Destiny was almost foiled. I’d gotten a flat tire on the way, and I didn’t have a spare. I fretted over what to do. I couldn’t be late. No, not this time. That’s why the others had ended so badly. So I decided to leave the car where it was, flat tire and all. I got out of the car feeling disgusted, tucking the gun down into my waistband. I adjusted my jacket so it couldn’t be seen. Now I was ready to set out on foot. But wait, I had forgotten something. Leaning back in the car, I opened the glove box again. I removed the pair of handcuffs. You never knew when restraints would come in handy. I put them in my jacket pocket and was on my way.
It took me longer than I thought to get to the park on foot. The sun was already near to setting. I knew she was gone, through with her run and home by now.
Walking the blocks through the city to her neighborhood gave me time to consider all my courses of action. I could follow through with this thing that I had started or I could just write it off as better luck next time. No, there wouldn’t be a next time, this was it. Images of Belinda would haunt me through eternity if I didn’t do this now.
So I hurried along and found myself standing in front of her house. It was now dark and all the lights in her house were out. Either she’d gone out to eat or had retired to bed already. I looked at my watch. Probably went to eat.
The house directly across the street from hers was empty. A “FOR SALE” sign hung on a tree out front by the street. The yard itself was lined by a row of bushes. I knew as dark as it was, no one would see me behind those hedges. It was the perfect place to hide and wait.
So I did.
About an hour later, a car pulled up outside her house. She got out of the back seat. I couldn’t help but smile. Her friends said their goodbyes and drove off, leaving her alone on the sidewalk. She turned and went up to the house. Grappling around in her pocket, she produced her house keys and slipped inside, closing the door shut behind her.
Soon the light came on in her living room. I saw her well-lit form moving behind the curtain, before disappearing from view. The bedroom light came on, and again her silhouette gave away her movements, as she began to undress.
Now would be the perfect time, I thought, while she was vulnerable, right in the state of changing clothes and preparing for bed. I put my hand on the pistol in my waistband. Okay, this is it.
Suddenly I heard something. The sound of hard shoes on pavement. Someone was coming down the walk. I stayed put and didn’t move for fear of discovery. The footsteps stopped nearly in front of me. I peered out through the manicured branches of the hedge.
It was the flower guy. He had a basket of flowers with a bottle of wine sticking out from the bouquet. He crossed the street away from me and walked up to Belinda’s door. “Well, well, looky here,” I whispered under my breath, as he reached up and rang her doorbell.
Through her bedroom curtain, I could see her pass by the window and leave the room.
He rang the doorbell a second time, and after a moment, she opened the door. Dressed in a light blue bathrobe, half hidden behind the door, they spoke for a few minutes. Then he nodded his head and looked down the street. I could see she was pointing in that direction.
After a few more words, he turned around and left, and she closed the door shut. He walked across the yard and went next door. He rang their doorbell and waited.
I laughed. “Wrong house, buddy.” I mused.
The door opened and the flower guy handed them the basket. After a surprised thank you, they too shut the door and he went on down the street, finally rid of the flowers in his hand. But no, he had another flower, what appeared to be a rose. He must have pulled it from the bouquet before he gave it to the recipients. Cheap present for his ladylove, I thought.
He got to the last yard on the block, and looking back before turning the corner, he stopped. He tilted his head as if listening, like maybe he knew he was being watched. He cocked his head the other way, and then he grinned. I could see his smile from where I was hidden.
Damn, I thought, he’s seen me. But I knew that couldn’t be right. I was completely hidden from view and I hadn’t made a sound. Maybe he’s just thinking of something, and I’ve got it all wrong. I stayed still and prayed I wasn’t discovered.
To my relief, he went on around the corner and disappeared from sight. I looked at my watch.
Five minutes, I thought.
I looked back up at her window. Where was she? I didn’t see her shadow anymore. How could I have let myself become distracted? And now I’d lost track of her. No, wait, there she was in the bedroom again. I could see her moving behind the curtain. Suddenly without warning, she opened the curtain. I shrank back, hoping she didn’t see me.
She stood there in her bathrobe looking out into the night. My heart was racing and I could have swore she was getting ready to take it all off in full view of an opened window. But then she jumped, as if startled by something. I tried to remember if she had a dog or cat, but that was one tidbit of information I hadn’t covered. How could I have forgotten such a detail?
She turned away from the window and left the room. “Now where’s she going?” I pondered. I looked at my watch. Two minutes had passed.
I saw her shadow pass by the living room window, but she disappeared from sight. She must have gone into the kitchen. It was on the backside of the house and not in my area of view. And so I waited for her shadow to return.
The living room light turned off. She must be going back to the bedroom. The bedroom light turned off. She must be going to bed.
This couldn’t wait any longer. I knew what was waiting for me tonight. Inside that house lay my salvation, my victory. I emerged from the hedgerow and ran across the street. I really didn’t care now if anybody saw me. I was on a direct route with fate and nothing could stop me.
I sprinted across the yard and entertained the thought of going through the front door, then thought better of it. There would be enough people moving in and out of that door once this was all over. Instead, I went around back, where I knew a small, screened door led into the kitchen.
I put my hand on the door handle, and just as I suspected it would, it turned freely in my hand. I slowly opened the door. It made no sound on its hinges as if someone had recently oiled it. Stepping inside, my foot crunched on something. It was soft and made a quiet crinkle beneath my weight. I reached down and picked it up. It looked like a flower stem.
Suddenly I heard a sound from elsewhere in the house, like something falling over. I quietly made my way out of the kitchen and into the hallway. I peeked into the dark living room. There was no movement there.
Another noise, this time from the bedroom. It was a crash, followed by a scream as if someone were in throes of a nightmare and had lashed out, maybe knocking a lamp over. I quickly made my way down the wall, as another scream erupted, choked off this time in mid-sound.
I pulled out my pistol and reached my hand around the corner, flipping the light switch on the wall. The bedroom was suddenly filled with bright light catching the girl by surprise.
She was on the bed, her bathrobe torn open. A sock was stuck in her mouth, and her eyes were wide with fear. She was looking in my direction, silently imploring me to end this.
And there on top of her he sat, pinning her to the bed with his weight, a huge gleaming knife in his hand. The flower guy. The killer of all those girls. Darcy, Anne, Debra, Desiree. Their faces flashed in front of me, all the times I’d been too late.
“Not this time,” I growled.
He prepared to finish the deed and raised the knife high. I shot him. It wasn’t enough though; he was still bringing the knife down. I quickly closed the distance from the doorway to the bed. With my free hand I grabbed his wrist that held the knife and twisted it back around his head.
“Drop it,” I commanded.
He grinned. “She’s the one,” he whispered.
“I know,” I said.
He dropped the knife, and I took the handcuffs from my pocket, slapping them on one wrist. I reached for his other hand, but I was too late. He spun around out of my grip, the cuffs yanked out of my hand.
Belinda screamed and he was upon her, handcuffing himself to her and hauling her off the bed as a shield. The killer was grinning.
“All the time too late, eh jack? Looks like you’re going to lose another one.”
I was trying to aim the pistol but he hid behind her. There was no way I was going to get off a shot. “Let her go, this is between you and me.”
“No, it isn’t. It’s between her and me.” He kissed her on the back of the neck and she cringed. “I’m going to love this one a long time.”
“No, you’re not. You’re going to let her go.”
“Jack, you just don’t get it do you? I’m not letting her go, and you’re not going to fire. What we have here is a stalemate.”
“Maybe.” I was still trying to get a bead on him, but it was useless. And she was panicking too much. Tears were welling up in her eyes and she moaned to be set free. She wasn’t going to last very long like this. And then I thought of something that could save her. The last resort plan I never thought I’d ever use. “Belinda, You remember the card I showed you in the park?”
Recognition registered on her face as she realized who I was and where she’d seen me before. She nodded her head and made a weak reply, “I think so.”
“The Modeling agency?”
She appeared to be trying to remember, and as the killer watched me with wary eyes, I silently begged her to remember. If I could I would have sent her the mental image of the card. Shift Left models. Come on girl, shift left.
“The name of the agency?” I prompted.
The look on her face said she finally remembered and was realizing what I wanted her to do.
“So do it.”
She shifted to her left, and without hesitation I fired.
The killer went down, dragging her handcuffed to the floor with him. But he was dead, and she was not.
The police arrived pretty quickly, followed by Detective Marsten. My office partner winked. “You saw a girl, huh?”
Paramedics had also appeared on the scene and were asking Belinda if she were okay. Thankfully, she was.
I walked over to her. “I’m sorry,” I said, sitting down next to her.
“For not telling you who I really was that day in the park.”
“He was there, wasn’t he?” she asked.
I thought of the guy selling flowers to the young couple. The guy with the bouquet who watched me as I took her picture. The delivery man who had just been at her front door. “Yes, he was.”
She nodded. “How long had he been following me?”
She looked at me as if she wanted to ask another question, but wasn’t sure how to say it. Finally she came out with it. “What did he mean when he said she’s the one?”
I swallowed hard. “He killed four other girls. I was too late to save them. They all died in my arms. I wasn’t going to let that happen to you. I think in his own twisted mind, he was searching for the right one.”
“The right one for what?”
“Some things are best not to think about,” I replied.
All that mattered was it was over. I could go home now. I could rest next to my wife knowing I had saved someone else from the hands of evil. I knew eventually the cycle would start again. There would be a new killer. A new victim. A new hunt. But tonight, for at least a little while, there would be peace.
2017 Paul D Aronson.