Her Shallow Grave – D. K. Hood

Where am I? Evelyn Ross opened her eyes wide but only darkness pressed in on her. Had she lost her sight? Her head pounded and thirst had stuck her tongue to the roof of her mouth. Too afraid to move and heart pounding with fear, she touched her face, feeling to make sure her eyes were open. Her memory of last night was foggy, like reaching for an elusive dream. Where had she been? The memory of taking a ride into a town dusted with snow, filtered into her subconscious. She’d planned to look for a meal and a place to hole up until she found work. She searched her mind, grasping at ghosts, but the memory of what had happened after she’d arrived in town had vanished. There was no valid explanation, nothing but a void existed, it was as if someone had stolen time from her. From the stale damp smell, perhaps, she’d crawled into someone’s cellar or was in a shed but it was the middle of winter and although chilled, she should be freezing. Sudden moves could mean falling into the dark unknown. She took deep breaths of air that smelled like the bottom of her grandma’s closet. Trembling with panic, she explored her surroundings with her fingers and found the unusual texture of rough blankets under her. The idea of someone locking her in a confined space was her biggest nightmare and she raised both arms above her in blind panic. As she stretched her fingers above and out to the sides, finding only air, she breathed a sigh of relief. Darkness rose like a wall around her, she had to move and at least try to find a way out.

She rolled onto one side, and examined what was under her, finding the distinct surrounds of a bed or perhaps bunk; more exploration found the head of the bed. She sat up and dropped her legs off the edge and her feet touched the floor. The next moment, she heard footsteps and the sound of a door closing. Whoever was upstairs had moved into another room. This was her chance to slip away unnoticed. She’d gotten in here somehow and there had to be a way out. She eased off the bed and dropping to her hands and knees, edged forward until she found the wall. In the darkness, she searched every inch of the cellar, running her hands over the walls until her fingernails bled before she found the staircase. At the top, a tiny line of light crept under the door. She fixed on it like a beacon and crept up the steps.

At the top, she pressed her ear to the door. When no sound came from outside, she tried the knob, turning it slowly but the door didn’t move. As if someone was outside the door, listening, she heard a low chuckle and the jangle of keys. “You’re never leaving me.” The voice was deep and masculine. Angry, she hammered on the door. “Let me out!” “I don’t think so.” He thumped on the door. “Are you thirsty? Hungry? You’ll have to be nice if you want to eat. If you don’t cooperate, you’ll be punished.

” His voice changed, becoming hard. “I’m sick of playing games with you, you’re no fun at all. Get back downstairs or I’ll kill you—it’s your choice.” She screamed for help until her throat ached and her voice came out in a whimper but it only seemed to amuse him. “Yeah, scream. I like that and no one can hear you.” He chuckled again. “No one is coming to save you, Delores.” “Who is Delores? My name is Evelyn. You have the wrong person.

” She shook her head in defiance, wishing her voice was more than a feeble croak. “I know exactly who you are, Delores.” He sounded self-assured and she could hear the excitement in his voice. “I control every breath you take. You belong to me.” “No! I’ll never belong to you.” She banged on the door. “Let me out!” The door flew open, hitting her in the face. Her feet slipped and she fell backward into darkness. Agony ricocheted into her back as she slammed into the steps and then bounced down the stairs like a rag doll.

Gasping to draw air into her bruised lungs, she closed her eyes. She’d broken one arm for sure and her hip hurt so bad, yet she’d survived. Nauseous from intolerable pain, she lay panting in a tangled mess on the cold cement floor. High above, the open door flooded the room with light. A man stood in the doorway, the backlight making his dark shadow menacing, but it was the glint of the weapon in his hand that petrified her. A light came on in the cellar and she made out his cold dark eyes. He was watching her without expression. “You’ve been a very bad girl, Delores.” He rubbed the muzzle of his Glock against his chin. “You’ve broken my rules and spoiled everything.

We could’ve had so much fun.” Terrified, Evelyn stared at him. “We can still have fun. Please don’t hurt me. I’ll be good, I promise.” “It’s too late.” He chuckled as if at a private joke. “It always ends up like this, doesn’t it, Delores? You begging for your life and offering me the world?” He aimed the pistol at her and smiled. “You already know the end to the story.” The steps creaked under his weight.

He was enjoying her fear. In sheer terror, she tried to drag her battered body away and hide but the sound of heavy footsteps followed her, walking slow. There was no escape and he had all the time in the world. I’m going to die. ONE THE GLACIAL HEIGHTS SKI RESORT, BLACK ROCK FALLS Monday Sheriff Jenna Alton glanced at her reflection in the glass door as she made her way toward the brilliant white snowscape outside the ski lodge. She sure didn’t resemble a sheriff at the moment, and the memory of her past life as DEA Agent Avril Parker was well hidden. Bundled up with all the resort shop had to offer in the latest ski gear, she slid on her UV sunglasses and pushed through the second set of doors, glad to be out of the overheated interior. She hadn’t made up her mind if the two sets of doors created a chamber to prevent the heat from leaking out, or to give the guests a few seconds to acclimatize. If the latter was the case, it did little to stop the shock of the arctic blast hitting her the second she exited door number two. The icy chill of winter blasted her cheeks and the familiar smell she’d craved since the last melt, filled her nostrils.

It was a fragrance only someone who’d been fortunate enough to visit an alpine region during snow season would recognize. She often thought it was like stepping inside a freezer but with a hint of fresh pine needles and a touch of woodsmoke. She inhaled and coughed as the air threatened to snap freeze her lungs. She stepped with caution onto the snowcovered path and made out Deputy Dave Kane, her close friend and ex-special-forces sniper and the best darn profiler she’d known. He stood six-five and in his big boots and fur trimmed hood, resembled a florescent blue sasquatch rather than a man. She blinked at him through the falling snow dusting the walkway. “Is that you, Dave?” “Yeah.” Kane turned away from the sets of ski equipment he had leaning against a pine tree, to look at her and grinned. “Ha, I love the new outfit. You look like the Easter Bunny, all pink and fluffy.

Have you got your GPS tracker and satellite phone with you? There’s only a few people using the northern slopes and none have gone down today, so we’ll need to be careful.” Not wanting to divulge what she’d thought he resembled, she smiled. “Yeah, nothing has changed since you last asked me.” She enjoyed Kane’s company, they had an easy relationship and although she indulged in the odd girls’ day out with her friends, she preferred to spend her downtime with him. As he lived in a cottage on her ranch, they’d become close but with Kane mourning the loss of his wife in a terrorist car bombing, being friends for now worked just fine. It was great to be away from the office, and over the weekend the slopes had been busy for so early in the season. They’d spent the weekend with her protégé Deputy Jake Rowley and his girlfriend, Sandy. The couple had returned home on Sunday night and Jenna had put Rowley in charge of the office. As the ski resort was only a short drive from town, Jenna and Kane planned to remain for the rest of the week unless a crime wave suddenly descended on the town of Black Rock Falls. The fresh snow had given the entire village a powder finish and after getting their skilegs over the weekend, they planned to tackle one of the advanced slopes.

She took the skis he handed her and clicked in her boots. “Thanks.” She looped the cords of the poles over her thick gloves and looked at her weird reflection in his sunglasses. She hoped he had the titanium plate in his skull—compliments of the car bombing—well-covered. The cold gave him incapacitating headaches and was the only Achilles heel of the strong capable man, well, unless she considered, his determination to jump in front of a bullet to protect her. She followed Kane, sliding along the path to the northern slope and through the tall pine trees, their branches heavy with snow. The owners had used every care to blend in the resort so not to damage the environment, with no conspicuous buildings or bright colors. The main resort building and surrounding log cabin village seemed to grow out of the forest, and even the ski lift was unobtrusive and didn’t ruin the majestic views. They ran the entire complex on solar- or water-generated power and the resort had become a beautiful addition to the county of Black Rock Falls. The slopes formed a natural break in the forest and the northern one ran parallel to one of the access roads to the resort.

As they moved toward the top of the slope the trees cracked and groaned with the lowering temperature. Winter had come in a rush and taken nature by surprise. When they reached the top of the slope Jenna stopped beside Kane to read the noticeboard. The prominent black diamond designated the slope for advanced skiers. It also gave the current weather report and listed any projected problems they might encounter on the way down and where to locate the ski lifts. The advice to stay in the middle was usual and Kane had already checked the conditions several times before they’d decided to ski. He took no chances of being out on the mountain during a blizzard. She moved up beside him. “You go first. I’ll follow you down.

” “I’d rather follow you, just in case.” Kane inclined his head and looked at her but she couldn’t see his eyes behind the blue reflective lenses. Jenna laughed. “In case I fall? I won’t. I’ll be careful and if I did, you’d be back here in minutes.” She grinned at him. “I like watching you. You go so fast it takes my breath away.” “Okay.” Kane moved forward.

“Meet you at the lift.” In a swish of snow, he was away and heading down the slope. She watched him for a few seconds and then followed. With a push of her poles and bending her knees, she tucked in her elbows, leaned forward, and surrendered herself to the thrill of the slopes. Glacial wind bit into her cheeks but the rush as she gained speed was exhilarating. As she entered a long sweeping bend, she noticed Kane jump to one side and come to a stop in a plume of white snow. He turned toward her and waved both arms. She zig-zagged to slow down and then mirrored his move in what she called a hockey stop and glided slowly to his side. “What’s up?” When he didn’t answer, handed her his gloves, and then searched his jacket pocket for something, worry for his health churned her stomach. “Dave.

What’s wrong?” “I’m not sure.” Kane pulled out the small pair of binoculars he always seemed to have in a pocket and trained them along the trees growing alongside the road. “Oh, that’s not good.” Following his line of sight, Jenna swallowed hard. “What the hell is going on?” “Someone has decorated a pine sapling with what looks like body parts.” Kane handed her the binoculars. “On the bend close to the road.” He pointed in the direction and took back his gloves. “We’ll have to go down, take the ski lift, and then go look. It might be a prank.

” Jenna peered into the binoculars. “I can’t imagine anyone doing that in this weather.” She scanned the area. “Okay, I’ve found the bend.” “Move in slowly, I spotted them on the way down.” Kane took her shoulders and turned her a couple of degrees to the left. “I see it.” The sight of discolored frozen arms and legs hanging from the snow-laden tree branches came into view and she gaped in astonishment. Some of the limbs had brightly colored tattoos and one of the frozen hands still wore a pinky ring. “That’s no prank.

” She dropped the binoculars from her eyes and stared at him in disbelief. “Well, that’s our vacation over. It’s starting again. Another lunatic has arrived in Black Rock Falls.”

.

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