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The man's steel-toed boots scraped across the linoleum as he walked down the aisle. He eyed the selection trying to decide between Au Gratin potatoes or rice. It was a close call, but he opted for the red box. After picking up a two-liter bottle of pink lemonade, he was on his way.

"Would you like to donate a dollar? It'll help feed hungry children." The cheerful, young clerk looked at him while she rang up his groceries.

With her greenish eyes, she would've been just his type. Too bad about the red-blonde hair. He smiled and put a twenty inside the jar. "The holidays are coming."

"Thanks so much, sir," she said. "Enjoy your night."

He fully planned to. "You do the same." He tipped an imaginary hat in her direction. She smiled. Beautiful girl. Pity about the hair.

The bell chimed as he walked out. Once he'd placed his bags in the passenger seat next to the purse and scanner, he started the car. Or attempted to. This heap had belonged to the third one. It was on its last legs but served its purpose of getting him around. Best to keep a low profile rather than catch attention with the Mercedes. Besides, he didn't want to be reminded of that old tramp. With a couple of hits to the dashboard, the engine finally roared to life while the smell of gas drifted inside.

"Time to go," he responded to the pounding that came from the trunk. "Won't be much longer now."

He fully intended to cook himself a great meal. Steak, potatoes and corn on the cob. But first work had to be done.


He pulled the splints out of his nostrils. They could only be used for thirty minutes at a time, but it was enough to alter the shape of his nose.

The man looked at himself in the mirror. He'd finished removing everything else. The makeup, the wig, the fake mole. Just his blue color contacts remained. He took off his black glasses and removed each one. After squeezing the solution inside, he placed the case on the counter. His eyes burned. Although the contacts were meant to be worn for long periods, his eyes proved too sensitive. Another useless trait that had been passed down to him from that drugged out wretch.

All the same, he welcomed the feeling.

The pain kept him focused on the terror he would wreak on them.

The man trudged across the gravel until he reached the other building. She was only half awake. He'd be her alarm. Four minutes later, her screams echoed out into the cold night where only the trees could see into the open windows. The man licked the blood spatter off his lips, relishing the spicy mixture of her tears, sweat, and blood. She still gurgled beneath him, but he wasn't finished yet.

As a dog howled in the distance, he reached for the knife and sank it into her pale flesh. Her skin was the perfect balance of firm and pliable. He loved the way the knife went in. A laugh escaped him while her final call died in her throat. As her heart beat for the last time, some blood gushed over the edge of the table.

As soon as he released his grip on the knife still standing straight up in her heart, reality raced back in. And along with that his anger. The shadows of the blowing branches outside flickered along the walls with the candlelight. He couldn't chance using the lights tonight. Not when he knew he wasn't in his right state of mind.

He went and turned up the music and took a drink from the nearly empty bottle on the table. He leaned back against the wall and let the rum burn its smoky trail down his throat.

Much better. He looked around the room which was now a mess of entrails, skin, and blood. His stomach growled. Dinner would have to wait a bit longer.

Clean up came first.


The man stabbed the slab of meat on the counter a few more times with the tenderizer. He'd just talked about this very thing, and now it happened.

His Ange was gone. Worse still it hadn't been done by his hand. Somehow that bitch had figured out something and ran. There was nothing incriminating she could get him with. Still, he'd missed out on the chance to see her beautiful, blood-stained face on the table.

His first urge had been to chase her down. He'd actually gotten as far as her block before that idea had been nixed. Letting her get so close had already proven to be a dumb move. Trying to find her now would be akin to suicide. The only thing left to do was let her go.

No matter how painful it was.

He'd spent the first forty-eight hours angry over his bad luck. It was his own stupid fault. Another line from his mother. He knew it wasn't a good idea to finish off the backup body he had in storage. But yesterday had been particularly bad. He couldn't help himself. He'd hurt the bitch so bad there wasn't much left. The body had to be burned.

After he was done with seasoning, the man shoved the meat into the 400-degree oven and went over to the fireplace. He reached into one of his two boxes. After looking some more, he found it.

The book. He had four copies of it. One for work, home, the car and his special area. A good student always studied. He'd hated it when he first read it in college. But after reading about the ten bolgias, he couldn't believe how well it fit in with his plans. Since they were going to hell, he might as well have them live it here on Earth.

He would be able to make every single one of those frauds pay the ultimate price. All while putting the heat on his sorry excuse for a brother. He deserved it. In fact, all of them did. How dare they keep up appearances while he was left to deal with his god-awful past.

He had tried to maintain some kind of order, but when it came to killing, hardly anything went according to plan. Try as he might in the middle of the action he found it difficult to control his impulses.

He threw two pairs of underwear into the fireplace. He'd been drawn to the lace ones. The rough lines reminded him of the doilies that good for nothing tramp made. The bloody ones did him no good. But if he got them at the right time, the fear worked its smell into them. Once that was gone, he had no use for them. He breathed in the burning pine. It was his second favorite scent.

The hunger was always there, but it came in ebbs and flows. One taste was all it took. He likened it to a controlled addiction. Adding in the little details of the dress and the number made each one that much sweeter. His phone rang.

"Hey," he answered.

Calm. Collected.

"Yeah. That sounds like it'll work. I'll have it all set up for you tomorrow." The kettle on the stove squealed. "Okay. Will do."

Useless fake bitch.

He hung up the phone and went to the kitchen. His corn was nearly done. Next, he poured a cup of tea. Once he'd added four packets of Splenda, he checked the meat before he went to sit down. As the man watched the fire roar his anger soared with it. He'd been exposed. But no more. He would stay strong.

The man moved back in the seat and pulled a crumpled piece of paper out of his pocket. His list. Only one remained. Technically. But to keep the numbers even he had to get the other backup kill in order.

This was why it did no good to allow himself the pleasures of his weak flesh. No matter. Brush it off. He had to remember. One more left. And if he did it right, she would come to him willingly.

The scanner blared about an accident on Fifth and Westpark Avenue. A Code Ten. His favorite. Major Trauma. Everyone lived and everyone died. Either one could be a curse or a blessing. He cared about death. His purpose was to expedite it.

Improved vigilance was the order. Pay close attention. When the time presented itself—which it would—he needed to act. He added another item to the fire. Cheap plastic melted instantly. The fire popped and left an acrid burnt smell in the confined space. He tossed in another. The orange and yellow flames licked at the frayed threads until it was surrounded. Then it was gone.


The man smiled at what remained then stood up.

Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. He'd enjoyed the appetizers. It was time for the main course.

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