It was dark around me and I could feel the panic rising in my chest. Even though I had gone through this nightmare before, it was still terrifying every time it happened.
“Did you miss me, Little Red?”
My memory of the voice of Gwendolyn Stephenson always caused me to start shivering. Even back when Gwen and I first met, while she was the counselor of the prison delinquency camp I was in, she was an intimidating woman who always commandeered attention, especially mine.
This time was no different, especially since it sounded like she was right next to my bed. I tried to look in the direction of the voice, but as per usual, I couldn’t move.
“I know I missed you,” Gwen’s voice continued, “I missed you so much. I missed you so much I could just eat you all up.”
I felt a gentle tickle, as though Gwen was licking the side of my face. Considering the fact that Gwen and all those counselors at the camp were werewolves, it made sense.
“But of course, I’m going to have to wait a little longer.”
This was different. Gwen’s voice had never said anything like this before. My panic was only increasing now.
“Soon, Little Red. Soon.”
That was when I woke up.
“Another nightmare, Scarlet?”
My eyes shot open and I sat up in my bed to see Grace White, my roommate and sister in the foster home I was currently staying in. Grace was standing in front of my bed, fully dressed with a full face of makeup on.
“Good morning to you, Grace.” I said as I kicked my blanket off and climbed out of bed, my black hair jetting out and covering my eyes a bit as well. My pajamas - if you could call a button-up shirt that was half unbuttoned and a pair of shorts ‘pajamas’ - were all wrinkled from being in bed. I stretched, yawned a little, and started making my way to the bathroom as Grace helped me pull my hair back before I could brush it.
“What time is it?” I asked as Grace and I went into the bathroom and I started brushing my hair down.
“Eight in the morning.” said Grace, “Better than last Friday when you only had like ten minutes to get to that bookstore.”
Grace was talking about the Barnes & Nobles that I had been working at for the past ten months, shortly after I arrived at the foster home. She was the first one out of the other three girls in the house that tried to befriend me after I was exonerated from the charges that put me in the werewolf camp to begin with. Grace turned out to be the friend I needed at the time, and she’d been there for me ever since.
I initially tried to keep to myself when I got to the house, even though Paige and Elliot, the owners, seemed nice enough. Thanks to Grace, I was on a first name basis with everyone now.
“Did you get that letter you’re expecting from Yale?” Grace asked. I managed to secure my GED within three months out of juvie, and I was forever grateful to Paige and Elliot that they allowed me to go off to college if I got in, considering the scholarship I got.
“Not yet,” I said, “It should be coming any day now.”
“Then you’ll be up and leaving us.” said Grace, the bitterness obvious in her voice. I knew that Grace was a bit jealous of my college-bound butt, but I could also tell that it was the fact that I would soon be leaving her.
“What’s your plan for the day?” I asked, trying to change the subject.
“Making coffee and serving it too,” said Grace as she made her way to the doorway, “As is the life of a barista.”
“Same old, same old,” I said, “I have to stock up some of the books.”
“Good luck.” said Grace, “Catch you in the car.” Grace drove a beat-up uninsured truck that felt like it could break down any minute, but I wasn’t going to complain about a ride to work.
Grace closed the door, allowing me to finally start stripping for a shower. Before I did so, however, I had to check to make sure the door was locked. Then I had to unlock and lock it again, just to make sure. After Gwen putting cameras in the shower I used, I stopped taking any chances.
Even when I finally stripped down and got into the shower, I made it a point to check every single inch, just to make sure that there wasn’t anything suspicious lurking around. Despite the fact that I was completely sure that I was alone, I still didn’t feel safe naked anymore, so I was in and out as fast as possible.
As soon as I was safely dried and fully clothed again, I blow-dried my hair, tied it back in a ponytail, and put on a black button-up shirt with dress pants. Leave it to me to always look professional, possibly a bit overdressed, but better overdressed than underdressed.
I returned to my side of the bedroom I shared with Grace to put on my shoes, just in time for my eyes to trail over to my red sweatshirt, a piece of clothing I hadn’t worn since that night in the Renovo police station. Part of me just wanted to throw that damned jacket out and get it over with, toss it into the fireplace like I did with the brown jumpsuit I was forced to wear at the juvenile camp, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.
I managed to pull my eyes off the jacket long enough to slip on my socks and shoes, then I got out of the room and started heading out. Naturally, Paige and Elliot were already gone at work, leaving behind only a single note of confidence from the both of them. They were damn good foster parents.
Grace’s car was sitting in the driveway, and I could just tell that she was about two seconds away from slamming on the horn. I hopped into the car and put my head against the window as Grace pulled out of the driveway.
“Hey, what day is it?” Grace asked as we pulled into the road, “My phone’s screen is still kinda busted.”
“Hold on...” I said as I pulled my phone that Elliot insisted on giving me for my seventeenth birthday a month ago. When I checked the date, I gagged a little.
“What’s up?” Grace asked.
“Just... it’s nothing.”
It was something; June 21st. It was the official one-year anniversary of the night I escaped Camp Packington with Brandon Hawkins and Dustin Jarvis. I was wondering all sorts of things about that night; where Brandon and Dustin were, what happened to Martha Carter, the FBI agent that was at the police station when the warden of the camp tried one last time to kill us, or even what happened to Mark Goswington, a boy at the camp who I had been particularly fond of.
Thinking of Mark, who had been bitten by one of those werewolves and forced me to leave him behind, caused me to choke a little. I hoped beyond all hopes that he was okay.
“Everything okay, Scarlet?” Grace asked.
“Huh? Oh yeah,” I said as I came back to my senses, “I’m good.”
“Are you thinking of that place you got out of?” Grace asked, “That camp?”
“How do you know about that?” I said, “What do you know about it?”
“Not much,” said Grace, “But I... may have taken a glance at the files on you while Elliot and Paige weren’t looking. Something about a juvenile camp that went wrong, but it said the rest was classified?”
“Yeah, and for good reason,” I said, “You would never believe me if I told you what happened.”
“That’s BS,” said Grace, “You probably just don’t even know what happened, now that I think of it.”
I paused for a second, then I said one simple word.
Even though I was still looking out the window, watching as the city passed by, I could feel Grace staring at me for half a second. Then she chuckled and said, “Good one. You don’t have to - ”
“I’m fucking serious, Grace. You don’t hear me laughing, do you?”
Grace had responded exactly as I thought she would, but it still pissed me off to hear her dismiss me like that. Grace looked at me at the same time I looked at her sternly. Grace could see in my eyes that I was dead serious.
“... Well then,” she said as her eyes went back to the road, “That sounds... serious.”
“You have no idea.” I said. Fortunately, the conversation dropped off as Grace pulled into the shopping lot where the Barnes & Nobles was located, right up to the back door that I needed to go through.
“Here we are.” said Grace, “Need me to pick you up later, Scarlet?”
“Sure, if you can.” I said, “I’ll call you later, okay?”
“See you then.” said Grace. I started to get out of her car, but Grace grabbed my shoulder at the last second.
“You were just kidding about the werewolf thing, right?” Grace asked, “You were just pulling my leg?”
I stared at Grace for a moment before I replied.
“Believe me Grace, I wish I were.”
With that, I hopped out of Grace’s car and made my way into the building. The only other person there was Jason, a co-worker of mine who was checking his clipboard of things to do. Jason nodded to me as I walked past him, and I nodded back to him before I checked the board on the wall to see what I needed to do.
Sure enough, my manager, a guy named Klaus, had assigned me to stock some of the books on the bestseller shelf. Knowing that shelf specifically, I was probably going to be there all day.
I clocked in, grabbed the list of books that needed to be re-stocked and started making my way over to the shelf when Klaus stopped me.
“Scarlet, how have you been?” he asked.
“Uh, pretty good,” I said, “Why, Klaus?”
“Some woman came by the other day and asked for you,” said Klaus, “Said they needed to know when your shift started.”
My heart dropped and my mind went blank. It could easily have just been a coincidence, but that nightmare I had was playing out again in my memory.
“Soon, Little Red. Soon.”
It was too much of a coincidence for me. But the idea that Gwendolyn Stephenson had found me and was hunting me down after all this time was too much for me to bear.
“So... so what did you tell her?” I managed to spit out.
“Well, I did tell her your shift start,” said Klaus, “But she asked for when it ended too, and I told her I couldn’t tell her that. But she said it was urgent and she showed me a badge too.”
A badge. So it couldn’t have been Gwen. I couldn’t help but sigh in relief.
“I’m sorry, did I do something wrong?” Klaus asked, “I’m sorry Scarlet, I didn’t mean to give you out like that.”
“No, it’s fine,” I said, “I... just... there’s an... ex-girlfriend who I’d rather not see again. She wouldn’t have a badge, so I know it’s not her, but... y’know.”
I was mentally kicking myself and trying to shut up, but it was too much information already, so I trailed off and just let Klaus’ respond with a simple “... oh.” before he walked away and left it at that.
I finally managed to make my way to the bestseller shelf and started putting the books up, while also making sure all the books were in place and re-adjusting them as well.
My mind was racing about what Klaus was saying. A woman with a badge, though considering how many women with badges I’d met since the incident at Camp Packington, it could probably be anyone.
My mind set on Martha Carter, the FBI agent I’d met in Renovo, Pennsylvania shortly after what happened at Camp Packington. Her ribs probably healed well, and I wondered if it really was going to be her, and if it were her, what she actually needed.
My mind was so focused on autopilot books and wondering what was going on it took me a moment to realize that someone was calling my name. When I turned to see who it was, my eyes widened and I gasped.
There he was with my own eyes; Brandon Hawkins, in the flesh, walking on his own two feet, only the faintest of bruises and scars on his face that indicated what he had gone through right alongside me, and he was even smiling, a rare feature for someone like Brandon. I started running and caught him in a hug before I even realized what I was doing.
“Scarlet, it’s been far too long.” said Brandon as he hugged me back, “Last time I saw you, we were leaving a hospital together!”
“It’s so good to see you!” I said, “Your ankle healed up!”
“Yup,” said Brandon, “Took a couple of weeks on crutches, but I had a lot of help. You’re looking good too!”
“Thanks,” I said, “So, what are you doing here? Not that I’m not glad you’re here, but how did you even find me?”
“It’s kind of a long story that I don’t even know yet,” said Brandon, “But the point is we have to go. Your manager’s being talked into letting you go, and we need to get out to the car right now.”
“Wait, what?” I said, “What’s going on?”
“We can explain everything in the car,” said Brandon, “Dustin’s here too.”
“Dustin?!” I couldn’t help but say that loudly as well, “Where?!”
“Out in the car,” said Brandon, “Wanna go visit him?”
“Hell yeah!” I said, “Let’s go!”
“Good to hear.” said Brandon as he started leading me out of the bookstore. Klaus waved me good-bye as we went out, and I did the same before we stepped out to the solid black car sitting right outside, exactly where Grace’s car had been just minutes beforehand. As soon as I stepped out of the black car, the back door shot open and Dustin ran out, catching me in a hug before I even realized what was going on.
“Hey Dustin,” I said when I hugged the boy back, “It’s so good to see you.”
“Same, Scarlet!” said Dustin, “I missed you so much!”
The woman’s voice caused me to look up, and I watched as a woman stepped out of the driver’s side and walk over to the three of us.
“Yeah, that’s me.” I said as I shook the woman’s hand when she stuck it out, “Who are you?”
“My name is Hannah Palmer, I’m with the FBI.” said the woman.
“So you’re familiar with Martha Carter?” I asked. Agent Carter had done her best to stay in contact up until about a week ago, and since I had never met this woman before, I feared the worse.
“Martha wanted to be here,” said Hannah, “But she had to head off early and couldn’t meet you. We run in the same circles, so she sent me instead.”
“Same circles?” I asked.
“I’d rather not say out in public,” said Hannah, “We can discuss all of this in the car. I believe Brandon already told you that I informed your boss?”
“Uh, yeah.” I said.
“Then we better get going.” said Hannah, “I can tell you everything in the car.”