Chapter 16

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Jared's head feels like it's stuck in a violent swirl of constant doubt. He tried to ease the tension in his shoulders and lolled his head in circles as he firmly clutched his ceramic mug of steaming coffee firmly in his hands, welcoming the warmth flowing through his fingers.

The exhaustion sweeping over him like a tidal wave, he feels like he hasn't left his office in days, but the aching pain in his back from slouching over his desk for too long proves he has overstayed his welcome.

He has been unable to focus on anything other than the Charlie Tucker identity thief, haunted by the thoughts of the havoc he could be creating elsewhere.

His biggest fear being that more blood is shed because of his incompetence and inability to capture this psychotic murderer.

******************

Delilah walked into her home, greeted by an eerie silence. She hesitantly ventured into the diminutive home in search of her mother.

"Mom!" Her voice echoed.

Nothing but silence.

Her hands tremble and her eyes water as she reaches her hand towards the doorknob. The hairs on the back of her neck rise as her body feels scorching. Her breath quickens as the door creaks, the sight in front of her becoming too much to withstand.

Her mother's corpse lay drenched in blood, causing Delilah to turn away as her stomach heaved, spotting her brother's lifeless body in the same state as her mother's.

Their throats had been cut like butchered animals, their esophagus and arteries sticking out.

"You're next." A ghoulish voice spoke from behind her, causing her to whip around to face the familiar figure.

A knife firmly clutched in his hand, blood dripping down the tip of the knife and pooling into a puddle on the floor at her feet.

She released a banshee-like wail as the figure charged towards her, raising the knife before piercing it straight through her chest.

She wakes with a startled gasp, so suddenly that it seems sleeping has become almost dangerous. Her heart beats fast as an incessant buzzing is in her brain.

Perspiration rapidly flowing down her forehead as she placed the palm of her hand on the back of her neck, tears forming in the back of her eyes. Her clothes felt damp like a dew-filled flower, sticking to her like a second skin.

Everything about that nightmare felt too real and dread filled her mind at the thought that perhaps everything she had just envisioned might come true.

***************

Hazel sighed as she followed Isabelle deeper into the woods, the friendly forest of the day seemingly darkly ominous at night. She felt a twisted and sickening feeling in her stomach, but she could not live with herself knowing Isabelle was risking her safety venturing through these woods alone to meet up with her dead sister.

Isabelle is suffering from grief and Hazel has made it her mission to support her friend through these traumatic times, even if it means following her into the pitch black woods at midnight, the only time Isabelle could escape from her home.

It was so dark that they can barely see where they are going as their only source of light is the dim flashlights clutched in their hands, however, the loss of sight amplified their hearing as the small sounds of rustling bushes and the howl of the wind flowed through their eardrums.

A wave of paranoia swept over Hazel as the hairs on the back of her neck raised, the feeling of someone stalking behind them fluttering through her mind, however, she couldn't see anything or anyone through the darkness.

"Audrey." Isabelle's echoed through the gloomy and darkened forests.

The silence made Hazel's blood run cold, her heart plummeting to her chest at the sound of twigs snapping a few feet away.

A dark figure approaches, ominously advancing towards them until the glow of Isabelle's torch revealed the angered face of her sister, Audrey.

Hazel couldn't believe her eyes, subtly pinching herself in hopes this is all just a strange dream and she'd wake up in the safety of her bed, but the cold breeze cascading through her hair made it evident that their predicament is all too real.

"What is she doing here?" Audrey spat; a sinister gaze firmly set on Hazel.

Hazel shuddered under the scrutinizing gaze, feeling like an ant being observed through a magnifying glass.

"She can help us." Isabelle stated, gripping her sister's hand. "I trust her."

Audrey gazed at her sister, her eyes shining like a venomous serpent, the poisonous glare sending a shiver down Isabelle's spine.

"We can't trust them." The words flowed through the desolate woods, however, Audrey's mouth never moved.

An unfamiliar figure emerged through the darkness, a man with a sinister smirk and emotionless beady eyes glancing at them like prey.

Hazel's breath hitched in her throat as she caught a glimpse of a dagger firmly clutched in his hand.

"If we can't trust them, then you know what we have to do."

*****************

Everyone stood, adorned in all black clothing, some struggling to hold back their emotions as tears ran down their grief-stricken faces.

Heads faced the ground but not out of respect, some unable to glance at the approaching coffin, making its way to the six-foot hole in the ground where it would be the final resting place.

Hazel glanced, through blurry eyes, towards Isabelle's parents. Her mother's shaky hand lifts to wipe the waterfall of tears away with the sleeve of her silk dress before resting her head on her husband's shoulder.

It was not too long ago that they were at this very same spot, burying their oldest daughter, and now her little sister would be joining her, right next to her in their eternal resting place. 

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