Maggie jolted awake when the plane’s wheels hit the tarmac and the pilot started to bring the behemoth to a stop. Maggie envisioned him slamming on the brakes and gripping the steering wheel hard to keep from fishtailing down the runway. Actually, she didn’t know if planes had brakes or steering wheels. And, she didn’t care, as long as they got her where she needed to go safely.
Rolling her shoulders and stretching to ease the cramps in her lower back from slouching in the uncomfortable seat for hours, Maggie yawned. “How did I manage to sleep in this seat anyway?” she asked herself. She was exhausted after two months of trekking in Nepal. Climbing Mt. Everest was on her bucket list. Now she could say that she had stood on top of the world and looked down.
Winding her way to the luggage carousels, Maggie ordered up an Uber to take her home. “A hot shower, a glass of wine, and my own bed,” she thought. “Heaven.”
Forty minutes later, she turned the key in her lock and sighed. Her apartment was spotless, her plants had been watered, and fresh flowers were on the table next to today’s newspaper. She picked up the note from her neighbors:
Welcome home, world traveler. We took care of your place while you were standing on top of the world. There is a rotisserie chicken in the fridge along with some veggies and a bottle of your favorite chardonnay. Tonight, enjoy a bubble bath in that big soaking tub of yours. Tomorrow, we’ll bring over a wheelbarrow of mail and a pizza. We want to hear all about your trip. You know we live vicariously through your adventures.
Love, Damon and Jon
Smiling, Maggie opened the wine and poured a glass. She looked down at the newspaper and her world shattered.
Splashed across the top of the front page were photos of her four best friends since kindergarten. They met on their first day at Valley Vista School in Petaluma when they discovered they each had the same pink, sparkly backpack. Maggie was the only one who moved away, but she was in San Francisco, close enough to meet for dinner or to see a show, which they did at least once a month. Now they were dead.
Maggie’s legs gave out and she sat, hard, on a kitchen chair. She couldn’t stop staring at the photos.
Stormi. Victim One. Found in a pool of blood in her kitchen. A cup of cold coffee on the table. Stabbed through the ribs.
Jess. Victim Two. Found laying on a sidewalk along B Street, her tights and shoes splattered with blood. Stabbed through the ribs while on her morning run.
Peri. Victim Three. Found at the top of the rise in Penry Park, her throat slit, the grass stained red around her body.
Skye. Victim Four. Found on the sidewalk outside her house with her head bashed in. A small pinprick wound in her neck oozed blood. Police had found more spatters of blood a few feet away.
The article continued with theories and speculation about the killer’s motives and how victims were selected. The last paragraph summarized an interview with one of Skye’s neighbors, an old woman ranting about seeing two great horned owls and a peregrine falcon attacking a tall, slim woman with short, dark hair as she tried to get into her car. “Those birds were watching that woman,” she insisted. “Then they attacked. I’m telling you; it wasn’t normal. Those birds knew something.”
“Crazy,” Maggie decided.