Darkest Journey (Krewe of Hunters #20)

Darkest Journey (Krewe of Hunters #20)

Heather Graham


West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana

High School

“What are we doing?” Charlene—Charlie—Moreau demanded, surprised that both her escorts—senior girls high up in the hierarchy of one of their high school service clubs, the Cherubs—had suddenly taken hold of her arms. “Where are we going?”

She’d started out blindfolded in a car with five of her friends—all of them giggling girls ready to claim the prestige of being a Cherub. They’d been accepted into the club. They’d gone through ridiculous weeks of pledging—running, fetching, even doing homework for the “older sisters” in the club, and now it was their final night. Their great hazing. But the five of them had been split up about twenty minutes earlier; she’d been put in a car with Nancy Deauville and Sherry Compton, who’d gently led her out a little while later.

Now both girls were gripping her arms, nothing gentle about it.

Nancy Deauville laughed softly. “They say your mama’s family has the ‘sight.’ We’re just leaving you where you’ll have to ask some of your ghostly friends for help.”

“Come on! What are you going to do? Tie me up in the Grace Church graveyard?” Charlie asked, feeling her temper flare.

“Oh, Charlie, no!” Nancy said.

Sherry giggled. “We’re tying you up outside the graveyard—in the unhallowed section.”

“That’s ridiculous. And dangerous,” Charlie said angrily, a spark of fear entering her. “Three girls have been killed close to here, just north of Baton Rouge!” Her mom had been emphatic about her being careful, about her staying in the company of friends. A serial killer was at work in and around Baton Rouge.

“Don’t be alone, Charlie,” her mom had warned sternly. “He’s preying on young women who are on their own. Make sure you stay with your friends.”

Charlie had thought these people were her friends. Now she wasn’t so sure.

She tried to wrench free, but someone stronger had her arms now, and she heard multiple footsteps nearby.

Nancy and Sherry weren’t alone. They’d met up with others.

The two were superrich brats whose dads held great positions with one of the local oil companies—while her dad was a hardworking historian!

She didn’t know why she was pledging anyway, except that Cathy Corcoran, her best friend, had insisted that they at least try. The Cherubs were respected at school, plus they had the best parties.

Charlie had managed to handle the weeks of doing what the older girls asked. She’d even shocked Nancy, dropping a pack of cigarettes on her lap after the other girl had demanded that she get them, even if she had to beg, borrow or steal them. Charlie hadn’t had to do any of those things; someone on one of her dad’s tours had left a pack behind on the dock.

But this...

She didn’t tend to be scared of much. Tonight, she was.

She wasn’t afraid of the graveyard. She never had been. But girls had been murdered—and not at all far away.

She was angry now, and that anger mixed uneasily with a fear that had nothing to do with the dead.

“You know what? Don’t bother. I don’t want to be in your club,” she said. “This is ridiculous. Where are Cathy and the others?”

“Cathy is taking a little swim,” Nancy said, and laughed.

Charlie felt her temper flare another few degrees. Cathy couldn’t swim—and she was terrified of water.

“That’s it. Let me go,” Charlie said. “I’m done with you and your stupid club.”

They didn’t let her go. She heard a male voice whispering—probably Todd Camp, Nancy’s football-star boyfriend. Or maybe it wasn’t Todd. At least three other people had joined Nancy and Sherry; she could tell where they were all standing by listening to where their voices came from. All told, there were at least five people there, probably including some of Todd’s football goon friends.

“We should just let her go. Come on, Nance.”

Todd was there, Charlie was certain. But he wasn’t the one who had just spoken. Todd did anything that Nancy said. Probably—as Charlie had heard whispered in the hallways—Nancy only “gave it up” for Todd when he behaved.

“Listen to whichever of your juvenile delinquent friends was just speaking. This is criminal. You should let me go this instant,” Charlie said.

“No way, so shut up, you whiny pledge. You’ll be glad when we come back for you. Everyone wants to be a Cherub, and tomorrow you’ll be glad you didn’t chicken out,” Nancy said.

Someone approached her and whispered into her ear. She recognized the voice. It was a friend. Jimmy Smith. “Charlie,” Jimmy said urgently, “it won’t be that long. Tomorrow you really will want to be in the club. I’m so sorry, but just go with this, okay?”

“I do not want to be a Cherub,” she yelled—and meant it. “I will never be a Cherub. You are the most immature group of brats I’ve met in my entire life. Let me go!”

“Chicken!” Nancy laughed.

Charlie was strong; she worked out in the dance troupe and was also on the gymnastics team. She could have easily taken Nancy and Sherry.

But the two girls weren’t alone, and whoever was holding her now was stronger than she was. Her captor forced her down to the ground, and someone tied her wrists and ankles around something cold and hard. A tombstone, she thought.

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