The glow from Lucy’s computer screen shone like a beacon in her bedroom. She grabbed a throw blanket off her bed, tenting it over the monitor and herself in hopes that it would block the light from escaping through the cracks of her door. The last thing she needed was her parents coming in to yell at her for being up all night and snooping around in her search history.
She scrolled through the newest comments in the forum she joined some time ago. It was a site that someone had created after the Torture Ranch trials were starting. It took some time, but Lucy felt that justice toward almost all the cult members had come in strong. Unfortunately, not everyone in the cult received the punishments they deserved.
Hi! New to the forum, one person wrote. I’ve been following the case from the beginning. How could the judge let the Murder Twins off?! I don’t care how many people they supposedly rescued. They are murderers just like the rest of the members who are all RIGHTLY in jail!
Lucy felt her hands begin to shake as she read through all of the comments. No one was happy with the sentencing the twins received. Even those who felt sorry for them or who cried when the doctor testified on behalf of the one twin who was tortured himself. No one thought the twins were totally in the right.
They should have gone to prison. Instead they were sent to a mental facility and placed on probation. It was an injustice that, as far as Lucy was concerned, could not go overlooked. All these people were mad, but few had the right to set it all correct like Lucy did. The twins had killed her sister, after all.
Heather had joined the cult - or “the community” as the members called it - a few years prior. As far back as Lucy could remember, her sister was always searching for meaning in toxic stuff. It was no surprise that Heather found the community online and sent in an application without telling anyone.
Lucy could still remember the beaming look on her sister’s face when she announced that she’d been accepted into this utopian community and that she was quitting her job and moving to Wyoming. It destroyed the family. Their parents were never the same. And Lucy was left alone.
They never heard from Heather again.
What they did hear of was Heather’s death. The cult had been infiltrated when those twins exposed everything by setting several prisoners free. Heather was not among the living.
The twins told the police that Heather was buried underneath one of the buildings sitting on the acres and acres of land that the cult leader, Terrance Stevenson, owned and ranched with all the people living there. The twins, Terrance’s own sons, had buried Heather there after she died. Even the boys admitted that Heather was the one who showed them what the cult really was. They still let her die and they still went on to kill more before finally making the right decision in setting everyone free. And the Murder Twins would be out of the facility soon.
After exhausting the forum, Lucy turned her computer off. She stretched in the stillness and yawned. It was raining as usual. The scent crept in through the vents and the sound of the gentle patter on the roof filled in all the quiet gaps of the night.
With her stomach grumbling, Lucy tiptoed her way to her bedroom door, opening it slowly. She peered out into the dark hallway, glancing at her parents’ door. Carefully, she stepped out and inched her way past their room to the staircase.
Once downstairs, she went straight for the kitchen. Through the sliding back door, she could see the rain splattering over the grass and fence in their backyard.
The kitchen still smelled of roasted stuffed peppers that her father had made for dinner that night. Lucy stood on her tiptoes to reach the bag of potato chips from off the top of the refrigerator. They were still buying family-sized bags of chips even though Heather was gone. Lucy wouldn’t be surprised if her parents continued to buy family-sized portions of everything for the rest of their lives. Even tonight's dinner had yielded way more leftovers than the three of them would eat. That was okay. It was their way of preserving Heather.
And it was okay that they had always liked Heather more than Lucy. It would make everything easier for them when Lucy left.
Because she finally found them - the Murder Twins.
A secret photo of the twins arriving at a facility, probably taken by some worker there, circulated around the Dark Web for weeks at the beginning of all this. Lucy had quickly screenshotted it and began searching it for clues.
It was extremely difficult. The picture was blurry and it didn’t have much in the background. The twins were standing on tile in a long, white hallway. It was nothing. Many doubted that the boys in the photo were actually the twins or that the photo was even real. But it was the only evidence she could find that hinted at where the twins could be.
Before the photo, Lucy compiled a list of the highest-rated mental facilities in the country. She was able to narrow that list down to the facilities that were commonly used amongst government cases for juveniles. That list was reduced even further by places most commonly used by federal judges. She was left with a handful of places.
It was a popular belief within several forums that the twins were in Sacramento. There was a very large facility there that had housed some high-profile juvenile criminals. Of course Lucy considered it, but she never could quite match the photo with pictures or videos of the interior of that facility. They were a near match, but something was off. The coloring on the tile was slightly different. That could have been an issue with lighting, or the poor quality of the photo, or even just a random hallway that wasn’t online.
She couldn’t for the life of her match any other facility with the photo, though. She was constantly second-guessing herself. She scoured the Dark Web for more information, but all she found were wild speculations and conspiracy theories. Eventually, she went back to square one, revisiting all the original mental facilities on her list. It wasn’t until she was nearly at her wit’s end that she found it, only a few weeks ago.
The place was in Hartford, Connecticut. The tile had the exact gray-tinted color as in the photo. The hall was the same bright white. Lucy was in tears that day. She had finally found it after over a year. All she had to do was pack up and go. Lucy was going to set everything right. She was going to kill them.
She had to do it for her parents, who never smiled anymore. She had to do it for all the people who lost their loved ones. And she had to do it for herself because, despite everything, Heather was the only person who had loved Lucy unconditionally. Her sister was the only person who understood her. It didn’t matter what happened to Lucy anymore.
Lucy stepped into the living room. She didn’t turn on any lights. Through the dark she could make out the outline of the couch and the recliner in the corner. The television sat on top of an old family chest that was filled with all their random junk. Lucy bent down and lay on her back on the carpeted floor. It smelled dusty, but it was soft. The rain pounded a little more fiercely on the roof.
This was the last night she would spend at home. Lucy crunched on a chip. She and Heather used to do this when they were little. They would lay in the dark, eating treats and telling ghost stories in giggly whispers. It was cold down here. Lucy cried.
The morning brought with it more rain. Lucy was back in her big, cozy bed with her comforter wrapped all the way around her. From downstairs, she could hear her parents’ muffled voices in the kitchen. Lucy pulled the blanket over her head. A few months ago, she had decided to leave her giant comforter at home when she finally left. Now, though, with its familiar scent and warm nostalgia, she knew she would never leave it behind.
Lucy slipped off her bed and folded the blanket neatly. In the far back of her closet was her backpack with everything she was taking with her. It wasn’t much. Originally, she wanted to take nearly everything, but there wouldn’t be room. The less she had with her the easier it would be to move around anyway.
She pushed the folded comforter on top of the bag and closed the closet door. She left her room, crossing over to the bathroom. After showering, she dressed in her most comfortable jeans. She threw on her favorite hoodie and went downstairs.
Her mom was drinking coffee at the kitchen table while her dad made scrambled eggs at the stove. Lucy’s mom looked up and smiled when Lucy came in. When Heather left for the cult at just eighteen years old, her parents were miserable, but they still were somewhat happy, full of hope that they could get her back. When the cult was finally seized and they found Heather dead, Lucy’s parents lost everything inside of them that made them happy. Now her mother’s smile was nothing but a flat line attempting to live.
Lucy sat and her mother stood up. “Better go,” her mother said quietly. She put on her coat, avoiding Lucy’s eye. She kissed Lucy’s head, but it was a faraway kiss - an obligatory kiss.
Lucy nodded. That was okay. She understood. It was time for the family to disband anyway.
Her father scraped some eggs onto a plate and set it in front of Lucy. He checked his watch. “Have a good day. We’ll be back for dinner.” Then he left too.
There was no reason to wait. Lucy stepped away from her eggs. She went upstairs, retrieving her bag and blanket. She scribbled a note on a paper, I’m gone. There’s no point in staying. Don’t worry, I’m safe. Placing her house key and phone next to the note, Lucy walked out the door.
Once the police got involved, it would only take a few seconds for them to realize what she was doing. At least, they would know that she was obsessed with the twins’ case from her browsing history alone. That was why Lucy bought a bus ticket to California. She used her mother’s credit card so it could be tracked. Once out of Sacramento, she would use cash for everything else.
Lucy’s father had helped her to sell her old junk of a car a while back, just before they found out about Heather. The plan was to buy a much better car, but once the cult trial began and it was clear the twins were getting off easy, Lucy started pulling the money out in small increments for running away. Her parents never noticed. The police would though.
The bus ride was long and uncomfortable. Every seat was taken, which left Lucy feeling trapped like a sardine for eight hours. It was a relief to finally step onto solid ground, feeling the warm air and breathing in something other than stale breath from a few dozen people.
Sacramento was sunny and far cheerier than Portland ever felt. Lucy hadn’t traveled much within the country. Her parents took them to Canada now and again, or over to Europe when they were younger, but, aside from LAX, she hadn’t been to many other places in the states. She made a mental note to try and enjoy all the travel she would be doing before the end.
The first thing Lucy did was order food with her mom's card. She took a cab toward the facility (again using the card) and sat down in a crowded cafe to eat. In a little while, she was going to meet someone nearby whom she’d found selling a cheap truck online. She’d arranged the whole thing a week prior using a new email she created from the library computers. The cash would be used for that transaction.
The guy she was meeting seemed shady from his ad. In his emails he repeatedly mentioned cash only. It was one big reason she picked him. She wanted someone who wasn’t going to go snitching that he had sold a car to a wandering teenager.
Lucy checked her watch and left the noisy cafe. She walked three blocks to the lot where they had agreed to meet. It wasn’t difficult to find. It wasn’t even as conspicuous as Lucy thought it would be. She double-checked the directions he had given her. She was definitely in the right place.
She sat down on the curb to wait. The sun beat down on her, and the dust kicked up from the slight breeze made her throat feel dry. People passed by on the sidewalk, wearing shorts and tank tops. Lucy, in her long-sleeve hoodie and jeans and clinging to a large comforter, was gaining several glances. She must have stood out pretty pointedly. Still, no one said anything to her.
Eventually, the 2005 Chevy truck she was buying pulled up beside her. The engine sputtered and clanged to a halt. A tall, thin man, smelling of tobacco stepped out into the sun. He wore tight jeans with a faded t-shirt and flip-flops. “You’re Jennifer?”
Lucy stood up and nodded. “Yeah, is this it?”
He grinned, patting the hood. “Runs like silk.”
“Cool.” Lucy started to rummage in her backpack for the money, fully aware that he was looking her up and down. She found the envelope of cash and turned to him. “Title?”
Eyeing her for a moment, he reached to the glove compartment and pulled out the title already signed to her. “So what’s your story?”
Lucy yanked the title out of his hands, shoving the envelope into his chest. “My story is my story.” She threw her bag into the passenger seat, waiting for the man to count out the full $3,000.
He looked at her and nodded. “Pleasure,” he said. “And here.” He handed her $200 from the stash she had given him. “Whatever happened to you, here’s something to get away from it.”
Lucy stared at the bills in her hand. Tears formed in her eyes and she smiled. Suddenly, she wrapped her arms around the man's chest, hugging him tightly. She loved Sacramento.
He chuckled and patted her back. “Now get going.”
Wearing a big grin, she scrambled behind the wheel. With only her bag and a paper map, Lucy pressed into the gas and took off for the freeway.