She’d have to get Michelle alone and propose the idea to her, because it would only be believable if both of them put the blame on Helen. She doubted Michelle would argue with her. Amanda walked across the front yard, puffing on the cigarette. She tasted paper. Had she already smoked it down to the filter? She checked the cigarette. There was no tobacco left, only the cotton filter, and it was starting to burn. She dropped it on the ground, stomping it out with her shoe. As she removed another cigarette from the pack, she noticed a subtle movement from the corner of her eye. She turned around. Across the yard and diagonal from the cabin was the woodshed. Just as her eyes locked on the rickety structure, she spotted someone stepping behind it. Not Ricky. She only saw a glimpse, but it was enough for her to recognize this person was female. Amanda sighted white clothes, long red hair, and tanned slender legs in a flash. Who else was out here? “Huh-hello?” She’d spoken although she hadn’t wanted to, but doubted the mystery woman had heard it. Not only had she been too far away, but her voice had croaked. Amanda glanced over her shoulder. The cabin sat silently behind her like an ill-omened presence. It was as if it had swallowed Michelle and Helen and was waiting for her. She looked back at the shed, allowing her legs to carry her closer. She spotted a tower of logs inclined against the building. The woman’s tall shape came into view at the rear of the shed. Her back was turned toward Amanda, and she couldn’t see her hands. Like maybe she had her arms crossed over her chest. She wore only a short white skirt with a long sleeved white shirt that draped her buttocks. It reminded Amanda of how she’d put on a guy’s clothes after sex to go to the bathroom or something. They’d be baggy and draping her tiny body. But this woman wasn’t tiny, she was lean and taut. The wind rustled strands of her red hair. The fire-colored locks reached the curve of her back. Amanda’s hands were trembling, so she clenched them shut. She felt something flaky in her hand. Opening it, she realized she’d accidentally broken her last cigarette. Another pack was in her bag at Michelle’s cabin. “Why are you here?” Amanda’s stomach lurched. The soft voice was like an explosion in the still air. The redhead spoke again. “Are you here to see Ricky?” Shaking her head, Amanda mouthed words that just wouldn’t come. Then the redhead turned around. A scream snagged in Amanda’s throat when she saw her face. Familiar, albeit poorly painted with makeup. Black smears around the eyes, blurry red lips from lipstick that looked to have been applied with shaky hands. And deep blue hues on her cheeks that looked like bruises. Amanda pushed some words out of her mouth. “What-what-what…” Red tilted her head as if trying to understand her. Then she raised the two-bladed ax she’d been hugging to her chest. Too shocked to react, or possibly too shocked to care, Amanda only watched as the redhead raised the ax above her head. “No one will ever hurt Ricky again…” She brought the ax down. Amanda felt it split the top of her skull. She felt its impact in the roots of her teeth, but only for a brief moment.
Chapter Twenty-Two “Fucking lamp,” said Helen, both hands on her hips. Michelle looked on in disbelief. “Who the hell puts a lamp right by the stupid door?” Helen kicked a shard of broken porcelain against the wall. From what Michelle had gathered in her brief scan of the room was Helen, upon entering through the front door had turned left, then bumped into the small table supporting the lamp and knocked it over where it busted when it struck the floor. She was lucky she hadn’t been cut. Better yet, she was absolutely fortunate Ricky hadn’t been near enough to hear her and surprise her with an assault. “How are we going to explain this?” Helen spoke as