Thursday, October 30, 2014

Serial- Part 44

Angela’s eyes turned cold as ice as she glared daggers at her captor. His conceited chuckle was one breath away from sounding a cartoonish villain. She could almost imagine him twirling a moustache and uttering, ‘”Mwahaha”.
            “It makes me sick to think I ever held even the remotest professional respect for you. You’re toying with people’s lives as if they mean nothing at all, and for what? An ego trip? Tell me why … why would you do something like this?” She demanded.
            “I don’t think anyone in your position ought to be casting aspersions on my character. I told you before; my work is a public service.”
            “What, your thinning the heard because of overpopulation? How does murder make you a public servant? Seriously, I really want to know. I want to understand what happened to you. Since you said I’ve done nothing to deserve this fate, don’t you think you own me the courtesy of an explanation? I’d always considered you a friend.”
            “Even a killer’s heart can ache, Angela, and if it makes you feel any better, my heart will ache when I have to kill you. But I swear to you, I won’t mangle you like the others. Your death will be quick and as painless as possible.”
            “You didn’t answer my question,” she retorted. “Why? What is it that makes you think you’re providing a service?”
His initial instinct was to turn and leave but she’d struck a chord in him. His original purpose, his cause, had been tainted. The only way he’d find peace now was to tell her the truth. If she understands, he thought, if I can convince her, it will be absolution. He needed to cleanse his conscience for what he’d done to Marie and Jill. They were never part of his plan.
            “Since we have some time to kill, no pun intended, I shall tell you. On one condition though, you are to keep silent until I am finished. Got it?”
Fighting against the restraints, Angela tried to raise her hand— like a school girl needing to ask a question.
            “Are you trying to raise your hand?” His amusement made his words sound hiccup-like as he tried not to laugh.
She nodded and he realized she was obeying his order.
            “Do you need to use the lavatory? No? Do you want to ask me a question?”
Her nod showed she was playing by his rules and he was pleased.
            “Go ahead then,” he replied.
            “What if I have a question along the way? Should I just raise my hand so that I’m not interrupting you?”
With his ego filled, he agreed that if she needed something clarified in his story she had permission to raise her hand. He promised to keep a close watch on Angela’s hand since, being restrained meant she had little movement. He took a deep breath and began his story.
            “Well, perhaps it is just my upbringing but over the years I have grown so disgusted with people. They’re rude and cruel to their fellow man— or, fellow women, as the case may be. They’ve developed a sense of entitlement, as if the world and everyone in it owes them something. They whine when they don’t get what they want and trash others who are more deserving. This is what happens when parents substitute material possessions for love … you get generations obsessed with having everything. Last year’s model is thrown away because they want the brand-shiny-new one that has come out as the ‘it’ thing.  The selfish bastards won't even donate it to someone who might need it. Nope, they throw it away. This is what happens when everyone earns a trophy and little league teams don’t keep score. These horrid, wretched, husks of a human is what evolves when children aren’t taught to respect others. They don’t share, they don’t care, and they have no idea how to survive without mommy and daddy footing the bill. This is what comes of having no discipline and letting children do whatever they want, whenever they want. The child grows and ages but never becomes an adult. They’re just as bratty as a two-year-old at twenty-two or forty-two. They need a reality check. I provide that.”
    Angela’s jaw gaped open but no words escaped. She was stunned by what she’d heard. While there was no disputing that there are people like that in the world, she had a hard time accepting that there were so many that a vigilante needed to step in and rid the world of them in one fell swoop. Not only that, she wondered what some of those people had done to earn their spot under his blade. She tried to fit the missing pieces together but there were parts of the full picture missing. She fought against the restraints to lift her hand for a question. He granted her permission to ask, curious what was swirling around in her brain.
            “Okay, I can see why Trevor, and even Kendra, fit into your … um, qualifications but what about those two girls before me? What did Marie and Jill do?”
Angela could see his shoulders sag and a soft sigh escaped his lips. If I didn’t know better, I’d think it was remorse, she thought. He paced back and forth for a moment, debating how to explain the flies in his ointment.
            “Well, they weren’t meant to be involved but sometimes fate takes a hand. Yes, I can see from the expression on your face you don’t believe me but their situation was something I had not planned for.”
***Please return Monday, November 3rd for the next installment of SERIAL***

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Serial- Part 43

Seth coiled a few fingers around Malachi’s collar and pulled the pup away from the soggy lump on the floor. After putting the dog in his crate, Seth ran to the kitchen. Mel was still mixing his drink when he entered.
            “I was just bringing this in for y— what are you doing?”
Seth paid no attention as he rummaged through the drawers and cabinets until he found a plastic zipper seal bag. He turned it inside out and slipped it over his hand before he bolted from the room again. Curious, Mel followed behind cautiously. Oh God, he’s probably caught a spider again. It’s cute how he tries to protect me when I hate them so much but why must he set them free? Mel’s inner voice groaned. Just kill the nasty thing already. Ugh! She peered around the corner but to her surprise, he was picking up, what looked like something Malachi had eaten.
            “What are you doing? And where’s Malachi?”
            “I put him in his crate for just a minute until I clean this up,” Seth replied while turning the bag right-side-out again and pressing the zipper seal together.
            “Why did you take Kai’s treat? Richie gave that to him.”
            “Okay, seriously… Mel, you have to stop calling him Richie. The man could be a serial killer. The last thing you need is to befriend a guy like him. Now, do not let that man feed anything to our dog and I forbid you to speak to him again!”
No sooner had the words left his mouth, Seth wished he could take them back. The profanity-laden tirade that followed was unlike any argument he’d ever experienced. When Mel had finally finished, he calmly explained why he was so upset.
            “You have to understand something, babe. I saw with my own eyes what that maniac has done to his victims and this,” he exclaimed as he waved the plastic bag with the gnawed chunk in it. “This looks as if it could have been taken right out from the mound of mangled body parts left at the crime scene today. For all you know… your pal Richie might be feeding Kai evidence. Now, maybe I am overreacting but it’s only because I love you and I couldn’t bear to see anything bad happen to you. For me, will you please avoid Agent Videla until the killer is caught?”
            “I had no idea this had gotten under your skin so much. I’m sorry, Seth. I don’t want to fight. Honestly, I thought you were telling me to stay away from him because you were jealous or you thought we were flirting. I was being stubborn because you were spending every day with those two pretty girls at the morgue and, well, they’re younger and pretty than me and I … I was a little jealous.”
            “I only have eyes for you. You’ll always be the love of my life so there’s no reason to be jealous. I do feel as though I’m involved in this so I need to help them find Angela. I just don’t want to be afraid that you’re in danger.”
            “Yeah, well, I don’t want to worry that you are in danger either. I remember you telling me that this murderer has killed both men and women so why should I be okay with you running around looking to catch a psycho? If you love me, you’ll stop too. Stay away from the morgue and let the professionals handle it. Now, give this to me,” Melanie ordered as she took the plastic bag with what remained of the dog’s treat and tossed it in the trash. “From this point on, we go back to our normal lives and forget this whole mess.”
    Seth was stunned into speechlessness. What if she just threw out a clue? Does she really think it is nothing or does she have something to hide? His head was spinning with possibilities. Did ole Dickey-boy threaten her? Or … what if — no, there’s no way! He struggled to make his mind stop replaying the one thought he feared the most. What if Melanie is involved? She certainly has been secretive lately. Going out until all hours and on the day before each body was found she certainly had the time to plant it where it would be seen. My writer’s block ended once I had my first visit to the morgue. What if?
    A steady stream of ‘what ifs” swirled like a tornado wreaking havoc inside his mind. That evening as he crawled into bed next to his wife, the nagging thought of her being involved plagued his dreams. Melanie watched her husband toss and turn until he’d finally drifted off into a fitful sleep.
In the dark room, Angela jumped every time she heard footsteps overhead. Her wrists and ankles were raw, chaffed, and bleeding but she still hadn’t figured out a way to break loose. She knew every minute that passed, where no one found her, put her one minute closer to death. Then the dreaded footprints drew closer as they came down the stairs and the door opened.
            “It seems that my plan is working even better than I’d imagined. Fingers are pointing at everyone. Everyone, that is, except me. Did you miss me today? I’m sure they missed you. Look,” he said holding a newspaper up in front of Angela’s face. “More bodies have been found. They haven’t identified the victims yet but I’ll let you in on a little secret. It was Marie and Jill, the previous occupants of this room. You see, the police are a little busy right now so I doubt they’ll find you in time.” 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Serial- Part 42.5

Malachi didn’t understand why but he knew his human was upset. Seth felt the warm, slimy tongue of his furry friend slurp at his cheek.
            “Seth? Honey, are you okay?”
Melanie walked across the room and knelt down beside him. Startled, Seth looked up and Agent Dictator was standing in his kitchen next to Melanie.
            “Mel, sweetheart, I’m so happy to see you. There’s some kind of serial killer on the loose so, please, don’t go anywhere with anyone alone until the culprit has been captured … not even the police or the FBI. I couldn’t bear to lose you.”
Seth kissed his wife tenderly while glaring at the agent in his house. His look said what he didn’t dare say aloud— if you even think of touching her you’re a dead man!
Seth escorted Agent Dictator outside to his car; he wanted a word in private. His inner voice of reason reminded him to keep calm. No matter how much he pisses you off, don’t make any threats. The bastard is probably wearing a wire and you’ll get hauled in for threatening an agent.
            “Would you care to tell me what it is you thought you were doing with my wife? Have you moved up to thinly veiled threats? Is that your message, ‘do what you say or you’ll attack my wife?’ Fine, you win. Do what you want to me but please, I’m begging you, don’t hurt Mel.”
            “What are you talking about? I was only taking you up on your offer. You said to search your house or question you and your wife so I did. Just what do you mean, veiled threats? I never threaten you and I certainly never threatened her.” Agent Dictator replied. “I’ll admit it; I suspected you at first but not anymore. It just seemed awfully coincidental that you showed up at the morgue and then people started dying in many of the same ways that they had in the Gerald Rhymes case…at least that’s what Kim said.”
            “She told me you said I was a suspect.”
            “Sorry, Seth, she lied to you.”
The agent stood up and walked out, leaving Seth to worry over which of the three had lied to him— or if all did. Melanie watched her husband’s shoulders slump as he turned to walk back to the house. She opened the door for him and pulled her husband into an embrace.
            “Do you want to talk about it?” Mel offered.
            “Well, I guess I should be happy that I’m no longer a suspect but it scared the crap out of me when you weren’t here. Angela is missing. When I showed up at the morgue, Bill said we all had to go to the latest crime scene. Later, Kim told me that one of the agents said I was a suspect. Meanwhile, Bill told me that Agent Dick said Kim was a suspect. Then Kim told me that Agent Dick told her directly that Bill is a suspect. So, bottom line…don’t trust anyone, I guess.”
            “You really shouldn’t be so disrespectful to an FBI agent, honey. He was very polite and very professional. And, not to point the finger at you, but you did say he could search the house and question me. Richie is a nice man.”
            “Richie? So you chat with a fed for an hour and all of the sudden he’s, ‘Richie’? What the hell? Your pal, Richie, wanted to pin the blame on me. He said he wouldn’t rest until I fried like bacon on the electric chair but I should be respectful?”
            “Calm down, would you? You’re acting like a lunatic. Go sit down in your favorite chair and I’ll bring you a drink.”
Seth flopped down on the sofa instead so that Malachi could snuggle up to him. His beloved pet curled into a ball and rested that big, hairy, head on his master’s leg.
            “That’s my boy. Hey, what’s that in your mouth? What are you chewing? Drop it!”
Compelled to obey, the pup opened his mouth and a slobber-coated chunk fell onto the floor. At first, Seth thought it was a piece of rawhide chew but Malachi hadn’t had one for a while. As he looked closer, the piece reminded him of the chopped up chunks of human flesh he’d seen at the police station.

Serial- Part 42

    Seth’s head was spinning wildly. Never in his wildest dreams would he have considered Kim to be a serial killer. He watched her work in silence while his writer’s mind concocted one horrible scheme after another. She was the one who figured out that code on ole Tongue-less Trevor, after all, his memory reminded him. She could be using her knowledge to set people up. Just when he’d nearly convinced himself that Kim was the killer, his heart spoke. You can’t seriously believe Kim, of all people, would do this to someone. She sure as hell wouldn’t harm Angela. They’re friends. The more he thought about it, the less Kim seemed likely to be the killer. It’s probably Agent Dictator, Seth decided.  
    Kim’s hands trembled as she knelt beside the mound of mutilated pieces of human wreckage. Her heart ached as she feared finding pieces of her friend yet she felt guilty that she’d hoped those the parts belonged to strangers. As it became evident that Angela was not included within the pile, the guilt increased. She cleared her throat and took a deep breath before speaking.
            “Looks like we have the remains from two separate people here but neither appear to be Angela. I know what her hands and feet look like and these aren’t it. We might be able to use the tattoos that haven’t been destroyed to help us indentify the victims though.”
    The FBI agents had separated into their own group while the local police huddled together to figure out their next plan of attack. Both teams were anxious to point their collective fingers at the other, if the media arrived on the scene. Meanwhile, Seth was getting antsy. The tension had become so thick and oppressive that he wanted to leave but Bill said he needed to be present. I don’t understand why I need to be here. I’m not law enforcement of any kind and I have no connection to these victims, Seth thought to himself. Unless, what if Agent Dick is trying to find a way to pin this crap on me? He was too busy trying to figure out the agent’s motive to notice someone was trying to get his attention.
            “Hey, you! You, in the navy blue shirt, could you give me a hand?”
The officer paused for a moment to see if he’d get a response; when none came, the request was shouted, loud and clear.
Seth was startled from his silent reverie. He looked around to see if anyone else was wearing a navy shirt.”
            “Yes, you,” the officer bellowed. “Would you come here and give me a hand already?”
            “Sorry about that … I guess I zoned out for a minute,” Seth replied. “What do you need me to do?”
            “Grab the other end of this and help me lift it onto the cart here.”
Seth leaned over but he remembered something Bill had told him the day they’d met, ‘always wear gloves’. He stood up, held up his index finger in the universal signal for ‘just a minute’, and then went in search of some gloves. Kim waved him over and retrieved a fresh pair of gloves from the box inside her kit.
            “You’re a quick learner,” she whispered to Seth. “Be careful … I heard from one of the investigators that you are a person of interest in this case.”
Seth’s heart skipped a beat and his lungs constricted. How could they think I had anything to do with this? He wanted to scream at them and proclaim his innocence but that would look even worse so he took the gloves and returned to assist with the heavy lifting. Once he was no longer needed he sat on the curb and waited.
    Just when Seth started to relax, a dark shadow hovered over him, blocking out the sun. He looked up at the towering figure of Agent Dictator. For the first time, he wished he hadn’t opened his big mouth and called out Agent Dictator in front of a room full of people.
            “So, I hear you’ve been observing for the past few weeks to help with a book you’re writing,” the agent sneered. “That’s interesting. I’d like to see that.”
Seth stood, projecting an air of confidence even though he was terrified. He held out his hand and shook with the agent.
            “I’m honored,” Seth gushed. “I had no idea you were a fan. If you’d like, I’d be more than happy to autograph a copy for you when it’s published.”
            “Cut the crap, smartass. Just know this … If you have anything to do with these killings, I will catch you and I won’t quit until you’ve taken a ride on Old Sparky. You’ll fry like bacon on a griddle. Got it?”
For several minutes Seth stood there with his jaw hanging open. He’d never expected an FBI agent to speak to him like that. Agent Dictator snorted and turned to walk away.
            “Wait! Look, I know we got off on the wrong foot but I am more than willing to cooperate in any and every way. I had nothing to do with these crimes. Feel free to search me, my house, my wife … anything. I am not a killer. I’m just a writer.”
            “Watch your back, Mr. Just-a-writer.”
Kim watched the interaction with detached fascination. She’d never seen Agent Dictator lose his cool, and never with someone he’d deemed to be a suspect. She waited until the raging agent had gone inside before check in on her friend.
            “What was that all about?”
            “I don’t know what game he’s playing but this is ridiculous,” Seth grumbled. “First you … then me.”
            “Uh, what? What about me?” Kim demanded.
            “Bill told me Agent Dick said you’re a suspect.”
            “Well, that’s funny since Agent Dick directly told me Bill was a suspect. Looks like he’s trying to pit us against each other. He’s such an ass!”
Kim’s fury simmered just below the surface but she was careful not to let anyone else observe it. She was beginning to think no one could be trusted anymore.
    When they’d finally wrapped things up at the station, Bill drove Kim and Seth back to the morgue. They rode in silence, each fearing they were trapped in a car with the killer. Seth sped home, anxious to hold his wife close but also to warn her that they might be questioned soon. He pulled into the garage, happy to see Melanie’s car parked in her spot. Already feeling the stress release him from its dreaded grip, he burst through the door and called out to her.
            “I’m home! Mel? Babe? HELLO?”
Malachi came trotting into the room, tail wagging. The pup was so excited to see his human that he jumped up and nearly knocked Seth over. He reached out and caught himself on the kitchen counter.
            “Whoa, boy! I’m happy to see you too. Believe me, after the day I had, I could use some cuddle time with you and Mommy.”
He took a few minutes to give Malachi belly rubs and scratches behind the ears before using the edge of the counter to pull himself up; that’s when he noticed the note.
Dear Seth,
 I’m not sure what time I’ll be home. One of your friends from the morgue stopped by and asked me to offer a woman’s insight into a thesis they’re working on about serial killers. There’s leftover lasagna in the fridge if you get hungry. I’m so excited to be involved! See ya soon.
Mel  J

Seth’s entire body trembled. Oh God! The murderer took her. She didn’t even leave the sick twist’s name. How am I going to rescue her? Frightened and defeated, he sank down onto the floor with her note still clenched in his hand and buried his face in Malachi’s fur. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Serial- Part 41

    Cruising through town, a smile cut across his lips as if he’d slashed them with a knife—harsh, cold, and calculated. Angela’s request to make sure his last victims had a proper burial had given him a brilliantly conniving idea. Nothing like mocking the local police, he sneered. I’ll make them look like idiots. He’d been performing his ‘public service’ as he called it, for a long time. Gerald Rhymes bore the blame most recently but before that, it had been another. He’d come to learn, over the years, certain routines that made it easy for him to thumb his nose at the police. If they had any sense, they would have functional cameras in the back of their building, he told himself. They think no one would dare do anything on police property.
    He pulled into the station’s lot and circled his SUV around to the back of the building. The camera on the roof’s edge still had a severed cable from when he’d cut it months ago. The idea had come when he’d noticed a group of juvenile delinquents goofing off in the back lot. After they’d jumped a homeless man, just for fun, not a single cop came out to address the situation. The wicked wheels of his mind churned up the idea to sever the cable, just to see if that would bring anyone running. In the end, he’d learned that the cameras were decoys which fed into his plan perfectly.
    Before exiting his vehicle, he pulled a hat down over his eyebrows and gloves on his hands. The bag carrying Jill and Marie’s mangled remains had been resting inside a tub in the back. Hefting the plastic coffin, he dropped it by the dumpster and sliced it open with a pocketknife. Gore-cover chunks of flesh, bone, and hair spilled out onto the macadam. He fought the urge to admire his work, instead, he hopped back into his vehicle and drove away.
At 6:45 a.m. Seth’s cell phone rang. Groaning, he rolled over to apologize to Mel but she was already in the shower. Just as he was turning off the ringer, another call came through followed by two text messages.
            “Ugh! Why would anyone call me at this ungodly hour?” Seth muttered before answering the phone. Since the Caller ID showed it was Kim, he answered it. “Hey, Kim. What’s going on?”
Hearing her husband’s voice, Mel opened the bathroom door and peeked into the bedroom.
            “Wait, what? What do you mean she’s missing? Yeah, I’ll be there in a bit. Let me just grab a quick shower and I’ll be there,” Seth promised before he hit end. “Holy crap!”
            “Seth, sweetie, what’s wrong? You look like you’ve just seen a ghost,” Mel said.
            “It’s Angela…she’s missing.”
    Within thirty minutes, Seth was showered, shaved, dressed, and sitting in Kim’s morgue. His lone Angel of Death’s eyes were bloodshot and puffy against her pale skin. Completely out of character, Seth gave her a hug. As if hoping to reassure himself as well as Kim, he whispered over and over, “It’ll be okay”.
            “Angela was supposed to meet me last night. A bunch of us were getting together for a girl’s night.” Kim’s voice sounded weak and exhausted. “We called and texted…hell, we even stopped by her house but her car was gone. I thought maybe something came up so we all went out without her. They found her abandoned car but she was gone. When Bill realized it was Angela’s car, he called me. I’m sorry; I don’t even know why I called you.”
            “Don’t be silly. I’m glad you called me. I was—”
Seth’s sentence was cut off when Detective Crash entered the room.  
            “More bodies have been found. Agent Dictator has ordered all of us to the crime scene. C’mon, I’ll drive,” said Bill.
            “I’ll see you two later, then,” Seth told them as his head toward the door. “Let me know how—”
            “No,” Bill interrupted. “All of us.”
The ride to the crime scene was silent. None of them spoke a word. When they pulled into the police station, there was already a crowd present: FBI, police, and crime scene investigators.
    Kim pulled on her gloves and ran to the scene, terrified that she would find her dear friend. Seth started after her but Detective Crash grabbed him by the arm.
            “Did Kim call you this morning?” Bill asked. When Seth shook his head yes, the detective sighed. “Listen, you be careful around her…Agent dictator told me he thinks she’s the killer.”
***Please return Monday, October 27th for the next installment of SERIAL***

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Serial- Part 40

    The overpowering odor of bleach made Angela feel dizzy and nauseated.  At least he took my request literally, she thought. In spite of her predicament, she was striving to stay positive. He had piled the mangled remains of Marie and Jill into a triple layer garbage bag before setting it inside a plastic tub in his vehicle—and then came the bleach. He scrubbed the splatters of blood from the floor and poured nearly an entire bottle of bleach over the cot. It took several applications before he managed to sterilize and remove the reddish brown sludge of partially clotted blood from the cot and the linoleum floor. He said nothing else to her as he covered her mouth with duct tape. His eyes met hers for just a moment before he left her alone, in the dark. He clomped upstairs and his heavy footfalls grew muffled as he climbed.  Angela could still hear his voice though he’d closed the basement door.
            “Hi, boy! Did you miss me? Aw, who’s been such a good boy? Do you want a treat?”
Four paws of a happy pup scampered excitedly and Angela's heartstrings tugged at the thought of her fuzzy friend thinking she'd been abandoned. The dog’s nails, clicking on the floor above, carried through the subfloor and the ceiling above her. She could almost picture her captor, behaving like the normal human being she’d believed him to be, as he played with this furry companion. Her moment of normalcy disappeared as her mind made the jump from dog treat to slaughter human. Oh God! What if he’s feeding them to his dog? Her stomach threatened to go into reverse, forcing her to think about something less disturbing. More than once, she heard his feet stomping up and down the stairs but he did not return to her room. When the smell of cooking meat floated through the vents, Angela deluded herself by insisting that it was chicken, not human, that was cooking.
    Upstairs, while the first batch of burgers continued to sizzle in the frying pan, he was busy forming a few more patties out of the ground meat. By the time he’d packaged up the rest and froze it, his burgers were medium rare and the cheese had melted. Each warm, juicy, bite satisfied his craving but made his best friend drool in eager anticipation.
            “No begging!”
The dog’s head drooped as he skulked away from the temptation of such a savory treat. His big, sad, eyes peered at his master from the corner where he hung his head in shame.
            “Aw, don’t look at me like that…the vet said I needed to cut back your food, boy. Okay, okay, come here. Just a little bite but not a word to Doctor Stephanie,” he whispered. “I just can’t say no to you, can I? Well, after we’re finished eating and I clean up the kitchen we’re going for a ride, would you like that?”
The happy dog’s tail wagged so rapidly it almost looked like he would take off into the air. His master laughed and gave the pup a scratch behind his ears.
    At some point later, Angela awoke to the low growl of his SUV’s engine revving to life followed by the clang of the garage door opening. Her windowless cell was so dark she couldn’t see the difference between having her eyes open or closed. I’m not going to be able to find a way to escape if I can’t see anything, her inner voice muttered. She tried with all of her might to remember what had transpired to bring her to the devil’s playground.
            “Think!” she demanded but hearing her voice echo through room made her feel even more alone.
The rest of her thought process remained silent, inner monologue. Okay, Kim and I were going to meet for dinner. She’d sent me that text saying she’s heard some really disturbing news. I pulled into the parking lot and…and then it’s all a blank until I woke up here. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Serial- Part 39

            “I’m delighted to see you too, Angela.”
His chilling laugh made Angela’s skin crawl but she tried her best to show no fear. She was still trying to wrap her mind around why a person would snap the way he had, all the while trying to clear her brain of drug-induced cobwebs.
            “What did you do to me?” She demanded. “I know you must have given me some kind of drug because I have no recollection of how I got here and why…why me? What did I ever do to you?”
            “Unfortunately for you, you didn’t do anything, per se. You are an unfortunate cog in my grand scheme. I needed you for my plan to work. You see, I have no intention of getting caught—ever. With you out of the picture, fingers will point to someone better suited for paying a debt to society. You see, my work is important. I am doing a public service.”
            “A public service? You’re not performing a service; you’re a homicidal maniac! You kidnap people, torture, and then murder them. How is that a service? What makes you think you have the right? Sure, Trevor was rude and Kendra was…Kendra but that’s no reason to kill a person. And what about those two?” Angela shrieked, pointing to the mangled remains of two bodies haphazardly tossed to the opposite side of the room. “Who are they and what did they ever do to you?”
            “Perhaps you ought to rethink that judgmental tone, my pet.” He growled.
            “No, don’t you dare; I am NOT your pet! Apparently, you had a pet. You branded it into her flesh and then you killed her. You will address me as Angela. Got it?”
The tone of her voice never once betrayed her. She kept hidden the immense fear that held her tight within its clutches. Angela closed her eyes, swallowed hard, and waited for the pain. She’d seen what he’d done to his victims and expected to feel a searing hot blade slicing through her flesh at any second. Instead, a belly laugh filled her ears.
            “I had you pegged all wrong, Angela. I’m glad to see you showing some backbone.” He replied as his fingers ever-so-gently brushed against her cheek. “Truthfully, I expected you to roll over and play dead. You seemed so sweet and passive at the morgue but you’ve got fire in you. We’re going to have so much fun together.”
His pledge, to have ‘so much fun together’, made Angela’s stomach roil. Somehow, I seriously doubt that his idea of fun and mine are even remotely close, she thought. In spite of his thinly veiled threat, she refused to give in to fear and despair. If there was a way out, she was going to find it but until then, Angela knew she needed to play nice. She forced a smile to play across her lips and struggled to remove the judgmental glower from her eyes.
            “I need a favor from you, please. Since I seem to be an integral part of your plan, it would be a sign of good faith for you to meet this one request.” She requested in her most polite voice. He said nothing so she continued. “Please, whoever those two are, please they need a proper burial and whatever it is that they did…or didn’t do; their families need closure.”
His eyes narrowed as he listened to Angela’s plea. He was stunned that her request had nothing to do with herself. He’d expected her to beg to be set free or to let her call friends or family to say goodbye. It was a credit to her character that she requested something for complete strangers. I almost wish I didn’t have to kill her, his inner voice sighed. The world is a better place with her in it but she is the cornerstone of my master plan.
            “I was going to reject your request but it actually will help put my plan into motion even faster so I’ll say yes. I will make sure the police find the remains of your room’s previous inhabitants. Happy now?”
            “Thank you,” whispered Angela.
She could not manage to say anything more; whatever medication he’d slipped to her to take her captive, the one that prevented her from causing a scene, had worn off and her heart was breaking. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Serial- Part 38

    His voice sent a shockwave of terror through the room that popped like electricity when he entered. Safely clenched within Jill’s fist was the key to their shackles. They just needed to placate him so that he would go upstairs for the night. Once he went to bed they’d be able to escape. Marie and Jill kept their eyes closed, pretending to be asleep in the hope that he would go away.
    He stood between his two captives, so close they could feel his body heat radiating from every pore. He’d never had two victims at the same time before and now, with a third still unconscious in his vehicle, he felt invincible. Just to watch them shudder, he reached out to cup Marie’s chin in his hand first and then Jill’s with the other hand.
            “Time to wake up, now; I brought you a new playmate. It’s up to you to help her learn the ropes around here, okay? Aw, does the cat have your tongues? Well, my pets, I could arrange that for you, if you’d like. Is that what you want, huh? Well? ANSWER ME!”
The fine thread between anger and rage had been severed by their silence. He grabbed a handful of Jill’s hair and yanked it from her scalp until she cried out in pain.
            “Leave her alone,” Marie shrieked.
            “So, you can speak, after all…only, you forgot one thing. You’re not in any position to give orders. I’m the one in control. I’m the one with the power, got that? ME, not you!”
            “Control? Power?” Jill scoffed. “All you have is—“
Unable to control the fury, he smashed his fist into her face. The satisfying crunch of bones and cartilage brought a smug smile to his lips. Spinning around, he crossed the distance to his workbench in one huge stride. Click, Click, hiss…the familiar sound of his blowtorch igniting and a whiff of propane turned Marie’s insides to ice water. She expected to feel the flames licking at her flesh. Instead, there was a jumble of tools being moved around. Please don’t notice the key. Please don’t notice the key, both women pleaded internally.
    He turned around to face them and both of his ‘pets’ had their eyes squeezed tight. One of them has the key but which one, he wondered. Just then, inspiration struck and an evil laugh bubbled up from his insides. They’ll tell me without even knowing it.
            “Ah-ha! There it is.”
Jill’s eyes remained pinched closed yet, at the same time, Marie’s snapped open as she turned her head toward her friend.
            “Thank you, Marie. You’ve saved me the hassle of torturing it out of one of you. Let’s have it, Jill.”
Refusing to dignify his words, Jill turned her head away but it did no good. She had already revealed the location with her clenched fist. Furious that she would dare to defy him, he grabbed a cleaver and heated it to the absolute max before slashing it through her wrist. The cauterized skin sizzled and her severed wrist landed in a puddle of blood. Tucked inside her fist, the shiny silver key was well protected from the sticky mess but her screams of agony reverberated off the walls.
            “Shut up!” He bellowed.
Jill did not obey. Her screams grew louder and more intense until she made her captor snap. Not even bothering to heat up the cleaver again, he hacked into every part of her. Chunks of meat and sinew flew through the air. Blood gushed like rivers and splattered under the weight of each impact. Her screams became gurgles which were replaced by the sucking and squelching of each labored breath until her chest ceased to rise and fall.
    When he finally stepped back to admire the carnage, his was covered in viscera. Droplets of blood dotted his face and dripped from his hair. What was left of Jill’s body looked like it had been through a meat grinder. Howls of agony erupted from Marie’s core.
            “And this is why I don’t have more than one pet at a time,” he sneered. “My new pet will be waking soon so….goodbye, Marie.”
Marie closed her eyes, knowing the sheer brutality of his assault could not come close to touching the pain she’d endured while watching Jill’s suffering. She whispered a goodbye to her friends and family before her last breath.
    With the exception of the table and Marie’s shackles, he hadn’t bothered to clean up the mess before dragging his next victim inside. Perhaps seeing these bodies and the gore-slick floors will do something to keep this one in line, he thought while placing his new pet onto the table and affixing her chains. He took a wet cloth and dabbed at his new girl’s face. The shock of cold and wet, teamed with smelling salts seemed to do the trick. Her eyelids fluttered before drooping closed again.
            “Wake up,” he sing-songed. “Can you hear me? Helloooo? Angela?”
The soothing voice calling her name sounded familiar so Angela opened her eyes. She smiled at the face she’d seen so many times before as he brushed the hair away from her face. The effects of the drug were starting to wear off but she still had to fight to keep her eyes open. Her head lolled to the side and that’s when she saw the remains of Marie and Jill on the cot across the room. Thinking it was just a gag, she tried to laugh but the thickness in her throat made her cough. Only then, as she tried to raise her hands, she realized she was shackled to the table.
            “Oh my God! It was you all along…”
**Please return Monday, October 20th as we draw closer to the conclusion of Serial**

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Serial- Part 37

    Peering through half-open eyelids, Seth struggled to make out the glowing, red numbers on the alarm clock. Five more minutes until Mel’s alarm goes off. Damn! I hate waking up right before the alarm. He fought to keep his eyes open as he watched the minutes tick down. Four, then three, then two minutes slipped by and each one made his eyes droop a little more. He drifted back to sleep just in time to be jolted awake by the alarm. Profanities rapid-fired from Seth’s mouth with such vehemence that Malachi sprang from the bed and cowered in the corner.
            “I hope you’re happy; you’ve scared the dog to death.” Melanie reprimanded. “I don’t know what you’re so pissed about. At least you can go back to bed; I’m the one who has to get up.”
Rolling his eyes, Seth flipped the pillows before turning over and attempting to go back to sleep. In the back of his mind, he hoped for a new body—preferably one both Kim and Angela could work on instead of Agent Dictator. He missed the fun banter with his Angels of Death and, of course, his new pal, Bill.
    A few hours later, Seth awoke and the house was silent. The dog was curled up in the corner, sleeping, and there were no messages on his phone. A quick text to the ‘angels’ confirmed that there were no new victims. As much as he hated to admit it, there was a certain adrenaline to being there among the dead bodies. He’d never felt so alive. Being in the morgue, standing over a fresh victim, made Seth feel as if he’d cheated death. A little voice inside his told him to seek professional help. Only a psychopath gets a rush from gloating over victims, dude. Seek help!
    Instead of calling a psychiatrist, he called Angela to see if there was any news. Hmm, can’t tell if she really doesn’t know anything or if she’s hiding something. I hope the find something soon. I need it to finish my book.
Marie opened her eyes and couldn’t tell if it was daytime or night. All sense of time seemed to fade in her windowless prison. Whether she’d slept for ten minutes or ten hours, she didn’t know. And I don’t care either, she thought bitterly, but her spirit was too strong to accept that kind of defeat. She did care, even more since Jill was now caught in the same vicious web.
            “Jill,” she whispered. “Are you awake?”
            “Shh, yes. Where is he?”
            “I’m not sure…I fell asleep and—“
Just then the overhead light clicked on and Marie’s words froze on her tongue.
            “It’s lovely to know my pets care so much about me. I’m your first thought as you wake and I haunt your dreams as you sleep. I have some good news for you. You’re going to have some company soon. I think it’s high time we shake things up now that the FBI is involved. You two had better be on your best behavior when I get back.”
Marie waited until the garage door opened and she heard the sound of his engine disappearing down the street.
            “Okay, he’s gone, at least for now. Can you see a little silver key up on his workbench?”
            “No, but you’re higher up. Can’t you see it?”
As much as she didn’t want to let Jill see what had become of her, Marie had no choice. Even if it breaks Jill’s heart, I have to let her know what that monster did to me. Vanity won’t help either of us get out of here, Marie decided.
In spite of the pain, and dizziness, she turned to face Jill.
            “Oh my God! What’s wrong with your eye?”
Marie’s voice sounded coldly detached as she explained what he had done to her. Jill’s pale face lost all color by the time Marie had finished her tale.
            “We’re gonna make that SOB pay,” Jill hissed. “When we get through with him, he’ll wish he was never born.”
Fury burned in Jill’s gut as she craned her neck and stretched against the restraints. A glint of silver was tucked back, nearly against the wall but it resembled the key Marie needed. With all of her strength, she threw her body toward the bench as the restraints sliced into her flesh but the cot pitched forward about an inch or so.
            “How far did I move, Marie?”
            “Almost two inches…can you try again?”
On the third try, Marie’s table was pulled closer to the workbench by the chains linked to Jill’s cot. For a fleeting moment, a flicker of hope kindled in her heart until the garage door opened and the flame was snuffed out.
            “Quick! He’s coming. Scoot back where you were,” Marie hissed.
            “Hang on a sec…I can almost reach.”
Jill’s fingers stretched out as far as they could until the metallic sound of the key clattered onto the floor. Muttering a curse, she snatched up the key and a split-second later Marie yanked on the chain to pull Jill back into place.
            “Did you miss me, pets?”

Monday, October 13, 2014

And now, another word from our sponsor....

Welcome back, dear readers. 

As promised, I have some exciting announcements. So, without further ado, I'll get to them. 
  • The anthology, At Hell's Gate, which features one of my short stories has finally been released in paperback! The best part about this project is that 100% of the proceeds goes to a truly worthy charity, The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund So, for all of you who live for the feel of pages between your fingers and that glorious crackle as the spine gives way, this is your chance. Go here and pick up yours TODAY! (and don't forget to leave a review if you like what you see.)
  • My forthcoming debut novel, Journal of the Undead: Littleville Uprising, is moving ahead of schedule and I'll be doing an exclusive cover reveal here first so keep checking back for details.  
  • As you know, I am a contributing author for the Zombie Response Team (ZRT) blog. My October article is available here. Be sure to check them out! They're a great group of people and you'll learn while having fun.
  • And finally...when the current story, SERIAL, is over, we will be welcoming a guest blogger, V.J. Prucha for a visit with excerpts from her novel, My Soul To Keep, while I am putting the finishing touches on Littleville
So, that's all I have for now but I'll keep you posted as more details come to light. Tomorrow, SERIAL will be back. Until then, my pets, sleep well.  

Friday, October 10, 2014

Serial- Part 36

As the garage door opened, Marie’s stomach threatened to go into reverse. She knew he was home and, not only was she unable to break free, Jill was still unconscious. A torrent of profanities flew past her lips but Marie was trapped and there was nothing she could do.
            “Tsk, tsk, such a potty mouth you have, my pet. Would you kiss your mother with that mouth? It seems I was in such a rush that I forgot to put your gag back in but I won’t be making that mistake again.”
As he stuffed an old rag in her mouth, Marie tried to bit his fingers but he managed to snap his digits back before she could sink her teeth into his flesh.
            “You are a feisty one! Let’s just see about finding you something to bury those teeth in…are you that hungry? You could have just asked for some food.” He sneered.
The sarcasm was nearly thick enough to slice and his cruel laugh only fueled Marie’s anger as he disappeared from sight. He raced upstairs but returned again in record time. Too bad he didn’t fall and split his head open, Marie thought. By his footsteps she could tell that he’d entered the room again but, whether deliberately or by accident, he was in her blind spot.
            “Here, since you’re so hungry…have a bite of my sandwich. No? Are you sure? Fine then, I’ll give it to your friend. She has better manners than you do anyway. Since you’re being such a bratty little pet, I’m giving you one warning and one warning only. If you make so much as a sound, I will gut your friend like a fish right here and now, got it?”
Before Marie could answer, he grabbed a fistful of her hair and pulled her head to ensure that her good eye was facing Jill. He slapped one more section of duct tape over her mouth to stifle the noise before he reached down and unfastened one of Jill’s arms.
            “Jill? Jill, can you hear me?” He whispered in a kind and caring tone. “You had a nasty fall. One second you said you were feeling dizzy and the next you were unconscious. When’s the last time you ate anything?”
Dazed and groggy, Jill’s eyes fluttered open for just a moment before drooping again. Her words slurred into an incomprehensible jumble in contrast to his soothing words.
            “No, no, don’t try to move your left arm. It looked like you might have done some damage in the fall so I have it in a sling. Now, I’m going to just prop you up a little bit and I want you eat some of this sandwich. You’ve been so worried about your friend that I’ll bet you forgot to eat, didn’t you?”
Still heavily sedated, she nodded but her eyes never opened. He knew the drugs he’d put in her coffee would prevent her from thinking rationally. The power of suggestion finally won and as he pressed the sandwich up to her lips, Jill took a bite—then another and another.
            “That was delicious, wasn’t it? Yes, I made it myself now just lie back and close your eyes.” Once her shackles were fastened again, his sweet demeanor changed. “Want to know my secret recipe for that succulent meat? Well, first you have to find just the right girl. Males are not as tender, you know. Then, once you carve off the calf muscle, remove the outer skin, season the meat and put it in the slow-cooker overnight with lots of onions, garlic, carrots and potatoes. I threw some mushrooms in this time but I think they got a little too squishy so I’d skip them if you ever want to try it.”
            “Calves? Sh-Sh-Shouldn’t …eat…veal,” Jill’s garbled words came out slowly.
Shedding his masquerade, he laughed cruelly.
            “No, not calf as in a baby cow. Calf, as in what’s missing from your dear friend, Marie. Now the two of you really are a part of each other.”
    Hearing her friend’s name, Jill’s eyes snapped open. It was then that she saw Marie bound to the table across from her. Wanting to call his bluff, she allowed her line of sight to trail away from Marie’s face to the mangled, bloody stump of her leg. Muffled cries escaped Marie’s gag as tears flowed down her cheeks, not for her own pain but for that of her friend. Jill’s face paled and turned green before her stomach revolted. The remains of the calf sandwich spewed onto the floor. Standing at a safe distance, his laugh drowned out the sounds of retching and sobs from his victims. 
***Please return Monday, October 13th for a special announcement.*** Subsequently, the next installment of SERIAL will follow on Tuesday, October 14th. Until then, my pets....