The Killing League - By Dani Amore


The forest glowed in the dark, faint streams of moonlight ignited patches of steamy fog. The land seemed angry, seething in the cool of the night.

Nicole Candela’s breath came much faster than the pulsating night breeze. Her eyes, big and blue, were wide with terror. Her hair was wet and wild, matted down in great jagged strips. Blood streaked her cheeks, forcing her beauty to teasingly appear through distinct slashes.

“One way or another—” a voice sang from behind her.

Nicole’s breath caught in her throat. But her feet carried on. Running. Escaping. Desperately trying to put distance between life ahead and the nightmare behind.

“I’m gonna find ya—” the voice continued.

Nicole turned and ran deeper into the forest. A steel cuff on her left ankle bit into the flesh of her leg, its edges already bloody.

“…I’m gonna get ya get ya get ya get ya—” the voice taunted her from behind.

Nicole’s feet flew as fast as her remaining energy could propel them.

From deep within her chest came a great, wracking moan.

Nicole ran, but her breath went faster than her legs. They felt like nothing, like they were a part of someone else’s body. She saw the forest floor rise and fall before her. It was like being a captive passenger on a ship, unable to change her view of the horizon as it surged up and down in the distance.

Her feet tangled and she fell. The ground banged into her chest, hard and unmoving. With a low, unnatural moan emerging from her throat, she managed to get back on her feet.

Nicole started off toward the clearing ahead, her run looking more like a stagger. Hope flickered across her face. Maybe on the other side of the clearing there would be a road or a neighboring cabin. Someone. Anyone. She knew it was that blind hope, the refusal to give up, that allowed her to still be alive.

She lowered her head, building her courage for one more charge.

Five yards from the clearing, she tripped over a wire strung across the dim path. She heard a quick high whistle and then a crude punji stick lashed out and buried itself into her thigh with a soft thud.

“…ooh, that had to hurt!” the voice from behind her said, carried with a triumphant tone that reverberated around the clearing.

Nicole screamed and fell to the ground. She tried to crawl, pulling the ground apart, her nails digging trenches in the soft earth.

She got as far as the edge of the clearing.

A man appeared at the other end of the forest opening. He had dark, curly hair. Jeans. Chuck Taylor tennis shoes and a dark blue hooded sweatshirt. Nicole thought for a moment that he looked like a high school kid on his way home from track practice. But the large, gleaming knife in his hand shattered the image. She stared at his plain face, into the eyes of insanity and violence.

“You did so well, Nicole,” he said, his voice soft and gentle.

Nicole sobbed in response.

“The way you broke out of my improvised holding cell was really quite ingenious,” he said. His voice was high-pitched, almost girlish, but calm and controlled, as if he had been out on a leisurely stroll. “I’ll have to do a little remodeling now, before my next guest arrives. But that shouldn’t be a problem, I’m pretty handy.”

Nicole thought about her escape. It had been a miracle really. After hours pulling and twisting in her leather restraints, she had dislocated her shoulder and been able to perform an agonizing escape from her bonds.

“Why?” Nicole said. She knew she was going to die. She realized it with a sickness that invaded every pore of her body. But even if she couldn’t stop it, maybe she could understand it.

The man walked closer to her, squatted down in front of her, but far enough away to avoid any sudden attack.

“Why you?” he said. Nicole was close enough to see the slight sheen of sweat on his pale, pasty skin. So maybe he had exerted himself a little bit. She felt a small surge of pride. Yeah, he might kill her, but at least she’d fought.

“You were blessed with an unfortunate DNA sequence, honey,” he said. “It gave you long blonde hair, big blue eyes, and the kind of body that, well, makes my privates all tingly.”

Nicole looked into his eyes. There was nothing there. No feeling. No soul. Nothing.

And for the first time, she wasn’t afraid.

He sensed it, too, because with no warning and incredible speed, he