FM 37

07-31-17_2-27-04 AM07-31-17_2-42-24 AM07-31-17_2-54-47 AM07-31-17_2-56-13 AM

I stood in our backyard and listened to the creek…a gentle murmuring in the dark. It was usually very soothing but not this time. There was too much on my mind. Had I really let a killer into my life? A man I’d idolized since I was a child…and I’d fallen in love with him. I sighed heavily. There was no denying Ginger’s pictures…it was him. And it would be far fetched to think of another possibility. A twin brother that Kolt nor Tommy had ever spoken of? Some crook who had plastic surgery to look like Kolt? Or could it be like I hoped…that the pictures were fake? But why would Ginger ever lie to me? I shook my head and went upstairs to my room. I was exhausted but sleep would not be coming easy. I tossed and turned, my mind still reeling from all the questions I had. If Kolt truly was the “Creekside Strangler” then that meant he’d killed his own wife. And my mother. And countless other women. If he really did have Madison, he’d kill her too. It was only a matter of when…and I had no idea what his end game was. My stomach clenched into knots and I sat upright in bed. I groaned from the discomfort. I felt like I was going to vomit. I barely made it to the bathroom in time and when I was finished, I just stayed there with the porcelain cool against my cheek. Madison was the one that always took care of me while I was sick, ever since we were kids. I missed her so much. A sob escaped my lips, “Maddie, I need you.”


SS 24


While we waited on the porch for Hannah and Aiden to get ready, Sheldon confronted me about leaving once more. He took me by the shoulders and gently shook me. “Elaine, wake up. We cannot stay here any longer. If we must, we can go out and do these frivolous things like Hannah wants but when we get back, we’re going home. Do you understand?” I nodded my head in agreement. “Yes. You’re right, dear. As soon as we get back.” The door shut loudly and Hannah announced, “It’s time to go! Let’s have some fun!” We made our way to the top of the front steps and stood there…for a moment too long. Aiden looked over at us nervously. “Anyone else having trouble moving their feet forward? I can move back all I want to but I can’t walk down the steps.” We all nodded in disbelief and moved back to the porch. “It felt like quicksand.” Hannah stated. “That’s what Sharla said earlier! It didn’t want her to come in and it doesn’t want us to leave now. But she was able to leave in the end. Why can’t we?” I asked. “Maybe the house didn’t want her…like it wants us.” Hannah whispered quietly. Sheldon sighed and rubbed his temples. He was becoming very frustrated. “We should’ve left this morning. But no, we had to stay for just one more day! Now look at us. We’re trapped here! For who knows how long.” Sheldon glared at Hannah. Maybe it was my hormones…but I began to cry. “I guess that means things are back to being my fault again.” Hannah said while rolling her eyes. This time I had to agree with Sheldon. “Maybe because it IS your fault.” I hissed through my tears then I stomped off to my bedroom to be alone.

FM 36


07-28-17_12-42-04 AM07-28-17_12-26-49 AM07-28-17_12-34-24 AM9

It’d been a really long day. And I felt so hollow inside. Kolt tried to talk me into going home with him that evening but I had other plans. Ginger wanted me to come over because she had something to ask me. When we got into her room she turned to me and asked, “Why haven’t you arrested Brad yet?” It sounded like an accusation. “I would if I could find him, Ginger. You know that.” I sighed. She gave me and odd look then started talking again. “I met him in a club and within a week he was living with me and Granny. It was great for a while but I couldn’t tolerate him being mean to Granny. He threatened her! So he had to go. And well, you know the rest. He’s violent.” I was tired and I didn’t understand was she was getting at. I nodded and she continued talking. “I thought he would recognize me that night we sang karaoke, that’s why I made a run for it. I figured maybe you were undercover but I followed you home…and you were flirting with him! Just be careful, Shannon. Don’t make the same mistakes I did. He’ll charm your pants off then try to ruin your life.” My heart stilled in my chest. “Wait…what? Are you talking about Kolt? He’s my partner. What does any of this have to do with him?” I asked, furrowing my brows. “Kolt?” She sounded the name out. “No. That’s not right. The hair is different.  But the eyes…they are the same. I would know them anywhere. Kolt is Brad.” Then she pulled her phone out and showed me the proof.


SS 23


“Please help us get rid of these spirits! I know you can!” Hannah insisted. “Can’t you do some kind of cleansing ritual? Or a even an exorcism? We’re desperate!” Sharla shook her head. “That is out of my area of expertise. There is nothing I can do for you, except offer you my advice. Which is to leave as fast as your legs can carry you.” Hannah groaned and rubbed her temples. “Are there any other parts of the house that are a danger to us?” Hannah asked curiously. “Surely you won’t stay here?” Sharla raised her eyebrows. Hannah merely shrugged.
It was evening by the time Sharla searched every nook and cranny of the manor…still her answer was the same. “You all should leave here…tonight.” It was a rare sight to see Hannah angry but in that moment, she was furious. “I do not accept that!” She screamed in Sharla’s face. “I understand you are upset. I am full of regret that I can’t do more. I wish you all the best.” Then we watched in silence as she walked out the front door, it slamming behind her. Hannah burst out into tears. “We’ve put all our money and everything we own into this place…we even sold our house in town. If we leave, we have nowhere to go and nothing to our name.” I was so glad we hadn’t done the same. “You both could come stay with us.” I offered. Then I felt Sheldon’s elbow in my side. “If only we had the room.” He pointed out. “It’ll be dark soon, we should leave first thing in the morning. I think we can handle one last night here.” Aiden said confidently while lighting a cigar. “You’re right.” Hannah agreed, wiping away her tears. “And we’re gonna go out and have fun instead of staying cooped up in here the whole time. Everyone go get dressed!”

FM 35


I’d just made to my front yard when my cell rang. A body had been found. Near the creek. I arrived at the scene merely minutes after Kolt and Tommy. Kolt blocked my view. “You shouldn’t be here, darling. You’re too close to this case now.” I stood my ground. “I’m not leaving until I know. Not until I know it’s her. Now move. Please.” I pleaded. “Very well.” He said gruffly. Once he was out of the way, I saw the bridge and knew exactly where we were. Tommy glanced over at me. “Isn’t this where your Mom…” He didn’t finish. “Yes. It’s exactly where she was found…17 years ago.” Then I saw the body. The blonde hair and the yellow shirt…my legs suddenly felt like they were going to collapse under me. I leaned onto Kolt to keep from falling. “Yellow is her favorite color.” I whispered. It was a wreck inside of my head. Tommy bent down and examined the girl. My throat felt like it was closing up…I couldn’t breathe. Tommy wiped his forehead and sighed in relief. “It’s not her. Maybe you should go home now, Casey.” I sucked in a deep breath then I whirled around and faced Kolt. “Oh, I can’t believe it.” He nodded. “It’s definitely good news, babe.” I shook my head. “No. It’s not. A girl is still dead. And I feel so guilty, Kolt. I’m a horrible human being.” He wiped my tears from my face. Tommy glared in our direction. Guess the cat was out of the bag. “Why, darling?” He took my hand in his. “I prayed for this. I prayed for it to be some other girl. Someone else’s sister or mother or daughter…I didn’t care who…just not MY sister.”

SS 22


Hannah called for help as soon as the sun lit the sky the next morning. After hearing the doorbell, I opened the door to Sharla’s frowning face. “I do not like how this place makes me feel. My feet were so heavy coming up the steps, it was like walking in quicksand. It doesn’t want me here.” She looked behind me in the open doorway. “And I don’t want to be here.” I nodded. “I understand if you don’t want to come in.” She gazed at my stomach. “You are with child now. I would congratulate you but I worry…what did you promise the witch?” I rubbed my arms and looked down at my feet. “Oh…she said I had nothing she wanted at this time but she would come to me later.” I could feel her eyes on me but I didn’t look up. She walked into the foyer and gasped. “There is great evil attached to this house. Lurking in the shadows. Watching your every move. I think it wants something…but I cannot tell what.” The others joined me by then and we all watched as she went from room to room, observing signs of “activity” here and there. Once in the billiard room where we had our séance, Sharla murmured, “People shouldn’t meddle in things they don’t understand.” She glared at Hannah, causing Hannah to blush a deep red. Then we followed her to the hallway where she stood in front of the staircase. She was visibly trembling. She shook her head then finally faced us. “Something horrible happened in the attic. Do not go up there unless you absolutely have to…and never at night. I cannot make your decisions for you but I would urge you all to leave this place for good…as soon as possible.”

FM 34


The weekend came and went without any sign of Madison. Monday morning, my Dad and I went down to the station and filed a missing person’s report. I planned to take the rest of the day off in case Maddie happened to show up or call but unfortunately, I got into a fight with my father right after we got home. I know we were both stressed and upset…but he wanted to call the funeral home for pricing. It made me so angry that he could just give up hope so soon. We didn’t know all the details! And there wasn’t even a body to bury! I quickly changed my clothes and headed back to the station to file some paperwork. My stack of unsolved cases was getting thicker and sitting on my butt at home wasn’t going to help anything. I pounded a few hours away at the keyboard until I took notice of my computer’s screensaver…it was a picture of me, Maddie, and Dad. All smiling…all so happy. I began to sob. Then I heard Kolt’s voice in my ear. “Darling, you should be at home today.” I looked up at him through my tears. “I just couldn’t s-stay there.” He nodded solemnly. He motioned for me to follow him to the locker room. “Do you really think the strangler has her?” I blurted out once we got there. “What if the last time I saw her, she was begging me to spend time with her? How am I going to be able to live with myself if she dies?” Before I could say anything else, he’d pulled me close and held me tightly until no more tears came.

SS 21


“Oh Elaine, that’s wonderful news! I bet Sheldon is thrilled! Our kids will grow up together…and hopefully be best friends just like you and me.” She smiled while rubbing her belly. I’d finally told Hannah that I was expecting and she seemed genuinely happy for me. “Do you have any names picked out yet?” I asked. “We were thinking of Jonah for a boy…” She was interrupted by a loud sob from nearby. “Did you hear that? It sounds like a girl.” I opened the bedroom door and walked towards the steps leading to the attic with Hannah trailing closely behind me. Sure enough, there was girl standing in the corner at the end of the hall. “How did she get in here unseen by any of us?” I thought to myself. “Excuse me but this is private property and I’m sorry, but you’ll have to leave.” I said kindly. Then I noticed the fog seeping through the walls. “Elaine…don’t.” Hannah whispered from next to me. “Get away from her.” I glanced over at her…she looked terrified. Suddenly the girl turned around and faced us. She was as white as a sheet and her eyes…they were as black as night. She took a step towards me…the look on her face made me think she meant to do me harm. Hannah cowered next to the wall before darting off to her bedroom, then closing and locking the door behind her. “Hannah!” I shouted, backing away from the girl slowly. The girl reached her hand out towards me and I ran as fast as I could to get away from her. And like a child, I hid under my bed. I stayed there until Sheldon found me and told me they searched the whole grounds…and couldn’t find a girl anywhere.

FM 33


The next morning, we had breakfast at Kolt’s favorite diner. He promised the food was going to knock me off my feet. “Kinda like how you knocked me off my feet?” I flirted. But he didn’t smile. Instead he said, “Does the age difference bother you? I mean…twenty-two years is a hell of a gap. And maybe we should keep this between us. I wouldn’t want you to get heat about it at the station.” Was he trying to blow me off? What happened to “feeding the flame”? My phone beeped, indicating I had a voicemail. “Shannon, I’ve been trying to contact you all night. You need to come home as soon as you possibly can. It’s an emergency.” My stomach clenched. “Crap!” Kolt raised his eyebrows. “You have to take me home. Now!” I jumped up and hurried out to his truck while he paid for our food. The forty-five minute drive back to my house was pure hell. Kolt slipped his hand into mine and held onto it tightly as he drove. It was comforting but I was still worried sick. I heaved a sigh of relief when we finally pulled into my driveway. My father gave Kolt a strange look when we came in through the front door. That was going to be a very awkward conversation…but it would have to wait. “Dad, what’s going on? And where is Maddie?” I asked while glancing around the living room. “That’s just it.” He said, rubbing his eyes. He looked like he hadn’t slept a wink. “I haven’t seen her since she took you dinner at the station. I figured maybe she was staying with some friends but when she didn’t show up for work two days in a row, I called them. No one has seen her.” I felt as if I’d been punched in the gut. “Madison is missing.”

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