It has come to my attention that my serialized story is "confusing". Interestingly enough, the people who have told me this are very unfamiliar with the mystery/thriller genre, so it could be they just don't know what to expect out of this type of story. However, it could also be because of the way the story is segmented and read in chapters several weeks apart. So, for your reading pleasure, please find the serialized story below, in its entirity. I will try to do this every few chapters for the ease of my readers. Also, please feel free to leave comments here, because in order to continue the story, I need your input! Chapter 1
They were in a small, damp place, as far as they could tell. It was so dark, they couldn’t be sure. But their hands were within the reach of the walls on every side. They wanted to speak, to reassure one another that they would get out in time, but they already felt their lungs constricting in the effort to breathe. The darkness was so complete, she didn’t notice he had fainted. But then she felt him slump next to her and she knew there was no time left
But there was. Minutes, hours, days, she couldn’t be sure. Time became something only for people with enough air to breathe. It was only for those with purpose. To her, time had no measure. Sometimes she felt sick, like the motion was upsetting her stomach. She wanted to sit, to lie down, to sleep, but there was only room to lean. And she was supporting him, trying to make him comfortable, aching for him. Or was the ache just there from the effort to breathe? But she knew it ran deeper than a physical need. Her thoughts drifted to him, as they had done so often in the past. But now it was different. It was urgent. Not just a longing, it was desperation. She was crying, for him, for all she’d lost. Her tongue felt for the tears on her cheek. She just needed to taste, to wet her dry, cracked lips. And then she felt it. The dull thud, and then falling. The movement had stopped
When she awoke, she was on something so soft that she didn’t want to open her eyes and get up. She was enveloped in comfort and so at ease. But suddenly it all came back as she realized her eyes were already open. It was just dark, so dark, and lonely. She reached out, feeling around for him, but instead she felt the edge of the bed, then the hard, dark, and cool floor of the cave. Then she remembered the falling, and him, and how he had slumped over, how he had died. The weeping did not begin as she had expected it to; she was too numb.
Suddenly, she felt a hand on her shoulder, and she impulsively jabbed her elbow backwards, into her attacker’s stomach. She felt him double over and knew he was not expecting her to have any strength left in her. She must fight, because he would kill her anyway. Before the man could reach for her again, she had stumbled off the bed and crawled across the floor of the cave. In the short time she had been aware but not able to see, her other senses had awoken and she heard the slightest trickle of water. This could mean one of two things: either it was raining out and the area could soon be flooded, or there was a small stream somewhere relatively close, that she could follow and possibly find a way out. She prayed for the latter, gathered all her strength, and stood, ready to feel her way towards the sound
The whispered name made her freeze in terror. “Chloe, don’t run from me. I will find you.” He was still whispering, but he could have been screaming for the way it made her heart race. “Chloe, don’t you know me? You loved me once, come to me, my clover.” The whispered words, the pet name… her terror rose as she recognized her attacker. “Aha. I see you know me now. I see that you remember our last visit together. Come back, help me. Let’s work together."
She felt her strength melt away. The fear was too much, the memories clouded her mind, and she could no longer hear the water.
"Chloe. Did you know I’ve always loved your name?” he had whispered in her ear. She could not believe he was this close, as she lay there, pouring out her heart. “I thought of you today after I had mowed my lawn and found this four-leafed clover in my hair. What good luck! I thought. I must take some chances today because luck is on my side. And now, here I am with you. What could be luckier than that?”
She had stared at him in disbelief. What was he saying? Why was he still so close, even after she had jumped up and moved away?
"You know he doesn’t deserve you, this boy you talk about. He doesn’t realize what a gem you are. Hahaha,” his laugh had sounded maniacal. “Gem,” he had repeated.
She had known it was time to go, to get away from him. Looking into his eyes, she had realized he was mad. He was looking at her with desire, but she knew it was not for her body. She had made a move towards the door, but he had grabbed her arm, and forced her to the floor. With her arm pinned behind her back and she on her stomach, she struggled against him, but he was on top of her, grabbing for her other arm to tie them up.
“First them. Then him. Then it. Do you understand me, my clover?” he had whispered in her ear.
No, not them, please not them, she had thought. But then she had known no more.
Now she felt her wrists and realized why they were so sore and swollen. She wondered in terror if he had gotten to her parents, too, since he had already killed him. And now, he was after it, and she alone held the key.
“Frankly, I am amazed you two made it out alive, ma’am,” the police officer told her, as she lay in the hospital bed. Her husband lay next to her, still with his oxygen mask covering his face. But she saw his eys, and they mirrored the fear she felt.
“You have to understand. This wasn’t an accident. There’s someone out there, he’s after us, he’s after,” her voice cracked with the depth of her emotion. “He’s after our daughter,” she finally managed. Her eyes were filled with tears, and she felt helpless.
“Yes, so you’ve said. We have made some preliminary inquiries, but your daughter cannot be assumed a missing person until at least 24 hours have passed with no word of her. And you said yourself that you saw her this morning.”
“But that was before the fire!” She was yelling at him now, trying to convey her fear, trying to make him understand it was a matter of life and death. And yet, how much could she tell him without putting more lives in danger?
“I realize that, but there is no evidence that the fire was due to arson. At this point, it appears to have started as a simple kitchen fire."
“But we were upstairs, unpacking from our vacation! Why would we have put any of the appliances on just after getting home?"
“You’re upset. Nurse!” he called to the station outside their door. “This woman needs a sedative.” He turned back to look at her. “I will get back to you as soon as I have more details. In the meantime, get some rest. You have some pretty nasty burns there. Don’t do anything that will inhibit your body’s healing processes."
She would have followed, despite the burns and the pain in her chest. She needed him to understand that Chloe was in danger. And she knew why. That doctor of Chloe’s had been too interested in their family’s history, too interested for his own good. And now, because of Chloe’s own interest in the history, as well as her knowledge of speleology, would make her a prime target. She would have followed, but her legs had not worked for years.
It had only been a week since she’d shared the whole story with her husband. She had been afraid of the greed she had seen in his eyes. But he needed to know, especially after that man came poking around. And now he understood the gravity of the situation. She looked at him and was shocked to see him out of bed, dressed.
"I’m going to look for her. We know where she is and I’m the only one who can help her.”
She saw the intensity in his eyes, and for a brief moment, she wondered if it was for fear of his daughter, or something else. As she grew sleepy, she saw Chloe, shrouded in darkness. And she knew if anyone was going to have to help her daughter, it would have to be Chloe herself.