There was a side door to the garage, and that was the one that was unlocked. Even so, it was hard for Ellie to turn the handle.
Finally she succeeded and stepped into the gloom of the interior. The garage was big enough to hold four cars, but the only one Mrs. Westerfield left after the summer was the van. Andrea and her friends had brought some old blankets to sit on when they went there. They always sat in the same spot, at the back of the garage behind the van, so that if anyone happened to look in the window, they wouldn't be able to see them. Ellie knew that was where Andrea would be hiding if she was here.
She didn't know why she felt suddenly afraid, but she did. Now, instead of running, she had to practically drag her feet to make them move toward the back of the garage. But then she saw it -- the edge of the blanket peeking out from behind the van. Andrea was here! She and her friends would never have left the blankets out; when they left, they always folded them and hid them in the cabinet with the cleaning supplies.
"Andrea..." Now she ran, calling softly so that Andrea wouldn't be scared. She was probably asleep, Ellie decided.
Yes, she was. Even though the garage was filled with shadows, Ellie could see Andrea's long hair trailing out from under the blankets.
"Andrea, it's me." Ellie sank to her knees beside Andrea and pulled back the blanket covering her face.
Andrea had a mask on, a terrible monster mask that looked all sticky and gummy. Ellie reached down to pull it off, and her fingers went into a broken space in Andrea's forehead. As she jerked back, she became aware of the pool of Andrea's blood, soaking through her slacks.
Then, from somewhere in the big room, she was sure she heard someone breathing -- harsh, heavy, sucking-in breaths that broke off in a kind of giggle.
Terrified, she tried to get up, but her knees slid in the blood and she fell forward across Andrea's chest. Her lips grazed something smooth and cold -- Andrea's gold locket. Then she managed to scramble to her feet, and she turned and began to run.
She did not know she was shrieking until she was almost home, and Ted and Genine Cavanaugh ran into the backyard to see their younger daughter burst out of the woods, her arms outstretched, her little form covered in her sister's blood.
Copyright © 2002 by Mary Higgins Clark
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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