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Chapter 12

“This is insane,” Sam said, glancing all around. “What are we doing here?”

Here was Partridge Manor. And its creepy online photos didn’t nearly do it justice.

I knew Kade intended to come here tonight and since I had no way of getting ahold of him, this seemed like my only option. Sam had been right. Going back to the apartment building wasn’t an option when I didn’t know what the hell was going on or whether or not someone was looking for me for target practice again. My instincts told me Kade was one of the good guys, though he had warned differently, and I was pretty certain that my chances of survival (and figuring out what the hell was going on) all depended on him. Unfortunately, what had sounded like a sound game plan back at the house was quickly unraveling into the worst idea EVER.

The internet hadn’t been nearly accurate enough in its description of what I could only now call the Most Creeptastic Place on Earth.

The house itself was large and imposing, decrepit with years of abuse and neglect. The large colonial home, once painted white with dark green shutters, now sported broken windows, doors dangling by hinges and gates that had been torn down or run over. Both the house and the front porch sagged with large holes pitting the dry rotted wood. The front steps were a hazard I was not looking forward to trying to navigate with my inability to walk straight. Most of the steps leading up to the front porch had collapsed years ago, and the remaining portions were a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Based on old photos I had found online it had once been a beautiful home. Well maintained and expertly cared for before it was abandoned after the murder-suicide of its owners, the Partridges. After their death the remaining family had abandoned the home, refusing to maintain its care after they determined that it was occupied by Satan. To this day it was still owned by some distant relative.

Sam and I huddled in her car, which was parked off to the side of the house, hidden behind overgrown bushes in hopes that no one would notice our unexpected visit. I remember Kade saying that he wanted to meet with Ghost (appropriately named considering the venue) at midnight so we had arrived an hour before, hoping to stake out the house beforehand. Neither one of us was brave enough to leave the car.

“This is a bad idea,” Sam said, through chattering teeth.

The temperature had plummeted earlier in the day when dark storm clouds had come rolling in. Rain had been falling sporadically through the afternoon, but had increased to a consistent downpour around eight. Unfortunately, it didn’t appear to have any plans to let up anytime soon.

Needless to say, a dark spooky house in the middle of a thunderstorm when you’re trying to avoid people trying to kill you makes for a really bad combination. This was turning into the creepiest stakeout ever.

“I don’t have a choice,” I said with a shiver as I wrapped the hoodie Sam had loaned me tighter around my body. “I don’t have any way other way to get a hold of Kade.”

“What were we thinking,” Sam mumbled under her breath. “They’re going to find our mutilated bodies in the basement.”

“Really,” I squawked loudly. “You just had to put that out in the universe, didn’t you?”

She rolled her eyes, and wrapped her coat tighter.

We had been sitting outside for the past forty five minutes with the engine off to avoid being detected. The cold damp air was leaking into the car and making our wait miserable.

Thunder clapped nearby and we both jumped, leaning in closer to each other in hopes of giving each other comfort and warmth.

I was about to suggest we bail on our plan but I clamped my mouth shut instead and pointed at a shadow passing inches in front of our hiding spot.

The dark figure moved quickly, brushing the bush in a hurried pace. We couldn’t make out anything about it other than it was tall, probably male, moved pretty damn quickly and disappeared just as fast as it appeared. I had no idea where it went, so I quickly checked the doors to make sure they were locked.

“Who the hell was that,” Sam whispered loudly.

I shrugged. “How the hell am I supposed to know,” I whispered back.

I grabbed her iPhone in the center console and checked the time. Ten minutes to midnight.

“It could have been Kade or that guy Ghost he wanted to meet here,” I said, shutting off the phone and putting it back in the cup holder.

“And if it’s not?” Sam asked, looking around again.

I shrugged. “I don’t know.”

Lightning struck, illuminating the dark for a brief second. It was enough time to barely make out a black truck parked in front of the house. The rain was coming down so hard I hadn’t heard it pull up. The cab was empty, but the wisps of steam coming off the hood told me it had been parked there for only a minute or so.

“Someone’s here,” I said.

“Kade?” she asked.

“I don’t think so. I’ve never seen that truck before.”

“Do you know what he drives?” she asked, leaning over the steering wheel in a failed attempt to see anything beyond the fogged windshield.

“A dark blue SUV.”

She turned toward me and gave me a weird look.

“Didn’t you say it was a dark SUV that you saw stalking around the complex before you were attacked?”

“No,” I said, drawing it out. “I said there was a black SUV stalking around the complex before I was attacked. Different color. Different make and model. Trust me, it wasn’t Kade.”

She let out a frustrated breath. “If you say so.”

Our hiding spot was suddenly bathed in light as a large SUV drove past, stopping a few feet away. The headlights passed over us, and we held our breath that the driver hadn’t noticed us.

After a minute, the sound of the pelting rain was broken by the slamming of a car door.

We could just make out the heavy strides of the newest arrival on the rocky driveway before we were once again surrounded by silence.

I looked over at Sam, who was white as a sheet.

“Showtime,” I said nervously.

She nodded and grabbed the door handle, but I grabbed her arm before she opened the door.

“I want you to stay here,” I said firmly.

Her eyes bugged out of her head.

“Are you crazy?” she asked. “I’m not letting you go in there alone.”

“I don’t know what I’m going to walk into in there.”

“Precisely,” she hissed. “All the more reason why you don’t go in alone.”

“I’m not going to be alone,” I responded with a role of my eyes. “But if I’m wrong about Kade, I need you to get the hell out of here and go to the police.”

“What good are the police going to do if you’re dead?!”

“What good is any of this if we both get dead?”

She started to argue, but I cut her off.

“Please. Just stay here. If I need help, believe me, I’ll coming running or I’ll scream my head off. If something goes wrong, I need you here, not in there.”

She chewed her lip and looked out the window at the imposing house through the bush.

“I don’t like this,” she said at last.

“Neither do I, but it’s the smart play. They aren’t expecting us, but they definitely aren’t expecting you. You’re my ace in the hole.”

I grabbed her cell phone and handed it to her.

“Stay here and keep an ear out. If you hear me scream, or any sounds of gun fire, call 911 and get the hell out of here. Understood?”

She looked at me quizzically.

“What?” I asked, weirded out by her look.

“Nothing,” she said. “It’s just that normally I’m the one taking the risk while I tell you to sit back and be cautious. It’s just a little weird.”

I laughed.

“I’ll be right back,” I said, grabbing the door and pushing it open. The branches of the bush started pushing their way in.

“Addison,” Sam called just as I was about to shut the door.

“Yeah?” I asked, ducking my head back in. The rain was coming down in sheets and I was getting soaked fast.

“Be careful,” she said.

“Aren’t I always,” I said with a grin.

She rolled her eyes and shook her head.

I closed the door quietly and made my way through the thick bush.

I almost lost my nerve as I got to the front of the house, but the sudden thunder and lightning had me hauling ass faster than a sale at Neiman Marcus.

I tried to be cautious, but fear won out and I ran as fast I could, slipping only twice as I tried to navigate my way up the treacherous wet steps. The porch was likely to give out at any second, but at least it was covered so I was mostly protected from the rain.

The front door was broken and hanging from the bottom hinge but still provided a pretty solid barrier between the elements and the inside of the house. Fortunate for me, it was hanging off the hinge at such an awkward angle that it created a big enough space for me to squeeze through without needing to open the door, which would undoubtedly alert the others to my presence.

Squeezing through the opening, I swallowed down a yelp that suddenly bubbled up thanks to the cobweb I managed to get tangled in just as I made it through. I stood silently, praying that the occupant of the cobweb wasn’t home, and listened for voices or any indication on where the Kade and his friend Ghost could be.

Hearing nothing, I took a tentative step forward, testing the floorboard for any give before putting my full weight on it. I wasn’t so much worried about the sound it was going to make as I was about the possibility of falling through the floor. If it could be done, believe me, I would find a way.

The house creaked as the wind blew and rain dripped down from the ceiling. Undoubtedly the roof contained as many holes as the porch.

The sound of male voices suddenly filtered toward me so I followed them, tiptoeing down the long foyer towards the living room located off to the left. A soft, steady light was coming from the room. I assumed it was a flashlight or a small lamp so I stayed back, hidden in the shadows as I tried to avoid the stream of light. From my hiding spot I wasn’t able to make out much in the room. I would have to step closer to get a clear view, but I didn’t want to make my presence known just yet.

From my vantage point I could see that the interior of the house hadn’t fared much better than the outside. I was even willing to go so far as saying that it may have been worse.

The foyer was a big open space, completely covered in dust and cobwebs. Off to the right, there was an overturned table that sat beneath a broken mirror. The staircase stood against the right wall stairs facing the other end of the hall. From what I could see most of the banister was missing, and considering that the steps looked pretty damn steep, it was a very safe bet you wouldn’t catch me climbing those in the near future.

There was a small closet under the stairs a la Harry Potter, but the door was completely pulled off the frame so it was nothing more than a creepy, gapping dark void. The once hardwood floors were now mildew covered and waterlogged timber. The carpet in the living room (well at least what I could see) was dirty, ripped and probably growing things better left unsaid.

I did my best to remain still in the dark, willing myself to not think about all the creepy crawly things that were probably running rampant through the house and causing my skin to crawl. My breath was coming out rapidly and I knew if I didn’t bring it down I would probably cause myself to hyperventilate, which would not be the ideal situation considering my current circumstance.

From the living room a deep voice spoke, closer than before. It sounded like they were walking back towards the foyer. I froze like a deer in headlights.

The voices stopped and the light suddenly shifted downward to the floor. Definitely a flashlight.

Heavy footsteps walked across the thin carpet, and were thankfully retreating further into the room. Taking advantage of the sudden shift in light I tiptoed closer to the wall separating the two spaces, hoping that I would have a better vantage point. I stood with my back pressed firmly against wall, trying to calm my pounding heart. Holding my breath, I peeked around the corner. Two imposing figures bathed in black stood in the center of the room aiming the flashlight on a pile of junk on the middle of the floor. Unfortunately, from where I was standing, I wasn’t able to determine if either of them was Kade.

Pulling my head back slowly, I took a deep breath then decided to make a bold (and probably really stupid) move.

Peeking around the corner quickly for the second time, I tiptoed hurriedly across the doorway, once against throwing myself against the wall for cover while trying to get my breathing under control. Between the nerves and the dust, I prayed I didn’t cough or sneeze at the most inopportune moment.

I waited a moment before moving, thankful for the pelting rain that seemed to have drowned out most of the noise I made. The low murmur of a deep voice sounded from the other side of the wall and I decided to risk another peek around the corner, hoping that from my new angle I would have a better chance of determining if at least one of the dark figures was Kade.

Stealing my nerves again, I took a deep breath and looked.

This time, only one dark imposing figure stood in the middle of the room with his back to me.

Where the hell did the other one go?

The cold steal of the gun pressed against my temple answered that question.

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