Final Girls Page 1

Author: Riley Sager

Genres: Thriller , Mystery

Pine Cottage, 1 a.m.

The forest had claws and teeth.

All those rocks and thorns and branches bit at Quincy as she ran screaming through the woods. But she didn’t stop. Not when rocks dug into the soles of her bare feet. Not when a whip-thin branch lashed her face and a line of blood streaked across her cheek.

Stopping wasn’t an option. To stop was to die. So she kept running even as a bramble wrapped around her ankle and gnawed at her flesh. The bramble stretched, quivering, before Quincy’s momentum yanked herself free. If it hurt, she couldn’t tell. Her body already held more pain than it could handle.

It was instinct that made her run. An unconscious knowledge that she needed to keep going, no matter what. Already she had forgotten why. Memories of five, ten, fifteen minutes ago were gone. If her life depended on remembering what prompted her flight through the woods, she was certain she’d die right there on the forest floor.

So she ran. She screamed. She tried not to think about dying.

A white glow appeared in the distance, faint along the tree-choked horizon.


Was she near a road? Quincy hoped she was. Like her memories, all sense of direction was lost.

She ran faster, increased her screams, raced toward the light.

Another branch whacked her face. It was thicker than the first, like a rolling pin, and the impact both stunned and blinded her. Pain pulsed through her head as blue sparks throbbed across her blurred vision. When they cleared, she saw a silhouette standing out in the headlights’ glow.

A man.


No. Not him.

Someone else.


Quincy quickened her pace. Her blood-drenched arms reached out, as if that could somehow pull the stranger closer. The movement caused the pain in her shoulder to flare. And with the pain came not a memory, but a realization. One so brutally awful that it had to be true.

Only Quincy remained.

All the others were dead.

She was the last one left alive.



My hands are covered in frosting when Jeff calls. Despite my best efforts, the French buttercream has oozed onto my knuckles and in the hammocks between my fingers, sticking there like paste. Only one pinkie finger remains unscathed, and I use it to tap the speakerphone button.

“Carpenter and Richards, private investigators,” I say, imitating the breathy voice of a film noir secretary. “How may I direct your call?”

Jeff plays along, his tough-guy tone pitched somewhere between Robert Mitchum and Dana Andrews. “Put Miss Carpenter on the horn. I need to talk to her pronto.”

“Miss Carpenter is busy with an important case. May I take a message?”

“Yeah,” Jeff says. “Tell her my flight from Chi-Town has been delayed.”

My facade drops. “Oh, Jeff. Really?”

“Sorry, hon. The perils of flying out of the Windy City.”

“How long is the delay?”

“Anywhere from two hours to maybe-I’ll-be-home-by-next-week,” Jeff says. “I’m at least hoping it’s long enough for me to miss the start of Baking Season.”

“No such luck, pal.”

“How’s it going, by the way?”

I look down at my hands. “Messy.”

Baking Season is Jeff’s name for the exhausting stretch between early October and late December, when all those dessert-heavy holidays arrive without reprieve. He likes to say it ominously, raising his hands and wiggling his fingers like spider legs.

Ironically, it’s a spider that’s caused my hands to be coated in buttercream. Made of double-dark chocolate frosting, its stomach teeters on the edge of a cupcake while black legs stretch across the top and down the sides. When I’m finished, the cupcakes will be posed, photographed and displayed on my website’s roster of Halloween baking ideas. This year’s theme is Revenge of the Yummy.

“How’s the airport?” I ask.

“Crowded. But I think I’ll survive by hitting the terminal bar.”

“Call me if the delay gets any worse,” I say. “I’ll be here, covered in icing.”

“Bake like the wind,” Jeff replies.

When I hang up, it’s back to the buttercream spider and the chocolate-cherry cupcake it partly covers. If I’ve done it right, the red center should ooze out at first bite. That test will come later. Right now, my chief concern is the outside.

Decorating cupcakes is harder than it seems. Especially when the results will be posted online for thousands to see. Smudges and smears aren’t allowed. In a high-def world, flaws loom large.

Details matter.

That’s one of the Ten Commandments on my website, squeezed between Measuring Cups Are Your Friends and Don’t Be Afraid to Fail.

I finish the first cupcake and am working on the second when my phone rings again. This time there’s not even a clean pinkie finger at my disposal, and I’m forced to ignore it. The phone continues to buzz while shimmying across the countertop. It then goes silent, pausing a moment before emitting a tell-tale beep.

A text.

Curious, I drop the icing bag, wipe my hands and check the phone. It’s from Coop.