I DUCK IN THE SHADOWS beside the Dumpster and wait. Beneath my mask I tune every sense to the night surrounding me.
Down the alley two cats scuffle.
Four stories up a woman and a man argue.
All around me snowflakes fall and wet the cement.
A rat sidles out from beneath the Dumpster, and I immediately move. I don’t do rats.
I race to the end of the alley and spin around. My gaze flicks from shadow to shadow, but I don’t see movement.
Maybe it’s all in my head—this person I think is following me.
It’s been three months since I killed the Decapitator.
It’s been three months of nightly outings. Looking. Waiting.
Hunting. Trying to satisfy the urges that don’t seem to be satiable. Even I know I’m wasting my talents.
Talents . . .
With my position in the FBI and your innate talents . . . We’ll be great. We’ll go down in history as the most infamous serial killers never caught.
I shake my mom’s annoying voice from my head. I just want her to stay the hell out of my thoughts. But she won’t. She pops in constantly. Frustratingly so. I wish I could reach inside my head, grab that section of my brain, and yank it out.
But I do what I always do. Bury it and refocus.
Four weeks ago I caught the freshman who graffitied the football field. I tied him up and left him on the fifty-yard line for the coaches to find.
Three weeks ago I shaved the captain of the cheerleaders’ head. She’d “jokingly” done the same to a freshman girl who had passed out at a party.
Two weeks ago I caught a twelve-year-old girl stealing a Snickers bar from the 7-Eleven down the street. I made her go and confess.
And last week I kicked this kid’s ass for swatting his dog with a rolled-up magazine. I do not put up with animal abusers. They rank pretty high on my hit list.
Yet all these things are beneath me. They’re juvenile. But I just don’t know what else to do. I need to feel alive again. I
need adrenaline surging through my veins. But the last time I did was three months ago in the kill room with Zach and the Decapitator.
Down the alley a door opens, and I flatten myself along the wet brick wall. This is it. This is what I’ve been waiting for. Tonight will make up for the past frustrating months.
John Jacks Jones. His parents had a strange sense of humor when they named him. Age twenty-one. Caucasian. Drug dealer. I was first introduced to him and his partner, Aisha Olive, in Judge Penn’s court—where I like to spend my spare time. John Jacks Jones, or Jacks as everyone calls him, is the worst kind of drug dealer. He and Aisha target the kids.
One week ago an eleven-year-old overdosed on pills, and Aisha and Jacks landed in Penn’s court. They were released for lack of evidence, and that’s when I first started trailing them. In the last five days I’ve witnessed them selling to three different kids. Yes, Jacks is definitely worthy of my focus. As is Aisha.
He coughs and spits, then lights up a cigarette. His phone rings and he answers it. “Yeah?”
As he listens, I take my Taser from my cargo pocket. Slowly I make my way down the alley and through the snow toward him. I size him up. Five foot ten. One hundred seventy-five pounds. Dark hair and goatee. Jeans. Jacket. Looks ordinary enough. I know from the past week of following him that he carries a gun.
“And what’d he say?” Pause. “Fuck him, man. If I say it’s a grand, then it’s a grand.”
Ever since my mom dropped the f-bomb in the kill room, I’ve decided I don’t care for the word.
As he listens to whoever’s on the other end, I close the last few feet between us.
I lift my Taser . . . and pause.
My finger hovers over the trigger as I stare at the back of his head.
Pull the trigger!
“All right, later tonight, then.” Jacks clicks off, flicks his cigarette into the snow, and walks back through the door he came out of.
I stand for a moment, finger still hovering over the trigger, staring at the closed door.
What the hell? Months ago I would’ve already had him tasered, zip-tied, and ready for whatever I had in store for him. I’m way off my game. And I have no clue why.
I turn the Taser around and study the barbs. Shoot yourself, Lane. Maybe that’ll bring you back to life.
I get home a little before my midnight curfew to find Daisy in my bed. I take a breath and swallow it so I don’t give in to the overwhelming urge to bitch at her.
My sister yawns. “Hey, where have you been?”
I give my standard lie. “The coffee shop.”
She sits up. “I didn’t see you there.”
“I went to keep you company. Tried calling you too.”
This isn’t good. “New coffee shop. And I turn my phone off for quiet time.”
I hope she gets my emphasis.
Apparently she does. Retreating to my walk-in closet, I quickly change into my sleep shirt. It’s been like this since our mom died. Me and Daisy. Two peas. She’s driving me nuts.
Her sudden connection to me wouldn’t be such a shock if it weren’t the complete opposite of the way things used to be. I find myself wishing more than I should that she’d go back to hating and ignoring me.
At least I’d get some me time.
“I’ll go with you sometime if you want the company.”
From inside my closet I close my eyes. I’ve got to figure this out. Me. Her. Me.
I flick the closet light off and shuffle back into my room. “Sleeping here tonight?” I ask, already knowing the answer.
She blinks her blue eyes. “If that’s okay?”
I pull the covers back and climb in. “Sure.”
As usual, she’s asleep in five minutes and I lie awake for an hour. I never used to have problems sleeping. But over the
past few months it seems me and sleep aren’t getting along too well.
Daisy’s breathing deepens. I focus on its cadence, thinking of her and Justin. I’m so happy neither of them inherited our mother’s darkness. And that thought causes my mind to drift—as it has been doing lately—to years past and buried memories. . . .
Mom gives me several Barbie dolls. “If you feel anything, I want you to take it out on them, okay?”
I nod my eight-year-old head.
Days later she steps into my room, and I hand her a box full of Barbie body parts that I ripped and chewed off.
She soothes her hand over my braided hair. “Good girl. I’ll get you more.”
I am who I am, and she’d been grooming me from the start. I just never realized it until after her death.
Before. After. I’ve been thinking in those two terms a lot. How I was before she died—focused, together. And how I am after—scattered, lost.
After I killed her. The Decapitator. My mother.