1st edition (February 28, 2013)
Daufuskie Island, South Carolina
She dropped to her knees, oblivious to the shards of glass scattered about in the dark shadows. Each second passed like the chimes of a clock on the hour.
Unhurried. Sonorous. Deliberate. Adagio.
She stared down at her best friend, crumpled grotesquely on the flagstone terrace. Reaching out, she pressed trembling fingers against BJ's throat.
No response. Nothing.
BJ’s deep, round eyes, always dancing with fun and laughter―everything in life, a party―stared back at her now.
Interrupted. Empty. Lost. Caesura.
Beyond her touch.
Death sliced through the sultry night, like an arrow tipped with ice, plunging deep into her soul. Taking her breath away.
She could feel it.
She just couldn’t stop it!
Her mind refused to accept whatever was next. There was no next.
Not for BJ.
Not now. Not ever.
Oh my God, what have we done?
A shadowy figure flashed across her peripheral vision and loomed over her.
She looked up at a man she did not recognize. He had a gun.
Where had he come from?
The rancid taste of fish and sweets and too much alcohol exploded without warning. She leaned forward. Hands on flagstone. Gagging. Heaving. Wiping phlegm and saliva with her fingers. The stranger grasped her shoulder with one hand until the nausea passed.
“Stay right here,” he ordered, his voice hard and gruff. He turned away and disappeared around the corner of the house, calling to someone as he hurried out of sight.
How many of these people are there anyway?
Then the nausea returned a second time. She spewed another repulsive mixture of food and alcohol onto the flagstones.
Voices filtered through the broken window above her.
Words jarred her back to the moment.
What was it they were saying? She looked up at the window, incredulous.
This cannot be happening! She’s still up there. With them!
She cried out again. “Ilene!”
“Go get her, and shut her up!”
Seconds later, she heard a door open and slam shut on the opposite side of the house.
The lump in her throat refused to go away.
He’s coming back!
I don’t know … what can I do?
Her heart pounded—a wild, erratic staccato, like that of a deer that senses the crosshairs of the hunter’s riflescope.
But I can’t leave her…Oh, God, how can this be happening?
A last despairing look at BJ’s lifeless form. The thought of Ilene…up there alone…with them.
Get away from this place. Run!
Scrambling to her feet, she turned to her left, stumbling as the sole of her high-heeled shoe slipped on broken glass. As soon as her hands and knees hit the flagstones, she was up again, running toward what looked to be a dirt path that led away from the house. With a desperate glance over her shoulder, she plunged headlong into the late night darkness, each step fueled by an incendiary mixture of panic and adrenaline.
A tsunami wave filled with fear and remorse swept her along the trail. There could be no stopping now. No turning back.
The path narrowed. Thorny brush stems lashed at her face, scratched her arms and legs, tearing at her dress as she flew past. A canopy of sugar pine closed over the path, making the darkness darker still, slowing her headlong flight. Eyes wide, hands extended in a vain attempt to split the darkness, she pushed deeper into the woods, straining to find her way.
A shout from the house. “She’s gone!”
“She can’t have gotten far. Go after her. Don’t let her get away!”
The second voice she recognized instantly.
Unnerved, disoriented, she groped her way along the path; her only sense that of heading into the island’s interior.
Where am I going?
No matter. Just keep moving.
Away from that nightmarish house!
At last she stopped, bending down to remove her shoes. She clutched them in one hand and pressed the other against her knees, sucking air, heart pounding as she strained to hear the inevitable.
At the sound, she bolted again, terrified. They were coming. She knew they would be. Getting closer. The words echoed in her ears. “Don’t let her get away!”
What's going to happen to me?
Frantic, she didn’t see the sharp bend in the trail until it was too late. Her ankle gave way as she plummeted head first off the path, sliding and rolling down a steep slope into a brushy thicket until coming to a sudden stop against the base of a tree. Stunned. Breathless. Unable to move.
Above her, amongst the trees along the trail, a light bobbed back and forth. She could see it. Someone was running. She could hear it. The light drew nearer. She could hear his heavy breathing. The footsteps slowed as they came closer to where she lay. And now she knew. Accepting the inevitable.
They’re going to kill me!