I killed a man today.
I was walking back from a late movie. The crimson sun had long since crossed its pinnacle and now hung below the mountains. The moon had replaced the day star, providing its meager light to the sleeping world.
The night air was damp and heavy. I wasn't cold, though the dew in the air did make it seem cooler. As usual, my knife was in my hand — it's beautiful, Buck, solid Damascus steel. The handle is three and seven eighths inches long. The blade unfolds to two and three-quarters inches. It locks on the inside with a simple press release. It even has a protrusion for ease of opening. I got it as a gift when I turned ten and it just felt natural in my hand the first time I held it; it hasn't left me since. So anyways ... it was dark after the movie and I wandered the quiet city streets like usual. I knew no one would be around to hassle me. The town rolls up the streets at nine at night and the clock had already hit ten.
I had meandered my way around the side streets that lead to my parent's house. They lived in a quiet neighborhood which rests on a hill top. At the base of the south facing side there is a peaceful park which is filled with vegetation. I often go there at night to see the stars. Street lights blocked the stars from my view most places in town. I wasn't tired enough to think of sleeping yet, and I wasn't hungry so there was no point in returning. I was ... bored.
I walked toward my spot, the full moon providing plenty of light for me to maneuver around the trees. The familiarity of the wood table, worn down from hard use, always puts me at ease. Lying backwards on the familiar bench staring up at the stars always gives me the peace to think, and the freedom for those thoughts.
This park is so different during the day. It is always filled with people, passing moments of their lives. That's why I come at night. I feel so disconnected from other people. I don't understand so many of the normal social courtesies I just feel uncomfortable around them. At night the park is devoid of the social element. I have a site claimed as my own. I come and enjoy its solace and serenity. This night however, my observatory was occupied, sullied.
Lying on my table was a bundle of rags. Ragged breathing and a faint stench billowed off the homeless man fouling my table. Something welled up inside of me, my best guess being curiosity. I approached the display. Common sense dictates that I should just move on. Perhaps even going directly to my so called home. Instead I stalk toward him, my hand unconsciously toying with my knife.
The trees created a secluded atmosphere. I could look up and see the stars through the leaves, but I couldn't see Jefferson Street. The night lights illuminated the body peacefully lying on my picnic table. Had some unknown entity set up this perfect altar for me? Was he sacrificing himself to me?
The ground was soft from the evening dew. The oak leaves were slick, and the dirt wet. I can feel the dampness in the air. My face was flushed and the rejuvenating breeze comforting. I have often felt these sensations, and yet something new now burned within me, a feeling I had never experienced before.
His labored breathing pounded in my ears. His chest rose and fell in a simple, monotonous rhythm. A wheeze escaped through those bloodied, dried lips. The noises of the night dimmed as I focused. My own breathing sped up, a rumba to his slow waltz.
My hand moved from my pocket on its own accord, my knife firmly in my palm. I flicked it open, then closed it. I repeated the gesture, each time listening to the click the lock made as the blade was secured. The subtle, familiar sound as the blade folds closed. It was soothing, a simple cadence marking my passage.
As I neared, another of my senses picked up, I smelled him. Shit, urine, month old grime, cheese burger grease, I couldn't identify half of the smells. I didn't want to identify most of them, though it is curious why he hasn't bathed. Certainly he can smell his own rotten stench. It can't be that hard to find some water.
His smell offended me in a way I don't often experience. This was my table. He was defiling my sanctum with his stink. Would I ever be able to come here again? Would the undesirable reek last forever? Click. How could he?
I was no more than two feet from the head of the table and filled with curiosity, with scorn. How could I properly cleanse my sanctuary? What color would his faded, brown jacket turn when it was soaked in blood? How fast would it take for a flow of blood to turn into a pool beneath the table?
My heart beat faster as I opened and closed my blade. It clicked again and again as my motions sped. Click, click, click, thump-thump, thump-thump, my heart and blade beat as one. Was I imagining it, or could I hear his heart too?
Click. His eyes fluttered.
Did he awake? My heart froze. I held my breath. Seconds dragged by. He shifted an inch and stopped moving with a snort. Breath rushed back into me as he slipped away to sleep. Again my heart picked up its frantic beating.
My blade opened one more time. Click. I reach out and place it just above the bared neck before me. My heart leapt back into my throat. I felt each pound as my skin burned with excitement. My stomach quivered. A shiver rocked my core. I brought my blade to the right side of the body, and slid it across the neck. I didn't stop until there was a curve from one end to the other.
I must have moved quickly because the eyes didn't even open until I had finished cutting. I looked down into those brown eyes as they stared back up at me. Did he know his life was ending?
The body barely moved. It twitched a few times, and gave a final shudder even as it continued to bleed. Is this what acceptance feels like? Is it contentment? Love? I had not meant for this to happen. This wasn't why I had come here.
The night dimmed the colors of the world, even though the flow of grey ooze I knew to be red. I watched the body, not knowing what to expect. My heart was racing, shuddering with every pump as it circulated blood throughout my body. The bum made a few gurgles, and some blood splashed around a little. I was expecting more of a gushing, spurting experience. No matter, it felt good. I was watching a shooting star for the first time, again.
I had rebelled against the most basic belief of humanity. The thrill of it rocked my core. I could taste the joy of it, bitter against my tongue ... much like lightly sugared coffee.
My heart slowed down to its normal calm, unnoticeable rate again, and I knew it was time to go. The night's sky had been ruined. The droll experience I have grown to know as life is broken up by brief moments of wonder I receive from the night. The starts are all I have had in the past. The normal, average emotions of the day don't matter to me. I don't feel good from a hug; instead I look for the trap hidden behind those open, extended arms.
With every passing day I run the risk of exposing myself. I have killed and it felt good, so much better than the night. I cannot stop now. I am truly alive for the first time ever. I will kill again. I have to kill again. The night will continue to come, and so must I.
He was in the newspaper again. "The Klan Killer claims a seventh victim." The Klan Killer is such a stupid name. I should follow his case more closely but to be honest I don't really care. All I remember is that the first victim was posted upright and lit on fire. Naturally the first reporter to get to name him thought of a burning cross and so the name developed. Since the first victim was black everyone assumed it was a hate crime. Humorously enough, the second victim was the reporter who gave him the name so I guess he didn't like it.
I haven't really been paying attention to the works of our modern day artists though. I'm retired. I flipped the page and went looking for the crossword puzzle.
The coffee I had made this morning was reaching room temperature as steadily as I was devouring the crossword. I finished both and continued my morning ritual: standing to my feet, readjusting my robe, refolding the paper and placing it neatly on the top of my recycle pile. The coffee cup needed to be washed. Three times into the hot water, three full rotations with a clean sponge, three vigorous shakes, and the cup was on its way back to the shelf. My usual dance, so routine it could continue even if I weren't around.
When the great grandfather clock chimed nine the phone rang. The eighth stroke, the third ring, I answered it. Jim Doyle, always calls at the same time every day. Call it his way of checking up on me. Since I don't have a family to take care of me he must feel obligated to do so.
"How goes it today?"
"It goes good ... Aren't you the writer here? Your grammar's worse than a Vietnamese madam's."
"I mean it Logan."
"Fine ... if you must know ... The nightmares started again. I keep seeing their faces. Their really is no point in this world is there? But we have nothing to look forward to. Oblivion is a significantly long nothingness and I am rushing toward it. You want to know how I am? I'm tired, bored, and empty. I'm retired."
The phone rang a fourth time, knocking me out of my revere. I won't answer it. I stopped taking his calls months ago. If only I knew that I could get rid of him that easily. Some may say he has good intentions ... fuck him, and fuck them. I just want to be left alone.
The fourth ring the answering machine picked up. Jim left a polite message about wanting to talk to me with all the proper niceties. Not two seconds later my phone started to ring again. He called back three times before Jim-boy had given up on me talking to him today. He usually stops after two.
I would like to say that after breakfast I got up, grabbed my gear, and suited up for another day at war. Instead I walked to my room and suited up for a day of games. My uniform was now white pants, a short-sleeved pink polo, and a red argyle sweater-vest.
As I walked out my front door I grabbed my clubs and slung them across my back. A flash in the mirror made me glance over. For a second I recognized myself, fully decked out with a rifle on my back. Then the image faded, and I was staring back at a retired man. A soldier with nothing left to do but golf left the house.
Whether it was iron, steel, or even wood, I have always been talented with melee extensions of my arms. I will never be a real competitor, but I play a deadly game. I don't know how long I was playing. I don't remember how I did. I don't even like golfing. It was after two and I was in the club room. My right arm ached where I had taken a bullet years ago. My left leg was stiff and I had to shift it every few moments or it cramped. Being that I come here most days I have a reserved booth in the back corner. The bartender knows my drink, it always seems to be waiting for me after I seat myself. The drinking numbs the pain of inactivity.
"Seven letters, A Dramatic Illusion."
I jerked my gaze up from my book of crosswords, my eyes targeting the new arrival, Jim.
"I knew I would find you here," his voice crooned across the room as he shifted over to my table.
"Naturally, it is two thirty in the afternoon, where else would I be?"
"You smell like a sewer. What have you been doing to yourself?"
"Get the fuck out of my sight with that small talk. Some Swedish porn star is going to walk through that door and I really want to see that. You're in the way."
"What has become of you my friend? I need you."
"You need me so you can feel more accomplished. You don't need me, just the apparition of failure."
"You told me to come if I needed help ... I do."
The scotch burned down my throat. "I am not that man anymore."
"You used to be somethi-"
"I am drinking at two o'clock. I may as well be in a Vietnamese whorehouse for the rest of my life. At least they have the best all you can eat buffet to curl up and die in. There I won't be..." I was losing track of myself. "You get one minute. What do you want?"
"Have you read the Times lately?"
When did he get permission to sit with me? "Still waiting?"
"My friend, Jameson," my blank stare was clearly the only invitation he needed to continue. "She was the Klan Killer's second victim. You remember she was the one who named him. Well, the eighth victim was just found. It was on the news today."
"You used to tell me never to mention what you did professionally. I kept my promise to you, but don't think I don't know what you were. For my silence you agreed to help me if I had a problem. I loved Jameson."
"Hahaha ... you are the happily married one aren't you? This is precious."
"I never did anything with her. I have never been anything but faithful to my wife. I have kids, and I love my life. Lisa was just a great friend. I loved her the way I love you." Watching Jim try to flag down the bartender was amusing. How could someone so annoying not be able to call over a man to order a drink? It didn't matter. He was only staying for another ten seconds. "The police are useless. Please, help them find the killer."
"Didn't think you could get that out in time. Supreme," I filled in another word on the puzzle. "Ignoring that comment about loving me, I'll think about this." I looked up and met his gaze for the first time since he sat down. "Your time's up."
Jim looked down at his watch. He grabbed his jacket as he stood. "You look good in pink. Take care of yourself, Logan."
Though my head was down, I followed his movements as he left the bar. He dodged around people so as not to bother them, always the gentleman. When he had left the room I slid from the leather of my booth to the side he had occupied. It was much cooler than my side had been. Am I really that much bigger than him now?
No, skipping most of my meals has left me still slim, even if I have lost my edge. I looked up to the TV across from me, the one above the bar. One thing I have to give this place over where I used to go, everything is clean. There wasn't even dust on the black plastic of the Television.
"Hey Nate, turn up the sound."
The newly audible news was again talking about the Klan Killer. The eighth victim was found as Jimmy had said. The body was displayed in the middle of a shopping center and lit on fire. The cops were called in by the security guards, attracted by the smell of burning flesh. When the first patrons showed up in the morning they received a pleasant sight before being shuffled off.
It seems the killer isn't stopping, not that they usually do. At least on their own accord they don't. with a count of eight this guy has the second largest body count in the history of the town. The Basement Bomber still has two kills on him. This Klan guy has much better style. How much work does it take to turn the water heater into a bomb? This guy must hunt his victims. He is able to set up a stage without anyone seeing him. To top this all off, he still hasn't been caught.
This case is mine. Retirement is really just waiting to die. I'm done waiting.
I headed out of the club house. The odors of grass, sweat, and retirement seemed to dull as I left the room. With every step I felt ... well, younger. I wasn't as young as I used to be. My age certainly wasn't decreasing. But I felt more alive than I had in years. It was time to get out of this ridiculous outfit.
My cell phone slipped easily out of my pocket as I got into the car. I don't need to worry about using a secure line. At least not right now.
The number I called wasn't in my phone's storage. I knew the number by heart. Whenever I needed a new identity, a cover I called him. Back in the day he was the best. Things haven't changed too much.
"Geppetto, I need some working scripts."
"Is that really you Phantom? I heard you retired."
"A favor for a friend."
"We all have friends that need favors don't we? How detailed a script do you need? Oscar worthy?"
"Something with an agent. I like badges. And I'll need your best one."
"Have you ever gotten anything but the best from me, your friend? Even a heathen like me knows not to cross the Phantom."
"By tomorrow morning."
"Tomorrow, that's way too soon. I can get you something by the end of the week." He was lying.
"It won't hold up."
I didn't say anything. He would get the idea, and I wasn't going to give him any more.
"Fine, I will have it. The same place we met that time at eight, 100,000."
I flipped my phone closed and put it back in my pocket. Calling Geppetto always made me feel powerful. He is the classic businessman, always trying to wheedle more money way from me. The minor victories I win over him are great foreplay.
I turned down the street and headed home. I have a lot of work to do. Some preparations, and some hunting. As I walked into the house I noticed the mirror. A stranger was taking off his white sweater vest and dropping his golf clubs. I changed into a pair of blue jeans and a black long-sleeved t-shirt. The man in the mirror across from me smiled. It felt good to be alive again.