Skin Tags

The jagged square of flesh pinched between my fingers felt strange as I stood over the dead man’s body. Beads of sweat dripped down my face, and I held back the vomit while I thought about this horrible place. This wasn’t where I thought I would be today. I thought I would wake up, start another day of work, and cap the day with a savory meal and a cold brew. I wanted so bad to wake up in my warm bed, hit the snooze button, and then roll over so I could fall into a new dream. I wanted this to be nothing more than a nightmare.

Indeed, it was a nightmare, but a living nightmare. I wasn’t asleep. I was awake and very alert. I had to be, because a lack of diligence would get you killed in a place like this.

Earlier, when the loud trombone-like sound woke me, we found a note on the floor. It told us that we all had a talent for couponing, and that in order to stay alive, we had to rely on that talent. I certainly was a good coupon clipper, and even competed in plenty of extreme couponing competitions. My OCD made me a perfect candidate to get it done, and get it right. However, nothing could have prepared me for this hell.

There used to be six of us. The man at my feet was Michael, and like him, all the others were dead. That left me alone to complete the challenge. I could no longer rely on anyone but myself, which considering the circumstances, it was much better than having people fighting while a clock slowly ticked away toward my demise.

I stepped over Michael’s crumpled body. Not long ago he’d taken a shotgun blast to the skull. It wasn’t suicide but rather a fatality resulting from a mistake he made trying to complete the puzzle for this room. This was no surprise to me because he wasn’t as good at couponing as the rest of us. What was a surprise was that he outlived everyone but me. Of course, the rules of this game were ever changing based on the whim of the man who talked over the intercom. That faceless monster who built this kill house toyed with constantly, so anything that could change did change.

I stepped through the door, and entered the next room. It was like this from the get. As the note informed us, we were to go from room to room and solve each puzzle. Well, they weren’t really puzzles. They were areas with set coupons, and if you used the right coupons to get the best deal possible, then the door would open. If not, the trap would kill the person who offered the deal. We all took turns per room. When one of us didn’t make it, we just rotated to the next person. After twenty-two room, there was just one person left.

This room was not new to me for I had been here before, but not in the sense that I had been here before I came to this awful place. I came into this room earlier after I solved the puzzle that killed Michael. As it turned out, there were no coupons in this room, so I had to go back and find them.

The room was the same size as the others, though poorly constructed with particle board. Don’t get me wrong, the walls and ceiling and floors were strong and reinforced. We couldn’t just escape by breaking down a wall. There was concrete and rebar and all manner of stuff. Whoever stuck us in here had it planned perfectly. Moreover, like a haunted maze, the particle board was there to terrify us, among other things of course.

These other things I’m writing about are the props. In this room, the walls had blood splattered all over them. Pig’s blood if I had to guess, but I could be wrong. There were pieces of animal limbs spread around the floor, with animal innards splayed from the ceiling by wire and a few too many bits laying on tables.

You might think that this was the most horrific room, but it wasn’t. Not by a long shot. You see, each room represented a different type of retailer, each a morbid representation of the type of business. For instance, one room resembled a barber shop, and there were severed heads, scalped flaps of hair hanging everywhere, and beards torn from faces and nailed to the walls. In another room, which was a nail salon, there were severed fingers hanging from fishing wire, nails ripped off and glued to the floor, and feet laying on the tables. All this among many other things.

I didn’t know where he got all the body parts, and I didn’t much care. All I wanted to do was get the heck out of there.

This puzzle in this room wasn’t hard, but it was by far the worst of the bunch. The coupons weren’t in a basket near the beginning of the room. I didn’t have to dig through body parts or a list of ingredients to find the right one. No. I had to return to all my fellow competitors. Each one of us had a tattoo of a coupon on our body somewhere, which had been inked there before we were locked in this place. It was clever for this guy to have done this because it meant we had to torture each other just to get through the final door—or what I presumed was the final room. What he didn’t count on was that there would only be one of us left, and I didn’t have to torture anyone to get the coupons.

After gathering the last of those five coupons, there was only one left. Mine.

As I mentioned, the tattoos were not in the same spots, and in some cases, it was difficult to get it off someone. Michael had his on his back, and I was thankful that mine was on my stomach in the front, where I could easily access it. This, however, didn’t make it any easier to clip.

The room had provided six pairs of razor sharp scissors, and I had already used a pair to cut out the other five. I grabbed a clean pair because I wasn’t sure how clean or dirty the other captives were, and if I did get out of there, I didn’t want to suffer from some disease I got from sharing someone else’s blood. Call me crazy, but that little OCD voice inside me needed to feel safe.

My hands were shaking as I looked up at the timer on the wall. It read that I had three minutes left to complete the room. I didn’t know what would happen if the timer in each room ran up, and I didn’t want to find out now.

After pressing the sharp edge of the clippers against the corner of the coupon, I struggled to make the first snip of my skin. The shaking became even more violent, and I felt my head go foggy. I fought passing out, but soon squeezed the handle and felt the blades cut through my skin.

I would like to tell you that I didn’t scream, that I fought through the pain without tears. It didn’t happen that way. After the first snip, I felt my body turn icy. I screamed and I cried and I pleaded to the maniac who brought me here. The snot dripped from my face, and my shaking hands moved the sheers a centimeter further, and then… SNIP.

I nearly dropped the sheers that time, but persisted. One snip after another clip, I pressed on. I glanced up at the clock, which told me I had wasted a minute and a half just getting thorough one edge of the coupon. This wouldn’t do, so I had to go faster. All the way around, until each side was cut.

Looking up at the clock, there were fifty seconds remaining. I still had to organize all the coupons to get the best deal, and that didn’t leave me with much of a choice. I had to tear the coupon off or I wouldn’t make it. So, I peeled back one of the corners, and yanked hard and fast. This, I fear, was nothing like ripping off a Band-Aid. It was hot. It was cold. My vision blurred. I was nearly down for the count.

After wobble-running to the door, I fished the other slices of flesh from my pocket. Some of them slipped from my fingers, and I had to quickly scoop them from the floor. The timer dropped second after second, but I dared not look up to see it.

Reading each label, I needed to find out what coupon should go in the scanner first, but there was nothing more than bar codes on them, which I hadn’t noticed before. Each tag of flesh twisted my stomach as I handled them, the torn flesh rough and slick against my fingertips. I had no idea what went where and in which order. So, I began scanning them all and throwing them into the basket. I ended with my own piece, but hesitated to throw it in with the rest. Whether it would save my life or not, tossing out a piece of myself felt weird, but I eventually scanned mine and dropped it in there.

The clock on the wall continued to count down, and I wondered what the heck I had done wrong. Something somewhere wasn’t right because usually the clock stopped the moment the last coupon went into the basket or, if it didn’t, you were immediately killed because it meant you failed the puzzle. Frantically searching the room turned up nothing useful, and the clocked began its final countdown.

…5

…4

…3

…2

…1

The red LED clock numbers began to repeatedly flash 0:00. I expected the room to close in on me or for a toxic gas to snuff me out. Maybe I would just be locked in the room with all these festering bodies until I eventually died of disease or starvation.

That’s when I heard the soft buzzing noise. The door behind me closed, and the one before me didn’t immediately open. Instead, I felt like I was floating for a second. A moment later, that semi-weightless feeling ended, and the clock changed to three hours. The door before me opened, and I entered a new room with five new people.

They watched me, and I sized them up because I had no time to mess around. I didn’t know if I would have to endure this forever, but these new sets of puzzles wouldn’t be the thing that would end me after all that horrific stuff I went through. I wouldn’t let that happen. I couldn’t. So, I pressed on, determined to lead this new group and help them succeed where the others had failed.

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The Lonely Road

Oatman, AZ

The desert seems more barren in this area than in the previous. Jack is in the back seat looking out at the ocean of sand passing by at speed, my wife sits passenger, silent as well.

It wasn’t always like this. We all used to be a family of chatty best friends. My son would be bouncing around in his safety seat, and my wife would turn around and play along with him. My daughter would be humming in the back seat to some tune she found on YouTube. It was always perfect.

Not everything lasts forever. Not traditions and certainly not life. Not long after her fifth birthday, the doctors diagnosed Liliana with lung cancer. Within a year, she passed away.

Although any type of cancer can attack anyone, my daughter’s lung disease wasn’t abnormal. Well, it was, but it wasn’t just a random occurrence of cancer. It resulted from my smoking habit. I never gave a second thought as to how dangerous it could be to smoke in the car with my children in the back seat, even with the windows open. My stupidity was my daughters end.

My wife, Kelly, looks at me and then at the gauge cluster. She says, “You better fill up before we get stranded out here.”

She’s right. Plus, I’m incredibly tired. I need to get something to wake me up if I plan to drive through the night. So, I nod in agreement, and she doesn’t say anything further. We aren’t a catty couple. She doesn’t nag and I don’t pick fights.

Ahead, the road appears fluid, a river through this Egyptian-like desert. To the right of the lemon-lime horizon is a small gas station. The giant sign twisting languidly at the top of a long pole had once presented the name of the station. Years of weather and neglect caused one side to break apart and reveal the lamps inside. The other still had the name, but it had faded to a light pink logo that I couldn’t read.

Pulling into the station, we transition from tarmac to gravel. Small pebbles kick up and tick inside the wheel well. I stop at the first pump on the right, and the hot desert wind carries a cloud of dust past us. For a moment, it twists into a dirt devil, and then dissipates as quickly as it appeared.

“I’ll be right back,” I tell them. They know I’m coming back, but I feel like I have to say something. I want to interact with them because we all need it. Silence is a killer. Perhaps it won’t actually kill anyone, but it will destroy relationship, and I needed to break that silence to make sure that they’ll be okay while I’m gone. To let them know that I’m here for them, and that I will always return.

The inside of the station is much cleaner than the outside. A quick glance through the door behind the attendant reveals that he lives here. My guess is that he originally didn’t want to drive every day, so when he bought this station, he decided to move into it.

“Twenty, please,” I say as I hand him a fifty note. “Can I also get one of those energy drinks in the cold case back there?”

“Yes, sir,” the man replies.

As I wait for him to start the pump and make change, I walk back and grab one of the cherry flavored drinks. Returning, I spy something to my left. My eyes dart over there, but I see nothing more than a rack full of flavored jerky.

I thought it was my daughter. This isn’t unusual, though. I’m used to keeping an eye on her in my peripheral, as one must do with children of any age with so many creeps in this world. Even now that she’s gone, I still see her everywhere.

“Son, are you okay?”

I meet the old man’s lazy blue eyes, and smile weak and thin. “Yeah, I’ll be okay.”

With my change and drink in hand, I return to the car and start pumping the fuel. As the LED screen indicates that I’m nearing the end of my twenty-dollar credit, I hear for the first time in months my son screech with laughter. It warms my heart so much that I almost drop the pump and cry with joy. Thankfully, I’m able to maintain composure as I kneel down to see what has him so excited.

My wife is gone from the car. I don’t know exactly where she went. I don’t recall hearing her exit the car. My brow furrows, and I turn my attention to Jack.

He has his mother’s deep brown eyes that are reminiscent of crystal rather than mud. The light allows the small golden flecks in those pools of joy to twinkle with life. He looks away from me, and laughs again. I’m not sure what enamors him so, and although I want to study him for a moment to figure it out, the pump handle clanks hard letting me know it finished.

I get back in the car, and my wife is sitting in the passenger seat again. However, this time she’s facing the back seat, playing with Jack.

She says, “The bathrooms here are so clean. I expected to walk into some kind of CDC death trap, but I have to hand it to the guy, he really knows how to scrub.”

She hasn’t shown this much affection or attention to either of us in a long time, so I don’t respond. I know I’m still broken even if she has suddenly become okay, and I don’t want my dour mood to sour hers. So, I remain quiet as I pull out of the station.

Jack continues to play. Kelly lightly claps her hands and urges him on. I glance over at her, and I want to caress her skin, to feel her warmth, but I know I don’t deserve to touch her. Instead, I look in the rear view mirror to steal a glimpse of my son, and I see my daughter sitting next to him.

Slamming on the breaks causes me to lose control of the vehicle for a moment. I wrestle it back into a straight line on the road, and then I stop the Chevy entirely. I try to turn around and look at my daughter, but the seat belt stops me. I fight hard with it, and finally release the latch. I look back, and see her sitting there as alive as ever.

While Jack has his mother’s eyes, Liliana has mine. They’re azure, but warm. The light haloes from her blonde hair and filters through the fuzzy peach hair on her cheek. She looks scared because of my reaction.

Kelly says between panicked breaths, “What the heck was that?”

I shake my head, unable to speak.

“Babe, are you okay?”

My heart pounds in my chest, and I step out of the car. With my hands on my head, I try to control my breathing. I look out into that hot abyss. A lizard skitters from one dead bush to another. A fly buzzes near a pile of coyote droppings; it lands for a moment and then takes flight again.

I know this can’t be real, but it’s too vivid to be a dream. It has to be a reality, but then, how is my daughter alive? I don’t know, and because I figure that it can’t be real, I fear turning around because I worry she won’t be there.

Eventually, I gain the courage to turn, and gasp in horror. The car sits overturned in the embankment, fluid dripping from the hood. It takes me a minute to process what I’m seeing, and then I run to the car.

“Kelly!” I scream, and I fall to my knees to look through the window.

It is there I find my wife crumpled in the passenger seat. In the back, my son lays silent, still hanging in the safety seat. I search for my daughter, who is supposed to be in the car. She isn’t there. However, someone else is in the car. Me. I sit there with blood all over my face, teeth smashed, and eyes bulging and staring through the cracked windshield.

I look anywhere but there and find my daughter standing a short distance away from the wreckage. She smiles warmly, and beckons me with her hand. Her mannerism isn’t that of a child but of someone with finer motor skills. She smiles again, and I go to her. When I arrive, I find Kelly standing next to her with little Jack sleeping peacefully in her arms.

Follow the White Rabbit

Next month, my novella Follow the White Rabbit hits the shelves. Here is a sneak preview of it, but before that, a little about the story.

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Jessi, a successful new artist, never thought her life could turn sour so quickly, but when she comes home to find a dangerous man waiting for her, she does the only thing she can do to stay alive… run.

And now, for the story.

Chapter One Preview

When Jessi turned off the ignition outside her apartment, the headlights doused and the wipers froze halfway up the glass. As a fine mist drifted languidly across the street, it eddied over the windshield, licking the surface until it fully wetted as if a layer of crystals refracted the cool white light of the nearby street lamps.

This time of year was colder than usual, and although the temperature inside her car started to drop, she didn’t want to get out. She was afraid someone was hiding in the mist, just waiting for the chance to take her by surprise. Therefore, she sat there, and tried to psych herself up enough to get her things and head into the building.

Her parents raised her in this city, and she knew it wasn’t characteristically dangerous. Most of the homes in the surrounding neighborhoods sold for over four-million each, and the apartments charged just south of three-thousand for a single bedroom unit. It was a typical community of wealth where the worst thing that happened was someone’s yappy dog peed near someone’s lawn.

For years, crime seemed non-existent to her. That remained true until someone mugged her friend Beth at a nearby gas station two weeks ago. The attacker didn’t harm Beth or anyone else, but it was just enough to freak Jessi out because if it could happen to Beth, then it could happen to her. Hell, it could happen to anyone.

Suddenly, all the fright her father had metaphorically beat into her as a child came rushing back. The man was a notorious cynic and categorically hateful of men. Although women were no strangers to committing crimes, he believed women were more likely to commit crimes of necessity. Meanwhile, he maintained that men did stupid things because they needed to show off, which made them incredibly dangerous. Even more dangerous were the ones that couldn’t get their hands on women for one reason or another, so they committed even worse crimes, like rape.

Though her father had passed long ago, that didn’t stop him from whispering into her ear. She heard him admonish her for being out so late and warning her of how easy it would be for someone to sneak up on her in that fog. He constantly reminded her of how little time it would take for someone to take advantage of her, and then she’d be living as a victim for the rest of her life.

Life as a victim. That was the one thing she could never stand hearing him say. There are many reasons someone might become a victim, but she believed that if someone was strong enough, he or she could overcome that feeling of being a victim. She knew that one could never forget an atrocity forced upon them by another, but that didn’t mean they had to live as a victim for the rest of their life.

Truthfully, she knew no single word to describe such an experience, and that by reducing it to a single-word description, be it victim or survivor, it took away from the actuality of it.

“Bah,” she said, annoyed she even concerned herself with those thoughts. She knew the likelihood of something happening to her in Newport Beach was slim, and she knew she needed to get over it. There was no sense in sitting outside freezing when she could be in her nice toasty apartment.

She reached into the back of her car, and struggled to bring her painting equipment to the front. She could have just as easily stepped out and opened the rear door for easier access, but deep down inside, she didn’t want to be out in the fog more than necessary. She may have mostly retired her fear, but that didn’t mean she planned to give a criminal more opportunity than necessary.

Jessi quickly scanned the inside of her car to make sure she had everything, and then opened the door. It was half-open when a car with extremely loud exhaust roared past her. The ensuing flow of air pulled her door all the way open, and the mist swirled behind it. It eddied into the car, oddly like the tendrils of a sea monster reaching for her.

She leaned out of her door and yelled, “Asshole!”

She didn’t feel any better.

Jessi watched the two red lights glow through the fog as they waited at a four-way stop, and then the driver was gone. She thought about how they appeared as the burning red eyes of a monster through that dense mist. How, if it was, she might be the fresh meat of a creature stalking the city under the guise of the marine layer. She thought about how amazing that might look when depicted on canvas, and she grew excited. She couldn’t wait to paint the new piece in her studio.

That was what she loved most about art. Her imagination was vast and colorful, and art was the medium by which she was able to help others experience it. Of course, the only art of hers that sold was the more abstract pieces, but she truly loved her more straightforward depictions the most. They told the story she wanted to tell rather than a mere depiction of what other people wanted to see in it. That’s not to say she didn’t like abstract art, because it was, after all, every artist’s dream to create a unique piece that every single person could get something different from, but to tell a single story with one purposeful painting was truly amazing.

She smiled, suddenly thankful for the driver who refused to take it easy in the fog. Without him, she wouldn’t have a new piece in mind, and with her newfound success as an artist, she might finally receive positive reception from the community on her less abstract artwork.

Jessi quickly got out of her car, pulled her bag over her shoulder, and closed the door. As she walked toward her apartment, the fog felt cold on her skin like tiny icy pricks from a dull needle. The lights hanging from the face of her building haloed in the fog and acted like small lighthouses that led her toward the door. When she reached the steps, she took them easy, one by one, and then when she reached the door, she shifted the bag to just one arm as she searched through her keys.

When she found the one for the building, a sudden noise from the street startled her. She dropped her bag and whipped around. Her heart hammered in her chest and thumped hard in her ears, making it difficult for her to listen to the night. She frantically searched for what might be out there while simultaneously trying to figure what exactly she heard. Was it a car? Was it footsteps? Was it her goddamned overactive imagination?

The fog appeared to move undisturbed, but it was dense enough to shroud most of everything. The cars on the opposite side of the street were now gone as if they never existed, but she knew they did. She thought it was funny that even though she knew something to be true regardless of whether it was visible or not, it still existed outside the realm of all that was Jessi.

Beth once asked her that old philosophical question about the tree in the forest. On one hand, she knew there was no way she could know if the tree would make a sound if it fell. On the other, she wasn’t so naïve to think that just because she or someone else didn’t actually hear it, that it didn’t make noise. It was like suggesting that just because she didn’t see a crime committed that it didn’t happen. The truth is, the world continues to turn and burn whether people are ignorant of it or not, and Jessi, perhaps ignorant in her own ways, still knew that life continued to exist beyond her own perceptions.

Standing there in the cold, the cars closest to her were mere wraiths, not consumed nor entirely exposed. The passenger sides revealed themselves, and each window had fogged just enough to hide anyone that might be within those darkened vessels. Had someone been watching her through them, she wouldn’t be able to tell.

She looked down only quick enough to make sure she had the right key. The carved brass reflected the subtle light from the nearby lamp, and on the head of it was the name of her building poorly etched into its surface. She kneeled to pick up her bag, and then finally turned to unlock the door.

As Jessi slid the key into the tumbler, she felt someone move behind her. The hairs on the nape of her neck raised and her skin pinched with gooseflesh. It was as if there was a ghost sneaking through shadows growing ever closer to killing her. The key didn’t turn fast enough, the door didn’t open smooth enough, nor could she get through it quick enough. Everything took extremely long in that moment, dragging on as if fate had wanted whatever monster, whether man or beast, to catch her before reaching safety.

When she opened the door just enough to get through, she pushed her way into the lobby. In her haste, she hadn’t opened it enough. The gaudy bag snagged between the frame and the heavy door. She turned and began to pull the strap, only getting it through an inch at a time.

When she looked up, she saw a man standing in the fog.

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Also, if you’re a fan of bizarre horror and The Wizard of Oz, my new novella Dr. Oz of Z-Industries is now available! Click cover below to read now.

The Ghost of a Murder Past (Part I)

Chris was asleep in his bed when he felt someone straddle him. At first, he thought he was just having a good dream, but then someone forced something cold into his mouth, and he woke immediately.

“Hey big boy,” the woman said, her voice salacious, reminiscent of overacting in an expensive pornography.

He squinted his eyes, but it was too dark to see her. The moonlight barely outlined her blonde hair, which appeared soft and slightly frayed by split ends. The whites of her eyes seemed to glow abnormally, and she wore a fragrance with which he wasn’t familiar.

“Wha’ you wah’?” His voice trembled and the gun kept him from making hard consonants.

She pulled the hammer back, and the hard click caused the small of his back to tighten. He felt the vibration against his tongue, and the taste of oil and metal made his stomach turn sour.

“I just thought you should know,” she said, looking deeper into his irises than any woman had ever done, “that I think you have the most gorgeous eyes.”

His heart slammed in his chest, beating hard against its cage of bone. Black tentacles pulsed at the sides of his vision. He knew those words. He’d said them before, and he knew what happened the night he spoke them.

“Oh, so you are familiar with that pick-up line, aren’t you?” she said, and pushed the gun further into his mouth. The tip of the iron sight scraped the skin of his roof, and he tasted blood as it climbed down his throat.

The woman ground her crotch into his as she repositioned herself, and because he was wearing nothing but thin boxer shorts, her jeans rubbed him raw. He winced and accidentally bit down on the metal. He felt the muscles of his jaw burn, and tears laced his eyes.

“Oh,” she said, and clicked her tongue. “Poor, boy. Did that hurt?”

“Who ah’ ‘ou?”

She reached up with a finger, placed it over her lips, and shushed him. Then she moved the same hand down along his muscular body, and he felt her graze him with something cold. A short moment later, her hand returned with a bloody knife, and he felt his face turn cold.

“That’s two out of three,” she said. “So, you remember the pick-up line and this knife.”

He shook his head in disagreement, but he knew all too well, but he wanted to deny it. He had to deny it, because if he could do that, then he could make himself believe that night didn’t happen, and he figured that if he believed his own deception, then it never happened.

The gun scraped against his teeth as she moved the knife to the right. He slammed his eyes shut, just waiting for her to bury the knife into the side of his skull. He waited for that moment, which seemed like forever, but it never came. Instead, his eyelids filled with a bright red glow when she turned on the bedside lamp.

When he opened his eyes, he saw her. He knew her, but he knew it couldn’t be her. That blonde hair with blackened roots. The soft black and blue eye-shadow accenting those gorgeous grey irises. The deep red lipstick and the subtle lines at the edges of her mouth when she grinned. It was Beth, but it couldn’t be—it just couldn’t.

“How…” he said, but she choked him off by pushing the gun even deeper. The iron sight scraped more skin, and he gagged as the tip poked his uvula.

“How, indeed,” she said, still able to sound sexier than ever, a curse of his overactive sex-drive. “Tell me, how does it feel to be controlled?”

He couldn’t respond with more than a soft choke, and she knew it. He gagged some more as he pressed his tongue to the underside of the barrel. Tears dripped toward his ears, and she moved her mouth close to his ear.

“Beth Barnes,” she said, the soft sticky sound of her sexy voice tickled him, and his skin tightened with gooseflesh. She took a deep breath, and blew softly on his neck.

He never believed in ghosts, but he was sure Beth had died. He was positive she died because he killed her. No way was she straddling him in his apartment. So was she a ghost? Was he still dreaming?

When she moved her head away, she was no longer smiling. Malice twisted her face, turning her brows inward and encircling her eyes with rage. Her upper lip seemed to twitch as if tugged by a thread that, at any moment, would unravel her into pure madness.

“You killed my sister.”

Instinctively, he shook his head in denial, but the truth was unavoidable. She had the knife. She had her face, but was it her face? Only Beth knew what he did, so it had to be her! He shook his head again, but this time with disbelief.

She let out a soft laugh, and said, “It’s funny. Some people don’t get it. In fact, the only people that get it are twins. There’s a connection between us, but me and my sister? We had a strong one. The kind where trauma comes as nightmares. When one of us experiences something that hurts us in some way, we feel it and see it in our dreams. I saw what you did. I felt what you did, you sick son of a bitch!”

She wasn’t just becoming mad, she was mad. She was damn psychotic. She proved it a moment later when she squeezed the trigger, and blew the back of his skull into his pillow. She smiled, pulled the gun away from his broken teeth, and kissed his burnt lips.

“A kiss from Beth to you,” Lacey said, and wondered if, even in death, Beth might dream about the moment that her sister killed the man that ended her life.