HAVE YOU SEEN THIS GIRL
Present Day: I lost my straw three hours ago, which sucks because it was my favorite one. Getting up to look for it seems like a painstaking, insurmountable task right now, but I pull myself up to a sitting position and swing my legs over the side of the bed. The “bed” is nothing more than a dingy, rust-colored mattress that lies on the floor of a two-room basement apartment in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The threadbare carpet that covers the floor provides no support for my feet, and frankly, it stinks. I get down on my knees and lay my face flat against the carpet, holding my breath and peering under an ancient, stained armchair and the dresser that stands beside it. Now, where the fuck is that straw?
All I can see are dust bunnies, mouse droppings, and the carcass of a cockroach. No straw. I let out a frustrated groan. I give up searching, stand back up, and pad across the hall to the tiny bathroom I share with my current boyfriend, Michael, or “Mick” when he thinks he’s cool. I plop down on the toilet, running my hands through my tangled mop of greasy black hair.
I wait for the pee to come. Then wait some more. I can remember one of my old AA mentors, telling me once why opiates interfere with bodily functions like peeing, for instance. It was something about wires in the brain getting crossed…I wish I had a stopwatch to time this affair, but then it finally comes and I let out a sigh of relief.
Mick’s clothes from the night before are strewn across the bathroom floor at my feet. Suddenly I have a thought, and begin rummaging through the pockets of a brown pair of khaki shorts that I remember him wearing last night. I find what I’m looking for: a tattered black wallet, worn out from age and being sat on all day long. I open it up and peer inside. It only contains two dollars, but that’s fine by me—all I need is one.
Pulling out the faded, crumpled bill, I smooth it flat against the round edges of the wash basin. Once flattened, I begin slowly rolling it into a perfectly cylindrical mini-version of my straw. It’s basically perfect.
The dope is in my bedroom drawer, along with my razor. Using the tiny blade, I lovingly chop the heroin until it is fine and powdery, and then use the rolled up dollar bill to suck it straight up my nose. Its taste hits the back of my throat instantly and drains down through my sinuses, a sensation I used to loathe but have grown to love.
Wiping the residue from my nose noisily with the back of my hand, I glance at Mick, who is still passed out on the bed. Getting high makes him sleepy, but it fills me with an insatiable need to do something productive.
Our bedroom is dotted with tiny land mines of crumpled t-shirts, inside-out jeans, and day-old panties. I make my way around the room, picking them up and tossing them all into a wicker laundry basket in the corner.
Besides the bedroom and bathroom, we have a small, windowless sitting area, a narrow galley kitchen, and a small extra bedroom that we use for trash and other random items. I move my cleaning to the living room, gathering up snack wrappers and empty Solo cups, and then carry them into the small silver garbage can under the kitchen sink. The sink is filled to the brim with two-day-old dishes, so I start filling the sink with water and shampoo.
I’ve been out of dish soap for weeks now, but the hair care product seems to get the job done so I don’t complain. The water from the faucet never gets hot because our gas got shut off months ago. If I want hot water, I have to boil it. This all sounds ridiculous, I know. This is the twenty-first century, but my addiction has me back in the Stone Age, because when you’re an addict, you don’t spend money on things like food, water, clothes, electricity…you spend it on drugs. At least the truly hardcore addicts like me do.
Crusty teacups, sauce-covered plates, and sour-smelling utensils permeate the water, rising steadily to the brim. I plunge my hands into the frigid, cloudy water and begin mindlessly washing.
For the past six months, our daily life can be divided into three segments: looking for money to buy heroin, finding the drug, and then getting high. Oh, I almost forgot about the fourth segment: coming down from the drug—my least favorite time of day. Our entire life revolves around heroin and our bodies rely on it to function. It’s not about getting “high” anymore because I never feel lifted or high-spirited, or overly anything these days. We wake up feeling low and we need it to feel normal. Maybe they should change the expression to “getting normal” or “avoiding feeling like shit,” instead of “getting high.”
Today will be different though. Today I have a date with my good friend rehab, and in six hours from now, my daily routine should change dramatically. Mick isn’t going, but I’m fine with that. He’ll do his own thing when he’s ready. I’ve been planning this for a month now, and finally the phone call came: a bed opened up at the local in-patient clinic and today is the day to report.
I’ve been to rehab before, and will mostly like go again after this stint, but everything is about to change. This time around, major plans have been made for when I get out of rehab.
Those plans involve me and a sharp set of butcher knives, but I’ll explain that later.
Perhaps you’re wondering how I got this way. Or perhaps you don’t give a damn. Either way, this is my story. It’s not a story about addiction. This is a story about murder.
Seventeen year old Marianna Bertagnoli is miserable…
Not only did her father abandon her five years ago, now she’s being uprooted and forced to move with her mother and new stepdad to a creepy Victorian house they inherited in the even creepier town of Flocksdale.
Flocksdale has an evil, ugly past—and history has a way of repeating itself…
Marianna notices some strange qualities about her new home, and soon realizes she’s living in none other than the infamous House of Horrors. That’s right, the very house where the demented Garrett family ran a drug ring, leading to the kidnappings and murders of forty young girls.
The dark energy of the town begins to rise again…
Within a week of moving in, Marianna’s mother disappears, one of her small group of new friends is found murdered, and she’s attacked by a man wearing a hideous clown mask. As she searches for answers, Marianna wonders if the malevolence still lingers, somehow alive…and how her stepdad came to own the House of Horrors.
Unsure who to trust, Marianna turns to Wendi Wise, a survivor of the Garretts’ crimes…
Caught up in twisted family ties and surrounded by deceit, Marianna is targeted by a new generation of evil. Doubly imprisoned—in her own body and in the real house of the lost girls—Marianna needs Wendi’s help to unravel the bizarre history of Flocksdale.
But will Marianna survive long enough to bring the evil to light…or will she be trapped in the house of the lost girls forever?
HOUSE OF THE LOST GIRLS
Fuck Flocksdale. Not my words—someone else’s. The flat black spray paint obliterated the real words—Welcome to—on the shiny metal sign greeting us on our way into Flocksdale. Our new town. Not my choice of towns—someone else’s.
In the backseat of my parents’ SUV, I was slumped down in the seat with yellow earbuds shoved as far into the openings of my ears as they would go. The ornery words aroused me from my black mood, and I leaned forward, pressing my face to the glass as we passed.
I tried not to smile. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who hated this town.
“Wow. That’s just great,” my mother said, also noticing the nasty words scrawled on the sign as we passed by. “Who would do something like that?” she asked.
“Oh, honey. You know who. Rotten teenagers,” my stepdad uttered disgustedly, staring back at me in the rearview mirror. I may as well have written the words myself based on his nasty look. It was so obvious that he hated me. Why couldn’t my mother see that? Or maybe she sees it and just doesn’t care, I thought bitterly.
I narrowed my eyes at my stepdad darkly, sliding back down in my seat. I turned up the volume on my iPod, switched the song to Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day. I mouthed words to the song, lonely lyrics about walking alone, as we entered my new town of Flocksdale.
I hated him…not my stepdad, but my real dad. For leaving my mom and I five years ago, and ultimately, bequeathing me to this asshole. Everything between my mom and dad was fine, and then one day it wasn’t. He left a note, saying he was going to live with his new girlfriend.
A note. If I ever got to see him again, I had a few notes of my own to give him.
My mom and George got married only a year ago, but George had been wrecking my life ever since.
Like right now, for instance.
He had accepted a job in Flocksdale, and even though my mom had her own job in Ohio, and I had my school and friends, here we were—starting over. Our lives didn’t matter to him. It was all about him, furthering his career goals. He didn’t care that I had to leave my old school. The school I’d attended my entire life…
Despite the explicit greeting on the way in, the part of town we drove into seemed quiet and quaint. It was nearly ten o’clock at night, but the main street was free of motorists and the sidewalks held no pedestrians. Rows of brick buildings, apparently small businesses, lined the street on both sides, “We’re Closed” signs firmly displayed in their windows.
“Well, this definitely looks like a peaceful town, Georgie,” my mother said, using that stupid pet name I hated for ‘George.’ She patted my stepdad’s arm, her attempt to let him know she was fine with moving here. That she’d forgiven him. Her eyes fluttered back to meet mine, encouraging me to do the same, but I closed them, refusing to cater to Georgie’s sensitivity. Well, I haven’t…I mouthed sulkily.
I was never going to be okay with moving here. Technically, I was almost eighteen and soon to be free to go anywhere I wanted. But even after I finished my senior year of high school, at my new school, there was supposed to be college and all that…
In other words, I was stuck with my mother and surrogate daddy for at least a few more years. And now I was stuck serving out my time in this lame-ass town called Flocksdale.
“Are you sure anyone really lives here?” I asked, yanking my earbuds out. My mother shot me a death glare and my stepdad ignored my comment. He’d grown up here in this dump, and I knew insulting his alma mater would get under his skin.
But getting under his skin was turning out to be one of my favorite pastimes.
I twisted my hair in a tight bun and started packing up my book and iPod into my messenger bag. It was all I’d brought, besides my duffel bag containing a few outfits. Everything else was coming by U-Haul. I didn’t care about my stuff. It was my friends and school I worried about leaving behind.
I was relieved to see lights up ahead, illuminating a McDonald’s and CVS as we entered the heart of town. So, there is civilization here, I thought wearily.
More businesses—a grocery store, diner, coffee shop, and a badass-looking used book store. Then the stores faded away and we entered a cluster of residential houses and neighborhoods. The houses were small and close together, mostly shotguns, but then they got larger and grander as we got further from town.
“We’re getting close. It’s on the river,” George said, his voice taking on an excited, boyish tone. I knew we were getting close to the water because the houses were taking on a strange quality. Some of them were sitting up high on stilts. I’d never seen anything like it.
“I guess they’re worried about floods here,” I remarked softly. I had to admit, the houses looked pretty cool, sitting up high on solid, wooden beams. Like they were too cool to hang out on the ground with the rest of the houses.
“Yeah, sometimes the river gets high around here. But there hasn’t been a major flood in forty years,” my mom said, answering for George.
But then he said, “Nearly thirty houses and businesses were torn down and rebuilt. They built smarter the second time around, preparing for floods. But we won’t have to worry about that…”
Rolling down the window, I leaned my head out, sucking in deep breaths of damp July air. Why did they tear them down? And who were “they”? I wanted to ask, but then I could almost hear…water.
There it was—rolling, murky water with steaming pipes from a nuclear plant on the other side of the river. A huge sea of nothing but water, and more nothingness beyond it. An old, metal walking bridge glittered in the distance. “It’s down here,” George nearly whispered, taking a turn onto Clemmons Street.
There were nearly six houses on both sides of the street, all built on stilts . But at the end was a gigantic Victorian home, its own flood wall behind it, sitting right on the river. It towered in the black night sky, moonlight dancing crazily on the rough waters in the background.
It was beautiful in an eerie sort of way and as we pulled up in front of it, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand upright. Could it be…? The House of Horrors…?
That’s right. I did my research on this place. The town of Flocksdale had a history. A nasty, evil sort of history.
Nearly twenty years ago, a deranged family ran some sort of trafficking/drug ring. The bodies of nearly forty young girls were found buried in the crawlspaces, basements, and backyards of the townspeople involved in the operation. The townspeople of Flocksdale.
All of the perpetrators were either apprehended or dead, but it still gave me the creeps. I’d read everything I could find on the internet about the murders. In some of the write-ups, I’d read about the description of the main house used in the kidnappings and subsequent killings—an old, creepy Victorian. A description that seemed to fit this one. Surely, there were other Victorian homes in this town? Right…?
I’d tried to tell my mom, and even George, about it. But George ignored me, and my mom said, “Every town has history and crime is everywhere, Marianna. George grew up there, so it must be all right.” Yeah…that made me feel a whole hell of a lot better.
George parked the SUV in a concrete driveway out front of the house. I made no attempt to get out. I stared up at this beautiful monster of a house, wondering what was in store for me in this creepy little town with its even creepier history. I shivered involuntarily. Two words came to mind: Fuck Flocksdale.