That had been eleven years ago. Since that time he had left a trail of bodies across the entire fifty states, everything from housewives who caught him when he broke in looking for food and things to steal and sell to campers to joggers to homeless people…

And all of them had been tortured in order to obtain the maximum level of fear before they died.

And it was now getting harder and harder to stay that one step ahead of the law.

It was such a pity he simply could not resist marking his victims with his “trademark”…a linked outline of a diamond and a heart, which to him stood for what he had taken to calling himself…Diamondheart.

After all, all true artist’s signed their work, didn’t they?

It was the same mark he had left branded into a tree near the cabin with the miniature brand he had himself created…once again sardonically thanking shop class as he had made it…and which was small enough to fit in his shirt pocket.

All he had to do was hold it over the flame of the lighter he had had engraved with his “sign” and it was ready to use.

As that thought passed through his head as he knelt, watching the trail, he let out another string of low curses…he had been so careful, attending to each and every detail, and it had all been undone by a broken watch clasp!

No one would have known to possibly link him to that brand when it showed up on his later victims if it hadn’t been for that damn watch!

The fire at the cabin had, of course, been investigated, and they had been very, very thorough…and found the watch…with his name on it…

And the brand.

Thinking of the watch infuriated him, for that engraving was one of the little vanity perks that his father had been prone to…

Just as that brand was his.

It was one of the few times he really hated his father for his damn pride in the fact that his family actually had a crest and a traceable lineage.

His dad’s family gave the term “old money” a whole new meaning.

The face on that watch had been custom engraved with the family crest, a symbol that had been well known in not only his town…purely for the fact that his family were the town founders and it was on every police car, courthouse wall and a lot of other places as well…but in nearly every county for about a hundred mile radius.

And his name was known by the law enforcement in his town due to his having put a police officer in the hospital over a parking ticket about two months after he got his license.

The only reason he had been able to keep his license and gotten off on a smaller charge had been due to his family’s influence and money.

Marston’s mind was jerked back to the present by the sudden sound of excited baying as one of the dogs picked up his scent. Scooting back, careful to make as little noise as possible, he only stood when he reached the little ravine below the ridge on which he had been watching the searchers.

No sooner had he stood than he took off for the caves, for he knew that even if they found the one he had been staying in, he could lose them in the ones further in.

As he ran, he was cursing mentally, damn it to hell, he should have been more careful and not taken the chance of leaving the body of that drifter in the basement of that old abandoned factory at the edge of town.

He had needed a terror fix so desperately he had been actually aching with the craving for it, for it had seemed so long since the one that had forced him to flee and brought him to this place.

But by the time he had gotten through with the guy, it had been nearly dawn and he knew he hadn’t had much time to get out of town and back safely to the caves before daylight. He had been doing his best to never, ever be seen by anyone.

But someone must have been in the building and heard the screams of his victim, for he had just reached the edge of the woods leading to the caves when he heard the sirens…and they seemed to be getting closer.

Marston made it to the caves and immediately went straight to the one in which he had been staying and grabbed the flashlight, the gun, the satchel of ammo and then headed deeper into the network of offshoots that he had come to know fairly well during his stay there.

He spent some time going in and out of ones which all were interlinked by openings to each other, deliberately running his hand over the walls and rocks, laying down a trail of scent to confuse the dogs.

Then he headed back towards a part that he hadn’t really explored fully, but where he felt the dogs wouldn’t track him as well, for he doubted that many of the search party would have flashlights.

He was far back in the tunnel system when he heard the echoes of the dogs baying and the shouts of the men when they evidently located the caves.

And he knew by the change in the voices just about when they found his particular cave.

Moving quickly, Marston continued deeper into the tunnels, always keeping part of his mind focused on his pursuers even as he tried to focus on the twists and turns as he followed the tunnels.

A person could get lost very easily in that complex system.

He heard the dogs suddenly start baying again and guessed they must have picked up the false trail he had left…that would keep them busy for a short time going around in circles.

He had only gone a little further after hearing the dogs when all at once he began to get the feeling that someone…or something…was not only watching him…

But following him.

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About MARANTHA DREAMWEAVER JENELLE

WRITER'S USE WORDS TO PAINT PICTURES ON THE CANVASES OF THEIR READER'S MINDS. marantha d. jenelle/aka 'maradjen'

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