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The Truth About Madeleine Lester
When you finally left the party, I was waiting.
It was a formal event; filled with silk dresses and hair gel, impeccable ties, perfume that hung on the air. As the daughter of Ridvik Lester, everyone was looking at you.
I could hear your heart thudding, Madeleine. Your smile froze every time you heard my footsteps creeping behind you; your gaze darted to the side as you caught my shadow. I was by the door—no; now behind a throng of laughing guests.
You were terrified.
And that thought delighted me.
At last you excused yourself with a hard swallow, lighting up that glowing lipstick smile at anyone who called to you; pretending you didn't hear until you'd finally left the stifling room. You let the kitchen door swing shut behind you. It was near the end of the party; chefs, waiters, waitresses were all gone by now. The kitchen was deserted.
I was delighted with myself. Madeleine Lester, heiress of Lester Industries and daughter of the fashion company's prestigious CEO, had become nothing more than my victim.
The occurrences had been going on for a few days now. You heard footsteps treading behind you in a deserted hallway. My shadow haunted the corners of your vision. I could feel your terror mounting; you knew there was something—someone?—after you. You knew I wasn't giving up until I ripped you and your world-famous ego to shreds. But you didn't know who—what?—I was.
Now you hurried to the counter, drawing a large, wickedly sharp steak knife from the rack. You held it in both hands, stretched out in front of you—like that would stop me.
I had to laugh.
Your eyes widened, darting everywhere as you turned slowly in a circle. I didn't mean to insult you, Madeleine; it's just that you looked so comical. In that rose-pink silk dress, stretching at your chest every time a breath heaved into your lungs; wary brown eyes and the huge knife in your white-fingered grip, thinking it would protect you… I just couldn't help myself.
“What do you want?” Your voice was too loud. You were trying to believe you were still in control, but it didn't work. The words shook.
“I want you, Madeleine.” I was sitting cross-legged on the counter when I said it; by the time you whirled, I was gone. “You know you can't escape me. Why else would you come in here to face me?”
I sat on the table the restaurant used as a cutting board, and I let you see me. To you, I was a man with curly dark hair, gathered in shadows as if I repelled the overhead lights. I toyed with a knife they'd left next a block of cheese for the hors d'oeuvres. I ran my thumb along the edge for its sharpness, looking up to see you wide-eyed with fear. I smiled.
“Don't be so afraid, Madeleine. I don't want to hurt you.” I thrust the knife point-first into the tabletop; it quivered and stuck. “I only want to kill you.”
I know you'd guessed as much. You were struggling not to panic, edging toward the saloon-style doors, hoping I wouldn't notice. I could see the regret in those big brown eyes, like a deer caught in my headlights. You regretted ever coming in here to face me.
“Why?” You pointed wildly to the doors. “Why couldn't you take one of those repulsive people out there?”
I laughed again. From what I could tell, this amount of concern for the people who mooned over you was about typical.
I stood up. You were near the doors by now; I knew you'd try making a break for it. But I didn't mind. In fact, I welcomed a chase. It would get my blood flowing.
“Madeleine, you don't understand. It had to be you; you're the ultimate catch. You see, it's your ego I want. Egos are what I feed on; without them I'll starve. And in the end, even the great Madeleine Lester can be reduced to nothing more than prey.”
That's when you dropped the knife; it clattered to the floor. By then, the doors were swinging frantically behind you as you ran.
I let myself dissolve into a wisp of drifting smoke before taking up the chase.
It must have been torture for you, the girl who'd never let a stray comment escape her mouth, to be seen bolting through the party, heads turning after you in a startled hum of gossip. But you didn't care; you hardly paused to kick off your high heels. You were running for your life.
You were in the parking lot when I caught you; but of course you remember. Even then, you struggled under me, striking out. None of that gave you a chance; but you didn't care. You wouldn't give up.
I wasn't lying, was I? When I said I didn't want to hurt you? I killed you that night; but you're still alive. You're with me now; like dozens of others before you and dozens more to come.
I admire you, Madeleine. I must, though; I could be doing thousands of more important things with my time. Instead, I'm writing to you.
You must have known you couldn't escape me. But you struggled anyway. You're still struggling; I can hear you pacing at night, trying to find a way back from the darkness into the living world.
When they combed the area for you, they never found a trace. Some thought you'd run away; some thought you'd been running from something.
You're famous now, Madeleine. You'll go down in history, the heiress who disappeared without a trace.
We're the ones who know what really happened; you and I.
Only we know the truth about Madeleine Lester.