Mulholland Books Popcorn Fiction Popcorn Fiction - Spree by TS Faull
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A mother seeks revenge and gets way more than she bargained for in this taut thriller from screenwriter TS Faull.

Spree

"You got the house, Josie! What else do you want?" Frank The Philandering Bastard was screaming at me.

I turned down the volume on my headset. "I want you to stop calling me," I said. "Talk to my attorney."

He was still yelling when I disconnected the call.

I checked the rearview mirror. A tailgater was on my ass. I considered slamming the brakes. She would rear-end me. Then I could get out of the car and—what? I didn't only feel boxed in by the traffic; I felt boxed in by my life, and often felt the urge to shatter it like a bad driver's windshield.

I was angry. The slow person in front of me at the ATM who made me late for work; my producer Richard at KRLA-TV, who stifled my voice and dictated the content of my reports; my soon-to-be-ex-husband Frank, who had innumerable affairs and the gall to make my life hell when I insisted on a divorce—they all deserved my wrath.

But there were others who deserved it more.

My Pat Benatar ringtone alerted me to another call. "Hit me with your best shot..." I'd just hung up on Frank, so I assumed it was him. I picked up and took a deep breath.

"Frank, I'm sick of fighting you. Please just—"

"Josie." It wasn't Frank this time. It was The Woman.

I'd been expecting her.


I was in my office at the station, typing copy. An on-air reporter, I specialized in human interest stories. I'd pitched a rape survivors series to Richard; he'd insisted on something lighter, so I'd spent the last eight hours with a St. Bernard at a nursing home. I wrote on autopilot, preoccupied. I was hoping for a text from my daughter Tara.

Six months before, while crossing the USC campus late at night, Tara had been jumped by a group of teenaged boys. A security guard scared them off, but not before one thug landed a couple of kicks to Tara's head, blowing out her eardrums and rendering her deaf.

The assailants had never been apprehended.

Since losing her hearing, Tara's voice had become uncertain. Words slurred together and took on strange new sounds. She was spending less and less time with her hearing friends. She lived in a different world now.

After the assault, Tara moved back in with me for a few months. Eventually, she decided she wanted to enroll at a local university for the deaf. I allowed her to move on-campus if she promised to text me once a day.

"I don't need you to mother me," she said. "You never did before. Why should you start now?"

She was right. I hadn't been there for her. Tara grew up the quintessential latchkey kid. I was paying my dues in TV news while Frank worked his way up to partner at the law firm. But she reluctantly agreed to my terms; anything to get out of my house and back to life on her own.

The truth was, I hadn't planned on being a mother. Not at age twenty-one. At the time, my career was just getting started. But Frank was very excited about his impending fatherhood, and he had a great job lined up at the firm. So we got married and had Tara. I'll admit, I sometimes wondered what life would have been like without her.

But I loved her nonetheless.

The boys who'd attacked Tara were still out there. I frequently fantasized about tracking them down. In my imagination, as opposed to the real world, there was justice.

My obsession was its own prison. Guilt-ridden, I spent many nights at work investigating, trying to pin down the identity of the perps. I hit multiple dead ends.

Until The Woman called.

My desk line rang, startling me. I picked up the phone.

For the first time, I heard her voice.

"Josie," The Woman said.

"Yes. Who is this?"

"Look in your desk." Her voice was eerily calm, entrancing. But I had no idea who she was and very little patience.

"I'll ask you one last time. Who's calling?" I was about to hang up when I pulled open my top desk drawer.

Among pencils, staples, rubber bands, and paper clips, I found a newspaper article.

The article had been imprecisely clipped from the paper. Words were sliced in half at the edges; the bottom half of the story was missing. Still, I immediately recognized it.

It was an article about Tara's assault.

"What is this about?" I asked.

"I'm trying to help you, Josie." Click. The Woman hung up.

It dawned on me. She'd been in my office. I was unsettled, but oddly soothed by her words. "I'm trying to help you, Josie."

For some strange reason, I believed her.


That's why I didn't alert security. The Woman seemed to have information about Tara's attack. I considered her a lead.

I spent the next two weeks desperately trying to unravel The Woman's motive for calling me. Why would this stranger want to help me? All she'd provided was the old newspaper article. The way the article had been clipped was unusual, but I was unable to deduce any kind of pattern.

I felt like I'd been given a puzzle piece, but I was unable to locate the puzzle itself. I held onto the newspaper clipping, keeping it in my car's sun visor.


My sister Melinda sat in the passenger seat, droning on about her latest date. She called them dates, but they were really one-night stands.

"We're supposed to go out tonight," she said. "But he hasn't called me and I totally forgot to get his number."

I dreaded these weekly lunches. Melinda's sluttishness was understandable during her college years, a rite of passage, but now she was thirty-two and borderline pathetic.

"Should I just show up at his place?" Melinda asked.

"No!" I said, pulling into a curbside space near the restaurant.

Melinda bristled. "You don't think any guy would ever really want to date me, do you?"

"I just don't think you're going to find the love of your life in a bar while you're downing Kamikazes and Blowjobs."

We climbed out of the car and approached the parking meter. I sifted through my purse, searching for quarters.

"I'm not like you," Melinda said. "I don't meet guys at ritzy upscale charity benefits."

Melinda's jealousy was all-encompassing. Melinda was an administrative assistant. I was an on-air television reporter in one of the top TV markets in the country. Melinda met men at happy hour. I met them at charity galas. Melinda was anonymous. The bloody details of my divorce were plastered all over the papers and internet.

I found a quarter and pulled it from the dark recesses of my purse. There was a flash of gold as something else fell out and hit the sidewalk. It bounced and rolled on the pavement. I stared at it, chilled.

It was a bullet.

Melinda looked at me, surprised. "Do you have a gun?"

"No," I said. "I don't." I'd never handled a gun in my life.

My ringtone suddenly cut through the silence. "Hit me with your best shot..." I looked at the caller ID: "PRIVATE CALLER."

I knew who it was. I could sense her. I stepped away from Melinda and took the call.

"Hello?"

"There's a box of those in your bedroom under the bed."

The Woman was watching me. I spun around, trying to catch sight of her, hoping she would somehow give herself away. I saw nothing but a few innocuous pedestrians and Melinda staring at me with concern.

"How did you get this number? Do I know you?"

"You did a story on me once. I enjoyed your reporting, Josie."

A new piece of information. Good. I kept digging. "Do you know who hurt Tara?"

"What do you think?" The Woman asked.

"I think you're trying to tell me something."

"Like I said before—I'm trying to help you."

"Is that why you're giving me bullets?" I asked. "Do you expect me to use them?"

"Would you?" she asked.

"No."

It sounded like she was smiling. "I think you'd do anything, given the right circumstances."

I continued, "I want to see those boys behind bars. That's all I've ever wanted."

"Two weeks," The Woman said, and then click, she was gone.

I considered calling the police, but they'd had their chance.

This was mine.


When I got home, I looked under my bed and found a box of .32 caliber bullets, just as The Woman had promised.

I reviewed my past reports, trying to identify her. I didn't remember her voice from my interviews, but there had been so many: crime survivors, prisoners who'd bonded with rehabilitation dogs, teenagers with body dysmorphic disorder.

I didn't realize it at the time, but I was headed down a blind alley.


In the rearview mirror, I could see the car still tailgating. I was barely able to make out the driver's silhouette: female, thirties, white, talking on a cell phone.

As I steered, I kept an eye on her.

"I was hoping you'd call again," I said to The Woman. I was anxious to get another piece of the puzzle.

"I know," she said. "You've had enough time. We have to get started."

The light turned red. I slowed to a stop.

"Reach under your seat," she instructed.

I felt under the driver's seat. My fingers discovered a small box. I brought it up to my lap and opened it. Inside, I found an earpiece and a tiny camera.

These items were somehow familiar to me. But I couldn't quite place them. I knew this much: they frightened me.

"Put the earpiece in," The Woman said.

"Tell me what's happening."

"Has Tara texted you today?"

Ding. The sharp, piercing sound of an incoming text. I looked down at my cell. The text was from Tara's phone: "I WILL CUT OFF HER FINGERS, JOSIE."

The Woman murmured in my ear. "I'll start with the right thumb," she said. "This could make sign language difficult."

Another text appeared, this time a picture of Tara, tied to a chair.

Fingers...severed fingers... A memory was triggered, but I couldn't fully access it. I imagined Tara with a bloody, thumbless hand. What instrument would The Woman use? Pruning shears? In my mind's eye, I could see her taking the shears to Tara's fingers and snipping through them like rose stems.

I was in shock, unable to protest. The light turned green. As I drove, I replaced the headset with the earpiece. I could see my cell phone go black as the call dropped.

"Can you hear me, Josie?"

"Yes," I said. I could hear her through the earpiece now. What was this? Some kind of radio frequency? "Please don't hurt Tara—"

"Put on the camera."

Don't hurt Tara, don't hurt Tara...

I pinned the camera to my blouse.

"Higher," The Woman said.

"Don't hurt her—" I moved the camera higher.

"There," she said. "That's good."

She was now able to see everything from my point-of-view.

"Switch routes on your GPS. I've programmed it for you."

I pressed a button and navigated to a list of routes. I scrolled down. One marked "New"—not programmed by me—was at the bottom of the list. I activated it.

"What do you want me to do?"

"Nothing you haven't thought about already, Josie. This is your chance to make them all pay."

This is my chance... I glanced at the car behind me, at the tailgating female driver. She was still on her cell phone. The Woman had sent me a still photograph of Tara. Maybe Tara was being held somewhere alone while The Woman trailed me. I was ready to face her, or at the very least buy myself some time.

I stomped down on my brakes. Smash! The tailgater—The Woman?—rammed into me.

"What are you trying to pull, Josie?" The Woman said. "Turn down that side street."

I flipped on my blinker and did as instructed.

The side street was dark, forbidding. I parked at the curb, the tailgater's car creeping up behind mine.

"Open your glove compartment," The Woman said. The piece was snug in my ear. It was like she was whispering to me.

Inside the glove compartment, there was a hand gun.

I glanced at the side mirror. I could see the tailgater approaching my window. She was blond and youthful—and no longer on her cell phone.

The Woman was hissing in my ear. "Pick up the gun, Josie."

The tailgater was not The Woman. I could tell she felt horrible about the fender bender.

I gazed at the gun. I knew what would be demanded of me. My camera was aimed at the windshield. I realized, that's all The Woman can see right now: glass and the dark night ahead.

"The girl's driving off," I lied.

Suddenly, the tailgater rapped on my window, giving herself away.

"Don't lie to me again," The Woman said. "Pick up the gun and shoot her, Josie."

The tailgater peered into my window, but I refused to roll it down. I wanted her to get back in her car and drive away.

Shoot her...fingers...32 caliber... I noticed the newspaper article peeking out from the edge of my sun visor. I could make out the beginnings of a name. "Harold—" There had been no Harold involved in Tara's assault case.

I yanked the article from the visor.

I'd been so blind. On the reverse side of the paper, there was a story about Harold Frawley. The Frawley article was intact—the edges weren't clipped off, words were complete. This was what I'd been intended to read all along.

Harold Frawley was a middle-aged Chicago Transit Authority bus driver who'd snapped and gone on a killing spree.

He and his wife, Emily, shared a townhouse with her elderly parents. One morning before work, he stabbed his mother-in-law to death in her sleep, then butchered his father-in-law in the bathroom. Harold showered and went to work. During rush hour, he stopped his bus on Lake Shore Drive, took out an automatic .32 caliber handgun, and shot twenty-four passengers, killing sixteen.

A SWAT team was called in. They ended his spree with one shot to the head.

Emily Frawley remained missing. She was presumed dead.

Her severed fingers—all ten—had been discovered in an abandoned parking garage.

I'd reported on a Los Angeles connection to the Harold Frawley killing spree, interviewing Harold's parents. It was the standard interview. "That wasn't the Harold we knew. He'd never kill anyone, much less Emily. She meant the world to him."

Some unusual items were found on Harold's body. Law enforcement believed they were indicative of his disordered mental state. At the time of his spree, Harold Frawley was wearing an earpiece and a lipstick-sized camera, pinned to his uniform.

An earpiece. A small camera. Just like I was wearing.

Harold Frawley didn't snap. The Woman had forced him to kill. I was the next Harold Frawley.

The Woman had given me clues, a chance to unravel her modus operandi. I'd finally succeeded, but—blinded by my obsession with Tara's assault—not in enough time.

I'd covered many killing sprees and they all inspired the same question: how could someone so seemingly normal snap and kill others in cold blood?

I realized that people would now ask that question about me. I wondered how many sprees The Woman had orchestrated, turning people into her puppets, making us kill for her.

"If you don't do what I say, Josie, you'll never see Tara again—not in one piece anyway. If you alert the police or the police apprehend you, if you disobey me in any way, I'll slice her apart."

I could hear Tara through the earpiece now, screaming, wailing.

I remembered Emily Frawley's ten severed fingers.

I could hear the tailgater saying, "Are you okay? I'm really sorry." I rolled down the window, then reached for the glove compartment. Maybe the girl thought I was reaching for my insurance information.

I never actually chose to pull the trigger. It was like my body took over and made the choice for me.

After I killed the tailgater, Tara's cries quieted down. The Woman had spared her fingers—this time.

I started to drive. "Recalculating," the GPS intoned.


The GPS led me to the KRLA studios. Larry, the guard at the gate, smiled and waved me through. I parked in my assigned spot.

"If you signal for help, if you do anything other than I've instructed, Tara dies," The Woman said.

I looked at my reflection in the rearview mirror. My eyes were red from crying. I wiped the tears away and tried to gather my wits. "What do I do?"

"Find Richard."

Richard Cosgrove was brought in to lift our sagging ratings and he'd succeeded, at a price. My Emmy and Peabody dreams turned into Entertainment Tonightmares. If I wanted to do a story on local women widowed by the Iraq War, Richard would assign me a hard-hitting report on celebrity sex addicts. Every once in a while, I was able to sneak in a real story, but it was a battle.

Richard usually won. Not this time.


"Celebrity rape, Kennedy rape—great, then we'll talk. Until then, who cares?" Richard wasn't looking at me; he was too busy texting. I followed him as he stepped into his office.

"Shut the door," The Woman said. My hair covered the ear piece, and I think Richard mistook the tiny camera pinned to my blouse for some kind of fashion statement.

I closed Richard's office door. We were alone now. The gun was in my purse—right next to my cell phone. I had an idea.

He finally looked at me. "Hurry up. What is it?"

The Woman's voice overlapped with his. "Do it now, Josie," she said.

I reached into my purse with one hand, but didn't touch the gun. Instead, I found my cell phone. Richard was mid-text when I'd encountered him in the hallway. I could sneak him a text now and The Woman would have no idea it came from me.

I held my torso steady, so as not to jostle the camera. At the same time, I tilted my face down so I could look into my purse. I wanted to see the phone's touch screen and which letters I was hitting. All this while carrying on a conversation with Richard, who must've thought me insane. Good. I wanted him to know something was wrong. I just didn't want her to know.

"What the fuck, Josie?" Richard said as I stood before him, my head at a strange angle, my hand working away inside my purse. It was like I was the star of some demented farce.

I started to talk, to buy myself texting time. I spoke deliberately, drawing out each word, each sentence.

"Richard, it's not about the rape story. That's not why I'm here. I—I needed to see you alone."

My thumb danced over the touch screen.

"Shoot him—now!"

Richard laughed to himself. "I get it," he said. "Who are you in talks with? Whatever they're offering, we'll beat it. I know we have our differences, Josie, but viewers love you."

I hit Send.

Richard's phone buzzed. "Fucking Katherine—" he groaned as he looked down at the display.

No, Richard, it's not your wife this time.

I could suddenly hear Tara bellowing through the ear piece. The Woman yelled, "Kill him, Josie!"

Richard started to read the text. "Pretend to be dead. Someone is making me do this. When I leave get harp?"

Help. Get help. Damned autocorrect.

Tara's screams filled my ears. Something awful was happening to her.

I pulled the gun from my purse. "I'm sorry, Richard." I think I said it out loud. Maybe I just thought the words. I meant them.

Before I could pull the trigger, Richard was on me, fighting for the gun. He wasn't like the tailgater. I may have taken him by surprise, but he was a survivor, operating on instinct.

The Woman shouted over Tara's cries. "I cut her thumb off, Josie. Which finger is next?"

Richard was stronger than me. He pried the gun from my hands.

If the police apprehend you, if you disobey me in any way...

I couldn't let Richard win. Not this time. That would mean certain death for Tara. If I killed him, maybe The Woman would spare her—if not her fingers, her life.

A letter opener gleamed on his desk.

"Stop it! He's dead!" I said before it was true.

The silver point of the letter opener met the blue of his eye.

And then it was true.

Tara kept weeping, but her screaming stopped. "Next time," The Woman said. "I cut off her head."

I picked the gun up from the floor, slipped it into my purse, and left the office, pulling the door shut. In the hall, I passed Mark, my favorite editor. "I thought you were off tonight," he said. I didn't reply. He had a strange look on his face. I don't know, maybe he noticed the red stain on my blouse.

It didn't take him long to find Richard's body. I hadn't yet made my way out of KRLA. There was chaos breaking out around me.

A long tunnel, used by the mail room, ran beneath the station. I rushed down a stairwell to the tunnel, which was usually deserted. I hurried to the far end, where a door led to the parking structure.

The door was in sight. Relief. But then it opened and I saw Larry standing there, blocking my escape. I think he was trying to warn me at first. Josie, Richard was just killed. For your own safety, return to your office. But then he saw the blood stain and realized—I was the dangerous one.

He grabbed my arm but I already had my hand on my gun. I shot him in the kneecap and left him there in the tunnel.

I made it to my car, sped to the gate. A security vehicle tried to block my path but I clipped it, sent it skidding sideways. The parking arm snapped free as I drove through it.

In my side mirror, I glanced at KRLA. It faded into the distance as I left it behind. Forever.


I drove in a trance, following the GPS's directions. She'd programmed side streets. She wanted me to succeed. I could hear Tara sobbing and The Woman cooing to her like a demon mother.

"It's all right," she said. "He's dead now. And as long as Mommy's good, you'll stay alive."

A police car was audible a block away. I was terrified, but the side streets saved me.

At the TV station, I was used to breaking stories, but now—I was the story. I could hear them—my friends and co-workers. Josie could never do such a thing. She seemed so normal. And then, upon reflection: Josie did get kind of intense after the divorce...The GPS alerted me, "You have reached your destination." I gazed out the window at a familiar location. I'd dropped Tara off there a few times.

Frank's house.


The house key was in a faux rock next to Frank's front door. The key was meant for Tara, who sometimes arrived at the house before her father.

I unlocked the front door and slipped into the foyer. I was hoping for an alarm, but the security system wasn't enabled. It was still relatively early—not even eight PM.

"You know what to do, Josie."

I searched the first floor for Frank, then made my way up the carpeted stairs. I prayed that he wasn't home.

But he was—and not alone.

His bedroom door was wide open. He was nude on the bed with a woman, in the middle of sex. This was the last thing I expected to see. I found myself watching him, the sight a surprising punch in the gut.

Then I noticed the woman's face. Frank is fucking my sister. Melinda. So insecure, so jealous. This was her revenge against me, though I was never meant to discover it.

She suddenly noticed me and panicked, pulling the covers over her naked body. She began to sob. Frank jumped from the bed and slipped into his boxers, moving toward me.

"What the fuck are you doing in here?"

"My sister," I muttered. "You had to fuck my sister."

He was unrepentant. "I can fuck whoever I want. You divorced me, remember?"

Melinda pulled a t-shirt over her bare chest, still weeping. "Josie, I'm sorry—"

I ignored her, fixated instead on Frank's defiant face. In that one glimpse of sex, I felt like I'd witnessed all of his indiscretions, seen him on top of all the other women.

My purse dropped to the floor. I gripped the gun in one clammy hand. This time, I didn't need The Woman's orders.

I shot him in the heart. I wanted to do it.

Screeching feedback suddenly pierced my ears. It took me a moment to realize it was interference in the earpiece. I could hear Tara, but this time she wasn't screaming; she sounded determined. I heard The Woman grunt and then—

Tara's voice came through the ear piece. "Mom—I hit her—she's out."

Tara had control now. She'd taken the headset.

"I can see everything," she said. The Woman had been watching my killing spree on some kind of monitor; so had Tara.

Melinda...Frank...she saw them together...she saw Frank die...not die, murdered, I murdered him...

I knelt next to Melinda, who was cowering on the bed, Frank's body just feet away.

"Someone made me do that," I told her. "This woman—she has Tara. I have to help Tara."

I found paper in Frank's office printer. I rifled through his desk, found a black marker, and wrote in thick, bold lettering that Tara would be able to read on the monitor: "WHERE ARE YOU?"

I held the paper facing my torso, where the tiny camera was pinned.

"I don't know," she replied. "She cut off my thumb, Mom. But then—I was able to get my hand loose—"

I grabbed another piece of paper, scrawled another message: "GET OUT OF THERE!"

Tara was out of breath. "There's an elevator, but it's broken. And there are stairs, but the doors are chained."

Another piece of paper, another scrawled message: "DESCRIBE YOUR SURROUNDINGS. I NEED CLUES."

"It's old, run-down. A wide-open space with a platform. There's a long desk that's falling apart. Clocks on one wall."

No, it couldn't be...

I scratched out another message: "WHAT'S ABOVE THE CLOCKS?"

"It's dark," she said. "Let me move this light." I heard her wince in pain. "I see an outline. Letters used to be there. KVOX."

KVOX, where I'd gotten my start eighteen years ago. The broadcasting landscape had changed, and now the old KVOX station was barren and abandoned.

I scrawled another message: "I'LL BE THERE SOON." No police. They could arrest me, stop me from getting to Tara. I had to do this on my own.

The Woman was unconscious. There was only one way to make sure she wouldn't hurt Tara. I held up another note.

"KILL HER, TARA?"

"I can't," she wept.

I understood. I held up one final note.

"THEN I WILL."


I took Frank's car, since the cops weren't looking for it. Tara spoke to me as I drove to her. I needed to hear her voice, to know she was with me.

"Mom, she's moving around," Tara whispered from her hiding place. "I saw a shadow. I have to stop talking. I'm in the—" Static. The connection dropped.

I entered the building through a shattered window. Stepping into the lobby was like entering the negative image version of my past. The last time I was there, the lobby was flooded with light, with hope for the future. Now it was decrepit, littered with refuse.

I remembered where the stairwell door was and made my way up to the fourteenth floor, using my cell phone to light the way.

I reached KVOX and pushed the stairwell door. It was chained shut, but I was able to crack the door an inch, just enough to locate the padlock. I shot it apart with the gun and made my way inside.

I walked down the hall to the old studio. This was where The Woman had held Tara. Bloody rope coiled around a steel chair—the remnants of Tara's prison. A half-shattered mirror was propped against one wall. A laptop computer and a lamp provided the only illumination.

The dimly lit room—captured from my camera's viewpoint—filled the laptop's display. As I approached the monitor, it became a window into infinity, a tunnel of monitors within monitors.

Surrounding the laptop were newspaper clippings, each related to a separate killing spree. A woman in Cleveland, a man in Vegas, a teenager in Boston, and many more.

She'd done this to all of us—turned us into monsters. She chose wisely, selecting the angry, the wronged, the dissatisfied, giving us the push we needed to unleash our inner mass murderer on inconvenient strangers, our bosses, our families.

I tore the camera from my blouse and looked down at the lens. I could see myself on the monitor now—my blouse spotted with Richard and Frank's blood. The enormity of what I'd done hit me.

I ripped out the earpiece and threw it to the floor, picked up the laptop and sent it flying.

Tears. I choked them back. I could break down later.

I left the studio and moved to another hallway. An open elevator shaft loomed ahead of me. I approached it.

A hand sprouted from the darkness, clutching my arm. Warm, wet blood smeared my skin. I saw the makeshift bandage and knew it was Tara.

She'd been standing on a small ledge at the rear of the shaft, hiding in the darkness, clutching near-by girders for support. Smart. It would've been difficult for The Woman to reach her there.

She collapsed in my arms. I held her for a moment, but a sound from the next room reminded me—we were in danger.

The Woman was on the other side of the wall. I moved down the hall with Tara, treading lightly to the stairwell door. I gave her the gun and told her to get out and get help. If something happened to me and The Woman came for her, shoot to kill.

Before Tara left, I took the headset she'd stolen from The Woman and slipped it on.

In the studio, The Woman—armed with a gun of her own—felt a crunch under her foot. She'd stepped on the discarded camera. She noticed a scrawled message on the wall beneath the clocks: "STICK IT IN."

There, on a table, was the earpiece. The Woman placed it in her ear.

"Josie," she said.

"You gave me one month. I'll give you ten minutes. Find me," I said. "I'm unarmed."

I saw her for the first time. She was wearing one of my outfits, stolen from my closet. She must have taken it when placing the bullets in my bedroom. The upper half of her face was covered with a translucent mask. Her hair was as dark as mine was blond and she was shining a flashlight.

Her flashlight beam hit something in the elevator shaft. She saw a face staring out at her from within.

I swung down from my hiding place in the damaged ceiling above her.

She realized—she was looking at her own reflection. I'd planted a mirror in the shaft.

She turned and fired a shot. It caught me in the shoulder, halting my momentum. She tried to shoot me again, but I fell to the floor and managed to trip her. The gun skidded away from us and we struggled next to the shaft. I bucked and kicked and she slipped over the edge, hanging on by her ten fingers.

I crawled to the gun and approached her. She looked up at me.

"I'll always be with you, Josie," she said.

And then I aimed at her hands, blowing her fingers to smithereens.

She didn't plummet straight down. Her body hit one side of the shaft, then another, tossed back and forth like a volley ball. One blow was so powerful, the front of her face was scraped off. I would never know what she looked like beneath that mask. Later, her DNA was run through the system; no match was found. She died a Jane Doe. My future is uncertain. I'm sitting in a cell now, strangely at peace. I'm a curious legal case. How accountable am I for the murders I committed? A jury will decide.

Melinda is keeping watch over Tara while I'm away. Or maybe it's the other way around. Tara always was stronger than her aunt. She's stronger than most people.

In an awful way, I'm thankful. The Woman freed me. She gave me a new life. I don't have to cover feline funerals anymore. Frank is gone. I've never been so close to Tara.

Sometimes, when I lie awake at night, I hear The Woman's voice, whispering in my ear.

About the Author

TS Faull wrote the award-winning horror film GRIMM LOVE. Directed by Martin Weisz and based on the Armin Meiwes consensual cannibalism case, it stars Keri Russell and Thomas Kretschmann. The film was a cause célèbre in Germany, where it was banned, and is so disturbing it has not yet been released in the US. TS has also written thrillers for Mandalay and Dimension. He does have people he would secretly like to kill; he's just waiting for the phone call.