Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Man in the Pool

In honor of my favorite holiday, tinkering with a chapter of a Getaway Girls sequel. Happy Halloween!

The house was quiet that night. The call about Mercy had shaken them all, but eventually the boys had fallen asleep. Now, as the moonlight streamed in through the bedroom curtains, Audrey felt anxious about the missing girl.

But it was more than that. She couldn’t shake the sensation that someone had been in her backyard, had looked through her window. She got out of bed and stared out her window overlooking the small pool. Nothing but a tiny breeze that barely stirred the water.

Without anything else to do, she remained standing, watching. Aqua ripples washed outward from the center of the pool, spreading in smooth flat circles. The circles extended, growing in diameter until they reached the edge. There they broke apart, the rings weakening until all movement had finally disappeared.

Or had it? As Audrey watched, small bubbles began to form on the surface in the pool’s center. That’s funny, she thought. Maybe something had fallen in. She leaned over for a better look. She couldn’t see anything but the bubbles, but they kept popping up. And getting bigger.

Now curious, she left her room and headed for the back patio door. Probably some animal, she told herself. Better scare it away before it drowned. She refused to let herself think anything else until she pushed open the French door and stood on the smooth, dark stonework.

She flipped on the exterior light and the round yellow bulb flashed a steam of light down into the pool. The bubbles continued to build, but now ripples curled forth from the bubbles, and quickly spread out into thick rings of water that expanded quickly, audibly lapping against the tile.

A shovel leaned against the brick siding of the house, and she picked it up carefully. The dirty metal handle was warm and she clutched it tightly, taking another step closer.

The bubbles had now multiplied into a thick, frothy blue and white foam that coated the surface of the pool.

"What the hell," Audrey gasped, her whispering voice lost in the jagged churning of water.

As if in response, the foam suddenly exploded into a tall fountain. Water spurted ten feet into the air, spraying Audrey and the entire patio. She jumped back, drenched, as the fountain twisted and thickened. Beneath the water, a dark form began to rise.

Shaking, she dropped the shovel and turned to grab the handle of the door leading back inside when a heavy wave knocked her to her knees.

And a voice rang out above the splashing. “Remember me, Audrey?”

Audrey froze, sopping wet in a huddle on the ground.

She knew that voice.

She lifted her head and saw a tall, dark-haired man in a striped shirt and jeans standing – standing – on the water in her swimming pool. He reached up with a long, muscular arm to flip a hunk of wet hair from his forehead. His eyes were blue and brilliant, but cold. And he smiled with a mouth full of sharp, white teeth.

Like a shark circling his prey, he moved around the perimeter of the pool, still miraculously hovering atop the water. “You didn’t answer, Audrey. I asked if you remembered me.”

Then in one quick, fluid movement, he stepped onto the slick stone.

Audrey’s teeth were chattering, for despite the sticky night air, the water suddenly felt like ice. “Yes," she stammered. “I remember you.”

She could hardly forget the tall, pretty one – the man who had looked as though he belonged on a yacht, not trying to rip out women’s throats in a decaying house in the Ninth Ward in New Orleans. A man she’d impaled with a nail-studded drawer and set on fire.

A man she’d thought was dead.

“Sucks to be wrong, doesn’t it?” His eyes sparkled as he surveyed her, crouching on the ground. “No, I didn't die. You killed the others. But not me.”

Audrey stood up slowly, her eyes never leaving his. “That’s because you left the rest of them to die.”

The man shrugged. “I’m a scavenger, sweetheart, not a Marine. I do leave men behind.”

He took a step closer and then stopped, extending a hand. “Where are my manners? We’ve never been formally introduced. I’m Rho. Nice to meet at last.”

Audrey grabbed the doorknob, trying to get a firm grasp with her wet fingers. “The feeling isn’t mutual. What are you doing in Dallas?”

Rho studied his fingernails for a moment. “Aw, I’m just a cowboy at heart,” he drawled in a passable Texas accent.

Then he shook his head. “Just kidding. I’m here for revenge.”

“Revenge?” Audrey asked, her eyes flitting around for the shovel.

“Loyalty's not my thing, so I don’t care that you killed my boss. But getting rid of Carl let those whiny vampires back into the Garden District. I could barely stalk a sorority girl without running into the undead. You cost me my hunting ground and my home." He glared at her.

"So I had to relocate. Thought about Seattle ... too cliched. Then I read an article describing how many companies were moving to Texas, bringing carloads of naive newcomers. And I thought hey -- if it's good enough for corporate America, it's good enough for me."

He paused, staring down the length of her body, and as his glance traveled back up to hers, he winked. "Plenty to eat. And your hot, miserable summer seems to make everyone just a little more careless.”

Audrey felt her breath come in shaky little gasps. “You’re staying here?”

Rho smirked. “We'll be neighbors. I just can’t wait to catch up with you. And your boys.”

“Stay away from my kids!”

“Oh, I’m not going to kill them. At least not right away. That would ruin all the fun. But I’ll be around. All summer.”

He took one more step forward and Audrey turned her wrist to engage the doorknob. Just as she heard the click of metal, Rho lunged at her, grabbing her chin with the long, cruel claws that extended from his fingers where nails should have been. He twisted her face until she was inches from his and he sniffed the skin above her cheekbones.

“Just as sweet as you were the last time we met.” He drew one long, yellowing claw down her face and across her lips, drawing a thin red line of blood.

“But I’m not. I’m going to leave you and your family alive long enough to watch me murder as many of your friends and neighbors as I can before I get bored with Texas.”

He lifted the blood-flecked claw to his own mouth and sucked Audrey’s blood from his hand. Then he shoved her back down to her knees. “And then, I’m coming for you.”

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