Cam’s gonna kill me if I don’t die getting home first. Tess walked a bit faster, shifting her basket so it stopped banging her legs. She tripped over a crack in the asphalt and stepped directly in a deep puddle. It had to rain, didn’t it? She’d definitely been cheated by the milk and cheese man, but the real lost time had been at the baker’s, when she picked up a loaf by accident that would have been twice the cost of what she usually bought. The baker wouldn’t let her put it back because she’d touched it. That’s so unfair. My hands were clean. Cleaner than his, anyway, the way he kept rubbing his nose. By the time she was done there the sky had gone black and she barely had time to duck back inside the store before the storm hit.

Something sniffled in the alley to her right. What’s that noise? Oh, come on Tess, stop freaking yourself out. It was probably just the wind, tossing around trash in an alley and howling in between buildings. Or it could be a stray animal. Maybe even a rabid one. She started walking slowly, forcing herself not to look back. If she ran-and that alone would kill her; she hated moving faster than a rapid walk-whatever it was might decide to chase her. If you act confident and in control, you seem like you belong. They’re looking for someone who acts confused and nervous…ugh, shut up inner Anj.

It couldn’t be him, he never could have gotten into the White…no, if she started thinking about that she was going to have a panic attack right here, right now, and then whatever it was would find her. I’m fine. He can’t touch me, he can’t hurt me. I’m all right. She had to pass that alley to go back to the street, and she couldn’t if she was scared of what was in there. Maybe it’s just a stray cat. Or it’s some creepy demon murderer…you read too many books. It took a long time to convince herself the shadows weren’t a snarling feline figure and the sound was coming from a pile of garbage against the wall near the road. Something there was moving.

What is that? Is that a dog? A cat? Is it rabid… She picked reached into her pocket for her knife and twisted the chip of flint tied onto it. Don’t panic. Don’t panic. Just walk past like they’re not there…

Oh God. That’s a person. Half of what she had assumed was thrown-away rags was someone’s clothes, and whoever it was was sobbing quietly and their entire back was covered in something dark, probably blood. I need to go. Someone did this and they might still be here…