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Chapter 1
Melinda spent most of her time at the graveyard. No, she wasn't some creepy fanatic or anything. She worked there and liked to call it a ‘cemetery’ over ‘graveyard’. It was more respectable, and she was very stringent when it came to respect. She wanted to make sure everyone’s wishes were respected at the cemetery. Even though they were dead, she made sure to clear the tombstones and place flowers and light candles on the graves that no one visited.

She liked to make up stories about the people who once lived and now were lying in Millbrook Cemetery. Due to that, she was often late at coming home from work. It was a crisp evening and Melinda had worn a black parka to honor the dead. Her jeans were tight, and dark blue with a golden seam. Around her neck was a golden chain with a locket on it.

Her phone buzzed in her pocket. "Sorry." She told an elderly couple. "Enjoy your visit."

They laughed quietly. "We will now that we’re together again." For a brief second Melinda pondered whether to question them further. But her phone buzzed persistently, so she answered before it disturbed the others.

"Hello?" She said quietly into her phone.
"Hey Mel, it’s me, Cindy. You know it’s Friday tomorrow…" Cindy trails off, waiting for me to continue.

Melinda stared blankly at her shoes. "Umm… did I promise something?"
"Yes!" Cindy shouted exasperated. Melinda envisioned her at her job in Heart Bank as a secretary throwing up her hands for effect. "We’re going hiking! With Mike, Jack, Donny and Fran. You promised."

Melinda sighed. "Alright then. I will."
"Great! Come over at ten." Cindy hung up excited. Melinda thought ten was too late for hiking, but kept silent. "Gotta go, smooches!"

Melinda turned to once again apologize to the couple. But they were gone. "That’s odd." She thought to no one in particular. The wind shifted to a colder breeze, so she hurried along her rows. When she was done, she rushed to her dark green Sedan. She was chilled to the bone.

Flicking on the light she noticed that someone had rummaged through her car. But everything was in place. What were they looking for? Melinda wondered. She was scared - what was going on? She’d been alone at the cemetery, if you excluded the elderly couple.
I’m probably just tired. She told herself firmly. I imagined the whole thing.

Chapter 2
Melinda examined herself in the full length mirror. She’d gone to Cindy’s house to prep. Of course, Cindy had lied about the hiking. In reality, it was a night out full of partying. Melinda didn’t want to party, but she had Saturday off, so she let Cindy win this once.

"So Mike, Jack, Donny and Fran aren’t coming, are they?" Melinda said.
"Are you accusing me of lying?" Cindy fluffed her hair.

Cindy looked perfect in every single way. She had dark brown hair with blonde highlights. Her eyes were originally brown, but she wore contacts that were green so her eyes looked hazel. Her face was sculpted sharply, but with her pouting lips she pulled it off. Cindy applied some lip gloss and twirled in her dress.

She wore a sea foam green dress with a sweetheart neckline. There was a gray belt tying at her waist, and she wore a brown necklace and matching bracelet. Her shoes were gray pumps.

Like her house Cindy looked gorgeous. Melinda sifted through her own part of Cindy’s closet. It consisted of mostly darker clothes, because she liked the subtle effect of blacks. She slipped into a black dress on thin straps. It had a slight poof after the waistline which was accented by a black ribbon. Melinda didn’t wear heels, but she wore sparkly bold ballet flats.

She had dark brown hair that curled down to her shoulders. Her eyes were naturally a light gray. They were beautiful, deep and endless. Melinda’s skin was pale, which only accented her dark beauty.

"Alright let’s go!" Cindy said rather too loudly.

Melinda followed her having a pit feeling in her heart that something was going to go wrong. As she left the house she thought how unfair it was that Cindy had a large house like this, her student loans were all paid off by her parents, and that she owned a shiny new Corvette. For a brief second, she thought about if she’d been the one with all that money lying around.

She shook herself and followed Cindy into the car. "So what do wanna listen to?" Cindy asked.

"Silence." Melinda replied. She glared at her long fingernails. "I want to be in peace."
"What do you mean?" Cindy asked, but Melinda shook her head.

They pulled up at the bar and walked out. The bouncer let them inside after catching sight of Cindy’s rather provocative dress. At the club the pounding music surrounded Melinda. She lost sight of Cindy in the crowd, but she herself headed for the bar. She sat in the bright red bar stool and ordered an appletini. Someone moved to the seat next to her.

"Wanna dance?" He asked.

"Sure." Melinda said before she saw who it was. This man came to the cemetery every Wednesday. He appeared out of nowhere at two o’clock, then was gone by two ten. There was never any trace that he’d ever been there.

It was too late to deny his offer so she allowed herself to be pulled to the dance floor. Cindy made her way over with two drinks. She handed one to Melinda and stepped right where the man had been standing. Melinda gasped, but Cindy didn’t notice.

They twirled and danced, Melinda all the while confused at what had been going on. She drank the beer, and asked for another one. By two-thirty she was wasted. She fell into the arms of some man. He had a scar on his chin, a small jagged point. Melinda put her hands on his face and he flinched.

"Let’s dance," she shouted to him.

He looked startled, but allowed himself to be pulled around and jumping… until three thirty in the morning. Melinda walked out of the club, with double vision. She couldn’t find Cindy, but found her keys on the sidewalk. She picked them up and decided to sleep in the car.

As she drifted off she thought she heard screaming, but ignored it. She locked the doors and turned the other way.

Chapter 3
Melinda awoke in the hospital, and there was a police officer next to her. "Miss Whalen." He said. "I understand you’ve had quite a shock. I’m very sorry for your loss."
"What loss?" Melinda whispered. Her throat felt dry. Visions flickered before her eyes.
She heard screaming, she turned the other way. She heard begging, but she was asleep. She saw a mangled dress… Cindy. "No…" It came out a whisper, but Melinda repeated it with force. "No!"

"Miss Whalen…" The officer took off his hat and ran his hand through his hair. "I understand that this is a hard time for you, your best friend is injured and missing." Melinda fell back against her bed. "But I have to ask you some questions. What happened that night?"
"We were drinking. A lot. More than we should have. By three-thirty I left, wasted. I couldn’t find Cindy. I was so drunk, that I found her keys on the sidewalk. I didn’t look around. I went to her Corvette, and fell asleep. Before I did I heard screaming. And… and I turned the other way." Melinda felt the tears spilling over her cheeks. "I let her die."

"No. No Miss Whalen. She isn’t dead. We have no body." The officer tried to comfort her. "There was blood yes. A dirty dress yes… but Cindy was very rich wasn’t she? What if it’s a kidnapping gone wrong?"
Melinda’s eyes snapped open. She felt weird. She looked to her left. She saw the man she’d danced with. He was glaring at the officer. "He’s wasting his time! He should be searching for her!" The officer didn’t see him, or hear him.
"Who are you?" She whispered.
"I’m officer Tain Long." The officer said. He took her hand.
She wasn’t looking at him though. ‘What in God’s name?’ Tain thought. "Are you okay?"
"My name is Richard Cast. Former Millbrook PD." Rich explained. "He’s wasting time."

Melinda felt strange. "Are you dead?" She asked.
"Yes." Rich said sadly. "But I’m here to help."
Melinda closed her eyes again. "We’ll start our search tomorrow. For now I’ll do the police work - you rest." Rich finished.

Melinda nodded, her heart feeling heavy. ‘When I find the person who killed Cindy - or took her or whatever - I’ll kill them myself.’

Chapters 4
Melinda woke up again and the officer was gone. Rich, however was by her side. "I found the scene exactly where you said." He states. There’s a crease between his eyebrows which means he was deeply confused. "But everything about that place screams dump site. Not kidnapping site. And that blood - well it could be from her pumps - or it could be much worse."
Melinda was suddenly jogged awake. "Why can I see you now? Of all times?"
"Because you need my help. And you work in a cemetery, what did you expect?" Rich replied with a chuckle.
Even Melinda smiled at the thought. "So what does that mean?"

"Well, if I’m right it could mean a variety of things. She was in with the wrong crowd, it was an accident, or even…" By the look on Rich’s face she knew something was wrong.
"What?" She said patiently. Her fingers tightened around the blanket.
"It was intended murder. But something spooked him." Rich stated soundly.
"How do you know it’s a ‘him’?" Melinda asked.
"Cindy was what? - 115 pounds at least. So most likely a male carried her to the van. There were tire treads. But they fade as it squeals out of the alley." Rich explained.

Melinda felt tears threaten her eyes. "It was my fault. I heard her screaming."
"I left the bar at three-thirty, so uh, a little after then." Melinda reached for a tissue. "I heard her begging."
"Then it was defiantly an armed male who owns a van. Weapon might’ve been a knife or gun. But whatever it was, be assured he most likely didn’t use it. There was no gun residue or shell casings. No evidence whatsoever that he hurt her in the alley."
"What about the blood?" Melinda asked.
Rich hesitated. "Some of it was Cindy’s. Some of it was the perp’s. She fought back."
Melinda silently thought of Cindy all alone in that alley. She thought of where she found the keys. "Something doesn’t add up." She muttered. She swung out of the bed, and Rich smiled.
"Ready to do some police work?" He asked.


"There." Melinda felt a cold breeze and she clutched her jacket tighter. "That’s where I found the keys."
"That’s odd, since no one saw a struggle, and the bouncer said he was out for a smoke at the time." Rich noted.
Melinda circled the spot where she’d found the keys. Her vision was sharper, her senses alert. She nodded to herself. "It’s as though she looked up as she scrambled for her keys. And she was startled, so she dropped them." Melinda broke off.

"She knew the kidnapper." Melinda states firmly.
"If so, this is deeper than I thought." Rich said grimly. "Everyone’s a suspect."


Chapter Five

Melinda and Rich start closing in on suspects...


On the ride back to her house Melinda pondered what they had discovered. A male, who was armed, someone Cindy knew…Cindy knew a lot of men. She thought of the incident where someone had rifted through her stuff in the car.
"Rich." She said his name softly.
"Yes?" Rich eyed her troubled face. "Why’d you suddenly pale?"
"Someone looked through my car. Screwed around with my things… on Tuesday." Melinda explained.
"And on Friday Cindy was kidnapped." Rich nods. "This has to be connected."
"Were they looking for something of hers?" Melinda was baffled. "Why not search her car, why mine?"
"I have no idea." Rich shakes his head. "But I have a bad feeling."


Rich watched Melinda drift off to sleep. He pondered what she’d told him. Someone riffling through Melinda’s things, and then Cindy’s kidnapping within a week of the incident. It was a strong lead. But where did it lead to? Rich sighed heavily.
He missed the good old days when cops were out on the field, getting their hands dirty. When cops sure, had a donut once in a while, but these ‘officers’ were a disgrace. Filing paperwork seemed to be all they were good at. And though he didn’t like saying this, crime was much more widespread now. He shook his head again, and took Melinda’s pen and paper.

He began a list of what they knew and didn’t know. What they thought was on there too.
Facts: It was a male. No woman could have carried Cindy that far. They had a van, one in need of an oil change. They needed a hospital. Running out of time. Cindy is rich. Blood on dress was both hers and someone else's. Someone broke into Melinda’s car days before.
Thoughts: Plausible that it was someone she knew. Could be kidnapping gone. Blood might be the kidnapper’s. Were inquiring about Cindy’s schedule in Melinda’s car.

Don’t Know: If Cindy’s alive. Motive or suspect. Why the break in?
Rich continued writing until Melinda woke up again. She didn’t notice him hunched over her desk. She grabbed some clothes - black sweats and a sweatshirt before heading to the bathroom. He waited for her, patiently. When she came back, she smiled at him.
"Figured anything out?" She asks.
"I wrote some things down." Rich said.
Melinda scanned the paper. She nodded. "That looks about right."
"I take it Cindy knew a lot of men." Rich added.
Melinda shot him a dirty look. "Maybe she did. But there’s only two people I think could do this.
"Marcus. Her ex-boyfriend. She broke up with him after he crashed her first car. He lost his job. He blamed her, and vowed for revenge. Or," At this point Melinda hesitated. "Or it was Charlie."
"Who’s Charlie?" Rich asked.

Melinda looked off into the distance. Her eyes seemed to be staring at something right before him. "She was our best friend who died in a boating accident. Cindy was driving the boat. We were drunk. And then… well Charlie fell overboard. And she drowned."
"But she’s dead." Rich pointed out.
"So are you." Melinda shot back.
"No, I mean, she’s dead. The police won’t buy it. She’d need an accomplice. You’re mine. When I do human like things I take your energy." Rich explains. "A willing accomplice is hard to find. It’d have to be the both of them."

"So what now?" Melinda asked, lost.
"Did Marcus own any land that was cut off, or seemingly deserted and in the middle of nowhere?" Rich questioned.
"Yes." Melinda replied. "The cabin in Mill Woods."
Rich nodded. "That’s good. Have an address?"
Melinda recited it to him and grabbed her car keys. She immediately thought back to all those nights spent in the woods, by the lake, on the bluff. It’d been a great summer. They’d swam, made s’mores, and told ghost stories. Now her life had become one.

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