Home > Now You See Me

Now You See Me
Author: D.K. Hood








An ice-cold wind, straight from the mountains, cut through Maisy Jones’ thin winter coat as she left the Triple Z Bar. Only a fool would walk through a parking lot in the dead of night in Serial Killer Central, but Maisy had no choice. The patrons had left and she’d cleaned the tables and stacked the chairs. It was after midnight and patches of ice cracked under her boots with each cautious step over the uneven ground. Heart pounding, she scanned the long shadows from the surrounding forest of tall pines. They met up with the dark patches shed by the rows of parked trucks, some of the vehicles glistening with frost. The thick cloud cover had threatened a blizzard, but for now only a sprinkle of snowflakes brushed her cheek, melting into cold rivulets and dripping from her chin. She brushed them away and headed hesitantly across the dimly lit parking lot toward her old Dodge truck, hoping that none of the men who’d been pestering her all evening would be lurking in the darkness.

Footsteps crunched on the gravel but stopped when she spun around to see who was behind her. Fear gripped her, stealing her breath. Had someone followed her from the bar? Grabbing her keys from her purse, she held them in her fist, with one key protruding from between her knuckles to use as a weapon, and hurried on, but the footsteps came again. The slow even pace was gaining on her. Someone was close by. She glanced around as a figure moved through the parked trucks. Uncertain, she froze. Too scared to walk to the end of the eighteen-wheeler beside her, she glanced back over one shoulder in the hope, if necessary, she’d find refuge in the bar. Her heart sank. The building sat in darkness, the proprietor had left already.

A shiver of uncertainty ran through her, and sucking in a deep, freezing breath, she crept back the way she’d come and slid around the truck parked two slots away. Her vehicle in sight, she broke into a run, wishing she’d parked closer to the bar. Fumbling with the keys in her freezing fingers, she wrenched open the door, climbed inside and locked the doors. The engine started, coughed and died. Trying to keep calm, she turned the key again. “Come on. Come on. Don’t do this to me now.”

As the engine shuddered into life, a big black pickup sped by throwing up dirt and skidded into the gas station outside the roadhouse. Maisy let out a long breath, filling the cab with steam. It had only been someone walking to their ride. She laughed, shaking herself. “Get a grip.”

She bumped out of the parking lot and headed along Stanton. The stink of cigarettes and stale beer from the Triple Z Bar clung to her clothes. She figured the old building must have been there since the days of the Wild West and hadn’t changed inside. It had the classic swinging doors and a long wooden bar. The tables surrounded by chairs seemed to spring up like mushrooms from the stained filthy floor. The tabletops, decorated with ring marks from a million spilled drinks, had names and dates carved into them by customers wearing cowboy hats or leather jackets and all openly carrying weapons. It sure was a fun place to work.

The Triple Z Roadhouse, on the other side of the parking lot, shone like a beacon for passing traffic. The flashing lights above the gas pumps with signs for a diner and motel appeared welcoming enough, but inside cracked vinyl seats lined the booths around stained tabletops. The place hadn’t ventured out of the nineteen-sixties. Maisy couldn’t believe her life had come to working in this dump. Heck, the Triple Z Bar wasn’t the end of the earth, but she could see it from here.

The images she’d scanned online of Black Rock Falls had depicted an alpine paradise, but she guessed every nice town had its share of lowlife hangouts, and the Triple Z Bar must rate as number one. She’d missed out getting a job this winter at the ski resorts in Idaho’s Pebble Creek, and after reading an article about the tourists flocking to Black Rock Falls to enjoy the Glacial Heights Ski Resort, she’d driven hours to hunt down a job. On arrival, the only work she could secure was the bartender position at the Triple Z Bar on the outskirts of town. Her first shift, from six through to midnight, had been exhausting, not from serving at the bar but from avoiding the unwanted attention of the customers. Being in her early twenties, the idea of staying at the Triple Z Roadhouse Motel with bikers, truckers and ladies of the night wasn’t going to happen. She’d found the rates at the Cattleman’s Hotel too expensive and eventually found a cold but clean room at the Black Rock Falls Motel.

It was only a ten-minute drive to the motel, but a few minutes along Stanton the engine coughed, spluttered and died. Steam poured out from under the hood. Aiming the truck onto the side of the road, Maisy stared at the gauges. The gas tank was three quarters full. She turned the key and the engine shuddered, refusing to start. She stared at the empty highway. The blacktop shimmered with ice patches and the snow was getting heavier. There was no one she could call for help. She hadn’t joined an auto club. She rubbed her arms, wishing she’d added a few extra layers before leaving for work. All her things were at the motel, and if she stayed in the truck, she’d freeze to death. She had no option but to walk.

Stepping onto the dark road, she used her phone to light the way. She walked as fast as possible to keep warm, and when a vehicle’s headlights lit up the blacktop, she increased her speed to a jog to take advantage of the light. Behind her, the beat of tunes playing loud surrounded her as the vehicle slowed. It was the big black pickup she’d seen before. The tunes stopped and only the roar of a powerful engine throbbed beside her. She glanced around as the window slid down.

“Wanna ride?” A man peered down at her from the cab, his face in shadow. “It stinks some—I’ve been hunting—but it’s better than walking.”

Unsure, Maisy stared at him. “I’m heading for the motel. It’s not far. I can walk.”

“It’s more than five miles. You’ll be a popsicle by then, and finding you frozen solid on the side of the highway wouldn’t help our town’s reputation, would it?” His mouth flashed in a white smile. “It’s a few minutes away. Aw, come on. I feel bad just leaving you out here on your lonesome. The smell is not so bad. I have a Perspex divider between us and the back seat. It’s to stop my hunting dogs from jumping all over me when I’m driving.”

A few minutes. The seconds she’d been standing still had already frozen her feet, Maisy shrugged. “Okay, thanks.” She went around the hood, the door opened and she climbed inside. The smell hit her in a wall of stink, and she swallowed the bile rushing up the back of her throat.

“Click in your seatbelt. I drive kinda fast.” The man turned to look at her.

Maisy complied and the vehicle took off at high speed. She breathed through her mouth to avoid the stink. The man drove recklessly, swerving around patches of ice. She gripped the seat and kept her eyes on the road, willing the motel lights to come into view. Her heart sank when the pickup slowed and pulled into the curb. When the man opened the lid to the console, her hand went to the door handle. “Why are we stopping?”

“Oh, I forgot to introduce you to my friends.” He pulled out a plastic bag and smiled at her, indicating with his chin to the back seat. “I’ll turn on the light.”

Maisy turned slowly and gaped in horror at three corpses sitting bolt upright and secured in seatbelts behind the Perspex divider. A man, a woman and a kid about ten years old stared at her with unseeing eyes. Her throat closed in terror as she tried to open the door. The man beside her was laughing, but she didn’t care. She just wanted to get away. She pulled and pushed at the locked door, but it wouldn’t move. “Let me out.”

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