Take a closer look at your neighbors for the tenant of 306 is not all he appears to be.
Rays of light squeezed themselves through oak wood blinders that dropped over the width of the living space's windows and resurrected the dejected whistle of a yellow canary as it gnawed at the metal rails of its cage. Morning had arrived with warm embrace, energizing the dust particles it soaked up in its rays. The city outside these walls had begun its day long before the sun had risen to greet everyone. The sound of cars driving by and dogs barking floated up into the apartment, nudging its occupier awake.
A groan stifled its way through a thick pillow and out into the open area. Adam rolled over onto his face and wished for the sunlight to disappear from his room. Stubbornly, he kept his eyes shut for several moments before conceding to awake. The light pained his pupils and caused him to squint as they adjusted to the major shift in time.
"Christ Almighty," Adam slurred into his sheets as he rolled over once more thinking that today would be one of the most unpleasant ones he'd had to date.
Finally gathering himself together, he swung his feet over and hung them off the side of the mattress. A yawn escaped his dry mouth as he rubbed his hands roughly against the prickly skin of his jaw and shook his head as if to make him more alert. He got up and dragged himself to the bathroom to freshen up for the day. After shaving and running his gelled-up fingers through his chocolate brown hair, he wandered into the kitchen lazily with his toothbrush still shoved in his mouth, toothpaste foaming into little green bubbles on his tongue.
Adam's entrance alarmed the canary into a frenzy. It squalled as it beat itself against the cage until exhaustion forced it to drop to the bottom like dead weight. It huffed as it blinked at Adam, once again sending out its morose song.
"Don't worry, little guy. Your time is almost up. Just a little longer and you won't be hungry anymore," he said as he patted the top of the cage and rattled the withering bird inside it.
Wandering back toward the kitchen, Adam grabbed the coffee pot and filled up the filter with ground beans. He flipped the switch and finished brushing his teeth before spitting the excess paste into the kitchen sink.
The rich, strong aroma of the coffee filled up the small living space and instantly, Adam began to perk up, now fully alert. As the machine spit the last of the fresh coffee into it’s pot, he pulled the pot off the heating plate and poured a portion of its contents into an over-sized corporate-advertisement mug. He sat down with a bowl of cereal and his coffee and began to silently enjoy both.
Loud bangs burst against the front door and Adam dropped his mug, spilling his coffee across the dining table. He swore aloud to himself as he scrambled for paper towels. The bangs continued to grow louder.
"Just a second, god damn it!"
He stomped over to the front door, unlocked it and swung it open as angrily as he could.
"What is it!"
He glared down into the caramel colored eyes of a petite figured girl. His demeanor softened immediately and guilt circled him like shark bait. "I'm sorry. What's wrong? What do you need?"
"What do I need? How about my bird and that asshole Travis who's been avoiding me since I got back last week," she said.
"Sorry. What bird," Adam asked with exaggerated confusion.
Adam could not help but quickly glance down at the slight V-opening which slipped into the girl's rather generous looking cleavage. His eyes darted back to the girl's caramel-tanned face as he attempted to sum up her age. She was not older than nineteen years.
"You know, the canary that's whistled every time I've knocked on this door? Yeah, that one."
"Who are you again? Travis never mentioned anything about a girlfriend or a bird," he started.
"I'm not his girlfriend and the name is Gemma. I want my god damn bird back," she said in a firm tone.
"Well, I'm sorry, Gemma. Travis isn't here right now and I don't really know the situation here so I think it would be best to wait until he gets home this afternoon. I'm just on my way out so if you'll forgive me, I-"
"That's bullshit. I heard you two homos knocking around in there last night!" Gemma shoved forcefully against the door which surprised Adam and knocked it wide open for her to intrude.
"What do you think you're doing? I didn't say you could come in," Adam shouted and shuffled around her to block her from invading his space any further.
"I don't really care. Get out of my way, I want my bird back right now," she exclaimed. The girl's expression soured and she began to purse her lips together in fury.
"All right. All right," Adam let his voice drift as he stepped aside and edged his way to block of the bedroom doorway.
As Gemma approached the cage she looked down at the bottom to see her once bright and cheerful bird now ragged and tired. Its eyes were half open and its feet curled up, beak opened slightly. She turned on her heels in one fluid movement, her eyes narrowed into slits on Adam.
"What have you done to my bird? Travis! Where's Travis," she growled out. "I'm going to murder him!"
Gemma quickly dodged passed Adam as he lunged to block her from the bedroom. She shouted out for Travis again when she spotted the shower curtain drawn over the bathtub with a dark silhouette inside. As Adam snatched at her arm, she twisted and slapped his hand away quickly. She raced into the bathroom before Adam could catch her again.
"HEY! DON'T GO IN-"
Adam knocked into Gemma's back as she yanked the shower curtain back. Her eyes grew wide with horror at the site before her. What she thought was Travis soaking in the bath tub had revealed itself to be an over-sized teal comforter stuffed and wrapped tightly around a skinny corpse, it's bruised foot hung over the rim. She sucked in a vast amount of air, her muscles constricted tightly around her bones leaving her frozen in place. She shook and began to scream as Adam swiftly clamped his large hand around her mouth and secured his other around her waist. Her feet kicked out in front of her and her arms swung blows into the empty space ahead of her as he pulled her out of the bathroom doorway and through her down against the floor.
Gemma squealed and kicked at Adam as he rushed onto her. He pinned her forearms to the carpet with his knees as he clenched a fistful of her hair into his left hand and swung down hard onto the side of her skull with his right. His breathing slowed as her body went limp beneath him.
"Damn it," he swore aloud into a long stream of obscenities.
Gemma's chest gently raised and fell as she lay flat on her back, her head hanging to one side. A large red whelp began to form on her left temple and cheek bone. She looked quite innocent unconscious. Something inside Adam was telling him to let her go, though he knew this was not an option. She would have the authorities here within minutes of her release. No, it was not an option.
"All of this over a stupid little bird," he said as he ripped off the rest of his bed sheets and proceeded to lay them on the floor.
Adam scooped Gemma up into his arms as if she were an over-sized amount laundry he was hauling downstairs. With his agitation growing, he dropped her on the sheets and proceeded to the kitchen's cabinets for something to bind her hands and feet with. He dug through the bottom cupboards for rope only to gather an electric can opener and an old coffee maker. He ripped the electrical chords out of the two machines and returned to the bedroom.
The double knots around her ankles and wrists secured her from leaving the apartment and to muffle the noises she'd make when she would awake; he scrunched up a clean white sock and stuffed it into her mouth. He pulled packing tape out of his dresser and firmly placed a piece over Gemma's mouth.
Beneath the bathroom vanity were plastic gloves which he begrudgingly pulled out. As he glanced over his shoulder at the decomposing corpse in his bathtub, he wrestled his hands into the gloves.
Somehow, he would have to find a way to remove the two bodies without drawing any considerable amount of attention. His original plan had been to put the one body into his over-sized suitcase and take it down to his silver Volvo. He considered the fact that both were small in size and could possibly fit the second in a duffel bag. It would appear to be another tenant going out of town.
A stifled squeal beside Adam distracted him from his thoughts. Gemma had awoken. As she screamed through the sock shoved into her mouth, she wriggled on the sheets and fought to free herself of his makeshift binds. They wouldn't budge. Panic began to consume this girl and sent her into a paralyzed state of fear. No matter the amount of struggle she made, there would be no way out of this situation without Adam's permission.
"You know why I have to do this, Gemma. Should have just left when I told you to," Adam said.
He quickly clamped his hand over her mouth and pinched her nostrils shut. Her legs and arms bucked viciously as she fought against Adam's hand. The pressure in her lungs built up until there was nothing left to exhale, no way to inhale. Her body began to go limp again as it sent out the final jerks and twitches of its limbs.
Adam got back up to his feet and entered the bathroom. He hauled out the tiny body he'd wrapped in his bed comforter the night before and laid it out beside Gemma. As he pulled the comforter away from the body's face, he sighed at the black bruises around its eyes. The pale blue icy pupils dilated and a light cloud spread over them. He pursed her lips together with his hands, the skin and muscles of her mouth were stiff. Even the shine in her auburn hair had dissipated.
His dear Vanessa.
It took him months to track her down. She'd done well in hiding from him; she had evaded him for nearly four months before he finally picked up on her whereabouts. It took careful planning once he'd located her employment at a small travel agency in the city. After hundreds of hours of stake outs at a coffee shop across the street from her work, he was able to trace her back to her apartment without notice.
From there, he sat in his car most nights for her to come home. He watched over her with a growing anxiousness and hunger. Vanessa was his darling and his alone, so when he noticed the embarrassed smile spread across her face after she bumped into one of her neighboring tenants, it was no surprise he added the young man to his list of bodies.
It was Adam's first in this city. It was also the simplest of them all. The young man frequented Billy's, a bar where most college students conjugated on Friday nights. Adam took up an intense conversation with the man about college football teams and their players as they had several pitchers of beer. It was then that he discovered the man's name was Travis. Travis Jones.
Travis had been so distracted with acting out the final play of a team's game that he hadn't noticed Adam dropping Rohypnol into the last of the pitcher. Travis poured the last of the beer into his glass and chugged it while Adam cradled his own glass, sipping the last of it generously. They continued in their discussion until Travis began to stumble a bit, his motor functions began to shut down.
"Whoa, I think I've had a little too much tonight," Travis chuckled as he gripped the table for balance.
"You don't look all right to drive," Adam directed the monotone statement as he gulped the last of his beer.
"I don't have a car. I'm only three blocks down from here. I think I can make it."
His dead glare watched Travis sway before he slid out of his chair and caught Travis by the arm. "I don't think so. Let me drop you off. I'm heading out myself," Adam suggested.
"Well, since you're offering," Travis laughed, his eyes beginning to droop.
As Adam helped Travis out of the bar, he smiled and laughed at watchful patrons about Travis downing one too many. When they made it out side, Adam directed Travis across the street and put him into the passenger seat of his Volvo.
"Thanks, bro. I... too much... beer," he slurred as his head slumped against the headrest.
Before Adam had walked around the car and settled into the driver's seat, Travis was out cold. He was relieved by the silence inside his car. He found noisy places like that bar and loud people like Travis to be the most obnoxious of all things. It was going to be Adam's great pleasure of removing one less loud noise from this society.
He drove for almost seven hours before he'd found a turn off for a family camping grounds. There was a lake and a long docking area for canoes and boats to be tied up to. The grounds were vacant during the winters so Adam had the area to himself. He probably could have been less careful about his actions that night and still would've never been linked to Travis, whenever they got around to discovering his body that is.
This missing person was tied to two fifty pound dumbbells and dropped in the middle of the lake. He wouldn't be discovered until at least mid-Spring. Travis never even had a chance to regain consciousness to see what his new friend really was: a monster. Adam pondered on the drive home if Travis had woken up to his lungs filling up with the lake's cold murky water. He would never know what these people thought before dying or what the fear did to them.
That night, Adam had taken Travis's keys and entered what would now be his apartment. Travis was three units down from Vanessa. It was that night he educated himself on Travis's life and who Travis had been. He went through Travis's belongings, mail, everything that characterized this young man whom Vanessa found so attractive.
As he switched on one of the lamps in the common area of the small living space, he noted the cheap, worn-down furniture. Travis didn't take much care of his belongings. Water-marked rings sporadically decorated the coffee table and small, square dining table set up against the kitchen counter. Dirty dishes were stacked up in the sink and the garbage can was overflowing with Ramen Noodle wrappers.
A chipper song whistled out to Adam and beckoned him to approach the small cage. A bright yellow canary fluttered excitedly in its cage in celebration of its new company. He shoved his finger inside the cage and the canary clutched his skin with his tiny clawed feet. It sang out again as it turned its head sideways. Adam yanked his finger out from under the bird, causing it to drop to the bottom of the cage. It whistled high and looked back up at him.
"Chipper little thing, aren't you? Won't be for very long," Adam whispered as he grasped both sides of the cage with his hands; his eyes peered down on the innocent creature.
Adam smacked the cage off the makeshift stand made to set it on. As the cage tumbled across the carpet, the bird screeched hysterically until it clambered up against a bookshelf. He grunted in satisfaction as he waltzed across the floor toward the bookshelf, his hands now held behind his back. Most of the subjects the shelves contained were of graphic novels and science fiction series. He scanned the titles for anything that stood out and found a black book with the title on it's spine covered by permanent marker.
As he pulled the thin book out of its place, he noted the whole cover and back had been marked out with permanent ink as well. He opened the book and flipped the pages until yellow highlighted sections caught his eye. The marked excerpts contained advice and instructions on how to explain to friends and relatives of your homosexuality. Adam slapped the book shut and shoved it back into the bookshelf.
"Of course, figures," Adam began to chuckle to himself as he thought on. "She doesn't have the faintest idea he's into pretty boys, not pretty girls," he mused in a sing song manner before he chuckled at the matter again.
Over the next several hours, Adam shuffled through bills and other paperwork which turned out to be most unhelpful. There were no letters from friends or family. He found a couple paycheck stubs from three months earlier, which he assumed had been the last time Travis had worked as he considered the hefty amount of bills in his hands.
Afterward he'd gone on the computer and checked its files. Most of its internet history was of alternative style porn, as Adam tried to view it. The only e-mails in Travis's account were ads for penis enlargements and helping Africans open checking accounts in America. No frequented social sites and no instant messages after signing onto Travis's messenger.
Adam concluded Travis had already exposed his sexual preferences to everyone and this was the reason for such a silent life. Then he remembered the strange smirks some of the patrons at Billy's had given him earlier that night as he helped Travis out. He chuckled again and left the computer to rummage through Travis's bedroom. He was hopeful that there was something more useful to him in there.
However, his expectations were disappointed with the almost bare room. All its contents were enough to dress one's self and sleep comfortably. The bathroom beside it was spotlessly white. Adam returned back to the bedroom and plopped back onto the bed. All those nights crammed into his Volvo left his muscles and back aching, making the bed feel so much more luxurious than it was. He let himself drift to sleep after deciding tomorrow he would begin to plan.
The next month passed by through a series of love notes and vases of white lilies left at Vanessa's doorstep. Adam was able to lure his darling under the guise of Travis Jones, tenant of 306, by leaving one last note. It was an invitation to the unit three doors down from her for a romantic dinner and movie for two.
Adam took great care to set up the table with two dishes of prime rib, steamed green beans, and garlic mashed potatoes and a bottle of Rosella's Vineyard Pinot Noir- one of Vanessa's favorite wines. The blinds had been closed, the lamps covered with cloth so dark it was difficult to maneuver around the apartment. Silence was good as the only music Travis had in his apartment was punk, a bunch of screams, quick strumming of electric guitars and unsteady banging of the drums. He unlocked the front door several minutes before eight o' clock and waited quietly in the shadows for Vanessa to enter.
When she had opened the door, she gasped by the dim romantic display and giggled. Adam's eyes were adjusted to the darkness and watched as she felt her way out of the entryway and into the center of the common area. As she glanced over to her left and discovered the dinner set up on the kitchen table, white lilies generously hanging over the edges of a small vase in the center with tea light candles surrounding it, Adam tiptoed past her and closed the door. Flicking the bolt lock, he breathed out. Now she was his, whether she realized it yet or not.
"This is amazing, Travis. Must have taken you a while," she sighed out in awe.
"You're worth it," Adam whispered into her ear as he pulled out the chair to seat her.
Vanessa had lingered there for a moment before stepping away from Adam. He stood there as he watched her back up against the coffee table, tripping and landing between it and the sofa. As she whimpered out, she rushed to get back to her feet when Adam grabbed her tight.
"Why did you follow me here, Adam? What have you done with Travis? What are you doing," she wailed out as Adam wrapped his arms tightly around her.
"You know exactly what I am doing here, Mrs. Jenkins," he hissed into her ear. "We made promises to each other and here you are breaking them all. What kind of behavior is that for a wife?"
"Adam, we're not married anymore," she choked out as fear and anger swelled up in her throat. "How many times do I have to move, change my name, my whole appearance just to get away from you? Why can't you get it? I don't love you anymore."
"You promised , Vanessa," he growled at her as his hand made his way to her mouth. He snatched her jaw in his hand, shaking it firmly as he stared into her face. "You can't break that kind of vow without consequence. What can't you see about that ?"
Sobs shook through Vanessa's body as her arms dropped to her sides. "I just wanted to be happy. But you couldn't stop. You couldn't believe me when I told you the only person I loved was you. So I stopped loving you, Adam. You can't punish me for your mistakes," she sobbed.
"I know you, Vanessa. You could never stay with just one man, it had to be the whole god damn city," he shouted into her ear. "You can deny it to your death but I kn-"
"Then I will," she shouted back. Vanessa pushed her arms against his chest and fell backward onto the floor again. She began to push herself away from him as he lunged at her, grabbing for her legs. "Don't touch me!"
Adam pounced onto her and struggled to hold her down. Vanessa always had a fire in her. She pulled on his hair as she writhed beneath him. It was when she tried to shout out that he'd punched her in the face a couple times. Emotions had swollen up in Adam, took control of him as he forced a final blow to her face. He got up and walked to the bathroom to wash his knuckles off before he grabbed a wash cloth, dampening it under the running water. He clambered back over to Vanessa, pulling the dark material off the lamps as he passed by them.
It was then that he noticed just how much he'd hurt her. He scooped her up into his arms and hurried her over to the bed where he dabbed the cloth at her face, listening to the raspy breaths force their way out of her mouth. His hands shook as he caressed her face and kissed her forehead.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to lose control like that, Nessa. You gotta keep breathing for me, I'm gonna fix this," Adam said as he dabbed the wash cloth some more.
Vanessa's eyes rolled under their lids as she tried to force them open. The left eye had already swollen shut, her right eye opened enough for the pale blue to meet Adam's. He jumped off the bed and ran to grab the portable phone from the living room. Stopping at the bedroom's doorway, he tried to see the numbers to press in. He turned on the lights to see better. As his thumb went to press the number nine button, something in him told him to stop. He looked at Vanessa as she wheezed on his bed.
She left him. She ran away from him. She didn't love him. Something in him said it was time to end these games. It directed him to turn off the phone and grab the gloves out of the bathroom sink. Adam returned to the bedside and stared into Vanessa's pale blue eye. He didn't know how he was going to do it. It was not like Travis or the others from different cities. It was Vanessa.
His dear Vanessa.
Adam closed his eyes and grabbed her throat, gripping it with as much force as he could muster. There was little fight left in Vanessa as she gurgled and wheezed. And then she went quiet. He opened his eyes to see her eye staring up at him. Quickly pulling the comforter over her face, he choked and burst into sobs.
Adam whirled around and began to shout out as he knocked over a lamp and stormed into the common area. He pulled out a garbage bag and began to throw everything he'd put together for Vanessa into it. As he grabbed the wine bottle off the table, he paused and looked at it. He dropped to the floor, garbage bag still in hand, and cradled the bottle for a long while.
That night, he finished the bottle of Pinot Noir. In the early hours of that morning, his tired body stumbled to wrap Vanessa up as neatly and delicately as he could before resting her in the bathtub. Adam stumbled back out and collapsed on the bed.