Dead Silence Page 1

PROLOGUE

JAY HIT THE DOOR WITH HIS SHOULDER, BUT IT didn’t splinter beneath his weight or anything quite so dramatic. The handle, which was probably old and in disrepair anyway, fell apart on impact and the door shot open, banging against the wall on the other side. The crashing noise filled the dark house, echoing off the walls.

The sound of rushing water was stronger in here, as was the stink of urine. Violet recoiled from the smell, covering her face. She could only see fragments of the space around her, tiny pieces of the room: an old bureau with a cracked mirror, its jagged shards catching bits of light from outside and reflecting it around them; a window with dingy-looking curtains billowing in on either side of it; a mound in the center of the floor that could only be one thing.

“Chelsea,” Violet whimpered, falling to her knees at the same time she caught a glimpse of another person—the killer—emerging from the darkened corner. Above his head there was something glowing, a blur of light that Violet couldn’t make out . . . he was moving far too quickly now.

“Jay,” she tried to warn, but it wasn’t necessary.

Whoever he was, he was already launching himself toward the open window, throwing himself over the sill just as Jay was about to reach him. And with him went both the trickling of water and the stench of old urine.

Two of his imprints.

“We did it,” Violet breathed. “We found her.” Outside, the shrill sound of sirens came closer, and she no longer cared about anything except that they’d found Chelsea.

And then, before she could stop him, before she could even shout his name, she watched as Jay, too, hurled himself over the window’s ledge.

She started to get up, to go to the window to see if he was okay. To see if he’d landed safely, but a hand stopped her. Chelsea’s hand.

Relief rippled within her and spread outward.

“It’s okay, Chels, I’m here now. I’m here.”

She heard it then, a wheezing sound, and she felt frantically for Chelsea’s face, her hands stroking her friend’s cheeks. “It’s okay,” she repeated, but this time she was no longer sure. Something was wrong.

She kept going, her hands searching the girl beneath her as the sirens outside grew nearer and nearer. When her hands reached Chelsea’s belly, she felt something warm and sticky and wet.

Her first instinct was to draw away. She didn’t want to touch it. Not this. Not Chelsea’s blood.

But that moment passed quickly, and then Violet was screaming as she heard the commotion below her, just outside the window. “Help! We need help in here!”

She pressed her hands as hard as she could to the wound, it was all she could remember from the abbreviated first aid course they’d had in PE. She thought that maybe she should do something more, but she didn’t know what that something might be.

And then Chelsea went still beneath her.

Not the kind of still that happens when someone falls asleep, when you continue to feel their breaths, when you know that their blood is coursing within them.

No, this was a different kind of still. The kind that Violet had only seen in death.

The final kind of still.

She heard footsteps that seemed too far away. Voices that were disjointed and sounded nonsensical to her ears.

Nothing made sense. Nothing was real.

Hands pulled her off Chelsea and she struggled against them, fighting to stay with her, fighting to remain at her friend’s side so she could save her. So she could protect her. To stop whatever was happening.

But when she first saw the smoke coming up from Chelsea, from her friend’s hair, her skin, her mouth, as insubstantial and wraithlike as the air itself, she realized . . . she knew . . .

She was too late.

Heat . . . smoke . . .

This was Chelsea’s echo.

CHAPTER 1

Almost Three Weeks Earlier

VIOLET AMBROSE COVERED HER HEAD WITH her pillow and punched it, trying to drive her fist through her ears—through her own skull if necessary—in hopes of silencing the constant music-box sound that followed her. Everywhere. Even into the depths of sleep.

It haunted her dreams and preoccupied her thoughts, taking up every spare iota of space in her brain. And then some.

Violet had never worried about the echoes of the dead before. She’d never spent much time wondering why a certain body carried the sensation that it did—the bold tastes, the intricate colors, the intense smells. She’d just accepted them for what they were. They were simply part and parcel of those who were taken away from this world too soon. She understood that those who were killed carried an echo, and that whoever was responsible for their deaths would carry his or her own matching imprint. End of story.

Except that now, Violet had her own imprint. And it was all she could think about. It was like she had become trapped in her own personal hell.

Because now she was a killer too. And in becoming a killer, she was now encumbered with a burden almost too great to bear.

Violet hated the song that echoed around, and above, her. Hated this particular echo of the dead like she’d never hated any other before.

Not because it wasn’t beautiful or melodious or catchy. But because it was unending. A constant reminder of what she’d done.

You’re a killer . . .

You’re a killer . . .

You’re a killer . . .

It never stopped.

She reached for her iPod and cranked up the volume until she was certain that everyone in the house could hear the music that erupted from the earbuds. She cringed against the metallic grate that meant she’d already turned it up way too high, and that the tiny internal speakers were threatening to blow. Only then did she press the button, letting the music fade . . . but only slightly.

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