All the Pretty Dead Girls

1

The white Lexus was doing exactly one mile over the speed limit when it crossed the Louisiana state line.

It had started to rain just outside of Jackson, Mississippi—a steady downpour the wipers simply couldn’t keep up with. Visibility was impaired enough to force Sue to slow down to a crawl as she passed through the city.

Sue’s shoulders tensed as she watched the red taillights of the Jeep Cherokee in front of her. She had been driving almost nonstop for nearly two days now. The other girls on campus had been thinking about their exams, about what they’d do on their upcoming holiday breaks. But Sue’s mind had been on one thing and one thing only. Getting away. There had been no other choice.

She snapped on the radio, trying to relieve the tedium of the drive and the steady, pounding rain. “Have yourself a merry little Christmas,” a voice sang from the radio. “Let your heart be light…”

Christmas. It was almost Christmas. It didn’t feel that way to Sue, with the warm, muggy rain.

“From now on, our troubles will be out of sight…”

She was crying. She switched off the radio. She preferred the silence.

Sue glanced back in her rearview mirror. She wasn’t really sure who—or what—she was looking for. In the rain, she couldn’t see anything but headlights anyway. But somehow it made her feel better to look back every now and then. Her nerves, already shot, began to fray a little as she kept taking her foot off the gas pedal to avoid slamming into the car in front of her.

“Come on, come on,” Sue muttered under her breath, drumming her fingers on the steering wheel. The wind and rain whipped against the side of the car with a long, screeching howl.

It seemed to take hours to get through Jackson, but once she did, the thick traffic began to disperse. Finally, she was able to start getting her speed back up. As soon as she clocked seventy-one, she clicked on the cruise control and removed her foot from the gas pedal with a sigh of relief. Her right hip was getting sore, and she shifted a little in her seat. Cars and trucks flew past her in the left lane, throwing up streams of water onto her windshield. No matter how tempting it was to speed up, she resisted the urge and kept relying on the cruise control. She couldn’t risk being pulled over.

It was just paranoia, she knew. Surely, there was no rural Southern sheriff watching for her. In all likelihood, there wasn’t anyone at all on the road looking for her. But better safe than sorry.

I just don’t know, Sue reminded herself, and until I do know, it’s better not to take any risks—and not to trust anyone. If I try to tell anyone—they’ll just think I’m crazy, and they’ll turn me over to Gran and Granpa. I can’t risk that.

A sob rose in her throat, but Sue fought it down. Don’t cry again, that’s a waste of energy. I have to focus. I have to keep my mind clear and not give in to emotion. I’m almost there. It’s only a few more hours at most, and then I can take a break, get some rest, and maybe find some hope…

But for how long could she afford to rest? Sooner or later, she knew, they’d come for her. They wouldn’t just let her get away.

She still had over five hundred dollars in cash in her purse, but there was no telling how long that would last. She was afraid to use her credit cards and her debit card.