July 15, 2024
Jordyn lay on her back in the kitchen, feigning death, wondering how her sweet-sixteen birthday slumber party turned into a bloody massacre. One minute she and her friends were giggling and having fun, the next they were running for their lives.
Now she could only hope that the man pacing the living room wouldn’t notice her; she had slid behind the bar that separated the kitchen and den when the attack started and hadn’t moved since. She’d been struggling not to sob aloud, though the sight of her family and friends being killed in front of her made it very challenging. If he hears me, I die. That simplified things for her.
Jordyn didn’t know who he was; he had entered the front door at 10:00 p.m. unhindered. They left the house unlocked all evening. Jordyn’s friends had been entering periodically, so everyone there had their guard down, including her mom, who was busy trying to make sure all the girls stayed fed and entertained.
As soon as the stranger entered, Jordyn knew something was off; he had an unusual, savage look about him. She thought maybe he was just a homeless man who wandered into the house looking for food, but his next action betrayed this. The man lifted a weapon hidden behind his back and shot Aaron, Jordyn’s cousin, in the chest. Aaron fell backward and didn’t move.
Chaos ensued; her friends were screaming and trying to scramble to their feet, but the gunman kept ﬁring, hitting targets periodically, and Jordyn watched several fall to the ﬂoor. Jordyn never got up, fearing it would only make her an easier target. Instead, she scooted behind the bar and remained still.
Jordyn’s mom, Cindy, sprang into action as soon as she realized what was happening. After seeing Jordyn crawl behind the counter, she screamed at the girls to run, to get down, until the killer turned his ﬁre on her. Jordyn saw her mother’s torso jerk three times from the impact of bullets and crumple to the kitchen ﬂoor. She gasped for air, coughed up blood, then reached out to Jordyn one last time before her eyes went blank. Jordyn could only watch helplessly.
It didn’t take the gunman long to neutralize all eight of Jordyn’s friends, though the shooting itself seemed to last forever. There were only two ways to exit the den, and the shooter anticipated the girls’ routes as they tried to ﬂee, leading them with gunﬁre as they ran for their lives. One of Jordyn’s friends, Ashley, made it out of the den and climbed halfway to the top of the stairs before giving out. Now she lay still and quiet, and Jordyn feared she was dead.
Jordyn wanted to scream, to cry, to react the way anyone would given what had just happened, but she dared not. She tried not to look at her mother’s dead face, but instead focused on controlling her breathing. She feared the intruder would notice her chest rising and falling, so she took shallow breaths.
As she lay there listening to the gunman pacing and mumbling to himself, she thought about her father and wished he were there. She and her father had been close all her life, but the past few months he’d grown distant, both from her and her mother. Cindy suspected an affair, but Jordyn didn’t buy it. Her father had always been faithful, if not for Cindy, then for Jordyn’s sake. Though she couldn’t explain his recent aloof behavior, she’d forgive all if he would just show up now when she needed him most.
The killer’s pacing stopped. Jordyn couldn’t see what he was doing, but it gave her hope. She was afraid to move to get a better look, but she couldn’t lie there forever. She inched to her left, craning her neck as she did so, until she saw part of the sofa in the living room. There he sat, head in his hands.
She considered making a break for the front door, but that wouldn’t work. The side door would be even worse. The only other option was the stairs, which would leave her trapped in the house. It wasn’t ideal, but she was sure he’d ﬁnd her where she currently lay.
After a few minutes of listening, confident the gunman wasn’t moving, Jordyn rolled onto her knees and crawled toward the stairs. She had dropped her phone in the earlier chaos but grabbed her mom’s, which had fallen on the ﬂoor beside her. She cringed as she crawled over her mother, getting blood on the knees of her pajamas as she crossed over the corpse. After nearly losing control of her emotions she gathered herself and inched forward until she reached the stairs. Midway up she saw Ashley’s motionless body. Jordyn ascended the steps one at a time, hoping none of them creaked and gave away her position. When she reached Ashley, she nudged her, and to Jordyn’s delight, she moved and groaned. Jordyn whispered in her ear to be quiet and stroked her forehead, which was drenched with sweat.
Ashley stopped groaning, and they listened for any sign of detection. All seemed okay until she heard a loud voice coming from the front door of the house.
“Ben, what have you done?” The voice was angry but composed, rational, and apparently talking to the gunman sitting on the couch. “A slumber party? A sweet-sixteen birthday party? Could you have picked any worse situation?”
“Amos, I don’t know what… I can’t… I blacked out,” said the gunman.
Amos. Jordyn didn’t recognize the name.
“I know. You’ve made a big mess here. One I have to clean up.”
Ashley wasn’t moving anymore, but Jordyn saw her breathing. She also saw blood pooling underneath her. She’s dying.
“Did you at least kill them all?”
“I think so,” said Ben.
“No, you didn’t. This one’s still breathing.”
Jordyn listened in horror as one of her friends whimpered, sounding barely alive. She ﬂinched as she heard the pop of gunﬁre, and it was silent again. A few moments later, another whimper, mixed with a gurgle, and another shot. Jordyn’s eyes filled with tears; it was all she could do to mourn right now.
“Well, Ben, I wish it could’ve worked out,” said Amos. Jordyn heard another gunshot, followed by a loud thump. It sounded like Ben falling on the ﬂoor from the couch.
She heard another muffled voice, too far away to understand.
“It’s not your fault,” said Amos to the unknown man. “I thought Ben would make it, but he had a weak mind.”
What’s he talking about? thought Jordyn. She could hear the other man responding, but it still sounded too distorted to comprehend.
“Hand me the pinger,” said Amos.
As Jordyn asked herself what a pinger was, Amos answered her inquiry. The mystery man must’ve asked him the same question.
“It’s the triangle-shaped device in that bag. It’ll ping every phone in this house, making them all ring. I want to make sure none of these princesses captured any video of Ben’s exploits.” Amos paused, and Jordyn heard him fumbling with something. “We need to ﬁnd them all.”
While Jordyn didn’t know it all meant, she realized it spelled trouble for her. If they could ping all the phones, her mother’s would surely ring. She checked Ashley’s pockets and didn’t ﬁnd a cell, then scrambled upstairs to her room and slid under the bed, trying to get as far from Amos and the other man as she could. She considered turning off the phone, but ﬁrst she dialed 911. In a whisper she brieﬂy relayed her situation to the operator and hung up, hoping the men downstairs couldn’t hear her. She would have to trust the cops could see her location and send help.
Now she focused on powering down her mother’s phone before they pinged it. She fumbled with it for a second and realized that it would only shut down by her mom’s thumbprint or retinal scan. I’m dead, she thought.
Panicked, Jordyn did the only thing she could think of: she lay on top of the phone to muffle the sound that was sure to be coming at any moment.
Moments later, she heard the chorus of rings downstairs and felt her mother’s phone vibrate against her stomach. Though the sound was muffled, it wasn’t silent. Jordyn tensed, expecting to hear a reaction downstairs. She wouldn’t be able to hear feet shuffling from where she was, for it was too far. However, she’d be able to detect someone ascend the stairs, and so far there was nothing of the sort. Minutes passed. Jordyn imagined they were gathering all the phones downstairs. What was taking the police so long? They should be here by now, she thought.
“Ping it again,” said Amos.
This time, instead of a chorus of phones, Jordyn only heard one: her mom’s. The men had either turned off, destroyed, or removed the others. The sound of the phone was still faint, and Jordyn had no idea if the two intruders heard it.
The next few minutes seemed like an eternity. Jordyn heard footsteps, which meant that one or both were climbing the stairs. She lay still and silent; running wasn’t an option. The only exit was downstairs, past the men.
Jordyn heard Ashley moaning. She sounded like she was in pain.
“Hey there,” said Amos. Jordyn heard Ashley’s moaning transform into a high-pitched squeal and then a hard smack and something crunching. Ashley’s pitch was deafening and desperate, but it stopped suddenly. She’s dead. The thought came almost as a relief for Jordyn. She couldn’t bear to hear her friend suffer any longer.
Now the only thing she could do was hope the police arrived before the intruders found her. She heard footsteps on the second story. She didn’t know if they were looking for her because they heard the phone ring, or if they were just clearing the house, maybe making a ﬁnal walk-through.
Jordyn saw feet enter her doorway, and she held her breath. She felt so vulnerable, so visible now; she kept imagining Amos pulling her from under the bed with no warning. It didn’t happen though. Instead, the intruder walked from one side of the room to the other, then sat on the bed.
“I know you’re the only one left. You have your mother’s phone with you, don’t you?” Amos sounded so sure of himself.
Jordyn didn’t budge. She refused to assume anything so quickly.
“It’s not your fault, kid. You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
She felt the bed above her move, and before she could react, he grabbed her legs and pulled her from her hiding spot. He picked her up, threw her on the bed, and smiled. Amos looked different from what she’d expected. He was average-looking but rugged; he had short hair and a lot of bushy facial hair, but he dressed proper. It was almost as if he were two different people rolled into one. Jordyn saw something in his eyes that revealed his true nature. He had a smirk, but his eyes looked hungry, like the violence he caused was fueling him, making him eager for his next morsel.
Jordyn lay on the bed, paralyzed, crying, knowing what lay ahead of her. She wouldn’t plead with this madman; she saw the look in his eyes and knew it would only give him satisfaction to hear her beg.
“Tom, come on,” said Amos. “Come ﬁnish this.”
Tom? Jordyn felt a wave of panic rush through her. She heard the man ascending the stairs now, and her heart pounded harder the closer he got.
Amos walked over to the doorway and met Tom on the way out. “See you outside,” said Amos, who disappeared down the stairs.
Tom entered the room, gun aimed at Jordyn, and she nearly died of shock.
“Daddy?” she whimpered. She was crying so hard that she was having to gasp for breath.
Tom didn’t stop walking until he reached the end of her bed, gun still raised. Jordyn looked into his eyes. They were blank, emotionless, like they belonged to some other person. In fact, they looked like Amos’s eyes. There was nothing in them that suggested he knew, loved, or cared about Jordyn, and he didn’t ﬂinch when she called him daddy.
Jordyn remembered a time when she could melt her daddy down to nothing with only a look. Tom wasn’t perfect, but he loved his daughter fiercely. Jordyn was his baby girl. Her memories weren’t from years ago; they were from months earlier. Now she stared into the eyes of the man she called her father, someone she loved so much, not recognizing him. She shut her eyes and heard the loud crack of gunﬁre, but she focused on the darkness that engulfed her.