By Cassie Exline
“How do I look?”
“Beautiful,” John said. “The costume is perfect for you. Now face the mirror and hold up your hair, I have a trinket for you to wear.”
“I’m surprised by your choice of outfit—Marie Antoinette. Off with her head! The last thing I want to do is give that murderer who’s been killing women all over town any ideas. No one sees anything but a man’s shadow.” She shuddered.
“You don’t have a thing to worry about.”
“So glad this gathering is an early one. This Halloween shadow killer gives me the creeps. All these parties have set him off on a murdering rampage. Halloween does crazy things to people.”
“Stand in front of the mirror and let me put this around your long slender neck.”
“Wonderful.” She scooped up her hair and held it in place with one hand. “With this low neckline, I needed a pendant or something.”
“This will be perfect. Hold still, I have to tie this just so.”
Nodding, she watched. “It’s a choker, isn’t it?”
“Yes, my dear,” he whispered in her ear. “Choke-her.”
Doors locked, blinds drawn, and metal bars up, John turned on every television set in his appliance store so each flickered with news reports from different networks.
“Another victim was found strangled in her apartment. No signs of forced entry. A neighbor claimed to have seen a shadow and blamed it for the Halloween murder.” The anchorman stared into the camera. “Ladies, be extra careful. Halloween isn’t over.”
Another TV anchor announced, “What we are about to show is graphic and not for the squeamish.” Photo after photo of crime scenes flashed across the screen.
John smiled and dropped his work shirt to the floor. His jeans slid to his ankles as he focused on the pictures. His hand stroked and a sigh escaped him.
“The police are baffled. Nothing connects these victims. Neighbors have not seen any strangers lurking around. If anyone out there has any information, please phone the authorities.”
Faster his hand pumped. His breathing deepened. Rasped. Power surged through him. No one would ever connect the brand new television sets in each victim’s apartment. Business was booming. He trembled with delight when the next commercial featured his shop. His hand blurred.
Pain... his grip too tight, stroke too fast... he wanted to savor his moment, he thrived on it and reveled in the actuality of last night. His pace slowed as he relived the feel of the silk to his hands, the tension as the cord bit into creamy flesh, the tiny bubbles on her lips. His fist pounded as he envisioned the dark fabric against pale milky skin, the blood red ruby swaying in the valley of her breasts, her shocked reflection, the life fading from her brilliant green eyes.
His breathing was shallow, short bursts of air puffed from his lips. His eyes glazed; they always did when he relived the moment. In his head, he replayed the words of the different anchormen, anything to prolong his feelings of triumph. “Each victim was strangled by a silk cord... no signs of forced entry... neighbor saw male shadow... no strangers lurked...police seek connection between the victims.”
The absurdity sent a rush of triumph through his body; he shot across the room. His seed landed on a TV screen just as the last victim’s photo was shown. Gratification soared, then faded. He needed more.
“Sit here, before the mirror, and move your hair out of the way, my sweet. I have a bauble for you.”
“I’m surprised by your choice of costume—Marie Antoinette. Isn’t that what that last dead woman was wearing?” She shuddered.
“Who remembers such things?” He smiled.
“Don’t you think it’s odd that the party is being held so soon after the last Halloween shadow murder?”
“I hope no one else is dressed like me.”
“You won’t see another woman wearing that costume.”
She grinned at his reflection and arched an eyebrow. “Have you had many women?”
“You make an even dozen. Hold your hair up, my dear.” He stared into the mirror. “I do love a woman with a long slender neck.”
“A choker! Is the ruby real?”
“Look into my eyes.”