Prologue: Theo

9K 421 195

Theo hadn't meant to run over the raccoons. They'd just come out from nowhere.

It wasn't entirely his fault, though. The fog was thick as wool, and his old Civic didn't have the right headlights for the weather. But he had been speeding. And Backstreet Boys' "Larger Than Life" had been turned up really loud because this was the only time he could play it and no one would overhear.

He'd just rounded the curve by City-on-the-Berm County Park—that sharp turn with all the woods to the right and the steep slope down to Lake Michigan on the left—when bam! Two baby raccoons had come scuttling into his headlights.

Theo hit the brakes and yanked the steering wheel left. But the two raccoons had frozen, eyes latched onto his low beams...

A double thud as his front tires went over them. One for each animal. A few feet after, Theo's car squealed to a stop.

"Shit, shit, shit," he breathed to himself, heart hammering. In the dim red glow of his brake lights, he could see two bodies smashed into the road.

His fingers tightened on the steering wheel. "Shit, shit, shit." He wanted to rewind time by ten seconds. He wanted to shout at the raccoons for trying to cross the street right then. And he wanted to shout at himself for caring so much.

But maybe...maybe they weren't dead. Maybe if he got them to the emergency clinic on Lost Crow Road, there was still a chance.

With a gentle nudge on the gas, Theo eased the car off the road (three summers of working as a caddy for rich Chicago snots had bought him this Silver Sweetheart). He flicked on his emergency lights and switched off the engine. There were no streetlights around here, and the sun had long since dropped behind Lake Michigan. Each flash of orange light revealed white fog and more white fog.

Even with the low beams still on, he couldn't see a goddamned thing.

Theo leaned his head on the steering wheel for a moment. His was heart was still pounding too fast, and his whole chest felt tight. Despite his sincerest hope otherwise, he knew the baby raccoons were dead. He'd been doing fifty—almost twice the speed limit on this winding road—and the little guys hadn't stood a chance.

With a groan at himself and the really shitty thing he'd just done, Theo kicked open the car door. His Nokia buzzed in his fleece pocket, but he ignored it. It was probably just Davis wondering where the beer was.

Theo stepped close to the raccoons. They were definitely dead. There was no way something that flat could still be alive.

His breath plumed out, tendrils of steam made yellow by the emergency lights, and he ran a hand over his hair. Somehow, seeing the bodies up close made him feel guiltier. And helpless. Like he ought to do something.

He glanced at the tree line on his left, searching for a branch to shove the bodies over with. Evergreens and autumn hardwoods spanned for miles that way, but it was impossible to distinguish much in the shadowy fog.

Until his eyes landed on a mangled bush fifteen feet away. Storm damage, Theo guessed. The wind and rain could be wild on the lakeshore.

With another glance at the raccoons—still smashed, still dead, and still his fault—Theo tromped off the road toward the bush. As he pushed aside the intact bush limbs to grab for a fat, broken one, something glittered at the edge of his vision.

He paused. He turned.

A long, slimy thing lay on the ground nearby. Almost like a dead eel, except it was reddish. And speckled with brown. Every flash of the emergency lights made it glisten.

The Executioners ThreeWhere stories live. Discover now