The sign of the devil, the mark of a killer.
—The Devil's Star, Jo Nesbo.

I sighed deeply as I got into my house, closing the door behind me. I slowly slid down to sit on the floor as I looked at the picture that was on the end table in front of me, wiping the tears which dripped down my cheeks. It was a picture of me with my cousin. He was like a younger brother to me, I can't believe that just now I came back from his funeral. He was only 16 years old; he didn't deserve to die before he was able to see life and what it had to offer.

I'm supposed to cry my soul out now, to lose my best friend, to live with the fact I won't see him again, but I already got out all my sadness and frustration to the point I know that crying and blaming everyone won't bring him back. I remember how his parents called me to come quickly to their house, just to see medics carrying his body that was red from all the blood which he lost from the deep cut in his throat.

The police told us that it wasn't a murder, and that he had committed suicide, since there was no evidence to prove otherwise, but at the funeral, as I watched my cousin brought to peace, I became determined to prove that it was a murder. I knew my cousin well, more than anyone. He would have never done such a thing, he didn't have a reason to. Even if he did decide to commit suicide I want to know the reason, one way or another I'll find out what happened.

My first stop was the place where it happened, my uncle's house. I took a deep breath and rang the bell, the seconds seemed to take forever until my uncle opened the front door.

His eyes widened as he saw me; he opened his mouth to talk but I had already entered and walked directly to my cousin's bedroom, locking the door after me. I quickly scanned the room, there must be something that will at least help me to start. Then a picture on his desk caught my eye. I picked it up and looked at it. It was my cousin with his three friends, but my eyes wandered to the edge of the picture. I frowned as I looked at the smiling brunette boy as he wrapped his left arm around my cousin.

I knew this boy; he was my cousin's best friend. As I put the picture down, I noticed a piece of paper falling off from the back of the frame, I sighed; as I knelt down to pick it up, my heart skipped a beat as I flipped the ripped paper. It was written in red, probably red ink -

'One down.'

What the heck is going on here? If someone thinks it's funny messing around about something like that, I'll personally kick this person's ass.

I crumpled the paper in order to throw it, but as I looked at it I sighed and put it in my jacket pocket instead. Before exiting the room I also took the picture, I said goodbye to my still confused uncle and got into my car.

I looked at the picture again, trying to remember the boy's name.

"Mike," I mumbled, "that's right! He'll know what happened to my cousin, he must." With a little smile I started my car, knowing my next stop.

I got out of my car and looked at the house in front of me. It looked like a typical family house.

It had two floors. On the outside a siding was covering the walls, its white color beginning to fade, as if it was built many years ago and no one had repainted it. The roof was made out of shingles. Next to the house there was a garage, I suppose one of the family members had a car. Well, of course, why else would they have a garage?

Behind the house, was a wood that spread over a few kilometers. I walked to the front door and rang the doorbell. No answer. I tried again and again, for about another five minutes. No answer. I sighed in frustration and started to walk back to my car but as I was about to open the door, I stopped and looked up at the house, there must be a way to get in. And then I saw it, an open window on the second floor. From a quick scan I noticed a tree. With a bit of luck, it'd be my way to get in.

I had second thoughts about it. I mean, I was trying to break into someone's house, but I wanted answers and I'd get them. I took a deep breath to relax myself and started to climb up the big tree. As I reached the height of the window I stretched my arm and leg to reach it, it hurt to stretch myself like that, but I managed to get in. I looked around, I guessed I was in Mike's bedroom.

"Hello? Is anybody here?!" I asked. All I got in response was my voice echoing that broke the silence.

I walked around the room, it looked like a typical teenager's room. I started to open drawers, messing with papers that were on the desk, searching for something that would help me to get some answers. As I looked around I had the little fear that Mike would come home any second and see me in his room, messing with it. Nothing. I sighed as I held my head, trying to think what my next move was, there's no way I reached a dead end. I looked at the picture again. I was not planning to wait until Mike came home, so it was time to go to my cousin's other friend - John. I went out of the house, walking to my car, I got out the keys to open the door when I felt a shiver on my back. I quickly turned to look behind me- nothing. Must be just the wind. I shrugged and got into the car, driving to John's house.

"John?" I asked as I entered his room.

He jumped in surprise as he heard my voice, he looked tense for some reason. As he turned to look at me he sighed in relief. I decided to ignore his behavior, I was looking for answers.

"Grace," he said. I nodded and sat on the bed as he sat next to his desk.

"What brings you here?" he asked me as he crossed his arms, spinning a bit with his chair.

"Well, I'm sure you know Robby is... Dead." I'm still trying to get used to the fact that my cousin is gone. John just nodded. "Would you mind if I ask you a few questions about him, John?"

"Sure, no problem." He shrugged. I nodded.

"Did he act weird lately?"


"Was he depressed from something or someone?"

"Not something I know about."

"Did he take drugs? Did he drink, perhaps?"

John leaned back on his chair, "Hmm.. No drugs. But we did drink last week."

I nodded, finally, I got a direction. "Can you remember something from that day?" I asked him. There was a minute of silence.

"No," he answered eventually. I looked at him, studying his face.

"You're lying." I pointed and stood up, walking to his direction. "You know something, don't you?" I noticed how he's starting to get nervous as I asked it.

"I'm not a liar, we all were drunk. I don't remember a thing." I looked at him, it was obvious he is lying.

"Alright." I started to walk around the room, his eyes following me. "Do you know where is Eric?"


"Have you talked with him or Mike since Robby's death?"

"No." I noticed how he's getting more and more tensed with every question I asked. "Do you know where is Mike?" I suddenly asked, that was his break point. John quickly stood up from his seat as I asked it, pushing me to the door.

"Look, I can't help you," he said as he pushed me out of the room. "Your cousin was a hidden psycho that killed himself, live with it," he said annoyed and shut the door in my face.

"Stupid jerk," I mumbled to myself and walked out of the house back to my car. Clearly John won't help me, nor will Eric. I need Mike. At this point it looks he's the only one who will give me proper answers. I tried his house again on my way back, still no answer. They must went to a vacation or something. "C'mon Mike..." I sighed annoyed and got into my car, driving home.

I parked the car and walked on the driveway to my house front door. I tried to make order in my head, what I know so far? Robby is dead, his best friend not here and his other friend is paranoid. I sighed deeply as I got my keys out of my pocket, yeah that's so helping, I'm still no nearer to getting my answer. I reached to unlock the door when I noticed the newspapers next to it. It was from last week and this week, from all what happened I must've forgot it here. I picked the newspapers up and got into my house, locking the door behind me. I threw the newspapers on the coffee table and walked to my room to change. I got back to the living room with a cup of coffee and my laptop, sitting on the couch.

I sighed as I held my head, "C'mon Grace.. Think," I mumbled to myself. I concentrated so hard that it actually started to hurt. I sighed frustrated and took a sip from the coffee when I noticed one of the headlines on last week newspaper - '16 years old boy was murdered, no signs for the body'.

I quickly took the newspaper and opened the article. But before I could start reading, there was a knock on the front door. I threw the newspaper back on the coffee table and stood up to open the door, seeing Mike.

"John told me you searched for me?" Mike asked me with a light smile.

I sighed and smiled back, "Yes, thank you for coming. Come in."

Mike nodded and got in, sitting on the couch, I sat next to him.

"So.. Where do I begin?"

I chuckled, Mike responded with a slight giggle, "It's alright, take your time."

"Okay, Hmm.. How about we start why you weren't at home," I suggested, Mike nodded.

"Okay, my parents and I were out of town, we visited relatives. What was so urgent anyways?" he asked me in wonder.

"Well, as you know, Robby is dead. I wanted to talk with you about it. You see, the police said he commit suicide but we both knew him well enough to know that he was murdered. And since you were his best friend I thought that you might know something."

Mike nodded again and looked down, he sighed. "Yes, Robby was my best friend. When I heard about his death I was so depressed, that's why my parents took me out of town actually, to clear my head a bit. Believe me that I want to find his killer but I'm sorry, I can't help..." Mike apologized.

I shook my head, "It's alright, let's try another direction. John told me you all were drinking last week."

Mike nodded lightly, "Yes, we were on the town bridge late at night, drinking. But.. I don't remember anything suspicious.." He frowned. Then Mike smiled at me before standing up, "Don't worry, as soon as I find something, I'll let you know," he promised.

I thanked him and walked him to the door. "Where are you going?" I asked in wonder.

"To visit John."

"May I come too? I want to ask him a few more questions."

"Sorry, I want to talk with him alone. But I'll see you later, bye Grace."

He smiled and left, I closed the door after him. I looked at the newspaper that was lying on the coffee table, I thought about reading the article now but I decided to go to John instead, I'm sure Mike won't mind.

I came to John's house and rang the door bell. I frowned as I received no answer, that was weird. Then I heard noises, I focused on the noises and realized it's John's voice. I walked around the house to John's room window, his room is on the ground floor so I can check if something is happening there. I frowned again when I reached to the window and saw that it was blocked with some old woods.

What is going on?

Please, what do you want? I heard John, I noticed a hole in one of the woods and looked through it. For some reason the room was dark, but I managed to recognize John.

Get away you freak, you're suppose to be dead now! I should have finished you back on the bridge when I could!

Okay, now I was really confused. What the hell was going on? Who was he talking to?

I noticed a figure getting closer to John, I couldn't recognize it though since a hood covered his head.

You're are a psycho! First Robby, then Eric and now me, you're a sick person. We always knew you were a freak, but we never realized that you'd reach this level.

I watched as the figure punched John to make him shut up. John tried to fight back but it was no use, the figure easily dodged his attacks. The guy pushed him to the ground, I tried to get a better angle of view. John was lying on the floor. I heard his screams of pain as the guy took out a knife and started to cut the flesh of his legs, creating blood lines as he moved higher and higher on John's body, stopping at the chest. I thought it was finally over, not knowing how much more I could take from this sight. It was a miracle I didn't scream out of fear until now, but maybe it was because I knew what would happen if I'd screamed. Then the hooded figure lifted up something that looked like.. A scythe. That can't be good at all.

See you in hell, freak. Was John's last words before his head got ripped off by the scythe. I quickly covered my mouth, trying my best not to scream from the sight I just saw. I slowly started to walk back but I stepped on a stick and cracked it.


He noticed it.

I started to run into the forest next to the house. I must hide, I can't let this psycho find me!

As I ran I got bumped into something, falling down because of it. I quickly stood up to keep running but I got stopped by the person I bumped into.

"Grace! Snap out of it!" I heard Mike and looked at him as he held tightly into my arms to prevent me from running again.

I took a deep breath, relaxing a bit. It's just Mike, everything is alright. Well, except the fact I just was a witness to a murder!

"What are you doing here?" I asked him when I realized I just bumped into Mike in a forest.

"I told you I'm going to visit John, it's a shortcut from my house to his. What are you doing here?" he asked me, clearly confused. I tried to answer but I just couldn't find my voice to speak up. "Grace, listen to me. Calm down and tell me what's wrong. You're acting like you've seen a ghost."

I slowly took a deep breath, calming down a bit. Mike was looking at me, clearly waiting for an answer for his question.

"I.. I-I went to see John."

"And?" Mike tried to make me continue.

"A-And I couldn't get in so I looked through the window and I saw, I mean he's.. John just got killed!" I finally managed to say, I sighed in relief as I managed to get it out, the tears started to flow from my eyes.

Mike looked surprised at me. "What did you just say?" he asked me, clearly he thinks I need a hospital.

"I.. I saw someone in his room.. T-they were fighting and John talked and then his head got ripped off. And I started running because it started chasing me!"

Mike looked behind me, "What chased you? I see nothing." I frowned and also turned around, realizing the guy wasn't after me. Could I just imagined it all?

Well, I didn't actually get a night sleep in those two weeks but.. There's no way I could imagine such a horrible thing like the murder I just saw. No. It was real.

"Okay, you clearly need to calm down. I bet you haven't slept in the past few weeks and it's also night now. You're tired and your brain must've started to mix dreams and reality. How about I walk you home?" Mike tried to calm me down, like I'm just being paranoid. Maybe I am.

"You know what? You're right, I should get a good night's sleep, to clear my mind. I'd be happy if you'd walk me home though."

Mike nodded with a smile, "Let's go then."

"Thank you again for walking me home Mike." I thanked him and invited him to come in for a cup of tea before he went home.

"I'm going to the bathroom for a sec, alright?" He asked me with a smile when we entered into the house.

"Sure." I smiled. I told him where the bathroom is and he walked away. I sighed as I sat down on the couch, holding my cup of tea and looked at the newspaper. I shrugged and took it, it's time to read this article before I forget about it. I became more and more confused every second that passed when I read it, according to this article, the young boy was killed on the town bridge last week and his name was.. Mike.

"Is everything okay?"

I jumped as I heard Mike's voice, I quickly put the newspaper away.

"Y-Yes, everything is fine." I smiled nervously, Mike looked at me confused and sat down next to me on the couch. I looked down on my tea, not sure what I'm supposed to do. There's no way Mike is a ghost or something, I'm not imagining stuff, he's alive!

"You know Grace," his voice interrupted my thoughts. "It's not nice to shove your nose into someone else's business."

I looked at Mike confused, his voice sounded so bitter all of sudden. My eyes widened when I noticed he was taking out a knife from the pocket of his hoodie, but the knife wasn't what scared me the most. No. What scared me the most was to see Mike's left hand, it was a skeleton, with blood stains covering it. John's blood. Thinking about it, his left hand was always hidden when I talked with him.

"Mike, please don't." I begged, he looked at me, clearly smirking.

"How could you? He was your best friend!" I tried to yell as I started to cry, Mike chuckled as I said it, something that made me confused. What's so funny about it? "You're right, he WAS my best friend, I trusted him with my own life. And guess what? He helped to take it." I heard the bitterness in his voice when he said the last phrase.

I quickly stood up and ran to the front door, but I couldn't open it. What I'm supposed to do now? I saw Mike walking toward me so I decided to run to my room instead, to lock the door and call the police. In hope they'd believe me. When I reached my room I was about to lock the door but something stopped the door from closing, it was a stick.

What the heck? All the confusion turned back into fear when Mike opened the door wide open. God how I was wrong. The stick turned out to be a scythe, then I realized that he'd closed in on me, my only option was to jump from the window. I decided I should really jump, I prefer to die like this and not by him. I ran to the window to open it but he caught me and made me fall to the ground. I whimpered as he stepped hard on my legs to make sure I wouldn't run again. I looked up at him, with a begging face, hoping that maybe he'd release me. I was relieved for a second when he dropped down the scythe but all the hope I'd had disappeared when he took the knife instead and started to cut it through the flesh of my stomach, I cried and screamed from all the pain, feeling the warm blood flowing down from the cuts.

"You see Grace," he started to talk as he drew blood lines over my stomach with the knife. "I had to kill Robby and the others, they were all guilty. When John pushed me from that bridge, it was the best thing he ever done for me. He made me realize the true face of humanity. It's in your nature, none of you is really innocent."

I started to feel numb from the loss of blood, but then I didn't feel pain anymore. Am I dead? No. I can still see and hear, I'm not dead yet.

"I'll let you live with a reminder," was the last thing I heard before I passed out.

I moved in my sleep, I heard something that sounded like.. Beeping? I slowly opened my eyes, but I quickly shut them close as strong white light his them. After a moment I opened my eyes again, trying to realize where I am.

"Hospital." I mumbled and slowly sat down, I twisted my face in pain as I did. I felt weird in my stomach. I quickly pulled off the blanket and lifted my shirt, I was surprised when I saw what was on my stomach.

Scars, but not typical scars, the scars were shaped as a pentagram. That was when I remembered everything that occurred last night. I looked through the window, he's still out there.

The accuser.

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