Prologue

Rain splatters against the window as she peers through the blinds. The expression on her face is one of terror. She's sure she heard someone outside, walking around, but even after checking three separate times, there is nothing but the wind to hear. She lets the blinds fall back into place as she makes her way through the house to the kitchen. Maybe a nice cup of warm milk will soothe her senses long enough to fall asleep.

As she heats the milk, she hears it again. The jug plops to the counter, and some of its contents spill out across the surface. Her head jerks in the direction of the loud thump, near the window over the sink. She takes a tentative step towards the window, around the counter, and something bangs into the window again, louder than ever. She lets out a small cry as she jumps back, knocking over the small cup and adding to the puddle of milk on the counter top.

"Chill out, Jane," she tells herself, reaching for a towel. "It's just the storm."

After cleaning up the mess, she decides against the warm milk, and she retreats to her den for some late night television. The wind picks up again, and the rain pounds against the house, giving a soothing affect. Jane settles on the sofa and begins flipping channels. She stops at the news, where there is a new segment.

"And we still have no new information on this newest incident," says the female reporter, Synthia. "Another woman has been brutally murdered in our small town." The screen shows pictures of the victim, covered in blood. As the photos circulate, Synthia continues, "Investigators believe that this murder is connected to the murder of Cara Langston, who was found two weeks ago, dumped in a ditch two miles from her home."

Jane looks around the room, feeling uneasy. Both of the murders took place near her street. She briefly wonders if she remembered to lock both doors, so she stands up. As soon as she's up, she hears another crash in the kitchen. She runs to the door, and to her horror, it's unlocked. She quickly turns the deadbolt and then she faces the kitchen, her back pressed against the door. The wind is dying down, so the rain isn't as loud.

She starts walking back towards the den, intending to switch everything off. As she takes the remote, she hears a knock at the door. Her muscles immediately stiffen, as it is after midnight. She grips the control tightly as she makes her way slowly towards the front door. Whoever it is knocks again, and she jumps. She looks through the peephole, but sees no one.

She places a hand on the knob and yanks the door open. There is, of course, nobody outside. She takes a few deep breaths before shutting the door. Before she has the chance to calm down, her phone rings, and she lets out a yelp. She grabs the phone on the second ring, answering it.

"Hello?"

"Hey," says the voice on the other end.

"Hey, Sarah," Jane says, settling back on the sofa. The news still plays on the TV, but there's nothing more about the murders. "See the news tonight?"

"Yeah," Sarah says. "I can't believe it! They said she was the exact same as the other one."

"They were both so close to the house," Jane says, feeling concerned. The wind picks up a second time, whistling and blowing more rain. "I hope they catch the psycho soon."

"If you're scared, you can come over," Sarah offers, and Jane laughs.

"I'll be fine," she says, "but thanks. I'm actually getting ready to go to bed."

"Hopefully this storm will blow over soon, so we won't have so much"-

The line cuts off, and all Jane can hear is the dial tone. "Hello?" she tries anyways, but there's nothing. Jane sighs. "I guess the storm finally took the power," she starts, but as she looks around, she notices that the TV is still playing, though quietly. She holds the phone out in disbelief, and the lights begin to flicker. Jane keeps a flashlight on the side-table for this very reason, and as soon as she has her fingers on it, the light goes out, and she's sitting in darkness.

"Shit," Jane groans, flipping the light on. She heads over to the window and opens the curtain, brightening the room to one degree above pitch black. She turns to face the den again, and her flashlight catches a movement in the kitchen. She instinctively takes a step forward, and her hand twitches, causing the light to shine directly on the source of movement. The masked stranger freezes in front of the counter and Jane gasps when she sees the knife in his hand.

The man doesn't hesitate. He runs at her, faster than she could have expected. Frozen in fear, Jane doesn't react in time, and the man tackles her, planting the knife swiftly in her chest. Jane lets out a few wheezing breathes as she sinks to the floor.

"There we go," the man says soothingly. Jane's eyes pop open in her final breath. She recognizes his voice.

. . .

"Be careful now, sweetie," he says, chuckling at Jane's lifeless body. He lays out a line of plastic and proceeds to wrap her in it, cursing at the lack of firmness in her limbs. After a few minutes, he has her covered, and there's only a small stain to clean off the floor. "I'm sure glad you have hardwood instead of carpet," the man says, laughing again. He pulls out a rag and a bottle of cleaner and begins to scrub the floor. "Carpets are a bitch to clean, you know?"

He drags Jane out the back door, around to the side, where he has hidden his car. Popping the trunk, he tosses her inside. Her small figure makes it easier on him. Once he's happy with her position, he closes the trunk softly and runs back in the house to make sure nothing is out of place. Once he's satisfied, he comes back out and gets in the car.

He hums along with a song on the radio as he drives down the deserted street. He smiles, content, as Jane's body bounces around in the back. He takes her out exactly two miles from her house, and then he pulls off to the side of the road. He likes this particular stretch of highway, because nobody uses it at night. He climbs out of the car and walks around to the back to retrieve Jane from the trunk.

With a few mighty heaves, he pulls her from the car and drags her to the edge of the road, where the ditch begins. He takes hold of the plastic with both hands and counts off in his head, "One … two … three!" and he watches happily as her body rolls down the small hill and comes to a stop about ten feet down. As he makes his way back to the car, another one barrels down the road, heading his way. He watches the car pass in silence, and he waits an additional five minutes before getting into his own car.

As he starts back down the highway, he smiles and says, "Three down. Many more to go."