Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Contest · #2068399
December Entry for the Twisted Tales Contest
A Lesson Learned
Marie stood over the body unsure what to do. She knew most people would probably pick up the phone and dial the police, but she couldn’t do that. Not after everything that happened. What would she tell them? How could she explain? Sure, it was self-defense, but Marie didn’t have much faith in the police department or the judicial system, certainly not in this town. Too many crooked cops, corrupt judges, and the lawyers, well, she should know, Marie quit the most prestigious law firm in the state just three weeks earlier. Perhaps she had gone a bit mad, disappearing like that, going to that bar, but she was thinking clearly now, and turning herself in wasn’t going to help that dead piece of shit on the floor. Marie looked down at him, disgusted, and kicked him in the ribs.
The man was lying on his side, his arms curved upwards and reaching. His head was split wide open, but there wasn’t nearly as much blood as she anticipated. She could only imagine the look of horror on his face, hidden against the rug. He hadn’t seen it coming, and that was probably the only reason Marie was still alive.
She approached the front door cautiously, worried any moment the police would barge in and arrest her. There had been quite a struggle earlier and she couldn’t remember if she screamed or not. Stop being so paranoid, it’s been nearly an hour, and no one’s even bothered to check on him. With a shaking hand, she slid the deadbolt in place before deciding her next move.
There was a lot of work to be done. She had to get rid of any evidence she was ever there. Examining the floor, Marie felt her heart skip a beat when she saw a dark red stain on the hardwood. Her hands flew to her face, knowing where the blood had come from. She hadn’t noticed the pain until now, a dull aching on the left side of her face. Nothing was broken as far as she could tell, but there would be bruises. She decided to wait until the ride home to come up with excuses for them.
Marie scanned the room, taking in every detail. Her eyes darted to the left and right, but finally came to rest on a photograph in a mahogany frame hanging above the mantle. It was a picture of him standing behind an old woman in a wheelchair. She looked happy, her frail hand dotted with age spots joined with his on her shoulder. Her eyes were bright and cheery, his were surprisingly innocent. He couldn’t have been more than sixteen when the photo was taken, but even then he was striking. She supposed this was the reason people seemed to be so taken by him, especially that poor bartender. He was good-looking, but there was also something else, almost a sadness about him, or perhaps it was the way his mouth curled upwards in a sheepish grin which made him appear harmless. My, how pictures lie, Marie thought, glancing once again at the monster lying on the floor.
She looked away, not wanting to think he had a human side. That would be too personal. Instead, she looked straight ahead at the couch where he had—no, she wouldn't think about it now. There wasn’t time to dwell on such things. Instead, she began picking up the contents of her purse which were strewn across the floor.
He saw her sitting at the bar. She looked lonely. It was too perfect. He liked the way her glasses sat on the tip of her nose, like an old woman. It reminded him of his grandmother. She wasn’t pretty, a bit on the heavy side, with dull brown hair and watery blue eyes. Utterly forgettable, just how he liked them.
He decided he would play it cool at first, feel her out a bit. In the beginning, he came on too strong and many women rejected him, but he learned from his mistakes. That’s when he decided to switch to the ‘Uglies,’ those women who looked in the mirror every day and cursed their unpleasant features, their flabby thighs, perhaps even the world for making them feel inferior.
He made his way to the bar, sat on the stool next to her, and ordered a beer. The female bartender smiled at him appreciatively and told him it was on the house. He pretended to be shy and muttered thanks. The woman next to him snorted, but said nothing. They sat in silence for a few minutes before he turned to her.
“I’m not used to that,” he said in confidence, “Getting free drinks, I mean. Do you think she wants a bigger tip?”
The woman eyed him suspiciously before speaking. He was used to that. Women had to be careful these days, even the ugly ones.
“She probably fancies you. I’ve been coming in here for months and never gotten anything for free.”
He allowed himself to laugh because he supposed that’s what a normal person would do. Then, he took a swig of beer and set it down, making sure he appeared interested in her.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“Marie Smith,” the woman replied, smiling slightly. She had nice teeth. Normally, ugly people didn’t have nice features, it almost ruined it for him, almost.
“Pleased to meet you,” he said and extended his hand.
“Likewise,” she said, shaking it.
“My name’s Dan, by the way. Dan Marshall. I work over at Gungham’s. Thought I’d check this place out before heading home. What about you?”
“I’m a lawyer,” Marie said, sipping her drink, “Or at least, I was, up until three weeks ago.”
“A lawyer, huh,” he said, trying to conceal his excitement. He’d never been this close to someone who worked within the legal system.
He was always cautious about his marks, but this woman, there was something special about her, he could feel his heart racing at the thought of killing her.
“What?” Marie asked, feigning surprise, “Do I not look the part?”
“No, nothing like that,” he said, chuckling, “I’ve never met a lawyer before. I work at a factory, don’t meet too many powerful people is all. I find it interesting.”
“Believe me, there’s nothing interesting about being a lawyer, and I’m not powerful by any means.”
“Still, it takes a lot of hard work to get there,” he said smoothly, “I barely made it out of high school alive.”
Marie laughed, but didn’t reply. He didn’t get it. Most women would already be swooning, hell, even the bartender seemed interested and he hadn’t said more than three words to her. He had to up his game a bit, obviously she was a smart woman, but even smart women had their weaknesses.
“Let me buy you a drink,” he offered.
“Why would you do that?” she asked, raising an eyebrow, “If anything, I should be buying you one, right? Since I’m so interesting and powerful, I must have money. Is that what you think?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” he asked, knowing exactly what she was implying. Damn, she was a fiery one. For some reason, this excited him even more.
“Look,” she said, turning to him, “You’re a good-looking guy, and I’m, well, let’s just say I’m not in the mood for male companionship tonight, okay?”
“Wait a minute,” he said, trying to conceal his laughter, “You think I’m some sort of gigolo?”
“Oh, come on, admit it. I saw you checking me out. You probably noticed the expensive clothes, the designer bag, and thought to yourself she looks lonely, and she obviously has money, so why not? Why not talk to the frumpy lady sitting all alone and see what happens.”
“I can assure you I know nothing about clothes, or your little handbag there. Yes, I admit it, I did think you looked lonely, but I’m lonely too. I just moved here, and haven’t talked to anyone about anything remotely interesting in quite some time. I didn’t mean to offend you. Would you like me to leave?”
Marie paused for a moment, thinking. His heart raced in anticipation. He hadn’t felt this way in a very long time. If she rejected him, he didn’t know what he’d do.
“Alright,” she said, eyeing him, “I’ll bite, what would you like to talk about?”
His level of excitement deepened, as if every nerve in his body was electrified. These were the only feelings he knew: the thrill of the chase, the exhilaration of the kill, and the yearning once it was all over. He knew he would never stop, but Marie, she would satisfy his needs for quite some time, he just had to convince her to trust him.
“Tell me about your family,” he said.
“There’s not much to tell. My job made it difficult to stay in touch.”
“Tell me anyway.”
“Alright,” she said.
For the next couple of hours they sat and talked, laughing like old friends. He learned she was just like the others. Single, no children, had a cat named Milky, but just as he suspected, there was something different about her. He supposed a person with normal feelings would call it an ‘inner beauty,’ but he was not capable of complex emotions. Instead, he saw her for what she was: an ugly woman with an amazing personality.
By the time the 11 o’clock news came on, the bar had almost cleared out. Marie was on her fourth Bloody Mary, but he switched to ice water. The bartender turned up the television when a grave reporter’s face illuminated the screen.
“Police are still investigating the man responsible for the deaths of three women who were all found in their homes stabbed to death. His most recent victim, Valerie Pierce, a 24 year-old librarian was discovered last month when she didn’t show up for work. Lexington Police say Pierce’s murder is tied exclusively by DNA evidence to the other murders in Montgomery and Harrodsburg.”
The image on the screen flashed forward to a short, stubby man who appeared to be in the middle of a press conference.
“These senseless murders will be brought to justice!” he said, “We have a tight victim profile and a long list of suspects. Eventually, we will find him.”
The bartender turned down the television and shook her head sadly.
“It’s such a shame,” she said, “those poor girls.”
The buxom blonde looked at him, and he nodded in agreement. Marie seemed to be the only person oddly unaffected by the news. She took the final gulp of her Bloody Mary and opened her purse.
“Well, kids. It’s been fun, but it’s past my bedtime.”
He looked over at her alarmed. She was leaving? He hadn’t even had the time to invite her back to his apartment. This would not do. She couldn’t leave, she was perfect.
“Let me buy you one more drink,” he said, touching her arm intimately, “To thank you for keeping me company.”
The bartender smiled and agreed Marie should stay awhile, but the look of disappointment was obvious.
“Well,” she said, sighing, “I suppose one more drink wouldn’t make much difference. I’m going to have a helluva hangover tomorrow regardless.”
The bartender laughed and mixed another Bloody Mary, handing him a beer from the cooler. He took one swig off it when it hit him. How could he be so stupid? She was a witness, the dumb blonde. She’d been staring at him all night, like a school girl with a crush. She was obviously following the case, and once she saw what happened to Marie, little Miss Playboy Bunny would know it was him and go to the police. Within a week, his face would be plastered all over the evening news.
He cursed himself for being so careless. The other times he went to crowded places, places where everyone blended in. Everything was planned out meticulously, even the bit of forensic evidence he left behind for the police to ponder. This was different because he hadn’t even intended on killing anyone tonight, but Marie was a perfect specimen. She would be his finest work, his Mona Lisa. The bartender couldn’t ruin this for him, he wouldn’t let her.
When Marie excused herself to use the bathroom, the young woman looked over at him amused.
“That’s really nice of you to keep her company like that,” she said.
Thinking quickly at how he would play it, he shrugged, pretending to be embarrassed.
“I’m just making conversation. I’m new in town and don’t know anyone.”
“Is that so?” she said, giving him a pouty look, “Are you lonely?”
“Yes,” he said, letting his eyes trail up the confines of her body, “Actually, I am.”
“Can I tell you a secret?” she asked. He nodded like an eager child, which seemed to please her.
She leaned over the bar and whispered in his ear that she could help him, that she wanted him. All he had to do was say goodbye to Marie and they could close the bar down together.
He looked up at her, almost agreed, but shook his head.
“I really would like to, uh, do that, but Marie seems a bit drunk, don’t you think? Maybe I should take her home first.”
“Call her a cab,” the bartender said, trailing her fingers down his arm, “She’s a big girl.”
“I don’t know,” he said, looking towards the bathroom, “After that news report tonight, I’d feel much better if I saw her home. I mean, there’s a killer out there. What if something happened to her? I could never forgive myself.”
The bartender smiled with fake exasperation.
“You wouldn’t be trying to get both of us in one night, would you?” she asked.
Yes, but not in the way she was thinking.
“Of course not,” he assured her, “I’m just trying to be responsible.”
“Well, get a move on then,” she said playfully, “If you’re not back in two hours I’m going home.”
When Marie came back, he noticed she looked a bit ill. Putting her head down on the bar, she mumbled something about needing a Tylenol and sleep. He couldn’t have planned it better himself.
“I’ll take you home,” he said, helping her struggle into her coat. The bartender pointed at the clock and he nodded before practically dragging Marie outside to his car. She was asleep before they hit the Interstate.
Marie found a bottle of bleach and pair of rubber gloves in the kitchen. She knelt down and began scrubbing her blood off the floor. She hoped the chemical wouldn’t discolor the wood, but she had to get rid of it somehow. Blood was incriminating, but the remnants of blood were something completely different. Less chance of getting caught, at least she hoped so.
She had a splitting headache now. The smell of bleach made her feel like retching, but she continued to scrub until the small stain disappeared. After the blood was cleared away, Marie went to work on the living room. First, she wiped down all the glass surfaces she might have touched in the scuffle. Next, she used a small dust buster to vacuum the couch and chair. Not knowing what to do with the accumulation of dust and hair, she dumped the remains in the center pocket of her purse. She would be getting rid of it all later anyway. Finally, she located a broom and Swiffer from the kitchen and mopped the floor until it was clean enough to eat from.
At five sixteen in the morning, Marie sat down on the couch feeling utterly drained. The next order of business was getting the hell out of there and soon. She had no idea where she was or how she would get to her car without raising suspicion. She glanced at her reflection in the hallway mirror and was shocked by the person staring back. The left side of her face swollen and bruised and her eyes looked puffy from crying. Although she couldn’t remember it properly, Marie supposed she put up quite a fight.
In the end, she decided to look at a piece of his mail to find the address. Luckily, she had GPS on her phone so she could figure out where she was. After a few minutes of searching she came upon a bill addressed to a Mr. Adam Jacobs at 663 Newport Rd, Apartment # 11. Typing in the address, Marie discovered she was sixteen miles from the bar. It was too far for her to walk, but then she had an idea. She searched the Local Areas of Interest Application on her phone and located the nearest hospital, a quarter mile away. She would call a taxi from there. There would be nothing odd about a badly bruised woman coming from the entrance of the emergency room.
Peering out the window, Marie saw the night was waning. People would be getting up soon, having their morning coffee with their families, eating breakfast together. If she left now, there was still some risk, but not as much as there would be in an hour or so. She decided it was time.
She grabbed her purse and double checked the living room once more before struggling into her coat and grabbing a large duffell bag she found in his bedroom which had every piece of evidence she was there. In the hallway, she stood before the small mirror and fitted a brown wig over her short blonde hair. Although her vision was fine, Marie winced as she slid the small rectangular shaped glasses onto the bridge of her nose and wound the long black scarf her husband had gotten her for Christmas to conceal her neck and face. She looked at herself, not disappointed by her appearance, besides the bruises, she looked fine.
Marie surprised him. He had no trouble getting her inside the apartment, no protests when he helped her remove her coat and shoes. It was only when he began unbuttoning her blouse that her eyes snapped open and she looked at him suspiciously.
“What’re you doing?” she mumbled.
“Just trying to make you a bit more comfortable."
“I feel sick.”
“I know,” he said, “but, you’ll be feeling much better in a few minutes.”
“Don’t,” she said, grabbing his arm, “I’m not in the mood for this.”
“For what?” he teased, kissing her neck, “This?”
“I said stop!” Marie said, sitting up on the couch, “I appreciate your kindness, but I think it’s time I called a cab.”
Before he could say anything, Marie was up and staggering towards the kitchen counter for her purse. He had to do something fast, the bartender would be leaving soon, and he didn’t want to miss her.
“Marie,” he started.
“Just…don’t say anything,” she said.
Adam stood quickly, not knowing what to do. Her back was turned as she dug through her purse, cursing to herself. A quick blow to the head would work. Then he would tie her up, gag her, and everything would be alright. He would go meet the bartender and come home to Marie. This way he could spend the time with her she deserved. He smiled, fantasizing what he would do to her face with his knife. In just a few short hours, he would make her beautiful.
He grabbed a pair of latex gloves from his back pocket, and put them on. As he strode up behind her with his fist raised, Marie turned around to say something. He hit her on the left side of her face. Blood spurted from her nose and dribbled onto the floor. She stared at him in shock and tried to back away from him, but there was nowhere to go. He had her pinned against the counter.
“Stupid woman,” he said, punching her in the same spot. Marie howled in pain and slid to the floor, already unconscious.
“Stupid, stupid, woman.”
Adam went to his bedroom in search of some sort of rope, finally settling on the yellow plastic one from his hiking pack. He picked a sock out of his laundry basket to use as a gag and headed back to the living room. Marie was still slumped over on the floor, the left side of her face already turning purple. This did not please him.
“Dammit!” he said, grabbing a pair of scissors and some duct tape from the kitchen. Marie moaned, trying to sit up. She was regaining consciousness, he would have to work quickly. He tied her hands together first, working methodically to get the knots right. He cut the rope and used the remaining bit on her ankles. He opened her mouth, stuffing the sock inside, and used the tape to keep her from spitting it out. Once he was done, Adam sighed, feeling relieved. She wouldn’t be going anywhere, and he still had an hour to make it back to the bar. Perfect.
He leaned down, kissing her on the cheek. Marie winced, but didn’t open her eyes.
“I’ll be back my darling,” he said, “Just have to go take care of some business and then it’s just you and me, baby. We’ll have plenty of time to play dress up. When I get done, no one will recognize you. You’ll be the belle of the ball!”
He checked the knots once more, placing the scissors and duct tape on the counter. He already had his tools in the car, and his keys
were in his pocket. Adam wasn’t worried about the bartender, she would be easy. All he had to do was get inside the bar, stab her in the jugular, check for security cameras (which he highly doubted in a hole-in-the-wall like that), and lock up. He would discard all the evidence on the way home. Although this sort of killing didn’t excite him in the least, it was necessary.
He glanced at the clock, before heading for the bar. 12:59 AM. Perfect. As he exited his apartment, Adam heard Marie groaning. He didn’t worry much about it. Nobody lived in the apartment below him, and the old woman next door couldn’t hear for shit. He would be back within the hour. He headed towards his car feeling triumphant. If only Grammy could see him now, she would be quite proud, he was sure of it.
Marie sat outside her house, trying to find a reason to drive away and never look back. It was nearly seven o’clock, but the horror of last night’s events were still replaying themselves over and over again in her mind. She would never be the same after this, Fredrick would undoubtedly pick up on it, damaging their marriage even further. She’d never meant to distance herself from her husband, never meant to hurt him, but it was her job to put away the bad guys.
Being married to a defense attorney when she was a prosecutor hadn't helped matters, especially when it came to cases where the client was obviously guilty. Although the two had never shared a courtroom, there were times Marie wondered if her husband was just as crooked as the rest of them. She hated it when she thought that way, but after years of marriage, she knew when Frederick was hiding something. She searched his things before taking off and found what she needed. She knew he was working with the police department, but to this extent? It seemed like she couldn't trust anyone these days. Everyone was a suspect, everyone lied, and everyone was capable of being the bad guy.
Adam was a sociopath, probably the most twisted piece of shit she’d ever encountered, but he was mentally ill. She didn't have that excuse. Although she hadn’t seen it coming, never expected things to end the way they had, perhaps, in her own way, she did. Perhaps this was her punishment. After all the long hours, the missed holidays, the phone calls she never returned, what was she left with? Nothing. She'd successfully destroyed relationships with her family, never took the time to appreciate what she had, and rarely told the people she cared about how much she loved them. In one way or another, Marie knew she'd have to pay for her sins, but at least there was one less sicko roaming the streets.
In the end, she decided to face the music. she turned off the ignition and got out of her car. While fumbling for her house key, the porch light came on. She winced at its brightness. There was Frederick, handsome as ever, wearing a worried expression.
“Marie,” he said, staring at her, shocked.
“Honey, I’m home,” she said lamely.
“Oh, thank God you’re alright!” he said, hugging her so tightly she thought she might suffocate.
“Easy tiger, I'm fine."
“My Lord! What happened to your face?” Fredrick asked. The worried expression was back.
“I’ll explain everything, but can we do it inside? It’s freezing out here.”
“I’ll put on the kettle. Do I need to call the police?”
Marie smiled a bit, despite herself. Frederick hadn’t been this sweet to her in years.
“No, honey, everything’s going to be fine now, just fine, but I’ll need you to do me a favor, a very big one.”
“Anything, darling, anything. I’m just glad you’re home safe and sound.”
“For now.” Marie said.
He was right, it was easy. The bartender hadn’t even put up much of a fight. He left her lying in a pool of her own blood as he checked the place out. As he suspected, there were no security cameras. Adam discarded the filet knife in a nearby dumpster, the anticipation of Marie waiting for him at home had made him sloppier than usual, but he wasn’t worried. He’d concocted a new plan on the drive to the bar. Killing her in his home would be fun, but stupid, very stupid. Adam didn’t know what came over him, sticking to protocol kept him safe. He would drug her, find out her address, and then take her home to work, just as he had done with all the others. Sticking to the plan was always the best bet, it left little room for error. Adam couldn’t afford to mess it up, there would be no more mistakes.
He parked around back, away from the other residents, so there would be little chance of anyone spotting them. Not that anyone would be up at this hour, but one couldn’t be too careful. He walked up two flights of stairs, carrying his tools in a small briefcase sans the filet knife. He’d buy another one. When he reached his apartment, Adam's hands were shaking in excitement. He fumbled with the keys, dropped them and cursed. Calm down, she’s just a mark, an ordinary woman with a dull and boring life. Nothing more. You’re doing her a favor, but you must calm down.
When he opened the door to his apartment, he shivered. There was a draft coming from the living room. That’s funny, he didn’t remember leaving a window open, but he didn’t have time to contemplate any further for as soon as he flipped on the light in the hallway he was struck in the head with a large metal object and knocked out cold.
“Wake up,” a familiar voice said cheerfully.
Adam groaned, trying to rub his throbbing head, but realized he was in handcuffs. His feet were also tied together with the same plastic rope he’d used on Marie. His vision was blurred, swimming in and out of focus. He shook his head, trying to reorient himself. An indistinct figure was standing above him: a thin blonde with short hair, but he couldn’t make out the details of her face. He squinted at her confused.
“Where’s Marie?” he asked, in a slurred voice.
“Where's Marie?” the woman said, her voice taking on a mocking tone, "It's me, you idiot."
The woman sauntered up to him, leaning down so her face was in his field of vision. He couldn't believe it, it was her. But how?
“I thought you’d catch me for sure when you started unbuttoning my blouse, obviously you’ve never touched a woman unless you meant to kill her. You’re disgusting.”
“I suppose you wouldn't recognize me without this thing,” she said holding up something bulky and flesh-colored, “It’s called a fat suit. They’re quite expensive, especially one of this quality. I knew you’d never go for someone like me, too pretty for your taste, but with this, well, it was easier than I anticipated.”
“How did you get loose?” I made sure—“
“I gotta admit,” Marie interrupted, “I thought I was done for, but even the smartest criminals make mistakes sometimes. You left the scissors on the counter, dummy. Luckily, this fat suit added enough cushion for me to bang up against it and, presto, they landed right on my lap, it was like fate.”
“Wait,” Adam said, weakly, “How did you know? I’m careful, I’m very, very careful.”
“Actually,” Marie said, her voice taking on a venomous tone, “you aren’t. The police are building a case against you as we speak, but they aren’t moving quickly enough for my liking. Your last victim, Valerie Price, she was my sister, you see, and she was never quite right in the head, if you know what I mean. She was almost like a child, but you probably already knew that, didn’t you? You stalked her for quite some time, and she noticed, but the poor thing was always such a hopeless romantic, she actually thought you were some sort of secret admirer.”
“I admired Valerie in my own way,” Adam said, his brain still foggy, “She was special. Valerie wasn’t like the others. She wanted to die. She didn’t even put up a fight.”
“She didn’t want to die, she was in love, you moron! She kept a dairy, pages upon pages filled with fantasies about you! My sister was a fantastic writer, very detailed, she was also an exceptional artist. The police have all her sketches, but it’s all circumstantial according to them, no hard evidence, you see. So, I decided to investigate on my own, quit my job and everything to do it.”
“But, how did you find me?”
“Oh, that was easy. You fit the profile of any typical sociopath. Narcissistic, totally self-absorbed, and in constant need of stimulation. I just followed my sister’s diary entries. While you were busy playing cat and mouse, I followed you, just like she did. I saw you were getting frustrated, desperate even, so I chose today to come out of hiding. Part of me hoped it wouldn’t happen, prayed you wouldn’t notice me, but deep inside I knew what kind of monster you are. Now, I’m just glad it all worked out, for a brief moment I thought maybe I had the wrong guy, thanks for clearing that up.”
“What are you going to do?” Adam said, sighing. He knew he was done for, and that was alright. The game, the chase, everything was over for now. Marie had him by the balls, alright, but he had money, lots of it thanks to Grammy. He would hire a lawyer, and that corrupt justice system Marie was talking about just a few hours before would let him out on bail. A part of him always knew he’d get caught, so he’d put away some cash for such an occasion. Mexico sounded nice, maybe even South America. He could begin a new life, start over, everything would be fine.
“You think I’m going to call the police, don’t you?” Marie asked.
“Of course, you’re a lawyer. You believe in justice, and justice will have its way with me.”
“Self-absorbed to the very end,” she said, kneeling down in front of him. Unlike her sister, she was actually quite beautiful. She grabbed his face with both hands, they were warm, strong hands.
“I don’t suppose you have any last words?”
“Too late,” she said, standing, “I found this in your bedroom, by the way. Now, I never played baseball or anything, but I’m pretty sure I can figure it out.”
“Marie, let’s talk about this.”
“Batter up!” she said before bashing his skull wide open.