I was up early to work on today's challenge - The taste of your favourite meal - but I didn't have a chance to complete it before work so I left the ending until lunchtime. I hope you enjoy...
The Taste Of Your Favourite Meal
Revenge was a dish best served cold they said, and he liked the saying. But what no one had ever told him was that it was a dish you wanted to dine on time and time again. Why now, it was almost his favourite meal.
He had walked the streets all day looking for his next one when finally he saw her strutting out of Chucks Bar and Grill on 15th Avenue. Long black hair, just the same, skin pale as alabaster; hell, they could have been sisters. They were all the same; that’s why he had to do the things he did. If he didn’t, they’d just go on to break another man’s heart like Mary Jo broke his.
She walked confidently, hips swaying with every step like she was hoping for an audience, and he felt his fists clenching hard; oh, she was the next one alright. He hung back a few hundred feet behind her and stayed on the opposite side of the street, clinging to the shadows. When it had happened with Mary Jo, it had all been unplanned. He’d acted on impulse with Mary Jo, but he was a lot better prepared now that he knew his purpose. He wore black sneakers with rubber soles because they allowed him to walk softly, unheard.
The girl had no idea that she was next, had no idea who was behind her, and he couldn’t help but smile; it pleased him to know that he had that power. She would be the seventh and that pleased him as well. Seven was an important number; in the Bible there were seven deadly sins as well as seven gifts from the Holy Spirit. And hadn’t God himself hated harlots and whores as well? He had once read that God had laid waste to Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone for tolerating their kind. He knew that he was on a righteous path in what he did, even if he had different reasons for being on that path.
Clack, clack, clack went the girl’s heels on the sidewalk and he wondered whether she would lead him all the way to her home like the last few had. His right hand slipped absently into his pocket, feeling for the comfort of the knife. He didn’t mind if it was in her home – in a way, it made sense, made it somehow more personal – but he preferred when it was in the open air like with Mary Jo. In a house he usually had to be quick, in case the neighbours called the police, but out in the open he had all the time in the world.
He stayed in the shadows, footsteps slow and purposeful, and the girl walked on, oblivious to him. The excitement and anticipation built in his chest like a physical thing and he found himself wondering whether he would let her scream just to hear the fear in her voice. Mary Jo had screamed, had begged, had pleased for his forgiveness, but he had known she would have done anything to save herself in those last moments. There was no authenticity in her contrition as she looked up at him with those big brown eyes, her black hair streaked through with dirt. She wasn’t really sorry for walking out on him. Even at the last she was lying to him and that had settled it; if she could be nothing but a lying whore even in the face of death then what hope was there for her ever-living soul? His revenge wasn’t simply justified, it was needed.
He shivered at the thought, giddy with excitement now. The first step was always the hardest but with Mary Jo gone it had made all the other steps so very easy for him. He had realised at that moment, maybe in some divine inspiration, as Mary Jo’s blood lay pooling around her in the mud; there were countless Mary Jo’s out there in the world, countless harlots destroying the lives of men on little more than a whim. So he never went back to work on Monday, he just picked up a few of his things and left town in his pickup. He had a new mission now.
The girl turned left off 15th Avenue and into a less well lit street, marching on without realising that she was marching to her death. His hand curled tight around the handle of the knife and he imagined how her face would look when she saw it, the eyes wide with fear. Mary Jo had tried to run but not all of them did, some of them had just stood frozen there like they knew they couldn’t ever hope to escape this moment. He wondered which kind this girl would be and his heart pounded hard in his chest.
The police and the press had finally caught up to him with the fifth in Austin, Texas; up until then, his four kills had just been random acts scattered across four different states, but after the fifth someone had put two and two together and realised that it was one man responsible for all five girls. In a way, he was glad. He hadn’t wanted to leave anything to tell them - that would have felt like something only a crazy person would do - but he had wanted them to know about his mission. The press started calling him the Vampire Killer, due to the fact that he bled them out from their jugular, and he found it made an odd sense. Except, he wasn’t the vampire; he was out there killing these vampire women who would prey on a man’s good nature and bleed him dry, only to toss him to the curb once they’d had their fill. He liked the name.
A small residential area lay up ahead, no more than a couple of low apartment buildings arranged in a courtyard, and he felt sure that tonight’s hunt was nearly over. He loved small towns like this, small towns off the beaten track. He knew the police would be looking for the pattern in his work but they would find none; he gained his revenge one death at a time and then moved on at random, going where the road took him and waiting, always, to catch sight of his next target. They would never catch him.
The girl halted at the end of the street, fishing in her purse for a cell phone and he edged closer. Her voice travelled easily on the cool night air and he could hear she was talking to her boyfriend or husband, telling them she was still looking after her friend and that he shouldn’t wait up for her. He felt himself bristle at the lies and had to breathe hard to avoid just gutting her there and then. It only served to show him how right his instincts had been; she was a lying harlot and, whoever that man was, he’d be better off without her. He’d make sure of that.
She surprised him by turning not towards the residential area but, instead, crossing the street and entering the park. Thrill coursed through him like electricity. He had scouted the park a day earlier when he had been getting to know the town; it was shrouded in trees and was lit only by a couple of old streetlights. He figured she must be planning on using the path through the park as a shortcut to get to the other part of town, maybe to make sure that no one who knew her man would catch sight of her out. A small town like this, women were more afraid of gossip than being out on their own at night. He grinned; he couldn’t have planned this night better himself.
He waited twenty seconds or so and then followed her into the park, her slight figure disappearing from view as she stepped out of the dull yellow glow of the streetlight and into the darkness of the park. He sped up his pace, following the sound of her footsteps in the darkness, sensing that the time for caution was long past. She was no more than twenty paces ahead of him now and he called out to her.
* * *
She heard the voice and turned round, quickly, on her heels to face him.
It was light enough that she could see he was a big man, maybe 6’4, wearing a baseball cap and a long black coat. The moonlight glittered from the blade of a knife in his right hand and from his small eyes. She could tell that he was smiling.
* * *
She froze in front of him, just like he’d hoped she would, and he slowly advanced up the path towards her.
“You know who I am, darlin’?” he said softly, “I’m the one they’re calling the Vampire Killer.”
He could see the recognition in her eyes but she didn’t move, she was still standing frozen in her tracks. But there was something else in her eyes…
* * *
He moved closer and she let him talk. She knew the name, had read the papers. Only when he had got close enough did she finally strike.
* * *
The girl moved suddenly towards him, so quickly that she was little more than a blur, and before he could even begin to adjust he felt a brief but tremendous pressure placed on his right arm before, with a loud crack it exploded into white-hot pain. The knife skidded away from him, lost in the darkness, and then hands were pulling at the lapels of his coat. Lifting him up, he realised, she was lifting him up and then, even as he marvelled at how impossibly strong she was, the girl flung him bodily into the trees. His back collided, hard, with a tree trunk and all of the breath was smashed from his body.
He lay on his back, looking up through the tree canopy to the stars above. Body wracked with pain and unable to move he could do nothing but stare straight up into the sky, even as he heard the crunch of her approaching footsteps.
She straddled his hips and, as she bent over him, he looked upon her fully for the first time. His eyes opened wide at that moment and he tried his best to whisper the Lord’s Prayer through what remained of his teeth.
She smiled. Lips, scarlet red.
“Your God can’t save you now.”
* * *
She drank deep from him, felt the hot copper taste of his blood in her throat and felt it empower her, flow through her.
She had smelled the blood on him as soon as she had left the bar, a black stain on him that no amount of washing could hope to remove and she had known then that he was the one. And so she had phoned and made her excuses to her husband and she had led him here, led him away from the street lights, led him to a place where he could never hurt anyone ever again.
As the life ebbed from him, as her fangs tore at his throat and drained him, she knew it tasted all the sweeter to know she had rid the world of such a monster. Revenge was, she thought, a dish best served hot and bloody and tonight, she enjoyed the taste of her favourite meal…