Stacy had been running for six days. So far, the Hunter hadn’t left her any clues as to where she should be going. To be honest, she wasn’t even sure he was still chasing her. She was sure that she’d heard him leave a couple of days ago. Either that or she’d been close to someone else. She couldn’t risk checking, or she might run right into him. Stacy sat down to rest. She ate some trail mix and drank some water. After a few minutes she began to run again. She hoped that Justin was okay. She would never be able to forgive herself if something happened to him because of her.
Stacy saw a flash of silver over to her left where the sun was shining through the trees above she cautiously made her way over. Nailed to the tree was a metal tag that said “warmer.” That must be a clue from the Hunter letting her know that she was going in the right direction. If it had been the middle of the night she might not have seen it. She had a flashlight, but she didn’t want to risk using if for fear that the Hunter would see it.
Stacy continued in the same direction hoping that she’d find another clue. She hadn’t slept in days and she was tired. She couldn’t risk sleeping because she didn’t know how far behind her the Hunter was. She hadn’t checked in with Amanda in days. Hopefully she’d try Justin and realize that something was wrong. Or, she could just think that neither she nor Justin had reception and they weren’t due back until next Friday so she wouldn’t think that anything was wrong until after then. By then, both her and Justin could be dead.
It had been a great week. She’d been having lunch every day with Austin. He was working late on some project that he wouldn’t tell her about. All he’d say was “You’ll see when it’s done.” That just made her want to know what it was even more. Stacy was supposed to be back today but so far she hadn’t heard from her. Amanda was heading in to get groceries so that she could make dinner tonight. Her and Austin were supposed to go to Stacy’s tomorrow night for dinner and to finally meet Justin. Amanda dialed Stacy’s number as she was heading back to her car. She didn’t answer so she left a message. She was just abou to dial Justin’s number when someone grabbed her from behind. She struggled but soon she began to get tired. Her last thought as she slipped into unconsciousness was of Austin.
Two hours later…
Amanda woke up in the woods. She sat up and looked around. This couldn’t be happening again. She wasn’t sure that she could survive this again. She spotted a backpack next to her and opened it up. Inside was a note along with a flashlight, a poncho, a bag of trail mix, five granola bars, three bottles of water, some rope and a pocketknife. Amanda read the note and her blood ran cold:
“Hello my pet. It’s been a while since we last played. I’ve been watching and waiting and finally the perfect opportunity arose. Since you’re so good at this game I thought I’d switch things up. I’ve hidden something and you have to find it. You have three days to find it. If you don’t find what’s hidden or I capture you, you die. There’s a lot of ground to cover so you’d better get started. Your first clue is this…head east. Your thirty minute head start begins now.”
There was a loud horn. The Hunter had found her. What had he hidden? Would she be able to find it in time? How could she find what was hidden if she didn’t know what was hidden? He’d only given her three days. Was that so she had no chance of finding it? Was she going to die? She didn’t want to die here. She wasn’t going to die here. Amanda put on the backpack and began running east. The Hunter would not win.
Austin came through the door and set his keys on the table. It was dark and Amanda’s car wasn’t in the garage. She was supposed to cook dinner tonight. Where could she be? He dialed her cell but she didn’t pick up. Then he remembered that Stacy was due back today. Perhaps she was with her and had lost track of time. He dialed Stacy’s number but again there was no answer. He texted Amanda to call him and let him know when she’d be home. He made dinner and set a plate aside for her just in case she was hungry when she got home.
Austin cleaned the kitchen then went upstairs to shower. As he was getting out of the shower, he heard a noise downstairs. He wrapped a towel around his waist and headed downstairs.
“Did you have a good time, babe?”
Austin paused when he didn’t see Amanda. He went into the living room but she wasn’t there either. He went over to the door and saw that someone had slipped a note through the mail slot. He opened it as he walked to the kitchen and stopped in his tracks.
“Hello Austin. It seems you’ve taken a special intereset in one of my pets. You ruined my last game so I thought it only fitting that you be a part of this one. I’ve taken back what’s mine and it’s your job to find it. You’d better be quick because you only have two days. Your only clue is this: 77899432. Those are the grid coordinates for where you need to search. You’d better get moving. No police or Amanda dies.”
Austin ran to his laptop and turned it on. He typed in the coordinates and saw that it was section of Langley Forest. It was an area of the forest that had been closed to people for years. It made sense that the Hunter had chosen it. No one would ever find him there. Austin went upstairs to get dressed. He grabbed his camping and hiking gear and threw it in the back of his pickup truck. He set his GPS and drove away.
“Hold on babe, I’m coming to get you.”
Stacy didn’t think she could go much longer. She was so tired and was barely moving through the forest. She hadn’t gotten a clue in days so she wasn’t even sure if she was still moving in the right direction. She sat down to rest for a moment. She ate a granola bar and drank some water. She looked at the sky. Based on the position of the sun it was about 2pm. She closed her eyes for a minute just to rest.
6 hours later…
Stacy opened her eyes. It was dark out. She jumped up and began to run. She hadn’t meant to fall asleep. She ran about ten steps and then was pulled back by a chain around her ankle. She bent down struggling against the chain.
“No, no, no! Please! This can’t be happening.”
Stacy began to cry. She’d been caught. She didn’t want to die. She continued to struggle against the chain until her ankle was rubbed raw. She sat down in defeat. She looked around for her backpack but it was nowhere to be found. She did find a note. It simply read:
She began to cry harder. What was going to happen to her? What was going to happen to Justin? She hadn’t told him that she loved him yet. And she did love him. Stacy felt a pinch in her neck. She reached up and pulled out a dart. She looked around and her blood ran cold. Her final word before she passed out was:
Amanda only had a day and a half left. She’d gotten several clues so she knew that she was going in the right direction. Since she didn’t know what she was looking for she didn’t know where to look. She sat down to drink water and rest. All of a sudden she began to smell smoke. She got up and followed the smell. As the smell got stronger she began to see a light coming through the trees. She slowly walked towards it and came up to the edge of a clearing.
In the clearing was a large bonfire and what looked like a woman tied to a wooden alter. Above her was a rope and tied to the rope was a metal spike. Amanda looked around the clearing but didn’t see anyone else so she slowly made her way to the alter. As she got closer she recognized the woman.
“Oh my God! Stacy!”
Amanda ran towards the alter but stopped when she hear a voice. It was the Hunter.”
“It seems you’ve found what I’ve hidden. It seems Stacy wasn’t so lucky. You’re so good at this game Amanda. It’s a shame I can’t let you live. I’d love to keep playing with you. But I’ve gotten too attached and that’s never good. That’s how I lost you the first time. I will give you a choice though. You can die here, with Stacy, or you can die out there, in the forest, with Austin.”
Amanda’s head snapped towards the Hunter. She couldn’t see him yet because he was still in the shadows.
“You have Austin?”
“Not yet but he should be here soon to search for you. I left him a little note at home telling him where to find you…sort of. I don’t think he’ll make it in time. But I think I’ll give you another choice. You can die with them or you can live with me.”
“I’d rather die.”
All of a sudden she heard a snap and the metal spike fell down and pierced Stacy’s chest. Amanda screamed and took a step towards her.
“Why are you doing this, you sick bastard?”
She hadn’t realized that the fire had been slowly burning through the rope until it broke.
“Because it’s fun. My job is so boring I had to find something to help me pass the time. An old friend introduced me to the game and I’ve been playing alone ever since he died…or rather, ever since I killed him. Two can keep a secret if one of them is dead right.”
He laughed as if he’d made a joke.
“You know what makes this game even better is the fact that…”
All of a sudden, Austin came running into the clearing. He made a beeline for her but a loud shot rang out and stopped him in his tracks.
“Usually, I don’t use guns but with an added player I figured it would come in handy with keeping you in check. Step away from her.”
Austin stood where he was and the Hunter aimed the gun at her. She and Austin both took a step back.
“That’s better. Now, as I was saying…what makes this game even better is the fact that she loved me.”
He finally stepped into the light of the fire.
“You’re my lawyer.”
Austin and Amanda both spoke at the same time.
“I ‘bumped’ into her while she was shopping and we’ve been together ever since. I got her to trust me and after that it was easy. You were a little tougher my pet, now that you spend so much time with this one. I’ve got you now and I can get rid of you both. Which will go first?”
Amanda couldn’t believe that the man who had helped Stacy get over the Hunter was the Hunter himself. He was some kind of evil to get a woman to fall for him as part of some sick game just to kill her.
“You’re a sick son of a bitch and you’re going to pay for everything you’ve done.”
Amanda yelled and charged him. Austin ran to stop her. A shot rang out and they both fell to the ground, Austin on top of her. She watched as Justin walked over and kicked Austin aside.
Amanda screamed when she saw the blood on his chest.
Austin wasn’t moving. Justin reached down and pulled her up by her hair.
“Now that he’s out of the way…”
He kissed her harshly on the lips. She pulled away and spit in his face. He slapped and dragged her over to the fire. He set the gun down on the alter.
“I don’t need this now. I’m a hands-on kind of guy and I’m going to enjoy watching the life drain from your eyes.”
Justin pushed her back on the alter, choking her. Amanda struggled against him but couldn’t break free. She reached for the gun but couldn’t quite grasp it. Justin continued choking her and she could feel herself losing consciousness. Finally, she grasped the gun and brought it up to Justin’s head and pulled the trigger. He fell slack onto her. She shoved him off and ran to Austin. She couldn’t find a pulse and he was bleeding so much. She grabbed his phone and called the police.
(To be continued)