Maggie Webb gaped at the man who was murdering her.
Except for the bloody gouges she’s put there with her nails, his face was flawless. More than flawless…unmistakably beautiful.
She would die now.
Smooth, tanned skin stretched over chiseled cheekbones, a hawk-like nose, a squared clean-shaven jaw. The rage in his eyes was beyond comprehension. It was alive, a living, pulsing, insurmountable life force.
She clamped her hands on his wrists but was powerless against stopping the pressure he put on her throat. Her grip left a clammy trail from his wrists to his fingers. She couldn’t pry them loose.
She would die now.
The thought was surreal. What had she accomplished with her life? No children. No husband. Not even parents who spoke to her.
The ache at the base of her larynx increased, the pressure in her brain almost too much to bear. In a desperate attempt for air, she slammed the back of her head against the base of the doorjamb, nearly knocking herself unconscious. It accomplished nothing. He sunk his knee deeper into her chest, and she could feel her sternum threaten to break. She would have screamed had she the ability.
She would die now.
Her extremities began to tense and shake, and she was vaguely conscious of the drool puddling down her chin.
Black, demonic eyes glared down at her. She knew him…somehow…
Her vision began to blur and fade. It was coming. Sweet death had arrived, and she mentally willed it to hurry.
Her murderer collapsed on top of her.
The pressure stopped, and a rush of oxygen filled her lungs. Unable to move, eyes gaping into his thick black hair that fell over her view, she breathed, then breathed again and again.
Pushing his hair away, Maggie stared up at the ceiling, unable to believe, to think, to react. Then she shoved him off her. She only managed to move him part way and crawled the rest of the way. It was like trying to break free from a Mac truck on top of her.
She dragged herself across the cold black and white tile. Guttural, animal-like sounds escaped her, drove her panic to near hysteria. Her murderer lay face down in the doorway that separated her kitchen from the tiny mudroom. She’d barely gotten through the door when he’d attacked her. She had no idea how he’d gotten in.
Was he dead?
Gingerly, she sat up, her limbs shaking uncontrollably. She touched her throat, winced with pain, then hoisted herself to her feet with the aid of the one of the ugly metal kitchen chairs which had come with the cottage she was renting.
He wasn’t moving.
Why he was unconscious was just as bewildering as why he’d attacked her in the first place. If he’d been trying to rob her, he had to be stupid to pick her house. She owned little more than the clothes on her back.
Maggie crept toward him, touched his arm with the tip of her nurses’ shoe. She jumped back, expecting him to grab her, but he didn’t move. Moments passed as she stood there staring at him, wondering what to do. More moments passed as she worked up the nerve to touch him again.
Grasping fistfuls of the black leather coat he wore, she rolled him over onto his back and shrieked. Black eyes gaped, stared lifelessly toward the ceiling.
Dead? She had to check.
Standing as far away as she possibly could, she reached three shaking fingers toward his neck and placed them on his carotid artery.
Panic caught in her throat, tripped her heart into overtime. Calm down. Death was nothing new to her. Her job kept her surrounded by it.
What the hell was she going to do with him?
She turned her back on him, tripped over the metal chair and fell, hitting her shoulder hard. Ignoring the pain, she ran to the living room, found the portable phone on the sofa cushion, and picked it up. She dialed 911 as she ran back to the kitchen.
“911. What is your emergency?”
“My name is—”
She dropped the phone.
Her attacker was changing. He was still unconscious, but his appearance was…different. Chiseled features softened. Hair that was flawlessly styled, faded from black to sand brown and grew past his shoulders right before her very eyes. A beard more than two inches sprouted. His good looks disappeared and were replaced by someone she’d never seen, someone she would never recognize as her attacker.
Maggie didn’t know how much time had passed as she watched him. His change was gradual, yet much too fast to be real.
Maybe it wasn’t real. Maybe she was finally losing it.
She nudged him with her foot, then jumped back from the fear of expecting him to move, but he was still unconscious. Correction: dead.
Not dead, screamed a familiar voice in her consciousness. You know exactly what he is.
The dead didn’t change appearances. The fact that he was not dead was even more unsettling than being nearly murdered. This…thing on her floor was another one of the entities which had been coming to her since she was a child. But this was the first time one had attacked her.
Correction: This was the first time one had attempted to kill her.
She bent down, touched his hand and quickly pulled away. He felt as real as anyone living.
What the hell was she going to do?
“Hello,” came the voice from the dropped phone. “Is anyone there? What is your emergency?”
She picked up the phone, gripped it in her hands. What was she going to do? Tell the dispatcher a paranormal phenomenon had nearly killed her? They’d lock her up. Again.
“I-I’m sorry.” Her hands shook uncontrollably. “Everything’s fine. Wrong number.” She hit the ‘end’ button and killed the connection.
Still clutching the phone, she went back to the living room and staggered out the back door. The weathered decking which surrounded the tiny little shack she now called home was cold and slimy against her bare feet. Three hundred a month plus utilities was a steal, even though it needed a new roof and she doubted it was properly winterized. With a rent to own option, she could fix it up as the money held out.
The view of North Sandy Pond was a dance of pinks and golds against a backdrop of cattails and water as calm as a cold grave. All was quiet except for the occasional honk of the Canadian geese nesting in the marshy areas.
She stared off into the distance, aware of her rapid breathing and the crazed whimpers escaping her lips. She thought she would be at peace here. She’d thought the past was buried. Yeah, right. Any more stupid ideas?
What was she going to do with him?
She could bury him, but she didn’t own a shovel, and she doubted she’d be able to dig a hole deep enough. Nightfall would be in an hour or so. She could dump him in the water. North Sandy Pond was a mile wide, if that. Cottages scattered the entire shoreline, but most were empty. It was only the second week in May. Most occupants hadn’t come back from their winter homes in Florida. The Petersons, living to the right of her, wouldn’t be back until June. Russ Jensen, neighboring in the tiny bungalow on her left however, was resided here year round. And he was a night owl judging by the soft glow of his computer, which she noticed most every night.
What other choice did she have?
She went back inside, found him still unconscious, still staring up at the ceiling. Lifeless eyes had gone from black to slate blue.
Nobody had eyes that blue. Christ, nobody had eyes that changed color!
Gooseflesh raised the hairs along the back of her neck. She had to do this.
He was well over six feet tall and at least 250 pounds. How was she going to move him?
Cautiously taking both his wrists, she pulled his arms up over his head and tried to drag him toward the back door. He was as heavy as a corpse, which was, she supposed, what he was, if, in fact, it was possible for someone to die twice. He didn’t budge.
Dropping his wrists, she went to the boxes in her living room which still remained unpacked and found the little discs she’d purchased at the Dollar Store to help move her furniture. She slid four of them under the body and tried to pull him again. The discs were as useless as they’d been moving her sofa.
Disbelief settling to panic, she searched the tiny cottage. All she found was the shower curtain she’d just paid $14.95 for. One of the few things she’d made time to put up since moving here.
She ripped it down, ran back to the body and fanned it out beside it. Jumping over him, she rolled him face down on top of the curtain. At least she couldn’t see his eyes now.
Hands shaking uncontrollably, she pulled him into the living room, knocking over a path of chairs and boxes as she went.
It was nearly dark by the time she hauled the body outside and down the dock.
You can’t do this.
What other choice did she have?
It’s not humane.
He wasn’t human.
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