By Keith ‘Doc’ Raymond
There is an urban legend that downloading the last vision on a person’s retina will provide the face of the killer; this is patently false. The rods and cones sputter out, capturing instead the film that comes over the dying eye in decline. It obscures any image. I have tested this repeatedly, not because I wanted to be certain, but because it is just so much fun!
It all began with a dinner in a tavern with my friend, Nick. A couple entered and sat in the booth next to ours. While we sipped our long necks between anecdotes and jokes, our silences allowed me to tune in to the other couple’s banalities.
At one point, he admired the wood paneling. Then the grain of the oak tables where we all sat. My intended victim thought the quality was superb. I just had to intervene.
“Not really,” I interrupted them loudly, causing him to turn toward us. “Let me show you why…”
I climbed out of our booth and swiveled around to theirs. His eyes went wide, while hers grew bored. I ran my finger along the edge of the table.
“See,” I said. He shook his head. “There are bite marks from the saw as it ripped through the timber.”
He looked confused, and she looked at the ceiling. I realized I could take him out before he gave me his full attention. But I’ll save that pleasure for later. I took his hand, and he shivered. It was cool and clammy as I used his fingers to probe the grain.
“Feel that,” I said.
I pressed them harder and deeper so he could feel the roughness beneath the veneer. His knuckles popped, and I saw him make a face, wanting to pull back. Then he felt it. Probed the edge on his own, lighting up.
“Yeah,” he murmured, like a lover enjoying it.
I had him. He would be exquisite, so responsive.
“Bite marks imply shoddy workmanship.” I continued. “Fast and careless to turn a buck. I’m a craftsman. A woodworker. You should see my tables and cabinets. I would have burned these rather than selling them.”
“We are in the market. Just moved here. It would be nice to have some quality to show visiting friends. Wouldn’t it, dear?” Instead of looking at dear, he looked at me. Good. She was busy paging through the menu and nodded absently. “Wouldn’t it?” he repeated.
“Yeah, sure. Let’s see how our old furniture works first when it arrives.”
“Derrick, let them order. I see our steaks coming,” Nick noted from the other table.
“Derrick,” Steve said, tasting my name, “I like that.” He rolled my name around on his tongue.
“Here’s my card. Stop by anytime. I live above my shop,” I offered.
“Looking forward to it. I’m Steve, and this is Brianna. Brianna, say hi. Our first acquaintances in town.”
Brianna nodded, avoiding my eyes. I turned away, thinking of the things I could do to him in my basement workshop.
As I scooted in to our booth, the steaks landed on the table, and Nick whispered, “Bite marks, really. I could sink my teeth into those edges,” peering at Brianna.
“You boys want bibs,” Sally, the server said, rolling her eyes. “Looks like you ‘re drooling already.”
We gave her a nasty look, and I quipped, “Two more beers will fit the bill. And I don’t see no steak knives.”
“Matt’s steaks are so tender you don’t need them.”
“Tender this,” Nick answered.
Now it was Sally’s turn to give us a nasty look.
Steve came in to the shop in casual jeans and a satin button-down shirt. When the light came in from the street just right, I could see his frame beneath. I looked up from the piece I was varnishing, a little dizzy from the fumes, or perhaps it was his intoxicating presence.
“Hey Derrick, remember me? From the restaurant, Friday?”
“How could I forget! You settling in, okay?”
“Jim Dandy,” Steve said, flicking his hair. Yup, definitely flirting.
“We don’t really say that anymore in these parts.”
He pouted, pursing his lips. His cologne drifted towards me, sliding over the smell of varnish. Sweet and flowery, just like his personality. “I couldn’t wait to try it out. Now you’re saying it’s old hat?”
“Well,” I said, doing an aw shucks shrug, “the old folks still say it, I suppose.”
Steve brightened a little.
“What are you looking for?” I asked.
“I’ll just mosey around and take a look see.”
“I have more downstairs if you don’t see what you like up here.”
“What’s down there?”
“My workshop. That’s where all the magic happens,” I said, ‘and boy do I want to perform some tricks on you,’ but first, “Is your wife, Brianna, coming.”
“Oh no, she’s out of town on business. Won’t be back for a week.”
“Jim Dandy,” I answered, and he laughed. “Where’s your new place?”
“Took over the old Baxter farm.”
“Yeah, tragic how he passed. Sheriff said it was a heart attack.” Not really, because I scared him to death.
“We heard. The bank gave us a good deal on it. Said it would be hard to sell with its history, and all.”
“Well, I’ll leave you to it. Have to finish this, you go right ahead.”
I watched him looking things over out of the corner of my eye while I worked. He glanced at me occasionally, clearly still in the closet (I know, terrible pun). He ran his fingers over the edges of the cabinets and tables, looking for bite marks. Then approached, gently placing his hand on my forearm. It felt like a lover’s touch.
“Before I decide, let me look downstairs. Don’t want to miss anything, Derrick.”
“My pleasure. This way, Steve.” Oh boy, is this really happening? My hands shook a little as I turned the knob. I hit the button on the wall, flipping the front neon from ‘open’ to ‘closed.’
“You okay?” he asked, almost coquettishly.
“Just nerves, I guess. I’m excited when people want to check what’s on display in the workshop. Makes me proud. It means they’re committed.”
“Well, I wouldn’t say that. Though I saw some things in the store that would fit perfect. Brianna always said I should be thorough. Don’t want to miss the next best thing.”
“I know what she means. You go ahead, I’ll be right down.”
We both laughed. It was now our little joke. But the joke was about to be on him.
I closed the door. Locked it, and pressed another button to release the gas. I heard him yell from below, “I see smoke.” “Not to worry, I have some equipment that releases steam occasionally. Just ignore it,” I yelled back. I put on my gas mask and checked my watch. It would put him to sleep in no time. I waited.
Descending the steps, all I could smell was the rubber in the mask. He fell down in front of a cabinet, still a work in progress. Minor bruises formed on his knees. They seemed strangely delicate. His shirt, distressed at the shoulder, looked slightly torn where he fell. Steve appeared angelic, his auburn hair splayed on the cement. This, despite the round lenses in the army surplus mask.
I lifted him up. Lighter than I thought. He didn’t weigh much, maybe a buck. Laid him on the table saw’s surface, lowering the blade. Didn’t want it over too quick. I secured his wrists and ankles while the smoke swirled around us. Once I had him spread eagle, I hit the exhaust fan, venting the gas out through the roof.
While I waited, I fondled my tools on the wall. Fingering the awls and chisels, I even replaced a jigsaw blade, and sampled the weight of the mallets. Slammed them on an anvil several times to get the feel. Checked the gauges I mounted on the wall, measuring the parts per million of gas in the workshop. Had to pee. So I did.
Checked the gauge again, then removed my mask. Steve was still out. But I’m tired of waiting.
Standing by his side, I looked down. Delicious. I slammed the hammer down next to his thigh, expecting his startle reaction.
The shaking, the struggle, the rising terror amplified as he realized his hopeless predicament. But I am denied. Nothing. Steve lies there limp. I shake him a bit, prodding him with the end of my mallet. Nothing. This is unexpected. I shake him again, harder this time, and bounce his shoulders on the steel table. Again, nothing.
This can’t be happening. I lift an eyelid and stagger back. It’s clouded over already. No, no, no. Pleasure denied! I lift the other eyelid. Same thing. Eye films. The gas shouldn’t have, but it had! I so looked forward to enjoying him. This won’t do. Only thing I can do now is take him home, tuck him into bed.
No doubt his busy body wife will find him there next week. A natural death. That’s what the coroner’s report will say. Painless. Drifted off in his sleep. A shame, really. The greater shame is that I could not know Steve while he writhed in terror. He seemed so responsive. Just the way I like them!
I untied him. Checked his hands and wrists for bruising. None. Lowered him onto a plastic sheet above the carpet I prepared especially for the purpose. Proper disposal reduces my risk of detection. I never would take them home after that. Rolled him up in the carpet as planned.
I went through his pockets and found his car keys. An SUV, perfect. Drove it around the back of the store to the loading bay. Carried him upstairs, rolled inside the carpet. Checked the coast. It was clear. Opening the tailgate, I lifted the carpet, about to push it into the back when…
“Hey Derrick, can I help you with that?”
“Nick! What are you doing here?!”
“Saw the sign on the front door, thought I’d check round back…”
Before I could stop him, Nick picked up the back edge and helped me force the carpet into the back of the SUV. Steve’s hand popped out, and I tucked it back in. Fortunately, Nick didn’t notice.
“Heavy carpet. Whose car is this, anyway?”
“Just a customer’s. Brought in some furniture for me to refinish.”
“Where are they?”
“Went shopping in town. They’ll be back to pick it up. C’mon in, you want a beer?” I dissembled.
“No, no, just checking to see if we still are on for bowling tomorrow night.”
“Wouldn’t miss it,” I lied.
“Okay, see you, Derrick.”
“Ciao for now.”
I went back inside and waited until the coast was truly clear. Then I drove Steve’s SUV to the Baxter’s farm. Found the house keys on the ring, pushed inside, did a quick walk through, then hoisted him inside the carpet over my shoulder. Carried him upstairs, unrolled the carpet. Found some pajamas, changed him into it. Placed him in the bed and even tucked him in. Took his clothes and tossed them into the laundry machine with some other things.
It was all good. I rolled up the carpet again and headed toward the front door. That’s when the doorbell rang. Crap! I saw the mail carrier through the curtain. Waited. She dropped off a package and left. Whew!
Waited some more, then threw the carpet over my shoulder, and began walking to town.
The day was hot, in no time I was sweating. Kept walking, pleased with myself, but still frustrated I couldn’t enjoy torturing Steve. The things I had planned! Easy enough to disappear a husband when his wife was on a business trip. Oh well, maybe next time.
I jumped, lost in my revelry, when an old pickup truck pulled up beside me on the country road, and a lady leaned over and rolled down the window. Maybe sooner than I think!
“Derrick, is that you? What are you doing way out here?!”
“Mrs. Henderson. Hi. I uh, well, my truck broke down a ways back. Thought I’d hoof it to Marty’s garage, have him tow it in…”
“Why are you carrying that carpet in this heat?”
“Not mine, didn’t want it to get stolen. Especially if I left the truck unattended.”
“Kids nowadays,” she said, shaking her head. “Used to be, we never had to lock anything. Now everything’s got legs.”
“Ain’t that the truth.”
“Hop in, I’ll give you a ride.”
“Thanks.” I tossed the carpet into the back of the truck and climbed in up front. In no time at all, Mrs. Henderson was dropping me off at the garage.
“Good luck with that truck. Maybe you ought to get a new one.”
“Maybe? Thanks Mrs. Henderson.”
“Now never you mind, son. We’re all just folk. I know you’d do the same for me.”
“Right! See ya.”
“Bye,” she said with a wave, and drove off. Gracious lady. She was my history teacher back in high school. On second thought, I never enjoyed her class. But she always was nice to me. I waved back until she turned the corner, then I carried the carpet to my shop. It would be a week before Brianna discovered Steve’s body. Probably be an obituary in the local paper, but that’s about it.
Takes about ten years of living here, before folks accepted you. That’s the way it is around these parts. Until then, you’re just visiting, and it’s never your house until you sell it.
I opened up the shop and finished varnishing, thinking about my next pleasure. There was a biker convention coming to town. Usually an excellent source for fresh victims.
Nick met me in the restaurant several weeks later for our usual meal together. He beat me again, bowling. Things had returned to normal after I pleasured myself with several more victims. I even fit in a redheaded biker I met on Saturday. She loved seeing my workshop, at least for the first few minutes. Then it was my turn!
There is something to be said for earplugs, and even more to be said about screaming. I collect them. No, not the earplugs, the screams of my victims. An aural memento of conquests. Recording the gurgles, groans, pleading, and ear piercing howls. Got the idea from a horror magazine contest.
The ongoing contest tempted me to send in some mp3 samples months later. My hit parade of favorite screams would no doubt win, but I suppressed my desire, knowing someone might recognize a voice. Perhaps analyze a voice sample. Then all it would take was an IP tracker to trace them back to me. And don’t tell me I could have used a VPN to mask my location. Very crack-able, designed to extract rent from poor paranoid souls who don’t want their porn accounts discovered. So here we are, me remembering my time with little Miss August. Mostly, I don’t listen to whatever name they tell me. Fake or not, Police could use their real names in evidence. My recognition of it being corroborative. Besides, she thought it was cute when I called her that. Then she growled and showed teeth. Cool!
I held off to enjoy her flirtation. The whispers and kisses in my ears. The bite marks on my neck, painfully satisfying as I hugged her. She was stripping down when I handed her the blindfold. Her grin was erotic and edgy.
Typically, at this stage I’d slip her a Mickey or a tainted smoke. My new modus operandi. But I think she was going to enjoy my ministrations longer than the others. Before, she couldn’t enjoy anything anymore. Following her into the workshop, I told Miss August to lie down on the metal table of my rip saw.
Goose flesh covered her body deliciously. I admired her figure. She wasn’t flabby like the usual hard women from the motorcycle clubs.
“I’m going to tie you spread eagle okay, ready?”
“My safe word is…”
I wasn’t listening, partially because of the chains drowning out her treble voice.
“There, how’s that?”
Loving it! I ratcheted up the bindings until her back arched deliciously. I teased a nipple and earned a moan. The sound of lowering my zipper made her suck saliva through her teeth. Why? I always do this naked with a rubber apron on and goggles.
“Don’t make me wait, lover.”
“Sorry, pleasure takes preparation. You want the blindfold off or on?”
“I like to watch.”
“One more minute, and I’ll remove the blindfold.”
She heard the lubrication applied to the stainless steel. “Hurry, I need you.”
“Need you too!”
I turned on the belt sander and heard nothing she had to say after that. Except something like, “Okra, Okra, Okra dokey.”
Removing the epidermis without damaging the dermis or subcutaneous fat takes practice. I was pretty good at it. Not the best, but so far I hadn’t met the competition. Still, it pleased me not making too many mistakes. When I turned off the sander, she was no longer screaming, just whimpering. It impressed me she was still conscious. Kudos.
Haley met Derrick at a bar she found passing through town. The men there were the beer-swilling sensitive types. Hard on the outside, mushy on the inside. She liked her men tough all the way through. Bearded men that smelled like leather and motor oil… bad boys.
Derrick was different. Handsome, tall, dark and. Cowboy looks long and lean, with predatory brown eyes. Not dull and thuggish. Haley felt a little tingle in her belly when she saw him. Magnetized, she stepped forward. Hanging in the periphery, she worked her way in slowly, waiting for him to notice her. A required technique for attracting mush bellies. Once he did, it was easy after that.
When Derrick invited her back to his workshop, she knew she was in for a ride. Giddy up! Haley didn’t mind being tied down, preferred it, actually. Maybe he was a former biker. They like their women bound and fighting. Gave Derrick her safe word.
Didn’t matter when he started the belt sander. Pencil dick freak! Getting his jollies from hurting rather than loving women. When the pain started, it peaked quickly, driving her out of her body. A cinema started behind her eyes, projecting on the screen made from eye films forming as she clouded over. The only refuge from the agony.
Haley separated from her body and watched the movie. Her first film started with her steering her chopper up a windy mountain road, her old man riding bitch. Tight against her, his firmness titillating her bottom, she thrilled, enjoying all the sensations. When the sander bit into her thighs, she temporally returned to her tortured body.
Then she escaped again.
Another film opened. She was happy, living in a cabin in the woods, kids playing out front. She could hear choppers in the distance, riding toward her house. There was a sense of destiny and quiet joy. Quiet. The sander stopped. She opened her eyes to a world of misery.
Derrick drooled above her. Actual drool, saliva on his chin, holding the sander, admiring his work. He seemed pleased with himself, surprised she was still conscious. Her mouth had gone dry, lips chapped, but she croaked out, “Satisfied?”
Her response, any response, took him aback.
Haley’s anger fought against the agony. “This is the best you can do with a woman! You’re pathetic. Sad little man with nothing more to…”
Miss August died mid sentence. Her eyes filmed over one last time.
I speculated on whether she cheated me. Denying me the use of my chisels, picks, and claw hammers. But Miss August’s words cut through my musings. Unbidden, a sense of humanity forced its way up from some hidden place inside me. My callousness faltered.
I felt sick. The urge to throw up became overwhelming. I fought against it, dry heaving, until the flood spewed from my lips. The odor rose and made me vomit more. Vomit until I was empty. I threw up not only what I ate, but all my desire to hurt anybody ever again.
Meeting Nick a few days afterwards, he noticed the difference in me. Subtle but there. He didn’t know what it was. Nick said nothing, of course. He was too simple to understand, anyway. Together, we went on with our small town life. Went bowling, drinking, dining, while Sally waited on us.
Carrying on like nothing had changed. Although for me it had.
They pulled special Agent Caprice Nunez out of Quantico just as she graduated. Placed in a behavioral unit, the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) asked Nunez if she would go undercover. Being young and ambitious, she agreed, ignoring the danger.
Caprice was a hottie. A honey trap irresistible to perverts, the weak willed, and serial killers that liked to hurt people before murdering them. Perfect for a bisexual monster like Derrick.
The SAC and her team profiled the woodworker. He popped up on their radar after people disappeared following a visit to his fine furniture store. Husbands, wives, and friends reported the victims were last seen going to his place. The FBI kept the police away so they could gather evidence and pursue their investigation.
They wanted this serial killer cold. No skating on the wits of a fancy lawyer. When the Unit hit a wall, they found Nunez. It was her first case. She was nervous, but she didn’t let it show.
Derrick gave up his evil ways after Miss August, months before. He avoided looking too closely at gay men or women with fine skin and hungry eyes. He had his own eye films to entertain him. Then Caprice walked into his shop. He was sanding a cabinet as she grazed about the fine furnishings. Every time she looked at him, she smiled.
It was his turn to feel a tingle in his belly, and further down. The woman was more than fit. She was sexy and wore tight clothes demanding he notice. Long black hair and sparkling hazel eyes kept scanning him. She acted like she was ignoring his interest every time he looked up.
Her fingers were long, running their tips over shaped wood in a sensual caress. Derrick thought of showing her his workshop. A notion that hadn’t crossed his mind, in well, too long.
Putting the sandpaper down, he dusted off his hands and stepped into her personal space. “Can I help you?” he purred.
Nunez fought her desire to step back and looked up into his eyes, responding, “Oh yes, ya see, I’m redecorating my apartment and I want to upgrade from cheap stuff, now that I have some money.”
Derrick, unbeknownst to her, fought his desire to invite her downstairs. “Well, most of my stock is right here. I can tell you more about anything you might be interested in. Just ask.”
“To be honest, there are some nice things here, but I’m not seeing exactly what I want. Is there anything else? Maybe something in the back?”
“Well…” Derrick paused, fighting an ever stronger urge, and finally giving in when she bent over to look at a television stand, “I do have a few items down in my workshop.”
“Oh goody,” Caprice gushed, totally out of character, “Let’s go!”
“Follow me.” Derrick led her downstairs. He turned to watch her hungrily, his resistance failing. Unable to keep the films from playing behind his eyes, he drooled.
She walked around the workshop, running her fingers over cabinets and chairs, turning and winking at him. He pulled on a buzzer ring, loaded with a powerful sedative, and waited. He actually hesitated, thought about getting rid of it, but was glad he hadn’t as her smiled widened.
“I really like this,” Caprice said. “Tell me about it.”
“That there is my own design,” he said, as he approached.
“Ooo, you scratched me!”
“Sorry, callouses. They come from hard work.”
She smiled at him again, flirting, but the smile collapsed as the quick acting drug seized her. He caught her before she fell. Lifting her and placing her faced down on the table saw, he took in the breadth of this gorgeous creature. His excitement was plain. It had been way too long….
“Go, go, go!” yelled the SAC, watching the camera Caprice wore tilt upward toward the ceiling. Catching sight of Derrick as he leaned over to grab Nunez.
Derrick picked up a chisel, foregoing the restraints, and was about to gouge her cheek when the black clad squad trampled down the steps yelling for him to freeze and ‘FBI!’
It did not surprise him they came for him. But he hadn’t connected Caprice with them. He offered them his wrists, dropping the chisel. No point in fighting. He resigned himself to his fate.
Of all the bodies he disposed of, it was Haley’s they found. But the honey trap was the icing on the cake. Maybe he wasn’t paying attention, maybe he cared too much for the red-headed biker. Perhaps he respected her resilience. It didn’t matter. His distraction and carelessness then, and being caught now, sealed his fate.
They swarmed his workshop and while he was in cuffs; they collected evidence. A medic gave Caprice an antidote to the anesthetic Derrick injected her with once he told them what it was. He ended up telling them where he put all the other bodies, but they couldn’t find them. It had been too long, or maybe he forgot where he buried them. They only convicted him for Haley’s murder. They found her DNA on the ceiling and walls of the workshop.
The motorcycle gang she rode with caught wind of the case when Big Bo read about it in the newspaper. They vowed revenge.
Nick testified for Derrick, but his character assessment was in vain. The stories in the papers portrayed Derrick as a monster. It shocked the town that one of their own could do such a thing. Mrs. Henderson nearly fainted when she heard and recalled the ride she gave him into town.
“Derrick seemed like such a fine, upstanding young man. Hardworking and diligent both in school and in business,” Mrs. Henderson told a local TV reporter.
“You never know about folks nowadays,” answered the friend beside her. Henderson nodded.
“Welcome Prisoner 138749 to the last Super Max prison in the United States. It’s not Florida, but you will retire here in Florence. Just not the one in Italy.”
“The name’s Derrick Anders.”
“Not anymore,” said the prison warden, checking the file again. “You’re 138749 from now on.”
“Uh, sure.” I didn’t like it, but no doubt I deserved it. I regretted my moment of weakness with Caprice. No way could I call her Agent Nunez, but I should have known. From now on, I plan to be a better man. Too late, of course, but then maybe I can get a place working in the wood-shop. Heaven was off the table.
“Follow Sargent Waters. He’ll show you to your cell.”
“Thank you, Warden.”
“Thank you, Sir! That’s how I want you to address all our prison staff.”
“Thank you, Sir.”
“Keep that spirit, and we’ll all get along just fine.”
Entering the cavernous main gallery, the immense circular walls lined with cells felt like being on stage in a theater in the round. Of course, I never went to a play, but the hooting and hollering from the ‘audience’ the guards couldn’t suppress.
“Fish!” and “Fresh Meat!” were the nicer things being yelled. At least, the Sargent parked me in a private cell. When the steel door closed, an air of finality made my blood go cold. I needed to get out all of a sudden, but when the time came, I would regret it.
Entering the yard and the general population, word was already out about my crimes. Abusing both men and women didn’t earn me any benefits unless it was the reward of being a punching bag. I collected bruises the way some kids collected baseball cards.
The men, and I’m saying this politely, more like animals, took pokes or kicks at me whenever it pleased them. It was open season on 138749. In no time, I was barely recognizable, my features distorted, swollen, and bloody.
The showers became my personal torture chamber. Eventually I begged them to shiv me. No such luck. Sleeping became impossible. I’d roll over and awaken from the mosaic of injuries. It was unbearable.
Eating became a misery. I could not even escape into eye films. Defending myself only made it worse. The guards looked away uncomfortably. I felt their sympathy even through their frosty glares.
“Big Bo sends his regards,” said 211842.
“Whose Bo?” I asked, spitting out blood and broken teeth.
It took a while to figure it out. The blur of repeated concussions made thinking difficult. I no longer recognized myself in the mirror. Looking at myself naked made me nauseous. You couldn’t tell I was white anymore, just a collection of bruises in various states of healing.
Miss August, or was it? Then they began breaking my bones. I was in a wheelchair for a while, and when I used a walker, the bones in my forearms abraded excruciatingly. I no longer wanted to look at myself. Deformities remained.
When they blinded me, it was almost a relief. Retreating into my eye films, the bruises once so painful, now were comforting. Day, night, and time became meaningless.
Just before I died, someone shoved me from behind. I tumbled downstairs, felt my neck crack, and finally the eternal agony in my body faded.
Grateful, gasping, I said, “Okra, okra, okra dokey.”
“What was that he said?”
Then they all laughed.
Bio: Dr. Raymond is a Family and Emergency Physician. He practiced in eight countries in four languages. Currently living in Austria with his wife. When not volunteering his practice skills, he is writing, lecturing, or scuba diving. In 2008, he discovered the wreck of a Bulgarian freighter in the Black Sea. He has multiple medical citations, along with publications in Flash Fiction Magazine, The Grief Diaries, The Examined Life Journal, The Satirist, Chicago Literati, Blood Moon Rising, Frontier Tales Magazine, and in the Sci-Fi anthologies Sanctuary and Alien Dimensions among others. He is the fiction editor of SavagePlanets magazine. Twitter: @DocRaymond1