CHAPTER ONE: 1AM
Together the Toyota and I had juddered up and down every obstacle and bump in the road. Both barely functional but for the most part she was there whenever I needed to escape, always ploughing on despite being held together by duct tape and prayers.
It was a love/hate relationship but right now at 1AM, I strongly hated the bitch.
“Damn it!” I yelled, slamming my palms down on the dashboard. “Stupid car!”
She crawled to a stop in the middle of some abandoned forest, rattling something around in her engine before abandoning me completely and falling to her clunky, smoking death.
In the dark, I hunted around for my phone but I didn’t even know who to call. Mom was the last person I wanted to speak to right now and Sean was the reason for my whole midnight-getaway in the first place.
He punched a hole through the plaster in our bedroom wall, again— just narrowly missing my face this time and so I fled him and his wayward fists.
But at this point, who else did I have?
I stared at his name in my contacts until my eyes started stinging and when I blinked I realised I was crying. Even when I finally pluck up the courage to leave, there seemed to never be any escaping him.
As I was about to call some hope flickered in the distance in the form of someone’s flashlight.
This is how every vampire horror movie starts. Girl alone in the woods at night. There’s no way that was just some happy camper looking for somewhere to use the bathroom.
Don’t get out of the car.
The rational part of my brain warned.
I flicked the doors locked and repositioned myself in the seat. Admittedly my chances weren’t looking good.
Option one; stay in a car that was hissing at me— probably about to go up in flames, or option two; return home to my abusive ex, or option three; get mauled by whatever monster was out there.
Do not get out of the car.
My head screamed at me.
I nibbled on my lip and then finally made my decision, carefully slotting my car keys between my knuckles so I could at least land a painful punch if it turned out to be some kind of axe murderer.
“Fuck it.” I spoke aloud, unbuckling my belt and pushing my door open.
It was the blackest night, lacklustre stars and a crescent moon hidden behind thick clouds. The flashlight on my phone pointed at the ground and my hearing tuned into every sound.
Wet twigs snapped beneath my sliders and the evening dew froze up my toes. I could taste my heartbeat, it was that consuming. Elaborate halloween silhouettes danced as the wind howled through the leaves, causing goosebumps to raise on my arms.
Damn Sean for putting me in this position.
I should’ve stayed in the car.
As the view started to emerge in the distance, I came to a vehicle. The doors were left ajar and the engine rumbled softly, the sound getting swept up with the wind. Maybe the owner got dragged off and mauled by coyotes first.
I paused, the truck was clearly aged and rusted but probably in a far better condition than the Toyota and hey, the engine worked.
I inched around the car, noticing the figure of a male crouched on the floor with his back towards me. He blended into the night with his entirely black ensemble and dark hair but the glow of the flashlight gave him away.
“Sir, are you alright?”
He immediately turned to face me, startled.
That’s when I could see what he was doing.
And panic seeped into my every pore.
The naked, beaten body of a lady lay on the ground before him. She was completely covered in blood and now that he had turned I could see that he was also covered in blood, her blood.
In his gloved hands he held a pair of pliers and after surveying the area I could see a pile of her teeth laid out on a plastic tarp.
Sweet Mary, Jesus, Joseph and the donkey, RUN!
The rational part of my brain clamoured back into my thoughts but my feet would no longer cooperate. I was locked in fear and shock by my jelly legs.
He was going to kill me.
I was going to die wearing my oldest, worn out leggings, faded in colour and full of moth holes. At least I had on a fancier shirt, one I wore to work regularly. My outfit was as mismatched as my underwear and now the coroner was going to be wondering what the hell I was thinking.
Damn, what the hell am I thinking?
In my last moments I’m plagued wondering about what they will think of my outfit down at the mortuary?!
The man stood up, a wall of height and muscle looming over me like a shadow. This twenty-something man didn’t have the profile of a typical psychopath killer, he was actually - for lack of a better word, beautiful.
Dark disheveled hair, perhaps black but it was too hard to tell in this dull lighting, a perfectly symmetrical face - one fit to be catalogued in some high fashion magazine. A sharp jaw, mirthful eyes and handsome lips.
“Sweetheart.” He spoke in a smooth European accent, “I’m not going to hurt you, stay calm.”
I looked down at the unfortunate fate of the girl laying deceased. Naked, beaten and murdered.
He probably kidnapped her then raped her and killed her. Maybe he was a tinder date gone wrong. Maybe he just snatched her unexpectedly from the street. Maybe he was her boyfriend and got a little too heavy handed.
Maybe I was next.
As reality crashed in I screamed.
It was a blood curdling shriek that made bats squeal and fly from the trees. Sound-waves bounced off the bark of every tree and returned back to us, enclosing around us like the grip he had on his blood-stained pliers.
Why are you still standing here Scarlet? Run!
This time I listened to that voice, losing a shoe in the process. Damn my outfit!
“Fuck.” He swore from behind me.
There was a struggle of footsteps chasing me. I didn’t get very far before he grabbed me by the back of my neck and somehow tackled me to the ground. He immediately straddled my waist, holding me still by the strength of his thighs.
“Listen to me,” he demanded. His voice powerful and determined. “If you behave yourself like a good girl, you won’t get hurt. Cross me, and I’ll make you beg for mercy on your knees. You got that?”
His face was barely visible through my tears, the fear pumped around my body so I could no longer breathe. Everything was closing in, stopping my airways. I was going to die. He was going to kill me.
I flinched as he tore the sleeve of my blouse cleanly off and then used it to gag my screaming mouth. The fabric cut into either side of my lips because of how tightly he tied it and blood filled my mouth from the friction of cotton against skin.
His fingers brushed up my sides and I squirmed beneath him, only able to make grumble sounds behind my gag. His finger tips felt warm, tickling their way up my spine and for a second I thought he was going to unclasp my bra before he pulled his hands back in-front of us.
“Stop crying.” He ordered and my eyes widened, focusing on his. They were lit up by the flashlight, almost gleaming. A twinkling shade of midnight blue and intense as hell, thick lashes making them seem all the more dramatic. “Focus breathing through your nose.” He added, giving me a small nod of encouragement.
I listened because my sobs were uncontrollable and my vision was starting to become fuzzy from lack of breathing.
Once I had calmed slightly, he pulled out his belt from every loop in one sharp tug, like a stripper set out to impress, except this stripper made quick work of bounding my hands together in a strong hold.
“Please.” I sobbed, begged even, though my cries only came out inaudible thanks to my gag.
“You’re a complication I didn’t need tonight.” He spoke like he wasn’t speaking to me, rather complaining quietly to himself.
Then he set that penetrable glare on me again. Without hesitation he placed his hands on my shoulder and I stiffened, scared he was going to snap my neck. But instead his hands traveled down my bra strap and onto the cup of my breasts.
I begged for my life.
I pleaded he didn’t do this.
I bargained, promising him money and silence.
But he ignored me, or didn’t understand me.
His hands just carefully gave each breast a squeeze over my bra. Not in an intimate kind of way, more like the breast exam kind of way. Feeling around for something that shouldn’t be there. He ducked the tip of his finger beneath the underwire and slid it the whole length. Then he climbed off my body and leaned back on his knees.
“Hm.” He commented, looking at me with concentration, like I was a puzzle he couldn’t work out. “Stand.” Uncaringly, he pulled me to my feet but my body was trembling so badly I couldn’t hold myself upright.
He grabbed my waist before I fell to the ground and then dropped to his knees. Slowly he peeled my leggings down, exposing my white panties to his crotch-height vision.
I was completely silent. No muffled sounds coming from behind my gag. No attempts to push him away or run. I just stood there, shock and fear swallowing up every coherent move my body could make.
His warm hands burnt my skin as they brushed up and down my legs. He had flipped his hand so it was the back touching me and not his palm, his blood stained knuckles moving over the material of my underwear; back and front.
Satisfied, he stood up, pulling my leggings up too.
“Good.” He praised softly. “You’re not wearing a wire and you’re not attempting to run. Good girl. I’m gonna keep the gag on for a while though, can’t have you screaming again. Come.”
He dragged my whole body back through the muddy ground by the belt tied around my hands. It was as if I was his pet and he was taking me for a walk. Somehow he attached my tied arms to his truck.
“I’ll deal with you in a minute.” He promised and returned back to the dead girl lying on the ground. I was forced to sit back and watch.
My crying was silent and blurred my vision, my soul had left my body, replaced with a lifetime of trauma.
He continued, plying out every last tooth in her mouth and collecting them up into a small ziplock bag. I tried to fight my restraints, wrestling with the leather and hook on the belt that kept me captive.
The whole woodland area smelt like death and blood, it felt dangerous and wrong. I was beginning to taste it deep down at the back of my throat and it tasted like fear.
He walked over to me, and I panicked even more, trying my best to distance myself from him.
“What am I going to do with you?” Gently, he brushed away the strands of caramel-coloured hair that had fallen into my face with my struggles.
Judging by his accent, English wasn’t his first language. The way he spoke made my attention draw to his lips, watching how they moved.
“You messed this whole thing up, you know?” He looked back at the naked dead girl and sighed. “Her DNA is all over you. They will tie you in with this murder which I guess will lead back to me.”
My eyes widened and I mumbled out my distress and desperate pleas behind the gag.
Up close he was intimidatingly good-looking, I could see why the girl fell victim to him. Carefully primed facial hair, which only made him look important and smart clothes that appeared expensive. He was dirty, but I had no doubt that he would scrub up well.
“What are you even doing out here in the middle of the night?” He slipped his tongue over his lip, moistening it a little, then raised his hands to my face but I cowered away again.
He removed my gag.
“Please.” I begged. “I won’t tell anyone, please just let me go. Please. I won’t go to the cops, I swear.” I cried. “I have a boyfriend, he’ll be looking for me and my mom, I didn’t tell her everything I wanted to tell her. She needs to know, please.”
He didn’t react to my begging, he didn’t at all look guilty or remorseful. He was probably used to girls begging for their lives. Fuck, he probably liked that.
Instead, he just stared deeply at me with these brooding bedroom eyes. He seemed intrigued by me.
“What is your name?” He asked, his accent thick and heavy. “And don’t bother lying to me, I will know.”
“Scarlet, please just let me go. I work for a big firm in central LA, they’ll find it suspicious when I don’t turn up. I always turn up.”
“I think we both know I can’t let you go Scarlet.” I cried louder now and he leaned in closer, touching my body and searching through my pockets.
“You have a phone?” In a natural reaction my attention diverted to where I dropped my phone on the ground. Moths and small bugs danced in the glare from the flashlight.
“Tut. Tut. Tut. Scarlet.” He muttered in disapproval.
Quickly, he unhooked the belt from his car and forced me to stand up.
“If you run I will find you and I will kill you, you understand?” I nodded in response, for sure ready to run at first given chance, even though by now I was barefoot and still trembling.
He released his hold on my hands, walked towards my phone and bent down to pick it up. Although my hands were still bound together my feet were free to run. So that’s exactly what I did.
He grabbed my waist and slammed my back into his truck hard. “Disobedient little thing, I see.” His lip curled up ever so slightly into a sadistic smile like he enjoyed the knowledge of that fact.
“Let’s see if you can follow my next order, yes?”
He leaned in close to whisper into my ear and I closed my eyes, knowing I wasn’t going to like whatever was about to come out of his mouth next.