EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER ONE:
“I’ll be right back,” Karen said over her shoulder as she stepped out into the cold night. She set the bulging bag of trash down long enough to close the door behind her and then hefted it again in both hands and began walking awkwardly with it down the stairs. Her sandals slapped loudly against the bottoms of her feet and the unwelcome odor of chicken bones and baby diapers wafted upwards with each waddling step.
At the bottom of the stairs, she stopped and looked around self-consciously, but the apartment complex was strangely quiet this late in the evening, with most of the windows around her already dark and not another person in sight. She tightened her grip on the neck of the garbage bag and started walking again. The dumpsters were just around the back of her building at the end of the parking lot, but in the dim light of the yellow security lamps they looked much farther. It was colder outside than she expected and Karen regretted not putting on a sweater before leaving the apartment.
A brick wall surrounded the trash bins with large metal gates in the front that were kept locked, but there was a smaller walk-in opening around the back. What if someone was in there, she thought, or something … doing who knows what? Rather than step a foot inside, Karen was tempted to just heave the bag over the wall and hope the lids were up. But the thought of her nephew’s shitty diapers strewn across the parking lot, along with the junk mail and old homework with her name on it, stopped her, and she took a breath and walked inside.
She was relieved to find the lid on the nearest bin was already thrown back, which meant she wouldn’t have to touch anything. She lifted with one hand at the top and the other pushing from below until the weight of the bag rested on the dumpster’s edge, then she pushed it over and let it fall with a muffled splat.
When she turned to leave, a figure was standing in the opening, blocking her way.
“Who’s there?” she shouted, taking a step back.
“Hey, hey,” the figure quickly reassured, slowly moving forward and lowering his raspy voice as he spoke. “Don’t be ascared, girl. We’re not gonna hurt you.”
“Spider?” Karen recognized his bug-eyed, boney face, but she hadn’t seen him at school in over a year. She heard he was locked up.
“Orale!” he said, looking back. “See, Creeper? I told you this heina was down.”
A second figure stepped out of the shadows behind Spider, filling the entryway and smiling nervously at Karen.
“Hey, Creeper,” Karen said, smiling and suddenly walking past Spider toward him. “Why you up so late?” she asked, as if they were old friends. “Don’t you have homework or something?”
Most likely confused by the friendliness of her greeting, he shuffled back a step, clearing the doorway just as Karen hoped he would, and she bolted for the opening.
Spider was faster and grabbed her from behind. She tried to scream, but his hand was already covering her mouth.