TITLE: Dead Ringer
GENRE: YA Suspense/Thriller
Sixteen-year-old Kae returns from an evening run to find her house on fire and foster mother dead. Nate is her foster brother.
Dizzy with smoke inhalation, Kae ran back to the kitchen, covering her mouth. Her mind and eyes raced, until the sight of a large, dripping stain on the kitchen counter brought the situation back into focus. What the hell was that? Heart pounding from the run and fear, she fell to her knees and began to crawl forward. The substance had spread to the floor and was smeared by a large shoe imprint. Her hand reached out, quivering. It was dark red and sticky.
Inner voices battled:
What happened here? What's happening?
Dammit, get out you stupid idiot! Get out!
Shut up. Get Nate.
She grabbed the sharpest knife in the kitchen, the one Claire used for hacking at chicken carcasses to make soup stock, and turned the corner. One hand gripping the blade's handle, she crept up the stairs like a twitching cat. Every muscle tensed at the sickly-sweet stench filling the second floor hallway. Panic and smoke started to threaten her consciousness, and she pinched her left thigh hard and deep.
Claire's room was first. The bedsheets were rumpled, but the room was empty... wait. Feet. The mauve toenails were unmistakable. Trembling, Kae forced herself to the other side of the bed. The knife dropped silently to the ground at the grisly scene. She leaned down to get it, unable to tear her eyes away from the murdered woman she'd come to love like a mother.
Kae backed away from the body, shaking her head back and forth. Warm urine ran down her leg.