*Just a reminder that this takes place in the Devil’s Night world but does not feature Devil’s Night characters. Please read Part I, posted yesterday, before you read this. Warning: This does include violence and sexual situations.
I’m not done.
More than twenty hours later, and I still can’t shake his voice from my head. He knows who I am. He would’ve known where to find me, which is why I barely got any sleep last night.
Even though I knew he wasn’t coming. He wouldn’t have called. He would’ve killed me in the maze.
But still, I can’t stop the fear. I was that close to him. Inches. Alone. I wouldn’t have been able to escape. He let me go.
And he might change his mind.
I lean over the fountain and stare at my reflection in the water. It spills over the sides of the bowl into the bottom one, splashing my legs a little, but I don’t feel the cold. I roll my head, hearing my neck crack as I dig my claws into the stone. I’m ready to run tonight.
My black skirt matches my suspenders and falls a couple inches below my ass. My hair spills around my white tank top, my beanie keeping it out of my eyes and from messing up my makeup. White face paint and red lips. The tip of my nose red, and some black decoration around my eyes. Like some performer in a dark circus.
What happens if I see him? He was about Dorian’s height, but this town breeds basketball players like we have our own special gene pool. It could be anyone.
I hope it’s Dorian. Or someone like him. Someone close to them who can’t take it anymore, like Mane when he knew he needed to end all of them, including himself.
“Alice!” Arden calls.
I step back off the base of the fountain, one of two positioned on either side of the driveway, and head to where Arden and her friends gathered.
Vander has an arm around Pru, the latter texting with her brow knit.
I lean into Arden. “What’s wrong?”
“McGivern hasn’t come home,” she mumbles. “She hasn’t seen him since last night.”
Her on-again, off-again boyfriend.
I look away, pretending to study the landscape as I try to figure out if I should say anything. These people are Arden’s friends, not mine. If something did happen to him—if he’s still in that cornfield—I don’t want to be in the middle of that shit storm. Not again.
I glance at her. “Did you call the police?”
She shakes her head. “His parents won’t,” she replies, rolling her eyes. “I’m sure they’re right. NetherNight is all about mischief. He’s probably drunk in one of the hideouts,” she repeats excuses they’ve clearly given her, “or pranking us or up to something to surprise us. Some grand finale for tomorrow, maybe…” She trails off, but the worried look is still in her eyes. “I don’t know, it just feels weird that he wouldn’t warn me.”
Tori finishes off her cigarette, stomping it out on the ground next to her. “Well, Dorian hasn’t been seen either, apparently.”
“Yeah,” Arden chirps, handing me her cigarette. “They’re probably together.” And then she eyes me. “Which makes me more nervous to knock on any doors tonight.”
“I’m fine,” I assure her.
I take a drag, not as concerned about my safety as I should be. She’s still worried about the horsemen seeking their revenge on me, but she doesn’t know there’s a new player now. I’m not staying in tonight.
Smoke drifts out of my mouth as I hand it back to her. “Come on.” I pull her with me. “I need to get a look inside these houses.”
Everyone follows us as we walk down the long driveway, the night wind carrying a hint of rain as the clouds close in, blanketing the stars.
Trick-or-treating is a little different in Thunder Bay. Small town, everyone knows everyone, houses are open, and there’s lots of time and opportunity for mischief. Vander hands out the plastic pumpkins, Arden taking two—one for me and one for her—and we carry our buckets, seeing a group of kids and parents leaving Damon Torrance’s house.
His place is first on “Cardinal Row”. Everyone ends up here at some point—a chance to get a look inside and get the best candy.
But I’ve never been.
“I can’t believe you’ve never even gone to one of their parties or something,” Arden says.
I take her cigarette again and inhale the last puff, drop it to the gravel and stomp it out with my foot. “Well by the time I was old enough, shit had hit the fan.”
Mane’s friends killed that kid four years ago, and he drove the car that killed them. The Haverhills have been personae non gratae ever since. We were welcome, of course, but I sat things out for a long time, not wanting to feel the glares of the other guests.
Not this time.
We stop in the center of the driveway, the large fountain spraying in a dozen different directions, and the front door ahead sitting open. Candlelight glows from inside the house.
“Damon Torrance’s place,” Arden sighs. “My mom only agreed to allow me to babysit for them if I had someone else with me.”
“Well with five kids, you would’ve needed help anyway,” I tell her.
They have like six full-time nannies—three shifts of two, which seems extra, but his wife is blind, so I’m sure it appeases him, knowing she has help.
I hook Arden’s arm in mine. “I’m sure half the rumors about him aren’t true.”
“And here I am, hoping they are,” Tori coos, flashing us a smirk. “I’d so play the naughty babysitter if he looked at me the right way.”
“Have you seen his wife’s ass?” Arden fires back. “No human has five children and still looks like that. Be afraid.”
Vander steps up, dragging Pru. “My mom doesn’t want me in any of their houses,” she says. “Especially the Moris’.”
“Meet you at Coldfield then,” Tori tells her, walking toward the house. “I’m going in. I’m not wasting the one night of the year I get to bring out my inner slut.”
“The one night of the year?” Arden mumbles.
I laugh under my breath. “Come on.”
We step over the threshold, the empty foyer dark, except for a couple of candelabras glowing. One sits at the top of the stairs, hinting at all the rooms hidden from view.
This isn’t my favorite house on the cliffs, but I’ve never seen the interiors to judge accurately. So far, this isn’t failing to impress. Black paneling adorns every wall, gold sconces creating a halo of light, and I look up, seeing a Cold Fog chandelier suspended above us. You can tell by the spherical stem work and bronze body, Emory Grayson’s signature. She rarely designs them, each piece a one-of-a-kind that makes them unique, special, and very coveted.
Of course, the Torrances, Fanes, and Moris are her family, so naturally, Damon and Winter have one.
The red string of fate—a thread with one end tied to a tall, round table filled with treats—stretches across the room and disappears around the corner. The object is to collect our goodies and follow the string which leads us through each home of the cardinals.
But unofficially, it’s a warning to stay on the path and not venture off. These are their homes, after all. Where their children live.
Where they hide secrets.
An attendant stands next to the stairs, dressed in a suit and wearing a full-face phantom mask. I gaze around the foyer, spotting another at the top of the staircase with his back to the wall. A little more security to keep us on our best behavior, I guess. Still, quiet, and faceless, watching us in their master’s home.
Then I turn dead ahead, seeing another man in the middle of the hallway. My stomach instantly coils.
He’s dressed in a black suit, black shirt and tie, and the wrists are secured with cufflinks, the gold matching the trim on his…black mask.
My chest caves.
Black with gold, swirling eyebrows stretching high and lines that trace the sharp nose and jaw. He stands with his legs widened and his arms at his side, not resting against a wall like the others.
Like he’s ready.
I know he’s looking at me even though I can’t see his eyes. Black eyes that pull me in closer and closer.
A loud, hollow thud suddenly echoes in the foyer, and I blink, breaking the trance. I suck in a lungful of air, realizing I’d stopped breathing for a minute.
“You okay?” Arden asks.
I drop my eyes to the floor, seeing I’ve dropped my bucket. “Y—yeah.” I dive down to snatch it up. “I’m fine.”
I shake it off and glance back to the hallway on the other side of the foyer. But he’s gone.
It was him. I didn’t see the mask clearly last night in the darkness, but I know it was him.
I move my eyes around the room, taking inventory again, but I don’t see him.
He’s here, though. On the cliffs with us tonight. The hair on my arms rises, and I close my eyes for a moment, just now realizing I was hoping he’d be.
“So…um,” I say, clearing my throat. “Where do they go? The owners, I mean?”
“Probably taking their own kids trick-or-treating,” Arden replies.
We all walk to the table of candy.
The cardinals always have their own plans on Devil’s Night. They’re never in the village for the party. But what about Halloween? Another private celebration maybe? In Meridian City?
“I think they stay here, actually,” Tori says, walking up to the attendant and letting her plastic pumpkin fall to the floor. “Right under our noses.”
She leans in close, inching up on her tiptoes to search the guard’s eyes through the black holes in his mask.
I force a smile, relaxing a little but still casting my eyes around every once in a while. “If that is Damon Torrance,” I tell her, the rest of us digging into the treats, “I’d back off with the flirting. He might not get violent with you, but his sisters are fucking wacko.”
Arden chuckles, Pru even lets out a little smile, because we all know it’s true. Not every story about them is exaggerated.
Vander snatches up two popcorn balls and a caramel apple, and I look over the treats, not sure what to take. It looks like standard rich people stuff, and my family has money, but this is ridiculous. Giant home-baked cookies. Candy apples. Decorated marshmallows and pumpkin donuts. Frankenstein crispy treats, hot chocolate, and…
I stop, peering close to the bowl. “Is that…?” I smile, reaching for the fruit. “A Black Diamond apple?”
I hold it up, examining it in the dim light of the chandelier and see it isn’t actually black but a deep purple that looks like something out of a dark fairy tale. “These are grown in Tibet.” I look at Arden, as if she cares. “Only in Tibet.”
“Yeah, but it’s still just an apple,” she mumbles.
“It’s a ten-dollar apple,” I tell her. And that’s not including what it costs to fly them in.
Fuck it. I’m taking one.
The first to move, I don’t wait for them. Grabbing the red string of fate, I follow it around the corner and head past the kitchen and through a side door. I keep my eyes peeled, images of his mask gazing at me between the stalks last night flooding back, and I want to keep going.
We walk beside the thin thread into the woods as it wraps around trees to steady it against the wind, and eventually gives way to a clearing. Ahead sits the Mori mansion—formerly the Torrance place—the red string leading us to a side door and disappearing into the black void of the dark house.
Glancing left, I glimpse light through holes in the garden maze that spreads over the back lawn behind the home. Other trick-or-treaters and their flashlights. I can’t help my smile. Do we get to go in there?
We trail inside, passing another guard in a mask, and drift across the foyer to the back of the house, out to the patio. A cauldron sits in the middle, spilling with steam from the dry ice inside.
We all look inside but can’t see anything. I look around at the others, waiting for who’s going to put their hand in, but then I just decide to go for it. I reach in, immediately grabbing hold of something.
“Hmmm…” I say.
“What is it?” Vander asks.
I squeeze it in my fist. “It’s long,” I tell her. “Hard…”
Laughter breaks out over the group, and I pull out the candy bar I found inside.
“Seriously?” Pru groans. “That’s it? I can get a Snickers anywhere. Thought it was going to be something good.”
I shrug, wagging my eyebrows. “But it’s king-sized.”
Arden smiles, and everyone starts to move away as I stick the candy into my bucket. But before I move, a wall hits my back, trapping me.
“How old are you now?” a quiet, but deep voice asks in my ear.
I turn my head, but he presses into me, so I can’t turn around. I look up at the girls, my heart skipping, because I don’t know if it sounds like him or not. Arden’s eyes gleam, and Tori bites her lip like she’s about to jump him.
“Eighteen,” I say, my voice shaking, and I can’t tell if I’m scared or excited.
He takes my hand, the one I had put in the cauldron, and forces it back inside. I resist on impulse, but then I relax and let him guide me.
“That’s old enough, I’d say,” he taunts.
Squeezing my fingers, he pushes his glove-clad hand and mine into the candy, through it, digging deeper and deeper until I feel something else underneath. Something smaller. Smoother. Like glass.
“Take it,” he whispers in my ear. Chills spread down my neck at the warm breath filtering through the cold mask pressing into my ear, and I clutch one of the ice-cold items.
He releases me, and I bring my prize out of the cauldron, holding up the mini bottle of vodka. I breathe out a laugh, turning my head to look at him, but…
I turn my head left and right, not seeing anyone except the two guards on both sides of the patio doors.
The others waste no time shoveling past the Snickers bars to retrieve their treats—bottles of gin, rum, whiskey, and Jaeger are brought up, not going into their buckets but immediately getting opened and swallowed down.
I uncap the little bottle of Grey Goose, sensing him watch me as I tip it back and down it. The burn coats my throat, but it quickly transforms into a flutter in my stomach that alcohol always promises.
I dive for a bottle of Jaeger and dump that and my empty one in my bucket as Tori saunters up to the guard. “I bet that was Torrance,” she says. “Or Will. The stories say they favored more destructive behavior like enticing underage teens to drink.”
“That’s not one of them, Tori,” I tell her, heading to the maze as everyone follows. “They’re too important for us.”
“I don’t think they think that,” she shouts, running to catch up with us. “I think maybe they’d want a front row seat to experiencing it all again. Through us.”
Are their lives so uninteresting then? I think not.
A crisp breeze rustles the trees as leaves blow across the grass, and I look ahead to the entrance. Another guard stands against the wall of hedges, unmoving, as we pass by.
The bushes stretch high over our heads, the view of the long path in front of us fading in and out with the fog. I glance left, and then right, tempted to turn down one of the dark alleys, but I follow Arden’s lead. I’m sure all of them have been here before.
Catching movement ahead, I spot small hints of light, and laughter echoes from the paths around us. My spine tingles, and I blow out a breath, trying to calm myself.
Kai and Banks Mori seem to be the quietest of the cardinals, but in my experience, those are the most dangerous people. She’s not her father, the previous owner of this estate, but that doesn’t mean she and her husband aren’t dangerous.
They’re giving out alcohol to minors, after all.
“He’s staring at us,” someone says. It takes a moment to realize it’s Tori.
“Who?” Arden asks.
I look back and follow Tori’s gaze, through the entrance we came through and up the small incline to the patio where the cauldron still bubbles.
No one is there.
She hesitates, stumbling because she keeps looking back. “The one who gave us the drinks. He’s gone again.”
I shoot my eyes to the patio once more, the guard in the Torrance house who disappeared on me coming to mind. I wish I’d seen if it was the same guy.
A scream pierces the air, followed by a high pitch whirring, and I spin forward again, commotion coming at us from all sides. Pru is shoved to the ground, two boys in black hoodies revving chainsaws and threatening us as they push closer and closer.
I drop my bucket, breathing hard as I stare at their pig face masks with their hoods drawn.
They shove into our space, coming at us with the saws and forcing Pru to scurry backward, but I see that there are no chains on them, so it’s just a scare.
“Pig people?” Pru shouts, peeling with laughter. “I… hate… pig people!”
She’s giggling so hard she can barely breathe. She doesn’t seem too worried about McGivern’s whereabouts anymore.
They push forward, shoving the girls back, and I jump off to the side, out of the way.
“No!” Vander cries, and everyone runs.
The boys chase, and I start to follow, but if they spin around, I’ll be behind them. By myself. Just as they want.
I dive into one of the paths instead, running out of view.
“Get away!” I hear Tori squeal in the distance.
Laughter follows, fading, and I run until I don’t hear anyone anymore. Spinning around, I walk backward, breathing hard and skimming the hedges with my hand as I keep an eye on the trail behind me.
I should leave. Go back out the way I came.
The others left me, so I’m damn well not looking for them.
But then I hear a trickling behind me, and I turn, training my ear. Hovering close to the tree wall, I listen and follow the sound, turning left and then a sharp right, getting closer and closer until I’m jogging into a wide clearing with a fountain gurgling in the silence.
I gaze around the square, spotting openings in all four directions, leading you on a different path through the rest of the maze.
This is the center.
A blur breezes past the entrance to my left, and I startle, her laugh fading away.
Sweat covers my back, and I rub my arms, feeling surrounded. The spout on the fountain shoots water high that spills into a basin before it overflows and pours over into the larger bowl underneath. The stone work is beautiful, and the water almost seems to twinkle in the moonlight.
Reaching out, I dip my fingers under the stream, the sharp iciness hitting me just as a figure ahead looms on the other side of the spray.
I jump back. He stands far off, filling the entrance and his mask is a blur through the water.
Black mask. Curling gold brows and no eyes.
I back up.
He doesn’t move.
Dropping my eyes, I notice the gloves on his hands, remembering the feel of one as it held mine in the cauldron.
Pivoting on my heel, I run back the way I came, taking a right, then a left, and come to a wall.
“Goddammit,” I grit through my teeth.
I whip around, my nerves shot, because last night I was the one who looked for him, and this time it’s clear he’s looking for me.
He’s following me.
I press my hands to the hedges, the sharp, trimmed branches thick and slicing into my palms. I try to reach through, but there’s no way. It’s not the corn maze.
I head back and turn left, racing as far as I can. A long path lies ahead, and I dig in my heels, running so hard my muscles burn.
I take a right, see a figure, and almost smile, because it’s help.
But relief only lasts a second.
Less than a second.
Pig mask… I hear footfalls behind me, turning my head just enough to see the second one trap me in.
I drop my eyes, seeing their chainsaws discarded on the grass. Realization dawns. Was Arden in on this? Letting the boys go after them to get me separated from the group?
Does this story ever change?
The one in front of me approaches, rotating his thumb until it cracks. A quirk he’s had ever since I’ve known him. Eric Feldman.
“How did you get out of the maze last night?” he asks.
I root my feet into the ground, straightening my spine. The other—Slater, I’m guessing—closes in at my back.
“You won’t get out of this one,” Eric continues when I don’t answer.
“What do you want?” I demand. “Spit it out.”
I have no idea what they’re up to—what all this means or who’s on my side, if anyone—but I’m sick of it. Sick of them all. It’s boring.
Eric grabs me and pulls me into his arms, swinging me around the intersection in a clumsy waltz.
“Duh, duh, dee, duh, duh, duh, duh,” he sings.
I yank my left hand free of his, twisting away, but he hauls me back in hard. My body slams into his, the wind leaving my lungs.
He wraps his arm tightly around my waist again and twirls us, again and again, faster and faster, moving down one path after another. The world around me slides and blurs. I swallow down the vomit rising, but then I see the fountain out of the corner of my eye again and know he’s taken us back to the center.
I pull my hand inside his, but he’s squeezing so hard my fingers ache and fill with blood.
“Truth or dare?” he asks me.
He won’t stop twirling, and I’m about to drop like dead weight when he suddenly halts. “I said, ‘truth or dare?’”
Slater approaches in my peripheral vision, and I flash my gaze back to Eric. I assume the maze is now empty. Like the cornfield last night. An elaborate stunt to get me on my own.
I tense, closing my right fist at my side. My other hand is still in his.
“Dare,” I tell him.
Let’s see what he wants.
He cocks his head, and I almost see a gleam in his brown eyes inside the mask.
He wasn’t expecting that. Everyone underestimates me.
But then he says, “Take us home with you.”
I snicker and yank myself away from him. “Truth.”
He steps toward me, but I don’t retreat. “Where are my friends?” he asks calmly.
I fall silent, feeling Slater close in behind me. Friends. Plural.
So, no one has seen McGivern…or Dorian. A flood of possibilities race through my mind, and I flit my eyes around the clearing, almost hoping I see the one in the black mask.
If Eric is looking for McGivern and Dorian, then he’s either not in on whatever prank they’re pulling, which is unlikely, or McGivern really is dead.
And for a moment, I’m in the cornfield, looking down at his body that still lies there.
This isn’t a prank. Who’s in the black mask?
“I don’t know,” I finally say, surprised at the firmness I hear in my tone.
I can’t tell him what I saw last night. He’ll think I was in on it.
Eric inches in, slipping his arm slowly around me again as he takes my face in his hand. I lock my jaw.
“Fucking…” he whispers over my cheek, going for my ear, “cunt…liar.”
“If she won’t tell the truth, then dare, it is,” Slater threatens.
I shake my head, not resisting. Just numb. So much potential. So much opportunity and what do they do? What brings them pleasure? The humiliation of a girl who was never a threat.
It won’t be one night’s humiliation, either. Not just tonight when they coerce me and take turns on me, but every day for the rest of the year when they see me and I see them in the hallways at school, and every time I run into them in town in a year or five or ten. They will always know they got off on me.
The cardinals deserve a better legacy.
“Let me go,” I tell him. First chance.
“After,” Eric replies.
Second. “I want you to let me go.”
He softens his voice, sounding so innocent. “But I don’t want to.”
I force down my smile before he sees. “I don’t want you to, either,” I pant, brushing my nose with his.
Not really anyway.
His breath is heavy behind his mask. “I wanna have fun.”
“I want you to have fun.” I swallow, tears filling my eyes as I don’t look at him but everything around him. The trees. The walls. The fountain behind. “I want to have fun.”
I choke back a whimper I’m not faking, and I’m not sure if I want to cry or laugh. Maybe I can’t believe this is happening. Maybe I can’t wait for it to happen.
My head seems to detach, floating up high above the men like a balloon, and I taste the bile rising up my throat.
But I’m a feather. Light.
“Because you’ve been a victim too,” he coos.
I nod, staring at his neck as I slide my hands up his arms and feel a few sprinkles of rain on my arms. I step closer, forcing him back a couple of steps.
He grips my waist, tightening my flesh in his fists, but I don’t cry out.
“I want inside his room,” he says.
My brother’s. I stop myself before I ask why. I know why. Mane’s room hasn’t been touched. His father insisted on it.
I graze my mouth over Eric’s, stepping forward and forcing him back. “Burn it all,” I whisper.
Mane’s clothes. His bed. His books, his state championship ball, all of his fucking shit that he left behind, including me.
Burn it all.
He licks my mouth, trailing his tongue over my bottom lip. “And then I want in your room.”
I nod again. “Yeah.”
Something sharp presses into my throat, and I feel a sting. I gasp, tensing as Slater covers my back and holds a knife to me. When I turn my eyes over my shoulder, he comes down on my mouth, his other hand kneading my breast.
I didn’t expect them to be gentle. I wince at the taste of the whiskey on his breath but I arch my back and moan. Eric’s hands glide down my body as he kneels in front of me, his fingers slipping up underneath my skirt.
Drops of rain wet my hair, and just as I feel my panties slide down my legs, I pull away from Slater’s kiss and turn my face to the sky, closing my eyes.
What do I do?
You’re already doing it, a voice says in my head.
They hate me.
They’ve abused me and pushed me—the same story that never, ever changes.
This town deserves better.
I barely hear Eric or register him pulling my panties over my shoes and sliding them into his pocket before he lifts my skirt. Rain dots my thighs and bare skin.
“And to think…” His voice almost sounds like it’s underwater. “We were biding our time to just kill her when she was hiding this on us.” He looks up at me. “We would’ve been willing to make the last few years more tolerable for you. If you’d been willing to make yourself tolerable for us.”
He whips off his mask and dives his head in between my legs, licking up my flesh and burrowing his tongue inside until he finds my clit.
The fountain spurts behind him, and my eyes feel like a ten-ton weight as I lift them higher and see two figures. With a phone pointed at us.
It takes a moment to see it’s Pru, hugging a hedge as she gawks at what she’s documenting on her screen.
All part of the plan. I knew it.
“Tear apart his room.” I thread my fingers through Eric’s dark hair, letting her film this. “And fuck me up.” I turn my head, kissing Slater again, his knife still pressed to my throat. “Leave bruises, so I still feel you in a week.”
“We will, baby,” Slater whispers, swirling his tongue inside my mouth. I force down my gag.
Eric rises, and it’s a mess of hands, mouths, and moans as they go at me, and here—right now—I know that anything is worth the consequence. A tear runs down my cheek.
They will fucking know me.
I dive into Eric’s neck, kissing him hard and just as he groans, I snap my head back, hearing Slater’s nose crack.
“Ah!” he cries.
Eric opens his eyes, but he won’t have time to see what happened. I grab his jaw, wrap the other arm around his waist, and swipe my foot behind his ankle, sweeping him off his feet.
He gasps, I clutch, and we both fall, his neck catching on the rim of the fountain. Blood instantly starts to trail over the side of the stone, dripping down.
Slater sputters and spits behind me, and I hover over Eric, not sure if I heard a snap or not. His pupils are fixed, but his head is bobbing.
I gauged that distance perfectly.
“You’re dead!” Slater says behind me.
I climb to my feet, taking Eric’s mask with me, and turn, seeing Slater with blood dripping down his nose and his eyes still squeezed shut.
Finally, he blinks several times, wiping away the mess on his face, and fixes his gaze on me. Then on his friend.
“He’s not dead,” I tell him. And I slip the pig mask over my head and bend down to retrieve his fallen knife. I take a step forward, fisting the blade. “But he can wait. You first.”
He sniffles, wide-eyed as he glances between his friend and me. He moves forward like he’s going to come at me, but then he stops. He shifts on his feet for two seconds, glances at his knife in my hand, and then…he snarls in frustration and spins around, racing away. I watch him disappear around a hedge, but instead of chasing him, I turn instead.
Pru stands there, her smile gone as she stares at her phone screen wide-eyed. Her eyes snap up to me, and she drops her arms as the rain starts coming down in light droplets.
I charge her.
Gripping the knife, I leave Eric on the ground and fly toward her, it takes her a moment to find her legs before she twists around, running away from me.
I leap through the entrance, no longer thinking about what the hell I’m doing or why. I always stop. I always turn the other cheek. I always go home with my fight trapped inside of me with my mouth shut.
I never scream.
Running harder and harder, I follow her around a corner, barely noticing Tori and she doesn’t even notice us as she blows some guy in a wolf’s head.
Pru cries out as I close in, and she hangs a sharp left then right into a dead end. I launch myself, kicking her in the back. She stumbles into the hedges, falling to the grass, and flips over, staring up at me.
I spin the handle of the blade around in my hand in a reverse grip and take a step toward her.
“No, no, no…” she sobs.
But instead of coming at her, I swipe her phone off the ground and stare down.
She breathes so hard, a cry escapes with every inhale. After a moment, she asks, “Did you do something to McGivern?”
The icy rain chills my shoulders, but it feels so good. Tipping my head back, I close my eyes and let it wet my neck and sneak into the holes for my eyes and mouth.
“I’ll tell!” she snaps.
“Tell then.” My eyes are still closed. “I’ve got stories too. Bruises.”
I can already feel the ache from Eric’s grip tonight, as well as the impression from Slater’s blade on my neck.
I feel like I should be nervous. Scared. McGivern is dead. Eric might be dying right now. No one seems to know where Dorian is. I could be framed. The perfect scapegoat really. The town already hates me.
But fucking God, I’m past giving a shit about tomorrow, and it feels good. The earth seems to curve into shoes until I can’t tell where I end and it begins, and every hair on my body stretches from its follicle like it’s begging to grow. I can’t think. I don’t want to stop.
Let it happen.
I toss her back the phone, licking the rain off my lips that’s seeped through the mouth of the mask. “Delete it,” I tell her.
I drop my head back down and gaze at her, refastening my grip on the knife.
She picks up the phone, holding it in both hands as she stares at me, her eyes flashing to the blade and then back to her phone. Tears stream down her face, and her chest shakes.
Right now, she knows that the video is the only thing that might give the police some direction in the event of her disappearance, so she can either send it to someone for insurance and die, or delete it and still possibly die.
She taps her screen, the trash can on it clearly visible.
“Now empty the trash and give me the memory card,” I order.
Her jaw flexes, but she does it.
“So is this all you’re capable of?” I ask.
She shoots her eyes up to me, knowing damn well what I’m asking. “And what’s that?”
“Wasting my time.”
She falters, a little snarl on her mouth as she searches her fucking brain for an answer and comes up short. She drops her eyes.
McGivern is no loss. He got her pregnant last year, he and his family forced her into quietly covering it up, and it’s no secret he cheats on her all the time.
“Get up,” I tell her.
Slowly, she climbs to her feet and brushes the dirt off her ass.
“And stop crying.”
She glares at me, but I don’t have time for her bullshit.
And neither does she.
“You’re driving,” I say.
I dive into the pocket of her sweatshirt and pull out her keys, so if she’s thinking about arguing, she can’t now.
“Goddammit,” she grits out.
But she follows anyway.
We run back the way we came, into the center of the maze, but as we come around the fountain and make our way to the far entrance, Eric is no longer lying on the ground.
I pull her back to the other half of the maze, and she leads the way, taking us out.
I don’t care that I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know who’s dead and who’s not. I don’t know who’s in the mask.
I’m going to kick the shit out of Slater, though.
We race back through the house, down the driveway, out the gates, and back down the road to the Torrances’, where cars are parked along the side of the road.
The red taillights of Slater’s Escalade glow down the street as he speeds away.
Right in the direction everyone is eventually going tonight.
“Go!” I shout, pushing her to the car. We climb into her black 1964 GTO that her father left her when he split last year and toss her the keys. She starts the engine.
“Was Arden in on it?” I ask her as we pull out onto the road.
I see her glance at me out of the corner of her eye. “There was no plan, Alice,” she says, shifting into a higher gear and punching the gas. “I saw you there, I took out my phone.” She pauses and then sighs. “Look, I know none of this is your fault, I just…”
I don’t care about any of that anymore. This mask feels good. Too good. It’s less of a lie than what I show every day.
People react to Alice. They can’t react to what they can’t see now.
I pull it off, my hair falling around me and in my face, and I don’t look in the mirror to see how my makeup has smeared. I probably look like a freak in some nightmare horror carnival.
I didn’t like Eric in this mask, but I think I liked him in the black one.
“I really do hate pig people,” Pru says, breaking me out of my thoughts. But she sounds so innocent I almost smile.
I toss the mask into the back seat and look to see if I can still see Slater’s SUV, but a light catches my eye. I squint, glancing in the rearview mirror.
I watch them, seeing the car gain on us. “We’re being followed,” I tell her.
“What?” She glances behind her several times, trying to keep her eyes on the road. “Who…?”
“I don’t know.” I see the torches of Coldfield ahead and sit up, getting ready. “Park and go to Security,” I instruct her. “Tell them you’re waiting for your ride and stay there.”
She pulls into the parking lot, the two black walls ahead serving as a fence that stretches twenty feet high and the gate between them pulled open on both sides. It’s supposed to look like the entrance to a castle, but there are no other walls. None on the sides or at the rear. It just opens to a collection of haunted houses, escape rooms, food and drink experiences, mazes, fields, frights, and thrills. The castle walls are just part of it, erected to make you feel like you’re leaving one world and entering another.
I have a love-hate relationship with the cardinals. On this front, they did something right, though.
Pru looks at me. “Just let me go home.”
“You can go home,” I say, “but I can’t guarantee that I’m the one he’s following.”
Her eyebrows reach her hairline as she gapes at me.
“You really want to be left alone tonight?” I ask her.
She sighs, pursing her lips as she slips into a space and shuts off the engine.
The car behind us has disappeared, and I don’t know if they parked or not. We get out, and I grab the knife before she locks the doors.
But when I look up, he’s there. The one in black. Standing beyond the slow river of bodies moving into the theme park.
He’s still dressed in his black suit and matching shirt, but slowly, he starts to peel off the jacket as he stares at me through his mask. Blood drips from the knife in his hand, and my stomach somersaults. Did he find Eric?
His jacket falls to the mud.
Someone races through the crowd, bolting for the entrance, and I tear my eyes away from the man to see Slater running. Black Mask looks, noticing him too, and then turns back to me.
Like we’re about to set off to see who can reach him first.
“Go,” I tell Pru.
She follows my gaze, seeing the man, and then looks back to me, wasting all of two seconds to get the hell out of Dodge. She runs, Black Mask and I turning in sync and walking for the gate. He loosens his tie, pulling it off his neck and discarding it as we go.
I stare at him, and he doesn’t take his eyes off me, and I can’t help but feel a smile in my eyes that takes every ounce of will to make sure doesn’t spread over my lips.
Slater flashes his season pass bracelet, I look at Black Mask, and…we run.
We push through the crowd, racing past the ticket windows, hearing Security shout behind us, “Hey!”
Slater runs up the steps of the Insane Asylum and yanks open the doors, briefly looking back before he disappears inside.
“Get back here!” a man shouts at us.
But I’m gone.
I leap up the steps, two at a time, push past the line, and pull open the doors. I look back, but Black Mask isn’t there anymore.
I search for a moment, but he’s gone.
Diving into the building, I instantly stop and blink against the lights. Green, blue, and yellow flashes from the ceiling, barely illuminating the hallway, while recordings of screams and maniacal laughter go off in the distance. A dead end lies ahead, and I turn left, seeing a long hallway of cell doors on both sides.
Arms reach through the openings, hands ready to grab you.
He would’ve had to come through here.
I charge ahead, not worried about which hands are real and which aren’t. Mannequin fingers graze me, another one clutching around my shirt. I pull away, flinching as more search for me, some pounding the door and moaning from behind.
I’m almost out when one takes my arm, pulls me into the door, and grips my other arm with his right hand. My belly drops, and I gasp.
I swallow, finding my voice. “Let me go!” I shout.
He laughs, and I raise my eyes, seeing brown teeth smile at me through the slit in the door. He snakes a hand around my waist, the other squeezing my face.
“Pretty,” he says, sounding like some horny Frankenstein. He starts pounding the door, moaning like he’s getting off, and it’s a moment before I realize his hands are on me, so what the hell is he pounding with?
And then it hits me that he’s thrusting.
“Fuck!” I tear away, holding up my weapon.
Suddenly, he yanks his hands back into the cell for safe-keeping. “I was just joking! Sorry!”
I run, my heart damn near in my throat. I turn right and then left, not sure where I’m at and not seeing anyone. I turn to go back the way I came, but the wall has closed, my way out gone.
I press forward, coming to a bounce house room, and I look around, not liking how dark it is in here. The exit on the other side lights up, and I inhale, drawing in the fog and the rain in the air. It’s chilly, but I’m sweating.
I place a foot on the surface, the floor like a waterbed. I search the corners, too much shadow to tell for sure, but I think I’m alone.
Taking a step, I bob up and down, the dim lights above the purple-tented top barely enough to see. Keeping the knife in my hand, I run, bouncing across the surface toward the exit, jump through the doorway, land on the floor, and exhale.
But before I know it, someone slams into me and sweeps me off my feet. I’m thrown upside down over his shoulder and flung back into the bounce house room.
“Ah!” I gasp.
I scramble to my feet and spin in a circle as I search for the knife. I dropped it.
Shit! I turn to Slater, but… It’s not Slater.
Eric stands there, blood coating the side of his neck and dripping down into his hoodie. He runs for me, and I just have time to rise and shoot out my arms to protect myself before he takes me back down and comes in top of me.
I grip his shirt, trying to push him off, but he grabs my neck and squeezes.
I try to draw in air, but I can’t manage more than tiny intakes. I grapple for his wrists, squirming as I fight to throw him off.
“I’m gonna wrap a rope around your neck and hang you from the bridge,” he says through his teeth. “It won’t surprise anyone that you killed yourself.”
I grunt, tears filling my eyes as my lungs scream for air, but no matter how I thrash, I can’t get him off.
I open my mouth to cry out, but no sound comes.
“Die, Haverhill,” he whispers, wringing my neck again and again until white dots fill my vision. “You’ll be famous like Reverie.”
Tears hang at the corners of my eyes. No.
Something pokes into my back, slicing the skin, and my eyelids flutter just as it hits me.
I open my mouth, struggling to inhale, and I reach over my shoulder, flailing for the handle underneath me.
I grab it.
Summoning the last ounce of muscle I have left, I swing, slicing his skin, and making him rear back, loosening his hold just enough.
I suck in a breath, gasping and coughing and feel his weight leave me. I turn to my side, hearing choking sounds, but all I can think about is getting away. I crawl, scrambling, and breathing so hard until eventually my heart starts to slow.
I catch my breath, finally turning to face him before he’s on me again, but…
He kneels across the room, blood streaming down his neck.
I go still.
His hands are soaked with blood as he gasps for air that will never reach him, because of the gash from his jugular to his esophagus.
Oh no. I look down at the knife still in my hand, the jagged edge coated in red.
I move to go to him. To call for help—I don’t know—but a figure comes down on top of me, forcing me back down onto the mat.
I look up, the Black Mask staring down at me.
“Move,” I say, pressing the blade to his throat.
“Let him die.”
He hovers over me, his hands on each side of my head, and his knee between mine. His shirt is gone now, smears of blood across his chest. Slater.
For a moment, I can’t speak. Eric chokes behind Black Mask, his struggles getting slower. Quieter.
At this point, I can’t save him. By the time an ambulance got here…
But not trying is a choice I can never remake.
And yet, I don’t fight to. We stay there, my knife to his skin, his dark eyes gazing down—challenging me, daring me—and the moments tick by, Eric’s gasps ebbing away until there’s nothing.
The world seems to stop. I drop the knife, feeling his narrow waist resting between my legs. The vein in his neck throbs in the purple light.
Reaching into his pocket, he pulls out something white and puts it into my hand.
I don’t have to look to know what it is.
He found Eric in the maze. Took back my underwear.
He was watching.
“Dorian?” I ask. “Are you Dorian?”
This guy rarely speaks, and when he does, it’s a deep whisper. He’s altering his voice. Which means I know him.
But he remains silent.
“Who are you?” I move my other hand to his mask, but he grabs it this time and pins it to the mat.
“You’re from here,” I tell him, unfazed. “Why not kill me too, to keep me quiet?”
He leans down, the mean mask and blacked out eyes making it seem like he’s not human. The nose stops a few centimeters from mine. “I told you to stay home,” he says.
I stare up, feeling an ache in my throat. “I don’t want to be home.” My voice sounds small, surprising me. “I…I don’t feel anything there.”
He cocks his head.
“Do you want to kill me?” I press. “It would be so easy to do it now.” I pause, and the words are out before I even realize what I’m saying. “Do it. Do it now.”
I see his chest rise and fall faster, and I can almost feel the glare through his mask.
“Do it,” I tell him. My stomach does somersaults, but I’m not scared.
I don’t know what I’m saying, but I just keep fucking talking.
He takes my knife, presses the point to my chest, marking his spot, and then raises it high.
“Come on,” I beg through my teeth, even though sickness wracks my belly.
He comes down, I scream, roll, and the knife slices right through the bottom of the bounce house as I scurry out from underneath him. I crawl away, stumbling to my feet, and burst through the exit as his roar echoes behind me, shaking the rafters.
I run down the long hallway, hearing his footfalls behind me. I pass people in the hospital wing, pushing past live actors on mattresses, and barrel through a door marked for employees. I dash backstage, crashing into a small, dark room with a dead end. A large pane of glass, stretching floor to ceiling covers the wall to my left, and I look through, seeing a slab and a table with fake body parts alongside scalpels and saws.
The Autopsy Room.
I’ve been in there. This door-like window is where the zombies taunt the customers from, clawing and moaning, trying to get through. I turn, not sure if I should stay or go back the way I came. He’ll be on my tail. He might be out there.
But the door to the Autopsy Room opens, and I stop, watching through the glass as he enters.
My heart swells in my throat, and I watch him, feeling that feeling I had in the corn maze before I wet myself.
The feeling of being desperate to hide but needing to be closer.
He turns, sees me, and it’s the first time I’ve looked at him in this much light. Green hues decorate the room, but a nearby cauldron bubbles, casting a glow on his body.
I’ve never seen Dorian without his shirt, except from a distance. Both have broad shoulders, narrow waists, toned bodies…tall.
I approach the glass, as does he, both of us staring at each other.
“You don’t scare me,” I tell him. “Eric scared me. Slater. McGivern.”
He touches the glass, tracing the line of my jaw, and I think I almost feel it on my skin.
I lick my lips. “But not you.”
Slowly, he curls his fist into a ball, gentle and calm, and then…rears it back and brings it back down hard, pounding the glass.
I almost smile. “You don’t scare me. You make me hard.”
I close my eyes, dip my head into the glass for a moment, and then reach out, slamming my palm into the red button that opens the doorway.
It slides right, I stare unblinking as he steps up into the room, backing me up as he grips my knife in my hand. Slater’s knife.
Eric’s blood still stains the blade, and I watch as he hits the button, closing the door again. Locking us in.
Reaching out, he grabs my hair at the back of the scalp, backs me into the wall, and I can hear his hard breathing inside of his mask. Every inch of my skin burns as I force my eyes up to his, daring him. Wanting it.
Make me scream.
Sweat beads my brow, the scent of his body filling my head. Amber and fire and wind…
“Make me scream,” I beg.
He drops the knife, lifts me into his arms, and hooks my legs over his shoulders so I’m pinned against the wall and straddling his mouth.
His mask is gone, his lips and breath caressing my skin as he grazes his mouth over the sensitive skin between my legs. I arch my back, pulling my shirt up over my breasts for him, and I reach down, fisting his hair. It’s dark, but that’s all I can see of him.
Every nerve fires, and it feels so good. His tongue dips out, tasting me, and I whimper. The skin of my nipples tightens into little pebbles, and the next thing I know I’m falling to the ground again and being spun around. He covers my back, my breasts pressing into the cold cement wall as he bites my ear, growling. His belt jangles as he unfastens it, and next I hear his zipper.
I squeeze my eyes shut and reach down, touching myself. Slick heat coats my fingers, and he grabs me around the thigh, spreads my legs, and I only feel the crown for a moment before he slides inside of me, burying himself deep.
“Ah!” I cry out.
He reaches up, squeezing my throat and groaning in my ear. His chest moves against my back as he struggles to breathe, and I shudder, feeling the tip deep inside me, stretching me, but I feel myself contracting on him. Loving it.
I want him to move, but he stays there for a minute. Releasing my ear, he grazes his lips over where he bit and runs his knuckles down the side of my face.
“Mine,” he murmurs, and then he kisses my cheek.
Just as the door to the Autopsy Room opens, he slips his mask over my head, covering my face, and I feel his breath on my ear again. “You sure you don’t want to go home?”
Three people drift into the room, turn right and see us through the glass, their eyes widening followed by a gleam of excitement.
But they don’t leave.
“When I can take some of you with me,” I tell him.
And he doesn’t need me to explain what I want from him. Slipping out just to the head, he thrusts back inside of me hard.
I shudder. “Again,” I tell him.
Entering me again and again, he fills me up, picking up pace, and I reach behind and hold the back of his neck, tipping my own back into his shoulder.
I close my eyes, feeling theirs on my naked breasts and body, and know they won’t leave, because they like watching.
In less than three seconds, he has me off the wall and straddling the bench in the middle of the room. I face the glass, their gazes all over me two feet away as he sits down behind me, and I lean my hands on the bench, riding him reverse cowgirl.
He grips my hips, pulling me down onto him again and again, and it takes a moment, but I force my eyes on our spectators. I don’t look away as I stare through the holes in my mask, watching their eyes trail down my body. The young man takes out his phone, filming us, and I know I shouldn’t be doing this, but it’s strange how little I give a shit when I know they don’t know who I am.
In fact, I kind of like it.
He pulls me back against his chest, and I roll my hips into him, his breath in my ear and his grip on my breast growing stronger.
“Ugh,” he groans, jerking.
My tits bob as he yanks me down onto his dick, and I cry out, it feels so good. My stomach swirls and then tightens, and I slide up and down on him faster—harder—until my insides burst and I can’t control it anymore. I bounce, riding out the orgasm, feeling his fingers dig into my shoulder. He stiffens, jerks, and stops breathing for a moment, and I don’t know if he’s come until I feel something warm spilling inside my thigh.
I lean forward again, tipping my head back and trying to catch my breath, the guy still filming us. One of the women looks out of breath and the other is frozen, just staring.
He reaches around me and pulls down my shirt, kisses my wet neck, and almost holds me for a moment.
“I would never kill you,” he says.
Then he rises, and I hear his belt jangle again before the door opens and closes.
I would never kill you.
The way he talks sometimes…
I rise, adjusting my clothes, and stare at the three still watching me. Should I try to get the phone?
Instead, I turn and leave through the same door, walking back the way I came. I don’t care.
It isn’t until I’m back at the bounce house that I remember Eric, though. I enter, seeing one section of the mat deflated from where Black Mask stabbed, but when I look over to the left, I don’t see Eric’s body where we left it. I don’t see it at all.
He survived the fall on the fountain, but he didn’t survive that. I walk over, seeing blood, but not Eric.
Heading back out of the Asylum, I cross the courtyard in the light rain, finding my way to Security without even looking up.
I would never kill you. His words keep playing in my head, something gnawing at me.
Dorian has known me since birth, but…I don’t know. It doesn’t feel like him.
And where is he taking the bodies? If I go to the police, I’ll look crazy. There’s no evidence. I didn’t see Slater in there, either.
“What the hell happened to you?” I hear Arden shout.
I meet her eyes and then look down, seeing blood on my tank top.
He must’ve smeared it on me when…
“Nothing happened to me,” I mumble, handing her the knife that just looks like another Halloween prop. “Hide that.”
I shove it at her, and she takes it, blinking. She stares down at the bloody blade, and I stare back at her.
“Um, okay…” she finally stammers. “What the hell?”
I turn to Pru, who hugs herself against the cold. I walk toward her, into her, backing her up into the wall.
She gapes at me, the stern set to my eyes making her falter until she drops her gaze. I don’t care if she fears me right now. Whatever keeps her quiet.
After a moment, she notices something in my hand and takes it.
“I…” She swallows. “I like this one, actually.”
I almost smile. I study her for a moment, waiting for that sign that she can’t handle this, but I know she hated McGivern and hated her reliance on him and his bullshit treatment. I know who she really wants, and without McGivern, she can now have anything. I’ll make sure of it.
I turn and tip my head back, letting the light sprinkles cool my face. “Find out where they sell them,” I tell her. “We need more. One for each of us.”
“And extras?” she asks.
I smile and glance over at her. “Good idea.”
It’s time for new blood at the helm of Thunder Bay Prep.
“Can I give you a ride home?” she asks.
“I’ll walk,” I tell them. “I need to cool down. I’ll see you tomorrow in the village.”
NetherNight isn’t over.
See you tomorrow for ALL SAINT’S, the conclusion!