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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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Her face lit up. "He talks. Well, what do you know? For a while there, I thought I'd brought home a gorilla. Gee. Let's talk some more. Glad to answer your questions. It will help to pass the time. The reason I knew was because you're stupid, that's why. There are four malls in town, and you've already hit three of them. Dumb as you are, I knew you'd think it was smart not to go to the same one twice."
He couldn't believe it. It *was* dumb. And here he thought he'd been so smart. He remembered the cons saying, don't go hitting the same place twice. Maybe they were dumb, too.
The next questions came out as almost an incomprehensible growl. The boyish face was no longer so boyish looking. "Why did you bring me here? What's going on?"
She laughed. For a moment her laugh grated on his nerves, then he thought about how he'd make her laugh, loud laughs, laughs filled with utter terror. "I thought you'd never ask. Let's play a game. Want to rehearse the clues? Now, I didn't call the police. That should tell you something. And surely you must be able to figure out why I had you break that window. Come on, boy. Think! I know you haven't got much to work with, but try!"
It wasn't a brilliant light. In fact it was just the barest glimmer. She needed him. That was it. She needed him for something. For him to do something. She was going to hold a gun on him until he did it. But it wasn't just fun and games. She was waiting for someone. He looked at her left hand. She smiled encouragement as she caught the glance. "I should have been a teacher," she said. "It's just amazing what a clever person can do with even the most unpromising material. Yes, you're on the right track. I'm married. OK. Now, the next step."
The words tumbled out. "You want me to kill him. Then you can kill me and claim I broke into the house. A big insurance. A boyfriend. He won't give you a divorce."
"My. If I had both hands free, I'd be clapping. Right on all counts but one. I have no intention of killing you. You're too stupid to see why, but you should have realized that almost from the moment you sat there."
It was difficult for him to think when she called him stupid, or dumb. Red rage and the thoughts of his favorite razor kept coming to his mind. "OK. Why aren't you going to kill me after I've killed your husband?"
"Ask yourself. Why should I? Why mess up the house with blood and any more corpses than necessary? And the police will know I killed you and might just possibly get suspicious. After all, persons have been known to hire burglars to kill spouses only to kill the burglar to cover their own tracks. No. No. It's much better for you to go running off. Distraught wife comes down the stairs, finds her husband strangled and calls 911. With your fingerprints on that table and your finger marks on my husband's neck, you'll disappear from this area and move your business elsewhere-raping and murdering women who are dumb enough to park in dark sections of malls. Since they're as stupid as you are, they deserve what they get.
"Meantime, the only thing I'll be questioned about is the appearance of the burglar, which-incidentally-I won't know since I will never have seen him." She broke into a laugh that was becoming increasingly irritating. "Now, I'll bet you've been having bad thoughts about me, but I'm really not so bad, after all. You're going to do me a favor, so I'll do you one. Fair's fair. You'll have plenty of lead time to go elsewhere."
That was it! The ideal time to take over. There really was no reason for her to kill him, but damn good reason for him to kill her. The husband was going to come in, and . . .
She interrupted his thoughts. "Now that you're feeling cooperative, let's get the scenario straight. After all the trouble we've been through, we don't want anything to go wrong at this stage, now, do we?" He assumed she wasn't expecting an answer. She didn't wait for one.
"He'll be coming in the way he usually does, probably carrying the evening paper. He'll say, 'Hello, dear," without even looking around, but I'll get his attention, with this." She moved the gun slightly, but not away from its current target. Then you get up. Don't rush. No need for it. He won't be going anywhere. Then you'll get behind him, and just be absolutely sure to use your hands. That's important and that's why I didn't want you wearing gloves. Not that the police could imagine someone my size doing him in that way. He's a little guy, by the way, scrawny neck. It'll be a little different than usual for you, but not much."
Even now, the bitch knew how to provoke him. He had choked women, but never a man. It *would* be different. Not particularly exciting, but a means to an end. He had no intention of just going off and leaving fingerprints behind. Besides, there was absolutely no guarantee she wouldn't give a complete description of him to the police. Well, the scene she described was going to contain a big surprise for her.
Sure, he'd strangle her husband, and that would be the ideal time to throw that knickknack-her husband's body-at her. He was no expert when it came to guns, but he knew she was holding a low-velocity, small-caliber pistol. The bullet would never penetrate the shield of her husband's dead body. And now, all he could think about was butcher knives. The kitchen would have some, for sure. Not the same as a straight edge, but he'd have to make do. No! He had to have that razor. It was sitting out there in the car, and there would be plenty of time to get it after he'd tied her up.
Even more, he kept thinking of the psychiatrist. Definitely, he'd move on to her next. Soon. Real soon. It would have to be a house thing, but he'd make do. He knew where she lived. He'd driven by many times. Yes, definitely, she would be next. Deliciously next. This one would be a dress rehearsal.
Her voice broke into his fantasies. "OK. Time for twenty questions. I've given you all sorts of answers, and there's still more time to kill. At least an hour. And speaking of killing, just what did you do with all those women? I read in the paper that so far they've found only one."
Why in hell not? Why not tell her? In an hour she'd be dead. Besides, there was something about her expression, something that made him want to tell. Like that damn psychiatrist. Only he hadn't told her. But he would. He would-at a time and place and under conditions of his choosing.
"The first one . . ." Once he'd started, he found he couldn't stop. It was really a great feeling to be able to describe what he'd done, to relive it all-minutely. Besides, the incentive to go on was her face. There was something about it that was now becoming just like the faces of the women when he brought the razor near, just before the final cut. The whiteness around the lips. Small, hardly visible beads of sweat along the line of her hair. She was leaning forward. He was describing the scenes in detail. "The next one . . ."
That look! It struck him suddenly that she was getting off on what he was telling her. He remembered and repeated every whisper, every scream, every bit of begging not to be hurt, of finally begging to be killed. "The last one was the best one. I hadn't noticed her kid in the back seat. That slowed things down, but made it even better. You should have heard her pleading with me not to kill him . . ."
Footsteps sounded on the porch. She was transfixed. He knew this would be easy, easy. When the man came in, he *was* a little guy, but something wasn't right. No newspaper. No surprise at the gun in her hand or at his presence. No, "Hello, dear." Instead, "Good work, Sergeant Fletcher. We got every one of his words on the remote, loud and clear."
The two armed, uniformed policemen who had also entered the room encountered no resistance.
The Sergeant's strained voice broke in, "You came in just in time, Lieutenant."
"Why do you say that? You obviously had everything under control."
"No I didn't. I was just about to kill him."[an error occurred while processing this directive]