Chapter 1

"Go away… Go away, Uncle Charlie!"

The scornful, passionate voice of young Charlotte Newton rang through his mind over and over again. At times, it sounded dark and mellow, as though she had resigned herself to a life without him; yet at other times, he swore he heard her pitch rise in excitement, as though perhaps she sincerely reveled in the thought of his departure. What did she want from him? Certainly, she could not truly wish he would go. After all, he was Uncle Charlie… suave, charming Uncle Charlie whom she had adored from infancy.

"Go away or I'll kill you myself… You see… That's how I feel about you."

No, it was not true. She would never be able to commit a foul crime against humanity such as murder. That act was reserved for the most sinister, twisted individuals… like him.

40-year-old Charles Oakley, sat up with a jerk, suddenly quite out of breath. He turned from side to side, trying to find his glass of water in the dark. At last he felt it, sitting on his nightstand. He shakily lifted it to his lips and drank its contents. Why did he keep having these dreams? No, they weren't just dreams. He smiled bitterly at the irony of it. He was the monster, yet years after his final departure from Santa Rosa little Charlie Newton was giving her Uncle Charlie nightmares.

But what was causing these chilling dreams? And what did they signify? They were not real dreams with any distinct storylines. They were filled with voices. Her voice. She had said those exact words on their last meeting, yet they did not affect him then nearly as much as they did now. What was to become of him if these subconscious distractions persisted? He would obviously go quite out of his mind… relatively speaking.

Even in his most frustrated moment, Charles could not deny the fact that she had had every right to say what she did. He had felt desperate and confused. So he resorted to what he knew best: murder. Cold…heartless… unidentifiable murder. After all, who would have ever connected him with her death? It would be an accident, whether she had broken her neck after falling down the stairs or accidentally poisoned herself with car exhaust in the garage. He did not want to murder her, even in his highest moments of insanity and panic. She had only been a witness, someone who knew him for what he really was. He never wished to kill his own, sweet little Charlie. He wanted to dispose of the witness to his crimes.

Yet, how could he have felt that way? Was she not the one source of joy in his dark, dismal world? Had he really ever been willing to destroy his one and only pleasure? It seemed like pure masochism to him now.

Yes, he certainly loved her more than anything in the world. Even now, knowing that she despised him and hoped to never set sight on him again, he felt a deep affection for her, incomparable to any love he had ever felt before.

In years past, she had often said that there was a form of telepathy between them. He was far too cynical to accept such an idea… And yet… Could there be a reason why he kept hearing her distressed voice plaguing his sleep every night? Such thoughts made it impossible for him to sleep. Generally, such thoughts made it impossible for him to function at all.

When, he left Santa Rosa, he vowed that he would commit no more crimes, as much as he desired it. Now that the other deceased suspect was held liable for his murders, he could not afford to be tied in to any other cases. It was far too high a risk. He could not allow himself to be placed in the power of the law. If they found him guilty, they would lock him up like an animal. Or worse… they could take away the one part of him that was entirely in his own possession… his very life. Oh, how they would love to do so! He could not give them that sort of satisfaction. If he sometimes felt the impulse to do away with certain older, useless human beings, it would have to remain an unfulfilled desire. This had been his method of thinking for years now, ever since he departed from his hometown, leaving his niece to despise him.

Charles glanced towards the clock on his nightstand. It was only three in the morning, yet he knew that there was no way he could rest any longer. This being the case, he climbed out of his bed and put on a thick, velvet bathrobe. He crossed the room and opened the top drawer of his dresser. He shuffled through several insignificant articles of clothing until he found that for which he had been searching.

She was a dear girl, he thought to himself, absentmindedly running a finger over the bright smile of her picture. Who would think by looking at her that she was the very thought that tormented him for days, sometimes weeks at a time? There was no use talking to anyone about it. After all, if he went to a doctor, he would have to tell him everything… including the truth about his own notorious past. In a way, he was imprisoned, just like the lowlifes forced to live out their days in a cell. And his niece had now become his judge and executioner, for certainly this mental strain would lead to his demise if he did not do something to fix it.

How old would she be now? he asked himself. He had been 13 years of age when she was born. Sometimes he could hardly even remember how old he was. If he was 40, that would make her… 27? No, that couldn't be. She would never be that old to him. She was his darling, precious girl. If she were 27, she would be an adult, not just his little Charlie. He wished he could relive those years, when he was young. Though he ran away from home at 16 and did not return for many years, he always felt a strong attachment to his sister Emma. And despite their age difference, Charlie had always been his sweetest confidante. That was, of course, until their last meeting.

Perhaps she wanted him to come to her. After all, whenever he received these feelings in the past, he ended up being correct. Of course, in the past, he had still been her Uncle Charlie, and she was still his sweet, loving niece. Was it all so very different now? But of course it was. He couldn't expect her to ever need or want him again, after he nearly caused her death. It made perfect sense to him… mentally, anyway.

As he boarded the train in Santa Rosa, two years earlier, he could not detach his eyes from her, until the train was too far away for him to see anything of Santa Rosa at all. He waited, hoping that perhaps she would say or do something. He craved any sign of emotion, yet she showed none. Perhaps she really did not need him after all.

And yet, in the darkest, most painful hours of the early morning, he could not deny his craving to see Charlie, his most beloved niece, once more.