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THE DEAD PLACE

Prologue

She would be dead in less than a day. This knowledge gave him power and he was content to watch her, as he’d watched her for weeks, knowing that everything she did that day would be her last. Like most pleasures, the joy in killing was heightened by the delay.

He followed her as she wound her way to the office down tree-lined streets and through the center of town. An artists’ seaside refuge growing mainstream. A Starbucks next to the old gallery, a Talbots edging out the dusty five-and-dime. Old money rubbing shoulders with new. He wedged his forgettable sedan between a boxy Volvo and a new Mercedes and watched her laughing with a friend over lunch at the newest little bistro on main street. She shook her head at the metal dessert cart, smiling regretfully at the young waiter, fighting the eternal battle to lose weight.  It was her last chance for the chocolate cheesecake. She should have said yes.

She didn’t notice him when she strolled back to the office, pausing to chat with people she passed on the way. Everyone noticed her. Kisses exchanged in the air, flirty little waves. Nobody noticed him.

If anyone saw him walking half-a-block behind her, they wouldn’t remember. He had a gift for becoming invisible. Later, after he’d killed her, the town would ask who had done it and why, but no one would remember the man trailing behind.

Even if they did, he’d mastered the art of appearing harmless. A handsome face. A charming manner. No threat to anyone. Don’t be afraid.