October 26th, 2021
I’m being framed for murder, but I’ve got three great reasons to fight: Jag, Braedon, and freaking self-respect.
My parents are serial killers.
At least according to the cops and the media. Never convicted, nor arrested and charged. Tell that to the media’s nickname for me: Slaughter Daughter. The infamy follows me wherever I go.
I won’t give in to the bullying and, despite how it looks, I’m not a murderer. Problem is, the copycat killer on campus is doing their best to frame me.
And as if I don’t have enough problems, I’ve got two hot guys angling for a spot in my bed. Terrible, I know. Is it wrong to enjoy them vying for my affection? To give them my trust?
Their betrayal leads to me finally discovering the secret behind everything. If only the truth didn’t come at the cost of my life—and my only chance at love.
I became a pariah a few months before graduation—less than six before my eighteenth birthday.
With one video uploaded to the internet, my life was ruined. And not because of anything I did.
The cops managed to make it to my school before social media ran wild with the news, which was surprising in this day and age.READ MORE
In those moments before my world crumbled, I doodled on my laptop mousepad as the teacher droned on and on. My note-taking program allowed me to freehand, so I slid my finger on the smooth, gray square, swirling outlines of hearts that I filled in. I dragged lightning bolts to bisect them. No initials, though. I learned my lesson in my grade-ten biology class, when Hayley snapped a pic over my shoulder and posted it online for everyone to see. The next day, when I sat down in my English class, the kids began singing, “Abigail and Connor, sitting in a tree…”
It was a wonder I didn’t die. The object of my crush did his best to pretend I didn’t exist. Unless he got me alone, then he had all kinds of ideas about the things we could do. I declined. The reality of him proved much less attractive than my fantasy.
Sadly, that seemed to be a running theme.
At a knock, the teacher—Mr. Godfrey, who always wore a sweater, even if we were sweating because the air-conditioning was broken again—paused in his lecture to answer it, sticking his head out the door. A murmur of voices sounded, and Mr. Godfrey slipped fully into the hall to deal with it. The door closed, and the class erupted into noise, not so much talking as reaching for phones. As if the students were drones with a hive mind, the classroom filled with the hum of music and voices leaking from earbuds as videos and games were played. At times like these, when all the heads were bent and intent over screens, an eerie unease filled me.
Unnatural. In the movies—the old ones that showed a classroom setting—people talked. Joked around. Flirted. Now, we did a lot of that online. Looking for likes. Wanting to go viral.
My mom called it an addiction, and after being bullied a few times online, she’d forced me off all of it. My cell phone didn’t have internet capabilities. Just plain talk and text. Which was why it stayed in my bag. After all, who would I message?
I was the new kid again. I’d arrived at the beginning of my senior year. I hadn’t bothered to make many friends because I knew I’d be leaving for college. Even if I weren’t, my parents never stayed in one place for long.
Slouched in my seat and bored, I drummed my fingers, waiting to get out of class. I’d already aced this course. Calculus. A math I’d probably never use again. What I needed was to study for an exam next week in chemistry. A ninety on it would help cement my A in that class.
Yes, I was a nerd. The kind with a book at home that I’d stayed up a little too late reading. My eyes burned this morning. Blame the fatigue for not realizing that Mr. Godfrey had called my name.
“Abigail Smith. Could you come here, please?” the teacher said firmly and, judging by the chuckles in the class, it wasn’t the first time.
My cheeks heated as I lifted my gaze to Mr. Godfrey and noticed he stood beside a pair of police officers.
“Yes, Mr. Godfrey. Sorry.”
Rather than reply, he beckoned, and with great reluctance, I rose from my seat, knowing everybody watched. It made my movements jerky. My hip hit my desk, and as the metal leg dragged, it made a horrible screeching noise that drew a titter. Being the center of attention made me want to sink into the floor.
Don’t look at me.
I ducked my head for the walk of burning shame. My cheeks were hot as I endured the titters, the stares, the judgement.
What possible reason could there be for me to talk to the cops? I’d just refuse. They couldn’t question me without my mom’s and dad’s permission. It hit me then.
There was only one reason for the police to pull me out of class.
This had to be really bad. Oh, my fucking God. My parents had an accident.
Had to be. Why else would they be here asking for me?
I didn’t do drugs. Never got in fights. I was boring and perfect. Just what I needed to get into any college I wanted. I had three acceptances already—two of them with small scholarships.
As I neared the police officers, I took note of their appearance. The pair of them were grim-faced. The older one was jowly cheeked, and his belly bulged over his pants. His ill-fitting coat didn’t quite hide the harness with the gun in it. His partner was a much shorter woman with blond hair cut short, her figure trim. She had her hand on the weapon by her side.
I swallowed hard. “Hi, I’m Abby.” Probably the stupidest thing in the world I could have said.
“We need you to come with us,” the older cop said.
“Why?” I thought it was a simple question, but the short one snapped, “Don’t talk back. We’re here about your parents.”
The horrible feeling in my stomach exploded. “Oh my God, they’re dead, aren’t they? Oh, no.” Tears rushed to my eyes, and I could see the horror in their dropped jaws and wide gazes. It only confirmed the fact that I was all alone.
In my grief, it took a moment for words to penetrate. Mr. Godfrey tried to explain my very faulty reasoning. “Your parents aren’t dead. This is much worse.”
How could it be worse? Later on, I understood the why, but in the moment, elation filled me that my parents lived. “How badly were they injured? Can I go see them?”
The bigger cop leaned into me, and I smelled cigarettes under the minty gum he chewed. “Do you know where they are?”
I frowned. “If they’re not in the hospital, then they should be at work.”
“They’re not there,” the woman cop said. “Where else could they be?”
“I don’t know. Have you tried calling them?”
“Could you call them for us?”
“Why me? The school has their number.”
“Just do it,” snapped the female cop, still with a hand on her gun. Would she really shoot me?
“My phone is in my bag.”
“Go get it!”
How was it I didn’t die? Surely, the embarrassment should have killed me. Head ducked, I walk back to my desk, bent to get my bag, fumbled with my phone, all the while sweating because…geezus, the cop lady was actually pulling her gun.
I waved my phone as I headed back towards the classroom door. “Found it. Want me to call them now?”
“Yes,” the older cop stated and put a hand on his partner’s arm.
Number one on my speed dial. It rang and rang. Went to voicemail. No big deal. They were probably at work.
As I redialed, I eyed their serious miens. “Why are you looking for my parents?”
When all the adults shared a look, my stomach seized, knotting into a tight ball. “What is going on?”
It was Jarrod, who never paid attention to anything but his phone during class, who shouted, “Holy shit! There’s a manhunt on for Abby’s parents. They’re the Pentagram Killers.”