Chapter 67

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The impact from the crash does more damage to the porch than the car or its occupants. Barely connected to the framework of the house, much of the porch skids into the driveway.

Zandra is unscathed, although a little rattled. Amanda looks uninterested at the wreckage, as if this is the third porch she ruined today. They exit the car, careful not to step onto any exposed nails.

"Head to the basement and hope the police follow us inside," Amanda says. "I want them to see It."

Spoken like a mini-Zandra if I've ever heard one.

Zandra follows Amanda around to the back door, the one she kicked open days earlier when her ankle could tolerate such things.

A young man too stoned to realize what's happening greets them at the door. He must've heard the crash and went to the back door to investigate, despite the porch being near the front.

"Who're you?" the man says, blocking the open doorway.

Zandra draws the lawnmower knife from her sleeve.

"Oh, OK," the man says and steps aside. Zandra and Amanda push forward into the house.

Great company you kept, Dvorak.

A young man with a beard in the kitchen isn't as welcoming. He stops the two in their tracks with the muzzle of a shotgun.

"I knew you were trouble the whole time," he says, looking at Amanda. "William's dick was always the worst thing about him."

I knew it. Everything makes more sense now. Abusive relationships are the hardest to leave. Otherwise, there wouldn't be any.

Does this mean Amanda was a rat from the beginning? Or did Dvorak somehow know I was in contact with Amanda before he set his sights on her? Maybe it was just a coincidence, and she got caught up in something much larger than she expected.

It doesn't matter now. She drove through a porch. She gets a pass.

"Are you sure you want to be pointing a shotgun toward a doorway when the police show up in 30 seconds?" Amanda says.

"Whatever," the man says and lowers the shotgun.

A couple more of Dvorak's miscreants try to act tough as Zandra and Amanda hurry past the living room on their way to the basement steps. Their courage evaporates when Zandra charges at them with the lawnmower knife, giving zero fucks that she's physically outmatched in every conceivable way.

It's all in the presentation. Always has. Always will. Most people are too shallow to look past what's directly in front of them. Those who can look deeper wouldn't be so stupid in the first place.

Their path to the basement clear, Zandra and Amanda descend the steps into the basement, although the former burns precious time negotiating the treads.

"Behind here," Amanda says and darts for the curtain draped across a doorway. She parts it for Zandra to look inside.

Zandra prepares herself for the worst. Her efforts aren't enough for what lay naked against the wall, strapped to a pipe with a leather belt cinched around its chest. The horror of the sight propels Zandra backward. She stumbles and nearly falls, but Amanda catches her.

"I know," is all Amanda can say, her eyes glued to the floor.

Zandra can't bear to look again. The quick glimpse she caught was plenty. Having been stripped for parts, literally, and swollen from amateur surgery, It looks more like an adult-sized embryo than a fully developed human. It sits in a nest of blood-soaked blankets and towels.

Zandra keeps her eyes shut, squeezing them even tighter as It shuffles in place and moans with a deep, sorrowful hum.

"William cut out It's tongue, so It can't talk. He used to force feed It food and antibiotics every night after he beat It," Amanda says into Zandra's ear.

For as horrified of It as she is, Zandra can't help but recall that night outside the glass block window. She'd felt something as she put her hand up to the glass. She'd heard something, too.

"No. It can talk," Zandra says, opening her eyes. "It's still a person somewhere in there, even if It doesn't look like it."

Amanda watches in disbelief as Zandra pulls the curtain aside and reaches a hand out to It. It, blinded by William, senses the hand and struggles to get away from it.

It's almost like It has a second sight. It picked up on my hand at the window, too. Maybe there really is more to people than their senses.

But before Zandra can make the connection, she hears a familiar voice behind her from somewhere in the basement.

"Good evening, Zandra."


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