Read Red Widow (Vivian Xu, Book 1) Online

Authors: Nathan Wilson

Tags: #thriller, #horror, #crime, #murder, #mystery, #young adult

Red Widow (Vivian Xu, Book 1) (9 page)

BOOK: Red Widow (Vivian Xu, Book 1)
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Retreating from the webs of mold, she
tore through the hall. Several flights of stairs later, her pace
slowed to a crawl as the weight of Grigorshire Palace took its
toll. A vexing presence infested this place, a feeling that
shouldn’t even exist in the natural world. It gnawed at her heart,
goading her onward with promises of repulsive things she never
thought possible, abominations that would scar her mind and bring
about enlightenment.

The walls groaned as if angered by her
intrusion. Some of them sounded like voices, others like a thousand
hungry jaws devouring meat. Maybe there were rats in the walls,
gorging on something.

She peeked
inside one of the rooms that hadn’t been boarded
up. A creaking nursery beckoned her inside. One door after the
other, she stole a glimpse at
the secrets
of former tenants. Behind a rickety door, she found an abandoned
painter’s studio. Jagged designs of black and red veined the
central canvas. Other paintings were stained with crosses or
shadowy faces with indistinguishable features. Paintbrushes lay in
a tar-like puddle on the floor.

The same oceanic glow in the lobby
tainted the third floor, pulsing to Vivian’s footsteps.

An orgy of cockroaches seethed on the
windows, their scaled backs gleaming behind opaque curtains. A few
would scatter to admit a sliver of sunlight, but the rustling of
barbed legs would snuff out that light as quickly as it slipped

The sound of their greedy claws grew
louder until it filled the crevices in her brain. Vivian clapped
her hands over her ears. She had to escape this deranged labyrinth
and its concert of horrors. She plodded down the hall and
immediately thrust the door open.

The shriek of exploding metal greeted
Vivian. She screamed as three blades swung toward her

Not a sound echoed throughout

Vivian sprawled on the floor,
quivering in her sweat. The blades floated just above her,
extending from the room like probing fingers. Dizzy with
adrenaline, she climbed back to her feet. A body lay directly
inside the room, splayed on the moldering carpet. She wanted to
turn and run, but something compelled her to approach. This was the
first time she had ever been this close to death.

Vivian glanced at the serrated blades
rigged to the door and again at the cadaver steeped in blood.
During the riots, militant tenants would sometimes hole up in their
apartments and lie in wait for the police. They rigged booby traps
to doors in hopes of killing those who tore apart their

This tenant had obviously succumbed to
his own device. A rifle was positioned at the window within perfect
view of the city square. During those weeks of racial tension,
sniping proved the most common tactic for repelling the

The sight of that rifle evoked a
memory she simply could not suppress.

She was transported to that moment
twelve years ago when she landed in the back of the van. Vivian
closed her eyes as she buried her face against her mother’s bosom.
The engine rumbled as her home faded into the backdrop of torched
cars and tendrils of smoke. Where were these faceless strangers
transporting her family? To an internment camp?

A rancid stench hit the back of her
throat, making her tongue fold against the roof her mouth. It
invaded her sinuses, a smell nearly as sweet and acrid as charcoal.
Burning flesh.

Through the saturating darkness,
Vivian slowly reared up.

Get down, Vivian!” Her
mother lunged for her. Vivian gazed star-struck out the window as
the devastation reeled by in a theatrical montage of slaughter and
despair. “

Something black caught her attention
out of the corner of her eye, and she turned. A dark vehicle was
barreling down the rustic alley.

Vivian’s body flew through the air as
a monstrous force slammed into the passenger’s

Sniper fire rained down on the van,
tearing through the driver’s unarmored throat. Vivian cried out as
the van veered onto the curb, bouncing violently before plowing
into the front window of a shop.

” her father yelled, throwing himself on top of her like a
live grenade.

Screaming glass showered the dead
driver, drowning out the sound of their cries. Several minutes
dragged on as Vivian huddled with her parents in the wreckage. The
back of the van flung open to reveal five masked men toting assault
rifles. Vivian shrank with a scream as they reached inside to haul
her mother into the streets.

Into the sewers!” one of
the refugees barked.

She scratched at their fingers until
her mother cupped her tear-stained face in her hands.

Come with us now, Vivian!”
she pleaded, staring into her daughter’s eyes. “The police will be
back for us soon.”

Vivian pulled away,
wondering what her parents had done to warrant this invasion of her
home. She wanted to squeeze her eyes shut and wake up in bed,
swaddled in blankets. Instead, she meekly nodded and scurried out
of the van. Halfway down the street, Vivian lurched to a
The masked men were gathered around
the sewer entrance, looking peculiarly at her and her parents. She
jumped as gunfire blistered along the intersection. More police
units had already swamped the streets to crush the onslaught of

Hurry!” Hands suddenly
shunted her down the ladder, and her father scooped her up in his

She could hear bullets spitting on the
pavement as forces clashed on the streets above. A day and a night
later, they crawled through the sewers to emerge onto the other
side of the conflict.

Now if only she could escape from

Half of the room above had sunken
through the ceiling, dangling in a web of asbestos crystals and
tendrils. A metal bed frame floated in that mesh.

Through that hole in the ceiling,
fragile sunlight dabbed the floor.

Emotionally exhausted, Vivian toppled
onto the mattress. The moment she landed, she bounced off with a
startled cry.

What the…?” Massaging her
tailbone, Vivian stripped away the sheets only to find a grimy
mattress stretched on a metal frame. Whatever stung her had been
concealed inside. Kneeling down, she eyed a tear in the mattress.
Despite her basest instincts, she reached inside until her
fingertips brushed up against something cold and

Vivian swiftly plunged her
arm inside up to her elbow.
No… it can’t

Ammunition and handguns came spilling
out with every thrust of her hand. A waterfall of rounds flowed
between her fingers, pooling around her and slipping through the
cracks in the floorboards. Something remained stuck deeper in the
mattress, but it refused to slip free. Rabid with curiosity, Vivian
dug through the stuffing. An AK-47 jerked out of the mesh and
clattered onto the floor.

It’s no wonder the tenant
is dead. How could he sleep on this bed without setting off a

As Vivian crouched among the
insurrectionist’s treasures, a metallic noise exploded behind

She spun toward the hall,
half-expecting a corpse to be standing in the doorway, skewered by
the bladed trap, staring lifelessly at her with glassy eyes. The
blades hadn’t budged and the doorway remained empty. The guttural
sound had come from the hall. Vivian almost seized one of the guns,
but they likely wouldn’t save her. Twelve years of neglect could
render any gun useless. Her fingers curled around the crowbar from
the playground.

Vivian peered down the hallway and saw
it instantly. One of the doors gaped ajar. A set of hooked blades
swung lazily in the entrance, sunlight glancing off its reddened
edges. An obscure shadow bled out of that room onto the

Her eyes rounded in awe.

Shit!” She dashed through
the hall, peeping over her shoulder to make sure nothing came
slithering out of the room. She scurried down the stairs as that
heightened sense of danger grew keener. Barreling through the
cobwebs, she almost ran head on into a wall. Where there should
have been an exit to the streets, there was only a sparse lobby
enclosed by four walls without a single window. Vivian would be
forced to backtrack to the eerie hall.

Maybe not,” she whispered.
With another fleeting glance at the top of the stairs, she
approached the wall. It almost escaped her attention, but there was
clearly a fissure someone tried to paint over. Beyond that crack,
she spied a wooden surface worn with lines of age. Vivian scanned
the lobby in search of another passage to the room

Better yet, she might find an
alternative route to the streets.

The crowbar felt slick in her grasp as
she hefted it over her shoulder. One defiant blow after the other
chipped away at the drywall. At last, she hooked the crowbar in the
gap and tugged. She grunted as the wall came loose, spilling across
her feet and revealing the door within.

Vivian squeezed the handle until her
fingers lost sensation. What could possibly await her beyond this

Her foot barreled through the door,
thrusting it open in defiance of her fear.

An empty room greeted Vivian. Yellowed
walls surrounded her, stained with mold and bizarre, black streaks.
Dim light rained down from above like a tearful morning shower. The
floorboards hissed when she ventured a step into the

What was this place used
for?” she asked, but the walls did not reply.

A shadow draped across her.

Vivian slowly craned her head toward
the ceiling.

The naked body floated above her,
suspended by hooks. Her skin had been transformed into an elastic
canvas with cruel barbs jutting from her limbs.

The cords were rigged to pipes,
creating a web of torment. Hooks peeled her eyelids away from
engorged eyes with microfilament wire anchored toward her

The killer had anticipated every
natural human reaction: screaming, shutting her eyes, lifting her
hands to her face… and countered it with torture.

Vivian choked back her

A red bruise glowed in the crook of
the victim’s arm, where a needle had pierced her.

Adding horror to the offense, six
gnarled hooks were sunken into her lips and tongue, rigged with
wire stretched taut. The moment she cried out, her mouth would have
been flayed wide open.

Her mouth was a crater of exposed
muscle, an abyss emptied of screams. When Vivian saw where the
other hooks were connected, her own screams poured








You cannot hurt me anymore.

Those glossy words stained the walls,
immortalized in syrupy blood. The sight inevitably gave the police
pause, taunting them from across the room. Only Nikolai approached
with a scowl etched into his jaw.

He was familiar with the notorious
handiwork of this killer, like a lover resentfully re-uniting with
an ex.

Did the victim write this
in her own blood?” Vivian droned without emotion. She felt numb as
the entire scene unfolded before her; police cutting down the body,
the medical examiner collecting the corpse in its body bag
chrysalis, forensic investigators gathering sample fluids from the
floor. She had already given her statement to the police, but the
words hardly felt like her own.

Unlikely. This warning has
been found at the last three crime scenes,” Nikolai replied. “I
believe it’s a taunt aimed at the police.”

Nikolai!” A lanky cop
draped in a jacket carved his path across the crime scene. “We
discovered a tunnel beneath the foundation with access to this
room. It seems someone built this long before the complex rented
out apartments.” Vivian looked down at the floorboards, imagining
an amorphous shape slinking around with fantasies of carnage.
Hungering for new victims to add to its harem…

Vivian leaned groggily against the
wall as Nikolai scribbled notes. Something crunched under his toes
and he shifted to regard the scrap of paper on the



Krista LaCroix suffered
suicidal behavior in conjunction with depression. She insists her
boyfriend won’t hurt her again and that he has changed. However,
she exhibits more bruises each time I see her, and she is gaining
weight. Her addiction to lying has progressed to a point where she
weaves a web of lies even when she has nothing to gain from


Vivian, come with me. I
need to speak with you.” Nikolai put a fatherly hand on her
shoulder as he coaxed her through the door. “I think you should
leave while the forensics team combs for evidence.”

In other words, so I don’t
fuck anything up,

She watched an evidence collector
gather blood samples crusted on the wall, obliterating the message
the killer left. He flicked the cotton swab against the plaster and
tucked it into a small paper envelope. Nikolai escorted Vivian down
the vacant hall, drifting further away from the nightmarish

BOOK: Red Widow (Vivian Xu, Book 1)
7.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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