Illustrations by LunA.
6. FALL FROM GRACE"Oh, right," he said, digging out his wallet. "How much?"
"Depends what you wanna do. What are ya into?" she asked innocently.
Sam cleared his throat. "Well, I was hoping I could- lick your legs up and down..." He stared up at Grace expectantly. She didn't react. "...lay on the floor while you walk on top of me..."
"...stick your feet in my mouth and wiggle your toes..."
"Uh huh," she said, still smiling.
"...let me jack off into your panties..."
Grace nodded again.
"...then you put the panties on and walk around the room in them..."
"Anything else?" she asked.
"...and then stick your tongue in my asshole."
Grace cracked a smile, impressed by his imaginative request. Sam looked visibly relieved she hadn't run from the room screaming.
"So how much would that be?" he asked, fidgeting.
"I'd say, oh, two fifty ought to do it." She batted her eyelashes, making him blush.
"Er, okay." He opened his wallet and handed her three Benjamins. Grace stuffed them into her tube top. While he waited for his change, Grace instead produced from her tube top a badge.
"Not your night, sweetie. You're under arrest."
Sam's face sank. "Ah, shit." He got up from his bed and hurried over towards his desk.
"Come on, let's take a walk," Grace said, beckoning him towards her.
He reached into the top drawer of his desk and produced a .38, and aimed it at Grace. She took a step back.
"Easy there, cowboy. All you've got is a solicitation charge. No need to turn this into a felony."
"Shut up, you lying bitch! Get on your knees!"
Grace's face sank.
"You really want to kill a police officer? There's a team of cops watching this house right now."
Sam shook his head. "I can't go to jail. Get on your knees."
Grace's heart raced. No john she'd busted had ever been this desperate to resist an arrest. A thought occurred to her that Sam had skeletons in his closet he did not want discovered.
"All right, I'm getting on my knees," Grace said. She readied herself, eyeing the open door that was only a few feet to her right. She dragged her right foot behind her, and as she slunk to a kneel, she bolted, hurrying out the door before Sam could react.
"Bitch!" he screamed, and fired at her. The bullet whizzed past her head as she sprinted stocking-footed down the hallway, leaving her heels behind. Sam ran after her, firing his gun haphazardly as she ducked and scurried down the stairway.
"Get back here, bitch!" he screamed. Panicking, he ran after her, not bothering to shoot as he stumbled down the stairs in pursuit.
Grace reached the base of the stairway and realized that if she went for the front door she would be an easy target when Sam came down the stairs. Grace instead bolted around the corner and headed for the back door. She heard Sam's footsteps pounding down the stairway while she raced for the exit.
Fiddling with the doorknob, Grace quickly twisted it open, and scampered down the back steps into the back alley. She'd only made it a few steps when Sam was on her, and grabbed her by her hair.
"No, please! I have a fiancé!" Grace cried, while Sam held his gun to her head.
"Get in the van," he hissed.
To her shock, a white windowless van was indeed parked nearby. Sam pushed her towards it and unlocked the back hatch.
As if the thought of being dragged away in a van wasn't terrifying enough, Grace was shocked to find the van filled with cattle prods, leather restraints, and devices for sexual torture. Sam wrestled Grace inside. As she struggled to break free, he took something hanging from the van's wall and dropped it next to her. Grace turned to see it was a black leather spiked collar.
"Put it on," he ordered.
Grace examined the collar, and gasped at the sharp, bloodstained metal spikes that lined the inside. She recognized the shape of those spikes, the marks that had been found on the necks of nearly a dozen murdered young women over the past fifteen years.
"Oh my God," Grace exclaimed. "You're the San Amaury Slasher."
"Nice to meet you," Sam said. "Now put it on."
Trembling, Grace took the collar and wrapped it around her neck. She didn't lock it closed, but already she could feel the sharp spikes poking her neck.
"Lock it shut," he ordered.
Grace turned onto her back and looked up at Sam, who stood over her with his gun to her head. She could see a dildo sporting razor sharp spikes mounted on the wall behind him, but it was just out of her reach. But she did have a weapon of her own. The switchblade, the one her partner had given her, was strapped to her inner thigh. Benny had given it to her before her very first undercover assignment.
Carefully, Grace lifted her skirt, and grabbed the blade. She lay between his legs; if she were quick, she only needed to thrust upwards, and she could sink the blade right in his scrotum.
"Do it," he demanded. "Lock the collar closed."
"Okay," she said.
With one quick thrust, she swung the blade upwards. If she'd been a little faster, just by a second, Grace was certain she could have landed the blade directly into his balls. But she hadn't been. He'd seen what she was trying to do, and he'd grabbed her wrist and twisted the blade from her grasp before she could react.
"Too slow," he teased, taking the blade from her. Grace grunted, trying to reacquire the blade, but he pulled it out of her reach.
Sam turned to face Officer Benny Mitchel and Detective Joe Pratt as they rounded the corner into the alley and faced him with their guns drawn. Sam immediately opened fire, hitting Benny square in the chest. The bullet bounced off his vest, only for Sam's second bullet to land just above his sternum. Benny fell flat on his back, and Joe jumped clear just in time to dodge Sam's third bullet.
"Benny!" Grace screamed.
Sam pulled Grace into a sitting position and knelt behind her, putting one arm around her neck and his gun to her temple when Joe edged back into view with his gun trained on Sam.
"One more step, she's dead!" Sam warned.
"Dwyer, you all right?" Joe asked.
"Give it up, there's no way out of this!" Joe shouted.
"Oh, I know," Sam said. "Just let me kill her. Let me kill one more bitch, and I'll give myself up. How about it?"
"Drop the gun or I drop you!" Joe shouted. "You've got three seconds. One! Two!"
Sam looked at Benny, choking on his own blood on the ground.
"I guess he'll have to do," he quipped. Sam dropped his gun and released Grace. He held his hands in the air.
"Get on the floor! Face down! Now!" Joe ordered.
Sam lay face down on the floor of the van, while Grace hopped out. As Joe read Sam his rights, Grace hurried to Benny's side.
"Benny, you hang in there! We'll get you an ambulance, you hear me? We'll get you-"
Grace awoke. Benny's dead eyes burned into her memory, just as they had in countless dreams before. She had to look around the room a bit to remind herself where she was. The bedroom of her grandparents' cottage. She took a deep breath, and waited for her pulse to return to normal. Turning over in bed, she saw Kayla was gone. Grace sat up with a start.
"Kayla?" she asked.
She looked to the floor. Bernie lay there untouched, but there was no sign of her daughter. Fearing she'd slept through her deadline, Grace jumped out of bed and hurried down the hallway, looking to the grandfather clock. It was ten minutes to midnight. She breathed a sigh of relief.
"Kayla?" she repeated. She knew the girl was likely sleepwalking, but the discomfort was all the same. Hurrying from room to room, Grace checked every closet and under every piece of furniture.
"KAYLA!" she screamed. She glanced out the back window, and to her surprise, she found her. The young girl stood at the edge of the cliff, staring off at the ocean. Grace hurried towards the back door.
She heard Lukas' voice.
Stay away from her. Or I will make her jump.
Grace caught a glimpse of the hallway mirror. Balko's face materialized in the mirror, and stared at her.
The time has come, Grace. You will come to me, now.
Grace backed away, but Balko's leering visage stared right at her.
Now, Grace. You haven't much time.
Balko's face dissipated, and Grace's reflection appeared in his place. She peered out the back window again, and saw Kayla stood firmly in place. Balko no doubt had the power to make her jump if he wished.
Grace picked up one of the wooden stakes. She could bring it with her, and likely fail to get it anywhere near Balko before he sent Kayla over the cliff's edge. Sobbing, Grace snapped the stake in two, tossing the pieces to the floor. She slumped to the floor herself, and buried her face in her hands.
As she cried silently to herself, the grandfather clock ticked on, each click of the old timepiece a reminder of where she needed to be.
"Why?" she cried softly. "Why, why why?"
The clock did not answer. It ticked on, and Grace knew that was the only answer she would get. She pulled herself to her feet, and took off her clothes.
* * * * *
She opened the front door, and stepped out onto the porch. The cool night air chilled her naked body as she stepped barefoot across the creaky wooden slats and onto the grass. The grandfather clock struck midnight, and chimed, one gong after another, urging her to hurry.
She took one last look into the back yard, and saw Kayla hadn't moved. Balko likely used the same hypnotism spell he'd worked on Daniel Becket; Grace had never gotten Kayla to stand so still in her life.
After taking one last look at her catatonic daughter, Grace continued towards the dirt path that led down to the beach. A scant amount of moonlight provided just enough light to find her way. Not that Grace needed it, she and Nora had run down this path to go swimming countless times, enough that Grace could have found her way blindfolded.
She hurried along, wincing as her bare feet seemed to find every sharp twig and branch that lay along the path. The slope was steep near the end; Grace remembered how much she loved barreling down the hill and diving directly into the surf, but this time she controlled her pace, wanting to be ready for anything.
She arrived at the bottom, and warily stepped onto the sand. Lukas stood near the shore's edge, where a roaring bonfire had been prepared just out of the tide's reach. Daniel Becket sat on a fallen tree trunk several feet away, facing the fire. He was still motionless and catatonic. Lukas grinned as Grace approached.
"Grace! So pleased you were able to make it!" He held out his hand towards her. He was dressed in a fine suit and dress pants, though he was barefoot underneath. Reluctantly, Grace went to him, but looked at Daniel as she did.
"I'm sorry," she whispered to Daniel, a tear rolling down her cheek. "I tried. I tried."
If Lukas heard her, he pretended not to. He took her hand and ran his finger gently up her forearm, across the many self-inflicted scars, mementos, from long ago.
"Pretty," he said. He kissed her softly on the cheek. Grace froze like a statue, not wanting any more physical contact with him than absolutely necessary. Lukas seemed to sense this, and he stepped closer to her, grabbing her waist and pulling her body against his.
"You look- positively ravishing," he whispered into her ear. Grace felt goosebumps rush across her skin as he rested his palm on the side of her belly. "Tonight would have been the night Kristina would have been born, wouldn't it?"
"I'm sure it's no coincidence that you're here with me tonight instead of bearing your child. It must be killing you to think of what could have been."
Grace tried to repress her tears, but she couldn't. She didn't want to show a hint of weakness in front of him, but he knew just which of her buttons to push. She could feel his erection growing the more she sobbed, which only upset her worse. He released her, and pushed her backward into the sand.
"Well then, I think it's time the other guests arrived. Come on out, girls!"
Lukas clapped his hands, and a white, wispy cloud emerged from the fire. The white cloud formed into the image of a nude woman, and soon after, a second. The ghostly women howled in agony as they rose from the fire. One after another, more ghostly nude women appeared and gently drifted over the water. They stared sadly and longingly at Grace, as if to extend sympathy towards her. Grace recognized many of the ghostly women.
She saw Marianne LeClair, Riley Pierson, her own sister Nora, and even Gabby Becket. The kind Gabby, the one she'd met at the Beckets' home all those years ago. Perhaps this is how Balko's victims truly spend eternity. The demoness occupying Gabby's body now was something else.
There were countless other ghostly women Grace did not recognize, although she did notice the least faded of the ghost nudes bore a striking resemblance to the clerk girl she'd met at the Shady Woods the previous night. She was yet another pretty girl who'd lost her life because Grace hadn't caught Lukas soon enough. Her heart sank yet again.
"Is this your plan, Lukas?" Grace snapped. "To add me to your harem of ghost slaves? Why? To what end? You really think one more dead woman will fill the hole Annabelle left in your life? Killing me won't bring her back."
Lukas glared at Grace.
"And killing me won't bring back Benny Mitchel," Lukas said. "Nor will it erase the scars on your arm, or undo the rapes your father subjected you to, or change the fact that your husband chose to fuck a dead woman rather than stay with you!"
Grace felt her blood boil with rage. She'd have struck him if he hadn't had her daughter's life in his hands. She was about to rise to her feet, when Lukas held out his hand instructing her to stay seated. She did.
"The fact of the matter is, Grace, we both have our reasons for why we do the things we do. So why bother debating it?"
Grace had to admit he had a point. There was no hope of any understanding between the two of them. To reason with him was a waste of time.
"Well, with that settled, we can get started!" Lukas said, excitedly. He turned to the fire. "Now, I usually wait until after I've claimed a girl to do this, but since we have a beautiful fire, I thought..."
He took from the bonfire a glowing red brand. The letters "LB," in red hot metal, shimmered at the end of the long staff. It was then that Grace noticed that each of the ghost women sported these letters on their inner thighs, permanently marking them as one of his.
"You will need to remain still, Grace," Lukas said. "This will be quite uncomfortable."
Grace inched backwards. Lukas took a step closer, holding the brand towards her.
"Grace- you need to cooperate. Someone is counting on you."
Grace looked to the top of the cliff, where Kayla still stood. Below her, there was a twenty-foot drop directly onto jagged rocks. Ocean waves crashed over the rocks before retreating and crashing over them again.
Grace stared back at the glowing brand. She swallowed. She held perfectly still, prepared to submit to her fate. Lukas smiled.
"Wonderful. Now spread your legs for me. Nice and wide."
Grace opened her legs as wide as she could. She had to fight the urge to crawl backwards as Lukas came closer and closer with the red-hot brand. She shot one last pleading glance at Daniel and the ghost women, but they both seemed equally powerless to help her.
She closed her eyes shut, and prayed it would be over fast. The metal hissed as it touched her skin, while searing pain shot throughout her body. She let out a scream, as Balko burned his signature into her soft flesh. He pressed hard, imprinting the letters deep, so that not only her skin but the muscles beneath would be permanently scarred by the fiery metal. She was certain he was pressing extra hard just for her.
At last he released, and had to yank swiftly to tear the metal from her, which had fused into her flesh. Grace opened her mouth and let out the loudest scream of her life. Lukas tossed the brand into the water.
"Well done, Grace. Well done. I hope you realize that the pain you're feeling now is but a fraction of the agony I experienced when you touched me with that silver ring." Lukas watched smugly as Grace rolled around in the sand whimpering; her hands hovering over but not touching the burning imprint on her thigh.
Laughing, Lukas dropped his pants, and Grace could see he was sporting a sizable erection. Few things excited him more than a beautiful woman in excruciating pain, especially if it was a woman he'd pursued as long as Grace.
"Grace," he said. "Now that you are going to be my next wife, it's time for you to do your wifely duty."
Struggling, Grace pulled herself up, and rested on her knees. With the throbbing pain on her thigh, kneeling in this position was actually the most comfortable for her. Lukas stepped towards her and held his erect penis directly in front of her face.
"Take it. Drain it just as I will soon drain you."
She closed her eyes as she took the throbbing cock into her mouth, and sucked it, repulsed and ashamed. Lukas smiled with glee as he basked in the warm touch of Grace's lips and tongue against his member.
"That's it. Suck it nice and easy," he sighed.
Grace obeyed, and squeezed her lips around the shaft and took it deep into her mouth, licking it all around as she did. The more she sucked, the stronger the taste of precum on her tongue. She sensed it would not be long before she was treated to a much larger mouthful of the stuff.
"Mmm. More dear. More," he moaned.
She wondered if he wanted to cum in her mouth, or if he would prefer to save himself for her other orifices. Remembering just how much semen she found inside the bodies of Marianne LeClair and Riley Pierson, she realized Balko probably had plenty to go around.
She was apparently correct. Grace suddenly felt her mouth fill with cum; the cool, sticky, salty goo pooled upon her tongue and made her wince. She was inclined to immediately spit it out but she knew Balko would likely stop her. Instead she let the ejaculate fill her mouth, while she tolerated the taste as best she could.
Lukas sighed. He let his penis drain completely before he withdrew from her mouth. He chuckled as the last drops of aftercum and saliva dribbled down her chin.
"That was wonderful dear. Now, swallow it down."
She obeyed. She nearly choked, but ingested the majority of it while still leaving the bitter taste on her lips and tongue.
"Now lie on your back," he said softly. He removed his jacket and dress shirt and laid them in the sand.
Grace lay on her back as he instructed. Lukas climbed on top of her, and slid his still erect penis inside her. She groaned in discomfort, but that only seemed to excite him more. Her brand stung when Lukas' body brushed against it, prompting Grace to spread her legs even farther.
He pumped in and out of her; treasuring every inch of her body. Grace could do nothing but lie still, and pray it would be over soon.
"Give yourself to me, Grace. Give me your body and soul!" he cried.
As far as she could tell, she had. She'd handed herself over, naked and defenseless, for Lukas to claim as his own. Faster and faster he ravaged her like an untamed animal. Grace let out a desperate scream, only for Lukas to let out his own cry- of victory.
"Please kill me!" Grace cried. "Please, just kill me!"
"Are you in some kind of hurry Grace? You know once you're dead it will be much worse. In Hell I can do so many more wicked things to you than I can here. Trust me when I say, you'll want this to last as long as possible."
Grace let out a long whimper, and Lukas continued thrusting. If what Lukas said was true, if the worst horror was still yet to come, Grace wondered if she'd made the wrong choice surrendering herself. Seeing Kayla, still perched at the top of the cliff far in the distance, reminded her she hadn't. As long as Kayla lived, no burden would be too severe.
His thrusting pace quickened, and Grace could feel him approaching his climax. She winced as she felt her pussy fill with his cool cum, and he exhaled softly as he did. Grace squeezed her eyes shut and tried to wish herself away to some other place. Her guardian angel, if she had one, didn't seem to be listening, because Grace remained right where she was.
"We're almost finished, Grace," he whispered into her ear. "Now I just need you to turn over."
"No, please," Grace pleaded. But she knew Balko's M.O. He never left any orifice untouched. But she did not want Lukas sodomizing her for more reasons than just her normal reluctance. She'd hidden a surprise for him in there. She knew he would spot any weapon she tried to bring with her if she was nude, so she'd hidden the broken tip of her wooden stake between her buttocks. She'd held them tight her entire walk down to the beach, and it remained in place despite her branding and forced intercourse. But she could keep it hidden no longer if he wished to penetrate her anus.
Balko withdrew from Grace's vagina, and picked up a handful of sand. Gently, he released the sand in a steady stream upon Grace's brand. She screamed, and jerked away, only for Balko to grab her thigh and hold it in place until he'd released the entire fistful of sand onto her burn.
"STOP! STOP! STOP!" she wailed.
"Are you going to be a good girl?" Lukas asked.
Grace nodded frantically.
"Then turn over."
"Just give me a minute," she said, panting. She prayed she might distract him just long enough that she could get the stake without him noticing. She prayed she would be fast enough.
Lukas shook his head, and grabbed a second handful of sand. Grace immediately flipped onto her belly, palming the stake as she did. She slipped her stake-wielding fist into the sand and prayed he did not see.
Lukas seemed more enamored by her bare ass. He gently ran his fingers between her buttocks and spread them apart. He hawked, and lobbed a wad of spit into her anus, and pressed his penis inside her.
Grace groaned, and released her grip on the stake, leaving it buried in the sand. Lukas ran his throbbing member back and forth through her anus, causing Grace to squeal in discomfort. Lukas chuckled. He loved when women squealed.
Grace clutched the ground, gripping the sand with her open palms while Lukas thrusted himself between her buttocks. She found herself growing to hate Balko more than ever when she thought of the countless other women who'd suffered this same hellish treatment before her. She turned to stare out at the floating ghosts above the water; all watching solemnly the fate they'd already endured.
Grace tried counting them; trying to find something to get her mind off of the terrible ordeal she was experiencing, but there were far too many. Worst of all, Lukas was proud of it. To him, those ghosts were trophies he was displaying with pride before he would add her to his collection.
"Why? Why, why why?" she asked herself. She knew no answer would satisfy her. She quietly sobbed to herself, dejected and defeated.
It was then she felt him release, and she knew her ordeal, this part at least, might finally be over. Lukas removed himself from inside her, and stared at Grace, who lay face down in the sand whimpering. He rested his hand on the back of her thigh and patted it consolingly.
"Oh there, there, Grace, it's almost over for you."
Grace ran her hands through the sand and felt it. The stake was there. Lukas grabbed Grace's arms and pulled her up to a kneeling position. She palmed the stake point as she did, holding hit beside her thigh where she hoped Balko could not see it. He turned her body so she faced the cliff where Kayla stood.
"There she is," Lukas said. "Take one last look at her."
She seemed to be glowing. Grace realized Kayla was illuminated in some kind of light, like a car's headlights. Someone had just arrived at the cottage. An uneasy feeling formed in the pit of her stomach.
"You're going to kill her anyway, aren't you?"
"Grace, don't be silly. We made a deal. I intend to keep it. Now look at her. Take one last look."
Grace watched her daughter stand motionless at the cliff's edge, while Lukas ran his lips slowly up the side of her cheek and down her neck. He could see the pulsing of her blood, coursing just below the surface of her skin. Warm and delicious.
Grace squeezed the stake point firmly. If she was going to try this, she would have to be fast. She could not afford to fail this time.
Too slow! Sam's voice echoed in her head. A vision of Benny's dead eyes flashed before her. Grace swallowed, and tried to put the memory out of her mind.
You can do this, she thought silently to herself. Just don't hesitate. You can do this.
"Yes, almost over for you," Lukas repeated, and prepared himself for a feast. He sprouted fangs, and in one swift movement, Grace jabbed the pointed wood into his chest. His eyes went wide in horror upon realizing how close to his heart he'd been cut. He was about to grab Grace's arm and rip her away, when Grace twisted the stake and Lukas howled.
* * * * *
He didn't so much step out of the car as fall out. Joe got a face full of gravel when he landed, and struggled to pull himself back to his feet.
"I'm not gonna do it I'm not gonna do it I'm not gonna do it!"
You will, Joey. You will.
"No! I can't!"
He rolled onto his back at stared up at the night sky, and prayed a meteor or bolt of lightning would strike him dead.
Get up, Joey. You have work to do.
Joe looked past the cottage, and all the way towards the cliff where Kayla was standing.
"No! Please don't make me do it!"
Go. Go now.
He crawled towards her on all fours at first, and then climbed up to a hunch as he ran towards the cliff edge like a baboon.
"I won't do it! I won't!" He shouted, but his legs carried him towards her anyway. He ran faster and faster, and found himself coming closer and closer to the girl, filling his own heart with dread.
"Please don't," he whispered to himself, sobbing.
You must. Go to her, Joey. Go to her now.
He ran closer.
"I can't do it! I can't do it!"
You can, Joey. Just go to her. Just give her a little... push."
Kayla blinked, and suddenly realized where she was. She turned around, only to see Joe running towards her.
"Uncle Joe?" she asked, incredulously.
"Kayla! I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!"
Kayla didn't understand, but the stare in Joe's eyes frightened her.
Do it, Joe.
He barely had to tap her. The small girl went over the edge so easily. Her loud scream pierced the night air. He watched her plummet down, and down, and down...
* * * * *
Grace had heard of one's life flashing before their eyes just before a death, but seeing Kayla's life flash before her own eyes was a new experience for her. Every memory she had of her daughter played in her mind as she watched the small blonde haired girl drop straight into the rocks below, silencing the youngster's scream.
Grace leaped to her feet. Her burning thigh disappeared from her thoughts; as far as she knew, Lukas Balko (was he alive or dead?) didn't exist. Grace ran headlong back up the dirt path, back to the cliff top, back to where she prayed she would find Kayla safe and sound, and to find her eyes had simply played tricks on her.
Joe Pratt met her halfway up the path. He stood in the center of the trail, sobbing.
"I'm sorry, Grace," he whimpered. Drawing his Glock, he aimed it at Grace. He froze.
Grace had to slow her breathing before she could speak.
"Joe- if you did, what I think you did, you had better pull that trigger."
Only the sound of crickets and the waves lapping against the shoreline filled the silence as the two former detectives stared each other in the eye.
Joe had to close his eyes and turn his head away, but he fired. He had to open them to see if he'd hit his target, and he had. His bullet hit Grace square in the chest.
He fired again, hitting her in the stomach, and again, and again, filling her torso with bullets before firing two final rounds into her neck. He nearly had to vomit when he saw Grace slump to the ground, blood spurting from every hole he'd just put in her.
"There! I did it! You happy bitch? I killed my partner and her daughter!"
You're not finished yet, Joe. You still have one more job to do for Me.
Joe dropped to his knees and buried his face in his hands.
"Oh God oh God oh God."
Joe got up and hurried back up the dirt path, glad to put the horrifying sight of his dead partner behind him. He opened the trunk of his Impala, where Bethany Dutton lay inside. Her mouth was gagged, and her hands were bound in rope.
"Get out, bitch!" Joe aimed his Glock at Bethany, and she immediately climbed out of the trunk.
He held the barrel to her back, and Bethany cringed when she felt the hot muzzle touch her skin. She was only in her bra and panties; Joe had demanded she strip naked but she'd refused. Joe seemed a bit more insistent this time.
"Get in the house!"
Bethany was hesitant to approach the old dilapidated cottage, but the gun to her back kept her moving. She wrung her tightly bound hands together as they stepped closer and closer to the cottage. Joe led her up the creaking porch and through the front door. It was almost pitch black inside, and Joe couldn't see a damned thing.
"Move!" he shouted, both in frustration of not being able to see, as well as at Bethany for not moving.
"Where?" Bethany asked, terrified.
"Down the hall!" Joe shouted, though he too, was unsure exactly where that was. Taking small baby steps, he was able to navigate his way through the darkness down the hall towards the master bedroom. A window inside with a view of the back yard provided just enough light that he could make out the layout of the room. He ordered Bethany inside. She went in, and turned to face Joe.
"Now strip!" he ordered.
Bethany shook her head.
"No! Please don't rape me!"
Joe raised his arm, pointing the gun directly to her forehead.
"Don't make me tell you again!"
Bethany struggled with the ropes on her wrists, prompting Joe to loosen them. He held his Glock with his right hand until he got the ropes unfastened, and he indicated for her to continue. Bethany proceeded to remove her bra and underwear, and then stood with her arms covering her breasts and pubic area. Joe removed a set of handcuffs from his belt, and tossed them onto the bed.
"Cuff yourself. To the bedpost."
Bethany locked one end of the cuffs to her left wrist and the other to the bedpost on the ornate oak headboard. She looked at Joe apprehensively.
"There! I did everything you wanted!" he screamed, staring at the ceiling. "I did everything! Now get this-" he unbuckled his pants and pulled them to his feet- "motherfucking thing OFF me!"
He stormed down the hallway, leaving Bethany shaking where she stood.
"You hear me, bitch? Get this OFF-" he trailed off, when he noticed, there in the dim light, a key lying on the end table in the living room. He had to look closely, but it looked like the skeleton key, the same one Gabby used to lock him up in the first place. He grabbed the key, and felt a sharp burn. His skin hissed, and he quickly dropped the key to the floor.
"Fuck!" he cursed, and examined the growing blister on his palm.
The deep crimson jewels in the skull's eyes glowed; illuminating the dark room. A flame formed around the key. It didn't appear to burn the floor or anything else; instead the flame seemed to restrict itself to the key, which glowed brighter with each passing second.
Joe watched, open-mouthed, as the flame shot up in the air and twirled around in a loop. Faster and faster the flames spun, forming a spiral of fire that opened a hole in the very fabric of reality. Joe backed away, feeling an intense heat before him. Hotter than any inferno he'd ever felt, the intense heat nearly scalded his face as he watched in complete awe at what appeared before him.
It looked to be a tunnel made entirely of fire; with the opening on the other end revealing a glimpse of Hell itself. He could hear the tortured screams of the damned as he watched them wallow in fire and misery before his very eyes. Joe dropped his Glock in shock. He'd never witnessed anything so explicitly and intensely horrifying in all his life.
It was beautiful in a way. No place on Earth was so horrendous it defied all logic, the way this vision of Hell appeared to him. He wanted to run away, but something held him in place.
It was then that a figure appeared within the swirling portal. It walked towards him, despite there being no ground upon which to lay its feet. The figure emerged, and Joe recognized it as Gabby Becket, or at the very least, a perverted form of the body that had once belonged to her.
Horns had grown from her head, twisted and gnarled. Her eyes pulsed with hunger. Her nails were long and sharp, like the talons of a bird. On her back were long black wings that spread open as she entered the room. Joe was so transfixed on the demoness' flawless naked body he momentarily forgot what exactly he wanted from her. It wasn't until he felt the stirring of his excited penis within its cage that he remembered.
"I- I did what you wanted," Joe stuttered. He felt his voice go flat; unable to take his eyes off her.
"Yes, you did, Joey. You've been such a good boy. So good..."
She held up her hand, and the skeleton key flew up from the floor and into her palm. She slipped the key into the padlock, and turned it.
Joe felt instant relief the second Gabby removed the cock cage. His penis rose to full mast; throbbing and desperate for attention from the exotic succubus.
"You've waited so long, Joey," she said sweetly, batting her eyelashes over her snake-like eyes. "Time to collect your reward."
For the first time that day, a smile formed across Joe's face. Gabby took him in her arms, and pressed her lips against his. For a split second, it felt like paradise. Her lips, so soft, so warm, so full, tantalized him. But it was not love that came with that erotic kiss. Even when he felt her forked tongue creep into his mouth and sensually tease his lips and tongue, he could feel something terrible brewing within himself.
A stab of pain, sharper than any knife, cut through his very being. He could feel his soul being torn from his body, mercilessly and violently. Worse than the feeling of having his flesh ripped from his bones, he could feel his spirit being drained from his body through his mouth and into Gabby's.
He tried to pull away, but her soft feminine hands held his neck like a vice. Her hunger was insatiable, and she fed on his soul; devoured it completely out of existence. He tried to scream, but her mouth swallowed not only the sound, but the scream itself. Only his mind was able to exclaim in agony at what she was doing to him.
What are you?
His question was answered not with words, but with excruciating agony few men had ever felt. He saw for an instant who she really was. She was not Gabby Becket, deceased housewife. This was a demoness, one that had crawled from the deepest pits of Hell, and it had made Gabby's undead body the vessel for its existence on Earth.
Deeper it kissed him, every second consuming more of his soul, leaving only dwindling fractions of it that he found himself unable to retain for long. He grabbed her arms, and her shoulders, trying to pry her grasp on him loose, but his strength dwindled right along with his soul. Opening his eyes wide, he cried out, begging her for mercy, but she kept hers closed while she savored the taste of Joe's very being. Life as he knew it came to a devastating collapse, one that would never be undone. He was hers, forever and ever, and he would never again be whole.
After an eternity, she drained the last vestiges of his soul, leaving Joe a mere shell of a man. An agonizingly empty hole remained where his heart and soul had been, and when Gabby opened her eyes, he could see in her smile that she had greatly enjoyed her meal. She stared into his eyes, and into the empty spot where his soul had been.
Now you're damned!
His heart came to a stop, and Joe Pratt's lifeless body fell to the floor.
* * * * *
"Grace, wake up."
She blinked her eyes.
"Grace. Wake up."
She opened them. Daniel Becket stared down at her, shaking her awake. The intense pain, the throbbing agony, it was gone. She sat up.
She was still in the woods, lying in the dirt path to the beach in a puddle of her own blood. Daniel crouched next to her; his will returned to him.
"Mr. Becket?" she asked, confused. She had to retrace in her mind everything that had happened. Balko branding her. The rape. Stabbing him with the stake. Kayla falling.
The pain returned. Not the physical pain, but the memory of the little girl falling from the cliff played in her mind.
"Oh God, Kayla fell!" She rose to get up, but Daniel stopped her.
"Grace, Grace! There's nothing you can do!"
Grace broke into tears.
"No! He killed her! He-"
Joe. Joe Pratt was the one who'd pushed her. And then he shot Grace.
She looked down at her own body. The bullet holes had healed, as had the cuts on her feet. She could feel a throbbing ache on each part of her body where she'd been shot, but the bullet holes had healed completely. The branded letters on her thigh were the only injury on her body that remained.
"What happened to me?"
Daniel shook his head.
"I found you like this. Gabby came by. She helped Balko up. He's still alive. They're in the cottage now."
Balko. The name made Grace ache for vengeance.
"Why is he in the cottage?" she asked.
"He's weak. You stabbed him good, Grace. You almost did him in. Now Gabby's probably nursing him back to health." He paused. "I think they've got a girl in there. I heard her screaming."
"They need her blood. If he drinks enough he'll heal completely," Grace said. "We have to kill him now."
She hurried up the dirt path, and Daniel stayed close behind her. Truthfully, he was surprised Grace awoke. When he first found her he couldn't make a pulse or a breath.
At the end of the path, Grace stopped. The cottage stood before her, but so did the cliff. She had to look. She had to be certain.
There was no stopping her. Grace ran to the cliff and stared straight down. Kayla lay on the rocks far below; the ocean waves splashing over her.
"NO!" she screamed. Daniel held her in his arms and squeezed.
"I'm so sorry, Grace! I'm so sorry!"
Grace sobbed and moaned. Daniel rocked her gently and consolingly.
"Why did Joe push her? I thought if I killed Balko she wouldn't jump! Why did Joe push her?"
"Gabby! Gabby made him do it. That's what she does."
It was hardly a consolation. Grace was a mother, at least she had been. And she chose vengeance over saving her daughter. Catherine had been right. Killing Lukas would cost her everything.
"We have to kill them. Lukas and Gabby. We have to kill them now!" Grace demanded.
She rose to her feet and strode towards the house without a trace of fear in her body. Daniel hurried after her, praying that he was still the less mentally stable of the two of them. She headed around to the front door, and walked inside.
They needed a moment for their eyes to adjust to the dark. Sounds emanated from down the hallway; the sound of a young woman screaming. Grace and Daniel cautiously stepped inside. She noticed her clothes still lying in a pile by the floor. Grace didn't bother putting them on. Somehow, clothing felt too human. Grace left her humanity at the bottom of that cliff. Instead, she picked up the mallet and stake she'd left on the kitchen table. She turned to Daniel.
"Let's go," she said.
Daniel grabbed her arm.
"Wait. I don't know how to kill a succubus."
Grace stopped. After a second of thought she realized she didn't either.
"What did the book say?" she asked.
She was referring to The Kiss of Death. They'd both read it.
"The book never said how to kill one," Daniel said.
"The Blackheart from Boston?" Grace asked. The final chapter from the book.
The Blackheart from Boston told of a succubus who over the course of two hundred years married wealthy men, drove them to illness and death, and moved on to the next, accumulating wealth as she did. A Boston banker named Gerald Blackheart married her in the 1920s, but then learned of her past from the nephew of one of her previous husbands. When Blackheart lost most of his wealth in the crash of '29, she left him, only to discover he'd been stockpiling all of her belongings, expensive clothing, and hidden assets without her knowledge. He burned them all, right before her eyes. Realizing she hadn't a dollar to her name, Mrs. Blackheart threw herself into the Charles River and drowned.
"You want to drown her?" Daniel asked.
"No," Grace said. "She died because he destroyed her belongings. A succubus only cares for material things."
Daniel winced. "Gabby doesn't own anything. Not anymore."
"She must have something!"
"I'll be damned if I know what. She doesn't even own clothes. I mean, she walks around buck naked half the time." He noted Grace's own lack of attire and added a quick, "no offense."
Grace paid it no mind.
"I'm killing Balko now. I'll figure out how to ice the bitch later."
Grace walked down the hall. Daniel noticed the lighter and kerosene and took them both. He ignited the lighter, providing the pair with some illumination as they made their way through the darkened house. She found Joe Pratt lying dead on the floor. His pants were around his ankles, while his empty eyes stared up at the ceiling. She paused, but found she had nothing to say for her fallen partner.
She did notice scorch marks on the floor nearby, where the carpet had been burned, that told her one thing: Gabby Becket had been here. Grace stepped over Joe's body and continued down the hallway. Daniel stepped around the deceased detective and followed.
The sound of the whimpering girl became clearer the further down the hall Grace progressed. She slowed her pace as she proceeded, holding her mallet and stake at the ready.
The door to the master bedroom was ajar. Swallowing nervously, she entered. Inside, she found Lukas Balko, drained and emaciated on the bed, wearing only his undershorts. Gabby sat next to him, holding a long steak knife. To Grace's surprise, the whimpering young woman with them was Bethany Dutton. She was handcuffed to the bedpost and begging for mercy. Grace was even more surprised to see Gabby now had horns and wings, the latter of which were now folded behind her back.
Grace watched as Gabby methodically placed the steak knife between Bethany's legs, and slit her inner thigh. Bethany let out a squeal, and Gabby then placed the bloody knife to Lukas' lips. As he licked the blood, life gradually returned to his withered form.
"Get up, bitch," Grace demanded, holding up the mallet and stake. Gabby looked at her and smiled.
"Grace, it's so nice to see you. I didn't expect you alive again so soon!"
"It's over. You and Lukas are done."
Daniel Becket entered the room. He instantly froze, and stepped backward the moment he saw Gabby.
"I'm sorry Grace, but Lukas is now your husband, as he is mine. As you can see, he isn't doing well right now. That must be why you and Daniel still have your free will."
Grace shook her head.
"I'll never be his puppet."
Gabby took to her feet.
"Oh, you will, Grace. You wear his mark on your thigh. You're one of his now. Joe Pratt had you killed just as I asked. You're only on your feet now because Lukas willed it. That's right, Grace. You're a succubus. Just like me."
Grace looked down at the brand on her thigh, and felt a twist in her stomach. It was true. Joe had shot her dead. The only way she could be alive now is if Lukas had resurrected her.
"You're sick," Grace said. "You're a monster."
"Perhaps. And you will be too."
Gabby stared Grace up and down; her snake-like eyes flickering as she sized up her rival, while Grace did the same. She seethed with rage thinking of how this woman seduced her husband to his death. She had to admit, Gabby had a fantastic figure. Grace was almost too distracted by Gabby's beauty to notice the ring on her finger. The one with the black stone. Gabby's wedding band to Lukas.
"Mr. Becket," Grace said. "Left hand. Ring finger."
Daniel brought himself to look at Gabby's hand. The sight of that evil stone in place of the band he'd put there on their wedding day burned his blood. He set the lighter and kerosene on the dresser; knowing what he had to do.
He grabbed Gabby's left arm, giving it a twist, and held it down upon the nightstand. Gabby shrieked, and struggled in his grasp.
"Hit it!" he yelled.
Grace held the mallet high, and swung it down, smashing it against Gabby's hand. She pounded it hard, enough to snap the band in two and break a few of the bones in Gabby's hand. The broken ring fragments fell to the floor as Gabby's yanked her crushed hand away and held it against her breasts.
"You BITCH!" Gabby screamed. "My ring! I-"
Gabby froze, as she saw Grace going for the kerosene on the dresser. Setting the mallet and stake aside, Grace pulled the can open and doused the older succubus with its contents.
"Burn in hell, you bitch," Grace said, and grabbed the lighter.
"NO! It's me, Mrs. Becket! Grace, please!" Gabby held up her arms in defense. Grace ignited the lighter. The flame flickered tall and brightly.
"That won't help you," Grace said, the fire of the lighter reflected in her vengeful eyes.
"Dan! Stop her! She's going to kill me!"
Grace outstretched her arm, ready to touch the flame to Gabby's kerosene-soaked body, when Daniel grabbed her wrist, and snatched the lighter from her hand.
"Mr. Becket! What are you doing?" Grace squealed.
Daniel put Grace in a headlock, and she struggled to break free.
"Don't let her go, Dan! She's a succubus, just like I was!" Gabby cried.
"Mr. Becket, don't listen to her, I'm on your side!" Grace's words fell on deaf ears. Daniel pulled her from the room, and nearly had to drag her down the hallway back to the living room. Gabby followed, grinning at the turn of events.
"Tie her up before she causes any more harm!" Gabby commanded.
Daniel didn't hesitate to obey his late wife. He held Grace onto the floor face down, and braced her backside with his knee. While she struggled to wriggle free, Daniel removed the belt from his pants.
"No! Mr. Becket, don't! She's controlling you, just like she did to Joe and Ted! You can't give in to her! She'll destroy you!"
Daniel wrapped the belt around Grace's hands and feet, and securely hog-tied her. Grace struggled, but found the belt held her firmly in place. Daniel rose to his feet.
"Oh, Daniel, I've missed you!" Gabby cooed. She wrapped her arms around her former husband's shoulders and the two embraced.
"I'm so glad you're back," Daniel said, tears pouring from his eyes. Grace watched helplessly from the floor at the reunited couple, while she tried desperately to think of a way to escape. She rolled to her side, but that made it even more difficult for her to fiddle with the belt binding her wrists.
"I've missed you, I've missed you, I've missed you," Daniel repeated, running his hands across Gabby's body. He counted his blessings that he finally got her back, his sweet wife Gabby. He would never let her go again. Gabby looked Grace in the eye as she hugged him, smirking.
"Mr. Becket! Listen to me! That's not your wife! She's a demon! She's going to kill you!"
Daniel's eyes flickered. He heard Grace's words. But Gabby's body felt so good in his hands. Her round ass felt so good in his grasp, and when he cupped his hands around her large breasts and squeezed, nothing else in the world seemed to matter. He swirled his thumbs around her nipples, and felt them stiffen. He felt his penis begin to rise.
"Yes, Dan. It's me," Gabby said sweetly. She pressed her body against his even more tightly. "You can have me. Kiss me."
She closed her eyes, and puckered her lips.
"NO!" Grace screamed as loud as she could. "Do NOT kiss her! You'll die! She'll send you straight to Hell! DO NOT kiss her!"
Daniel could not take his eyes off Gabby's bright red puckered lips. She leaned towards him, and he could not help but lean towards her in return. She wrapped her hand around the back of his neck.
He leaned closer, and smelled the aroma of kerosene that soaked her body. The grill lighter, the one he'd taken from Grace, was still tucked in his back pocket. He stopped.
"Don't stop, baby," Gabby whispered. "Kiss me. It's been too long."
She puckered her lips again, and leaned in. How he wanted to kiss her again. He craved it. Needed it. But he hadn't forgotten what she'd done, what she'd become. Daniel felt all the muscles in his body melt, but found the courage to grab the lighter. He felt the smallest pang of regret when he ignited it, and touched the flame to Gabby's left nipple. The fire engulfed her body in seconds.
Gabby let out a howling scream, as Daniel pushed her away and ran to Grace.
"I'm so sorry, Grace, she got in my head. I couldn't stop her-"
"Just untie me!"
Daniel struggled to untie the belt from Grace's wrists when Gabby grabbed him from behind and clawed her nails across his neck. Daniel responded with a sharp elbow to her face, knocking her to the floor. The flames eating away her flesh spread to the carpet as Gabby rolled around on the floor in anguish.
Daniel touched the open gash on his neck, and immediately realized he was too lightheaded to even stand, let alone free Grace. He collapsed to the floor. Grace watched helplessly at the blood draining from Daniel's neck, as he lay motionless beside her.
"No!" Grace squealed, as she wriggled her arms and legs. Nothing would weaken the belt's grasp, and the flames on the floor were gradually spreading. She scoured the room for something, anything, that might help her break free.
The pocketknife. Her grandfather's pocketknife still lay on the floor in the corner next to the broken stake. Except it lay on the opposite side of the trail of fire Gabby had left in her wake. Taking a deep breath, Grace rolled onto her back, back onto her side and onto her belly again across the floor, quickly passing through the wall of flames and emerging on the other side with miraculously minimal burns.
She angled her body so her hands could reach the knife, and quickly wedged the blade into the belt knot. She cut as quickly as she could, even as Gabby's screaming and thrashing continued. The fire melted away the succubus' face, yet she still seemed able to see out of her demonic eyes. She stared at Grace in fury, and crawled towards her like a wounded jackal desperate to make one final kill before its demise.
Grace cut as quickly as she could as the burning succubus neared, blood and drool draining from her open jaw. Gabby hissed and panted as she crawled closer and closer. Grace edged away from her, but was up against the wall and had nowhere else to go. Frantically, she sawed away at the belt, but Gabby was almost upon her.
At last Grace was able to cut loose one hand, and immediately used her free hand to jam the blade directly into Gabby's left eye. She stuck the blade in as far as she could, and twisted. Gabby made a "gack" sound, and finally fell to the floor motionless. The fire continued to burn away her flesh as Grace scrambled away.
"Grace! Grace!" Bethany's voice sounded from the bedroom. "Help! He's getting up!"
Balko. Slowly but surely, the wounded vampire was regaining his strength. Grace pulled at the belt still binding her right hand and ankles together, but without the knife it was too difficult to pry it off. She rolled into the kitchen, hoping the linoleum might slow the fire's approach. Desperately she pulled at the belt, squeezing her nails under the loop to pry it from her skin.
It wouldn't budge. Grace cried out in frustration as she watched the fire inch its way up the walls. She rested her head on the tile floor, praying for an answer.
It was then that she spotted something under the couch. Not something that could help her current predicament, but it was a welcome discovery nonetheless. From where she lay she could see straight underneath the living room couch, where a bottle lay. It was the holy water her grandmother used to keep on the mantle. It must have been knocked off and perhaps kicked underneath the couch by a careless visitor at the cottage. No matter, it was there.
Grace pulled at the knot with her free hand as hard she could, and soon managed to get both hands free. From there she was able to wrestle one of her feet loose as well, and didn't bother with her remaining foot.
"GRACE! Help! He's sitting up!" Bethany shouted.
Grace darted over the wall of flames back into the living room, and reached under the couch. She grabbed the bottle of holy water and hurried back to the bedroom. True to Bethany's word, Lukas was sitting up on the edge of the bed. Bethany had managed to tie a pillowcase around her bleeding thigh, while backing herself against the wall trying to stay as far away from him as possible. He reached towards her, but winced in pain, and turned to look at Grace as she entered the room.
"Grace," he wheezed. "You've come back. And now, you're mine."
The sight of Grace filled Lukas with a newfound strength. He lunged towards her, just as Grace managed to pull the cap from the bottle of holy water. Smelling the fumes, he stopped dead in his tracks, and Grace splashed the blessed liquid in his face.
His skin sizzled, and he let out a scream as his face peeled away where the water had touched him. He backed away from Grace, climbing up onto the bed on his hands and knees before turning towards Grace and holding out his arms in defense.
"Worthless whore!" he scowled, glaring at her. Grace responded by pouring the remainder of the bottle directly onto his groin. His scream was loud enough to shatter the windows. He clutched his crotch in agony, burning his palms as he did, and rolled onto his side and pulled his knees to his chest.
Grace tossed the empty bottle aside and grabbed the mallet and stake from the dresser. Nothing would stop her; she pounced onto the bed like an animal and bared her teeth in anticipation of her kill.
Balko tried to wrestle free, but his strength had dwindled. He could do little more than squirm as Grace turned him onto his back and placed the pointed stake directly upon the still-healing wound in his chest. He screamed the instant it touched.
"Do it! Kill him, Grace!" Bethany screamed.
Lukas stared up at Grace with pleading eyes. Grace had nothing but fury in hers.
"It's over for you, you son of a bitch." Grace raised the mallet.
"NO!" Lukas pleaded.
She brought the hammer down. She slammed it upon the butt of the stake, sinking it into Balko's chest. She felt a bit of tension release in her own body. It felt surprisingly good to penetrate a man for change. Grace licked her lips and pounded the stake again.
Lukas moaned loudly and painfully.
"Grace, please! Don't!" he whimpered. He clutched the stake with his frail hands, desperately trying to keep it from sinking deeper.
"Don't listen to him! Kill him Grace, kill him now!" Bethany urged. She shook her hand, trying in vain to break free of the handcuff binding her to the bedpost.
Grace swung the mallet again. Lukas' hands were no match for Grace's fury. The stake slid between his fingers and further into his rib cage.
"Grace," Lukas creaked, the breath nearly gone from his voice. "I can give you your daughter back. She can-"
Grace swung the mallet again; silencing his words as the stake sunk in deeper. Lukas opened his mouth to speak, but only gasping came out. Grace raised the mallet again.
"Mommy! Help! Help me!"
It was unmistakably Kayla's voice. She could hear through the open window- had the window even been open before?- Kayla's voice coming from the back yard. Calling for her.
"You- your daughter needs you, G-Grace," Lukas gasped, his mouth filling with thick black blood. "You'd bet-better go- go help her."
Lukas gagged, as black blood spilled out of his mouth down his chin. Grace shook her head.
"It's a trick," she said, her eyes filling with tears. "You bastard, it's just a trick."
She swung the mallet again, and pounded the stake even harder.
She pounded it deeper.
"Mommy help! Help me please!"
"STOP IT, STOP IT, I KNOW IT'S A TRICK!" Grace screamed, pounding the stake with all her might. She pounded the stake again and again, until she could feel it emerge from Lukas' back and sink into the mattress.
Lukas narrowed his eyes.
"N-Now y-you'll ne-ever knooow," he gasped.
He closed his eyes and Grace suddenly felt the stake in her hand become very warm. She released her grasp and watched as smoke erupted from underneath Balko's skin. Slowly Lukas, as well as the stake in his chest, completely dissolved into a mass of solid soot. A pile of ash clumped together in the shape of a once-powerful vampire was all that remained. Lukas Balko was no more.
Grace stared at the charred remains before her; barely able to comprehend what she'd done. It wasn't until the mallet slipped from her grasp and landed on the floor that she was shaken back to consciousness.
Black smoke filled the room, and Grace was suddenly reminded of the fire that was consuming the living room. Grace jumped from the bed and hurried out of the room.
"Grace! Wait! Don't leave me here!" Bethany cried, rattling her handcuffs against the bedpost.
Grace stared back at Bethany with contempt.
"Please! It was Neil's idea to rob you! I didn't even want to! I tried to tell him we shouldn't but he-"
Grace grabbed Bethany's face and held her head against the wall.
"Listen, bitch," Grace said, staring into her eyes, "you ever want a second chance at life, you have to own up to the shit you did the first time around. My daughter's dead because of you. Don't fucking tell me it's not your fault."
Bethany gulped as Grace's eyes burned a hole into her soul. For a moment she was afraid Grace might kill her herself. Instead Grace released her grip on her and stormed out of the room. Bethany broke into tears.
"It was my fault!" Bethany cried out, praying Grace was still in listening distance. "I did it. I helped Neil rob you, and I'm so sorry. I was stupid. I needed money. And I gave Balko the map to this place because I was scared! He was going to kill me so I did it! I'm so sorry about your daughter, Grace! It was my fault, I know, but I'm so sorry! Please help me! I'm so sorry!"
She pressed her forehead to the bedpost and bawled her eyes out. She covered her mouth with her arm as the black smoke began to fill the room.
It was then that Grace reentered, holding the skeleton key. She wasn't in quite the mood to dig her hands through Pratt's pants to find his keys, and decided this way would be faster. She unlocked the cuff on Bethany's wrist.
"Thank you! Thank you!" Bethany cried out in gratitude.
"Don't thank me. I just need your help to save my friend."
Quickly the pair hurried out of the bedroom and down the hall to the living room. Daniel Becket lay on the floor; still alive and conscious, in a puddle of his own blood just feet from the inferno. Grace grabbed her T-shirt and held it to Daniel's neck.
"Hold this, Mr. Becket, and I'll get you to a hospital." She turned to Bethany. "Get his legs, I'll get his shoulders!"
Together, the two naked women carried Daniel out the front door, just before the ceiling collapsed into the living room. Undeterred, they continued carrying him off the porch and into the front yard. Exhausted, they lay him in the grass in front of the cottage. Grace knelt down next to him.
"Mr. Becket? I did it. Balko is dead. Your wife- is dead. We did it."
"I'm sorry, Grace," Daniel whispered.
"Don't be," she said, grabbing his hand and squeezing it. "You were always there for me. I'm here for you now."
She hadn't even realized what she'd done next until it was done. It was purely instinctive, but Grace found herself pressing her lips against Daniel's and kissing him long and passionately. She took her lips away, and froze in realization of what she'd done.
"Oh God-" she said.
"It's okay, Grace," Daniel assured her. "Maybe in Hell, I can see Gabby again."
The life left his eyes, and a hunger Grace hadn't previously known she had was satiated. She shut her eyes, and felt a pleasure throughout her body; a dark, evil pleasure. She wiped her lips with the back of her hand and rose to her feet.
Bethany looked at Daniel in shock. "Is he-"
"Yes," Grace replied, and even she noticed her voice no longer sounded like her own. It was deeper, almost unearthly. She'd just tasted a man's soul for the first time, and it was delicious. To her surprise she realized she wouldn't mind trying it again.
Unable to look Bethany in the face, she hurried around to the back yard. Bethany followed her. Grace walked faster, but stubbornly, Bethany kept up.
Grace reached the edge of the cliff and stared straight down. Kayla's body was gone. She knew likely the surf had carried her off, and Kayla's voice was just another one of Balko's tricks, but true to his word, Grace would never know for certain. It was his final act of vengeance.
Grace dropped to her knees and stared down at the jagged rocks as the surf splashed over them. She thought of pushing Bethany over the edge of the cliff, but couldn't. It wasn't Bethany's fault, not really. Grace blamed no one for Kayla's death more than herself. If it took a monster to destroy a monster, Grace had fit the bill.
She climbed to her feet and stared out at the night sky.
"Grace?" Bethany asked. Grace whipped her head around to face her. Bethany took a frightened step backward. "What do we do now?"
Grace stared Bethany in the eye.
"Whatever we want."
She turned and wandered across the grass. Bethany couldn't tell where Grace was going, but suspected she wasn't going anywhere. Grace walked towards the trees and disappeared into the forest.
Bethany never saw Grace Harker again.
* * * * *
A passing motorist spotted the smoke and called 911. Before long, fire engines and squad cars arrived at the cottage, but only its smoldering foundation remained. Bethany Dutton was the only surviving witness found on the scene. Her tale was met with skepticism by the authorities.
Two bodies were found within the burning wreckage. Through dental records, the identities of the bodies were confirmed to be Detective Joseph Pratt and Gabrielle Becket. This created a bit of confusion as Gabby Becket had supposedly died six years earlier. Gabby's coffin in Green Woods cemetery was subsequently exhumed, and discovered to be empty.
Unable to explain how Gabby's body had somehow traveled from the cemetery to the burned down cottage, or how Gabby's skeleton featured horns and wings, investigators left it an open case. Gabby's body was returned to its grave. Her husband Daniel was buried by her side.
Lukas Balko's body was incinerated by the stake that impaled his heart. The cottage fire reduced his remains to dust, and no sign of him was ever found. Following up on Bethany's story, investigators also found his casket in the Balko Family Crypt to be empty.
Lukas Balko went down in history as one of the most prolific serial killers of the 20th and 21st centuries. His fate, and what he truly was, was conjectured upon for decades to come. When he was conclusively proven to be the killer of Haley Farough, his reputation of being able to kill from beyond the grave was cemented in folklore forever.
Bethany Dutton, the sole known survivor of Balko's attacks, was interviewed by authors and journalists extensively about her experience. Some dismissed her story as attention-seeking sensationalism, others accepted it as the most likely truth, but none of it could ever be proven.
Bethany earned enough money from her book deals to put herself through college to study veterinary medicine. When her brief time in the spotlight died down, she began volunteering as a counselor for troubled youths.
Former Officer Adam Perry and his wife Linda were found dead in an apparent murder/suicide. Given Perry's history of infidelity and his upcoming trial, it was assumed the Perry marriage was on the rocks and Adam chose to end it permanently.
Haley Farough's sister Heather returned home from college in the wake of Haley's death to help her father run the motel. With declining business, the Shady Woods motel closed soon after.
Albert Szymanski, better known as Big Al of Big Al's Auto Body Shop, was found dead in his office the Monday following his death. While blood belonging to Joe Pratt was present at the scene, investigators could find no cause of death for Big Al. No mark or injury could be seen anywhere on his body, although traces of woman's lipstick had been smeared around his mouth.
Paul LeClair eventually remarried. He remained in the real estate business, but refused the sell the property at 2000 Blackwater road. He had the house demolished, and the land converted to a memorial for all of Lukas and Catherine Balko's victims.
Catherine Balko burned in Hell until the end of time.
George Buttrey continued to work at the Havenswood Psychiatric Facility. He was able to keep busy working in the laundry facility, and he still performed strip searches on the female patients, although his lack of sight required him to be even more hands-on with the body searches than before.
Jaclyn Becket's remains were eventually found. She and her brother Dylan were buried near their parents in Green Woods cemetery.
Rubena "Rose" Selimaj remained paralyzed for the rest of her life. She refused to show any remorse for her role in Catherine Balko's murders. She was never told about Lukas Balko's death, and spent the remainder of her days lying awake every night, with a crucifix by her bedside, watching and waiting for him.
Kristof Selimaj was put in a group care home. He found a job as a janitor cleaning bathtubs at a health club.
Sarah Wainwright continued to sing in the Blessed Hills Community Church girls choir group. Although the scars on her face and body were extensive, her positive attitude and optimism made her an inspiration among the church members. She even visited Rose in the hospital to personally forgive her for what she'd done. Sarah remained a virgin until her wedding night.
No one ever heard from Grace Harker again. In spite of Bethany's account, the large amount of blood found near the cottage led investigators to conclude Grace had died; though no body was ever found. However, many people over the following years reported seeing a naked blonde woman with a brand on her thigh entering their church during Sunday services. Some accounts claimed the woman had horns, others with wings, but all told the same story. The blonde woman would approach a basin of holy water, cup her hands within it, and splash the liquid upon her body while she begged an unseen presence for forgiveness.
She would repeat this process at different churches in different cities all over the country in a desperate hope for a chance, a small chance, that she could be saved.
Apr 8, 2018 in anal