From the book
***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***
Copyright © 2017 Brendan Reichs
He killed me.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2017
I swore to myself I wouldn't die that day.
Up and down.
Come at me, you bastard. Sweaty-palmed as I gripped a battered Louisville Slugger, eyes glued to my bedroom door.
He was already inside the trailer—early this time, as the first slanting rays of sunshine began peeking over the mountains. While Mom was still away at work. I'd heard the front stoop creak, and instantly knew who had come.
That I was trapped.
Right here. In my own home.
Another unpleasant first.
I wasn't scared. Not of him. Of this. That's just not how it worked anymore.
But my anger simmered near the edge of control. A floorboard groaned.
I took a calming breath. Narrowed my focus to audible noises beyond the door, a flimsy piece of sliding metal that couldn't stop a toddler. All that separated me from a monster who'd come to snatch my life away.
Silence stretched, then another muffled step. I tensed, prepping for battle.
There's no sneaking quietly across my crappy, not-so-mobile home, a fact I'd established many times during my sixteen years of life. I knew exactly where he was standing. How his weight was aligned. What the man was seeing as he peered across our shabby single-wide, eyes glued to the only other place I could be.
So why the delay?
I thought furiously, cycling through possibilities. Was he waiting me out? Could he possibly believe I didn't know he was there? The first shot exploded through the door. High and left, but I panicked just the same.
A gun this time.
I dropped into a crouch, options rapidly dwindling.
I darted toward a grimy, dirt-streaked square of glass overlooking my single bed.
Too quick. I never sensed the trap.
The second bullet punched through the closet, slicing into my right shoulder and spinning me like a top. I gasped in pain. Fell against the bedside table.
The third shot tore into my chest.
My legs faltered. I tumbled to the floor, struggling to breathe, blood bubbling on my lips as I stared up at the drab fluorescent lights on the ceiling. Pain tinged everything red.
He'd been waiting for me to flee. I'd accommodated him.
I lose. So I die. Happy birthday to me.
The door slid open. I barely flinched.
A man entered, tall and thin, with coal-black hair cut short. High cheekbones. Narrow, elegant nose. He wore the same unadorned black suit as always. Silver sunglasses. Shiny black boots. His work clothes, I supposed.
Behind the opaque lenses, his face was utterly expressionless. That always got to me. What kind of human could do such horrible things, yet show zero reflection of them in his features?
A psychopath. That's who.
The black-suited man stood over my punctured, broken body. Squaring his shoulders, he pulled the slide on his weapon, a gleaming black handgun that fit snugly into his palm. The barrel rose.
"Why?" I croaked, as my heartbeat lost its rhythm. We'd been through this before.
Same question. Always the same question.
"I'm sorry," he said quietly, taking aim directly between my eyes.
Same reply. He always apologized.
I wasn't going to scream. I'd done it before, and refused to give him the satisfaction. I wasn't going to beg either. I'd learned that didn't get me anywhere.
But I wanted an answer.
"Why?" More gurgle than words. Liquid was filling my mouth, hot and wet. The...