One By One, They’ll Die…
Twenty years ago, wild child Jessie Brentwood vanished from St. Elizabeth’s high school. Most in Jessie’s tight circle of friends believed she simply ran away. Few suspected that Jessie was hiding a shocking secret—one that brought her into the crosshairs of a vicious killer…
Until There’s No One Left…
Two decades pass before a body is unearthed on school grounds and Jessie’s old friends reunite to talk. Most are sure that the body is Jessie’s, that the mystery of what happened to her has finally been solved. But soon, Jessie’s friends each begin to die in horrible, freak accidents that defy explanation…
Becca Sutcliff has been haunted for years by unsettling visions of Jessie, certain her friend met with a grisly end. Now the latest deaths have her rattled. Becca can sense that an evil force is shadowing her too, waiting for just the right moment to strike. She feels like she’s going crazy. Is it all a coincidence—or has Jessie’s killer finally returned to finish what was started all those years ago?
St. Elizabeth’s campus
Mother Mary, help me!
Oh, please... save me!
The girl rushed headlong through the maze and rising
mist. She stumbled, her face grazed by a poking branch.
“Damn.” Clapping a hand to her cheek, she instantly felt
the warmth of blood welling against her fingers. It spurred
her onward. She kept running, moving, breathing hard. Her
calf muscles ached, her lungs burned, and still the midnight
rain washed over her, cold and cruel.
This is wrong. Oh, God, so wrong.
It shouldn’t be this way! Couldn’t!
Glancing over her shoulder, she listened hard, deafened
by her own heartbeats. She wasn’t lost. She knew where she
was. She knew the twists and turns that would take her to
this maze’s center, and once there, she believed there was another exit—maybe two—though it had been so long since
she’d seen them. She thought for an instant that she might be
leading him to her own doom, to a trap of her own creation.
She just had to keep moving, recalling twists and turns...
But it was so dark.
And he was getting closer. She could feel him. As if his
breath was already brushing across her skin.
Fear clutched at her throat and she nearly slipped around
a corner of shivering laurel. He knew about her and now was
running her to ground.
How had he known? When she’d spent so many years—
her entire life, it seemed—learning the truth herself!
Then, foolishly, she’d goaded him. Dared him. Brought to
the maze by her own invitation as she’d hoped to learn more;
to expose him. She’d believed she could turn the tables on
him, avert the very doom she now faced. But things weren’t
going as planned, she thought, her shoes slipping on the long
grass. Somehow the hunter had become the hunted.
But how could he know about her... unless... unless
he was one of them?
She heard something. A noise...a sibilant hiss . . .
The hairs on the back of her nape lifted.
What the hell was that?
She froze in place, hands up, as if to ward off danger,
body quivering, poised on the balls of her feet, softly panting.
He was here! Close! He’d already entered the maze. She
could hear him now easily, as he was making no effort to disguise
Her heart knocked painfully against her ribs.
Was he alone? She thought he was alone. He should be
alone. She’d set this up so he would be alone, but now she
Didn’t know anything.
That’s where the fear came in, because she always knew.
That was her gift.
And maybe her curse.
That’s why they hadn’t been able to keep the truth from
her. That’s why she’d found out who they were, and who she
was, even though they’d tried hard to keep her from learning.
For her own safety, they’d said.
And now...now she was beginning to understand what
Because of him.
She strained to listen, her heart quivering, her fear mounting.
He was walking through the maze. Unhurried. Undeterred.
Making all the right turns. Was there more than one set of
footsteps? Someone else? She couldn’t be sure.
And she couldn’t stay where she was. She glanced upward
over the tall hedge and saw, as the clouds shifted over
the moon, a shaft of the palest light. It threw the bell tower of
the church in stark, ominous relief, and near it, just to the
south, the roof line of the convent.
She’d seen those landmarks a hundred times before.
Heart thudding, her bearings now intact, she slipped through
the hedges. Stealthily. Edging onward, around a bench and a
sharp angle, toward the center of the maze, toward the statue.
She’d always been slightly leery of the ghostly Madonna,
but now she wanted to reach it with all her heart. Her need to
find it was like a hunger, something she could almost cry out
for if she dared on this dark, evil night.
Or so she prayed. Her veins were filled with ice, freezing
her so thoroughly it felt as if her blood might solidify.
Silently rounding a final corner, she stopped suddenly as
the statue of Mary abruptly appeared, its arms uplifted, greeting
her in pale white. Accompanied by the quake of the branches
and the musty smell of dead leaves and mud, the statue
At the sight of it she drew a sharp breath and stumbled
backward, nearly falling. A tiny stick snapped beneath her shoe.
She glanced backward fearfully, crouched, poised like a
hunted animal. Had he heard? Behind her, through the night-
dark maze, she heard his progress. Steadfast. Onward. Skirting
corners without hesitation. His footsteps echoed the beats
of her own heart, knelling her doom. Swallowing, she licked
her lips nervously as she forced her legs to move forward.
One corner...a length... another corner.
Where the hell was the exit?
Had she missed it?
She wanted to cry out in fear and frustration as she was
forced to backtrack, knowing he was nearer, feeling him
close enough that her skin quivered.
There was no opening, no parting of the thick branches.
Panic tore through her. There had to be a way out, a place
to hide, a way to get the upper hand . . . Oh, God.
And still he came.
His footsteps loud against the muddy ground. Determined.
Where? Where the hell was the opening?
She hurried along each of the back walls of shrubbery,
running her hands through the leaves, searching... searching...
Head pounding, heart thrumming wildly, her ears
seemed filled with the roar of the ocean, the battering of the
ocean against distant cliffs . . . though she was nowhere near
the ocean in this closed labyrinth. But it had always been this
way. She had always heard these oddly familiar sounds, always
sensed a remote place with thick salt air...
But here she found no opening. No escape. Nothing but
thick, unbroken branches.
She swallowed hard against her fear. This was it. There
was no escape.
Kneeling at the statue, she mouthed, “Mother Mary, save
She hadn’t been good.
Oh, God no.
But she wasn’t all bad, either.
Behind her she heard him move ever forward. No rush,
no rush at all.
He knew he had her. Terror crawled up her spine.
She kept silently, desperately praying, again and again,
Mother Mary, save my soul. And then another voice. Deep.
Rough. Echoing hollowly through her skull: She can’t help
you. You have no soul to save.
Were they his words? Was that his cruel voice inside her
She thought with sudden clarity: I’m sixteen years old
and I am going to die.
How stupid she was to have goaded him—teased him.
What had she been thinking?
This was the crux of her problem: Not only could she see
the future, she sometimes tried to change it.
And now he was going to kill her. In the middle of this maze,
in the cold of winter, he was going to end her life. Desperately
she slipped one hand into the pocket of her jacket, curled her
fingers over the jackknife hidden within.
With all her strength she prayed for her life, her soul.
Above her pulsing heart she heard the hunter’s footsteps.
Nearer. Relentlessly closer. She rose, turning, facing the yawning
opening in the thick shrubbery, the only means of escape.
From the depths a dark figure appeared.
Her beginning and her end.
“Leave,” she ordered, holding up the knife.
He kept walking.
“I swear I’ll kill you.”
A slow, self-satisfied smile slid across his face. You think
you invited me here, whore, when it was I who found you, who
hunted you, who will do the killing. He didn’t say a word, yet
his voice reverberated through her brain.
“I’m not kidding,” she warned, brandishing her small blade,
the jackknife she’d stolen from her father’s drawer.
Nor am I.
She lunged. Driving the knife downward, intending to slice
into his abdomen.
Quick as a snake, he coiled strong fingers around her wrist.
He bent her hand backward.
Pain screamed up her forearm. She cried out and fell to
Her gaze clashed with his.
Strong fingers bent her wrist back.
“Stop!” she yelled.
Breath hissed through his teeth. With a sharp twist he
snapped the bones in her wrist.
She cried out softly. The knife fell from her nerveless fingers.
His dark eyes were lasers as he snatched it up and drove
forward, jamming it between her ribs. “No more,” he rasped.
She clawed at him but it was no use. Meeting his gaze,
she whispered, “This is just the beginning...” and saw his
face contort with rage as he shook his head violently, thrusting
the knife deeper.
The night swirled around her. She crumpled to the ground
at the base of the statue, aware that her attacker was staring
down at her, his teeth bared, his breath visible in short puffs
that dissipated as she gazed upward, the lifeblood pooling
out of her.
Then she lay still as death beneath the Madonna. He backed
out of her ever-narrowing vision. Clouds shrouded the moon.
Few stars were visible. The Madonna’s arms stretched upward
to the heavens. Somewhere, far in the distance, it seemed a
I am a sacrifice, she thought.
Then darkness descended.