Investigative journalist Emilee Weathers is hungry for the perfect story and not too particular about how she has to get it. Asked to help find new evidence for a convicted serial killer’s appeal, she heads for the mountain town of Pigeon Forge.
When she discovers the body of a recent victim, the questions come thick and fast. Has she happened upon the work of a copycat? Is the real killer still out there? And is there anybody in this neck of the woods she can trust?
Beneath a starry night’s sky, Emilee and everyone at the cabin all stood around the flickering flames of a fire just in front of the trees. All were wrapped in sweaters, gloves, and scarves. Sebastian stood with his arm around Morgan; she was snuggled up under his arm with her head resting against his chest. Skylar sat in a plastic lawn chair with her legs crossed and her thumbs tapping away on her phone. Emilee and Sebastian were across from each other, on opposite sides of the fire. A bit too far to comfortably carry on a conversation, but not too far to keep them from catching each other’s eyes. James sat in the only other lawn chair, and by his feet, Emilee sat in the dirt and rocks.
After taking a gulp from his beer, Casey grabbed a flashlight, put the beam beneath his chin, and said, “So who wants to have the shit scared out of them with a scary story?” The shadows distorted his face into something wicked as he grinned wide.
“Ooh, I do. Which one?” Skylar asked.
“Good question, Sky. I’m thinking,” he took another sip, “since Emilee is about to interview the psychopath, why don’t we hear about VDK?”
“Okay, maybe now isn’t the best time to be telling this story,” Sebastian said.
“What? We’ve got the location, the night, the cold, a fire… and the potential for the killer to be set free soon. What more could you ask for?”
Sebastian let his head fall back as he groaned.
Casey began before anyone else could interject: “Five years ago, there was a girl by the name of Kayla Lawrence. Twenty years old, bubbly personality, all around beautiful girl. Two nights before Christmas, she went to sleep in her home. The next morning, when her parents stopped by, Kayla was nowhere to be seen. Her family quickly reported her missing, and after investigation, police found no sign of forced entry, no sign of a struggle, no sign of foul play whatsoever. It was like aliens had just come down and—boop—plucked her straight from the face of the Earth.”
Sebastian tried waving the story away. “Okay, that’s enou—”
“A couple months later, it was Valentine’s Day. The girl’s name was Luna McBeth. That night, she’d gone to a club downtown with some of her friends. It was almost midnight when she told her friends goodbye and left by herself. Security cameras showed her leaving the club and walking across the street to the parking lot… but she never reached her car. The next day, it was still sitting in that parking lot, locked. Just like Kayla, Luna had vanished without a single trace.”
“Dun dun dunnn,” Sebastian interrupted loudly, making a few people jump.
“It wasn’t long before police connected the two, based solely on identity,” Casey continued. “Both girls were young, petite, black hair, Caucasian.” Casey looked up at Emilee. “Kind of like Emilee… Anyway, almost two years later, some foreigners were hiking through these mountains when one stepped onto a ‘very soft patch of dirt’ that turned out to be the decaying corpse of Luna McBeth. Not far from her, another body was found that wasn’t ever identified. And just like that, the Valentine’s Day Killer was born.”
“Oh wow,” Morgan said.
Following the story was a quiet that arrived and threatened to stay. No one could seem to find the words to make it leave.
Then, there was a sound. So soft, yet so deafening in that silence. Everyone went stiff—stiff like a group of cadavers. They each exchanged looks with slightly widened eyes.
“What was that?” Morgan’s voice was brittle.
The noise had come from the dark flooding the trees of those woods. Sounded like the subtle snapping of a dry twig. Seemed like everyone was hoping to let the gripping moment pass… until it came back to grab them once more.
About the Author:
Jordan Antonacci and I “met” when we were both on the prowl for beta readers. I read a few of Jordan’s posts, and his prose was so gripping I knew his book would be an incredible read. I was not disappointed. You can get to know Jordan by following his blog.