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About the Author
Born in Cambridge Mass in 1924. AB Harvard '49. MA and Ph.D. University of Washington. College teacher for 20 years. Reviewer: non-fiction for Bibliophile; mystery/suspense books for I Love a Mystery; books and videotapes for The American Association for The Advancement of Science. About a hundred short stories recently sold and published. Books: "MANA" (http://pulsarbooks.com/) Pulsar Books. ISBN 1-58697-206-5 (print) and ISBN 1-58697-892-4-2. (electronic). "DEATH OF THE TIN MAN'S WIFE" http://www.handheldcrime.com. Publication date to be announced.
The Shopping Mall Killer
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Today was going to be a good one, he assured himself. The pressure had built up since the last time, three weeks ago. Tall, clean-shaven, a rather boyish face and an athletic, muscular build obscured by a loose fitting shirt and pants; these made for an unthreatening appearance. The sling for his left arm gave him the exact aura of helplessness, which almost always paid off. And the sling was a handy place to hide the straightedge razor. He had six of the burnished lengths of steel, always treated gently, carefully honed and oiled. His favorite with the carved ivory eagle head for a handle was the one he'd decided to use today. It had splendid memories attached to it, and he'd spent almost an hour stropping it before coming out to the mall. Just a touch with it would break the flesh.
It was difficult for him to contain himself as he slipped back against the wall, in a spot that darkened quickly after the sun went down . . . and waited. Not only was it going to be a good one, it was going to be an early one. She came wending her way through the parked cars almost directly toward him. Small-he preferred them small-but long slender legs. She didn't look right or left. Her mind was somewhere else. Dumb, like all the others. Now if it was only that Toyota Highlander she was heading for. He preferred roomy cars.
No. Damn! She stopped next to an old Beetle, of all things. But, then, his best one had been in a broken-down Fiat. You never know. He moved quickly, but he soon saw there was no need to hurry. She wasn't in any rush to start the car; instead she'd left her door partly open so the roof light would stay on. She was checking out a piece of paper. Probably her shopping list. Probably trying to figure out what she'd forgotten. Now, the crucial step.
Broad smile on his face, walking over to the VW, bending over on the passenger side so she could see his encumbered arm, he gestured ambiguously to the neighboring car with his right hand. Somehow, that seemed to almost always work. Even with manual windows, the woman would lean over, roll it down and ask what was wrong. His frequently rehearsed move was now almost automatic-arm through the window, unlock the door, slip in, razor out, and maybe even a preliminary nick to show he was serious. This one was no different.
But there was a difference! He had just made that final move, razor flashing as it reflected the dome light, when he found himself looking into the front end of an automatic. Icy-cold blue eyes looked at him over the gun she was holding in her left hand. The words didn't reassure him. "Move very carefully. Drop the razor on the floor by your feet." There was a pause. It didn't occur to him to do otherwise. What sounded like a giggle was followed by, "You might as well drop that fake arm sling down on the floor, too. You won't be needing it." A strange smell filled the air. No, it wasn't so strange. It was the smell of fear, the odor he'd so frequently noticed almost subliminally as he'd pressed the razor's edge ever so gently against defenseless throats. But this time it was his own fear.
"Now, close your door . . . carefully." He heaved an inner sigh. She was going to drive away! Piece of cake. No way could she hold a gun on him and drive. Even in the limited space of the VW, he'd be able to chop her in the neck with the side of his hand, maybe kill her before she would even see it coming. But he didn't want to kill her. Not yet. There had to be time yet. Somewhere out in the woods, with that same smell of fear coming up from her. The dome light was still on. He hoped it hadn't revealed his smile.
"Next, move the seat forward as far as it will go."
Dumb bitch. She was afraid he'd kick out at her. Why bother when his hands were free? Reaching down, he found the lever and hunched forward so his knees were up and under the dashboard.
Clearly, there was now amusement in her voice. "You're doing very well."
Hell-an echo of what he'd often said to the women when he ordered them to perform while the razor flashed in the air near their eyes.
"Now, listen very closely. This is going to be a bit more difficult. Open the glove compartment, take out the handcuffs you'll find in there." Another pause as he followed the directions. "Close the compartment. No need to rush. We have plenty of time. In fact, you rather surprised me by showing up so early."
What was she talking about? Handcuffs! She must be a cop. He didn't ask.
She looked more closely at him. "It's a shame. I thought you'd be bigger than you are, but I guess you'll just have to do. The women who figured they spotted you reported someone taller and more muscular. But, then, I imagine the fear of being raped and murdered distorts one's vision. Don't you think?"
He said nothing but simply held the cuffs wondering if he could risk slashing out at her with them.
She smiled. "You know, you show every one of your thoughts on your dumb face. Looking at the cuffs and then looking at me is such a tip-off. My finger has to move just three/sixteenths of an inch in the time you swing them at me. Guess who'll lose. And, by the way, I'm a lousy shot. I'll aim at your chest, but I might end up hitting you in the belly or even lower."
Crazy, crazy bitch. Just like that woman psychiatrist at the hospital who thought he was stupid, but she never put it into so many words like this one. She'd pay. She'd pay big. Both of them would pay.
"OK. Now the tough part. Fasten one cuff to your left wrist, then hold it up so I can see it clearly. I want to make sure you did it right. I know it isn't easy, since you're wearing gloves. Seems silly to wear gloves when the weather's warm as this." She shrugged, barely perceptibly, not enough to disturb her gun hand.
The fear smell was becoming more prominent.
"Excellent. Now slip the other cuff over the grab bar above the glove compartment. Handy little gadget isn't it? Story goes that Hitler himself wanted them installed in the first Beetles. I wonder why. Oh, very, very good." She actually sounded pleased.
"My, but you do follow directions nicely. I'll bet you've even guessed what I want you to do next. Right! Now pull back on the cuffs so I can be sure you're securely fastened. Wonderful. All snug and cozy. We might as well be off, then."
Trussed up like a chicken, he thought, and his mind was still awhirl. She was no cop. If she had been, she'd have called in the minute she had the drop on him when he flashed the razor. But what was she? And where were they going? Still holding the gun, she closed the driver's door, the roof light went off, the engine kicked over at the first turn of the key.
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