Blurb: When Sydney Burke is almost strangled by a serial killer with a penchant for poetry, she becomes the focus of a certain FBI agent named Joe Ross, who’s hunting for the serial killer. Sydney is a stringer—a freelance journalist who races to newsworthy scenes to get video to put on the air for a fee. She unwillingly becomes a target for the serial killer who wants something from her. Between dealing with a crazy ex-boyfriend, paying off gambling debts to a pimp, and staying away from a congressman with Alzheimer’s in a quest for her identity, Sydney has to find the killer and escape the city before she becomes the next victim of his bad poetry and a gun to the head.
Midnight. The witching hour.
And a week until Halloween.
A shiver went up my spine, making the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. Something didn’t seem right but I had to go inside. My fans and my checkbook depended on it.
I got out of the car with my video camera in one hand and my mace in the other, my heart beating a million miles an hour. As I turned on my camera, the familiar whirring sound ratcheted up the excitement.
While inching toward the dark warehouse door, I put my finger on the trigger of the mace, just in case. I never knew what would happen in this type of situation and usually got there after the cops, so it was safe. But this time, no cops were around. I glanced over my shoulder. No one was around. At all.
I was tempted to phone some more of my buddies, but didn’t have phone numbers stored in my cell phone anymore. I had to remove the numbers for safety purposes. Besides, I’d already phoned my brother. If he’d just hurry up, I could get a shot of the perp and my brother hauling him in—a collar for both of us.
This situation seemed almost surreal. Such a quiet area either meant nothing was happening, or a crime was about to be committed. The thought gave me another shiver and an extreme adrenaline rush—my favorite, next to mint chocolate candy bars. I loved my job.
I moved up to the door, almost tiptoeing so I wouldn’t make a noise. The robber didn’t need to know I was there or I wouldn’t get a good shot of his face.
Weird. It was too quiet. It was never this quiet or lonely in the Washington, D.C. area. I couldn’t even hear cars nearby because of where this warehouse was located.
The door was ajar by about an inch, so I peeked inside, only able to see darkness. Maybe I’d messed up the address? But if so, why would the door be open, even an inch? No, this was right, and the number over the door proved it, even in the dim lighting in the area.
After pulling my camera to my eye, I flipped on the night vision and looked again. Nothing. Just warehouse-type stuff—shelves filled with boxes and moveable stairs.
I had to go inside. This could be the story of a lifetime. I could break the case wide open and really make a name for myself, which was my ultimate goal. However, I should’ve realized that if a goal gets you killed, it’s not really a goal…it’s just stupidity.
I eased the door open with a creak and popped my head inside. More nothingness. I inched into the empty and very dark warehouse using the night vision on the camera to figure out where to walk. The place was empty, putting me both at ease and at attention, if that was possible. A quiet voice in my head told me to call my friends, if I could remember their numbers. They could be here in a heartbeat. But I wasn’t allowed to call them—they called me only, designed for safety’s sake.
A noise sounded in the back of the warehouse. It had to be the burglar. Robbery in progress, just like the anonymous email had said. This was just a normal case, like I’d done before, without the emergency personnel around. I told myself it was better than having cops push me back behind some line or not allow me to take video. This was like a perk to me.
I started filming, heading toward the noise, one silent step at a time, listening to something that sounded like someone opening and closing drawers. According to the sign at the front, this place was used to store governmental kitschy items, like celebratory plates and key chains for the tourists coming to the nation’s capital. Why would someone want to rob a place like this, unless it was really a front for some terrorist plot or something evil? The thought made me even more determined to get a good story, but my mind had a tendency to run a little wild. Even so, if I could break open something like that, I’d be at the top of my field.
A light went out in an office and all noise ceased when I turned a corner. I was in the middle of the warehouse. If the person saw me, I’d be dead meat. I couldn’t run back out in the dark without running into something, and couldn’t continue forward for fear of running into the burglar or monster. My mind was racing. I had to hide; terrified I might get caught. What if the guy had a weapon? Now I was really scared, worried I’d be killed.
As I glanced around in the darkness, I realized the burglar would see the camera light. I was like a sitting duck. I turned off the camera to let my eyes adjust to the darkness, but it wasn’t working. It was so dark in the interior of the warehouse; I was completely stuck and helpless. I hated the feeling.
With my hand extended so I wouldn’t run into anything, I inched toward the wall. If I could follow the wall toward the office, I might be able to get a good shot of the burglar at the last moment without him noticing. I took a few steps. A breath hit my cheek. Someone—or something—had come up behind me.
“Sydney,” the man whispered. At least it sounded like a man, but he had a high voice, even in a whisper.
I spun around, but couldn’t see anyone. The sound of my name in this empty warehouse made my stomach fall. This was a setup.
“Sydney.” The whisper hit my ear again. “Like the buds on the trees falling away in summer, your days are over. It’s time for you to die.”
Even creepier. I had to get away. Someone wanted me dead and I should’ve called my friends.
I tried to run away, but not in time. Fingers surrounded my neck and pressed inward, while other fingers pushed in on the back of my neck. I was being choked to death and the horror of the thought hit my brain. I’d never see my family or live out my dreams. But worst of all, I’d never have another mint chocolate candy bar again.
My breath wisped away while I pulled on his fingers with my left hand. Spraying the mace seemed like a stupid idea. The can was in my right hand with my camera, but I didn’t even know where his face was located. While trying to transfer it to my left hand, I dropped the mace, hearing it clink as it hit the concrete floor and roll off into the darkness. I tried to suck in a breath but very little air entered my lungs. The man’s fingers pressed into my skin and I tried to hit him with the camera, but he just dug in more.
I was dying.
“You deserve to die. Die, Sydney, die.”
What did I do and who could hate me that much? I didn’t have any enemies, because I’d stayed invisible. Maybe someone was angry with me because I was good at my job. The competition was fierce so I couldn’t rule it out.
I couldn’t talk and could hardly move. If I wanted to live, I had to fight.
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