Deadlier by the Dozen

Dark Encounters, Book #2

 The more the scarier.

Put up for adoption at seven-years old, history teacher Mackenzie Lawson has spent the last twenty years dreaming of meeting her family again. However, her hopes to rekindle old memories and find closure have hit one hell of a snag. A hundred-year-old curse placed upon her relatives has begun, unleashing a dozen of her doppelgangers who want her dead. Their purpose is to infiltrate her family and kill everyone in sight. To exact revenge for a wrong that happened more than a century ago.

Mackenzie must find a way to get rid of her psychotic doubles or risk having them go after her loved ones. However, each doppelganger kill causes her blood pressure to skyrocket to dangerous levels. This and more attract the attention of a mysterious mutant with patchwork skin who volunteers his services, but leaves out the part about it being his job to destroy the source of the doppelgangers starting with her. Mackenzie needs to figure out where his loyalties lie before DEADLIER BY THE DOZEN becomes deadlier by thirteen.

Ebook ($3.99): Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords

Print ($11.00): CreateSpace, Amazon

 Chapter 1

Thanks to hours of last minute shopping with bride-to-be and best friend Noor, my bunions decided to exact revenge  as I limped out of the elevator on the third floor. I couldn’t reach my condo fast enough to tear off my shoes and soak  my feet in a warm bath.

I stuck my key in the lock and opened the door.

A hand shoved me from behind. My bags dropped to the floor, tripping me as I fell forward into my condo. My front  smacked the floor of the entryway next to my kitchen. My keys landed somewhere in the dark while my purse and  mace went in the opposite direction. Damn.

Before I could stand and gather bearings, my assailant nearly yanked off my arm from the socket to help me to my  feet. I expected him to throw me against the counter and kicked my legs wide enough for backdoor entry. He didn’t.  Instead, he dragged me down the short hall into my living room and flung me toward the recliner.

Scrambling out of the chair, I screamed. He was there, slapping his hand across my mouth. He shoved both of us  backward until we collapsed into the cushions, his heavy, muscled body on top of mine.

This is it. I’m going to get raped in my own condo. Ohmygod. What do I do? What do I do?

My muffled shrieks continued until my throat turned raw and my lungs burned. Between breaths, I tried to bite his  palm, but my teeth didn’t have the reach. No way was I going down like this. I’d bring it on in such a way that would  make the coroner think we had revisited the games of Ancient Rome.

Keeping one hand on me and his body pressed hard into mine so I couldn’t move, he reached for the nearby light and  pulled the metal cord.

The beam against his face cut off my wailing. It was the guy from the department store. Though I had only noticed him  twice, I couldn’t help staring at his scars. Different shades of Caucasian skin patches had been sewn onto his face with  Frankenstein-like stitching. His plastic surgeon probably had to do a stitch-by-numbers to close those massive wounds.  Despite the pieced together job, his eyes were the same color. Dark and filled with enough hatred to make a wild bull  stand down.

He reached inside his jacket. I tried to bury myself in the cushions, since I had nowhere else to go. Holy shit! He was  going to shoot me. I’d die before I ever made it to my long-lost family’s reunion. This wasn’t fair dammit! I had just  found my older brother and younger sister after being separated from them for the last twenty-five years. So. Not. Fair.  God, please. Please, say it’s not true.

The stranger slowed his movements before continuing. Just when I expected a gun or a knife, he produced a cell  phone. He fingered across the touchpad screen before shoving it in my face.

“Your name wouldn’t be Whitney by any chance, would it?” He pushed the picture closer. “Look like anyone you  know?”

I peeled my terrified stare away long enough to do what he said.

Ohymygod. Now, my struggles really stopped. In fact, I couldn’t take my eyes off the picture.

Except for my black, shoulder-length curly hair, she looked exactly like me. A perfect carbon copy. The scenery  behind her wasn’t familiar, though it could’ve been anywhere. Still, I would’ve remembered posing for something like  this, since it was taken in a desert region with her standing next to a sign that read Whiskey Pete.

I glared at my assailant. “My name is MacKenzie Lawson. I don’t know anyone named Whitney or otherwise.”

He studied my eyes for a few seconds more before snatching back the picture, grumbling, “She was a friend.” Again,  his fingers slid across the smooth surface before he pushed the phone in my face again. This time, he played a video  for me. “That woman standing on the subway platform. Watch what happens.”

I didn’t expect much and didn’t want to see, but I couldn’t help it. Passengers packed in together on the shoulder,  waiting for the next train to arrive. Just as it had pulled into the station, a woman tumbled off the platform and  slammed into the front of the train. People screamed in shock. Though there wasn’t any sound, I didn’t need it. The  horror on their faces said it all. The weird part was that another woman assumed her place on the platform who  looked almost exactly like her, only she wore a hat over her head to hide her eyes and parts of her face. They were  the same height and weight, only wearing different clothes. She stood emotionless there while everyone crowded  around and pointed, probably screaming. She had to have pushed her look-alike.

“Let me rewind and show you a close up.” The stranger slid his fingers on the cell phone to reset the video.

“No, I don’t need to see that again.”

He yanked me forward, though not quite out of the chair and shoved the phone in my face. “Look at it!”

I didn’t want to, but I did.

And wished I hadn’t. The woman who was pushed into the oncoming subway looked a lot like me and his precious  Whitney.

I pushed the video away. “What the hell are you showing me this for?”

“Would you like to see another?”

“I don’t need—” I paused soaking in what he just said. “What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about a dozen more at last count.”

“Somebody must have busted your crack pipe across the back of your head.”

His eyes narrowed like he wanted to choke me until my eyeballs popped out of my skull. “You don’t believe me, do  you?”

I started to rise when he held a single finger out, motioning me to stay put. I thought about slapping it out of my way,  but since he had strength while all I had were nails and a blood-curdling scream, I decided to park my behind in the  chair again. “What do you want? Money? Because I’m a school teacher, which means you’re lucky I’m not robbing  you instead.”

“I want to know about your childhood.”

“And I want to know why they let mental patients roam free!”

I had nothing to lose. My adoptive parents took pleasure in tormenting and treating me like a piece of shit. So when I  had finally gotten out on my own, I vowed never to take shit from anyone again who didn’t respect me and mine. This  guy had gone there.

His scowl loosened up, but not enough to say that I was out of danger. “Your upbringing. Your parents. Your real  ones.”

“What fucking business is it—?”

The home-invader jammed a gun into my cheek. A frown bent his lips while seriousness marred his hardened face. He  meant to pull that trigger if I didn’t give him what he wanted.

“W-w-wait!” A gulp slipped down my tightened throat. My heart pounded so hard against my ribcage that I thought it  might go into arrest from sheer exhaustion. It was no wonder I had borderline hypertension.

“If that smart mouth doesn’t tell me what I want to know, then it won’t be talking to the police either.” He cocked the  trigger.

Oh shit. My hands began to shake and I squinted, pulling my head into my shoulders with only a hope and a prayer  that this maniac wouldn’t splatter my brain across the carpet. “My parents gave me, my brother, and my sister up for  adoption. I had just turned seven at the time. They were good parents until that point. Just dropped us off at some  gothic looking orphanage in the middle of the woods. They’re dead, okay? Died soon after that. The only family I have  left is the family I haven’t seen in more than twenty years and who I plan to finally meet in a few weeks.”

I stopped. My horrible childhood was my own. Hell, I didn’t even talk about it with my best friends. They didn’t need to  know my adoptive caretakers took pleasure in smacking me with dog leashes and shoving me into walls whenever I  tried to prove to them that we could be a loving family if we tried. There wasn’t any love in that house. Only terror.

Click.

I was still here. Either he didn’t have any bullets or�

I let go of the tension creeping up the back of my neck and shoulders and slowly opened my eyes. The man slid the  gun in a used leather holster underneath his jacket.

“Someone who looked a lot like you killed my partner Whitney while she was jogging in the park. I wasn’t sure if it  was you or another woman who looks like you.”

“Another of the so-called twelve?”

He blinked, wonder marring his face as though he wanted to ask a question, but reneged. “You’re not like the others.  Your hazel eye is on the right. Theirs is on the left, just like Whitney’s. A mirror image, so to speak. Are you  right-handed or left?”

“Left.”

“They’re right. Like I said, a perfect mirror image, but opposites. Only, you must be the original.”

A plan came to mind. If he was so indulged in this psychotic crap he was shoveling, then perhaps I could use it to get  away from him.