Excerpt for Final Girl Part II by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


Chapter 1: Rat

Chapter 2: They’re Back

Chapter 3: A Boy and His Mother

Chapter 4: On the Road

Chapter 5: Morbidly Obsessed

Chapter 6: Monster

Chapter 7: Evil Genius

Chapter 8: Last Stall on the Left

Chapter 9: Enter Sandman

Chapter 10: The Search

Chapter 11: Runaway

Chapter 12: An Uneasy Partnership

Chapter 13: Something Wicked

Chapter 14: Botched

Chapter 15: Ghosted

Chapter 16: Recurring Nightmare

Chapter 17: The Feels

Chapter 18: Creep

Chapter 19: If It’s Not Broken

Chapter 20: Recovery

Chapter 21: Fun and Games

Chapter 22: Siege

Chapter 23: Hellevator

Chapter 24: Perfect Creature

Chapter 25: Pandora

Chapter 26: Interlude – Homeward Bound

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About the Author


Part II

Stephanie Sparks

For Franklin

“Yeah, I build bodies. I take them apart and put them back together again.”

— Seth Brundle, The Fly (1986)

Chapter 1: Rat


It all went to hell in a matter of seconds. Something much bigger than the glorified crate they were in slammed into the side of the prison bus and Robert Pendleton III had a grinning, yellow-toothed clown in his face. Their noses pressed together for an instant, causing Mr. Smiles’s schnoz to squeak. Robbie squeezed his eyes shut.

As the bus caught air, the U.S. marshals and their seven prisoners began to roll. Robbie felt like a rat in a dryer. When they stopped tumbling, he opened his eyes, but the world kept spinning. The bigger prisoners had broken free from their shackles. The female marshal—Santiago—dangled from her seat as Jackie Davidson stroked her unconscious face with his hook, free from the casing the prison guards had wrapped around it. The scar-faced man shot him an icy stare, forcing Robbie to look away.

As Mr. Smiles got up from his seat and penguin-walked outside, Robbie closed his eyes. I just need a second. One second. . . .

He heard rumblings that something like this might happen. Mostly from Jackie. The others weren’t big talkers. Strong, silent types, his mother would have called them. That’s exactly how she described Robbie.

When his head stopped spinning, he decided not to sit any longer. Jackie was gone. The creepy little kid remained, having trouble getting unrestrained. Robbie crawled over the body of a dead marshal and climbed out. He looked up into the barrel of a gun.

“Freeze!” shouted Marshal Nicks. He had a seeping head wound and a shaky hold on his weapon.

Robbie put on his most charming smile. Yeah—the one he used to de-pants ladies at his father’s country club. And lure runaway teen girls into his sports car. He slowly raised his hands above his head. “What happened?” As if he couldn’t see that some hillbilly T-boned them with a souped-up farm truck. The big hillbilly maniac with the scrambled egg face—Beau Nutter—embraced his scrawny brother, who sat behind the wheel. “I don’t feel so well.”

“Shut up! Get on your knees!” ordered Nicks.

Robbie glanced down. He was already on his knees. “Uhhh. . . .”

Smith squeezed the trigger—not enough to send a bullet through Robbie’s expensive teeth. “I should shoot you on principle, you smug piece of shit. What you did to those girls. . . .”

Robbie wore a smile. Behind his face (a mask, really) he felt nothing. There was nothing behind his eyes except thoughts. No emotions or feelings. When one of the girls tried to describe happiness to him, she used words like warmth and sunshine and smiles. You know, things that make you feel good, she said.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt “good” in my life. Satisfied, maybe. Then he cut open her chest cavity.

But he knew how to smile and when to use it. It was like an extra piece of armor he could apply to his face to hide the nothingness or to make someone else happy. Right now, it seemed the marshal could use some happy.

“You can put the cuffs on me,” he said, offering his wrists. “I’m ready to go back to jail now. This prison escape business is not for me. I don’t even know these assholes.”

Nicks’s eye twitched, as he reached for his handcuffs. Robbie wouldn’t blame him if Nicks did pull the trigger and blow his mug open. There came a time when every serial killer has to face the music—Bundy, Gacy, Dahmer. . . .

The music began to play a different tune when Jackie stepped up behind Nicks. Robbie’s smile dissipated and he observed the killer slice open the marshal’s throat. Blood sprayed everyone, dribbling into a pool and flowing downward to Robbie’s knees.

As the scar-faced prisoner-turned-fugitive dragged his prey away, Robbie asked, “Now what?”

“What’re you askin’ me for? You’re free. Do whatever you want.”

That was an interesting concept. Freedom. When he was in private school, all the rich daddy’s boys thought you couldn’t get more free than sailing around the world on a yacht and sleeping with supermodels. But being able to breathe fresh air after months in a dank detention centre was way different than partying on a boat. There was something raw about this experience.

And he didn’t like it.

He needed money and shelter, and to get moving. He wasn’t interested in killing anyone. Not in this situation, at least.

So he ran, off the road and into the trees, careful to avoid any of the others. They weirded him out—especially the lanky man with the blurred face, heading into the forest across the road.

Robbie ducked around the van as Marshal Santiago stumbled out. She looked like shit—not like any of his girls. They were Grade-A, especially after the upgrades. When her back was turned and she was distracted by the Nutters, he ran in the opposite direction and ducked into the woods. He stayed in the long grass, hoping she would not see his orange jumpsuit.

But he didn’t have to worry. Jackie gave her the surprise of her life—her dying partner—and then another nasty surprise—impromptu kidney removal. It was not a shock to Robbie; he had been in medical school when the FBI busted him. No—it was the delicate way that Jackie dined on the organ as Santiago lay splayed on the blacktop.

Approaching from the direction the bus had come from, a dark burgundy sedan pulled up. Five people in dark robes—like wizards or some shit—climbed out. Robbie ducked down. What is this—a special ops team for catching freaks? Jackie abandoned his snack and disappeared into the woods before the people could see him. Robbie lowered himself to the ground.

One of them spoke into a crackling walkie-talkie. “They’re gone—over.” Whoever the man spoke to crackled back a response that Robbie couldn’t make out. “No, looks like they split up. We’re gonna have a look around. . . . Yes, copy that. Praise the One. Over.”

Robbie lifted his head. One of the robed freaks was looking in his direction. He dived back down, rustling the grass. Time to move. He could handle being taken in by the marshals or even the FBI again. But he didn’t know who these losers were and he didn’t want to know.

Chapter 2: They’re Back

One month later…


I threw my shopping bags into the back of my truck. I know—I was nearly broke a couple of weeks ago, but I’d gotten paid an advance from the FBI for agreeing to work on a secret government contract to round up the Unholy Seven, a vicious group of badass killers. Except they weren’t that badass. We had nailed two of them already, and working on the third.

On the other side of the parking lot, Agent Wilson sat in his own vehicle and drank coffee. Watching me, but pretending not to. Even though I had taken out two slashers in just a matter of days, I couldn’t shake my FBI babysitters.

Although, I didn’t mind him watching me. He was good natured and looked pretty fine without a shirt.

I gave him a big smile and wave. He nodded back.

My phone rang in my pocket. I juggled answering it while getting out my keys and snatching up a piece of paper tucked under my windshield wipers. Raven’s name appeared on my phone’s screen. “Yeah, what’s up?”

“You won’t believe it!” The positivity in her voice was enough to exhaust me. The girl must feed on the energy of everyone around her because she was always excited about something. I asked her to elaborate. “We’ve been putting together monster maps!”

“I don’t know what that is,” I said, as I managed to unlock my door and climb inside the truck.

“Of course you don’t! We only just finished. Meet us back at your house and I’ll explain.”

“Us? Who is ‘us’?” With the amount of time my “team” was spending at my illegal, over-the-garage suite, I hoped my landlady, Mrs. Huang, would start charging them rent and lower mine.

“Me, Zero—Elle.”

“Well, well, the gang’s all here.”

Raven paused. “Uh, no—they’re all here.”

“It’s an old expression.”

“Oh, okay. You should stop doing that. It’s confusing.”

“I’ll take that under consideration,” I replied, opening the folded piece of paper that had been stuck to my windshield. Another message written in black marker. Simple and effective.


Cold sweat broke out under my arms and a chill spread through my extremities and down my neck. It was the third note I had received this month.

I crumpled it up and stuffed it in my pocket, looking back over to see if Wilson noticed anything or if anyone else was watching me. Raven blathered on in my ear. “Huh?”

“Were you even listening? We have a lead on Robbie!”

* * *

Robert Pendleton II kept his chin tilted up and his cold, blue eyes staring down his chiseled nose. His dark hair was carefully clipped to get the most impact from his silver sideburns. He’s what you’d call “distinguished,” if he looked like he hadn’t just hopped out of a self-tanning machine. And despite all the special treatments he likely dabbled in, he was much, much older than the waif-ish blonde in the ornate family painting above the marble fireplace.

Robert II stood under it, an elbow resting on the mantle. My eyes kept drifting back to the painting, trying to piece together their story. Robert, his young wife Milana, their serious-faced (fugitive) son as a tween, and a small blonde girl who smiled like someone who hadn’t yet realized her wealthy family was fucked up.

I sat on a stiff little couch next to Wilson in the Pendleton’s palatial mansion. All the floors were made of something even fancier than marble. It was an Italian word that Robert II rambled off as we met him in the sitting room. It was a fine sitting room, except there were only enough chairs for four of us. As Zero struggled to hold his laptop standing up, I gave up my seat and shuffled awkwardly around the room.

Elle preferred to stand, arms crossed, surveying our surroundings like a bouncer at a club. If she thought Robbie or any of the remaining Unholy Seven killers were going to bound in here, she was wasting her time. It was the middle of the day and there were too many of us around. Now if she wanted to wander the grounds alone. . . .

I leaned against a column and Robert II cleared his throat. “Try not to touch the columns, Miss Kendall.”

“Oh, sorry.” I pulled away too quickly, swinging my hand against an enormous vase, just sitting there on the floor. It wobbled, sucking the breaths out of all of us and stopping time. I carefully laid my hands on it, ceasing its wobble. “You know what?” I said, heading for the door, where a butler appeared. “I need to use the restroom.”

Robert II sniffed and looked at the rest of us. “Fine. Phillip will escort you.”

The butler nodded curtly for me to follow, and took me down a long, bright hallway where there were more goddamn vases lined up. When we made it to the nearest bathroom, he opened the door and for a moment, I thought he was going to pop in with me. But he was just holding the door. “I will be back shortly.”

“Sure, yeah. Cool.” I closed the door, and once I was free from all the judge-y eyes of the rich people—and I had no doubt that butler made more money than I’d ever see—I let out a relieved breath. His shoes tapped down the hall, getting farther away.

I opened the door and poked my head out. He was long gone. While he assumed I was taking a piss or powdering my nose, I sneaked out. Time to wander the grounds. The others didn’t need me to question the old, rich guy, so I decided to check out Robbie’s former digs.

At the end of the hall, where the rows of windows came to a sharp point, there was a room with its door ajar. Since all the other doors were closed, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to have a peek. Looking over my shoulder, I turned in the opposite direction I had come and inched past the door.

It was dark inside, hazy, despite the sun shining in the hallway. I couldn’t see much from my vantage point, so I crept just inside the doorway.

The air within felt stale. Dust danced in the beam of light I let in. It didn’t look like much more than an unused guestroom, and I was about to back out when the wheelchair rolled into the centre of the room.

Ki . . . meee. . . .” wheezed the disjointed form in the chair.

Chapter 3: A Boy and His Mother


I scrambled backwards, my arms flailing for the door, and ended up closing myself inside with the thing. It rolled toward me, its feet dragging the chair closer. It had no arms, just an oval-shaped head drooping to one shoulder. As it came closer, I slid down the door. My hands couldn’t reach the knob.

Ki . . . meee. . . .” it repeated, coming to a stop in front of me. “Ki . . . meee. . . .”

It wasn’t try to kill me. It wanted me to kill it. Kill me.

I let out a shaky breath. “It’s okay,” I said. “I’m not going to hurt you. My name is Jess. I’m looking for Rob—”

It unwrapped its arms from under a heavy wool shawl, which spilled off its narrow frame and onto the floor. The arms were skinny, bent at all the wrong joints. Crooked fingers reached up to touch a face that I could see now was all too female—despite the jagged scars and mismatched chunks of skin.

Shuddering, the woman touched her face, her fat lips, her bulging eyes. Everything above her neck was an exaggerated reflection of Western beauty standards. She opened her mouth. “Eeeeeeeeee. . . .”

I met her eyes. “Milana?” I whispered.

She screeched as the door behind me banged against my back. Voices on the other side shouted and barked orders. “Get away from my wife!” Robert II shouted. The butler and Wilson added their voices to the mix.

I crawled away from the door, looking up for Milana. But she wheeled away into the shadows. I hadn’t gotten far from the door when the butler reached down and brusquely grabbed me by the arm.

We were thrown out of the house in a cacophony of pleas and apologies for my unprofessional behavior. I couldn’t help looking back to see if Milana had followed.

“Nice job, Jess,” grumbled Elle, marching toward the car.

“Hey, I just— I didn’t know—”

Zero and Raven stared at me as Wilson’s shadow stalked over my hunched frame. I fucked up. “What did you do?” he asked.

I forced my gaze away from the freshly swept steps and up to Wilson’s stern face. “I thought—” I caught myself before I gave away that I’m a snoop, and said something different. “He did that to her. Robbie . . . re-jigged his mom’s face. He’s a monster.”

“My son may be a monster,” said Robert II, appearing on his stoop, “but you people let him get away.”

I glanced at Elle, standing close to the front gate. She was penned in with us until Robert II’s staff decided to let us exit his grounds.

“You said Robbie came back here,” said Wilson. “Did he attack your wife during his stopover?”

“No,” he said, looking down his nose again. “That was before . . . everything else. During his obsession with making things perfect.” He spat out the word like it was garbage. “He did come to see her.”

“Why?” asked Zero.

“Yeah, why not you?” asked Raven, adding quickly, “Sir?”

“I don’t know.”

But we all kind of knew from Robbie’s file. His dad hated him almost from birth. Maybe he saw something rotten in his son, or maybe he was just the worst father ever. And maybe Robbie didn’t mind because he never mentioned Robert II in any of his psych evaluations. He only talked about his sister, June, and his mother.

“May we ask her a few questions?” asked Wilson, taking a step toward the house.

“No, you may not. My wife has been through enough already.”

I joined Wilson. “But she might know something. Maybe where Robbie went to?”

She doesn’t know anything and she won’t be answering any of your goddamn questions.”

“Mr. Pendleton, I can get a judge to—”

“Then I suggest you do it, because I don’t know where my son is or what the hell he plans to do next. And if you do come back with a judge’s order, you will be met by my army of lawyers who will tear your order to shreds and shove it up your ass. Now get off my property before I have security remove you.”

He disappeared inside his house, the door slamming behind him.

“We’re going to find him, Mr. Pendleton,” said Wilson, as the gates parted behind us.

“Shit, so now what?” I asked him.

“Well, if you hadn’t have gone exploring on your own, we might be asking questions of Mr. Pendleton and his staff, and perhaps even Mrs. Pendleton if we played our cards right.”

His tone stung.

“Why don’t you get a court order and make him talk? Is that what you were saying about the judge?”

“I was bluffing. Court orders don’t work that way.”

Raven smiled. “Jess, were you watching court shows last night?”

Damn, that girl had to be psychic. I had binged-watched Law & Order episodes in anticipation of today’s investigation. “Nothing. Whatever. So what do we do now? Set up surveillance—” I glanced at Wilson, my own one-man surveillance team— “and see if he comes after his mom again?”

Holding his open laptop, Zero marched up the driveway. “I don’t think that’s necessary,” he said. “I have a pretty good idea of his last whereabouts. Look.” It was a news bulletin from early this morning. A grave had been robbed and a girl had gone missing.

“Sounds like our man,” said Elle, returning to the fold.

Chapter 4: On the Road

Two days earlier…


Robbie dumped his mother’s jewelry at a sketchy pawn shop before leaving the township. The clumps of gold and diamonds entitled him to more money than the shop owner had, so Robbie took whatever cash was on hand and let the chump keep the difference. Hush money. He hoofed it to the next town and connected with an old guy selling a dinged-up SUV. Cash only. No questions.

Before he got back on the road, Robbie bought some supplies at the gas station. Rope, bungee cord, carbineers, a shovel, road flares, a soggy near-expired hoagie, and a sports drink.

“You gotta keep your electrolytes up,” he mumbled to the clerk, hoping talk of electrolytes would distract the man from his odd purchases.

Robbie loaded his items into his ride, thinking about his mother and the look of pure fear on that wonderful face of hers. It was healing nicely, better than he could have imagined. Of course, she was left in the care of quack doctors whose jobs were to maintain health—not perfect it. Milana Pendleton wanted to look young forever and Robbie wanted to keep his baby sister June’s memory alive. It seemed like a win-win scenario to combine the two.

But you can’t go home again. Not with the cops and those freaks in robes after him. As he started driving, he didn’t know where he wanted to go, but he had to keep his head down and avoid the robed freaks—and maybe find a girl to continue his work.

When he crossed into the next town, he noticed a line of trees down main street adorned with black ribbons. They fluttered in the morning breeze as he drove past. He parked in front of a barbershop to check his map; the damn thing was hard to read without his phone showing him where to go. But that was part of the problem—he didn’t know where to go.

He had spent the past month wandering, keeping his head down. Now that he had a bit of money and some wheels, he didn’t need to sleep in alleyways or beg for change at truck stops. He was on easy street now.

As a cluster of old ladies shuffled by, Robbie folded up the map and tucked it between his seat and the console. They eyed him up and he gave them a friendly nod. If they remembered anything about him, it was that he was a nice, blonde young man with a friendly smile.

They turned away and kept walking. Each wore a black band around their arms.

He stepped out of the SUV. The town was small enough that he could survey the entire strip of main street. Most of the shops were closed, with an apology on the doors that said they were attending a funeral.

He followed the old ladies, checking out each of the shops and businesses along the way. Typical small-town fare—a home furniture store, a Greek restaurant, Asian takeaway, a Laundromat, and a barrister’s office. At the end of the street before the road wrapped around a large green park was Fisher & Son Funeral Home. He could almost smell the formaldehyde.

He realized he had been staring at the building too long when a slender arm slipped around his and tugged him away. A smirking blonde with big, pale green eyes looked up at him. Her skin was white with a light dusting of freckles over her nose.

He opened his mouth in surprise, but was glad she spoke first, interrupting him from saying something that would be startlingly honest. Like, I will take you apart, whore.

“Hi there,” she said. “If you’re looking for the funeral procession, they’ve moved to the cemetery.”


She looked puzzled. “Yeah—the funeral.” His face must have been too blank. “You know, for the football star—Damon Germaine—and those cheerleaders? The ones that lost that game of chicken to a chainsaw.”


“You’re obviously not a reporter.” That didn’t stop her from holding onto his arm.

“Uh,” was all Robbie could manage.

He let the girl lead him around the side of the funeral home and out into the openness of the park. Except it wasn’t a park—it was a cemetery. A wide open green space dotted with tall trees and ashen headstones. There was a mass of black-clad people—over a hundred or so clustered around three fresh graves.

“I’ve never been to a funeral before,” he said softly, reflecting. A chortle climbed out his throat and into the atmosphere. “Ha, no. That’s a lie.” He had to go to June’s funeral.

The girl shot him a confused look, and once Robbie put his normal mask on, only then did her sweet smile return. She was lovely, lighting up under the sun. He wondered what her face would look like with all her teeth removed.

“That’s okay,” she said, patting his arm. “Every single funeral feels like my first. And that’s pretty stupid because I’m the ‘son’ in Fisher & Son.”

He frowned, unable to understand what she was talking about. He wanted her to let go of him, so he could slip away from this odd tradition of throwing bodies into the ground. What a waste of good corpses, he thought, glumly.

“You’re not a reporter and you’re not from around here,” she said, lowering her voice as they neared the edge of the mourning crowd.

His eyes shifted around. He didn’t have an answer for this because he wasn’t planning to deal with a strange girl at a funeral. He hadn’t been planning to stop in this town.

“It’s okay,” she whispered, pulling him down so she had his ear. Her breath was warm against his neck and smelled like spearmint gum. “I know about you.”

He jerked back. Had she seen his photo on the news? Were the police closing in? Did he know her from somewhere. . . ? She didn’t look familiar—so she couldn’t have been one of June’s friends, or an acquaintance of the family.

Her lips pressed down in a line, but her eyes flickered with a spark of something. “I know you don’t know these people or the dead kids. You’re just another out-of-town sicko that gets off on this stuff.”

Shaken, Robbie tried to peel her off. But she clung tight, keeping him near without making a scene. “I don’t—you’d better—I’m not—”

“Calm your tits,” she hissed.

He stopped trying to break away, his body language an agreement that he would hear her out. And then get the hell out of there.

“I get it,” she continued. “Mass murder in small town America gets me off too.” She glanced around, checking to see who was nearby. Then she stared deep into his eyes, deeper than anyone had ever looked into him before. He felt as though her hand had reached into his chest and given his heart a playful squeeze. “You want to see something cool?”

Chapter 5: Morbidly Obsessed


Mandy Fisher held Robbie’s hand as she led him away from the graveyard, up a small slope, and back to the funeral parlour. She let them through the backdoor and with a curled finger, beckoned Robbie to follow her. It was dark and cold inside, but that didn’t bother him. The scent of preservation chemicals in the air relaxed him, like incense for psychos, and he decided not to kill her just yet.

She flicked on a light and closed the door. They were in a small storage room that connected to another room. Boxes were piled up on opposite walls, each marked fragile, sterile, or not for consumption. She pulled out a key and led them to the “dressing room,” she called it. There was a gurney in the middle of the floor and the room was laid out like a dentist’s office. Except the “patient” didn’t leave with shiny teeth. They were painted up to be displayed in a box.

Mandy flipped her hair over her shoulder and hopped up on the counter to take a seat. “Pretty cool, huh?”

Robbie shrugged, though he couldn’t shake the desire to wrap his hands around her neck and see how long it took to choke the life out of her. “It’s fine.”

His eyes wandered to the wall of drawers. His heart started racing.

Mandy noticed what he was looking at. “Yeah, that’s where we keep the stiffs,” she said. He waited for her to offer to show him one, but she didn’t. She remained seated, swinging her legs. “There were so many after that chainsaw guy passed through town. They would’ve been two to a bin if they hadn’t been chopped to pieces. Dad was bugging.”

“Bugging you about what?” he asked mindlessly, as he walked around the room.

“You know, like, freaking out.”

“Why would he freak out?” he asked. “Bodies equal business, which, in turn, equals money. Does he not like making money?”

Her mouth flapped open and closed as she sought out a comeback. She stumbled into one eventually, but his point was already made. “It’s just—there were a lot of people killed and it’s a big deal for this stupid town.”

“The town has never seen such violence,” he said deadpan. “Won’t someone think of the children.”

“You’re funny,” she said after an awkward pause. But she didn’t laugh or smile. A twinkle in her eye hinted at her amusement.

“I have to go now,” he said. He decided he would come back later, after hours, when the town shut down and the grieving people dispersed from the neighborhood. Then he could snoop around for . . . parts. Get back to his research. He headed for the door.

“Wait.” The girl flung herself down from her perch to stop him. He paused. “You’re not like other crime creeps are you?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Crime creeps? The morbidly obsessed?” She shook her head at his lack of knowledge about the subject matter. “These kinda guys roll into towns like this and either try to solve the crime or become part of the story. They feed on fear and death, and when I take one of them in here and show ’em the gurney, they rip my clothes off and take me right here.” Robbie stifled a yawn. “You don’t seem to give a shit that I’ve served myself up on this stainless steel platter.”

“You want to have sex?”

She rolled her eyes and backed away from him. “You don’t?” Then she climbed onto the gurney, laid down flat, and hiked up her skirt.

He stared at her as a long, dead chunk of time lumbered by. She lifted up her head and they stared at each other awkwardly. Then she lowered her skirt, pouting as she climbed off the table.

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