointed to the vats over the side of the platform before she touched the amulet around her neck.

“It might,” Martika answered, “but we can’t get it off you, only Justin can. And that will kill you.”

“I know,” Rebecca said. She looked over the edge again, down at the swirling heat below, and Stacey clicked on what Rebecca was meaning before Martika did.

“Are you insane?” she asked. Rebecca didn’t answer as she looked back at them.

“What?” asked Martika.

“She wants to jump,” Ryan answered. He was looking straight at her. She returned his gaze for a moment before looking away. She couldn’t look him in the eyes. For some reason, she almost felt ashamed of her thoughts.

“You can’t. You mustn’t,” Martika said.

“Why?” replied Rebecca. “If the amulet is destroyed Justin can’t come back to life. Maybe he won’t hurt any of you.”

“He will kill us anyway, before the sun rises,” Martika said. Tears began to fill Rebecca’s eyes.

“I just don’t want anyone else to die because of me,” she said.

“We’re here because we choose to be,” Ryan said. He put his hand on Rebecca’s shoulders again, but this time it was a gentle move, not a restraining one. “Because we believe in you. And because we’re not going to stand by and let something happen to you if we can stop it.”

“But…”

“No buts,” he said. “We’ll survive until morning. Together. All of us.”

Rebecca smiled. She could always count on her friends, on Ryan. The feeling she’d had looking at him earlier began to grow as she raised a hand to touch his. He felt her hand on his and smiled at her. She returned the smile for a moment.

“Aw, sweet.”

Rebecca’s blood froze as she heard the voice coming from behind her. Ryan looked past her, a look of terror on his face. Slowly Rebecca turned. She knew what she was going to see before she saw the monster standing fifteen feet away at the end of the platform.

Ripter.

Chapter 33

 

The blades shone with an eerie shade of glowing orange in the reflection from the boiling vats below. They also cast the same eerie orange glow on the part of Ripter’s face they could see under his hat, making him look even more terrifying than he normally did.

“Is there another way off this platform?” Rebecca asked Ryan, not taking her eyes off Ripter.

“There’s another platform out a door on the other side of my dad’s office, then stairs leading down.”

“Go. Take the others,” she said. Ryan began to move backwards, but stopped when he noticed that Rebecca wasn’t doing the same.

“Rebecca?” he said.

“Just go,” she replied, but he didn’t, instead he moved back to her side.

“Not without you,” he said. Rebecca knew arguing wouldn’t help and with Justin standing in front of them, she didn’t have the nerve to argue anyway. She was glad Ryan wouldn’t leave. The courage she’d had a second ago was fading fast.

“We’re not going anywhere either.” Martika and Stacey had moved up to stand just behind the other two. Rebecca was glad to have them there, but also annoyed that they weren’t running.

“So you all wish to die together,” Ripter said, his harsh whisper of a voice rasping the air. “I can do that.”

He began to walk towards them, the blades scratching the hand rail as he did. It sounded like a thousand razor sharp finger nails being scathed down a chalkboard and being amplified through a loud speaker. The sound sent shivers down Rebecca’s spine. She was terrified. She couldn’t move, she couldn’t think, but she was desperately trying to come up with a plan to get them all out of there as Ripter came closer. She looked all around, but nothing came to her, until she looked at the railing again, and did the only thing she could think of. She stepped over to the hand rail, putting her hands on it and looking at Ripter.

“One more step and I’ll jump,” she said. The others looked at her, dumbfounded, but it worked as Justin stopped in his tracks. He watched her for a second before smiling his evil smile, slowly shaking his head, and continuing walking towards them.

Rebecca swung a leg over the rail.

“I’ll do it,” she cried, “and I’ll take the amulet with me.”

“Rebecca,” Stacey said, but Rebecca couldn’t talk, she was bluffing with all her might. Again Justin stopped, only this time his face was filled with uncertainty. The fact that Stacey wasn’t in on the trick was helping Rebecca’s cause, but she knew that she couldn’t bluff the monster forever.

“Do you have anymore of that powder?” she asked Martika quietly. Martika nodded her eyes glued on Justin. “Good, because this was a bad idea.”

At that moment Justin realised that Rebecca was faking. He let out a yell as he took off running towards them, yelling as he did.

“Run!” Rebecca yelled as she swung her leg off the railing. All of them took off towards the door to the office. Once inside they slammed it shut and Martika blew some dust onto it. They all backed away from the door as it began to look like some invisible force was spreading oil on it. When it stopped the entire door was covered in the oily substance.

“That will buy us some time,” Martika said as she turned to the others. “But only seconds.”

Ryan ran to the other door on the far side of the office and began trying keys in the lock. Rebecca, Stacey and Martika followed him, watching, felling useless, unable to help. Rebecca looked back at the other door. Justin was hitting himself against it, but instead of breaking like a wooden door with a glass window in the middle would normally do, the door stretched like it was made of bubble gum. If the person trying to get through wasn’t going to kill them, it would have been something to see.

He hit it again and Rebecca realised why the door would only last seconds. Like chewing gum stretched too far, the door was beginning to tear. A few more hits and Justin would be through.

“Rebecca!” Ryan shouted from behind her. She turned back to him and saw the other door was open and the others were already standing on the other walkway, on the other side of the door.

Rebecca was starting to move to exit the room as Justin burst the bubble door and rammed into her. She went flying across the room straight into a wall, crumbling into a pile on the ground as the others watched. When she opened her eyes she looked up to see Justin standing over her, reaching his good hand towards the amulet. She lifted a hand to try and stop him, but before he reached it she saw something hit him, knocking him off balance. He fell to the ground, landing next to Rebecca, who quickly sat up and saw Ryan scrambling to his feet. He’d rammed into Justin again, just like outside her house. She then saw Stacey and Martika. They were just behind Ryan, moving towards her.

Stacey helped her to her feet as Martika helped Ryan. Once they were on their feet again the four rushed as quickly as they could out of the room, slamming the door as they did.

“Do you have anymore of that powder?” Stacey shouted at Martika.

“No,” she shouted back, “that was the last of it.”

As she finished the sentence Ripter smashed the wood with his claw and stepped out of the office onto the platform right behind them. All three of the girls screamed as the door disintegrated under his might. Martika pushed her hand into the bag and pulled out more of that white powder before she threw it into his face. He yelled in pain, thrashing the blades around wildly, temporarily blinded by the powder, as the four took off again, running across the platform and down the stairs.

Once at the bottom they all looked up. Expecting to see him clambering down the stairs after them, but he wasn’t there. He wasn’t standing near what was left of the door, and he wasn’t running down the stairs, blades slashing the air as he approached them. He was just gone.

The four looked all around the plant, but there was no sign of the monster.

“Is it over?” Ryan asked. “Did we win?”

“No,” Rebecca replied. “It’s still dark.”

Ryan looked at the windows placed high up on the walls of the smelting plant. She was right. The sky outside was still pitch black. There wasn’t even a hint of sunlight.

“He’s still in here somewhere.”

“So let’s not be,” Stacey said. The others nodded in agreement before they took off running in the direction of the exit. They only made it a few feet, stopping in front of the smelting vats, when they froze in their tracks.

They’d found Ripter.

“What’s the hurry?” he asked smugly. He was standing right in their path, the cruel smile planted on his face. The orange glow that had lighted up his face earlier was coming from above him now, casting an orange shadow over him, making him look even more ominous.

“Is there another way out of here?” Rebecca asked Ryan. When he didn’t answer she turned and looked at him. His eyes were fixed on Ripter, his face a mask of orange coloured horror, and she knew that the answer was so terrible that he didn’t want to put it into words, but he did.

His eyes not leaving Ripter, He began to shake his head. Panic began to rise in Rebecca’s throat.

They had nowhere left to run, she thought. They were trapped, they were dead.

“What do we do?” Stacey asked. Her eyes were also fixed on the walking death standing before them.

Ripter then began to walk towards them, moving in such a way that Rebecca was convinced he knew they were trapped. He was moving like a hunter would walk towards a deer whose foot is caught in a bear trap, towards a creature that couldn’t fend for itself, that would welcome death.

The panic began to worsen, followed by another feeling. The same anger she had felt earlier. She wasn’t a helpless creature, and she wouldn’t welcome death. She was not going to die here, and neither were her friends, but she had no idea how she was going to get away either. Frantically she began to look around for a weapon, something, anything, she could use to fight him off, but there was nothing around. Nothing, but the vats. Then it hit her, the vats.

She turned to Martika. The red haired gypsy was watching Ripter as he moved towards them, but she already had a handful of her white powder ready. She wasn’t going down without a fight either.

“Do you have anything that could melt metal?” Rebecca asked.

Martika looked at her puzzled for a second before answering.

“Yes,” she replied.

“Good,” Rebecca answered. “Give it to me.”

Martika reached into her bag and withdrew a small vile closed with the cork full of a green liquid which she then gave to Rebecca.

“It won’t hurt him,” she said as past on the vile. “Or damage the blades.” Rebecca smiled briefly.

“It’s not for him.”

She turned back and saw that Ripter was very close now. Another second and he’d be close enough to kill them all, but Rebecca needed him close. She needed him almost right where he was.

“When I say run,” she said out loud to the others. “You run like crazy.”

They all tore their eyes away from Ripter, looking at her. They didn’t know what she was planning, but they knew she had some kind of plan, so when she said run, they would do it.

Ripter’s smile grew as he got within killing distance to them. They could make out the gaps between his teeth he was so close, but now, he was exactly where Rebecca wanted him. Right under the vat.

“Run!” she screamed. Her friends scattered like cockroaches when the lights come on. As they moved, Rebecca threw the vile of green liquid at the large, metal brace holding the vat in place.

As the vile hit the metal it smashed into a thousand pieces, spraying the liquid all over the bracings.

The liquid worked quickly, eating away at the brace like industrial strength acid and within seconds there was little left of the brace, only something that looked like it had been exposed to a millennium of erosion. It began to buckle and bend at the weight of the vat, until it was too much and it snapped, sending the vat falling to the ground. Right on top of Ripter.

The flood of molten metal washed him off his feet before it rushed over him, covering him with molten gold as he screamed in pain. It looked like a scene out of a volcano movie, but Rebecca didn’t stay to watch. As soon as she’d thrown the vile she began to run towards the stairs. She knew the molten metal wasn’t going to be any kinder to her and her friends, than it had been to Ripter. The others had run a short distance, but they’d turned at the sound of the vat falling to the ground.

“Move!” Rebecca shouted at them as she ran. Immediately they all began to run towards the stairs they’d had just descended from. They all clambered onto the staircase as the molten metal reached them. The heat was unbelievable. Quickly they moved higher up the staircase, trying to get away from the heat. Rebecca was the last one on the staircase. She kept her eyes firmly on the molten metal at the bottom of the stairs as she moved up.

“I think its stopping,” she said as she continued to walk up, still looking down at the ground. She stopped when she walked into Martika, standing right in front of her on the staircase.

“We should go a little higher,” Rebecca said still looking at the ground. “Just in case.”

She was trying to push the red haired woman up the stairs while still looking at the metal, but Martika wouldn’t move. Rebecca looked up at the others on the staircase and saw that Martika didn’t move because Stacey didn’t move and Stacey didn’t move because Ryan, in front of the group, didn’t move.

Rebecca looked past Martika and Stacey at Ryan to see why he wasn’t moving and saw that he was standing in the middle of the staircase, his jaw wide open as he stared at the metal lying on the ground from the freshly dropped vat.

Rebecca frowned at him for a second before she looked down at the vat and saw the reason Ryan had stopped moving, the reason his jaw had dropped.

There, walking across the molten metal as if he was some kind of deviant version of Jesus walking on the water, was Ripter. He was still coming.

Chapter 34

 

The four stood transfixed on the black clad figure walking towards them on the liquid fire. It was terrifying, yet an amazing sight to behold. The fact that they knew he was going to kill them though, rushed them out of the trance.

“Move!” Rebecca shouted from the bottom of the group. The others took off back up the staircase.

Rebecca afforded one last look back at Ripter as she started to run. He had started running on the molten metal, covering the distance to the staircase with astonishing speed before he stepped onto the first step.

She looked up at the others. Ryan had reached the top of the staircase. He was running towards the splinters of wood that used to make up the door to his dad’s office. Stacey was close on his heels. Martika had stopped at the top of the stairs and Rebecca could see the powder spilling out of the side of her hand as she stood waiting for Rebecca to reach her.

“Down!” Martika yelled as Rebecca reached the top of the staircase.

Rebecca ducked as fast as she could, making herself as small as possible. As she did she felt a rush of air pass her head. A split second later she saw Martika let the powder fly. It was closely followed by the familiar sizzle of burning flesh and the roar of pain and anger that always accompanied it.

The two girls took off running again, moving quickly to the splintered door, through the office, and out the other side.

Ryan and Stacey were waiting for them at the far door, and as they reached it all four started running again, down the platform towards the far stairs they’d ascended on way into the building, running as fast as they could towards the exit.

“What do we do now?” Stacey shouted as they ran. Rebecca had no idea, all she could think was run. She looked over at Martika.

“We get to the exit and just need to keep running until morning,” Martika said, reading Rebecca’s mind again.

“Gee. Why didn’t I think of that?” Stacey replied. Rebecca was glad to see that Stacey’s sense of humour was still there.

“We need to get out of here,” Ryan shouted back to the girls following him. “Find somewhere else to hide until morning.”

They reached the stairs and began to descend.

“Sure,” Stacey retorted behind him, “but where?”

“I don’t think it matters,” Rebecca said as they reached the bottom of the stairs. She stopped running as the other three stopped as well and turned to look at her, confusion apparent on their faces. She was looking up at the wall of the plant, the beginnings of a small smile on her face. The others followed her gaze up the wall and their eyes landed on the windows. That was when they saw it, the first rays of sunlight starting to peak through the glass.

Rebecca looked back at her friends as their eyes moved to her.

“It’s morning,” she said. She was smiling broadly. “We made it.”

Just then a searingly powerful grip latched to her throat, stopping her breathing. The others jumped backwards as they saw Ripter come out of nowhere.

“Not quite,” he snarled into her ear. His grip loosened around her neck and clamped down on the amulet as he started to pull. Rebecca wrapped her hands around his, fighting him, trying to stop him from getting the amulet, as much for herself as for the others.

She saw Ryan bend over and pick up a metal bar that was lying on the floor at his feet. He stood, brandishing the bar.

“Let her go!” he shouted as he attacked Ripter. He let the metal bar swing and caught Ripter right in the side of the head.

Ripter wavered, but his grip on the necklace never loosened. Stacey and Martika followed Ryan’s lead. They got weapons of their own, Martika managed to find to find a broom handle and Stacey found a mop, before they moved forward and started to hit Ripter, but no matter how hard they hit him, his grip would not loosen. The attack was obviously causing him pain, Rebecca could see it in his face every time one of the weapons connected, but even with the pain he smiled at her.

His cruel, malevolent smile.

She looked down as he lifted the blades and placed their tips against her stomach. She felt searing pain as they started to penetrate the skin and creamed as the blades dug deeper, but she wouldn’t let go of the necklace either.

“Just let it go,” Ripter whispered into her ear. He pushed the blades a little deeper.

“Never!” she screamed at him. The others were bashing him furiously, but it didn’t seem to matter. He just stood there.

Smiling.

Rebecca held on for as long as she could, until blood was pouring from the front of her JT where the blades were digging into her flesh and from the palms of her hands where the metal of the necklace had cut into them from squeezing it so tightly, but after a while she just couldn’t anymore. Her will was strong, but her body just couldn’t hang on as blackness began to appear at the sides of her eyes. She screamed again as Justin dug the blades even deeper into her stomach, and her strength failed her and her grip began to weaken.

Ripter felt it and began to pull even harder, despite the blows to the back of his head and body, which had become more furious when Rebecca had screamed, but to no avail.

Rebecca tried to hold on, desperately willing herself not to lose this tug of war, but she just couldn’t. She felt the latch, which had been fastened tightly for over a year, come loose and felt the gold slipped out of her hands. Into Ripter’s.

Chapter 35

 

Rebecca felt a hollowness pass through her, as if all the strength and feeling she possessed had left her body. She remembered feeling the same way the first time she’d looked into the amulet, but this time was much worse. This time she knew she wouldn’t recover.

That was when it happened, at that exact moment, the moment when Rebecca had given up all hope. She looked up at the window and saw the most amazing thing she’d ever seen.

Have you ever looked up in the sky on a cloudy day and seen the light coming through the clouds. It’s as if the light is solid, as if it has a purpose, as if it is coming through that cloud for some reason that only God knows, but for a definite reason.

At the moment Rebecca looked up one of those beams of light came through the window and hit the amulet right in the centre of the stone.

It stayed on it for a long moment, lighting it up, but then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the light vanished.

*

Ripter watched the amulet for a moment, not moving, but as the light stopped he smiled again. He’d won, and he was gloating about it. He looked at Rebecca as she fell to her knees at his feet. She had no strength left, and he loved it. Stacey and Martika had broken their wooden weapons on the monsters back and were kneeling down with Rebecca, trying to protect her, while Ryan was still hitting him. Ripter didn’t care though, He had the amulet, he had his victory and now he had all the time in the world to kill him and the rest of them, and they were just the beginning.

Slowly he lifted his weapon of death, preparing to strike and kill the friends that kneeled beside Rebecca, but he suddenly realised that something wasn’t right. Rebecca was still alive, weak, but still alive, when she should have been dead by now, giving him the life force he needed to live forever. He frowned, lowering the blades a little, when he realised that the amulet had begun to heat up. He looked down at it for a second before it flashed a bright red light right into his face. He blinked blindly as the amulet slipped from his grasp and hit the floor with a dull thud. Ripter recovered quickly and looked back at the jewel, lying on the ground. He then looked at Rebecca. She was still alive and regaining strength as he watched her. She could sit up. Her friends were next to her, helping, but she was alright, when she shouldn’t have been. He could feel the blows had stopped too, as Ryan moved away from him, dropping the metal bar at his feet as he did. Ripter suddenly realised that he was bathed in a red light emanating from the jewel. He turned back to Rebecca and smiled again.

This is it, he thought. I’ve won.

But still Rebecca was alive, and she shouldn’t be. He looked at the jewel again and realised that the light that was illuminating him was shrinking into a fine point, and that it was heading straight at his chest. Suddenly it was hot, very hot, and he knew something was very wrong.

*

Rebecca didn’t understand why she was still alive, but she was thankful that she was. She watched as the jewel illuminated Ripter in front of her.

He won, she thought. He won.

But then the light changed, it focused into a point about the size of a large coffee mug right over Ripter chest. The light became brighter and brighter until Rebecca had to shield her eyes, then it vanished. Rebecca moved her hand and looked back at Ripter. He mouth was hanging open in shock as he stood. Rebecca couldn’t tell why for a moment, but then she looked down at the point where the light had hit his chest and she noticed what was different. Right in the middle of Ripter’s chest, right where the light had hit him, was a gaping hole.

Ripter looked down at the hole before he then looked back at Rebecca. There was a look of shock deepened on his face as his forehead creased into a heavy frown. He’d obviously not been expecting anything like this, but the look of shock quickly changed into a look of pure hatred and contempt, aimed straight at Rebecca. He snarled and lunged forward. The blades aimed at Rebecca’s head. She fell backwards, along with Stacey and Martika, trying to avoid the attack as a second beam of light came out of the amulet.

The second beam was much bigger than the first, and it consumed Ripter’s entire body, covering him with a red light and blocking him from Rebecca’s view.

She heard yelling coming from inside the beam, but she couldn’t see anything, and then it was gone, the beam of light, and Ripter. There was nothing left, only the little golden amulet connected to the chain lying on the ground of the smelting plant at Rebecca’s feet. She leaned forward and picked it up looking into the jewel, but the hollowness she’d felt before wasn’t there. There was no magic left in the jewel, it was just a piece of jewellery now. She discarded it onto the ground again before she looked around at her friends. Stacey and Martika were still kneeling with her, and Ryan was standing where Ripter had been a few moments earlier. They were all shaken up and a little bruised, but alive.

She smiled at them and they smiled back. She wanted to say something, but after an experience like that, what is there to say.

Ryan walked over to her and offered her a hand. She smiled again and took it before he helped her off the floor. He then helped Stacey and Martika up as well before turning back to Rebecca. She wrapped her arms around his neck and he returned the hug, both of them closing their eyes, thankful to be together and to be alive. Martika and Stacey just watched them hug, smiling at the two of them. When they finally let go of each other Ryan spoke.

“Let’s go home,” he said. Rebecca just nodded. She put her arm around his and did the same to Stacey as soon as she was close enough, and he three started walking away, following Martika out of the plant. They’d walked a few feet when Rebecca suddenly stopped. She turned around, looking for something.

“What is it?” Stacey asked.

“Give me a second,” Rebecca said. She left her friends and walked back over to the amulet, before bending over and picking it up.

She knew all its power was gone, but why risk it?

She quickly walked to the first of the two vats still hanging from their bases and after one last look at the jewel in her hand, she threw the amulet up into the vat and into the molten metal.

The amulet landed in the molten metal and sat there for a moment before it hissed and cracked, soft red light escaping from it as it did. It then sank into the orange liquid and was gone.

Rebecca walked back to her friends. She smiled.

“Better safe than sorry,” she said as she reached them. They smiled back, nodding softly before they then turned and walked into the sunlight of the most incredible morning any of them had ever seen.

 

The End.

 

If you enjoyed RIPTER please feel free to leave a rating or even a review, good or bad. And be sure to check out my other work.

Thank you so much.

 

Bethany

 

A WitchWood Academy Novel

Book 1

 

 

 

 

 

Jon Broeke

 

www.jonbroeke.wix.com/author

Chapter 1 – Waking up and remembering the nightmare.

Flashing light and searing pain. That was all she could remember. She wasn’t sure what it meant, but it wasn’t pleasant. It was downright unpleasant to be sure. It was a nightmare that Bethany Clark hadn’t had in years. She used to have it every night, when she was younger, much younger, but she never had it anymore.

Flashing light and searing pain… And then nothing. The light and pain were gone as soon as they’d appeared, replaced with a consistent buzz in the distance, getting louder and louder, and louder…

*

Bethany slowly opened her eyes to the morning sunlight, any thoughts of the nightmare dashed by the sunlight coming in through her pink curtained window. She looked over at the digital numbers glowing fluorescent green on her bedside table. The noise that had awoken her was emanating from the small red and black box. The continual buzz, like a robotic rooster sent to interrupt her sleep. She pulled her arm reluctantly out from under the covers and hit the snooze button on the top. The rooster was silent, for a short while, as she buried her head back into the white covered pillows at the head of the bed. Then her eyes shot open and she sat up. It was the day. The one she’d been dreading for weeks. The day her life ended. Her first day at WitchWood Academy. She closed her eyes again and put her face in her hands, groaning loudly only to herself, since there was no one else was in the room to hear the sound of her agony. She pulled her knees up to her chest. She still couldn’t believe this was happening to her.

It had begun months ago. With the visit to her old school by the mysterious woman.

*

Bethany walked slowly towards the back of the school hall. She had her backpack firmly on her back and was holding onto the straps as if it was a parachute. She looked around at the faces surrounding her. The hall had filled up quickly after the announcement by Mr. Craft announcing that the entire school needed to come to the school hall for a special presentation. Bethany had been sitting in math class at the time, so everyone was happy about leaving the lesson, but confused as to the reason for the sudden meeting they’d all been summoned to. Bethany had quickly put her belongings in the backpack and was now moving down the centre aisle towards the back of the hall.

She nervously pushed the loose strands of her dark, almost black hair, which had fallen loose from her ponytail, behind her ear before taking hold of the strap again. She reached the back of the room and moved quickly into the last row of seats in the hall. None of the other kids sitting in the back row as much as looked at her as moved past them. Even though they were in the same year, she wasn’t friends with any of them, she didn’t even know their names, and she was sure they didn’t know hers either. She wasn’t really friends with any one. It was one of her… Issues. As her mother put it.

Bethany stopped at the third chair from the wall, two chairs away from a girl with blonde hair that was talking to a girl with red hair sitting next to her, before removing her back pack from her back, placing it on the floor by her feet, and sitting.

She looked over at the other pupils sitting in the school hall, more and more filling the chairs as the seconds ticked by.

They kind of looked like her, all wearing the same navy blue blazer she was wearing. The girls were wearing the same navy blue plaid skirt she was, and, along with the guys, the same navy blue plaid ties over their white button shirts she was wearing. The difference was, instead of sitting by themselves, hands in their laps, they were looking at each other, chatting away, each with a different idea of the reason they had been summoned.

None of them looked at Bethany, not even the ones in her row, and she didn’t offer any suggestions. They wouldn’t have listened if she had. She just sat there, pushing the hair behind her ear again before putting her hand back in her lap. It was at that moment that Mr. Craft walked into the room.

The voices in the hall, which had been relatively loud moments before, died down the second he walked through the same door Bethany had walked through minutes before at the front of the room. He stopped for a moment, looking out at the masses of pupils that were sitting in front of him, before he moved towards a set of five stairs that led up onto the stage that made up the front of the hall.

His greying hair was combed as neatly as the grey pin-striped suit that he was wearing. It was as if an air of neatness emanated from him, and carried with it control. Every child that spoke to him felt it. He was the kind of man that could stop a charging bull, or a rebellious teenager, with a single look, but this day was different. He wasn’t the one carrying the power. It was reserved for the woman walking behind him.

She was tall, over six feet, Bethany thought, wearing a crisp, charcoal coloured pinstripe skirt-suit that looked like it had been tailored for her, and probably had been. Her silver hair had been pulled back into a tight bun which sat at the back of her head, right where her neck joined it, like a small round ball that was an extension of her brain. Like her brain needed extra space, so it had pushed out the back of her skull. She wore silver rimmed glasses which were flat on top, creating a half moon effect with the curve at the bottom, and they didn’t appear to be very thick. A thought occurred to Bethany that perhaps they were more for show than for need. She’s not quite sure why she had the thought, but she did.

The woman followed Mr. Craft onto the stage, via the steps, and they both walked quickly to the podium that had been set up in the middle of the stage. Mr. Craft stopped in front of the wooden desk like structure with a small black microphone sticking out the top, while the woman stopped next to it. He looked out over the student body, which had gone deadly quiet since he and the strange woman had entered the room, while the woman did the same.

Then something unsettling happened. The woman’s eyes settled on Bethany. Of course she was a good hundred metres away, and the woman could have been looking at anything, but it seemed, especially to Bethany, that she was looking directly at her.

Bethany suddenly felt very self-conscious. She shrunk into the chair, trying to hide from the woman’s gaze, but having nowhere to go. The woman seemed to smile before looking away again, leaving Bethany squirming.

Bethany suddenly had a strong urge to bolt from the room. She wasn’t sure why she felt that way, but she did. And she didn’t like it.

Mr. Craft cleared his throat into the microphone and every eye was on him, every ear waiting to hear his explanation for this summons.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began. He always called them ladies and gentlemen. A couple of the kids had mentioned that it made him sound old fashioned, but Bethany had always liked it.

“This…” he motioned towards the woman standing next to him. She smiled at him as he did. He didn’t seem to notice.

“Is Rosemarie Paulina. Headmistress of WitchWood Academy.”

He stepped away from the podium, as if what he had said explained the entire situation. He crossed his hands and stood to one side as the woman moved to take his place in front of the wooden structure.

The students looked at him, then at the woman, still confused as to what they were actually doing there. Bethany noticed a look on the headmaster’s face, a look that screamed that he wasn’t happy about what was happening. The anxiety Bethany had felt when the woman’s eyes had landed on her began to grow in the pit of her stomach.

“Good morning students,” Paulina began speaking into the microphone, her voice echoing off the walls of the hall. She had a strange ring to her voice like a grandmother, or a favourite aunt, and for some reason all the fear and anxiety Bethany had been feeling moments before seemed to ebb away from her. She looked around the room and noticed the other student’s faces. They all looked calm all of a sudden. Like the reason they’d been summoned no longer mattered. She turned back to the stage.

“I come from WitchWood Academy, a special, private school within town. We teach special children.”

All the kids nodded as she spoke, as if this all made perfect sense now.

“I have come here this morning to talk to you about the test you all did a few weeks ago.”

Bethany hadn’t thought about the test since the moment she’d taken it, but suddenly it all came back to her, appearing before her eyes, strange questions about strange things, and puzzles that seemed to amount to nothing. She wasn’t sure why she hadn’t thought about it. It was like it had been wiped clean, gone from her memory, until the moment the woman had mentioned it.

“This test,” Paulina continued. “Was a special test administered with the full support of the education department,” Mr. Craft snorted at that. Paulina ignored him. “To find special children within our region. You all did wonderfully. We would like to thank Mr Craft and the other teachers at the school…”

Bethany looked around, but there were no other teachers from the school in the room.

“For all their support.”

Paulina bowed slightly over the podium before she stepped away from it. Mr. Craft looked at her, a frown obvious on his face.

“That’s it?” He said to her. The students could hear his voice carry over the microphone on the podium.

“Yes,” was the only response that Paulina gave. Mr. Craft didn’t look happy.

“You pulled my students out of class for that? Two sentences?”

“I have said, and seen, all I need to.”

Mr. Craft looked like he may have a heart attack right there on the stage. His face had turned three shades redder and his hands were twisted up into fists. He glared at Paulina for a long moment, which she hardly noticed, before he turned back to the school hall.

“That is all,” he said a little too loudly, causing feedback that made the fillings in Bethany’s teeth ache, or would have if she had any.

“Head back to class.”

Without so much as a word, the entire school stood and moved out of the hall, the fear of falling foul of the principal’s now darkened mood compelling them to silence.

Bethany stood with the others, pulling her back pack up off the ground as she did. She slid her arms through the straps before she turned to face the line of pupils all trying to get out the row and into the centre aisle of the hall to leave the room. Slowly they all moved into the pathway, Bethany last in a long line, and headed towards the front doors through which they had all entered.

Bethany was the last to leave the room, stepping into the sunlight, which came as such a shock to her eyes that she had to lift a hand to shield them. When she dropped it though, she wished she hadn’t, because standing in front of her was the tall woman that had been standing on the stage moments before.

*

Bethany froze on the spot. She had the compulsion to run, to try and escape the woman standing in front of her, but somehow she knew it would do no good, so she just stood there, pulling on her back packs straps as if pulling hard enough would somehow allow her to take off and escape.

Paulina smiled at her, and Bethany felt a small wave of ease wash over her, but not enough to stop her panic. The woman almost looked like a favourite aunt Bethany never knew she had, almost. Bethany tried to smile back, but her mouth just wouldn’t co-operate, so instead she continued to just stand there. The woman took a step forward, extending her hand.

“I’m Headmistress Paulina,” She said. Bethany looked at the hand for a moment, as if it would bite her if she wasn’t careful, before she automatically lifted her own and took it.

“Um…” she spluttered, forgetting her own name for a moment. “Bethany,” she said. “Bethany Clark.”

Paulina smiled again as the hands fell apart. “I know who you are Bethany,” she said.

Bethany felt the panic begin to rise again in her stomach.

“You’re part of the reason I’m here today.”

The panic rose from her stomach to the back of her throat as she tugged on the straps.

“I am?” she asked.

Paulina smiled again. “Yes.”

Bethany didn’t know what to do, but the thought of running popped back in her mind. She moved her eyes over towards the fence, idly wondering if she could jump over it, if she tries hard enough. It was about six feet, so she knew it was unlikely, but the way she was feeling she might be willing to give it a shot.

As if reading her mind, Paulina moved in closer, stepping into Bethany’s line of sight, and cutting off her escape. Bethany noticed an old looking amulet hanging from around the woman’s neck. It was in the shape of an eye, circled in gold, the pupil made of glowing amber that seemed to be alive, like it was looking right into Bethany, which made her even more uncomfortable.

“Your test was off the chart,” Paulina said. “Very impressive.”

Bethany looked down, away from the woman and the eye hanging from around her neck as she pulled on the straps.

“Thank you,” she replied. “I think.”

Paulina laughed. “Yes, it was a compliment.”

Bethany didn’t look up, but she did nod.

Paulina looked hard at the top of the girls head for a moment before she spoke again.

“I’d like to offer you a place at WitchWood,” she said.

Bethany looked up, but her bottom jaw and her bottom eyelids stayed in place. Paulina smiled at the slightly comical appearance of the girl. Bethany noticed the smile and quickly closed her mouth and adjusted her eyes back to eye size.

“What?” she asked, not quite sure she’d heard the woman right.

“I’d like to offer you a place,” the woman repeated. “At the school where I work. WitchWood Academy.”

Bethany was in shock. She didn’t quite know how to answer.

“Why?” was all she could think.

Paulina smiled again.

“You are a very gifted young lady, Bethany,” Paulina began. “And I think WitchWood would greatly benefit from having you there. Not to mention what you would get out of it. We are one of the best schools in the world,” she leant forward, as if whispering a secret to Bethany. “If you don’t mind me saying.” She leant back again, smiling. Bethany smiled back, but didn’t really mean it. Her mind was racing.

“I don’t know,” Bethany replied as she took a step away from the woman. She didn’t want to go to this woman’s school. She was weird and tall and wore a strange amulet, what were the kids at her school going to be like? Bethany had enough trouble with the kids she went to school with now, did she really want to open herself up to a whole bunch of other kids? No, she didn’t think she did.

Paulina must have noticed the look on Bethany’s face. That she was thinking about the new school, and the perils of that new school. She smiled again, but not the broad happy smile she’d had moments before, this one had a healthy dose of compassion in it. She could obviously tell that Bethany was nervous. Nervous of her, nervous of the situation. She nodded slowly.

“Well,” she said, in a tone you would use when talking to a very small child, or someone that you were trying to convince to do something that they really didn’t want to do. “Think about it, will you?”

Bethany nodded again, knowing that she wouldn’t.

“It would be wonderful.” Paulina added.

Bethany nodded again, knowing that it wouldn’t.

“I should go back to class,” Bethany said. Paulina nodded again, more slowly this time.

Bethany looked at her for a moment, before looking away again. There was something about the woman that made Bethany feel like she was reading her thoughts, and she really didn’t like it.

Bethany shook the feeling off as she started walking past the woman. Paulina let her go, but turned her head, following Bethany, as she walked away back into the school. Bethany could feel her eyes on her until she was out of sight, and it was very unnerving.

*

When Bethany got back to class, she sat at the back, like she always did. She didn’t speak to anyone, and no one spoke to her. She pretended she liked it that way, but actually didn’t. She knew that everyone thought she was weird, and, truth be told, she thought she was a little weird too. She thought differently to them, and felt different too, so it was better that they left her alone, and didn’t bother her, or, at least, that’s what she told herself. Secretly she wished someone would sit with her sometimes, but she knew they wouldn’t. You tell someone what they’re thinking, just because it pops into your head, one time, and it follows you around for your entire school career, but she didn’t care. Really she didn’t. Really.

She plopped onto the wooden chair, behind the graffiti’d wooden desk, in the back corner of Miss Finnegan’s classroom as the red headed teacher continued with the work they’d been doing before the assembly.

Bethany wasn’t listening, she was thinking about the strange woman with the silver hair and the half-moon glasses. She was also thinking about going to WitchWood, which, in her mind, was a preppy school where everyone had three names and walked with their noses up in the air.

She would not be going there. There was no way she would go there. She wasn’t even going to tell her parents about it. They didn’t need to know. If they did, they would want her to go, and then spend the next few months lamenting over the fact that they couldn’t afford to send her there anyway, so she would keep the offer to herself, and pretend the conversation with the strange, tall woman, had never happened. Bethany nodded softly to herself before looking back at the board and trying to concentrate on what Miss Finnegan was teaching, while pictures of blonde girls and sporty boys with their noses in the air continued to float through her mind.

*

Of course, it didn’t work out that way. By the time she got home that afternoon there was a package, a bright white, rather thick envelope, with the offer for her to attend WitchWood Academy, already lying on the dining room table, and, to make matters worse, it had been opened, so Bethany couldn’t even spirit it away without her parents seeing.

To add insult to injury, her mother had already started reading through the pamphlets and paperwork, while her dad read the letter inviting her to attend the preppy school.

Bethany slumped in the chair beside them as they read, before she suddenly remembered that there was no way they could afford the school anyway. That thought brightened her up considerably, but then the worst thing that could possibly have happened did.

Her father was about half way through the letter when he clasped his hand loudly over his mouth and looked at Bethany. Both Bethany and her mom quickly looked at the man, and saw his wide eyes. The immediate thought that came to Bethany’s mind, was that she’d done something wrong, but she had no idea what.

“What is it Rodger?” her mom asked, but he just sat there, staring at Bethany as sweat started to form on her forehead and a lump formed in her throat, his hand firmly plastered on his mouth. Bethany looked at her mom and saw the worried look forming on her face.

“Rodger?” she asked again.

He didn’t say word, instead just moving the letter over so she could read it as well, his eyes still glued on Bethany. Her mom skimmed through the words, trying to find the line that had affected him so much.

Bethany could tell that it didn’t take her long, as her eyes grew wide. She peered over the paper at Bethany before looking back at it and reading it again, as if checking that she’d read it right. Bethany was totally confused and worried, and also curious about what the letter said.

“Oh my word.” Her mother said, looking over the letter at Bethany again.

This was a phrase that Bethany didn’t like. This was a bad phrase only reserved for situations of dire importance. Bethany was now freaking out.

“What?” she virtually yelled, the suspense killing her, but neither her father nor her mother answered her. The panic was starting to rise again.

Without being able to take it anymore she reached over the table and snatched the paper from her father’s hand.

The page had an official WitchWood Academy letterhead on the top, the coat-of-arms, a sword, or what looked like a sword, pointing skyward with two birds, of some kind, one on either side of it. She looked at the coat-of-arms for a moment before skimming through the words, the same way her mother had. It took her maybe fifteen seconds to find the line that had affected her parents so much, and it made her stomach turn.

She looked up from the words at her parents. Her mother, smiling so hard that Bethany was sure the smile was going to be permanently fixed to her face, and her dad, his hand still over his mouth. Bethany groaned as she looked back at the printed black letters on the page.

It read: A full scholarship will be provided, including all books and stationery required for the duration of her schooling.

A full scholarship? How was she going to get out of it now?

*

She hadn’t, obviously, and that was the reason she was now sitting in her bed, her face in her hands, contemplating the torture that was in store for her.

The buzzing rooster came back to life and Bethany peaked through her fingers at the numbers on the red and black box. Only five minutes had passed since the first time she’d deadened the digital bird. She let out a deep sigh, slumping her shoulders as her hands fell over her legs before she reached out a hand and turned the contraption off entirely. She contemplated lying down again, trying to go back to sleep, but she knew her mother would be coming to check on her in a moment, and she didn’t fancy having an argument with her, especially since she wasn’t talking to her mother since she’d decided to send her to WitchWood. And that included her father too. Not that the silent treatment had made any difference. She was still stuck going to WitchWood Academy, and she hadn’t had a conversation with anyone for about a week, and it was driving her nuts.

Bethany groaned loudly, hoping her mom or her dad were around to hear her, before she threw back the white, pictures of daisies covered, duvet, which was still covering her legs, and begrudgingly got out of bed.

 

READ MORE HERE

 

Anyone

but You

 

 

Jon Broeke

 

http://www.jonbroeke.wix.com/author

CHAPTER 1

“Come on, come on,” Will Powell said as he watched the hands ticking slowly around the face of the clock at the front of the classroom. There were five minutes left until the end of the period. The five minutes that always lasted the longest of the whole period. The five minutes that always lasted the longest of the whole first section of the day. The five minutes before break.

Will was slouched over his desk in Mr. Tripper’s English class as the teacher wafted on about something or other. Will hadn’t been listening. He was normally a good student, paying attention and knowing what was going on. The kind of student the others came to if they got lost, but even he lost focus when there were only five minutes to go until the end of the period before break, especially when it must have been 30°C in the class. He could feel the moisture under his arms and hoped his roll-on deodorant would hold until the school day ended.

He looked over at the line of pupils in the class, all sitting in their individual desks along the back of the room. They were all wearing the same uniform as him, white button-up shirts and grey trousers for the boys, and grey, knee-length skirts, or at least they were supposed to be knee length, for the girls, along with black shoes, navy blue ties and the same navy blue blazers for everyone, hanging on the backs of the needing-to-be-varnished wooden chairs that they were all sitting in. He smiled as he looked at them, each and every one slouching on their tables the way he was. The words the teacher was saying were not reaching any of them, and Will knew that he would simply have to go over everything again, which made him smile more.

Harry Botha, Will’s best friend, was sitting next to Will. He wasn’t even trying to pay attention as he lay on his desk, his eyes closed. Will knew if he moved a little closer to the boy with needing a cut, light brown hair, he would hear the unmistakable deep breathes that indicated that he was sleeping. A fact that made Will smile even more.

He looked back at the clock and noticed that the hands hadn’t even made one revolution yet, meaning not even a minute had passed. It was excruciating as he sat and watched the second hand ticking incredibly slowly around the face. He looked around the rest of the room. He’d been in and out of the room every day for the entire year, almost. It was the beginning of October, literally 2 hours until the end of the third school term, which explained the heat and the lack of interest from the pupils. Will knew it was hard for the teacher to keep the pupils interested at the best of times, but in a heat wave, a few minutes from break, and a few hours from the October holiday, it was virtually impossible.

Will had to give Mr. Tripper props though for trying. He looked at the teacher, standing at the white board at the front of the class. He was wearing a blue, short-sleeve button-up shirt and khaki slacks, walking across the front of the room, reading out of some or other book in his hands. He had told them the title of the book, Will knew that, but he had no idea what it was now. The man, with his greying hair, must have been in his late 40’s or early 50’s, though Will wasn’t sure exactly, and he kept reaching up with the index finger on his right hand and pushing his wire frame glasses back up his nose. Will could see that they were slipping down from the amount of perspiration that was forming on the bridge of his nose. Will could sympathise, even though he’d never had to wear glasses, he could imagine what a pain they would be on a day like today.

Will looked back up at the clock just in time to see the second hand complete it’s rotation to end at the 12 at the top of the face. The room went silent for a moment, even Mr. Tripper seemed to freeze on the spot, as it seemed everyone held their breath, waiting for the bell to ring, and when it did, it filled Will with such relief that he almost broke out in song. He didn’t, of course, instead just standing and grabbing his blazer off the back of the chair. The entire class did the same, moving as a single unit and heading towards the door.

Mr. Tripper closed the book before putting it on the desk in front of him. He pulled his glasses from his nose and used the corner of his shirt to clean them as the kids made their way from the classroom out into the fresh air.

Will grabbed his backpack off the ground, but carried it in his hand, not wanting to put the heavy item on his back, as he headed towards the door with the throngs of others. He looked back as he moved and saw Harry steps behind him, carrying his own backpack, as they made their way through the door.

The mad rush of children was even worse outside the class, in the corridor, as the escaping mass from three separate classrooms all converged, heading towards the same staircase at the far end of the corridor. Harry and Will joined the stampede heading towards the concrete stairs, moving slowly, but with purpose.

Once down the staircase they moved off the ground floor corridor and onto the grass that made up the small open area between two sets of classrooms, which led down to the school fields. The throng of people eased out as the pupils all went their separate ways, moving to their respective meeting places with their respective groups for their lunch break.

Will and Harry made up their own group, not popular, but not lepers either, just a couple of ordinary guys that were in the middle somewhere, not really in the front, but not lingering in the back either. Will liked it that way. He didn’t really want to be the centre of attention, preferring to just coast along and mind his own business, for the most part anyway.

He and Harry moved across the opening of grass, past the single oak tree that stood between the two stacks of classrooms, before moving down towards the fields. They were large fields, three of them, two next to each other, separated by a fence, and one that was further down, another set of classes between that one and the other two. Will and Harry stopped at the long concrete bleachers that lined the first field before sitting. They both put their backpacks on the stone stairs next to them before putting their blazers on top of them. They weren’t going to wear them in the heat, and the teachers didn’t expect them too either. They both reached under their blazers, into their backpacks, retrieving their lunches, before settling and looking out on the field. It was a beautiful day, despite the heat. The birds were singing, there were a few clouds in the sky, casting short shadows on the grass, and there was a pleasant breeze blowing every now and again that was cooling down the hot pupils. Both Will and Harry sat back and enjoyed the coolness of the breeze for a moment.

Will closed his eyes, just revelling in the breeze as he heard the plastic pop of Harry opening his lunch box. He opened his eyes again and looked at the blue plastic lunch box with the bright yellow top. His friend had been using it since they’d been in primary school together.

“I can’t believe you still use that thing,” Will said as he laughed at his friend’s lunch repository.

Harry cast Will an annoyed look. They’d had this conversation a bunch of times, and, obviously, he hadn’t appreciated any of those conversations.

“Don’t knock the boxinator,” he said.

Will frowned as he sat up, laughing more. “The what?” he asked.

“The boxinator,” Harry repeated, looking at Will with a completely serious expression. He flicked the lunch box. “You can put it through hell and it just keeps coming back. The boxinator.”

Will laughed more. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” he said. Harry just shrugged as he pulled out a sandwich and took a bite. Will laughed again as he looked at his own sandwiches. They were wrapped in Cling Wrap, which kept them fresh, but offered little to no protection while they travelled in his back pack during the school day, hence they looked like a truck had driven over them, backed up, and driven over them again. Will grimaced as he looked at what used to be bread covering cheese and ham, but what was now just a big mess. Harry obviously saw his face, because he started to laugh. Will looked up at him, seeing his friend giggling around a mouthful of food.

“Yup,” he said, still around more food than anyone should have in one’s mouth at one time. “You wanted to knock the boxinator.”

Will didn’t want to, but he smiled. Harry did have a point, since he had a sandwich for lunch, and Will had road kill. He looked at the sandwich one more time before tossing it back at his back pack. It hit the material before dropping to the concrete stair.

“Whatever,” Will said. Harry continued to smile while he continued to eat.

Will looked back across the field. There were a bunch of other students sitting on the field, eating their lunches. Some boys were kicking around a ball, though they weren’t trying very hard, probably due to the heat. It was quiet and peaceful, the reason he and Harry had chosen the spot their first year at high school, and now, almost four years later, in their eleventh grade year, with only one year left to go, he was really glad of the choice.

“So what are you doing this holiday?” Harry asked.

Will shrugged. They’d been talking about the coming holiday all week. It wasn’t a long holiday, only a week, but anytime away from school was time away from school. Will knew that Harry was going to the Free State with his family to see his relatives, but he didn’t really have any plans.

“I’m just going to chill,” he said, looking over at Harry, who was still chewing the last of his sandwich. “Probably play video games the whole time.”

Harry groaned. “You’re so lucky,” he said after swallowing the contents of his mouth. “I hate my grandparents. They still think I’m five or something.”

Will smiled. He’d met Harry’s grandparents, and they did. They pinched his cheeks and gave him sweets and spoke to him like he couldn’t understand half of what they were saying, like you would speak to a very small child. It was incredibly funny for Will, but he could understand that it was probably less fun for Harry.

“I wish I could stay home and play video games,” Harry continued. “Maybe…” Will knew what he was thinking, but he also knew that it was pointless. His mother would see him in his grave before she let him stay away from seeing his grandparents so he could play video games. Harry knew it too, which was probably why he didn’t even finish the sentence, instead his face just sunk and he looked glum.

“It’s only a week,” Will tried to cheer him up. “You’ll be back killing and maiming in no time.”

Harry shrugged, obviously not believing him for a second. Will looked back out at the field and was looking at the guy’s kicking around the ball when Harry spoke again.

“What are you going to play?” he asked.

“I got that new Legends game, so I’m going to check that out,” Will spoke without thinking. It was only after he heard Harry groaning again that he realised that he shouldn’t have said anything. He should have just made up something about not knowing and thinking it’ll be boring. He looked over at Harry and noticed that his bottom lip was hovering close to the ground. He couldn’t help but smile.

“Sorry,” Will said. “It’s just a week,” he repeated. “And I’m sure I won’t have any fun.”

Harry gave him a look that translated into: Sure, you won’t, with an incredibly sarcastic tone of voice. Will smiled again. He was going to say something else, to try and console his friend, who’s life support system of scantily clad warrior woman and dudes with guns far too big for reality was being taken away for a week, but before he said anything he was interrupted by a voice.

“Ready? Okay,” the voice said, and Will’s blood turned cold. He’d known Taylor James since the first day they’d both started at Florida High School. They’d even been put in the same class, they’d even sat next to each other, purely by chance, but by the second period of that very first day, Will had decided that Taylor James was the enemy and must be destroyed at any cost. She was deceitful, she was conniving, she was mean and, worst of all, she’d stolen his favourite, lucky, pencil on that very first day.

Will turned his head to look at the girl standing in front of a group of other girls on the field. They were all wearing their school uniforms, but each had a pair of black ski pants on under their skirts. Most of the girls at school did that, but the ski pants for this group served a serious purpose. They were the cheer squad, so they wore the ski pants so they could jump and twirl and the boys wouldn’t see their never minds. They were in the process of jumping and twirling as Will looked at Taylor.

She was pretty, he was under no preconception that she wasn’t. It was part of the reason he’d tried to be nice to her on that first day, before the pencil incident that is.

She had shoulder length blonde hair that seemed to glow in the summer sun. She was conventionally pretty too, with the right proportion of eyes to nose to mouth, and when she smiled it seemed to light up a room, or it did, at first, before the pencil. Will had really liked her when he’d met her, but then the pencil.

Will looked over at Harry. He was watching the girls as they jumped and twirled. Will wasn’t surprised, all of the boys on the field were watching them, except him, but even he was finding it difficult to keep his eyes away from the nubile 16 and 17 year old bodies as they gyrated and bounced on the field in front of everyone. The only one he didn’t want to see was Taylor James. Harry obviously noticed Will looking at him and turned away from the girls, pulling a face, pretending to think they were gross. Of course Will knew he thought different, even about Taylor, but he appreciated the effort.

The dance continued for around five minutes, which seemed a lot longer to Will, until the girls, most of them little Taylor clones, finished what they were doing. Taylor turned to the group, a great smile on her face.

“That was great guys,” she said. Her voice was like bells tinkling, if you liked that kind of thing, which Will didn’t. “Simone just watch the second pivot,” the Taylor clone Will guessed was named Simone nodded, “And Kelly watch your timing on the fourth jump. After the turn.” Kelly Kendrick Will did know. She’d been in that same class on that day Taylor had stolen his pencil. She’d been the one that Taylor had gone to after the incident and was now Taylor’s best friend. Will looked at the pretty girl, one of the non-Taylor clones in the group. She had dark skin, like sun dried olives, and dark hair, like rich coffee. Her eyes were bigger than Taylor’s which made her look smart, even though she really wasn’t.

She nodded as Taylor turned around again, the smile still on her face. It vanished though as she saw Will sitting on the bleachers. He noticed her spotting him and knew he needed to do something to piss her off, it was his thing, so he started a slow clap as Harry looked on and laughed.

“That was wonderful,” he said, sarcastically, as he continued to clap. “Really. Top rate, like the freakin’ Bolshoi.” Taylor glared at him. If looks could kill he’d have probably been reincarnated already.

“No one asked your opinion William,” she retorted, using his full name simply because she knew how much he hated that.

“If you don’t want criticism,” he continued. “Why do it in front of everybody on the school field? Why not wait till we all go home?”

“Because everyone else is polite to us,” she hit back. “And we have as much right to use this field as you do to sit your ass on it. If you don’t like it why don’t you leave?”

“Because I got here first,” he knew how childish it sounded as he said it, but it was true. He had got there first.

Taylor continued to glare at him. “Very mature,” she said.

“More than you,” Will said.

Taylor made a sound that was a cross between a harsh outward breath, a growl and losing her lunch as she waved a dismissive hand at Will and stalked away. The rest of the squad glared at Will as they followed their leader to the bleachers. Will didn’t even notice as he watched Taylor, her back to him. She walked about twenty feet away from where he was sitting before sitting on the bleachers herself, and being joined by the rest of the cheer squad. Will continued to watch her for a moment longer as she sat, her back especially towards him, before he turned to Harry. He was watching Will, a smile on his face.

“Can you believe her?” Will asked.

Harry continued to smile, shaking his head at Will.

Will frowned. “What?” he asked.

“What is it with you two?” Harry asked.

“You know,” Will said.

Harry nodded. “Right,” he said. “The pencil…”

“It wasn’t just a pencil,” Will cut him off. “It was a lucky pencil. The pencil I’d used all through primary school. The one I wrote my entrance exam with.”

“Would you forget about the damned pencil?” Harry said. Will recoiled like Harry had just slapped him.

“Forget the pencil?” Will asked, shocked by what his friend had suggested.

Harry lifted his hands in submission to Will, laughing softly to himself. “What I’m saying,” he said. “Is that this thing with you and Taylor is getting old.” He motioned around at the rest of the pupils sitting at the field. “No one even cares anymore.”

Will looked around and realised that no one had even looked up during their argument. They were all just going on with their days.

“I’m glad no one noticed,” Will said as he looked back at Harry.

“Oh,” Harry exclaimed. “Everyone noticed, but you’ve had the same argument with her, every day since eighth grade, and no one cares anymore.”

“I care,” Will said, driving his point home by thumbing at himself. “I care, and I will have my revenge for my pencil.” Again, Will knew how crazy it sounded as he said it, but the sad thing was that he actually believed it. He would have his revenge. Taylor James would pay for taking his pencil, she would pay. He had no idea how she would pay. It wasn’t like he was going to kill her over some stupid pencil, but it was the point that mattered. She’d taken the pencil and he needed his satisfaction, of course, it had been four years since that day and all they’d done was argue, a lot apparently, but still he would have his revenge. He looked away from Harry as he laughed at the craziness that was his friend.

*

Taylor sat on the bleachers with Kelly in front of her. Her back was to Will, but she’d made sure Kelly was in front of her so she could keep an eye on him.

“Is he still looking?” Taylor asked the dark haired girl in front of her. Kelly looked over Taylor’s shoulder at Will as he looked at the back of Taylor’s head. She looked back at Taylor and nodded.

“Yup,” she said.

Taylor scowled. “Psycho,” she said.

“Sure,” Kelly said, but she didn’t sound like she meant it.

Taylor frowned. “What?” she asked.

Kelly looked at Taylor with big eyes, obviously shocked to be caught out. She hesitated for a moment before she sighed. “It’s just that you and he have been doing this thing for years now,” she said.

“This thing?” Taylor asked.

“You know?” Kelly said. “You argue, and then we sit here while he sits there. I watch him as he watches you and we go on with our day.”

“And?” Taylor asked, shaking her head in confusion.

“It’s getting old Tay,” Kelly said.

Taylor couldn’t believe what her friend was saying. “Well,” she said. “Can I help it if he’s obsessed with me?”

Kelly lifted her hands in submission, obviously not wanting to argue with Taylor. She then turned and joined the conversation going on behind her, as the rest of the cheer squad talked among themselves.

Taylor was annoyed at Kelly, but more so at herself. Kelly was right. This had gone on since that first day they’d met. She’d forgotten a pencil and he’d lent her his, which she’d thought was so sweet, but then someone had taken it off the desk while she’d had her back turned and he’d blamed her, saying she’d taken it and not given it back. He’d made her life miserable ever since, over a damned pencil.

She turned around and looked at him. He had short light brown hair which was parted on the right. He had pretty chiselled features and a couple girls on the cheer squad had told her that they thought he was pretty cute. She’d thought so too, which was why she’d sat with him on that first day, but after that bloody pencil everything had gone downhill. Kelly had asked her several times why she didn’t just go to a teacher and tell on him, but she just couldn’t. Partly because she thought that all of it was actually her fault. If she’d been more careful with the pencil, if she’d watched it and given it back to him, who knows, maybe they’d be friends now, or even more, but also partly because, deep down, she kind of liked the attention. He was so focused on her that it gave her a little tingle, one she actually missed on those rare days when he was absent. Of course she would never admit that to anyone except her stuffed teddy bear, and even he had to sign a confidentiality contract before she told him.

Will turned and looked back at her while she was looking, so she quickly turned back to Kelly, and noticed that her friend was looking at her too. She had a suspicious look on her face, but didn’t say anything, instead turning back to Brenda, another member of the squad, and talking about whatever it was they were talking about. Taylor was pretty sure Kelly had guessed why she didn’t say anything about Will, but she was too nice to say anything to her, which Taylor appreciated. She looked down, catching Will looking at her with her peripheral vision as she caught the end of the conversation Kelly was having with Brenda.

“So I’m just chilling at my house,” Brenda said.

“That’s still cool,” Kelly replied. Brenda nodded as she looked at Taylor. She was still looking at Will with her peripherals, but noticed Brenda look at her.

“What are you doing Taylor?” she asked. Taylor looked at her. She had the same colour and hair style as Taylor. A lot of the cheer squad did. It was a little weird for Taylor to be looking at copies of herself all day long, but that was the price of popularity, and she was popular. Brenda and most of the other cheer squad members were in lower grades. She and Kelly were the oldest in the bunch, so that made them the leaders, and the icons. She smiled at the younger version of herself.

“Doing when?” she asked.

“The holiday?” Brenda said.

“Oh,” Taylor said, laughing at herself. “I’m going to the beach with my family.”

Brenda shot a jealous look in her direction. “Oo,” she exclaimed. “You’re so lucky.”

Kelly and the others nodded in agreement. Taylor smiled, enjoying the envy being tossed her way.

“It’s a family tradition,” she said. “We go every year at this time to the same hotel.”

“The Umhlanga Storms, right?” Kelly asked. Taylor had told her about the holiday a few times already. Taylor nodded.

“That’s right,” she said. “In Kwa-Zulu Natal.”

The others all nodded in excitement for her. She started to feel excited about it herself as the thoughts of Will and the trouble with him flitted off into the back ground. She was going to enjoy her holiday, lazing around in a bikini, enjoying an umbrella drink in the sun and chilling with her little sister on the beach for a whole week. It was going to be awesome.

*

Break was long over and Taylor, Will, Kelly and Harry were all sitting in Mr. Tripper’s classroom again. All the pupils had been sent back to their registration classes for the last five minutes of the day. Why was anyone’s guess, but there they sat, watching the clock again and waiting for the bell to ring indicating that they were on holiday.

Mr. Tripper was sitting on the corner of his desk, looking out at the class, the sweat stains visible on his shirt under his arms. Will was sure he had matching marks, like the rest of the class. It was a lot hotter in the class than it had been on the field, even with all the windows open. The breeze just didn’t seem to reach him as he sat at his desk and stared at the clock. Harry was sitting beside him again, also staring at the clock, in the back line in the classroom, while Kelly and Taylor were sitting in the front corner, the furthest chair from Will as possible. They were both fanning themselves with notebooks as they chatted to each other quietly. The whole class, with the exception of Will, Harry and a few others that were just staring at the clock, were chatting. Mr. Tripper, who was normally really strict about not talking in class, just let them. Will knew he didn’t care with only a few minutes left in the school term.

Will watched as the teacher turned on the desk and looked at the clock. There was only about ten minutes left before the bell was set to ring, and Will got the impression that Mr. Tripper was wishing for it as much as the kids were.

“Well,” Mr. Tripper said as he turned to face the class again. The class quietened down, all the students obviously wanting to hear what he was going to say. “The bells going to ring at any moment so I just want to say enjoy your holidays, be careful, and I’ll see you when you get back in a week.”

The class all nodded in agreement and smiled at the teacher.

“Oh,” he added, again the class was still. “And don’t forget to read the next three chapters of Romeo and Juliet,” the class let out a collective moan. “And, yes, there will be a quiz on the chapters when you get back, so if you don’t read them you will fail.”

Mr. Tripper smiled as he stood from the desk. It was the kind of smile only a teacher can have, the kind of smile that denotes glee in the suffering of students that just want to have fun over their break, but you have the power to take a little of that fun away, and you revel in it. The class was still bemoaning the fates of their holidays when the bell rang and the day, and the term, was over.

Everyone stood at the same time, moving as one, even faster than they had getting out before break, and headed for the door. Mr. Tripper moved behind the desk, obviously knowing to stay out of the way when teenagers are on their way to holiday.

Will and Harry stood slowly, taking their time, also knowing better than to get in the thrall. Will pulled the blazer off the back of the chair as Harry did the same. They didn’t put them on, instead choosing to carry them over their arms. They were sure no one would care, partly because of the heat, and partly because of the end of term.

Will was watching Harry as he stood before he turned to the door and noticed that Taylor and Kelly were taking their time as well, letting the others leave. It only took moments, but as Will and Harry headed towards the door Taylor and Kelly stood from their chairs, putting them right in their path.

Harry and Will stopped, allowing Taylor and Kelly to stand as Will glared at Taylor. Taylor noticed him standing behind her and stood, before glaring right back. Harry and Kelly nervously nodded at each other, giving each other uncomfortable smiles, both more concerned about Taylor and Will’s reaction to each other than their own. Will smiled a poisonous grin at Taylor.

“Have a nice holiday,” he said.

She smiled back, just as poisonous. “You too,” she answered. “Going anywhere?”

Will shook his head. “No,” he said. “Just staying home.”

“Oh,” she said, feigning disappointment. “Sorry.”

Will knew she wasn’t sorry. “Are you?” he asked.

Taylor nodded. “I’m going to the beach,” she replied.

“Oh,” Will said. “I hope your plane doesn’t crash.”

Taylor’s smile didn’t falter. She was obviously used to this type of thing from him. “Thanks,” she said. “I hope your house doesn’t burn down with you in it.”

Will nodded. “I’m sure it won’t,” Taylor laughed without any sincerity as she nodded. She then turned, the smile vanishing as she looked away from Will to Kelly.

“Let’s go,” she said. Kelly nodded, still looking nervous, like she expected them to draw swords and start going at it. Harry obviously had the same thoughts, because he looked really relieved that Taylor and Kelly were leaving without bloodshed. Kelly grabbed her blazer as Taylor did the same and the two left the room, while Will and Harry just watched.

“The feud still going on then?” Mr. Tripper asked from behind his desk. Will and Harry looked at him while he stood in front of the white board, his arms crossed. It had been his class that they’d been in that first day when she’d taken his pencil, so he knew all about the issues between Taylor and Will. Will moved towards the teacher’s desk as Harry followed.

“She still hasn’t apologised sir,” Will said.

Mr. Tripper nodded. “If memory serves, didn’t she buy you a new pencil?”

Will looked away. He knew she had, but she still hadn’t admitted to taking the pencil in the first place, thinking she could just buy him off. It had been insulting. Will didn’t say any of this, but Mr. Tripper obviously knew what he was thinking. He stepped forward.

“Look,” he said. “I know it was hard to lose something that meant so much to you, but maybe holding on to this grudge is blinding you to something else that could mean even more.”

Will looked back at Mr. Tripper, frowning. “What’s that sir?” he asked, really confused as to what the teacher was talking about.

Mr. Tripper looked at him for a long moment and Will got the feeling that the teacher was trying to read his face, or maybe his mind, to see if he really didn’t understand what he meant. Obviously he didn’t find what he was hoping for, because he sighed as he stopped looking.

“Nothing,” he said as he moved around the desk, crossing his arms again and perching himself on the corner. “Just have a good holiday and think about letting things go a little, huh?”

Will frowned again, but he nodded. The teacher was bonkers, obviously, but maybe he was right. Maybe it was time to drop this feud, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to. He still wanted his vengeance. Slowly he turned, carrying his back pack in his hand and walked towards the door. Harry looked at the teacher for a moment longer after Will turned his back. From the look on his face he obviously understood what Mr. Tripper was talking about, even if Will didn’t. Mr. Tripper obviously knew that Harry understood, because he gave him a knowing smile as Harry turned and followed Will out of the class.

Will was standing outside the classroom, on the now empty corridor, when Harry exited the classroom. He frowned again as Harry joined him, also carrying his back pack in his hand and his blazer over his arm. They both started walking towards the staircase.

“What was that about, you think?” Will asked.

“What?” Harry asked.

“Mr. Tripper,” Will continued. “What was he going on about?”

Harry looked at Will for a moment, obviously contemplating whether or not to explain it to him, but obviously decided against it. He looked away again, looking at his feet as they tapped on the concrete of the corridor.

“No idea,” Harry said.

Will nodded, relieved that Harry was also in the dark as to what Mr. Tripper was talking about. “Guy’s totally nuts,” Will said.

Harry laughed at Will’s joke, but his heart wasn’t in it. Will didn’t notice as he laughed himself and the two walked down the stairs towards the school field, and the freedom of their holidays.

 

 

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Rebecca Carmian thinks she going crazy. It's been a year since her boyfriend, who turned out to be a serial killer, was shot and killed, and she knows that, but now she thinks she's seeing him, and that's not all, strange occurrences in in the school bathroom and in her bedroom have left her very confused. Then people start dying and she realises that she may not be crazy at all. Her boyfriend might be back, and he might be out for revenge, or maybe more if what the red haired witch who shows up on her door step tells her is true. Soon she, and her friends Ryan and Stacey, are on the run, but in a small mining town there's only so far you can run.

  • ISBN: 9781370243945
  • Author: Jon Broeke
  • Published: 2017-06-07 23:50:21
  • Words: 53490
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