My name is Reagan Wilcox: high school senior by day, kick-ass investigative journalist by night. I’ve always loved observing people—especially when they think no one is paying attention.
I thought I was ready to cover any story. Work any angle.
Nothing could have prepared me for what happened that night. I wasn’t ready for what I saw. And I certainly wasn’t ready for him.
I always knew I’d write the headlines. Now, I just might become one.
THE CHURCH BELLS from St. Agnes Church chime, letting me know I have a half hour before Dad calls the National Guard out for me.Hmm, maybe enough time to head to the Shake Shack and get a frozen salted caramel hot chocolate—my new favorite addiction.
Gravel crunches under my feet as I cross the parking lot toward my car. As I dig through my backpack searching for my car keys, a yelp rings out in the distance. Pausing, I stand still and listen for the sound again. Was an animal hurt somewhere, maybe? The noise was muffled and not close by, so I can’t make out the source. The last bell chimes, reminding me I should hurry home, but the reporter in me won’t let me leave without checking. I wait a few minutes to see if I hear it again, scanning the area for the source.
Across the street, dark shadows fill the doorways of the now-closed shops that line the main road, setting my nerves on edge. The voice in my head nags that this is how horror movies begin, but I shake off the ridiculous thought. Horror movies aren’t real. The idea of scooping a story before anyone else—that’s a real possibility. Nothing moves except for the leaves as the breeze picks up. Just as I’m ready to give up, I hear the noise again, this time followed by what sounds like shuffling feet—like something sliding through gravel.
“What in the world was that?” I mutter. The sounds together don’t make any sense. If it was an animal yelping, what was that other noise? Had someone maybe captured an animal in a trap? This is rural Tennessee, so it wouldn’t surprise me. Everyone around here is well-versed in hunting, starting in elementary school.
My naturally inquisitive mind begins imagining several scenarios, and I can’t walk away. Not until I know. Lord knows if I just get in my car and leave, I’ll be up all night thinking about how I might’ve missed out on a story. Bye bye, scholarship.
I sigh, shoving my overflowing backpack in the passenger seat before slamming the car door as I head toward the source of the noise. I make my way toward the river, cutting through an alleyway. The single streetlight flickers, barely illuminating the area and making it feel even more desolate out here. Ominous, almost. I can’t help thinking that with my luck, it’ll end up being a skunk that sprays me for trying to help.
The alley is more of a narrow path between buildings, not even wide enough for a car to fit through. Overflowing dumpsters from surrounding businesses line one side while the other is a dirty brick wall covered in graffiti. If this were Baltimore, I might have been more cautious, but while Hope Mills isn’t Pleasantville by any means, I don’t feel afraid, only curious.
“Get your hands off me, you son of a bitch. You’re never going to get away with this!” a man growls in the distance, the final word echoing off the water.
I whip my head around, barely missing smacking it on an underhang promoting JT’s Soul Food Buffet. Okay, that definitely wasn’t an animal.
About Sarah M. Ross
Sarah started her obsession with reading at an early age, often sneaking BabySitter Club and Nancy Drew books into math class. She would read any book she could get her hands on. Her love of reading quickly evolved into a love of writing and stories began to pour out of her.
She grew up in Pittsburgh, graduated from The University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English, and taught 8th graders to love reading as much as she does for several years. Sarah will always be a proud member of the Steelers' Nation, but couldn't take the cold and moved her frozen tush to Florida where she now lives with her family and two cats. You will find her now with her trusty Kindle in hand and toes in the sand!
Sarah's debut novel, AWAKEN, released in January, 2012. Other novels include AVENGE, ATONE, ECHO OF AN EARTH ANGEL, and INHALE EXHALE.