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Every day I took the same path home from school. It was through the woods and crossed over the only highway out of town. My parents kept telling me not to go near there because lately people had been going missing. “A pretty young girl like you shouldn’t be out there alone, Edith,” my father said. But, of course, I didn’t listen.
Why didn’t I listen?
One afternoon I was trudging along, scanning the trees and making sure I was really alone. There wasn’t a soul around, just me and the wind whistling through the leaves. But that all changed by the time I reached the highway.
I had to climb over a metal railing in order to cross the road, and the moment my feet hit the pavement a white company van pulled over and asked me for help. Farm Fresh Feed, the decal on the side said.
“Which way is the general store?” the big, burly man asked. I told him it was a mile down the road. The last place to get gas for over four hundred kilometers. “Not many people around these parts, eh?” he asked.
The man, Lowell, apparently, was supposed to be delivering animal feed to one of the local farms. He told me I shouldn’t be walking by myself, considering the number of people that had been mysteriously disappearing in the last few weeks. Lowell said he was worried for me, and then offered me a ride home.
Why did I take it?
When I climbed into the passenger seat it smelled of old sweat and musty cigarettes. I stuffed my backpack down by my feet among the many fast food wrappers and tried to get comfortable for the ten-minute drive.
I glanced around the van and then realized what I had gotten myself into. Beside the handbrake lever was a roll of duct tape, and just behind his seat was a bundle of rope. “To secure the packages,” he assured me, even though a word hadn’t passed my lips.
“Turn left here,” I said as we approached the only paved road back to town.
“Nah,” Lowell said, brushing it off, “I know a shortcut.”
Instead, he took a right down a long dirt road. The way he smiled when I looked at him made my stomach churn. I knew what was coming, but there was no way to stop it. I clutched my backpack tightly in my hands and closed my eyes.
My parents told me not to come out here anymore, but I didn’t listen.
Lowell was going on and on about his family of three. A wife, Doreen, and two young boys. He knew every word to the country songs that played on the radio, and the shortcut did, in fact, turn out to be a shortcut.
You see, that’s the problem with serial killers. They look like normal people on the outside, but you never know what’s lurking just beneath the surface.
When we pulled up to the address I had given him, he shifted the van into park and then waited for me to get out. “Your folks live in the middle of nowhere,” he said with a sweet smile.
“Oh, I know, not many people come down this way.”
“You should take the bus from now on, little lady. Never know who might be wandering through the woods.”
“Oh, I know,” I said as I reached into my backpack and clutched the cold handle of the knife. I tried to stop myself, I really did.
But he had beautiful skin, and I couldn’t wait to try it on.