Quick Author's Note: This is my first story that is completely nonparanormal so updates may tend to be infrequent.


Prologue: Just Another Job

The night was dark and humid with just a touch of rain in the air. If you looked up under the edge of the yellowish light of the streetlamps you could see the edges of thick purple storm clouds coating the sky. The brick cobbled streets, testament to a time when pavement wasn't so common, were slick with rain and oily black puddles shimmered in the rays of harsh light. Every house on the street was dark, identical light blocking curtains pulled down to cover identical windows on identical white siding houses. Every car was parked in the single car garage and every person on the street was asleep for the night. A cool autumn breeze rustle through identical five foot tall and inch thick oak trees in every front yard. The rustling sound carried down the small street like a whisper in an empty church.

It was on this street that Audrey Andrews was born and it was to this street that she was now returning on this cool fall night. The breeze lifted her auburn hair and swished it about her face like a curious child. Her pupils were wide in her plain brown eyes as they struggled to capture everything that was going on around her. Her pale pink lips were pursed in a frown and her brow was furrowed with thought. Her long, slim fingers were wrapped around the barrel of the gun, made especially for her purposes, and her body was tense. Audrey was not here for the pleasure of old memories that haunted her through the long nights. She was here to work.

She made her way down the damp but pristine sidewalk, her boots making as little sound as possible on the cement. Her target was a house on the end of the street. It was the only one with a crooked shutter. Knowing the kind of people that lived on a street like this the shutter was a disgrace to them. As soon as the current resident was gone and the house was sold they would badger the new owner into replacing or fixing the shutter. It had been the same way when Audrey and her family had lived here.

Audrey paused at the edge of the steps that lead to the deck of number thirteen. They were slightly crooked; another disgrace to the neighbors. She climbed the steps and winced when the final one creaked slightly. The door was unlocked and slid smoothly open when she tried it. Audrey paused at the almost invitation that hung in the air and then stepped into the house. The first thing she noticed was that the carpet was clean. No little bones or mysterious red stains in the main hall. It was pristine as a show house in a large lot. There was a long hallway when you entered the house and doors on either side of it. All were boarded shut. There was a staircase at the end of the hall that led up to the second floor. The set up was the same on every house on the block. It hadn't changed in the time that Audrey had been away.

She climbed the stairs slowly, gun clutched in her hand tightly as she went. For a moment a thin shaft of moonlight seemed to fall on her milk pale face but then it vanished, cut off again by the heavy storm clouds. Audrey arrived at the top of the steps and noticed that not a single door was open. Something began tugging at her mind then and she forced herself to slowly look around. Something was wrong. No windows. There were no windows in the upstairs hall so how had the light fallen on her?

Steeling herself Audrey headed for the first door, gun held at the ready. The door slid open with a slight creak and she stepped inside. No one there. The dusty bed looked as if it hadn't been used in years and there were moth holes in the comforter. The dresser was covered in dust but otherwise untouched. The drawers were empty. It looked as if no one lived there. Audrey exited the room as silently as she had entered and shut it behind her. Then she went to the left because she knew there was nothing but a bathroom on the right. She opened the next door. Once again nothing. Another empty bedroom that had probably never been used. There wasn't a dresser in this one but there was an empty closet. The windows in both bedrooms had no curtains. Either one could have easily been the source of the light earlier. Audrey exited the second bedroom.

There was one more room on the left end of the hall to check. She tried the handle and it slid open smoothly. This room was a study and had been used. Books that were no longer in print and hadn't been for centuries lined the walls. An empty fireplace with fresh ashes in it was embedded in the left wall as it was in every house. A mahogany desk was in the center of the room with a chair behind it placed so it was facing the door with a boarded up window to its back. There was no one there. Audrey stepped farther into the room and looked around cautiously. There on the edge of the dark green tile of the fireplace was a tint of some color that didn't belong. Audrey crouched at the edge of the tile and peered at it through the moonlight that slipped through cracks in the boards. Blood.

The door clicked shut behind her. Audrey stood quickly and spun around. In the inky blackness she could see no one but she knew the moonlight coming through the covered window outlined her tense silhouette. Her stomach clenched nervously. She took a step back and a cold hand suddenly clamped on her throat. She was slammed back against the wall hard enough to make her shoulders and spine throb. The hand around her throat tightened and the gun dropped from numb fingertips. Her hands shot to her throat to pry the fingers off as her feet were lifted off the floor. Her breath came in panicked rasps and colors began to flit across her sight. Then blackness.

A few moments later a hint of moonlight filtered in through her slowly opening eyelids. The gun was only a foot away. There was no one in sight. Audrey snatched up the gun and stood slowly, her throat throbbing where a hand had almost strangled her. There was a single sheet of notebook paper on the desk now and she could see spider web like handwriting on the page. Welcome to the game. Audrey all but ran from the room, not bothering the shut the door behind her. Cool night air greeted her as she made her way down the hall to the now open door. She darted outside and as she ran down the now menacing street of cookie cutter houses with their perfect lawns rain slammed in sheets against her body. Lightning flashed just feet away and thunder shook the ground beneath her.

A dented red pickup truck long past its prime with rust at the edge of the passenger seat was waiting with the engine idling just around the corner. Audrey jerked the door open and slipped into the cab, dripping water everywhere. "No luck," she said and Tyler pulled the truck into drive with a grim nod. As the windshield wipers lashed back and forth against the rain beaten front windshield and the cab began to warm up she tried to convince herself that it had just been another job. She couldn't. He had known her name, known that she was coming.

Somewhere between two small towns named Eisenhower and Marshall City she drifted off to sleep in the warm interior of the car. She didn't even stir when Tyler picked her up and carried her into the big old farm house that had passed to her when her grandparents died. He made sure that all the windows and doors were locked before he left. As Audrey slept the old red pickup truck rumbled off into the night towards Tyler's home. It would never return.