As Kinsey entered her new rental house with her best friend Cora, she could see the look of disappointment on Cora’s face.

“Did you say there’s a man living above the garage?” she asked, narrowing her eyes and throwing a glance in the direction of the outside stairs.

“Yeah, it’s a separate unit, and he also apparently uses the garage for his workspace.”

“He gets the whole garage?” Cora asked, rolling her eyes as she stepped into the house. “That doesn’t seem fair.”

“Well, considering there is a carport that we both have to use, I think it’s fair enough. And I really don’t mind someone else being so close. Living alone is going to be a big change for me.”

“Wow, it’s really big.”

“I know. They said a family lived here before. But I’ll use the space eventually, especially if I decide to open my own home organization and interior design business.”

“I’m sure your ex’s mother will love that.”

“She doesn’t live anywhere close, so I’m not going to be stepping on her toes. That’s the beauty of moving away from him and her. I don’t have to worry about running into them.” It wasn’t as if she’d run into many people she knew in Adenridge, considering she was new to town and only knew Cora from when she lived back home.

They had met in high school and had been friends ever since.

“I don’t hate it. But are you sure it’s not haunted? Maybe something horrific and tragic happened here.”

Kinsey sighed. “Are you trying to scare me back to your sofa? Because all of that ghost talk isn’t going to work. I’ve told you a million times I don’t believe in that stuff. Besides, I can’t stay at your place forever. The whole point of moving out here was to get my own place so that I could work and save enough money to open the business of my dreams.”

“I’m the one afraid of you living here all alone, and you know why. It’s not safe for you.”

“I don’t want to talk about that either. Look how nice the kitchen is.” Kinsey tried her best to distract Cora, but Cora wasn’t having it.

“Don’t change the subject. You know I’m not trying to scare you, but you can’t just ignore the fact that there is a killer on the loose. A killer who is targeting young women who look like you.”

“We don’t know that for sure. It could be a coincidence.” Kinsey gave a nonchalant shrug.

Cora looked outraged. “No way. All of the victims have brown hair and eyes, and all are around our age, and let’s face it, you’re just the right build.”

“Right. So, I’m instantly a target.” Kinsey shook her head at the thought. “What did they call him again?”

“The Candle Maker,” said Cora, rolling her eyes.

Kinsey chuckled. “The Candle Maker,” she said mockingly. “What happened to calling him the Adenridge Ripper? Now, that was scary. The news needs to make up their minds. It makes people think there is a whole new killer out there. And no one needs that.”

“They should just call him the Kinky Maker with all of that kinky wax play he does with his victims.” Cora gave her a playful look.

“How do you know it was kinky? Maybe it was just part of some wild satanic ritual.” There was a lot of speculation, and the entire community of Adenridge was obsessed with the murders and who would be next.

“At least dye your hair.”

Kinsey was not about to do that. “I’m not jumping on the bandwagon of women dying their hair to avoid being killed. I like my hair just fine, thank you.”

“But it’s one way to stay safe,” said Cora. “Besides, I’m thinking of adding some color to mine.”

“Your hair is gorgeous, and you’re not even a brunette. The last I checked, by your theory, the killer is not into strawberry blondes.”

“Well, it’s the style. Everyone is doing it.”

“That reminds me of the time you pierced your nose, and it got infected.”

Cora gave her a dirty look for bringing it up. “This is different. It’s your life that’s at risk. I’m trying to save you.”

“I can promise you if there is one woman in Adenridge who is not on the killer’s radar, it’s me. Hi, I’m New Girl. Nice to meet you.” She held her hand out to Cora.

“Funny. But you’re just the type he’s looking for. A young, naïve woman living alone.”

“Oh, so now I’m naïve?”

“If you think it can’t happen to you, yes, you are.”

“I’m truly hurt. Just because I don’t want to live my life in a panic.”

“Why are you hurt? Because I’ve called you naïve? I’ve done that before.”

“No, because you won’t stop talking about this killer, which does freak me out, by the way. And you won’t tell me what you think about the house.”

“It’s big. You’ll have plenty of room here.” She glanced around the room with her tongue set in the corner of her mouth. She always did that when she was thinking of what opinion to give Kinsey. “Can you paint the walls here, or is that forbidden?”

“Oh, I asked on the walkthrough. As long as it’s not some crazy color, yes, I can paint it. The landlord said something neutral and light. But if he hates it, I lose my deposit.”

“In that case, I think it has great potential. And I’d consider that deposit gone.”

“Oh, I am. Anyway, I’m not going to be painting it anytime soon.”

“Why not? We’ll make it a party. I’ll bring snacks.”

“I’ll have to see what’s in the budget. For now, I’ll be focusing on getting some furniture together. Come and see what I’ve done.” She walked over to the coffee table she had put together from milk crates and an old door that was left behind by the other tenants.

“Did the last tenants leave that?”

“No, I made it.”

“Where is the hole that door goes to?”

“I’m not sure, but it makes a great coffee table for the time being. The couches look clean. I don’t think whoever lived here before smoked or had any pets.”

“Well, that’s a plus, I guess. They look alright. How do they smell?”

“I didn’t stick my nose to them. But be my guest.”

“No thanks.” Cora let out a chuckle.

Kinsey had already thought of a solution. “I thought about finding some covers for them when I decided to change them. Or maybe you could help me reupholster them.”

Cora walked into the dining area that was attached to the kitchen. “At least you don’t have to eat at the milkcrates.”

There was a nice table and three mismatched chairs left behind. “Yeah, I hope the fourth chair is around here somewhere.”

“It’s probably in the basement with God knows what else.”

“I said stop it,” she scolded her again. “I’ve peeked down there. It’s not so bad as basements go, especially considering the age of this house.”

“Are you sure there isn’t someone living down in the basement too?”

“No, it’s not finished like that. It’s just plain with a nice little wash area. And thankfully, the washer and dryer came with the place, too, as well as all of the other appliances, so I really don’t need anything.”

“That’s good. Going to the laundromat sucks. I did it for two years before getting my own washer and dryer. You’re really lucky. No one wants to be out at the laundromat alone these days.”

One of the victims had been on her way home from the laundromat when she went missing. “I feel for those poor owners of the place. Their business is hurting.”

“Yeah, but sales are up at the appliance store.” She gave a shrug as if to say, What can you do? Most conversations led back to the killer.

Kinsey looked around. “I think I’m really going to like it here.”

“Well, I’m glad, and I’m really happy for you. I can’t wait to help you decorate and go shopping. We’ll have to go out to some of the shops in town.”

“Sounds like fun.”

“You know my couch is always there if you need it. And if you really wanted, we could find a two-bedroom unit. Living alone isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

“Well, you can come and stay with me when you want to.”

“I’ll bring my spirit board.”

Kinsey laughed, knowing that there was no use telling her not to. She’d show up with candles and a deck of tarot as well. Her house was full of divination tools, and Kinsey knew they were well loved and used. Cora loved all things paranormal and even had a standing appointment with the local psychic medium, who she had been trying to get Kinsey to meet since coming to town a month ago.

“Do you want to stay and have some dinner with me? I don’t have food, but we can order something over.”

“I don’t know. I really need to get home before dark.”

“You shouldn’t let this asshole dictate what you do,” said Kinsey. “But I understand.”

About that time, there was a thud that sounded like it was coming from somewhere in the house. “What was that?” asked Cora.

“I’m not sure. Maybe it was the house settling or something. I’m sure I’m going to be hearing all sorts of creaks and noises here.”

“It’s haunted, I’m telling you.”

“You’re jumping to a big conclusion based on one sound that we haven’t heard again? I think it’s fine. I’ll let you know if I see any ghosts.” She gave a soft chuckle and shook her head. Cora could always go overboard where ghosts and the paranormal were concerned. Every little bump in the night was connected to something from the other side.

“You know the other alternative, right?”

“What’s that?” asked Kinsey.

“Rats. An old place like this? I’d have it checked out. You don’t want to be lying in bed one night and have one crawl up your leg.”

“And now I’m afraid of mice. Thank you for that.” It wasn’t that she was truly afraid, but Cora did nothing for a person with fear. She had even developed the ability to scare herself with her wild imagination.

“Sorry. I think you’ll be fine.”

“Liar, but I know I will be fine. And don’t worry, if anything ever happens to me, I’ll come back and haunt you if ghosts are real.”

Cora’s blue eyes brightened. “Would you? Not that I want you to die, but we should really have a pact so we can figure out if the paranormal really exists.”

Kinsey was sure Cora would find a clue in everyday things if anything ever happened to her, just to say she was right all along. “Okay. It’s a deal.” She held out her hand to shake it, and Cora obliged.

“I just hope I can get settled in before I start the subbing job you got me.” Kinsey was going to work as a substitute teacher at the local high school when the art teacher went away to have surgery.

“You will,” said Cora. “I’ll help you. So, when does Tits McGee go in for her surgery?”

“Don’t call her that. I’ll laugh in her face next time I see her just thinking about it.”

“Well, if you have a name like McGee, it’s going to happen. Especially with those huge implants she’s rocking. I mean, can we talk about pushing the limits? All her students call her Tits behind her back. Why shouldn’t we?”

“How do you know that?” Kinsey hadn’t been around long enough to hear it.

Cora shrugged as if it wasn’t the only thing she knew. “Most of the teachers frequent the public library for one reason or another. So, I hear a lot of things. How do you think I heard about the job in the first place?”

“I didn’t know. I was just so grateful that you chose me to refer.”

“Well, you were sleeping on my couch at the time. Oh, and I found out that this trip under the knife, she’s having more plastic surgery.”

“I don’t care if she’s getting a horn in the top of her head. I just want to make some extra money.”

Cora glanced at her phone and frowned. “I am going to have to go. But I’m glad I finally got to see it. Are you sure you don’t need a hand with anything?”

“I got almost everything while you were at work. So, I’m all set. I guess this will be my first real night here.”

“Well, good luck. And know that I’m just a phone call and ten minutes away.”

Kinsey walked her to the door and hugged her. “Thanks again for everything. I would not have had the courage to move here if you hadn’t offered to help me out.”

“You can thank me by letting me come back tomorrow night and dye your hair. I am amazing with highlights, and if we just go down a shade or two, you won’t be on the killer’s radar.”

Kinsey shook her head. “No. I’m not dying my hair. But thanks for the offer.”

“I’ll pay the salon if you want.”

“No. Really, I’m fine.” She was never the type to dye her hair. She was always so afraid it would fall out or look ridiculous, and she wasn’t taking any chances.

“Fine,” said Cora. “I’m just trying to save your life. I’ll call you when I get home to let you know I made it.”

“Don’t forget.” She walked her friend out to her car.

“I’m going to get in and lock the door. You should go back inside, and I’ll wait for you to lock up.”

“Okay,” said Kinsey, who turned and went back to the house. She went inside and shut and locked the door, and only after did Cora drive away.

She turned and looked at her house. It was all hers, and she was going to make the most of it and try not to let fear get the best of her.

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