Home > Never Smile at Strangers (Strangers Series #1)(9)

Never Smile at Strangers (Strangers Series #1)(9)
Jennifer Jaynes

“She didn’t ask,” Becky replied. Her feet, stained brown on the bottoms from walking around barefoot, dangled from the arm of the big recliner. She twisted in the chair, lowering them to the floor.

“Well, who is she?” It wasn’t every day that Becky brought a new friend to the house. In fact, she couldn’t think of the last time she had. Sadie was Becky’s only friend.

Becky shrugged, and smeared some lip balm on her cracked lips. “I don’t know. Just some girl.”

Mac took a seat on the couch. “What do you mean you don’t know?”

“I just met her. She was riding her bike out front and we just started talking. She’s pretty, huh?”

“Does she go to your school?” Haley asked.

She shook her head. “She lives in Weston.”

Mac frowned. “She rode her bike from Weston? That’s an awfully long way in this heat.”

“I guess.”

“I don’t like that she smokes,” Haley mumbled, trying Tiffany’s cell phone again. She’d grown anxious. She and Mac had just driven to Trespass Gardens for a second time, but again, no one had answered the door. She didn’t have Charles’s cell phone number and directory assistance said that his home number was unlisted.

“What’s wrong with smoking? Tiffany smokes,” Becky said. She lifted her chin in Mac’s direction. “So does Mac. He smokes.”

“Tiffany and Mac are adults,” Haley pointed out, checking the answering machine for messages. There were none. “Did Tiffany call?”

Becky shook her head.

Haley sighed. Where the heck was she?

“And Mom. Has she come out of her room at all?”


Chapter 8

HE ROLLED A polished half dollar-sized stone around his palm. He’d found it on the bank of the pond and hoped it would remind him of the power he’d had with those who now rested at its bottom. Although it was only morning, it was already humid and it made his hand uncomfortably moist.

He dropped the stone in his pocket and rubbed his palm against his pant leg. Once it was dry, he studied the faint scars on the inside of both hands, an unpleasant reminder of the morning his mother held both palms against a hot burner on the stove. He was nine and she’d been in one of her moods. The seared skin had smelled awful. Her high-pitched laughter still rang in his ears.

He heard a scream. His head shot up. Trembling, he looked out at the pond, to the place where he’d let the girl sink. It was black, its surface unblemished.

He walked closer to the water’s edge and something in the tall grass plopped into the water. Stepping sideways, he tripped on a thick branch. He steadied himself, but the wetness from the pond’s edge had already seeped into his muddy rubber boots.

He heard it again. The cry of a human in agony. The sound was deafening. He shook harder.

Still staring at the pond, he covered his ears, and stumbled backwards. “It’s okay to be afraid,” he whispered. “It’s okay. I’m afraid, too.”

He thought back to her face as he’d wrapped her in the first lawn bag. The pale lips and the pastiness of her skin. The dead had a rigid stare, unforgiving. He was relieved that he’d duct taped her eyes so he wouldn’t have to feel their blaring judgment.

He breathed freely after killing her, and felt an elation and blissful calm no other act that he knew of could bring. He would have kept her longer if it hadn’t been for his sister. If she found out, it would be all over for him. He finished wrapping the girl and, an hour before daybreak, he was done. Carrying the body in his arms, he felt a startling rush of power and had even begun smiling.

He took her to the very far end of the pond, the place where he docked the small boat. As the girl sank beneath the water, another scream rang out and echoed against the still sky.

He shuddered with joy.

Chapter 9

ERICA DUVALL WAS a loner. She always had been. Her mother had been a loner as well. Not understood, not wanting or needing to be understood. Her mother had hated the people of Grand Trespass, and had wanted nothing more than to get away. Now she was gone.

After she finished the mystery novel she’d been writing, she left. In the middle of the night ten years earlier, with only a backpack, the clothes on her back, and a dream, she crept out of the house and fled Grand Trespass. But she made a mistake. She left Erica behind, the person who’d loved her most.

Still, to this day, Erica didn’t understand why she hadn’t taken her with her. Or why she hadn’t at least said goodbye.

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