Lee Bagwell and Wofford Lee Jones
Abby sat on the couch, her feet tucked under her while she tapped away on her cell phone. The only light brightening and dimming the living room was the scenes of the rom-com playing out on the muted widescreen.
Abby was here only because Caroline Jackson had begged her to housesit while she and her husband went on an impromptu getaway. Wanting to go out with the girls, but needing the money, Abby reluctantly agreed.
A single incense stick burned on the coffee table, its smoke trails spiraling toward the ceiling. Abby primped, held her phone at just the right angle, gave an alluring pose and snapped a selfie. She wasn’t going to let the Jackson’s beautiful living room go to waste. Plus, there was no way Olivia Butler—that whore—was going to trump her Instagram game.
When Abby lowered her phone, she noticed the peaceful rise of the incense smoke was now chaotic as though a ghost had hovered behind her for a moment, then moved on.
Abby looked around the room. Nothing moved other than the virtual images dancing across the vast television. She sat motionless for a moment but heard nothing.
A bit unnerved, Abby slowly raised her phone again, completed her post and shared it. As she picked up her glass of Merlot and took a long swig, three distinct squeaks sounded from upstairs.
She lowered her glass and stared at the ceiling. Her eyes narrowed. She tilted her head.
A slight uneasiness infected her.
The sound came from Donny’s room, but he was away in boarding school.
Curious about the noise, Abby carried her wine and phone to the stairs. She flipped on the light to illuminate the steps and hallway beyond.
No way am I going up there in the dark.
She did a sweep of the entire upstairs, looking in closets, under beds and turning on all the lights.
I’m losing my mind. Had to be the house settling.
Embarrassed at her overreaction, Abby figured a hot shower would be perfect to calm her.
Sweeping back the shower curtain she found no knife-wielding psychopath.
She let out a relieved breath.
She leaned in and turned the water to a hot setting, then stripped and stepped in.
“Ahhh, yes! Definitely what I needed.”
She stood under the hot water for a long while, letting it relieve her tension. When she felt calm and relaxed, she killed the water and stepped out.
She wrapped up in the towel and turned to the mirror.
Her throat hitched with an influx of air.
Written in the condensation of the mirror was a message.
YOU’RE GONNA DIE TONIGHT, BITCH!
Who could have written that? And when?
Abby grabbed her phone and snapped a photo of the message. She pulled up Caroline’s number, and sent the photo to her with the message: Hey, this was on the mirror in the guest bathroom! Has Donny been here recently? Is he playing a joke? I’m a little freaked out!
Abby waited for a response. When she didn’t see three bouncing dots, she placed her phone on the counter. She reached for her Merlot while inspecting herself in the mirror. After placing the glass to her lips, she realized it was empty.
Did…I…finish this earlier?
She could have sworn the glass was half-full before her shower.
Her mind flashed with the image of swirling incense.
Someone is in the house with me.
Noises of the house settling.
A scrawled-finger message.
Someone was in the bathroom with me!
Fear spurring her on, Abby opened the door and peered out.
Seeing nothing but a bright, empty hallway, she dashed across into the guest room and closed the door.
She threw on some panties, jeans and a t-shirt.
She rechecked her phone.
No fucking reply.
Opening the door, she glanced up and down the hallway again.
She stepped out and sprinted down the hallway, her eyes frantic, expecting someone to jump out, grab her and take her down.
She took the stairs two at a time.
Slapping on the kitchen light, something on the counter snatched her attention.
A white sheet of paper looking strangely out of place on the sea of black Formica.
Another message. Same handwriting.
YOU NEVER LOOKED IN THE PANTRY, BITCH!
Abby turned to the pantry door; a wave of mind-numbing fear boiled inside her.
She took a backward step as her breathing intensified.
The doorbell rang, causing Abby to jump involuntarily at the jarring sound. She let out a startled yelp.
Oh, thank God! Caroline, probably called someone to come check the place out.
She scurried passed the pantry door and ran to the front door.
She placed her eye to the peephole and saw a hooded figure dressed all in black.
“Who are you?”
The figure didn’t answer.
She stepped away and slapped on the front porch lights. Moving back to the peephole, she yelled, “Answer me, motherfucker!”
As she placed her eye to the sight glass, she had just enough time to register a stabbing motion coming toward her.
A quick glint of silver.
She sucked in a startled breath and jerked backward. The ice pick followed her movement and smashed through the glass, stopping short of piercing her eye.
A flood of relief washed through her, but it was short-lived as a hand palmed the back of her head and shoved her forward again, impaling her to the back of her skull.
The hand released her, but Abby remained suspended like a limp rag doll.
Her hand relaxed and her phone clattered to the floor, landing face up.
The hooded figure on the porch jerked the ice pick free, allowing Abby to fall in a crumpled heap on the other side of the door.
In the foyer’s darkness, Abby’s cell phone chimed. The screen brightened, finally displaying Caroline’s reply text.
Hey sweetheart. Sorry for the slow response, but I assume you’re dead by now. BITCH!