windows. It was falling apart: sections of its roof, siding, and shutters had been ripped off by the wind. She hadn’t heard of any major storms in the area that could have damaged the house in such a drastic way. And what had happened to the poor family? She had heard that End House boasted a gigantic indoor pool with a Jacuzzi and sauna. It also had an outdoor pool, which she couldn’t even get a glimpse of over the dense circle of tall trees surrounding the property. The house stood alone at the end of the drive with no neighbors nearby, jutting over the edge of the steep cliff with a long drop to the jagged rocks below. Just thinking about it caused chills to travel up and down her spine. She never planned on visiting that house—ever. But she could not dwell on that now: she had to get ready for the barbeque. She didn’t have to bring much since Mike and David did most of the cooking. She returned to her kitchen, took out few steaks from the freezer, and packed them up with the strawberry pie that she’d baked yesterday. She climbed the stairs to her dark bedroom. The turquoise and pink drapes were closed tight, blocking any light from entering the dark room. She turned on the small green lamp on the end table beside her bed. On her white embroidered quilt were her two cats, asleep together on her turquoise throw pillows. They brought a little peace and sanity to her life that she sometimes felt were severely lacking in this strange little town. She quickly changed into a sweatshirt and jeans, ran back downstairs, grabbed her food, and then rushed out to the barbeque. The others were already there. Mike and David had moved their barbeque grill onto the beach; hamburgers and hot dogs were sizzling on the grill with buns warming on the side. Shana was setting the picnic table with a checkered tablecloth and baskets of breads. Louise, who’d brought the salads, was busy arranging them down the center of the table. Linda noticed Todd lounging on a reclining chair, reading the Wall Street Journal. He always brought with him a large selection of wines. He never cooked or served, but observed everyone from a discreet distance. His long legs—stretched out before him—looked tan and muscular in his biking shorts. His expression appeared pensive and serious as he perused his newspaper. The sharp angular lines of his face and his long, straight nose could have been drawn from the likeness of a Greek god: a strong god such as Zeus or Hercules. She quickly turned away before he noticed her gawking at him. Once the food was cooked and served, they sat around the picnic table. The only topic of conversation on everyone’s mind was the mysterious party at End House. They all seemed to be excited about the party—except for Todd, who stayed silent during their heated conversation. Linda wondered whether the owner of End House was also one of his many clients. David had been the one to first introduce the topic of the party during the meal. They had been eating in silence until David spoke up. “Should we go to this party? It might not be such a good idea. We don’t even know who’s throwing the mysterious party.” Mike glared at David. “You always try to ruin everyone’s fun. If you don’t want to go, don’t go! Just don’t bring down everyone else’s spirit of adventure.” Mike constantly scolded David for his inappropriate comments.