“Yvette.” She sat up straight, listening to the voice, its mellifluous pull. It was calling for her and only her. She needed to find it. It was important. She could not let it down. She slid from her bunk bed, leaving the purple body that seemed so unrelated to herself behind.
“Yvette.” It called again, so sweetly. It wanted her. She wanted it. She was walking quickly towards it without knowing where she was going. She was flying down the stairs towards the kitchen.
“Yvette.” She was over the knife drawer. Her mother had just bought a new set of Swiss made knives that sparkled iridescently in the amethyst haze. She picked up a filleting knife, cradling it close, as one would a child, ready to present it to the voice.
But she was not Yvette. The knife slid quickly across her throat, and she slid to the floor. As she fell, she saw a figure in the doorway. It was her sister. Her mouth was open as emotion exploded onto her face. Then, the sister screamed. Then nothing.
Therese opened her eyes. It was Lina. Lina was dead. The little sister of her roommate, Lauren, had died. And Lauren, who had her finals early, had seen it. She had seen those emerald eyes go dark. She had seen the young girl, just turned nine, place a knife against her own throat. She had seen Lina die.
Therese felt sick. It was her fault. Someone was dead. Lina was dead.
“Please, someone get me out,” she pleaded, wriggling within the restraints. She roughly pulled her hand through the restraint, not feeling anything but the intense need to get out. Her fingers shook as she undid the rest of the restraints with as much haste as possible.
She then leaned over the side of the bed and threw up.
People were rushing into the room, but she could not hear them. She could hear nothing but the beating of her own heart and the scream. She freed her legs and threw them off the side of the bed. She tore off all the wire she could grab and jumped down, but she could barely keep herself up straight. Every part of her was shaking. Someone took her elbow.
“I’m fine. Someone check on Lina, Lina Larson. She lives in Flower Mound, Texas. I’m not sure exactly where. Her sister Lauren is there. She saw everything,” Therese said, pulling away from the person who took her elbow. She could barely hear her own voice, it seemed so far off. There was movement. “I need a bathroom. Could someone show me a bathroom?”
She threw up again, as she reached the bathroom. Each time, after this happened, she promised herself it would never happen again, that she would not allow it. Therese never knew exactly her role in the proceedings, but she did what she could to prevent it. She gave up sleep as much as possible. But she couldn’t help herself, and now Lina was dead.
She splashed water on her face and rinsed the acid from her mouth. Lina was a sad child. Kids at school made fun of her because of her red hair and freckles. They called her a ginger with no soul. They would think Lina had committed suicide. Her parents would think it was their fault. Lauren would think it was her fault as she and Lina had argued the night before.
Therese was beginning to see that she was a monster. She had always argued to herself that somehow this wasn’t her fault, that she was only an observer, but as she was currently within a government building being interrogated a few times, she couldn’t argue that anymore.
She looked at herself in the mirror. Her face was drained of blood while her eyes were bloodshot. Heavy bags hung under her eyes. Her mouth was drawn. All she could see was a murderer.
She turned to go outside and meet whoever the person was that led her there but instead saw Agent Morgan by the door, watching her carefully. Therese had not heard her walk in.
“This is why I can’t sleep. This is why someone is after me, isn’t it? Have you ever thought that maybe they are the good people? That killing me would be a good thing?” Therese asked. She was panting, but her heart had calmed down. She went back to the sink and pressed her hands on the edges, looking down. She didn’t want to be Therese any longer.
Morgan said nothing, but continued to watch her.
“That’s fifteen, you know. Fifteen. Fifteen lives destroyed. Because of me,” Therese muttered into the drain. Serial killers didn’t even kill fifteen people.
“We have a few questions for you, once you are collected,” Agent Morgan said tonelessly. Somehow, the complete lack of emotion in the woman seemed humorous. Therese smiled unhappily into the drain.
“Fine. I’m fine. Let’s get this over with.” She followed Agent Morgan out of the bathroom.Therese found herself in the same type of room as she’d been in before. There was a large metal table, a wall-sized “mirror,” and an assortment of glowering people. They were murmuring amongst themselves and comparing files, but they stopped as she walked in. They stared her down, and she became very aware that she was wearing only her pajamas in a room full of suits again.
She sat down in a chair across from the group. There were four, including Agent Morgan. Dr. Bagley and Agent Necker were also there, and a man she didn’t know.
“Is Lauren doing alright?” Therese asked. It was cold in the room, so she wrapped her arms around her shoulders.
The new man in the room slammed his fists down in front of Therese. “How did you do this?” She jumped.
“I, I don’t know. It just happens. I don’t mean to,” Therese sputtered. She fought the emotion welling in her throat fiercely. Her utter exhaustion brought all emotion to the surface. She would not give the man the satisfaction of seeing her cry.
“Mann, we do not presently believe Miss Evans to have an active role in the actual deaths,” Agent Morgan said in clipped tones. “Miss Evans was given the wrong time, but her brain scans showed a significant amount of activity right as the death was taking place, as reported by the sister. The sister also noted that no one else was in the room when the girl slit her own throat.”
Mann did not seem satisfied.
“Miss Evans, could you please describe your father to us?” Agent Necker asked.
“I dunno. He was my best friend. Every time he came home from work, we would go play catch or ride our bikes together. He was an intensely rational being, yet human, and inspired me to be like him. I didn’t get to see him much because of his work, but when he was home… I’m not giving you the information you want, am I?” Therese asked, examining the faces of the agents.
“Not quite. Let’s start with his name. Was it Daniel Nathaniel Evans,” Agent Necker. Therese nodded.
“And what did he do for a living?” Agent Necker asked.
“He was an engineer, a very good one. He would be called from all over to act as an advisor for a smorgasbord of projects. He was gone a lot, actually,” Therese said. She didn’t like the look of the agents as she spoke of her father. She had loved him, and they were implicitly arguing his guilt.
“How much is ‘a lot,’ Miss Evans.” He asked.
“I don’t know exactly. Usually a week or two a month, but often times he would be gone for just a few days and come back. He was never home for more than a week. But, he’s dead now, heart attack.”
“What firm did he work for?”
“I don’t know. He never talked about his work. I was thirteen when he died, so I didn’t really ask. He said he didn’t want to talk about work when he was home; he just wanted to be with my mother and me.” She saw their faces, as she spoke. She heard his voice in her head, heard its similarity to the voice in her dream. The voice that called all of the girls to their deaths couldn’t be her father, could it?
“Did you meet any of his friends?” Agent Necker inquired.
“Never. My dad wasn’t a big social person.” Therese did not add that she had loved that part of her dad. The lonely bibliophile she had been as a child did not have friends either.
“Could you name a specific project he worked on?”
“No. There was a bridge, somewhere in Europe, which he spent a lot of time on when I was twelve, and a museum in Mexico when I was eight. He didn’t talk about his work much.” She felt like she was incriminating her dad, turning him into a shadowy character who never spoke of what he did. She did not know what she could say to cast him in a better light.
“Where was he when he died?” Agent Necker was staring at her fiercely. She didn’t want to meet his gaze. She thought back bitter to that night when Tessie died, stuck in the police station. She remember how stiffly her mother sat beside her. After that day, it was very difficult for Therese to talk to her mother much. Her father had remained the golden parent in her eyes, representative of better, happier, carefree times.
“His home office. My mother was at her book club; I was in school. I found him when I got off the bus. It looked like he was sleeping, leaned over his desk. So, I left him. I did my homework. My mother sent me to wake him for dinner when she got home.” Therese stopped. She didn’t want to say anymore. She remember pressing her father’s shoulder, and finding it cold. She remembered noticing the stillness of his chest, the paleness of his face, and the realization that washed over her.
She took a deep breath, and massaged her temples. Tiredness did not help her temper the emotional roller coaster these events forced her through. She had to stay calm. “Heart attack,” she said quietly.
She did not know how long they continued this way, forcing her to nitpick her life as far as her memory would allow. Each death she saw was dissected in excruciating detail. Her experiences with her father were analyzed. She felt so utterly exhausted by the end as the agents filed out of the room. She did not think she could move a muscle.
She shivered unconsciously in her chair. She felt so exposed, she didn’t want to be there anymore. She pulled herself off of it in slow deliberate motions and inched her way to the corner of the room. She pulled her knees to her chin, and hugged them tightly. Her world was breaking up.
Despite everything, she longed for sleep. She couldn’t stop yawning.
The door opened up, and a man she had never seen before walked in. He held a tray with a blanket tossed over one arm. “Coffee?” he asked.
Therese struggled to her feet. “Yes. Yes, please,” she replied. She needed caffeine desperately and to never sleep again. She rubbed her eyes as the man poured her a mug out of a thermos.
“Sugar or cream, Miss Evans?” he asked, unfailingly polite.
“No, thank you,” Therese responded, matching his tone. She thought of her dad, how her mom and dad would drink coffee in the morning over the newspaper, the rare times Dad was there. She thought of them trading newspaper sections, playfully competing to see who could finish his or her section first.
She looked up suddenly as the man handed her the mug. “You guys never asked about my mom. Why?”
He faltered, but said nothing. Therese’s heart was pounding. She set the mug down carefully to avoid spilling it. “Has something happened to her?”
“I’m going to leave this blanket and the rest of the coffee with you, Miss Evans, if you need it,” he replied, as if not hearing her.
“Something has happened to her. Why won’t you tell me?” she asked with increasing desperation. The man ignored her and exited quickly. Her head was thrumming. Some small part of her was already adding her mother to the list: sixteen.
Therese turned to the mirror, and knocked on it. “Excuse me. Is anyone there? I want to know what happened to my mom.” She paced the room, exhaustion suddenly forgotten. Not her mom. She was the last living relative Therese had. No. She didn’t want this to happen.
She knocked on the mirror again and repeated her request.
The people who were trying to catch her before, whoever that Mathew Breckenridge person worked for, they would be the people that got her mother. Or at least a group of that type, as Agent Morgan had shown her several photographs. Maybe, if she found a way to reach those people, she could trade herself for her mother. Therese was as good as dead anyway.
She knocked on the glass. “My mother is the last person in my family. I should know if something has happened to her. If you guys won’t tell me anything, I am going to assume she’s being—“ Therese could not finish the sentence as her brain sent her horrifying visuals of all the possibilities: kidnapped, tortured, murdered.
She wanted to throw up again.
A man wearing a suit and tie threw open the door. He made a bee-line for Therese, grabbing her elbow.
“Who are you?” she asked. “What has happened to my mom?”
“It’s not safe for you here anymore, Therese. We are transporting you elsewhere,” he spoke quickly and was dragging her across the room as he said it.
“Wait, what about my mom?” she asked. “I don’t care about me.”
“Several good men are working on that, but you must come with me” he snapped, tugging her along. Something seemed strange, and Therese tried to place it. The man still hadn’t identified himself. He was rather demanding for an agent, never once using the word please. And he had called her Therese, not Miss Evans.
She looked up at him. His sunglasses blocked his eyes, but she could tell he had dark skin with a faint scar on his cheek. It was like in the picture Agent Morgan had shown her.
“You’re not an agent at all,” she gasped, attempting to tug herself away. “Get away from me!” She raised her voice loudly.
She didn’t see the needle enter her skin, but she felt a pinch on the arm that the man held. Immediately, her body went weak, her legs collapsed. She couldn’t even keep her eyelids open although she remained conscious. He tossed her over his shoulder wantonly. She heard voices, agents were coming to rescue her. But the man was ready.
The gunfire echoing from his weapon thudded in her chest. She could hear the agony and death as the man plowed forward. No guard seemed a match for this man. She couldn’t seem to comprehend what was happening, as if her brain had been paralyzed too. Shock, she thought as she listened to the death screams of men in terrible agony. She was in shock.
She was probably going to die sometime soon like the agents she heard crunching underfoot as the man strode onward. Heck, she would end up missing her math and biology finals too. So much for getting into Harvard for grad school.
A door opened and an alarm sounded. Hot air hit her like a wall. She was still down south, she knew that much. But she could not say for how long. She heard a car idling, into which she was shoved. She guessed the trunk as she her a lid click afterwards. The car kicked forward.
She was officially no longer in the hands of the US government, drugged and in the back of a car of a man she had just heard murder several. Her mind finally seemed to catch up. Her heart began to thud wildly. These people didn’t just want to kill her, it seemed, or else they would’ve done it already. They wanted to do something with her.
She wanted to be able to move, to do something. She couldn’t. She felt helpless.
The hot car, her burgeoning hunger, her absolute exhaustion, her growing thirst, and the numbness spreading across the arm she lay on did not help pass time in the car. However, she the poison was wearing off. She could flutter her eyelids. She could see the darkness of the trunk she was in. She could see the latch keeping her there.
She felt the car grind to a halt. The hatch opened, and she saw different men in masks with some sort of cement ceiling overhead. She attempted to make some noise before they duct taped her mouth and threw a bag over her head. Her wrists were duct taped together as well as she began to acquire more mobility. She kicked at her attackers, but they seemed unaffected. They were dragging her somewhere.
She was thrust into a chair, and duct taped to it. She began to breathe quickly. She was trapped. She knew her death was not their primary motivation, and she knew she probably did not want to give them what they wanted. Nothing good could come of this.
The bag was pulled off her head.
The light was so bright, she repulsed against it, tilting the chair she was in backwards. She could not see anything.
The duct tape was savagely ripped from her lips and a photo was thrust in front of her face. Therese blinked, trying to adjust to the light. A young, haughty woman stared back at her. She had a prominent nose, but she was beautiful and lavishly dressed.
“Her name is Luisa Ricardo,” a voice said from beyond the light. “You are going to kill her.”
“I can’t,” Therese replied automatically. Her heart was racing. They were asking her to murder. She didn’t want to. She didn’t think she could control her dreams. She didn’t want to have them.
“There is much evidence to the contrary.”
“I don’t mean to. I don’t know how,” she supplicated.
“Perhaps this can offer a stimulus?” the voice asked.
“No, please no!” Therese’s mother begged. A blood-curdling scream followed, and the man clicked off what Therese now realized to be a recording.
Therese’s stomach dropped, and she felt sick. She could not think. She could not attempt to fathom the pain behind those words. She could not think what her mother had been through because of her.
“You don’t want my mother. You want me. Please, let her go,” her voice came out hollow. She felt drained.
“Something may be arranged if you do as you are bidden. Or else we’ll play with Mommy again.” The sadism behind these words sent shivers down
“The girls that die are my friends. I don’t mean to kill them. I don’t know how I do. I don’t even know if I do. I don’t think about them anymore that night before I go to bed than I do before. Please, you have to believe me. Don’t hurt my mom,” everything inside her was tightening as she was faced with a wall of bad choices. Nothing she could do would end well. She felt her breathing quicken. She was probably hyperventilating. As she spoke the last words, emotion cut deeply into them, almost rendering them incomprehensible.
The voice didn’t speak for a disconcertingly long time. Therese thought she might throw up, or cry, or faint, or perhaps all three. They had her mom. They were torturing her. They wanted her to kill. And she didn’t even know who they were.
“We’re going to allow you one chance to try. We won’t hurt Mommy if you do as you’re told, but if you don’t, Mommy and I are going to have some fun.”
“I, I can’t. I told you I can’t. Please, I can’t,” Therese’s voice was weak. She wanted to run and hide. She hated the light, and the voice, and everything. Why couldn’t have they just wanted to kill her?
“Tsk, tsk, is that how the Little Engine made it up the mountain? Lucky for you, we can provide some inspiration some inspiration.”
A television was wheeled in front of her and someone clamped headphones across her ears. The girl, Luisa Ricardo, filled the screen. She was walking around in a city with a small dog. She heard her voice, a high girlish thing, as she yapped on her cellphone aimlessly.
“Vi los vestidos bonitisimos,” Luisa began loudly in Therese’s ear. The bombardment of sensation rattled Therese. She tried to look away from the bright screen and loosen the headphones from her ears. Her head was restrained by something she couldn’t see, directly her eyesight only towards the screen.
She saw the haughty young woman tanning at the beach, speaking to a younger friend on her cell phone. Rapid Spanish was filling her ears very loudly. She was just a silly girl; Therese did not want to hurt her. She shut her eyes and tried to pretend she was somewhere else. Amidst the all-encompassing stimulus, Therese could not think, not of her mother, not of her captors. She just wanted to escape.
However, she felt as if something grabbed her eyelids, forcing them open.
There was no escape. All that could exist in her mind was Luisa Ricardo. The girl was rich, vain, and puerile, but she was honest and kind. She loved her dog and her sister, almost as much as she loved designer clothes. Luisa was vain because her parents thought her stupid, but they had always called her pretty. It was what she could use to make her parents proud. She wanted to become a designer some day, although her father thought that was silly. Slowly, the rapid Spanish was becoming understandable. The ebb and flow of words began to represent feelings and emotions.
Therese knew Luisa’s hopes, dreams, and fears. Therese knew her insecurities and her talents. Therese was slowly realizing, like in her dreams, she felt she was not merely observing Luisa but becoming her.
Therese tried to press her feet against the floor, to ground herself, but she could not reach. She wiggled in the chair, attempting to lean backwards, but it would not budge. Over the incessant, loud Spanish in her ear, she competed to gain prominence in her mind. She tensed every part of her body, trying to find something to hold onto.
My name is Therese Evans. She inwardly screamed.
“Mi perrito bonito es mi carino. Es mucho maravilloso.”
I am eighteen years old.
“Pero, papa, porque no? Quiero, no, necessito el coche.”
I live in Houst-
“Esmeralda y yo fuimos a la zapateria por los zapatitos negros.”
It was no use. Therese was Luisa. Her body relaxed as it came to the conclusion; it was so simple. A little while later, something pinched her arm. She was falling fast into sleep. She couldn’t stop it. She couldn’t help it.
“Yvette.” The call was cold and gentle against the stifling heat of Summer. It caressed her as gently as the sea breeze. It whispered sweet nothings with its mere existence, so kind and gentle. She drew towards it like a moth towards light. It was everything beyond everything.
“Yvette.” She stood up, leaving her inanimate, violet, body behind. It was unimportant. Her soul belonged to the voice. She was descending the stairs quickly, not stepping but gliding towards it, towards her destiny. She slid from her house easily, effortlessly. She was getting closer.
The craggy cliffs spread in front of her. She could see the enormous waves crashing, tumbling against the rock in some brave attempt to destroy them, but she could not hear them. She could only hear the voice. “Yvette.”
She was there on the edge. The voice was here. The meeting of the two sparked fireworks in her chest. But something was wrong, she realized as she stepped out to meet it across the sea. She was not Yvette.
Therese couldn’t breathe. She felt she was suffocating as she opened her eyes. She hadn’t killed Luisa. She had killed Luisa’s best friend, Esmeralda. She was younger than Luisa, and obsessed with painting. She was going to have an art show next month. Esmeralda was hoping to donate some of the money to a charity for underprivileged youth. She was so nervous though because her tutor ruthlessly critiqued her paintings, and her mother said they were about dumb things like birds, flowers, and light. Therese had killed her. She hadn’t even known her.
Now, they would torture Therese’s mom.
The light pouring down on her face highlighted her duress, as she could just make out the shadow of the man beyond it. She didn’t want to speak. She thought she might cry or pass out. She wanted to run away and tugged at the duct tape holding her.
“Well?” the figure asked.
Therese didn’t want to respond. She wiggled in her chair, trying to control her breathing and her emotions. She was a murderer of innocents. They would probably kill Luisa anyway now, and they would probably kill her mom. She didn’t want to think about it, about anything, anymore.
The figure grabbed her hair, forcing her to look at his shadowy image. “Did you kill Luisa Ricardo.”
“No,” Therese whispered. She felt her grip tighten on her scalp. She almost welcomed the pain, as it was at least directed at her. “I killed Esmeralda Hernandez.”
The chair she was sitting in was thrown down to the floor so that she smacked her head against the cement and landed heavily on her shoulder. She bit her tongue, and spat out the blood filling her mouth. The figure left, leaving Therese alone in the bright light. This seemed very inauspicious.
They were going to torture her mom, she was sure of it. Were they going to make her watch? Were they going to kill Therese’s mom? They would most likely kill Luisa too.
Death was surrounding Therese so completely; she wanted to run away from it. Her stomach twisted as she added up the death toll: eighteen, a person for every year of her life. She retched, but there was nothing in her stomach to vomit. Instead she felt tears beginning to edge from her eyes, and her breathing become more haggard. Eighteen. It was such a colossal term. Why couldn’t they just kill her instead? She didn’t want to live anymore, if that meant so many died. She hated her captors, that voice, and herself.
But hating herself did nothing.
She stopped for a moment in the puddle of self-hatred and self-pity she was sliding into. She had to think like her father had always told her.
She could remember, after she fell off her bike as she was learning to ride one, when tears were streaming down her cheeks, her father had leaned down to her at her eye level. “Tears don’t help anything, Therese. You must be strong. Now tell me, where did you go wrong?” He had always encouraged Therese to remain stoic in face of danger, fear, or pain. She would have to do that now. Where did she go wrong?
She had to think logically. Maybe some answer would reveal itself.
She sniffed loudly, trying to rein in her emotions, and laid out the facts. When she dreamed, people, specifically young women and girls, died. They committed some form of suicide after a mysterious voice was upset that they were not Yvette. She didn’t know how or why, but they did. She had very bad control, if any, over who was targeted too, it would seem. It was someone she at least had heard of and seen, although not necessarily met, judging by Esmeralda. It wasn’t the person she was thinking of most either.
She paused. That gave her nothing, and her mind filled with the images of those she had been while they died. The horror of Tessie had not been extinguished by the passing years. Maybe if she had admitted to the police, instead of living in denial, none of this would’ve happened. It had been so much easier to dismiss it as coincidence or a strange form of connection rather than the cause lying in herself. But time had shown it not to be the truth. The wave of self-loathing washed over her again.
Yes, she was a horrible, horrible person, but lamenting upon that point would help no one. She got back to the matter at hand. The voice sounded like her father, but her father was one hundred percent dead. She felt his corpse, and she saw him buried. He had died right before this happened. Could his death be related to the girls’ suicides and Therese? Nineteen, Therese counted.
This was all very mystical; could he be murdering girls from beyond the grave? But that couldn’t be because he wouldn’t even kill spiders. Maybe he had an evil twin.
This was ridiculous, she realized, but the whole situation was. What kind of messed up teenager dreams girls dead? For some odd reason, she found the idea humorous. A laugh like a cough arose in her throat at not only the initial idea, but at the fact she found it funny. It was all too strange, but her humor died as spontaneously as it appeared. She got back to her task.
There was the “Yvette” thing too. She’d never met an Yvette. It sounded French though. Why would the voice be so obsessed about a French girl? Therese’s name was sorta French too. Was there a connection there? As long as she was on the evil twin hypothesis, did she have an evil twin named Yvette? If not, how did Therese fit in to all of this? Why should she cause these pseudo-suicides? What was this voice to her? How could she even see everything, scientifically?
She pondered these things for a long time, alone in the light.
Her ruminations, which had momentarily relieved the intense pressure of guilt upon her, evaporated as she heard a figure approach. They were going to kill her mom. They would make her watch. Maybe they would make her do it, just for kicks.
Her chair was pulled roughly upright as she realized her arm had long since fallen asleep. The figure pulled her chin roughly forward and brought his face very close to hers. Beyond black sunglasses, she could see no eyes, no humanity. His pale skin seemed otherworldly.
He stared at her, examining her closely for several long seconds as Therese squirmed uncomfortably. However, she did not break his gaze. Something told her it was important to look back.
“Upon hearing of Esmeralda's death, Luisa Ricardo jumped off the very same cliff. Their fathers, who work closely together, are very upset.” He spoke the words without intonation, which seemed miles away from the sadistic man who had spoken to her before. Happiness and grief coincided as Therese realized that maybe since Luisa died, her mother wouldn’t.
“You are either smarter than you look or extremely lucky.” He didn’t let go of her chin, but seemed intent on staring at her until he figured which it was. Therese could feel his distrust of her and his unease that she may have somehow outsmarted him and was trying to con him.
“Could I see my mom?” Therese hesitantly asked. She threw out all empathy she could, hoping somehow the man would humanize just enough to allow the request. The emotion she had been repressing seemed to roil forth underneath her skin, just below the surface. For a moment, she didn’t fight it, too focused on attempting to find the man’s endemic goodness, as surely all must have even if they repressed it.
He stared at her a moment longer, but seemed to recoil from Therese, quickly dropping her chin. His face dropped out of the light, beyond which she could see.
She heard a knife open, and flinched when he drew nearer from behind her. However, he did not hurt her. Instead, he cut the duct tape. When he spoke, his voice was strange, softer. “You will see your mother.”