Kathy’s heart jumped for joy when she read the text from Jack. “Happy Valentine’s Day, my love. I have something special planned for us tonight. I’m sending an Uber to pick you up at the house by 6:00 P.M Don’t be late.”
When it came to mysteries and surprises, Kathy has always been a sucker. So, when she glanced at her watch, she was disappointed at what it read. Eight hours! Eight hours I must wait to see what Jack has planned. Anticipation overwhelmed her, and she began tapping her fingers on her desk. Should I call him? Should I ask what he has planned? She glanced at his picture setting next to the phone and a bouquet of roses he recently sent. No, I can wait. After being married for three years, and for all that Jack has done for me, I wouldn’t want to ruin his plans.
So, Kathy waited, and waited. Lunch came and went, and she didn’t take a bite. Time dragged on, taking her with it. Then, when the clock struck at 4:00 P.M., Kathy charged out of the office and drove directly home.
Unsurprisingly, Jack wasn’t there when she arrived, and when she looked at her watch, it reminded her how time can fly. I have only ninety minutes to get ready.
After a quick trip to the shower and a short stop with the hair dryer, she was ready to attack her closet. What should I wear? Dismissing the formal and casual attires, she was left with only a few choices. The eight hours she had to prepare had diminished to a few minutes. Time was up. The blue ensemble it is.
Kathy slipped into the dress and quickly applied her makeup. Taking a last glance at herself, she was satisfied. Time was up. Dashing out of the bedroom, she stopped by the front door, to wait for the Uber to arrive. Not long after, a pair of headlights pulled into the driveway and Kathy went out to greet them. She hopped in the waiting car, and they sped off to her destination.
As they cruised down the road, Kathy noticed the driver was unusually quiet. Should I say something to start a conversation? She so wanted to ask the driver where he was taking her but decided not to. Let the surprise unfold on its own.
To Kathy’s relief, the driver finally stopped and when she looked out the window, she instantly recognized the cottage in front of her and burst into a smile. The cabin was set in about one-hundred feet from the road and if you weren’t aware of its existence, you could easily pass by without ever seeing it. But if you turn down the driveway and view it in its full splendor you would think you’d have traveled fifty years in the past. It was single leveled and sported wooden siding that was painted sky-blue. The front porch held two rocking chairs, and behind the cabin was what seemed to be an endless forest. It was heaven on Earth and like an angel, Jack was standing in front of the door waiting with his arms wide open.
Rushing into his loving embrace, Kathy exclaimed, “Oh, Jack. How wonderful it was for you to bring me here.”
Holding her tenderly, Jack whispered in her ear, “This is where I proposed to you. What better place to be on Valentine’s Day?”
Kathy vividly remembered the day. It was four years ago he had proposed. The memory of seeing Jack trembling in his blue suit, kneeling on one knee, and those four famous words stammering out of his mouth, “Will you marry me?” always made her smile.
Kathy pressed her lips against Jack’s and as they kissed, she uttered the words, “I love you.” Passionately, they held each other in the doorway, until Jack guided her inside. The fireplace was alit setting up an inviting scene. In the center of the room was a table adorned with two candles, fine chinaware, a golden roasted chicken, peas, baked potatoes, and two bottles of white wine.
Kathy was overjoyed. “Besides the two bottles of wine, this is what we ate last Valentine’s Day.” She squeezed his hand. “You thought of everything.”
“I suppose I have.” Jack sported a thin smile. “I suppose I have.” Then he gently pulled out a chair for Kathy to sit in. “For you, my lady.”
After Kathy graciously sat down, Jack joined her at the table, and they began to eat.
Kathy nibbled on a piece of chicken and washed it down with a sip of wine. “This is so delicious,” she cried. “Where did you get this recipe?”
“You can thank your mother for that” exclaimed Jack. “She emailed it to me, just for this occasion.” He raised his glass and tilted it towards Kathy. “A toast to your mother.”
Kathy lifted her glass in return. “A toast to my mother.” she emptied the glass and refilled it.
“And now you, my love. I wish to make a toast to you. The most wonderful thing that’s ever happened in my life. To you, Kathy, I pledge my life.” Again, he lifted his glass, and Kathy followed in suit.
When Kathy finished the toast, she was rocked by a dizzy spell. “I think I drank too fast.”
A look of concern crossed Jack’s face. “Are you okay?”
“I’m not sure. I’m kind of dizzy and my lips feel numb.”
“Maybe you need to rest. Why don’t we go sit by the fire?”
As Kathy stood up, her legs gave out and she fell to the floor. Desperately, she tried to shout out, but all she could do was make a gurgling sound. Her tongue went numb, as well as her throat.
Kathy tried to grasp at her throat, but her hands laid motionless by her side. What’s happening me? she thought. Again, she tried to cry out, but it was useless. Paralysis had taken control of her body and she didn’t know why. Am I having a stroke? Impossible! I’m too young for that. Overwhelmed with fear, she laid helplessly on the floor. Then the sound of approaching footsteps drew her attention. She shifted her eyes towards the ceiling and discovered Jack looking down on her, holding a bottle of wine in his hand.
Why are you just standing there? Call 911!
But he just stood there, shaking his head. Finally, he broke his silence. “You should be careful about what you drink.” He knelt beside her and spun the bottle of wine. “See those tiny particles floating in there?”
Even in her current state, Kathy could see what looked like specs of dust spinning around.
“It’s amazing what the liver of a puffer fish can do, and it’s so easy to obtain, if you know the right sushi restaurant.”
Kathy helplessly watched, as he stood and stepped away. The sound of a drawer opening, and the clattering of utensils told her he was in the kitchen. A moment later, he returned with a pair of scissors. It was that vision of Jack, wielding the sharpened instrument, that she realized she was completely defenseless. Who is this man standing in front of me? What happened to the Jack I married?
“You may be wondering why I am doing this,” continued Jack. “The reason is quite simple. I’m tired of you and I don’t want to lose anything in a divorce.” He sat down next to Kathy and began to cut away her clothes. “You see, if the police discovered you were murdered, they would never leave me alone. But if you’re declared missing, well that’s a different story.”
He tossed her tattered skirt and blouse in a pile and began cutting at her under garments. “I’m sure some of our nosy neighbors saw you jump into a strange car tonight and drive off and if the police suspected it was an Uber driver, they would be mistaken. You see, the guy who picked you up was just someone I met in a bar and for a hundred dollars, he said he would drive you here. So, according to our spying neighbors, you disappeared in the night with a stranger, never to be heard from again.”
After finishing cutting away her clothes, Jack gathered them together and cast them into the fireplace, along with her cellphone and pocketbook. “If by some miracle your body is discovered, we wouldn’t want anyone to recognize you by your clothes now, would we? As for your DNA, your parents are dead, no siblings, so no DNA on record to compare with yours. And those teeth you are so proud of, the ones without fillings? No dental records can be matched to them. No need to fear, though. I doubt if it will ever come to that.”
Kathy watched in despair, as her clothes turn into ash. Please, Jack, please. I swear to God, I won’t contest you in court or tell what happened tonight. Just let me go. So desperately, she wanted to say those words, but her mouth refused to move.
“You know what, my darling? I think it’s time we took a walk.” And with that, Jack hoisted Kathy’s naked body on his shoulders and carried her out the cottage. “It is a lovely night, isn’t it? Hard to believe we’re going to be hit by a blizzard tomorrow.” Jack walked deeper in the woods. “I was surprised to find no one ever walks back here. I was looking around this afternoon and couldn’t find a trail in sight. Too bad for you.”
Kathy’s mind was racing. There must be something I can do. She watched the back of Jack’s feet as his shoes ruffled the leaves on the ground. He’s leaving a trail. Maybe someone can find us. Kathy tried clutching a fist, but her hand failed to respond. She could barely breathe but still, she tried to scream, but Jack’s footsteps were all she heard. The urge to cry began to overwhelm her, but like her failed voice, her tears refused to flow.
A moment later, Jack placed Kathy on the ground and turned her head towards a row of bushes. “Welcome to your new home, my dear. You should be proud of me. I spent most of the afternoon digging it. I wanted to make sure it was deep enough, so animals wouldn’t dig you up, possibly raising a lot of questions about what happened to you.” Pointing towards the bushes, he asked, “So, what do you think?”
As expected, Kathy silently laid there, but her mind was screaming, No, no, no! Don’t do this to me! I’m begging you, please!
Jack picked her up again. “Time to move in.”
Carrying her past the bushes, he showed Kathy a ten-foot-deep hole. “Here you go.” Without hesitation, he dropped her into it.
Kathy made have been paralyzed, but she could still feel her head as it struck a rock protruding from the wall of the hole. Through the pain, she thought, I could feel that. Maybe I’ll be able to move again. But tried as she might, her body wouldn’t respond to her commands. Hold on. Maybe I just need a few minutes. The sound of a shovel, striking dirt, rang through her ears.
“You look cold down there. Let me try to warm you up.” Jack threw the first shovel full of dirt into the hole, then a second.
Kathy looked up in despair. This can’t be happening. It’s just a bad nightmare. In a moment, I’ll wake up and it will be all over. A pile of dirt struck her in the face, reminding her she was awake.
Dirt continued to pour into the hole, and when it reached Kathy’s face, Jack peered down one last time. “I guess this is fair well, my love, but I want you to know this. I will always remember this day.” He struck the shovel into the shrinking pile of dirt.
Kathy shifted her eyes toward the star crested sky and saw the silhouette of Jack’s body. How could he do this to me? I thought we loved each other. She did her best to take a deep breath and shout. Miraculously, she heard herself whisper, “Jack,” but before she could say another word, a pile of dirt covered her face. The star lit sky vanished from her sight, as dirt continued to fill the hole.
Not long after Jack spoke those last words, he finished filling the hole. After tossing a few leaves on top of it, he brushed his hands off and walked away. As he strolled towards the cabin, he looked skywards. The snow will arrive tomorrow, covering all evidence of what happened here. All I must do now is find a faraway dumpster to throw the cellphone and purse in, then, I’m done. I’ll file a missing person report in a couple days, and before I know it, all of what happened will be lost in a filing cabinet. Seven years after that, I’ll request her to be declared legally dead and that will be it. After cleaning up in the cabin, Jack stepped in his car and started the engine. This may not have been a perfect murder, but it was close enough. Pulling out of the driveway, Jack proceeded down the road, and disappeared in the distance.