His eyes glistened when they saw his prize; a young girl no older than fifteen. The streets were nearly empty and she looked lost, grateful for the companionship and direction he offered her, lacking a caution that can only be gained with age.
Bethany screamed and begged the girl to see what was coming but she knew it wouldn't make a difference. This was one way communication. See without being seen, hear without being heard. It also meant she could feel. She could feel the cold blade of the knife sinking in to soft flesh, feeling it as if it were her own throat. Panic rose as she struggled to breathe, clutching at her neck even though she knew there wouldn't even be a mark there when she looked later. And she would look for it, she always did. Fearful of stories where seers started to retain the marks of their victims, where they could feel the pain long after the vision had ended. For now they were just stories, she'd not seen anything to prove them right, but the horror of watching the visions wasn't any less just because there was no permanent damage done to herself.
Hopelessly she watched as he pulled back his knife, wiping it on his worn jeans. With both of his hands occupied with hiding the knife in his back pocket the girl's body was no longer supported and it slumped to the ground with a dull thud, her head falling to one side, eyes still wide open with the shock that the stories of strangers to be wary of that she'd been brought up with were actually true, that they existed in her safe little community where such stories were told merely to make sure teenagers called their parents if they were going to be late.
Bethany's panic had subsided as she slid to the floor, now numb with the pain of seeing a life ended. She took in several shaky breaths before she felt steady enough to make her way to her chair. Her legs gave way just as she reached it and she carried on with her breathing exercises, knowing that if she stopped for just a second then the tears would come, and she couldn't afford that right now. She pulled her legs up and curled into a ball, making herself as small as possible as she closed her eyes and slowly drifted asleep listening to the regular sounds of her breathing, still haunted by the look in the young girl's eyes.
She woke a few hours later and stretched out her sore muscles, cramped from being curled up tight for so long. As she opened her eyes she had a flash of the vision, seeing the girl's face as clearly as if she had been stood right in front of her and she had to take a final deep breath before standing up and walking over to the phone. She should have done so straight after the vision but she knew it wouldn't have made a difference. The murder she had seen couldn't have been prevented. Judging by the girl's appearance the murder she saw had happened well over a decade ago. But that didn't mean that it could be ignored, she'd learned well enough from ignoring past visions that doing so could lead to problems. Big problems.
Bethany picked up the phone and dialled the number from memory, waiting for the familiar voice to answer, and feeling comforted at the knowledge she could share her vision with someone else shortly. Even if it wasn't the ideal person to share her vision with, it still stopped her from feeling so alone.
"I'm sorry, the person you are looking for is currently unavailable. Please leave your name and number after the beep." Bethany just rolled her eyes, she should have expected something like this, phoning him was never straight forward.
"Gabriel, stop being stupid, I know you well enough to tell your voice from that of an answering machine."
"You're no fun." She could practically hear the pout over the phone. "I didn't even do the beep yet. I've been practising for the last half hour waiting for someone to call."
"I do apologise. Next time I call I'll take in to consideration I could be spoiling some ridiculous game of yours invented because you have far too much spare time on your hands."
"Well, can I do it now anyway?"
"Do what?" Bethany rubbed her temples, she was starting to get a headache. Speaking with Gabriel when he was in a mood like this was never easy, he could change subject so quickly that her head was left spinning and she'd still not know what they had talked about days after the call. She silently prayed that today was not going to be one of those days.
"The beep." Bethany quickly thanked a God she didn't believe in for the fact that he seemed to be in the mood to give coherent answers for once.
"No. You know, I did actually call you for a reason."
"Really? And there was me thinking you just called for a chat. I feel used."
"Of course you do Gabe, of course you do. Now, when you've finished playing can you organise a meet?"
"If I must. It's always work, work, work with you isn't it? You know you should go out. Have some fun. Meet a guy. If you want, I could give you some numbers, set you up with a couple of guys?" Bethany clenched her jaw for a couple of seconds to make sure she didn't lose her temper. There was one thing Gabriel should know by now not to talk about with her, and that was his long list of conquests who dutifully came running whenever he called. She didn't like to think about who else was on that list of conquests, but as she wasn't in the mood for an argument she forced a lightness that she wasn't feeling in to her voice.
"And judging by your company I'd end up getting an STD."
"Not unlikely. But at least you'd have fun doing it."
"Right, meeting, I've got it. You have another vision?"
"Past, present or future?"
"Past. She's been dead for a long time."
"No need to rush then. I'll organise for tonight. 9 OK for you?"
"Fine for me. See you then."
"Right, fine. Phone me up, get what you need and then hang up. Ta very much."
"Shut up Gabe."
"See you later kiddo."
Bethany rolled her eyes as she hung up the phone. Gabriel might be annoying but somehow he always managed to cheer her up, if only a little, even if he then went on to anger her in the next sentence. But she didn't hate him for it, she didn't think anyone could actually hate Gabriel Chase. He could annoy anyone in the world in record time, but that was just his personality. There was no way to describe Gabriel, he was just Gabriel. Cheeky and annoying, insightful and loyal. And occasionally a total prick.
She knew he had succeeded in what he had wanted to accomplish from the phone call, which was to distract her from the vision. Not to say he wouldn't have messed about with his answering machine game anyway, but she knew he had put in extra effort to distract her. He would never admit it, and she would never ask him to. They were close, like everyone else in the group, but it wasn't a verbal relationship exactly, out of everyone they were the pair least likely to talk about their feelings with each other, but they still had a bond, even if they didn't acknowledge it.
Though there was one subject that they tried never to bring up around each other, which was the subject of Bethany's twin brother, Bailey, as that was pretty much guaranteed to start an argument between the pair and as close as Gabriel and Bethany could be at times, if they started an argument about Bailey they could be there for hours yelling at each other, whilst the rest of the group looked on with various degrees of amusement and boredom, as it was an argument that had been repeated so many times now that everyone knew the outcome before the first words of the argument were even muttered. Or yelled, depending on who started it.
Bethany knew there was no point in even thinking about it though, the argument would come again, it always did, but it wasn't happening just yet and for now they had more important things to do. Like work out why she was having visions of a girl murdered years ago and how this was going to affect either her, or someone in the group. Because there was no doubt about that last fact, it would affect at least one of them, it always did.
Glancing at her watch she saw it was just past 5, leaving her plenty of time to get ready and meet them at the club. A local nightclub was hardly the most discreet place to meet for a top secret meeting between various people with supernatural abilities but they'd learned the hard way that the harder they tried to conceal what it was they were talking about, the more likely it was that someone would get suspicious and follow them. Then leading to questions as to why they were meeting up in an abandoned warehouse or, Bethany's least favourite meeting place as of yet, the middle of a field. In the rain. The nightclub worked for them, five young people meeting up at a nightclub was hardly cause for chatter from the locals and although having a conversation in there could get hard at times, no one was going to question them for sitting at the table having a conversation. And even if they were overheard, anything out of the ordinary that was heard could be put down to the alcohol. Not exactly conventional meeting plans, but they worked.
Walking in to the bathroom Bethany turned on the taps and started to run a bath, there was no need to rush as she had almost four hours to get ready. And given the fact that someone besides her was bound to turn up late anyway she wasn't going to rush to get there half an hour early, as she always had in the early days. Of course back then she hadn't been alone, she'd been living with Bailey at the time, but he'd moved into his own place a couple of months ago and whilst they still talked regularly, the gap that Gabriel had, however unintentionally, wedged between them was still very much in existence and it just wasn't like what it used to be.
Sinking in to the bath, with water slightly hotter than necessary, Bethany felt all of the tension finally leave her body as the heat relaxed her muscles which in turn allowed her mind to relax and forget about the dead girl. It may seem a little harsh, but if she kept hold of the memories of everyone she had seen die, she'd be in a mental institution by now, and that was not the kind of place she ever wanted to go again.
She'd only been in the institution for a couple of months, but it had been more than enough for her. She'd been 13 when she'd first started having visions, at first mistaking them for nightmares, thinking she kept falling asleep during the day. She'd told her parents and they had taken little notice, declaring it was just her stress over her school work that was causing them and the fact that her brother had recently discovered a strong allergy to pretty much every food in existence.
But as time went on the visions became more vivid and even worse, things started happening in real life that reminded her of the visions. It took several more months to realise that they weren't just reminding her of the visions, but that they were connected to the visions. And when this realisation hit her she knew that the visions weren't just nightmares, products of too much stress and a vivid imagination, she was seeing real crimes.
By then she had started to note down her visions in as much detail as possible after she had them, which in some cases was no more than few words, and with others she could write essays. She then started searching up past crimes, seeing if there was anything that matched up with her visions. Although she was expecting similarities she wasn't ready for the first time she made a search that matched and the picture on the computer screen was identical to the one she had seen murdered in her dream, even though she'd never seen the face before.
This was the point when she realised there was something seriously wrong. In this sort of situation, not that she'd ever been in a situation like it before, she would normally discuss it with her brother, but he was still in hospital as they tried to work out what was happening with him and learning what few foods he was safe to eat without an adverse reaction. And so with her brother in and out of hospital she spoke to the only other people she had in her life that she felt she could trust. Her parents.
Well, that turned out to be one of the biggest mistakes in her life, they thought she was crazy. Not that she blamed them for it, not really. She wasn't entirely sure she wasn't crazy herself, but it felt real and that was all she had to go on. The one thing she was really thankful for was that she had never shown them the book of visions which, as Gabe had pointed out at a much later date, would have really sucked. Whether they think you're crazy or not, showing people a book full of murders, some that had been committed, and more importantly, some that had yet to happen, was a really, really, really bad idea. Especially if the murders happened a short while later. Who was the only person that could know all of the details about a murder before it happened? Exactly.
But book or not, her parents still thought she was crazy and she was sent away. It was the best money could buy, apparently, but that didn't make it any better. Just because they had over 100 TV channels, five star meals and one of the most gorgeous views in the whole country it didn't mean that there weren't daily counselling sessions in which the doctors tried to convince her she was a lunatic. It also didn't mean that there weren't people watching her constantly, bars on the windows and of course, people who were actually crazy.
She learned pretty quickly that the only way out of there was to go along with her parents, pretend that the stress over her brother had brought it on and that these doctors had made her realise just how crazy she had been acting. It took a couple of months but she eventually persuaded them she was no longer seeing things and she was released. The topic was never mentioned to her parents again, though she got the feeling that they knew she wasn't as 'cured' as the doctors seemed to think.
Bethany shook her head, focussing on the past was going to do no more than stress her out again and there wouldn't be enough hot water left to relax her if she starting thinking about her parents too much. Speaking of hot water, the bath she was lying in was starting to feel uncomfortable with the water cooling rapidly around her, so she reached for a fluffy white towel and stepped out of the bath to get ready. She'd probably be really early and despite her previous thoughts on turning up early, she knew one person who would be there already so there was no point hanging around here on her own with nothing but her thoughts for company, she knew from past experience that it wasn't the healthiest things to do when your thoughts contained memories and feelings from hundreds of murdered victims.