Maggie woke to darkness, pain searing at the back of her head.
What the fuck? she thought. After a minute her eyes adjusted to the dark and she realized the floor was in fact the cold, dirt ground of what appeared to be a cellar. There were crates and boxes stacked high near one wall; a workbench sat against another; water dripped from the ceiling, forming tiny puddles around her. In the far corner a small window had been painted over black, allowing only a few slivers of setting sunlight to penetrate the room.
Wherever she was, it smelled like death.
Maggie tried to reach up and feel her head, but quickly realized she was handcuffed to a radiator pipe. Wincing, she began to remember what had happened. She’d been walking to her car, fast — she was already late and of all the nights to be running late, this wasn’t the one. Before she could reach for the handle, quick footsteps sounded to her left, then sharp pain. She hit the ground and passed out before she could see who had attacked her.
Now, the acrid smell of sweat, piss, tears, and blood filling her nostrils, the identity of her captor became suddenly and alarmingly apparent. She thought of the news reports, the cautionary texts and Facebook messages from family members, the irreverent tweets about how her town had become the hunting grounds for a psychopath.
The media had come up with some stupid name for him — the Madison Mangler, the Madison Mauler — something with a double M, born solely out of a fondness for catchy alliteration. It didn’t matter. Whatever they called him didn’t convey the horrors of what he’d done to his victims.
According to the reports Maggie had read, he abducted and held them for about half a day before dumping them in various spots in the outskirts of town. He spent the time he had with his victims doing unspeakable things, leaving their bodies in tatters and their faces nearly unrecognizable.
The police, as far as the public knew, had zero leads. They couldn’t pin down a pattern, because really, this guy didn’t have any. There wasn’t a set time period between his victims; he’d never taken anyone from the same place twice; he’d never dumped anyone’s body in the same place twice. He’d left nothing of himself — hair, blood, fingerprints — for the police to find. Whoever he was, he was good, and his appetite for murder didn’t seem to be waning. The people of Madison were terrified.
Maggie, on the other hand, felt slightly amused, that of the tens of thousands of people in Madison, this guy would choose her. She wondered if he’d stalked her, following her every move to figure out the best time to grab her. To a killer, she’d have made an ideal target — her family were scattered all over the country, all of them at least three states away from her, and she had no real friends. She was almost always alone. To a killer, she had no one who would ring the alarm if she went missing, no one looking out for her.
Of course, she didn’t need anyone to look out for her. Not tonight, anyway.
She almost felt bad for her abductor — he had no idea what he was in for. While he’d managed to evade capture, Maggie had a secret of her own — one that, had he known about it, would have sent him running for the hills.
Instead, from the sound of the heavy footsteps above Maggie’s head, he was pacing. With each step he took, a wisp of dust and dirt and water fell from the ceiling. Was he psyching himself up to storm down the stairs and get to work? He’d killed nearly 10 people already, and that was just who the police were aware of. Who knew how many others there might have been?
Maggie had spent years pushing down the urge to hunt, maim, kill, ignoring the bloodlust. The last time she gave in, eight people died. She was so wracked with guilt she considered killing herself time and again but found she never had the nerve.
Some good would come of her cowardice now, at least. She was glad she’d be the one who killed this fucker. Maggie could never make up for the atrocities she’d committed, but she could avenge the people he had murdered, and stop him from doing it again.
His timing couldn’t have been better. It had been just after seven at night when he’d taken her; the sun had just started setting. She didn’t know how long she’d been out, but judging from the dull ache in her bones, it couldn’t have been more than an hour. With each passing minute the ache grew more intense; the scents of the room, stronger; her view of her surroundings, more detailed. Another couple of minutes and she’d be ready.
The pacing upstairs stopped. As Maggie stared anxiously at the ceiling, waiting for the footsteps to start again, sharp pain began spiraling from her abdomen through the rest of her body.
Maggie was so consumed by her sensation she didn’t notice the crack of the cellar door as it slammed against the wall and her captor began his descent down the stairs. He reached the bottom just in time to see claws burst from Maggie’s fingers. The look on his face, one that shifted rapidly from shock to confusion to horror as he watched her body mutate from woman to werewolf, was the last thing Maggie saw before she lost herself to the monster.