“Rose! It’s Mercy.”

The gun immediately lowered. “Mercy?” Rose’s voice wavered.

“Give me that.” Mercy snatched the gun from her hand and whirled around to glimpse the back of their attacker as he vanished around a hall corner. “Don’t move!” she ordered Rose, and ran after the man, adrenaline pumping through her limbs.

Shoot him, shoot him, shoot him.

The gun settled comfortably in her grip. She’d fired her father’s guns hundreds of times.

This is why he made us drill.

She turned a corner in time to see the man abruptly reverse direction. He’d started to run through the kitchen, but nearly fell over as he changed his mind and lurched in the direction of the front of the house. Mercy planted her feet, aimed, and fired once. Two shots sounded.

He collapsed on the floor of their family room.

She held her position, her heart threatening to beat out of her chest and her panting filling her ears.

He didn’t move.

“Mercy? Rose?” Levi shouted from the kitchen.

“We’re okay!” she answered.

Her brother peeked around the corner from the kitchen and his eyes widened as he saw her gun aimed at the man on the floor. Blood rapidly pooled around the body.

I’ll have to scrub that floor.

“God’s eyes, Mercy! Did you shoot him too?”

She spotted the raised gun in her brother’s hand. No wonder the thug had reversed direction.

“He attacked Rose, he attacked me. Oh my God.” She turned her head in the direction of her sister. “Rose? Are you okay?” Mercy couldn’t pull her weapon away from its position, trained on the body.

“I’m okay.” Rose’s voice shook but sounded strong behind Mercy. “Is he dead?”

“I think so.” Mercy looked at her brother. “Check him.” Her feet were glued to the floor.

“I shot him too,” said Levi. “I could hear you screaming from outside.”

Mercy didn’t realize she’d screamed. “Check him,” she repeated in a whisper.

Levi slowly approached the body, his weapon trained on the figure. She wanted to holler at him to hurry up, he moved so slowly. He finally knelt next to the man and placed his fingertips on his neck.

He waited forever.

“He’s dead.” Levi moved the head to look at the face. He glanced over his shoulder at Mercy. “Do you know him?”

She found the strength to move her feet and crept forward, the gun lowered at her side. She wasn’t ready to set it down, but the compulsion to point it at the body was gone; he was no longer a threat. She looked over Levi’s shoulder and couldn’t put a name to the face. He was young. In his twenties. He wore the dusty jeans and boots of every other man in town and hadn’t shaved in several days. The back of his plaid shirt was soaked with blood.

We shot him in the back.

He’s unarmed.

Warmth touched her toes and Mercy jumped back. Her sock was red with his blood. She made a strangled sound and bent over to rip off the sock, wiping at her toes. OhmyGodOhmyGod. She rubbed until every speck was gone.

It just appears to be gone. Tests could still find his blood on my skin.

She met Levi’s gaze. “What did we do?” she whispered. “Oh my God, Levi. We’ll go to prison for this.”

“No, you won’t,” came Rose’s voice. “He was going to kill me. He said over and over that he was going to fuck me and then kill me.”

Rose’s language made her wince, but Mercy was more alarmed by Rose’s white face. Shock. Blood still ran from her sister’s nose, and it was smeared across her cheek and down her dress.

“He had my dress up around my waist,” Rose said matter-of-factly. “He was moments away from raping me.” She shuddered and pulled her cardigan tighter over her dress. “Who is it?”

“We don’t know,” said Mercy.

“Where’s the other guy?”

“What?” Mercy and Levi gasped.

“There were two of them,” Rose’s knuckles whitened on her sweater. “Two of them grabbed me. One let go when he heard Mercy’s voice.”

An engine and spinning tires sounded in the distance. Levi ran for the window and pushed back the curtain. He watched for a few seconds and then turned back. “All I could see was a dust cloud.”

“They’re going to get the police.” Mercy’s teeth clattered together. “He’ll tell them we killed someone.”

Levi took three large steps and grabbed her by the shoulders, looking her in the eye. “No, he won’t. How will he explain that they were both attacking Rose and you? He won’t do that. He’s a coward. He’s running away. I bet these are the guys who killed Jennifer and Gwen.”

Mercy stared at him, desperately wanting to believe. “We killed someone. They’ll lock us up.”

Levi turned his head to study the man on the floor. “No, they won’t. No one will know.”

“What?” said Rose. “Levi, are you crazy? We killed someone!”

He gripped Mercy’s shoulders tighter, his gaze boring into hers. “Can you clean this up? If I take care of the body, can you and Rose get rid of the blood?”

She blinked. “Yes. Where—”

“Don’t ask.”

She nodded, not wanting to know.

“Levi, you can’t do this,” argued Rose. “We need to call the police.”

***

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