END OF THE TRAIL

She captured his heart, and he thought he could protect her.

FBI Special Agent Tom Stone has sworn to protect not only the victim of a stalker but also the first love of his life. Then the unthinkable happens and the evil shadow of Denise's past rips her away from him.

She thought she'd put the nightmare behind her.

After her best friend is found horrifically murdered, recent college grad student, Denise Obum forces herself to move on from her hometown in Virginia and put the past behind her. In Washington, D.C., she believes she is living her dream as head of the DNA Analysis team at the largest CSI Lab in the nation. But her dream quickly morphs into a hideous nightmare as she realizes that the unspeakable terror from her past has caught up with her and is determined to end her life. She runs, she hides, only to find that all she can do is face the monster.


First Chapter Excerpt

High on the mountain he waited for his prey to appear! He had seen signs of a lone camper, female, that had been camping on a couple of the trails. Cleverly he had removed a couple of the signs so that she would become lost and be led to his open area. It didn’t matter to him if they were short, tall, skinny or heavy as long as it was a female. If the mood were right, he would strike like a coiled rattlesnake, giving no warning.

One un-suspecting female was on the trail high up on the mountain. With her knapsack on her back, she stopped and looked around at her surroundings. She was unaware of the danger that lay just ahead. Lost and alone she moved onward trying to find her way back to a sign or a familiar area where she could get her bearings.

He moved up closer to his prey, smiled and said hello. Turning to face him, after being startled by his voice, she smiled back, but was hesitant in starting a conversation up with the stranger. He noticed her nervousness and moved in closer but still kept his distance.

“Hey you look like you’re lost? Do you need some help?” He was still smiling as if he was her friend.
“Well, I – I’m not sure, but I think I’ve become lost up here.” She smiled back.
“That’s okay; all the trails up here look alike. I have a map in my cabin, just over there. I’ll show you where you are and then you can see where you want to go.”
“You live up here?” Now she was feeling a little more at ease. The handsome stranger looked harmless enough and he was keeping his distance so she didn’t see the harm in just looking at the map.
“Yes, I’ve lived up here for the past three years I guess. It’s nice and quiet most of the time.”
“You said you have a map? I had one but it blew away some time ago. There were plenty of signs, but in the last couple of miles the signs seem to have taken me away from where I was heading. I just kept on following those signs hoping to find my next stop. Anyway I ended up here, where-ever here is!”
He let out a laugh as he held out his hand to help guide her over some rocks in the path and lead her to his cabin. At first she was hesitant to take the stranger’s hand, but then extended her hand to him and off they went. Once they arrived at the cabin she moved inside looking over her surroundings carefully. He moved right behind her, but still kept his distance at first.
“The map is over there on the wall, see it,” he said as he moved closer to her pointing to the large map.
“Yes, but it all looks alike! Where are we?”
“Why we’re here, the end of the trail!” He was now in position, close to her standing directly behind her back. He extended his left arm to point to the area where they were and explained, “We’re right here.” He was pointing to the small spot at the top of the mountain. “Now if you want to go down to the bottom, then you would take this path; it will lead you all the way down.”
“Great, but I was looking for a campsite that someone told me about. I would like to get some more pictures while I’m up here, and I wanted to get my camp pitched before dark.”
“Oh you’re a photographer?”
“Well, I like to think so, but I really just like to take pictures of nature. Some of my pictures have landed in magazines, but I’m really just an amateur.”
“Oh I bet your pictures are great. Don’t worry about getting your camp setup; you still have several hours before dark, and if you would like, I’ll show you where a great campsite is if you would like.” His hand was now on her shoulder.
He could feel the tension build in her body at his touch. He then took his other hand and placed it on her other shoulder. Before she knew what had happened his hands were around her throat. She began to fight feverishly trying to escape! She clawed and kicked, but it was no use. She was about to pass out when one of his hands loosened the grip from her neck. The next thing she felt was a sharp stabbing pain in her back. His left hand now dropped to under her arm. He didn’t want her to pass out before he was finished.
 She looked down to see a sharp instrument protruding out the front of her chest! She could see her blood spilling down the front of her shirt! The look in her eyes gave him pleasure as he stared into them and saw the anguish and pain she felt as her life was slipping away! With his hand on the blade he turned it slowly while it was protruding from her chest. He watched the blade turning and could feel the smoothness of its movements while inside her.
He gently laid her on the floor as if he was laying a baby in a crib. He then took her camera from her backpack and started to snap pictures of her face. He marveled at the expression on her face and watched the color drain from her as the blood spilled out onto the floor. The expression on his face was of pleasure and a feeling of triumph. He watched as she took her last breath! He had mastered a kill, now he could go on with his day.
He had a shallow grave waiting for her body. There were three or four other graves beside the one he laid her in. Covering her with a piece of silk so that the dirt wouldn’t dirty her pretty milk white skin, he crooned to her that she could rest now. She was in good company with the others he had laid to rest there.
Pumping water from an old well, he filled two buckets up and proceeded to clean up the cabin floor. Taking her backpack, he went through the contents and destroyed all identification proofs of the girl. He decided to keep the camera and the backpack. He put all of the torn pieces of her identification in a plastic bag and buried it far from the cabin. Then he walked back to the cabin to clean himself up. He looked in the mirror and noticed that she had clawed his face and neck pretty hard. He kind of gave a chuckle as he looked down at the scratches. He had not felt any pain from her fighting back. He thought to himself he would have to cover them before he went into town.
Today was a very special day. There was someone very special to him coming home from college today. He had been marking off the days dreaming of her coming home to stay, and he was going to make it very special for he had something special in mind for her.
Denise Odum was a very special person. At five foot six, with long blonde hair, her weight was perfect at one hundred and fifteen pounds. She was twenty-two years old and looked as if she just stepped out of a glamour magazine. She had everything going for her.
Denise was from a small town in Virginia, Middleburg. She had just stepped off the bus and was looking forward to being home and eating some of her mom’s good home cooking! It had been six months since she had been home and seen her family.
Most of the time, during the summer, and spring break, she remained at the university and picked up odd jobs. She worked on special projects or worked in the library. This way she could save her money. She knew her mom and dad would pay for anything she asked for including bus fare, but she just couldn’t ask them for extras. They both worked so hard and had two other children to get through high school and college.
 She knew her mom had planned a big welcome home party. She had just graduated from the University in Washington DC. She was now a Special Crimes Investigator, top of her class with honors! There would be several offers for a job on the table and all would want her to start right away. This was what she was hoping for.
She had worked very hard to get her degree and had decided she wanted to take a little time off for herself. Denise had heard from all of her professors that there would be plenty of opportunities for her. She decided to take some time for herself and not rush into anything. Her most important decision would favor something that was closer to her home.
She missed her mom and dad, even her sister and brother. She was the oldest out of three children and the first to go to the university with a full scholarship, at the top of her class in high school from the ninth grade to the twelfth! It was a sure thing she would get a scholarship to any university she chose to attend.
Denise’s sister and brother were always complaining about her setting the bar so high. They were both in high school and even the teachers were always reminding them of how well Denise had done in their classes. They would always say to them “I hope you two are just like your sister!”
Carlie and Kyle were twins. They both had a mean streak a mile wide. Not really bad children, but rebellious enough to let everyone know they were their own person and nothing like Denise!
They looked up to her and always shared their secrets with their sister when she was home. When it came to everything else school, social events, and having fun well, they were a hundred percent the party animals. Nothing to them was serious. They were both good looking and they wanted everyone to know it.
The taxi pulled up in front of her home and as she sat in the back seat of the taxi for a couple of minutes she just stared at the house and yard. She hadn’t been gone that long, but the sight of her home made her feel how home sick she really had been. She had really missed being there! She had come home for the holidays and spring break a couple of times during her college years but this time was different. She just couldn’t find the words to explain what she was feeling.
The big two story colonial house stood majestically in the sunlight. The brilliant white paint looked as if it had just been painted. The walkway was lined with borders of multi colored flowers like something out of a magazine. The porch had two rockers and a porch swing. On both sides of the yard were two huge magnolia trees in full bloom. The fragrance filled the air as she took in a deep breath. She remembered all too well the many nights she sat on the swing and thought about the future.
She really had never decided what she wanted to be when she grew up; it just came to her on the day she graduated from high school. She had not even planned to go to college because of the expense. When she found out she had a full scholarship, it became a different story.
Denise’s mom and dad weren’t expecting her until tomorrow. She had taken the train and caught an earlier bus, which made her arrive a day early. Her mom and dad had attended her graduation a couple of weeks earlier, but she wanted to stay at the university to clear out her dorm room and put some of her books up for sale in the book store. She had decided to keep most of the important ones for reference and she wanted to sell the others that weren’t that important. She had sent the ones she wanted to keep home by UPS ahead of her.
Denise had told everyone she’d be home on the tenth of June, and it was only the ninth. She was sure this would surprise everyone. The shoe was on the other foot this time; her father and mother were always trying to surprise her. She knew her mom to well. Her mom would have a party scheduled for tomorrow. This time the surprise would be on them! She paid the taxi driver and stepped out of the taxi; Denise let out a little giggle as she walked up the sidewalk to the front porch.
Her father would be at work and the twins would still be in school. Her mother would be home alone. Denise walked up to the door and decided to ring the doorbell and wait for her mother to open it. She looked down at her watch and saw it was two o’clock in the afternoon. It would be worth a million dollars to see the look on her mother’s face when she opened the door! Her mother was a third grade school teacher and the local grammar school had been out for the past two weeks.
She pushed the doorbell again and listened to the chime. A smile came to her lips as she waited. She listened carefully and heard her mother’s footsteps coming closer to the front door. She wanted to holler out, hey mom, guess who, but she held her tongue and waited. The door opened and the look on her mother’s face couldn’t be described! It was worth a million dollars!
Denise opened the screen door and her mother opened the front door at the same time. Her mother let out a scream that could have been heard half way down the block! They both embraced in a long tight hug! Denise felt safe and warm in her mother’s arms. She was twenty-two years old, but nothing was like being home and in her mother’s arms.
“For goodness sake, what are you doing here? You’re not supposed to be here until tomorrow child! Your father is going to have a heart attack when he gets home and sees you!”
“Oh mom, I just thought since I finished early, I’d come home early and surprise everyone! I know you and dad wouldn’t be expecting me until tomorrow, so I thought I’d surprise you!”
“Well you certainly did that! Are you hungry? Can I fix you a sandwich or maybe some soup?”
“Mom, I’m fine. I ate before I left the university and it was only a three or four hour train ride and from the station I took the bus. I’m good until dinner, okay?”
“Are you sure, maybe just a snack? You’re so skinny!”
“Mom I’m fine.”
“I have to go pick up the twins at three thirty; do you want to go with me?”
“Why don’t I go and pick them up?”
“I suppose you could if you want too.”
“I think I’ll go and take a quick shower and change clothes. Then I’ll go and pick them up. Do you need anything from the store since I’m going through town?”
“No, I don’t think I need anything, unless there’s something special you want? Now don’t let them talk you into going all over the place. They’ll want to go to the malt shop and the game room. Go and pick them up and come back home.”
“No, there’s nothing that I can think of and I’ll make sure the twins don’t run me all over town.”
Denise ran up stairs and took a short cool shower. It was good to be back in the room she remembered so well growing up. She looked through her drawers and found a cool pair of shorts and a tank top. Even her sandals felt good on her feet! While she was at school she always wore her lace up shoes or heels. She was always dressed up it seem. On the weekends she would always find some type of seminar to attend or was in the library studying.  There wasn’t any type of social life. In fact she couldn’t remember the last time she had a date! Boys were always fooling around and the men around campus were just as irresponsible as the boys!
Even though her four years at the university had been completely covered by her scholarship she never let down her guard. It was important for her to continue to get straight A’s. Her hard work had paid off. She was number one in her class and she never missed a beat!
Denise came down the stairs to see her mother talking to the postman at the front door. As soon as they heard her, they both stopped talking.
“Denise, you remember Ralph the postman, don’t you?”
“Yes mom. Hi Ralph, how are you doing?”
“Just fine, glad you’re home?”
“Yes, I sure am.”
“I was just telling your mother here, I have another certified letter for you. Since you’re here, I guess you’ll want to sign for it.”
“Thanks. You said another certified letter?”
“Yes, there were two last week and now here’s another one. Your mom here signed for them.”
“Yes dear, I signed for the others and put them in the dining room. I forgot all about them until now with you getting home a day early surprising me and all!”
Denise let out a giggle and signed the receipt. Ralph handed her the letter and said good-bye as he walked down the sidewalk to the next house.
“Mom, you said there were a couple of others for me?”
“Yes, they are lying on the top shelf in the hutch. Your brother and sister wanted to open them. You know how inquisitive they are! I told them to leave them alone and I put them away in the hutch so that they wouldn’t bother them.” 
Denise walked over to the hutch and found the other letters on the top shelf just as she had said they would be. She always hides everything important on the top shelf. Everyone knew that and everyone knew not to touch anything up there if they didn’t want the wrath of dad to come down on them! Denise put the letter she just signed for away with the others. She had decided to open them later. It was nearing three thirty and she wanted to pick up her brother and sister. Her mother handed her the keys to her car and told her to be careful. Denise took the keys and walked out the back door to the driveway where the car was parked.
Denise was sitting in front of the school watching for them. Hearing the bell ring she knew they would be coming out the front door. She watched carefully for them and wanted to see their faces. She hadn’t seen them since Christmas. During her spring break, she had taken a trip to Washington DC to go to a seminar on law enforcement and had not come home this past year. At graduation the twins had stayed home. The college graduation was at the end of May and the high school didn’t get out until the middle of June.
The kids were running out the front door in a pack! It was hard to see their faces. Finally she saw her brother horsing around with a couple of his friends; then she saw her sister slowly walking out the door and down the steps with a couple of girls. They spotted the car and looked carefully at the driver. They finally recognized Denise and started to run towards it. They suddenly stopped dead in their tracks as if they were headed in the wrong direction and both looked at each other. It wasn’t a mirage; it really was Denise. They started to run again to reach the car.
“Hey there big sis, how did you get here? When did you get home? Does mom know you’re home?”
“Yes, and I got here this afternoon. How do you think I got mom’s car if she didn’t know I was here?”
“Oh yeah I guess she would have to give you the keys huh?”
“Hey Denise, can you take us by the malt shop?”
“Why?”
“I told some of my friends we’d meet them there.”
“Does mom know?”
“She doesn’t care; she drops us off there all the time.”
“I think one of you should call her and ask, don’t you?”
“Carlie, you call mom. You know we could have just walked home!”
“Huh, you walk home; both of you haven’t walked home from school since you were in grade school!” Denise said as she began to laugh.
“Hey mom, Carlie here, can Denise drop us off at the malt shop?”
“Carlie, I think you and your brother should come home; you know your sister just got here?”
“She don’t care, please mom?”
“Go ahead if Denise says she doesn’t mind. But I want you home for dinner, do you hear?”
“Okay, we’ll be home for supper!”
“Mom said it was all right, so just drop us off. We’ll call when we’re ready to come home.”
Denise pulled in front of the malt shop. Carlie and Kyle jumped out of the car and were gone in a flash. Denise pulled away from the curb and headed for home. She remembered the malt shop. It had been there for years. It was a local hang out for all kids in high school. She also had been one of the customers there when she was in high school.
Pulling into the driveway, she thought of the registered letter she had signed for and the other two, which her mom had hidden in the hutch. She was beginning to wonder what they were and who had sent them.
“Mom; I’m back.” Denise called out as she walked in the house through the back door.
“Okay, want to help with dinner?”
“Sure, what would you like me to do?”
“The roast is in the oven, and I thought we’d have mash potatoes, toss salad, and fresh green beans. So if you want you can toss the salad, or peel the potatoes.”
“Okay, but why such a fancy dinner mom, isn’t it usually pizza on Friday night?”
“Yeah, but tonight we have to celebrate; my baby’s home!”
“Oh mom, it really wasn’t necessary to go to all this trouble. Pizza would have been fine. You didn’t call dad did you?”
“No, he’ll be home at six as usual and he doesn’t know a thing!”
“Mom I think I’ll read those letters and then I’ll start on the potatoes.”
“Okay, can I listen?”
“Sure why not.”
Opening the first letter Denise read it out loud to her mother.
“Miss Denise Odum,
We have a special job opportunity with our crime lab we wish to propose to you. We would like for you to call us at your earliest convenience to set up an appointment for an interview with our Lab.
We look forward to hearing from you.” 
Sincerely
Lab director of Washington DC FBI Lab.
She hadn’t put out any resumes, and she hadn’t even thought about what she was going to do now that she had finished school!
She opened the second letter and it was exactly the same as the first. This one was from Atlanta Georgia. Opening the third one, she found that it was the same also. This one was from New York City!
“Oh my, you have three job offers! How great is that? You should call them right away honey! Which one do you think you’ll take?”
“Mom, I haven’t talked to any of these guys yet. I just want to chill out for a week or two and then we’ll see what they have to say. You know I really don’t like being away from home mom!”
“I know but you’re a young woman now and you should be out on your own. I mean, it isn’t as though you’ve never been on your own! You just spent four years away from home!”
“I know, but I’d just rather be closer to home now. Maybe our town needs a crime investigator specialist!”
“You know if they had a lab here, you would probably get the job hands down. The sheriff’s office here hasn’t changed in fifty years! They have three deputies, one sheriff and four squad cars. The fire department is the same also!”
Exactly at quarter to six the telephone rang and Denise and her mom both looked at each other.
“It’s probably the twins wanting to be picked up. I’ll answer it just in case it’s your father. Hello?”
“Mom? Come get us.”
“Okay I’ll be right there.
“Mom I’ll go and pick them up, okay?”
“Sure, just go the back way so you don’t run into your father, he’ll be on his way home.”
“Okay, I’ll be back before he gets home.”
The table was set and all the food was ready to be put on the table. Now it was time for Denise to surprise her father. She could see his old dodge car coming down the street. She felt like a giddy schoolgirl!
Looking out the front window she was watching for her father. She could see his car coming. “Mom, he’s coming!”
“Here, come into the kitchen so he doesn’t see you. He always comes in by the front door. He picks up the evening newspaper and then walks up the walkway slowly to the porch, stops, turns and looks out across the lawn and the flowers. Then he walks into the house, announces he’s home, takes off his hat, and hangs it up in the closet. You watch and see. Then he’ll announce he’s hungry and wants to know what’s for dinner. Then he’ll ask have you ordered the pizza yet?”
Sure enough everything she said was true. Exactly as she said down to the tee! Denise waited in the kitchen. She could hear her father coming closer and she couldn’t help but giggle as she was peeking out the doorway to watch her father.
“Who’s that in the kitchen mother?”
“Oh, that’s just Carlie talking on the telephone. Come and sit down. I’ll put the food on the table.”
Mom walked into the kitchen and motioned for Carlie and Denise to start toward the dining room. They were both carrying food and just as mother put the roast on the table, father looked up from his paper and said, “what’s going on, this is pizza night, what’s all this?”
“Oh never you mind, I thought we’d have something different tonight.”
Just then he noticed the extra place setting on the table. Denise came out of the kitchen holding the salad bowl up over her face so that her father couldn’t exactly tell who was hiding behind the bowl she was carrying.
“For heaven’s sakes how did you get here? You can’t be here until tomorrow! Come here girl!” He had tears in his eyes. He was certainly surprised at Denise being home.
They all began to laugh and enjoy the wonderful dinner that mother had set out. Even Kyle was behaving himself. Usually he would grab a slice of pizza and be out the front door to spend Friday night with his friends at the arcade playing videos games. Carlie would be upstairs with her pizza and getting ready to go to the movies with her friends. Tonight was special and they all just wanted to stay home and enjoy the family being together.
a small fishing village in Connecticut known as Watch Hill, walking on the beach at sunset became a rather enjoyable pastime for Wayne Minor. It was not a very big village; in fact, the village was on a small island. The main village ran from east to west, covering only about five miles from the Lighthouse to the last house. The south side of the island was rocky–almost mountainous. Nobody lived on the south side because the rocky surface made it inhabitable. Nobody could argue that there was a better place to live than Watch Hill. Everyone knew everybody, and all were like a big family.
 
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