Eventually, whether by detectives or the media, most serial killers get nicknames. We give identity to the unknown, to control it, to possess it. Freeway Phantom. Zodiac Killer. Monster of Florence. The names come from the method, the personality of the murders, because that’s all we know. Sam’s nickname was The Lightning Killer.
Sam sat in his borrowed pickup, transformed with paint and a few decals into an emergency response vehicle, watching. Waiting. Sam always killed during thunderstorms. It was restrictive, predictable to any curious investigator, but he needed the frenzy of the storm for his games, and it complicated things to his advantage, made things messy, occupied the police and kept witnesses inside. Tonight’s storm was good – intense rain and wind, the lightning close and frequent – the best this year. Sam’s fingers drummed against the steering wheel, tapping out the rapid rhythm of the rock song on the radio.
Tonight, Sam could feel the frenzy coming before he’d even seen this next girl, relieved at the lasting power of this storm, a bull’s-eye hit to Manhattan. She would be walking home now, never went anywhere or brought visitors home, hadn’t since she’d been widowed. She was still in that period of adjusting, not ready to date again. But she was ready for him. She would be soaked by the time she reached him, would undress first, probably shower; he would give her time for these resettings. He’d practiced opening her locks, had stood in the rooms of her house. He was impatient to know what she would wear for him.
Her building on Central Park West had higher security, including a doorman. Sam’s preparations had taken a little longer, but would manage the new challenge elegantly. She had come into his bar three months ago with some girlfriends, helping her through the fresh news of her widowhood. They sat at a table toward the back, but were loud enough on a slow night that Sam could listen from the bar; carding them had provided him with her address. Sam had watched her, alone, every evening since.
And then he saw her. Dressed well despite the weather: heeled leather boots, leggings, a pleated skirt. She was drenched, fiery hair darkened with the water, wind-blown but heavy against her shoulders. Sam’s heart skipped a beat when she came into view, then doubled to make up for it. She exchanged a weary word with the doorman, then vanished inside. Sam shifted in his seat to see her tenth-floor apartment better, waited for the illumination of her windows.
The front-room lights went on; a few minutes later, the frosted bathroom window began to glow. Sam pressed the button on his remote, the red LED switching on. Sam sat back, relishing the anticipation. He could have installed a video feed, watched her for the right timing, but he wanted her to have agency in his plan, needed to know that she had participated, allowed it to happen. He’d set the explosive charges along the simple staircase that led up to her tiny loft: when she set foot on the stairs, the devices would detonate and collapse the stairs beneath her, and his little LED would switch off.
Sam would be the first responder on the scene.
The storm’s ferocity intensified, the wind whipping the surrounding trees into a frenzy, the rain drumming against his windshield. All the lights in her building flickered, came back on for a moment, then went dark again. He smiled at the effect of this storm, energy coursing through him. Any minute now.
Sam heard the rumbling pop of the explosion through the storm’s background roar, knew the LED was off before he looked, already stepping out into the rain. Carrying a blanket and medical bag, he sprinted to the front door where the doorman held the door open for him. Sam took the stairs two at a time and had her door open in seconds.
Smoke and dust hung in the air. Through it, in the dim, bluish light of the stormy dusk, Sam could see the perfect effect of his work, the staircase crumbled to the floor, the young woman lying prone, unconscious but alive, among the ruins. Her fiery hair was still wet from the shower, and she had dressed only in a thin nightgown.
Sam smiled and spoke her name. “Jane.”
Flipping on a penlight, Sam took a cursory look over the wreckage, easily finding the three explosive components that remained. He tucked them into his bag. Hearing sirens in the distance, Sam wrapped her in the blanket and lifted her into his arms.
An hour later, Jane began to wake. Through the worst of the storm, Sam had driven her down into Brooklyn, the traffic lighter than he’d ever seen. He parked in the alley next to his building, along the JMZ tracks, and carried his girl into his basement apartment. The main room and kitchen with a small bathroom was at the back of the unit, two bedrooms stacked back toward the street-front, the hallway from the forward room passing through the other to come out to the main room. This middle room had no windows, locking doors on both sides; this was her room.
It was furnished only with a narrow cot against one wall and a small vanity, its mirror missing. Laying Jane down on the cot, he bound her hands with rope, then – over a sturdy water pipe in the ceiling – hoisted her up by the hands so her toes could only touch the floor if pointed fully. With her secured, Sam left again, out to the truck to peel the decals off and switch the license plate back to his real one.
When Sam passed through Jane’s room to his own to change his wet clothes, she was just beginning to stir, her hands realizing they were bound. Changing quickly, he returned to sit in the corner of the room, watching as she woke.
Around a few cuts and scrapes on her legs, bruises were beginning to color, but Sam had checked, nothing was broken. Her loft’s little staircase had been perfect: internal to the apartment and easy to bring down. With some of his other girls, the explosions necessary to take down a more solid staircase, a wall, a section of counter had been too powerful, killing them before Sam got there. There was still the satisfaction of the kill, but it was short-lived, falling short of the perfect game. Jane’s injuries would not require medical attention beyond what Sam could provide. Would provide. As much as Sam enjoyed finding each girl, researching her, setting up and playing the game, it was this next phase Sam loved most: his transition in her eyes from abductor to nurturer, protector. Fear transforming to love.
Jane was working now to open her eyes, taking stock of herself, soon her surroundings. Her lovely, dark orange hair hung down across her face, hiding one eye and eclipsing the other. A drop of collected rainwater tinted red with a head-wound’s blood clung to her hair, just there at her eye, waiting for gravity to claim it. From the corner of the room, Sam sat captivated. To him, Jane had the hair of a sorceress, a warrior Amazon, a secret agent. He loved the lines of her body, the way she had dressed for him: the nightgown’s hem, with her arms raised, had slid up just to the place where the buttock began to curve from the thigh. Sam was emboldened by this perfect day – this storm, the nuance of his well-played game. He began to believe that she could be the one to complete her transition to him, that he wouldn’t grow bored with her resistance and have to kill her like the others – their rage and tears a sudden montage of memory – and that she would stay.
Jane woke fully, tugging briefly against her bonds. The jarring of her struggles dislodged the globule of blood-water from her hair. Shaking her hair back from her eyes, she saw Sam across the room. Sam recognized that first instinct of fear. She pulled again at the ropes that held her, glancing up, then locking eyes on him again, her lips trying to move. Sam stood.
He stepped toward her, slowly the way you approach a wild horse with the long intent of taming. Her toes pawed against the floorboards, swaying her body but achieving no distance from him. Finally, her lips found their voice. “Please,” she managed to say, “please don’t kill me.”
Sam shook his head as he took the last step and knelt in front of her. He placed his hands on the warm, soft skin of her thighs, relishing her shudder, and slid them upward, thumbs catching the nightgown and pushing it up. Just above the strip of light orange hair, he kissed the smoothness of her belly.
“I love you,” he said.
This story follows on from Gargoyles, Witches, Nihilists, Yoko Ono - #1
This story continues with Half-Sister - #3
published 14 March 2015