The house lies on the outskirts of the desert community, lone and isolated. A strong wind blows over the surrounding land, swirling dust demons across the darkness of the fields. In the black of sky, a million stars tremble around the full moon. In the split rail fence encircling the large yard the front gate stands open; as the wind moves it, the wood seems to be alive, shivering.
He passes through the opening and moves up the dirt road, through the small grove of eucalyptus and olive trees. The spicy scent surrounds him, the leaves whisper above, a dry rattle. The house comes into sight through the trees, and he sees the front door standing open as well.
The wind gusts around him and the feeling of doom closes in as he moves up the pavers toward the triangular arched front entrance and stops on the porch, listening…
Nothing but silence from the darkness within.
He steps through the open doorway, past the carved wooden door, into the entry hall with its white painted brick walls and tiled floor.
And then he sees the blood.
The horror comes rushing over him. He has been here a hundred times before. Every detail is as it always is, the tiled floor, the white stucco walls, cold moonlight through the tall arched windows. He can feel the presence of madness, hear the harsh breath of the unimaginable thing that is waiting for him at the end of the hallway.
He is no longer a man, but a boy, just a boy, no match for whatever lies behind that door. The terror has turned every cell in his body to ice; his feet can barely move him forward. On the floor around him is a pool of dark, he is up to his ankles in it, and it is not cold, like water, but warm, like…
Copper. Stink. Death.
And those crumpled shapes on the floor around him, the sleeping mounds… but not sleeping, no, the eyes are open, staring. An entire family, slashed, stabbed... slaughtered.
He turns to run.
In front of him a shadow looms... he can feel it reaching for him… feel the scream rising in his throat—
It is not a monster, but a woman who steps out of the shadows. Her face is beautiful, luminous in the pale moonlight.
The gash in her throat drips blood.
And when she reaches for him, he does not know if it is to embrace him — or kill him —
Roarke jarred awake with the queasy feeling that he had spoken or shouted aloud. He lay in the motel bed, and forced himself to breathe, to slow his racing heart.
The dream was his past and his present, merged. An old nightmare from his childhood, that he’d had periodically since the Reaper had disappeared, never to be caught, never to be found. There was a new presence now: the adult Cara.
As he lay still in the motel bed, he listened to the unaccustomed silence, broken at last by the distant roar of a big rig, somewhere on the freeway. He reached for his phone on the bed stand to check the time. It was just past noon, and he was somewhere in the desert off Interstate 10, east of Los Angeles.
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Genre – Mystery / Thriller
Rating – PG13
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