I never thought it could happen to me.
I knew the statistics. I knew the signs. And I knew the moment I woke up tied to a chair, that the Shadow Hunter had gotten me too. He’d been terrorizing the city, capturing and herding women like cattle. We were supposed to be on high alert. We were supposed to be extra careful, especially at night. And I was. Every night, but last night.
That got-damn Greg! I spat inside my head, wanting to kill myself for even going to his apartment. I don’t know why I let Melinda talk me into that last margarita. If I ever got out of there, I’d offer her and Greg up as bait to whoever the guy was. If I ever got out. Christ, I could really die here. The sobering thought catapulted me into action. I wrestled against the chair and every movement made my naked wrists burn. The duct tape ripped the skin from my arms. I could feel the blood dripping down to my palms, playing ping-pong with my fingers before falling to the floor. I tried not to think about how much blood I’d lost already.
If I concentrated on something else—just one thing—I could save myself. I could get the fuck out of here. But where was I? How long had I been out? Where had he taken me? The last thing I remember was Greg on top of me. His steel-grey eyes peering down. His mouth on mine. Me opening myself up to him willingly. His limbs tumbling between mine. Ready. Agreeing. Pulsing.
And then, nothing. Darkness pressed on my eyelids. In the seconds (or minutes? Maybe hours?) that I’d been awake, my eyes hadn’t readjusted. There was only darkness. Blinding darkness. And a pair of steel-grey eyes I’d never get to see again.
My head felt like it’d been split open. A shooting pain ran down my neck, pummeling my back. A dull, burning pain spread through my abdomen. Panic set in. He raped me? No, no. That wasn’t his M.O. He’d never raped any other woman before. Oh God, get me out of this! Hot tears burned my cheeks as they tumbled down my face. I had to get out of here, even if I died trying. I twisted, turning my wrist around until I felt something pop in my shoulder blade. A wave of excruciating pain slammed into me like a speeding train.
An agonizing scream leapt out of my mouth before I could stop it. I hung my head, too afraid to move my arm again. Tears splashed onto my bare legs. Then, something beside me rustled like a whisper at midnight. A body? I sat up quickly and held my breath. My heartbeat pulsed through my ears and I could hear the blood shooting through my veins. I heard something again. A moan of agony. Someone was waking up. Someone was here with me!
“Oh thank God,” I breathed, realizing it was the first time I’d heard my voice in a while. It sounded jagged, like I chewed glass. “Please, can you help me?” I whimpered. I heard nothing in response. “I’m Angie. I’ve been kidnapped. Please.” I could barely speak. Relief flooded over me, slowly, like a baptism. Even if they were kidnapped, like me, at least there was someone else here with me.
“I know who you are,” someone mumbled.
A swollen, evil voice hung in the air like a promise. Something squeaked nearby. A bed? Footsteps padded across the room and before I could make sense of anything I was blinded by a flash of white light. I blinked and blinked, my thoughts screaming with panic, until the room swam into view. Cement walls. Blood. Lots and lots of blood. A hanging body staring at me, slack-jawed and open-mouthed—just inches from my ear. I recoiled so violently that I didn’t even realize my chair was toppling over until I slammed into the cement shoulder-first. There was a sickening crunch and stars popped into my eyes. A nauseating crescendo of pain flashed through my body. I bit down on my lip until the metallic taste of blood stung my tongue. I flailed until finally I was off of my shoulder and that’s when I saw them.
The eyes that were staring back at me. The girl’s smiling face. I recognized the curve of the lips and the sadness behind the square-framed glasses. The nose that was too big for such a small face, but any smaller, it would have seemed empty. The jet-black hair that was always unruly. It was me a thousand times over. Plastered on the wall. Me at the bank. Me eating a sandwich. Me catching a cab. Me with Greg. Our bodies twisted together like rope. Me. Me. Me.
On the adjacent wall there were other pictures, too. A different woman. Fiery red hair, a perfect smile and a demeanor so sweet that she almost made me forget where I was. But then, there was Greg. His mouth pressed to hers. Their emotions melting together easily like a hot knife to butter. Love. Lust. All captured with a flick of a camera. I recognized her face. Autumn. The Shadow Hunter’s first victim. I didn’t have to look around anymore to know where I was and who I was with. I opened my mouth to speak, to scream, but nothing came out.
Out of nowhere a door clanged shut. A mousy woman stumbled in. Her eyes locked onto mine. There was no recognition or remorse behind them. It like she was seeing right through me. Greg’s ex-wife. She was always so quiet; so reserved—hiding behind huge, unflattering dresses and cheap, costume jewelry. I used to joke that it was no wonder Greg came to me. The girl who had it all. Form-fitting dresses and real diamond studs fastened in my ears. I was the fun friend. The one who stayed with Greg while he and Becca were fighting. The one who bought all the flowers that were delivered to her job. The one that signed his name on all her anniversary cards when he’d forgotten.
I was also the one he slept with. The one who let Greg in. The one who ruined it for them. She was killing all of us, Greg’s girls, one by one. I never thought it could happen to me, the girl who had it all. And now I was going to lose it all.
“I’m sorry,” Greg whimpered, his mouth bloody and broken. His one working eye swiveled over to me. “I swear to God, Ang, I’m sorry.”
His wife stormed over, irritation, sorrow and rage in each step. “Oh, shut the fuck up,” she ordered, whipping a gun out of nowhere. The steel flashed in the overhead lights.
“I love you, Ang,” Greg wailed above the sound of the hammer cocking. “Ang!”
I squeezed myself into a ball, anticipating, waiting for the explosion. The image of Greg’s horrified eyes burned into my skull.
And that was the last thing I remembered.