That night I took the wife and kids to play miniature golf. I tried to immerse myself in this family outing, but I couldn’t get Belinda off my mind. I imagined to myself what her name would sound like coming from someone else’s mouth. Would it carry a tone of contempt or maybe of anger, and how would an inspector’s voice sound speaking her name aloud while pouring over details of her murder? No, I couldn’t think of that. ‘Stop it,’ my mind screamed, ‘you’re not supposed to think those kinds of thoughts.’ I returned my mind to attempting to beat my kids at miniature golf. I lost as always, little Gabrielle always wins it seems. She could very well be a golfing pro some day.
Thursday at the office, the time just seemed to drag. I made arrangements to leave early on the premise that my daughter had a dentist’s appointment. So at three PM I left. But I didn’t go to any dental appointment. No, instead I went to the car rental agency I always used when I wanted to be discreet. I rented an inconspicuous gray Impala and then drove to the park. I parked right where the greenway path intersected with the city street. I looked at my watch and smiled. It was now four O’clock.
Minutes later, Belinda came along right on schedule. I sat in the car and watched her through the trees as she sprinted along the path. Soon she would leave the park and pass right in front of the car. Would she see me sitting here? Recognize me perhaps? I hoped not, for it was very important she not know I was following her. That would spoil everything. Every carefully laid plan would all be for naught.
I leaned over in the seat and opened the glove department. Inside lay a handgun and a pair of handcuffs. Yes, still there, I thought, just waiting for that golden moment to use them.
She came jogging out of the park and I almost missed her, so lost in my reverie I was. Passing by so quickly, she didn’t notice me at all, and for that I smiled. I watched her as she went up the street,and after she was a block away, I started the car and slowly went after her.
I followed her at a discreet distance as she made her way through town, among shops and restaurants, finally emerging into a neighborhood. She ran past a sign that read: Jefferson Heights. Two blocks into the neighborhood, her jog took her into a yard and up on a porch. The house number was 5302, and I wrote it down. This was where she lived. Now I was a happy man.
I drove off, and as I did I passed by a florist’s delivery truck, which reminded me today was my wedding anniversary. I needed to pick up some flowers and a bottle of wine. Tonight was truly a joyous occasion indeed.
The evening was fine, and probably one of the best nights of my life. I had brought cake and ice cream home, along with irises, my wife’s favorite flowers. We celebrated as a family: the wife, the kids, and myself. We even let the children stay up later than usual.
After the kids went to bed, Samantha and I had an intimate celebration of our own. It had been some time since we’d made such passionate love and afterwards we both giggled as if it were our first time.
“Honey, are you on a double dose of Viagra or something?” Samantha asked.
“I’ll never tell my secret,” I laughed.
“Well, whatever you’re taking,keep taking it.”
“Anything for you, Belinda.”
“Uh,Samantha,I mean,” I laughed, trying to smooth it over, but it was too late. The damage was done. Her grin was erased, replaced by suspicion.
“You just called me Belinda.”
“I did?” I tried to feign ignorance, but it didn’t work. I was in trouble.
“Yes,you did. You just said, anything for you, Belinda.”
I was trying to figure a quick way out of this, so I was silent for a minute. “Belinda? Oh..yeah her. Hon, I’m sorry, She’s a new client at work.”
She didn’t believe me. “Since when do you have clients?”
“Well, you know what I mean,” I replied, digging myself a deeper hole.
“No, I don’t,” she said, forcing me to say it.
“Well, uh, she’s like an assignment. You know, a project.” I was getting nervous. This could blow everything. All my plans for the victim could be shot down in this very instant, but lucky for me, Samantha finally bought my explanation.
“That’s all she is?”
“Yes, I swear. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to call you by her name. Guess her problem has been weighing heavy on my mind.”
“You’re forgiven this time,” she half heartedly smiled, “but don’t bring your projects to bed next time.”
“Yes ma’m,” I replied, but I knew I had put suspicion in her heart and would have to watch myself very closely from now on. Either that or get this Belinda obsession out of the way very soon.
Yes, that was it. I needed to take care of that as soon as possible.
For the next several days I watched my target’s activities very closely, or as closely as I could without arousing suspicion. I took pictures of her by day and made a log of her evening hours. After all, the previous ones had been planned for night, too. Evil thoughts become more real when the moon is high it seems.
I really tried not to think of the others too much, all the times I failed in my sick, desperate mission. Darcy, Anne, Debra, Desiree, all young, all blond, all dead.
Debra had looked up at me with frightened eyes as her life had left her. She had clutched desperately at my collar. I remember her fingers tightening, then releasing.
Anne had called out a name, though it wasn’t mine. No matter, she was dead in my lap on the front porch in the snow of winter. Murder never even made it inside that night, it all occurred in the open air where the smell of her blood soon attracted the neighborhood dogs.
Desiree died after I left her by herself in pursuit of other things. When I returned to the scene, her eyes were lifeless and staring into space.
Darcy had gasped for breath in the last moments and I saw the light leaving the eyes of youth. As her lungs had filled with fluid and the sirens wailed, I was suddenly stricken with the realization of what had happened. Another girl dead. But I could not allow myself any feeling. No remorse, just determination to follow this through to the very end, to the one who would be the final act in this mad play. And now that I’d found her, maybe this sickness in me could end. Maybe I could bring it all to a close, and try to have a normal life away from all these morbid thoughts and memories.
Belinda’s nighttime routine was quite predictable. Home from her jog, she’d go out just moments later to grab a bite to eat. She seemed to rarely eat dinner at home. Most of the time she just went a couple of blocks down to the local diner, but on occasion she’d get a cab and ride across town to one of the more fancier eateries. I don’t think she owned a car. If she did, I never saw it.
I followed her on these dinner occasions, sometimes even going into those places myself to grab a bite. I studied what she ate, how she ate it, every little nuance from how she placed the napkin in her lap to the almost constant tapping of her foot.
Despite her regular routine of going out to eat, her social life almost seemed to be non-existent. Sometimes she would meet someone for dinner, but afterwards she always went home alone. She didn’t go out dancing, or to the movies, though once she did stop at the local video store and rent one of those Meg Ryan romance flicks, but she seemed not to entertain family or friends at home much.
Her habits and routine were perfect. But then so had the other ones. So, what made her any different? Maybe nothing, but I knew from everything I’d seen and observed that she was the one, the last one, and soon it would all be over.
I had to prepare, the time was coming. Maybe even tomorrow.
I’d been watching her night after night. From my car I had an ideal view of things. I could see nearly every window of her house quite clearly. Living room, bedroom, bathroom. Her curtains were a pastel white, and so when the light was on in the room it still afforded me a pretty good view as if there weren’t any curtains hanging at all. It was in those times that even the sight of her silhouette was enticing, alluring, and enough to turn any man into a peeping tom.
I tried not to look so much, I really did. I knew the more I watched her, the more I’d be drawn in to her world, wanting to become a part of it. And though my presence said otherwise, I was trying to fight becoming attached to my target. She had already seeped into my dreams, my married life, and nearly every waking moment. Every little sight and sound drew me back to her. I couldn’t help this delirious obsession. And every night I said to myself, “I will end this tomorrow.”
However, waiting for tomorrow is like waiting for a kettle of water to steam. The more you anticipate it, the longer it takes it to reach the boiling point upon the stove. So maybe if I just stopped watching her through her curtained world, the kettle would boil much quicker.
I decided at that moment to take a day off from watching her. Instead I would spend my day in the office and the night with my family, as a normal husband and father would.
The next day I went to the office early and tried to wrap myself up in other work, but I couldn’t do it. “Belinda,” a voice seemed to beckon, and I unlocked one of my desk drawers. Inside, among many secret things was a folder. I lay it on the desk, and flipped it open.
There was Belinda’s face looking at me. A photo I’d taken. I touched the surface with my fingers. I could remember when I took this picture not too long ago. I’d hidden in the trees at the park and took her photo as she rested in between her afternoon jog and the sprint home. She was hot and sweating. Her blond hair was tied back in a ponytail, her sports bra surrounded by fine beads of perspiration on her skin. Her cheeks slightly flushed, she had a serene look on her face as if content with her day and life. I imagine she was.
I closed the folder, and once again tried to immerse myself in something else. But after lunch I was drawn back to it for another look at her picture. Again, I admired everything there was about her, tracing my finger around her shape and form. But something troubled me. What was it? Something I couldn’t put my finger on. Something was wrong with the picture.
But not her, she was perfect. I retrieved a magnifying glass from my desk, and began to look closer. In the background of the photo, life celebrated itself in the park. Behind her, a group of teenagers threw a Frisbee, and close by walked a young couple hand in hand. An old man sat on a bench reading a paper, while beside him sat a young man with a bouquet of roses as if waiting for his loved one to show up.
Something was wrong with that image though, for the young man wasn’t looking around or off somewhere in the distance. No, he was looking right at me. Damn! He knows. He was watching me take pictures of her and now I’m busted. I hate being spotted like that. I slammed the folder shut and threw it back in the drawer.
It’s all right, I thought, as I left the office, heading for the car. I can still do this. I felt nervous thinking I’d been found out, but as I got in the car, my resolve erased all fear. I leaned over and checked the glove compartment. I took the handgun out and lay it on the seat as I drove towards the park for a rendezvous with destiny.
To be continued….