The Night Before

by Lisa Jackson
ISBN: 9781420130362
Publish Date: 3/1/2012
Format: Paperback
Categories: Thriller/Suspense, Zebra, Psychological, Lisa Jackson



List Price: $7.99
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Blood Will Be Spilled…

In the dark shadows of a sultry southern town, a serial killer strikes. It’s an act of sinister precision that has happened many times before…every victim an offering to a hunger that can never be sated…

Night After Night…

The next morning, Caitlyn Montgomery Bandeaux wakes covered in blood. But Caitlyn has no memory of the night before, when her estranged husband was brutally murdered like so many others she has known…

After Night…

Wanted by the police and haunted by horrifying, fragmented memories, Caitlyn turns to Adam Hunt, the town's new psychologist. But how far can she really trust him? For as a twisted killer strikes again and again, Caitlyn's about to discover that those who appear the most innocent are usually the most evil...

Prologue

Help me!

His head was thick, his thoughts disjointed.

His eyes swam.

He couldn't move.

His thoughts were jointed and jumbled. Out of sync.

Something was wrong . . . horribly wrong.

If only he could think. If only he could concentrate beyond the pain slicing like razors in his brain.

I'm dying. Please, someone help me.

He tried to force the words, but his tongue wouldn't work and he couldn't make more than a hideous mewling sound as he lay slumped over his desk . . . at least he thought it was his desk. Blinking with difficulty, he tried to focus but there was little light and the darkened images were blurry, as if he were looking at the world through a foggy wide-angled lens.

How had he gotten here?

He couldn't remember, but he sensed that he'd just woken up . . .

No . . . that wasn't right . . . he'd come in here to do some paperwork . . . yes . . . and then . . . and then what?

Caitlyn. This was about Caitlyn and the divorce! But why couldn't he move his hand? Or his leg? Or . . . or any damned part of him? Panic surged through him. He tried harder. Not one muscle budged. Jesus H. Christ, what was happening?

Music was playing. Soft classical. Baroque. Something he didn't recognize oozing through the hidden speakers surrounding the room.

What the hell was going on?

Concentrate. Pull yourself together. Don't panic. You're in the den at your house in Savannah . . . at the desk and the phone is on the corner of the desk where it always is . . .

So why the hell can't I fucking move?

Alarm tore through him and yet he felt a great lethargy, as if he might succumb to the darkness playing at the edges of his eyesight. Sweat beaded on his brow but he couldn't lift a hand to swipe the drops away. Behind him, he heard a footstep . . . or thought he did. Good. Someone was here to help him.

Or . . . not.

The hairs on the back of his neck raised. Adrenalin pumped wildly through his bloodstream.

Try as he might, he couldn't turn his head. Why? Was he sick? Drugged? Dreaming? Nausea gripped his stomach. How did he get this way? What had he done? Who the hell was behind him?

No one. There's no one there. No one evil for Christ's sake. You're freaking out. Get a hold of yourself! The phone! If he could just reach the telephone and dial nine, one, one . . . But his arm wouldn't move. His muscles were heavy . . . . unresponsive.

"Josh?"

His heart jolted but his body didn't move.

The voice was hushed. Disguised? Or was that his imagination?

Again he strained to turn his head.

Again he failed.

"Josh? Can you hear me?" Soft. Seductive. And deadly.

Someone was calling to him. Maybe someone had come to help, to rescue him. But his hopes died instantly. If someone was going to help him, they would have rushed over. The whole situation was too damned weird. If someone truly was with him and not a figment of his imagination, then it was an enemy who had found him.

God help me.

Cool fingers touched his wrist. Inwardly he jumped. Outwardly he didn't move.

Who the hell was touching him, rubbing the inside of his arm? Checking for his pulse? Did he look dead? He couldn't turn his head, couldn't raise it off the desk to twist his neck and see who was tending to him just out of focus in his peripheral vision. A doctor? Oh, please, God.

Suddenly an intense light was flashed into his eyes, as if someone was examining him, checking for dilation. Desperately he attempted to make out an image, to see around the brilliance burning its way into his brain, hoping to catch a glimpse of whoever was holding the penlight. But there was no visage, just a foggy image of fingers encased in examination gloves and the faint tinge of cigarette smoke.

For God's sake, quit creeping me out and get me to the hospital!

The penlight clicked off. Darkness surrounded him and his vision was worse than ever. Bright rings of illumination still seared through his brain. He slumped lower on the top of the desk and an empty glass toppled, falling onto its side and rolling off the desk to land on the carpet with a soft thud. The cool fingers massaging his wrist didn't stop but he could barely feel them, hardly stay awake.

I'm alive, you idiot, can't you see that? Get me to a hospital! But the words were lodged in his throat, he couldn't force them out, couldn't make his tongue work. The only sounds were the ticking of the clock in the foyer, the whisper of the wind blowing through the French doors he'd left ajar and the beating of his heart. But instead of wild and frantic, his heart was as sluggish as his head, not jack hammering in fear as he would have expected. Maybe this was a dream after all. It was all so surreal. As if in slow motion.

He noticed that his shirt sleeve was being pushed up his forearm by those gloved fingers. Higher the linen rode, exposing more of his arm. What the hell? Rolling his eyes backward, he hoped to make out whoever was with him, but he saw only shadows and movement, a dark figure and . . . a glint of something. Steel.

Oh, God.

The blades were razor thin. Two of them. Scissors. Surgical scissors? But . . . but . . . Fear jetted through his bloodstream. Desperately he tried to move his arm. His feet. Any damned part of him, but he couldn't wriggle away, was forced to lay with his head on the desk to await his doom.

And doom came in the form of a shadowy figure with scissors.

This was crazy. Who was this person? What was with the scissors? Nothing good.

He heard a clip and saw a button fly off his cuff.

He nearly soiled himself.

His shirt sleeves were pushed higher, exposing his arm, his bare arm. He saw his white flesh, caught the glint of the blade.

Snip!

His heart jolted.

The scissors neatly clipped a single hair from his forearm.

He jumped. But only on the inside. His nerves were flashing, but not connecting. He couldn't pull his arm away, could only watch as the scissors moved closer to the veins and arteries that webbed just beneath the skin. A part of him didn't care. Another part of him was silently screaming in panic.

"You know who I am, don't you?"

The voice was so familiar. Obscenely provocative.

He couldn't speak.

"You can think of me as Atropos."

Atropos? What the hell?

"Oh. That's right. You probably don't know about the three fates, do you? In mythology, there were three women who determined your fate. The daughters of Zeus were called the Moirai. Three sisters who determined a man's destiny."

Mythology? What the hell? The scissors winked in the light from the desk lamp. He shivered inside.

"There's Clothos, of course. She's the youngest and she spins the thread of life while the middle sister Lachesis is the measurer. She selects one's lot in life and determines how long that life will be."

The scissors came closer, their sharp point touching the skin beneath his eye.

He tried to flinch but remained as if cemented to the desk.

"Then there is Atropos. The strongest. Who actually ends the life by snipping that precious thread." She clicked the scissors.

What? No!

Snip!

The scissors bit at the flesh of his cheek, touching his eyelashes.

He felt nothing. No pain.

She held up his bare wrist.

Clip!

The first welling drops of red blood rose to the surface.

Oh, God, no! Desperately he tried to jerk away. Succeeded only in grunting. Couldn't even cringe as the evil weapon took another nasty little bite, blood smearing the blade, fear jolting through him as he realized that the person he couldn't see was determined to slowly and methodically kill him.

This couldn't be happening! It had to be a dream. A nightmare. What demented person would do this? Oh, God . . . blood was flowing freely now, down his wrist and into his palm, running down his fingers to pool on the desk. Stop! For God's sake, stop!

Maybe this was just to scare him, maybe he wasn't going to die. Maybe someone was just making a cruel point. God knew there were enough people in this town who wanted him dead.

But a gunshot to the head would have done the trick.

Or a pill in his drink.

Or a knife in his damned heart.

Unless his would be killer was enjoying this . . . that it wasn't so much his death as his dying that mattered. Unless the sick bitch got off on the knowledge that Josh was helpless as he watched his own lifeblood trickle and spurt from his body. Gasping, realizing that he would slowly bleed to death, Josh moved his eyes to the glass humidor located on one corner of his desk. In the smooth, curved surface he saw his own pale reflection and just the hint of a figure, grotesque in the distorted glass, leaning over him.

For a second, his eyes locked with those of his attacker. He saw the face of his killer. A suggestion of a smile, the hint of satisfaction curved his murderer's lips.

All hope fled.

He recognized the warped face and he realized with heart stopping clarity that he was condemned to watch himself slowly bleed to death.

About Lisa Jackson:

Lisa Jackson is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than seventy-five novels, including After She’s Gone, Close to Home, Tell Me, Deserves to Die, You Don’t Want to Know, Running Scared, and Shiver. She has over thirty million copies of her books in print in nineteen languages. She lives with her family and three rambunctious dogs in the Pacific Northwest. Readers can visit her website at lisajackson.com and find her on Facebook.

Photo Credit: Kimberly Butler Photography


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