Exposure - By Brandilyn Collins Page 0,1

the old house’s wood with the chicken baked for supper. For once Kaycee had eaten a regular meal.

As the tension in her shoulders unwound, Kaycee breathed a prayer for Hannah. It wasn’t fair to lose your mother at that young age. But to see your father remarry within months, bringing a new mom with a daughter of her own into the house — Kaycee could strangle the man, even as she’d assured Hannah, “You can’t leave your dad; he loves you.”

“Yeah, like he loved Mom,” Hannah sobbed. “She might as well have been a dog that died. Just go out and get another one.”

Kaycee sighed. Families were so hard. But so was not having one.

Someday. At thirty, she still had time.

Kaycee stepped away from the counter — and heard a click. A flash lit the room.

Her head snapped up, her gaze cutting to the round table across the wide kitchen. A camera sat upon it.

Where had that come from?

It had taken a picture. All by itself.

She stared at the camera, stunned. It was small and black. Looked like a digital point-and-shoot. She had one of those. Only hers was silver. And bigger. And the last time she saw the thing it was in its case, sitting in the bottom drawer of her desk.

The camera’s lens stuck out. Aimed at her. It had taken a picture of her.

Kaycee looked around wildly, her paranoia like a thousand skittering insects across her back. Who had done this? Somebody could be watching her by remote through that lens right now.

No. The thought was too petrifying. And far-fetched. Someone was just pulling a joke.

But who would do that? And how would they get into her house? She hadn’t given a key to anyone.

Kaycee edged toward the table sideways, palms up, as if the camera might explode in her face. Dark imaginings filled her head. Somewhere in a shadowy room sat a man, eyes glued to a monitor, chuckling at her terror as she approached.

Who was he? What group was he a part of? What did they want?

Kaycee, stop it. There’s a rational explanation . . .

Her thigh grazed the table. The camera sat no higher than that part of her body. Did it have a wide enough lens to include her face when it took the picture?

She extended a trembling arm and knocked the camera ninety degrees. There. Now they couldn’t see her.

Shallow-breathing, she leaned over to look down at the black rectangle. Its “on” light glowed golden.

What other pictures had it taken? Had they gone around her house, photographing every room?

Nobody was here. It’s a joke, just a joke.

Kaycee reached out a tentative hand, drew it back. Reached out again. On the third try she picked up the camera.

She flipped it around and studied its controls on the back. Turned a dial to the “view” mode. A picture of herself filled the screen — with her head cropped off. Kaycee saw only her wiry body, the loose-fitting jeans, and three-quarter-sleeve purple top. So much for a wide lens.

Her finger hesitated over the back arrow button, then pressed.

Onto the screen jumped the close-up gruesome face of a dead man. Eyes half open, dark red holes in his jaw and forehead. Blood matted his hair. Printed in bold in the bottom left corner of the picture, across his neck: WE SEE YOU.

Kaycee dropped the camera and screamed.


Hannah Parksley slumped on her bed, knees pulled up to her chin. Her eyes burned, her throat ached, and her insides felt empty. Just dead. She should have begged Kaycee harder to go live with her. Hannah knew she wanted to say yes. Kaycee was always there for her. But tonight while Hannah poured out her heart to Kaycee behind the closed door of her bedroom, where was her own father? Out in the den with Gail, his new wife, and Gail’s twelve-year-old daughter, Becky. Watching TV.

Fresh tears filled Hannah’s eyes. How could she stay in this house another night?

Sniffing, she picked a piece of lint off her pink bedspread and dropped it onto the carpet.

A little over a year ago Hannah’s mom would have been putting her to bed right now, even though she was weak from fighting cancer. That was another lifetime.

Hannah didn’t even know who she was anymore.

Pushing off her bed, she crossed to her dresser and picked up the gold-framed picture of her mom. It had been taken two years ago, when her mother was healthy and normal. When she still had her shiny brown hair