Westchester County, New York
Summer, thirty-two years ago
When six-year-old Felicity Akerman went to bed that night, she had no idea that life as she knew it was about to
She settled under the light cotton blanket and put her head on the pillow, her long
blond hair tied back in a ponytail because of the heat. She was wearing her
favorite short-sleeve nightshirt with the bright orange soccer balls on it. She
had to wear it tonight. It was like a gold star on a perfect spelling test. A prize. A big win.
That's what today's game had been. The doctor hadn't been too sure about letting her
play. Neither had her mom and dad. But she'd talked
them into it, and gotten the okay she was holding her breath for. No one
understood how miserable she'd been, sitting on the sidelines all summer long
since she broke her arm. But it was better now. No more cast. No more pain. No
reason to wait.
She'd proved that today on the playing field at Pine Lake Soccer Camp. She'd scored
three out of her team's four goals.
With a happy smile, she rolled onto her right side, reflexively protecting the left
arm that had been in a cast for seven long, hateful weeks. Her smile widened as
she remembered she didn't have to do that anymore. She wriggled her fingers and
bent her elbow. Free. She was finally free. And finally her team leader again.
The bedroom curtains rustled as a warm summer breeze blew in through the window.
Her mom had left it halfway open before she went out. The summer air felt good.
It swirled around the room. It smelled like flowers. It acted like a lullaby.
Felicity shut her eyes, her fingers still wrapped around a fold in her nightshirt. Next
to her, her sister said something in her sleep and flopped onto her back. She hated
sleeping alone when their parents were out. Normally Felicity liked her room to
herself sharing the same face, same hair, and same birthday with her sister was
enough. But tonight she was so happy that she didn't mind. Besides, they
weren't alone. Deidre was right down the hall, listening to her cassette player
and singing along. Her voice was really awful. The two girls giggled about that
all the time. But they never said anything to Deidre. She was their babysitter,
and she was very bossy. She was also eighteen and starting college. That made
her practically a grown-up. And their mom and dad always told them they had to
be respectful of grown-ups.
Even Deidre's bad singing wasn't enough to keep Felicity awake. Lots of physical
activity after lots of sitting around had really worn her out. She drifted off to sleep.
She didn't see the window slide open the rest of the way. She didn't see the
silhouette of a figure climb inside and cross silently over to the bed, going
straight to her sister. Nor did Felicity see the intruder force a damp
handkerchief over her face. But she did hear a whimper.
Groggily, Felicity rubbed her eyes and turned over. Still half asleep, she could vaguely
make out a human form dressed in a long, loose black hooded sweatshirt. The
person was leaning over the other side of the bed. As Felicity watched, her sister's
whimpering stopped, and she went very still.
Felicity's small body went rigid, and her eyes snapped open. She was suddenly and fully awake. Who was in their house?
But there was no time to find out. The intruder straightened, and a gloved hand was
clamped down over Felicity's mouth. She started to squirm, fighting with all
she had. The sleeve of the sweatshirt brushed her forehead. Damp, with a funny smell. Like orange medicine.
The gloved hand lifted, and a wet handkerchief with that same orange medicine smell
was pressed down on Felicity's nose and mouth. The smell was awful. Felicity
wanted to scream. She couldn't. And she couldn't break free.
The room started spinning. Felicity caught a glimpse of her sister. It looked like
there were two of her. And Deidre's singing sounded far away.
The stinky smelling handkerchief won.
Everything went black.