Robert slammed the door behind him, and the sound echoed through the room. Bradley spun around where he stood by the window, his eyes wide with surprise.
“Fuckin’ girl didn’t show.” Robert threw the empty blue duffel bag straight at Bradley’s face; Bradley snatched it from the air and waited patiently for Robert to finish his rant. “I waited an extra fifteen. Some asshole prob’ly saw me and called the fuckin’ cops. Get fucked, Brad.”
Bradley admired Robert’s sweet humility, but he wasn’t going to let Robert get away with such a crude outburst. Practically corrosive on the ears. “Watch your mouth, Bob. And don’t worry about the girl or the cops. I’ve taken care of any possible contingencies, including this one. Why don’t you go in the kitchen and fix yourself a nice hot cup of coffee?”
Robert saw the look in Bradley’s eyes and immediately changed his tune. “Look, man, I’m sorry about that. It’s just–with the girl not showin’ and me havin’ to wait, I got a little worked up, is all. I’m sorry. I’m real sorry. It won’t happen again.”
Bradley nodded toward the doorway to the kitchen. Robert took the hint and walked straight to the coffeemaker, pulling a clean mug from the dish drainer as he scooted by.
As soon as Robert was out of sight, Bradley set the bag gently down on the floor at his feet. He pulled the gun from the holster strapped around his torso and turned to face the kitchen. When Robert came back, he would find a nice dose of lead to go with his hot, fresh coffee.
Nora swung an elegantly clad foot at the end of a stockinged leg, her chin resting gently atop her fist. She watched person after person pass by on the street as her cafe latte cooled on the table in front of her.
Finally, the right one walked by. Nora swept her leg to the floor and stood, dropping a pair of bills on the table for the waiter.
She picked up the pace in order to keep up with her prey. Closer and closer. He turned, and she was waiting, the gun in her hand.
She left him there, in the alley, without a second thought.
I looked up and down the street: next to no one around. I need a crowd to get lost in. The last time I felt this way I ended up three states away and missing six days of my life, but I was alone. Maybe if I surround myself with people something different will happen.
Different is good. I guess. But whatever happens, happens. I’ve learned to deal with it.
Fugue state. That’s what the doctors say. I don’t think it really matters what you call it, since it screws up my life no matter what.
I turned the corner and saw a group of maybe six people heading into a bar. See? I can’t even concentrate enough to count to six. I followed them in.
Not really my kind of place, but it’ll do for now. It’ll do.
The music pounded in my chest like I was having a panic attack. I liked it. I stepped up to the bar and leaned forward to find the bartender.
He was at the other end, pouring drinks for the group that led me in here in the first place. That’s fair; I don’t mind waiting my turn. He met my eyes and nodded once, acknowledging me. I pulled up a stool and sat down, lacing my fingers together and resting my arms on the bar.
The door opened behind me and a cheer went up. I turned to see who was the cause of a ll the ruckus, but I didn’t notice anything special about her.
She was with the people I’d followed in. I overheard her name: “it’s good to see you, Bernice.”
I’ve never liked the name Bernice. It reminds me of the Berenstain Bears, and The Spooky Old Tree gave me nightmares as a child. Funny the things that come back to you when you get older, isn’t it?
The bartender made it down to me, not waiting on Bernice. I ordered a Crown and Coke, and he poured it and set it in front of me. I slid a twenty across the bar and asked him to keep ’em coming. He nodded again. I don’t know if he even speaks. Isn’t that a requirement for tending bar?
My head was starting to feel fuzzier, and I hadn’t even taken a sip. I reached down to feel my pocket to make sure it was still there, and traced the outline of the handy blade I liked to keep with me.
I don’t think Bernice is going to make it home tonight.
I’ve found the secret to staying on track with my time is to write my OLWG posts right before dinner, so I have to pick up and put away when my time is up. Fifteen minutes tonight.
There’s no shortage of depravity in the world. I’ve killed in a cabin; I’ve killed in a castle. Ive killed in everything in between. I’ve never left a fingerprint, or so much as a broken blade of grass to mark my presence.
I leave my body behind to inhabit the mind of a killer. Every. Single. Night.
Believe me, I would stop if I could. My life is agony.
I remember when I was six or seven, my parents watched the local news every night after dinner. The first night of my problem, the big story was of a missing little girl just my age.
A few years ago I dug around until I found the story. At least, I believe it to be the same story; who can truly differentiate fact from fiction at that tender age?
I seem to remember that evening so clearly: missing, presumed dead in the voice of the newscaster, my parents holding hands on the couch. I woke screaming four times that night. Each time, one or both of my parents rushed to comfort me, smoothing my hair down and whispering platitudes, always a variation on the same theme. She was okay. There was no murder. The murdered girl was alive and well.
They didn’t understand, and I couldn’t explain then that it wasn’t that she was gone, it wasn’t that she was murdered, it wasn’t that I feared the same fate.
It was that, somehow, I had killed her.
I know. It’s delusional. It’s fantastical. It’s absolutely batshit crazy. But it’s the truth.
I wasn’t sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night bent on murder. I wasn’t strategically placing stuffed animals under the comforter on my twin bed to trick my parents into believing I was sleeping soundly. I wasn’t physically going anywhere.
At first it only happened once in a blue moon, and my parents chalked it up to plain old night terrors. Scary, but not unheard of. By the time I reached puberty, it was happening weekly, but I had learned to keep quieter, and they didn’t know it was so bad. I dropped out of college when it became a nightly occurrence, and I killed a classmate.
I talked to a doctor, I talked to a specialist. I talked to a therapist, a counselor, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a neurologist, a yogi, an acupuncturist. Each assigned me his special pill or potion or ritual, and nothing changed. You have to want to get better, they all told me, repeating it over and over until I would have been trapped in an echo chamber of those seven little words, had I not already been trapped in this chamber of misery.
Worst of all, there’s nothing I can do about the murders. I have no control; I merely witness. So seldom do killers look at their own identification while in the midst of a murder, I can’t even identify them to tip off police.
And so I wait. I wait for the night when the victim I see is myself. And I pray that I die with me, instead of traveling forever from serial killer to hitman to child abuser, with no voice to scream.
The day was long; the road was longer. When Karen scanned the horizon, she though to herself maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. Her hair was blowing in the hot desert wind, but a chill went down her spine nonetheless.
Anyone could be out there. Anyone at all. Waiting. Watching.
She pulled her feet back into the car.
Timothy white knuckled the steering wheel, keeping his eyes on the road just ahead of them. He briefly let go to reach for the radio dial, but a news story stopped him.
“Anyone on Highway 51 should be aware of the escaped convict last seen in the area. Don’t stop for anyone. This man is highly dangerous, and has murdered–”
Timothy turned the radio off.
Karen looked to him, fear in her eyes. “We’re on 51, aren’t we?”
Timothy gave a slight nod. “We are, but we’ll have no need to stop, so nothing to worry about.”
They should have finished listening to the bulletin. Timothy struggled with his grip on the wheel as the car veered suddenly to the left, as a tire had just burst and given them a reason to stop.
He tried to reassure Karen that he could change it in minutes, but she gasped and put her hand to her mouth when he pulled the spare from the trunk. It was flat.
“How could this happen? Why didn’t you check the spare?” Karen screamed, her eyes flitting back and forth across the empty plain, searching in vain for something to focus on.
Timothy closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then reached out a hand to steady his girl.
“We’ll be fine. If there’s a wanted man on the loose, the sheriff will be by shortly. We’ll be fine.” He may have been reassuring himself more than Karen.
She caught the uneasy look in his eye as they re-entered their car, locking the doors behind them.
When the sheriff pulled over behind the car, twenty-three minutes later, her blood was still dripping from her outstretched fingers.
Timothy was never found.