by Dan Dillard, 2013
It wasn’t until the third ring that the line clicked and a voice answered. It was not a human voice—not a live human voice—on the end of the line, but a series of questions. I kept pressing zero trying to get an operator. Finally, after more than fifteen minutes of button pushing, the crappy musical stylings of a disgruntled group of studio musicians and three cigarettes, the line went silent.
I was about to throw the phone through the front glass of my saltwater aquarium, likely impaling the larger of my three fish, a Picasso Trigger named Pablo, and ruining my phone when a woman answered.
“Hello? How may I assist you today?”
Her voice was as smooth as the ocean breeze in North Carolina in June. There was a slight drawl, very sexy, and it had a tone that was both clear and melodic. I shifted from one ear to the other and adjusted the mouthpiece of the ancient thing so I couldn’t hear my breaths coming from my nose. My cigarette had burned to the filter and I flicked it out the open screen door into the back yard.
“Uh, hi. I wasn’t expecting anyone to actually pick up.”
“I assure you, honey, I’m here to help. What can I do for you?” she said.
I hesitated, looking around at the mess of broken furniture and drops of blood on the newly installed flooring. There was a bloody handprint on the front door. It wrapped around the silver knob in a noble attempt, but three trailing finger smudges leading to the floor said, ‘failure’.
“Sir? Are ya there?”
It sounded more like they-ah. My hands shook, and I pulled the softpack out of my front pocket and tapped a fourth smoke into my mouth.
“One last time, shug. I’ve got folks waiting. These lights are blinkin’ like mad on this phone.”
I hated being hurried, but I did need help. I lit the cigarette and sat down, wiping some of the remaining red stuff onto my shirt.
“I need help.”
“Well, I assumed. What with?” she asked.
“I…I bit off a bit more than I can chew, I think. One almost got away,” I said.
“Oh my,” she replied.
“Yeah. Neither of them is dead yet. One’s tied up in the master bedroom upstairs. The other is passed out. I dragged her into the bathtub.”
“Okay, so take things one at a time, hon.”
“That’s just it. I can’t do my usual. It takes too long, and one will wake while I’m…finishing the other.”
“Well now, we can’t always have our cake and eat it too, can we?”
“I thought I could.”
“Greedy boy. What’s your M.O.?” she asked.
I’d never thought about it as an M. O. before. It had just been a thing. I beat some—blunt force trauma is always fun. I rape others. One, I strangled, but I always use a knife when I’m finishing the work. I like finishing the best. It’s a slow process, but I’ve developed a real flair for it, like an art.
The first seven bled out and then I figured out some tricks to making it last and the last ten…or maybe it’s fifteen…they have gotten better with each new pig. I’ve always called them pigs. That’s what they are really. Meat you can pork. That’s hunter humor. I’m a hunter.
I shook my head, remembering I was actually on the phone.
“Right. My M.O. I hunt them, bring them back here, then sometimes I beat them,” I started.
“Ooh, nice,” she said, interrupting.
“Yes. Then usually I carve them up in the tub.”
“Do you drink the blood?”
“Never thought of it, I said.”
“Well, it’s fulfilling. You might consider trying that.”
Drinking blood seemed like something from the movies. Of course, I got my start watching movies. One day I just said, “I can do that.” And do that I did.
“Anyway,” I continued, “I guess I got a little overwhelmed this time. A little carried away and then overwhelmed with them. Sisters, I guess. They look alike.”
“Nah, mid twenties if I had to guess. One’s pretty hot, the other, kinda homely.”
“Ahh, too bad. Kill her first.”
“Totally,” I said.
“Which one is in the tub?”
“Excellent,” the southern voice said. “Can you see her now?”
“No, they’re both upstairs.”
“Well can you get to them with the phone?”
“Go to the bathroom and describe her to me, tell me what stage you’re on.”
I walked up the steps and peeked first into the bedroom where the more attractive of the two was tied to a chair. She was nude, passed out and blood from her mouth had dripped onto her chest and down her belly. It smelled of urine. She must’ve pissed herself. Then, I looked in the bathtub.
“Okay. What would you normally do in this case?”
“Okay. So wake her?” she said.
“What if she screams and wakes her sister?”
“Is her sister unconscious as well?”
“Yes, and she’s bound and gagged,” I said.
“So what’s the problem?”
What was the problem? It all seemed so easy when my southern belle said it. The smoke from my cigarette burned in my eye and when I checked the mirror, it was burned to the filter again. I tapped it into the sink and pulled my knife from its sheath.
“Set the phone down, love. Do your thing. I’ll wait until you’ve finished with homely and moved on to sexy. Mind if I put you on hold while you work? I’ll check back.”
I didn’t mind. I was getting my wits about me again. Seemed like myself again. Felt the rage again. Plunged the knife into her neck. She woke and tried to scream, grasping at the handle, and my hands. Blood poured from the wound.
“Hon? You did something wrong, didn’t you? I’ll stay on the line,” the voice on the phone said.
I stood up and watched the girl struggling in the bath tub, trying to stand, trying to pull the knife from her neck. The blade must’ve made contact with her vertebrae because it wasn’t coming free. I don’t know how I missed her spinal cord. She started to choke, then slipped in the red-black puddle and fell. Her face smashed into the spigot, tearing a jiggling flap of skin loose and depositing several teeth onto the bathroom floor.
“What’s happening? It’s quite noisy?” the operator said.
“She’s struggling,” I said, watching the carnage.
“Is that what you enjoy? The struggle?”
“Do you always watch?” she asked.
“Yes. Sometimes I masturbate. Fresh blood makes good lubricant.”
“It does, doesn’t it? Until it gets sticky.”
“What now?” I asked, back to feeling out of sorts.
“Do you want to kill her now?”
I did, but it was almost too late. Homely was laying face-down in the tub, trying to push back up, to make an escape, but finding herself too weak. I reached around her head and pulled the knife loose. Blood pulsed from the now jagged wound. I cupped my hand under it and gathered some, then I sipped it from my palm. It was warm, metallic, exhilarating.
“Mmmm,” I head through the phone. “Tastes good doesn’t it, shug?”
“Is she gone?”
“Yes. Now she is.”
“Good. So what are your plans for her sister…the pretty one?”
I wiped the knife blade on the thigh of my jeans and turned around, watching the bound girl through the doorway between the bathroom and the bedroom. Her head rocked one way, then the other. She was coming back around.
“Plans,” I said. Not a question, nor a statement…just a word.
I stood and watched the naked girl, tied to a chair next to my bed, as she awoke. I watched as she realized again the horror of her situation. I wondered if she was having a pleasant dream. Perhaps a dream where she wasn’t kidnapped, stripped bare, beaten and tied to a chair. Then I wondered what she would think of the bloody mess behind me. When she screamed through her gag, I knew reality had set back in.
“Ooh, someone’s awake!” my Southern friend said. Her voice sounded as excited as I felt.
“Yes. She’s back with me now.”
“Well do you still need my help?”
At that moment, I wasn’t sure I’d ever needed help. Reassurance maybe, but not help. My victim was watching me with tear-stained eyes and mascara-stained cheeks. Her eyes darted from one place to another, searching for a phone, a weapon, an escape, but they always came back to me. I knew there was going to be a moment when her eyes would lose their fear. A moment when there would be acceptance of death, acceptance that I was the maker she would meet, the reaper of her grim end. That mine would be the last eyes she ever looked into. At that moment, there was always a quiet understanding, just a flicker, but it was always there if I paid attention.
I was going to take extra care of this one.
“No. No, I don’t need any help with this one, thank you,” I said.
“Well, thank you,” she replied. “Is there anything else I can do for you today, hon?”
“No. No, I’m fine now,” I said.
“Well, you have a good day then. If you ever need assistance, feel free to call me.”
“I will,” I said. “Goodbye.”
Then I hung up the phone.
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Look for “GIVING UP THE GHOST” by Dan Dillard, June 1st on Amazon!