Chapter 18

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Boom!

Screams: Agony-filled, throat-tearing screams rocketed around the house, instantly waking her up.

The nine-year-old was startled, glancing through the darkness, desperately trying to decipher what had caused such an alarming sound.

The little girl tip-toed from her small bedroom, grabbing her stuffed animal as she departed the room, careful not to create any noise. Another wail echoed, filling her with anxiety and terror.

What was happening?

She knew her aunt rarely had guests over, but ever since she married Stephen Huntley, she frequently had men over. Most of the men worked for Mr. Huntley, always dressing up in black suits and constantly carrying guns.

A cracking sound whipped her out of her thoughts. Sprinting towards the living room, she burst into the room and froze.

All the panic, dread, fear, and terror that had been coursing through her veins seconds ago suddenly vanished.

Numb.

The scene in front of her could only be described as something from a horror movie.

Her aunt sat laughing on the couch, and some of Hunley's men threw taunts and occasionally swore at the diminutive figure that lay at their feet. At the head of the figure-a man, the girl realized-her the uncle stood sneering at the unconscious man: Stephen Huntley stood there laughing and casually aiming the gun at his face.

The girl released a scream, immediately alerting the group to her unwanted presence.

But the girl couldn't care less. All she could see was blood. Blood spilled from the victim's mouth; blood that covered his entire body. She had never seen so much blood in her whole life. But what shocked her more was the fact none of the occupants seemed even remotely concerned for the man's well-being.

One of Huntley's men rose and stalked menacingly toward the trembling girl, but stopped when his boss raised his hand.

Even though he spoke to the unresponsive man, he locked his eyes with the girl and spoke in a low voice, "This is what happens to people who disobey me."

And then he pulled the trigger.

"Vanessa! Vanessa, sweetheart wake up!" a panicked voice called, "Viktor, get Dr. Reese!"

Vanessa was startled, gasping for air. She blinked the sleep from her eyes, gazing around blearily.

She feebly recognized her mother's and grandmother's panicked faces.

"Vanessa, breathe sweetheart, breathe!" someone said, agitated.

Breathe?

What were they talking-Oh God?

She couldn't breathe!

Why couldn't she breathe?!

She heard voices from above and felt calloused hands grasping her face. "Vanessa, honey, calm down. You are having a panic attack."

The nine-year-old barely registered what the person was saying. "Okay, Vanessa, you have got to listen to me. Breathe with me. Focus on my breathing."

What?

"Just try it," the voice ordered firmly.

Attempting to ignore the rising panic, Vanessa concentrated on Dr. Reese's breathing.

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

"Dr. Reese," she gasped hoarsely when she regulated her breathing.

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