Last Girls Alive (Detective Katie Scott #4) - Jennifer Chase


“Hurry,” Candace whispered urgently as she disappeared down the wooden staircase and into the pitch-black basement.

“Wait,” was Tanis’s breathless reply as she slowed to glance behind her. In just a flimsy yellow nightgown, the damp air from below chilled her bare arms and feet. She shuddered.

The padlock Candace had picked open swung precariously from the latch, ready to drop and awake the rest of the sleeping house. This was a bad idea.

“C’mon,” urged Candace from somewhere down in the abyss. “Hurry up!”

They were going to get caught.

The consequences would be merciless.

Shifting her weight on the wooden landing, Tanis pushed herself onward and pressed her foot onto the first wooden step. And then another. Each footstep creaked beneath her slight weight. She clutched the loose railing and clumsily made her way through the dark until her feet touched cold cement.

Hands fisted at her sides in fear, she frantically blinked her eyes, straining to see through the darkness—to the unknown. It left her powerless. There had been no time to find a flashlight, but it would only capture unwanted attention anyway.

A hand grabbed her arm.

“C’mon, we’ve got to go now.”

Candace took Tanis’s hand and pulled her toward the end of the basement and around a sharp corner to where a dim light from outside allowed her eyes to begin to focus.

The girls moved as fast as they dared through the maze beneath the old house.

Tanis could only see Candace’s long hair flicking from side to side as they ran. At one point, she closed her eyes and relied on her friend’s strong will and instinct to get them to safety.

They stopped abruptly at a storm door, the only thing standing between them and freedom. Panting in the darkness, a creak from upstairs lifted both their heads in fear—someone was awake.

Candace lunged forward and grabbed the large bolt locking the door with both hands and pulled. It gave way with a loud clunking sound, and she pushed the bulky door open to reveal the half-moon outside.

Cool air whipped inside, wrapping itself around Tanis’s shivering body as she watched her friend take the final two steps—to a new life.

With the moon behind her, and with her arms outstretched in joy, Candace resembled an angel in her white cotton nightgown, her dark hair blowing all around her. “C’mon,” she urged again.

Tanis froze. It was as if her feet were cemented to the basement floor. Doubts about running away from the foster home plagued her mind.

They would never stop searching for them—ever.

She and Candace knew too much about what went on at Elm Hill.

How would they survive without any money?

She realized that she just couldn’t do it—not now, not like this. She would soon be eighteen and then things would be different—the home would no longer be her prison. She would be legally free. No one would care anymore.

“What are you waiting for? This is our chance.”

“I can’t… I can’t do it. It’s just another year,” said Tanis. “Not even that long.”

“No, we’re doing this together. We have each other,” said Candace adamantly, shaking her head. “I’m not going to leave you here. We escape together.”

“You have to go. You can’t stay…”

Candace ran to the side of the house and retrieved a duffel bag, which had been carefully packed and stashed for their escape. Unzipping the top, she pulled on a pair of jeans and slipped on a pink sweater. It was her favorite color, always matched to her nail polish.

“Hurry.” Tanis changed her tone. She wanted her best friend to escape the abuse of the home—the authority and focus was always more concentrated on her anyway. Tanis knew that she could endure another ten and half months, but Candace couldn’t.


“Yes, hurry. I can help misdirect the she-beast and the cops. You’ll be safe.” Tanis heard the rustle of branches in the distance and looked toward the edge of the property, near the hiking trail, and saw the outline of a man. She had never met Ray, had only seen him from a distance, but he was their ticket out of here. At least, that was how Candace had described him. “Go. We’ll meet back in ten months and three days at our secret spot. I promise.”

“I will come back for you.” Candace’s voice faltered. It was clear she wanted to stay, but as she looked to the south she saw Ray waiting; that was all she needed to push forward.

Tears welled up in Tanis’s eyes. She knew that she’d made the right decision to stay behind,