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Crime Fiction Thriller

“Will you tell me now what the surprise is?” I say, turning to look at him.

Justin looks at me, his lips curling into a lop-sided smile, which would have ordinarily made him look cute, but with his face painted white and his mouth smeared with my red lipstick, he looks very Draculaesque. “You’ll find out soon, babe.” The sound of his voice soothes me. 

Outside, darkness is enveloping the evening sky. Since we exited the interstate highway five minutes ago, the number of vehicles on the road has thinned with most of the vehicles moving towards the interstate rather than away from it.  Emma’s invitation to her Halloween party is lying on my bedside table. We could have been attending a party with our friends at this moment. But instead, here we are for a “surprise” that Justin has for me, which he’s promised me that I’m going to love.

“At least tell me where we’re going,” I insist.

He sighs and I know he’s about to concede. “It’s an old property about twenty miles from here.”

“An old property?” My heart skips a beat. “Please don’t tell me you’re taking me to a haunted house. I don’t want to go. Let’s turn around.”

It was a few weeks ago while watching a show on the world’s top haunted houses that I’d wondered aloud how I would feel about visiting one of those houses. Knowing Justin and knowing that he pays attention to the little things, it would be just like him to pick up on something I said weeks ago and turn it into what he hoped would be a wonderful surprise. I love him for his thoughtfulness and I’m blessed to have him as my partner, but I would never go into a haunted house.

“What?” he laughs, giving me a playful look. “Of course I’m not taking you to a haunted house. Let me assure you there are no real ghosts involved.”

My temporary relief is replaced again by anxiety. Realizing he won’t answer a direct question, I try a roundabout way. “Um... Is anyone we know going to be there?”

He thinks about it for a moment. “I’m not sure, but since I got to know about this event at work, I think some of my colleagues might be there.”

Oh, great. If those boring financial advisors are going to be there, it’s going to be nothing too scary or exciting. I begin to relax.

Twenty minutes later, we pull up in front of an old two-storey house that looks like it’s been standing for over a century with its thick stone walls, old-fashioned wooden windows and slanting roof. Four other cars are parked in the driveway, including a pickup truck. A dim glow can be seen behind the curtains in one of the rooms on the ground floor, the faint sound of conversation carried by the chilly night air.

I wrap my jacket closer, grateful that I chose to wear it over my flimsy costume that came along with Justin’s Dracula costume. “Are you sure this is the place?” I ask.

“Yeah, it says so on the pamphlet,” he says, locking the car.

I grab the pamphlet from his hand before he has a chance to replace it in his pocket.

The Best Horror Show You’ll Ever See

Prepare to be Terrified!

I stop in my tracks. “A horror show! In the middle of nowhere. Justin, no!”

Justin looks longingly at the house. “We’ve driven all the way here. Let’s at least check it out. And if it’s too spooky, we’ll leave, I promise.”

When he puts it like that, I can’t say no. We have driven for over an hour to get here. I guess it wouldn’t do any harm to drop in and say hello to his colleagues and maybe grab a bite. 

The door is opened by a massive man in armour, dressed as the Mountain from Game of Thrones. The helmet covers most of his face except his bloodshot eyes, which give me a fright. I wonder if he’s done something to his eyes to make them appear blood red.

“Hi! We have two tickets,” says Justin, showing the booking email on his cell phone to the man.

“Justin and Rebecca, welcome to the best horror show you’ll ever see,” he says in a raspy voice. “Please leave your cell phones in the car.”

“Oh, sorry, we forgot,” says Justin with a smile.

“But why do we need to leave our cell phones in the car?” I ask.

The man turns the full intensity of his gaze towards me and I suddenly feel very vulnerable.

“We don’t want our guests to be distracted while they’re here. It’s clearly mentioned on the pamphlet that cell phones are not allowed.”

“It’s okay, babe. I’ll quickly run to the car and be back in half a minute.”

Although the man moves aside to allow me into the house, I wait for Justin to return. The sound of relaxed conversation and light, instrumental music emanating from the living room beyond the corridor does nothing to allay my uneasiness. Something doesn’t seem right, but I can’t put my finger on it.

 As Justin returns and we enter the house, I turn around and catch a glimpse of the man closing the door behind us with one swift motion of his hand, sending a shiver down my spine. What have we got ourselves into?

Walking down the dark corridor, I have half a mind to grab Justin’s hand and make a break for it, but something keeps me moving forward. The corridor opens into a living room with chandeliers hanging from the high ceiling and sofas all along the periphery of the large room. Several people are already in the living room, sitting on the sofa or standing by the fireplace holding mugs of hot beverages, mostly young people from the city. Maybe I was worrying for no reason at all. A young woman wearing The Handmaid’s Tale costume turns around and comes over to us, carrying a tray with steaming mugs of coffee.

“Thank you,” I say, looking at her, but she continues to keep her eyes averted. Her mouth is covered with a red mask and I think she mumbles something, but I can’t hear her.

“Hey, Justin!”

I know who it is even before she rises from the sofa and walks silkily towards us. Sarah and Justin were a thing before he met me two years ago. They dated on and off for three years until he finally broke off with her. Unfortunately for me, she still works in his office in the HR department and secretly hopes that one day, Justin will return to her. That explains her poorly concealed hostility towards me and her eagerness to spend as much time as possible with Justin, both inside and outside the office. I bet it was she who told Justin about this horror show and he naively fell for it.

“Oh, hi Sarah,” Justin says in a deflated voice and I wonder if he greets her in that tone when I’m not around. He glances at me, shrugging apologetically.  

“Hi, Bella!” Sarah greets me with fake cheer, her eyes glazing over me and returning to Justin’s face.

“It’s Rebecca,” I say.

“So you made it, Justin. I’m so glad,” she says, taking no notice of me. “I was really hoping to run into some familiar faces here. It’s kind of spooky, this whole horror show thing.”

“Justin!” Two of his colleagues call out to him from the sofa and he moves away to greet them, leaving me alone with Sarah.

As she turns around to look at Justin walking away — which, by the way, infuriates me — I give her a glance over. She obviously had an idea that Justin might make an appearance tonight because she’s dressed in a strappy bodycon dress accentuating all her curves.  

“So, have you been to one of these horror shows before?” I ask her.

“Sorry, what?” she says, finally turning to face me.

I repeat my question.

“No, this is my first time. People were talking about it in office. Somebody saw an advertisement somewhere and they thought it was a good idea.”

“You mean the pamphlet?”

“Yes.” She hands me the crumpled pamphlet from her purse.

I glance around the living room decorated in shades of beige and brown. There are about fifteen people here, including four from Justin’s office.

My uneasiness returns as I read the pamphlet again. Apart from a phone number, there’s no other contact information of the organizers or any information about them. Fifteen people turned up to watch a horror show they know nothing about organized by a company or persons they have no information of in a deserted house in the middle of nowhere and they all agreed to leave their cell phones in their cars. Unbelievable!

“Sarah, do you know how much the ticket for this show costs?” I ask.

 I realize she’s been staring at the pendant around my neck, which Justin gifted me on my birthday.

“We got them for free. See here on the pamphlet, it says Free Tickets for Early Birds.

“Wait a minute, so everyone in Justin’s office got the tickets for free?”

“Yes, isn’t it great!” she says, clapping. “I’m really excited to see the horror show, aren’t you?”

Including Justin’s and my ticket, that’s six tickets given away for free. Six tickets out of fifteen! Why?

“Ladies and gentleman, thank you for patiently waiting for the show to begin.”

It is the raspy voice of the massive man and as I turn to face him, I feel a familiar tingle of fear run down my spine.

He’s standing in the empty space at the end of the room wearing a white mask and a black skull cap. Over a black T-shirt stretched tightly over his brawny chest, he’s wearing a carpenter’s overalls and apron with tools sticking out from the many pockets. His eyes are gleaming through the holes in the mask and they are still bloodshot.

Suddenly, a hand slips into mine, startling me.

“Babe, are you okay?” Justin asks. At that moment, the lights in the room are dimmed and I can see the shadows of his thick eyelashes on his cheeks.

“Why didn’t you tell me you got the tickets for free?” I say more forcefully than I intended to.

“What?”

“The tickets to this horror show. Who gives away six free tickets out of fifteen?”

He looks around, shaking his head. “Somebody who’s new. Somebody who wants an audience for their first show so that they get some publicity through word of mouth.”

“Don’t you find everything very strange? I mean you don’t even know who’s organizing this show.”

He brings my hand to his lips and kisses it. “Please relax and just enjoy the show. If you don’t like it, we’ll leave, I promise, again.”

“Silence, please. We’ll now begin the show,” says the masked man. “You must be wondering who I am and why I’m wearing this mask. I’m a craftsman. I like to do things with my hands,” he says, waving his enormous gloved hands. “I’ve been working on a masterpiece for many weeks and today, I feel ready to share it with the world. I feel like the time has come for me to add the final finishing touches and then send it out into the world. A minute, please,” he says, disappearing into the corridor.

“But where’s the horror element?” says a woman’s voice.

“Yeah, the pamphlet says it’s a horror show. We’re not here to buy furniture,” says a man in a grey hoodie, eliciting laughter from around the room.

“Man, I knew it was going to be crap. Nothing good is ever free,” says another man.

I turn around to spot the speaker but with the lights dimmed out, I can only see the shadows of the people around me. Suddenly, I feel a panic wave building inside me and all I want to do is go out in the open, away from all these people surrounding me.

“Hush,” says someone. Immediately, the murmuring dies down.

A sound is coming from the corridor like a wheelchair being pushed over the wooden floor. The masked man emerges from the corridor pushing what seems like a frail woman on a wheelchair.

“We don’t want to meet your grandmother!” says somebody from the crowd.

The masked man wordlessly pushes the wheelchair until he reaches the front of the room. He turns the wheelchair around so that the woman is facing us. His hand stretches to the wall and fumbles with the switches for a moment before turning on the bulb right over the woman’s head.

A collective gasp sounds in the room. Instinctively, I bury my face in Justin’s shoulder, trying to block out the image from my mind.

“You gave us a scare, man!” says somebody.

“People, it’s not real. It’s a horror show, remember?”

I recognize the voice of the man in the grey hoodie, although the conviction is missing from his voice.

“Babe, it’s okay.” I hear Justin’s voice and taking a deep breath, turn around slowly.

Seated in the wheelchair with her arms taped to the side is a young woman in a ragged dress which was probably once white in colour. Her black hair is falling all over her face like she hasn’t combed her hair or even bathed in days or maybe weeks. The bruises and scars on her face, the bloody eye patch over her left eye and the blood on her lip could be fake, but what about the bones sticking out from her shoulder, her wan, deathlike complexion and the utter hopelessness in her eyes? A scream dies on my lips as I realize that the woman has been starved and tortured. This is real.

“Justin,” I whisper. “We need to help her. We need to get out of here.”

Justin is still staring at the woman, his face pale, his mouth agape.

I shake his hand, but he remains motionless, confused.

“I’m sure there’s an explanation for it,” he mumbles. “Looks like they’ve gone to great lengths to make it look real.”

“It is real,” I hiss in his ear.

I look at the other people in the room. A large part of the room is still in darkness, but I can make out the confused, disgusted and horrified expressions on their faces.

“I’ll give a hundred bucks to anyone who can tell me her name,” says the masked man. “Anyone?”

People are exchanging hushed words but nobody dares to speak up.

“Rule one, choose your victims wisely. That’s half the battle won, right there. When nobody’s looking for the victim, nobody reports them missing, there’s no chance of the Police coming after you.”

Heaviness has settled in the room. People are still exchanging glances with each other, but there’s terror on most faces now.

“Rule two, discard the troublemakers right away. Keep the compliant ones,” he says with a harsh laugh. “This one’s Ashley. I picked her up two months ago. She’d run away from home with her boyfriend, who then deserted her. It was as easy as taking candy from a baby.” He laughs again.

 I stare at the woman in the wheelchair. She’s probably been drugged, which is why she can’t speak or move.

“Has anyone got their cell phone?” I turn around to face the others. “Call the Police.”

“I left mine in the car,” says somebody.

“Relax, lady. It’s a show,” somebody says from the crowd.

“Justin, I want to leave right now,” I say.

“Okay, let’s go.”

“We’re leaving too.” I hear Sarah’s voice from behind me.

As I dash towards the door, I hear the man’s grating laughter echoing in the living room and I hear the footsteps of others following us down the corridor.

The door’s going to be locked. You’ll die here tonight.

I grab the doorknob and turn it. A chuckle escapes my lips as I realize it’s unlocked. We bolt down the porch and get into our cars. Behind me, I see the other people, all fifteen guests, tumbling out of the door and rushing madly towards their cars. The three other vehicles follow us down the road and in the rearview mirror I can see the lone pickup truck parked right outside the house.

With trembling fingers, I dial the Police and give a thorough report of everything that’s happened tonight. I’m sure the other guests are also making similar calls from their cars. Next to me, Justin keeps apologizing for bringing me to this event and cursing himself for putting both of us in danger. I feel awful for leaving behind that young woman, but I hope that the Police will get there in time and rescue her. The words serial killer echo through my mind as I wonder how many other women he’s kidnapped and killed.

***

It’s been two weeks since Halloween, two weeks since that horrifying night. The Police raided the house later that night but found nothing. There was no trace of the masked man, his captive and the woman who served us coffee, who is also believed to be one of his prisoners. The house had been broken into and the pamphlets were printed locally, but both the leads have run cold. The Police are trying to find out if similar horror shows have been organized in other locations.

As for me, I shiver under my warm blankets each night, seeing the miserable face of the young woman each time I close my eyes, wondering if there was any way we could have helped her. The masked man may have gone for now, but I keep looking through my window at night, wondering when the masked face will reappear to finish his unfinished business.

October 25, 2021 12:33

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20 comments

Mariah Cheng
03:03 Oct 28, 2021

Well done through the end! This was a great story with great character development.

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Kanika G
10:32 Oct 31, 2021

Thank you so much, Mariah! Really appreciate your comment. :)

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Emily Snyder
00:05 Oct 26, 2021

I really loved this story! At first I started editing the writing the way I do my own work, but I quickly found myself lost in the feelings of the main character. I like the subtle twist and turns that kept me from predicting the ending. Perfect title for the work.

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Kanika G
10:33 Oct 31, 2021

Hi Emily - Thank you so much for your wonderful comment. I was pleased to read it. I'm glad the story kept you engaged. :)

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Keya Jadav
13:07 Oct 28, 2021

O-kay, really spooky, but interesting at the same time. The well-put descriptions created a wall of reality around me, leaving me agape. The way you described the thought process of Rebecca so perfectly, added a new charm to the story. Another flawless story of yours! I absolutely love it!!

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Kanika G
10:34 Oct 31, 2021

Hi Keya - Thank you for your wonderful comment. I'm glad to know about the things you liked about the story. While writing the story as Rebecca, I felt spooked out imagining the whole thing. It was scary! Thank you. :)

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Hi Kanika! How are you?

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Kanika G
13:27 Mar 13, 2022

Hi Sienna, I'm doing well. How are you? Sorry, I've been off Reedsy for a while.

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I'm good! Np :)

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Akshara .
16:08 Jan 11, 2022

This gave me classic horror movie vibes. Great characters.

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Kanika G
02:39 Feb 08, 2022

Thank you so much, Akshara!

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Ana Govindasamy
09:25 Dec 22, 2021

The pacing on this thing is perfect! Not even mentioning the plot and the twists and chills I got. Well done!

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Kanika G
10:15 Jan 05, 2022

Thank you so much, Ana! Really appreciate your comment. :)

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Graham Kinross
21:38 Nov 26, 2021

This would make a good Halloween film. Great characters.

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Kanika G
11:02 Nov 30, 2021

Thank you so much! :)

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Ian Barrett
02:12 Oct 30, 2021

Classic horror movie vibes. Great suspense. Love reading your work.

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Kanika G
10:34 Oct 31, 2021

Thank you so much, Ian! :)

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Shekhar Gupta
15:12 Oct 29, 2021

A very well written story, befitting the Halloween celebrations. The story develops very well and produces an interesting climax, a bit spooky though. Among your better stories, keep it up.

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Kanika G
10:35 Oct 31, 2021

Thank you so much, Dad! I'm glad you liked the story. :)

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21:09 May 10, 2022

Really captivating and, God! It's spooky! Kept me at the edge the entire length of story. Well crafted!

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