By JB Favour
The sound of the waves felt familiar yet strange. This was his place, his spot. He was king here. He knew every scent, every trail, everything was just as he had left it weeks ago. Today, he was bringing a feast, as long-overdue appeasement to his ego and thirst.
She was a feisty one.
Dammit! Was that blood on his tongue? Oh right. It was. Her stupid long nails had clawed and tried to fight him off. Lauryn Cole. Stupid Lauryn. Her cries had only pleasured him further. Knowing she was helpless; he had gotten a kick out of watching her squirm. Sucking his breath, he paused and lifted the body bag. And then just like always, he began to convulse into chokes of laughter. Tiny hollow giggles, followed by deep-throated growls. He would laugh all the way to his van in Dewy Park.
Something was ringing.
A phone…he had almost forgotten to toss that too. But then the lights popped up again. A notification. “I’ll be late, babe. Keys in the vase on the porch. See ya soon.” Interesting. How did this fish play right into his net? He wasn’t even fishing. Killing Lauryn had been fulfilling enough and he doubted he had the energy for anything else tonight. But this was too tempting to avoid.
Perhaps the van might have to wait after all. Maybe if he was lucky. He would get Lauryn’s friend too. The thought of achieving a double kill made his spine tingle with excitement.
Boy, how much better could the night get?
Natasha Lim’s head was pounding. Her night shift at the clinic had not gone too well. Asides from having to deal with grumbling night patients, she had endured an earful of reprimands from her supervisor who simply wanted to throw a tantrum. Tonight had been exhausting enough and then, like magic, her wristwatch had beeped at 8:00 PM, she couldn’t wait to be home.
Home… home where she could put her feet up on the sofa and binge-watch the latest Arcadia series on Netflix with Lauryn.
Wait, then it struck her suddenly. Lauryn had not replied to her text. And she had not called either. Strange. Maybe she was working on her thesis for her project defense in a few days. Still, Natasha doubted that. They joked that Armageddon could not keep her from her Samsung.
She flipped open her phone. A couple of random texts from a burger place and a few more from a loan shark. Thank you, sir, I don’t need loans. But nothing from Lauryn. Sigh. Maybe Lauryn had gotten home and fallen asleep.
There had been that one time when she had come home to meet a locked house. Tired and hungry, she had pounded crazily on the door for minutes only to finally go to get a burger after leaving a thousand calls to Lauryn. She had been livid. But not her friend. Lauryn had been sleeping. She had been sleeping peacefully while Natasha had almost brought down their door. From that day onwards, they had made new rules. The keys were not to be held by any person. They would find a spot around the house to keep it. It was why she had sent a text in the first place. Lauryn had left the house after breakfast, but she had stayed in, leaving only when it was time for her shift.
She dialed again. Hello, this is Lauryn Cole. You have reached my voicemail, please leave a message for me after the beep. Thank you!
Calming herself from suddenly feeling anxious. Natasha decided a quick pizza stop would only help to calm her now anxious nerves. Nothing was wrong with her friend. Her nerves were already jumbled from stress and work. That was why she was reacting this way. Lauryn was no kid, and this was the middle of LA.
It took five minutes max to get to the pizza shack. The guy attending to her was nice. He was a familiar face. It wouldn’t hurt to be nice, she thought.
‘’I think so… would you recommend beef or chicken?’’
‘’Hmmmn….let’s see. Do you like soft meat or hard ones?”
She almost burst out laughing at his dirty smirk. Surely, he meant something else. And damn… it had been a long time. Lauryn used to say her wee below would have gone into extinction by now. When had she last had a man feel her? She suddenly felt old. Nick had ruined her. Since her last traumatic breakup, she had sworn that men were scums. All of them. It had taken Lauryn to convince her to leave her room for weeks. That had been five years ago. Too long ago.
“That depends on what kind of meat we’re talking about. But I love hard ones,” she replied, playing along with his dirty talk. She made sure to emphasize the phrase hard so that what she meant was very clear.
The pizza guy was chuckling. He had a nice smile, she would give him that. But was she interested in taking things further? That she was not so sure of.
“We could make things hard, you know?” He seemed to be enjoying this a bit too much.
She gave him a curious smile as he handed her the package.
“My hours are over in ten minutes. And my house happens to be right by the corner,” he was saying.
That did it for her. Snapping back out of whatever this was, she crossed her arms in a no-nonsense manner. “Pleasure to talk with you. Gotta run.” With that, she did a quick 360 turn out of the pizza house and into the street. No number, no name, nothing. Typical Natasha. She could already hear Lauryn’s voice of disapproval. Ha! At least, she had flirted a little. That should count a bit.
The walk back home was cold and brisk. The only thing warm was the pizza she held in her hand. Momentarily, her encounter with the pizza guy had taken her mind off how stressed and exhausted she was. Now, she had snapped back to reality. And reality was no fun. Reality was tiring. Reality hurts like hell.
The lights were out. Instinctively, she glanced at her watch. The little green lights read 10:00 PM. There was no way Lauryn was not home yet. She would have called at best. And since there was no call, she had to be home. Lauryn had been her best friend for twelve years. If there was anything she knew correctly, it was that her friend never put the lights out even when she slept. There was a candle in her room that was always on even at midnight. Darkness was the one thing that spooked Lauryn the most.
So why the hell was the whole house dark?
The hair on the back of her nape stood up. She was getting the chills or whatever it was she was feeling. Something was wrong. Now it was very clear. Her palms shook as she tried to fish for the keys to the house.
The vase! Oh yes, she had texted Lauryn about that. Glancing around instinctively, she stepped onto the porch and then released a tiny gasp. The keys. God! The keys were gone. Someone was inside their house, and she could bet on her pinky finger that it was not Lauryn.
He was watching her approach the house. From the dark shadows of their window curtain, he watched her stride carefreely home. She was pretty. No, he would give her that. She was beautiful. Even more beautiful than the one he had first had. The one that had been a pleasure to kill. And now he would get this one too. Excitement tickled his spine. How he liked to catch them by surprise.
Why did she stop? She was very close to the porch. What was she thinking? Had she seen him?
He was sure of it. He was well hidden and the lights were off. So how could she see him? Then it hit him. The keys. He had forgotten to return the keys to where they had been. A mistake on his part. Damn it! But there was nothing he could do now. The deed was already done. She would have to come inside after all.
Quick! He had to hide. She would be coming inside in a few seconds. Anticipation made his heart race. Her hands were on the doorknob. One, two, three, nothing. A pause. Adrenaline coursed through his veins at the delay. Why was she not opening the bloody door? No! The bitch was having second thoughts. His quarry was going to escape right in front of his eyes.
Not if he got to her first.
He was tired. Tired of waiting in the dark. She had promised her friend that she would come home soon. But she had lied. Soon had meant hours and hours of waiting. And now, she was delayed again. She was playing with him. The audacity! He would show her who was the boss.
Advancing towards the front door, he heaved a deep sigh of satisfaction. There was something magical about fear. He could smell it. On the other side of the door, the fear was very loud. And nothing pleased him more than a scared victim. Turning the doorknob, a sinister smile crept upon his face.
She was his. When the darkness comes, they become his. All of them. Just like her now. She was just like all of them. Scared, confused, and even teary. Oh yes, they cried. All of them did. Especially when he advanced upon them. When they saw his scar. They all cowered.
Just like she did too. Right now, as she attempted to run out of the porch. She was fast but no match for his giant strides. He liked to play with them a bit. To give them a false iota of hope that they could escape from him. She was screaming.
He hated the screaming ones. He hated them even more than he hated the feisty ones. It was over. He was tired of playing. Breaking into a quick sprint, he reached forward and dragged her to a rough stop.
“Get off me!” she yelled, punching him in the face.
Okay, he had underestimated her a bit. She had strong fists. This was going to be a messy one. He was going to let her attempt to run again but decided against it immediately. This was a residential area and they were outside their front lawn. Anyone could see them and that would be bad for business.
She was going to scream again. He rushed her with the force of a rabid dog. Closing her mouth with the big palm of his hand while the other arm curled up on her neck. He would choke her to submission and then carry her unconscious body to his place.
She was flinging wildly while gasping for air. He had her in a firm grasp. The more she struggled, the lesser her chances of survival. Withdrawing his palm from her mouth, he gave her a big blow connecting his knuckles with her nose. She began to bleed instantly. The blood excited him even further. The next blow he gave took her out completely. And there silently at last she laid, unconscious in that special kind of way he liked. Bloody, scared, and beautiful. Completely his.
Natasha awoke to the sound of crashing objects. She was in utter darkness. Hands and feet tied up in the most bizarre manner. She could not fathom where she was or how she had reached there. But she could remember. She could remember everything. Everything about the scarred ugly man who now held her captive. He smelt like burning wood with the bluest pair of eyes she had ever seen. On a regular day, those eyes would’ve been the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. But not tonight. Those eyes belonged to an abductor or a killer at worst.
Blood. She smelt blood too.
Was it hers or that of another one of his victims? She could barely make out her legs in the darkness to even see anything. Willing herself to stay calm, she tried to regulate her breathing. It was then she realized that she had been bound execution-style. Her mouth was sealed tight. This time, her panic levels shot out of the roof.
Dear Lord, she was going to die here.
Her thoughts raced to Lauryn. Was she still alive? Had she too been abducted? Lauryn had always joked about faking her kidnap to become a millionaire. Surely this was not some joke. Or at least, the blow she had received was enough proof that it wasn’t. Then, did this mean Lauryn was dead? Fear washed over her anew. No. Anything but dead, please.
Lauryn was alive. She had to be. She prayed that it was so. There were no two ways about it.
But even as she prayed, something in her knew. Her best friend was gone and she too was about to be next.