most of her life studying how to pull off the most gruesome murders
her small Colorado town has ever seen.
are frenzied. The one who makes the neighbors lock their doors and
windows on a hot summer’s day. The one everyone fears but no one
Mistakes start adding up. And with the police getting closer, and her
own father becoming suspicious, Ryann has to prove once and for all
that she’s smarter than anyone else—or she’ll pay the ultimate price.
which is even more unsettling because of how familiar and normal she
seems. Be prepared to leave the lights on and look at the people
around you in a whole new way.”
anything like it! The story escalates from page one and will leave
your pulse pounding as you wonder just how far Ryann will go. 5/5 stars.”
more of a…mercy.
I was twelve. My elementary school, Deer Lake, was situated on an enormous property of woods and little streams that would flow after too much rain or melting snow.
It was a January afternoon and I was playing with my classmate, Veronica Sanders, out at the
edge of the field. Most of the kids stayed closer to the school; I preferred to explore a bit, not that there was anything much to find.
“Ryann, you know we’re not allowed to go past the fence. We’re going to get in trouble.” Veronica seemed a touch frantic about the crime we were about to commit.
“Relax. We’re going to have a look in the forest. It’s not like I’m asking you to rob someone.”
“But what if we get caught?” Her eyes widened as she bit her bottom lip.
I stepped forward to put a reassuring hand on her arm. “We won’t get caught. And if we do, we’ll
say that we saw a puppy running in the woods. We’ll say we just wanted to make sure it was okay.”
I smiled confidently and saw Veronica’s forehead smoothen. It was obvious she was dying to do something bad, but she needed a push. I was happy to help.
She looked around; no one was paying any attention to us all the way out there. “Okay, but only
for a few minutes,” she said with a gleam in her eyes.
I was already opening the gate. “Follow me. I’ve been out here a ton of times before.” I led her onto the snow-covered path and into the dense forest.
“Wow, that’s really cool.”
I was showing Veronica the tiny waterfall a short walk away from the main path. She bent down and picked up a few pebbles to toss in.
I joined her, wiping the snow off some stones with my gloves. We had a competition to see whose rock would create the biggest splash. But after a few minutes she stood. “We’d better go back now. The bell’s going to ring any second, and I don’t want to
Ugh. She was such a goody-goody. “You’re scared of everything.” I sat down on one of the small
boulders that surrounded the water.
“I came out here, didn’t I?” She crossed her arms and shot me a dirty look.
I laughed at her attempt at boldness. “Go if you want to. I’m staying. It’s boring over there, and I’m not a chicken.”
I froze. My breath caught as I screamed out to her. “Veronica! Are you okay?” She didn’t answer.
Or move. I rushed over and knelt beside her. Her eyes were open as blood trickled down the side of her head and pooled under her cheek.
Leaning closer, I watched her eyes flutter, her body quiver. She was like a baby bird that had fallen out of the nest and hit the ground. “Can you hear me?” I whispered. This time my voice was steady. She tried to answer, but her speech was muffled.
She was probably asking for help.
I stared at the dripping blood. It contrasted so vividly against her pale skin. Her light hair soaked it up like a sponge and lay limp across her cheek. I pulled a glove off and ran my bare fingers over a drenched strand, moving it out of her eye. It was warm and sticky. Repulsed, I cleaned my bloody fingers in the stream.
Veronica seemed serene and terrified at the same time. “You’re scared, aren’t you?” I asked. Again she didn’t answer. She didn’t look good.
A twinge crept into my bones. What if she told a teacher that going out there had been all my idea? I could get into trouble—my dad would kill me for deliberately breaking a school rule. I’d be grounded for a month, but that wouldn’t be as bad as the look he’d give me, or the speech he’d recite about how much I’d disappointed him and how Brianna never did anything like that.
I did the only thing I could.
I took my glove and shoved it into Veronica’s
mouth. She made a low, muffled, grunting sound.
Her eyes rolled and darted wildly. “Shh. It will be over in a minute,” I said. Leaning closer still, I
pinched her nose between my thumb and index finger, watched, and waited for her blue eyes to
become vacant, the way they were supposed to with death.
I’d finally get to see it for myself.
My pulse quickened as my hands worked, steady and sure. My peripheral vision narrowed, until all I could see was Veronica’s face and the blood dripping down her plump cheek in the most
beautiful shade of red.
It surprised me when she squirmed a little.
Perhaps there was more of a spark in her than I’d believed, though she was too badly hurt to fight it.
To fight me.
I squeezed her nose tighter and thrust my glove farther into her mouth, pushing harder and harder. I gasped for breath. The intense pulsing in my ears drowned out the sounds of the water falling around us. My arms and legs tingled, goose bumps running the lengths of them.
After a minute she stopped moving altogether, and her eyes closed. I released her nose and yanked the glove from her slack mouth. I’d noticed that on TV people leaned down to check for breathing, so I did too.
She was dead.
I’d put her out of her misery. She probably would’ve ended up on life support—brain-dead,
paralyzed or something. It was the only thing I could’ve done.
I heard the bell ring in the distance. Lunch was over. I leapt up to go when I was struck with panic.
What if someone had seen me walk out there with Veronica? No one could know what I’d done. My breath hitched.
I ran as fast as I could back to the yard and to the first teacher I saw.
“Mrs. Hopkins! Come quick, Veronica’s really hurt!” I pretended to be hysterical so effectively that she couldn’t understand me the first few times.
She bent down so we were at eye level. “Where?”
“We went into the woods at the far end of the property. I’m sorry. I know we’re not allowed, but
she fell and she’s not moving! You have to hurry!” I sobbed, shoulders shaking, snotty nose. I don’t know how I’d managed to look so distraught, but I nearly convinced myself.
Mrs. Hopkins turned to a kid named Austin, who was in the grade ahead of me. “Go get Mr.
Chute. Tell him to call 911 and to come out and meet me in the woods.”
Austin, who was paper white, nodded and took off like his ass was on fire.
I ran back with Mrs. Hopkins to the rocks where I’d left Veronica. She was in the exact position I’d left her. Thankfully there was no miraculous recovery waiting for us.
After she was taken away in an ambulance, Mrs. Hopkins and Mr. Chute walked me back and called my parents.
My dad showed up to the school, hugged me, and told me how brave I was.
After my mother had finally stopped fussing and checking on me every twenty minutes, I sat on my bed and thought about Veronica. It would be weird not to see her in class every day or hang out with her at lunch, not that we hung out that much. I was usually with Bao-yu anyway, but sometimes she came along. Maybe now B and I would be better friends. She wouldn’t have to share me anymore.
I wondered what I was feeling—if I was missing Veronica. But I didn’t think that’s what it was. The twinge in the bottom of my stomach didn’t have the achy hollowness that people refer to as a pit. It was more like butterflies.
Until the day one did.
It wasn’t the most comfortable bike ride with the heat wave. Colorado didn’t normally reach the
nineties at the end of May, but there I was, sweating, dripping, and disgusting, though the adrenaline helped me pedal.
I replayed every moment of it in my mind. It was the best Sunday night I’d ever had.
I’d left my house at 8:30 p.m. to go for a walk, or so I’d told my mom.
I’d snuck around back to get my bike. I didn’t normally go for bike rides, but tonight it was a
crucial part of my plan. It was still early, so I wasted some time riding around, thinking. I knew where I’d end up and couldn’t wait to see little Livy again.
This time it would be by choice.
I had faith in myself. I was ready.
I’d researched and planned, learning from The Greats—Gacy, Rader, Kemper, and even little Mary
Bell. How they hunted, manipulated their victims and the cops, erased the evidence, and celebrated their kills. I could do that. Steady and strong.
Nervous people made mistakes, and I wouldn’t make a mistake. I’d even bought multiples of the
same shirt and hoodie in case I got blood on mine.
I’d need to replace any that got ruined, since my mom took stock of my clothes and would notice if something went missing. She’d obviously think it was weird if I had too many of the same, so I kept my spares down in our unfinished basement, in old board game boxes that Bri and I hadn’t opened in years.
My bag, or ‘tool kit,’ was packed, including a knife I’d stolen on a trip with my dad to Dick’s
Sporting Goods, an hour outside of Dungrave.
The plan was to lure Olivia away from her home, then surprise her so she wouldn’t have time to run, or scream. No witnesses—that was an obvious one —and no evidence pointing to me, which meant I needed to be extremely careful about cleaning up after. I’d learned everything I could about DNA and trace evidence from my dad, though I’m sure he never thought I’d use the information.
An hour later I arrived in the McManns’ backyard. They had a fence with a gate off the back
alley that was never locked. Olivia’s room was on the ground floor, at the back of the house, making it even easier for me to access.
I peered inside her window. She was still awake, sitting on the floor in her neon pink beanbag chair and reading a book with a flashlight. It was clearly past her bedtime, but the brat always did like breaking the rules.
I tapped softly on the glass, my smile ready.
She turned around, and I put my finger to my lips before waving her over. Dropping her book, she headed toward me, pointing her flashlight directly in my face. I squinted, trying to look through the sudden glare. She dropped the light. It took a second for my vision to settle, and when it did, I found her standing, arms crossed, her lips in a scowl. I’d expected this, since we hadn’t exactly been besties.
I motioned for her to slide the window open. As she struggled to move it, I managed to get a few fingers in the crack and pulled.
“What are you doing here, Ryann?”
Her sour look told me she remembered our time together accurately. “I was out for a walk and
thought I’d come by.” I gave her my sweetest smile.
“Why? You hate me. Besides, we have a front door.”
Sassy little thing. If she was this grating at twelve, what would she be like as a teenager? “Duh,
I thought it would be fun to surprise you. And you know what would be even more fun? Sneaking out to come on a little girls’ night with me.” I batted my eyelashes at her and even reached in through the window to lightly stroke her sand-colored hair.
She took a small step back, eyeing me. “To go where?”
“I’ll take you to Maggie’s to get some frozen yogurt. My treat.” Just take the bait. Don’t make this harder.
“But it’s late and I’ve got school tomorrow. And what about my mom?”
My heart beat faster, and I grabbed her shoulder before I knew what I was doing. “No. She already tucked you in, right? As far as she knows, you’re already asleep.”
“I don’t know…”
I had to hold back a sigh. “We’re just going for a treat. You’ll be back by ten thirty. Your parents
won’t even know you were gone.”
Olivia’s eyes narrowed and she put a hand on her skinny hip. “Why would you wanna take me
anywhere? You hate me.”
“I was going to tell you when we started walking, but I can see you’re not going to make this
easy. The reason I want to take you out is to apologize. I know I was a jerk. I’ve thought a lot
about it and realize that the way I treated you was a lot like the way Brianna treated me, which sucks. So I’m sorry. Do you want to come or not? If you’re scared about getting in trouble with your mommy, we can forget it.” I knew her arrogance was her downfall.
She inched closer. I was winning. “Okay, but I’d better be home soon before my mom or dad check on me. If I get in trouble, I’m telling them you made me go.”
I bit the inside of my mouth hard enough to taste blood. Anything to keep me from throttling her right there. “Fine. We’ll be back in a half hour.”
“I need to change out of my pj’s first.”
“Hurry, before we get caught.” I feigned another smile. She changed quickly and threw her sneakers on, while I stood lookout.
The window had no screen, which worked beautifully in my favor. I simply put my hand out to
grab her, then eased her down to the grass below. Her parents really should have considered better security.
“There. Now, be quiet. We don’t want your parents to hear us.” I motioned for her to follow me
around the fence line and out the back gate. She was so hot on my heels that she literally stomped on them. I stopped and she crashed into me. “Do you mind?” I said, trying not to roll my eyes.
We kept going through the back alley. It was dark. Under the cover of night was always a safer
bet—or so I’d read.
“This way. We’ll go to the end of the alley and down Manchester Road.” I took a breath before
beginning the monotonous, small-talk portion of the evening, all the while going over the attack in my mind. Would it better to strike from behind, when she least expected it, or did I want to see her eyes when I lunged toward her? I wanted my first planned kill to be memorable. Perfect. The kind of kill that, if The Greats knew about it, would make them proud to call me one of their own. I needed to keep her guard down. “What kind are you gonna get? I love chocolate ripple with coconut, chocolate sauce, and those little chunks of cheesecake.”
Her eyes widened. “That sounds good, but I like chocolate everything. Oh, and strawberry and hot fudge and…”
I blocked her out. My plan was working. She was at ease, and the last thing she’d ever expect was an ambush. I could hardly wait.
I know what you’re thinking. What kind of fifteen-year-old plots to kill a young, helpless girl?
My answer’s simple: This one.
and urban fantasy novels. All with gritty, murderous inclinations and
some moderate amounts of humor. She spends far too much time
consuming true crime television (and chocolate) while trying to
decide if yes, it was the husband, with the wrench, in the library.
She lives with her husband and cat, Moo Moo, in Vancouver, British
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