A small, dustblown, terrified town, content until now to
remain nestled away from a hustling world, shivers when the sun
goes down; its citizens speak in hushed tones with furtive
glances over their shoulders. Five victims hacked and mangled;
fly and dust-ridden corpses slashed into unrecognizability, have
been found within the limits of the town itself, and no one
really knows his neighbor anymore. Above all, no one dares even
to _whisper_ the name of the Slasher...
The clattering of dishes, cups, and silverware wouldn't have bothered him so much, except that there was no rhythm to it all; city noises, restaurant noises, a person's life: everything ought to have a rhythm.
He tinked his spoon against the brown spotted side of his coffee cup. The brown spots bothered him. No matter how careful he was when he sipped his coffee, there was always a runnel of liquid off the lip of the cup.
Really pissed him off.
Tink. Tink. Steady. Liking the way his spoonbeat gave sense to the other noises around him, he kept it up for a while, but softly, not wanting to attract attention to himself. Even if he would be gone after tonight.
He watched her closely. She was the kind he watched.
Her ample figure meandered down the aisle, just like her life probably was, offbeat, out of rhythm with everybody else.
She was just finishing work. Putting on her tatty, skimpy cloth coat. It was after midnight. She sometimes hung around afterward, not having anything really to go back home to. The way she looked he knew _that_ much for damn sure. Knew her type so well. Tink.
She was giggling and saying her last goodnights to those with whom she was hopelessly out of step.
He aimed to correct that condition.
Give her a dose of reality.
He watched her, knowing she wouldn't notice.
Her kind never did.
Her name was Violet, and she was divorced. That told her story as far as she was concerned. Lonely. Not caring enough to lose those 20 extra pounds that had crept up on her since her ex had walked out ten years ago. What for? Who for, more like it. No guys on the horizon. Except for maybe the occasional passers-through, transients, or truck drivers who tried to start up a little thing or two with her, more in jest than anything else.
Still, once in a blue moon... even Violet got lucky.
And what about that one odd fellow with the lumberjack shirt and tight pants who sat there drinking coffee every night for the past week? He seemed actually to be interested in her.
Passing through, she figured. He was always watching her, but never sat in her section so that she'd have to wait on him.
Tonight he kept looking like he was about to say something to her, but he never did. Violet lumbered through her shift as usual, slinging plates of greasy items, pouring endless cups of coffee, joking with her regulars. Though the jokes were strained these days; people seemed to have lost their sense of humor because of The Slasher.
Violet thought that was a shame. No matter what, a person shouldn't lose their sense of humor. Sometimes it's all you got to go on.
She waved her last cheery goodbye. Now it's time to go home. Another day. Big deal.
What about that guy? Should she go over and say something? No. Too bold. No way she could make a move like that no matter what the Libbers said. Not unless she'd lost those 20 pounds and maybe had her hair done up nice. Maybe then. But not tonight. Tonight, like almost every night, except for those occasional exciting exceptions, it was a brief busride home, a snack, an old movie on the tube, and a sound sleep on her half of the bed.
She pushed open the door and the chill October air brushed her lank hair back from her face as if wanting to get a better look at her.
She shivered once, thoroughly, and started toward the bus stop three blocks away. Three uncomfortable, lamplight-pocked streets that used to make her nervous when walking them alone.
But that was before The Slasher had started up. Now, Violet wouldn't care if it was ten blocks to the bus. Hardly a soul ventured out after dark anymore.
Hattie Ingram, her librarian friend, fussed at her over a rootbeer float last week, "It's not just The Sla-- the uh, you know," she, like so many others, was still unable to mention out loud the person the local paper had dubbed The Slasher, "I mean he's bad enough! But what about that some night you might get... you know... raped!?"
"Can't rape the willing!" Violet laughed, while Hattie blanched white, then reddened, making Violet laugh harder.
Violet smiled to herself as she walked along the night wind chilled street. Ladies her size didn't get raped, she snickered sourly.
He waited a full minute from when Violet's hand touched the door of the coffee shop and pushed it open, then rose gracefully, left the exact amount of his check, and, listening to the steady rhythm of his own footsteps, he walked out into the ebb and flow of the night wind.
Ahead, Violet crossed the street to the next block. If he paced himself, timed himself, which he would of course do, perfectly, he would reach her at the exact second she crossed the mouth of the alley just this side of the bus stop.
Poor Violet, he thought, his mouth twitching the words out, as though singing to himself, so that if, just on the off chance, someone who could read lips was watching him, they would not be able to catch what he said. As always, he thought of everything. Covered all the bases.
He allowed himself a satisfied half-smile. Which turned to a frown as Violet slowed her lumpy gait and seemed to turn. To notice him.
Somehow, the thought of her looking at him, _seeing_ him, out on this street in the dark, and not in the brightness of the coffee shop, made him uneasy. He never liked them to look at him.
In fact, he hated it.
He slowed down, annoyed at having to alter the pattern of his steps just for that stupid cow.
Break the rhythm... he'd get her for that, too.
But no, looked like she'd just slowed down to peek at something in a store window. She picked up her pace and was making toward the bus stop. And the mouth of the alley.
The alley, of course, was perfect. She could struggle all she wanted. In fact, he hoped she would. That always made it better.
May as well forget about buying _that_ for a while, Violet mused. On her budget she had to be careful. Once in a while, of course, she came into a few extra dollars; sometimes fellows who looked like poor transients surprised her by yielding up a nice piece of change. But even then, Violet never splurged. And now, she hugged her hefty purse to her bosom, as if thinking about money made her unconsciously want to protect what little she had.
She felt like someone was...that was dumb. Who'd be staring at dumpy old her? Still...
She slipped one hand reassuringly into her purse.
He caught up with her at the mouth of the alley, exactly as he'd planned, and shoved her into the pulsing dark, his left arm locked around her neck, and his right hand steering her large body until she hit the alley wall, chest first, with a loud bark of air escaping her lungs. Brutally, he whipped her around so that they were face to face, though he could barely make out her features, or she his. That was how he liked it.
He felt her heaving breasts and the gasps of exhaled air in his face. Oddly, he noticed her breath was sweet. He pressed against her and reached up to tear open the coat she wore.
Then, he would rip her dress from collar to waist and throw her to the filthy alley floor.
His plan was perfect. As always.
But she did not seem to be fighting him half as much as some of the other women had. Why did these unattractive lumps bother to fight anyway? His was the only way they'd ever get any.
There was the sound of ripping. Loud. Sudden. Echoing protractedly off the alley walls.
For an instant he stared stupidly at his own hand, which had not yet seized or ripped anything at all. Violet took that instant to shove him away from her. Hard. She was stronger than he'd suspected.
He hit the opposite wall with a bone-jarring thud, stunned at how suddenly weak he felt. This was all wrong. All wrong. His blood was roaring in his ears.
She stepped quickly toward him, and waved her arm at him. Waved?!
What the hell did she think she was doing?
It was only then that he saw the arcing butcher knife in her downsweeping hand.
There was already blood on it.
He stared down at himself, and saw his own intestines glistening in a blood-drenched torrent, slithering out of the widening, gaping hole in his body.
Mouth open wide in shock and horror, he stared as Violet wielded the knife.
The alley filled with the hideous stench of the contents of his entrails and still he was alive. He slumped to the ground, trying to speak, but only issuing gurgling blood. He managed to look up weakly in time to see the knife plunge straight down.
Into his right eye.
Then out with a wet sucking sound.
He was finished.
But Violet, The Slasher, wasn't.
A small, dustblown, terrified town, content until now to remain nestled away from a hustling world, shivers when the sun goes down; its citizens speak in hushed tones with furtive glances over their shoulders. Six victims, hacked and mangled; fly and dust-ridden corpses slashed into unrecognizability, found within the limits of the town itself, and no one really knows his neighbor anymore. Above all, no one dares to even _whisper_ the name of The Slasher...