by Peter B. Wylie
Thomas Bradbury was a monster, a violent sociopath. He could kick an adorable puppy just for rubbing up against him. He could hit a pedestrian with his Boxster on a deserted country road and roar away into the night whistling a show tune. He could snip the brake cables on a fancy bicycle after the rider had popped into a bagel shop for a quick carbo fix. And then watch the guy plummet down a hill into a crash that could maim or kill him. He could and had done such things without a twinge of remorse. Thomas had been born without a conscience. And he would continue to spread mayhem until someone killed him or had him locked away in a dungeon.
He had not planned the first incident. But the experts who study sociopaths might disagree. They might argue that such people are always on the lookout for ways to wreak havoc. Havoc that will let them lean back, put their feet up on the couch, and savor the results.
That's why Thomas trolled. And that's what he was doing this gentle spring evening in a beat up Chevy pickup that was not at all remarkable in the North Carolina piedmont. He kept it locked up in a garage rented by the month and almost never took it out before 11:00 P.M. Usually on Friday and Saturday nights when the streets near the university were awash with twenty and thirty something's. Most bent on hooking up and sucking in enough booze and drugs to dampen doubts about their coolness, looks, or both.
The COME ON IN. He'd certainly seen it before and once poked his nose in for a gander. But this time? Lordy. Packed. And the paved parking lot was crammed with enough compacts and hybrids to assure him the place wasn't infested with bikers and rednecks. Assholes who could take one look at his pretty face and pound the shit out of him. "Just 'cause he might be a faggot."
The huge guy at the door checked his ID, but barely. Thomas didn't look like trouble, and he looked only slightly younger than his 35 years. He was southern polite, but not smarmy. The guy wouldn't remember him.
As he eased his way into the sea of bodies, he mused, "So thick you couldn't stir 'em with a stick. That's what Daddy woulda said." The band was loud, but not too loud, and the lead singer sounded almost as good asTravis Tritt. Looked like him, too.
His first order of business was getting a drink. If you weren't holding one or waiting to get one, you'd stick out. As he squeezed up to the bar, he saw the first cast member in his play. Tall and fit, maybe a rugby player in college. Might still play on a club team. Thought he was hot shit with the ladies but wasn't. As he blathered on, the rolled eyes of the three hotties inching away from him gave it away. Boy needed some serious help. Thomas had just the ticket for him. But he had to get the dude's cell number.
Should have been tough to do, but it wasn't. Guy was swift enough to see he'd lost his audience: "Well, any of you ladies ever interested in buying a BMW or a Mercedes, I'm your man." He handed each one an embossed business card. Well, shit, that was handy.
Thomas watched one of the women work her way towards the ladies room, so he worked his way towards the men's room. A wastebasket right between the two doors. He didn't see her chuck the card, but when he glanced in the thing, there it was. Nobody saw him pluck it out and slip it in a pocket.
So far so good. But his next cast member had to be chosen carefully. She had to be hot. She had to be stationary. She had to be flirty and chatty. And she had to be wedged in by a bunch of people who'd give him cover for his maneuver.
For more than an hour he cruised the joint. A nod here, a smile there. Kept moving, kept looking. Nope, just wasn't happening. That was cool. Thomas was patient. He'd be back. Soon.
Jim Backus wasn't stupid, but none of his friends and acquaintances would say he was a towering intellect. Fine by him; he knew he was more than sharp enough when it came to stuff that counted.
When he was fifteen, his mother and father had prodded him into going to Exeter. Wasn't wild about that idea, but he loved and respected them and finally caved. He spent three years there squeaking by academically and dwarfing the competition at lacrosse.
The Princeton coach