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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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"Care for some music?" she asked. "I hope you like country. Always was my favorite. Way back in high school days." Cindy Carlyle's honey-sweet voice carrying Chet Barne's lyrics filled the air. She turned the music down low. "You're not very talkative, are you? Kind of makes me wonder if you talked much to the other women you rode with. I guess not. I imagine you made them do the talking. Well, I won't bother you. You just go ahead and stay cozy with your own thoughts."
He'd been so caught up in his predicament he hadn't noticed at first where they were going. In the silence, with only the background music to distract him, he could now make out they were traveling north, avoiding the freeway, but definitely leaving town. Within moments they were out in the countryside, wide pastures alternating with new subdivisions, and it was one of these she turned into-an upscale one, with luxury homes on one-acre lots, each one fenced in, shrub-lined and isolated from its neighbors.
The two-story house she approached was dark. She punched an opener on the sun visor. One door of a large two-car garage swung up obediently as the lights came on. She drove in but left the door open.
Getting out of the car, she came around to the passenger side, opened the door, handed him a key and said, "I know it's difficult to unlock cuffs when you're wearing them-especially with gloves on-but we're way early, so take your time."
Early for what, he wondered, as he clicked off one of the cuffs.
"Now, the other one and drop them to the floor. I'd prefer you not get any more ideas about how you might use them."
The gun was still aimed at his chest. "Slide out, and start walking slowly out through the door. Oh yes, keep that three/sixteenths of an inch I told you about in mind. I'm very nervous at the moment, and any sudden move on you part might-well, you know."
The bitch didn't sound a bit nervous. But whatever she was up to, he'd have his chance. He knew he would, and this would be by far, by far the best one. It was almost more than he could bear to think of, having her down on the ground, his hands choking her-gradually, very gradually. The razor was so much better though. He'd get to it somehow. The thought distracted him and made him stumble over a rock along a border where she was prodding him to go. For a moment he thought she was going to shoot. The next moment he was almost certain she'd snickered at him.
"Seems like you're kind of nervous, yourself. Keep moving to the back of the house." Her flashlight lit up a basement window. "Go kick it in." He turned to look at her. "You heard me. Go ahead! Kick it in. If you're worried about the neighbors, forget it. The house on this side is empty. The neighbors on the other side are away on vacation."
Nice to know, he reasoned. They'll never hear the whimperings and the screams. He would, though. He definitely would. Lots of them. For a long time. Until they were just gurgles. Viciously, he kicked out the window.
"Splendid. Splendid. I'm sure you must have done that many times before."
He had. Back in the days when he broke into houses, before he found that cars were a lot safer for what he liked to do. Never an empty one like some of the houses he'd broken into. Never husbands around. Never . . . just what was this crazy bitch up to?
"Fine. Now let's go into the house and get comfortable. You first, of course. Front door."
By now the light of the flashlight was essential for him to follow the narrow footpath around the garage and to the front of the house. The cold voice behind him said, "Go ahead, open it. It's unlocked." For the briefest of moments he thought this was his chance. Open the door, slam it behind him and catch her with it, gun and all. The thought disappeared even more quickly than it had appeared as he felt the pressure of steel against his spine. The words were softly spoken. "Slowly, slowly. I imagine one shot would take out three vertebrae." She closed the door quietly behind them.
A short entranceway led into a sizeable front room, which she lit up with a blaze of lights by flicking a switch with the hand holding the flashlight. At one end of the room, near the front entrance, a glass coffee table bare of ornaments stood in front of an overstuffed chair. "Let's see," she said, "that seems to be a good place for you to sit. And take off your gloves. It's much too warm in here for them. You can slip off your jacket, too. No need for formalities." He complied, feeling the less burdened he was, the better. While he did so, he glanced at his immediate surroundings for something he could throw.
"You really are doing very well." She sounded as though she were encouraging a small child. "Not very talkative, though. But then I didn't bring you here to talk." Still aiming the automatic at his chest, she carefully sat down in a chair on the other side of the coffee table. "Oh, yes. Press your hands palm down on the coffee table." He hesitated. The voice hardened. "Now!" He did as he was told, a question showing in his eyes.
"There, I guess that's it. Now we wait. It's really a shame you're the silent type. I like good conversation. We could talk about a lot of things. For example, notice how there aren't any books or knickknacks sitting within arm's reach? Oh, I saw you looking. You know, you really are a couple of logs short of a cord. That's just in dime novels where someone can throw anything faster than a trigger can be pulled."
The coffee table! How easy it would be for him to slide his hands under the surface and throw *that* at her. Gradually he moved his hands back off the glass top and began to inch them under it.
A sigh of exasperation greeted his movements. Her voice reflected her annoyance. "I can't believe it. Why, oh why, did I fall heir to a kindergarten dropout? Go ahead. Try it. That coffee table is bolted to the floor."
She was right. He couldn't budge it. At that moment he could feel only all-consuming hate. Again she was conjuring up the memory of the psychiatrist he was going to pay a return visit to someday. Someday, soon, but only after taking care of this bitch. For the first time he got a really good look at her. She was pretty. No question about that. Small tits, but they stuck out nice. Oh . . . oh . . . he kept thinking of how much he wanted to feel that ivory-handled razor in his hand. She even looked a bit like that psychiatrist. Her first, then the doc. He knew he could distract this one. There had to be some way.
He spoke, for the first time, almost without thinking about what he was asking, but it was something he had to have the answer to, something even more important than why they were here. "How did you know I was going to be there tonight?"
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