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Thriller Suspense Crime

1985

Panting, he stripped off his shirt in the alley behind the hotel and stood glistening in the moonlight. It was fascinating, how the blood looked on his skin. Anyone who happened to notice him would think he’d been doused in motor oil, or at any rate, some slick, shiny substance that didn’t look like blood. Of course, anyone who caught him back here would not live to describe what they’d seen. The only time he prayed was during these moments, when he undressed in absolute privacy.

2015

The first shot took off the top of Raymond Bennett’s skull, unzipping his scalp like a piece of raw fruit. Yet the large-caliber bullet did not kill him. Instead, it knocked him off his feet, sending him flying back into the elevator car. Someone screamed, probably the girl standing next to him, riding up to the eighth floor. Blood sprayed her full in the face, along with pieces of Raymond’s scalp. She frantically began pushing buttons, a useless gesture, given the elevator could not possibly move any faster. Raymond slumped noiselessly to the floor, blinking, a flap of forehead slung low across his eyes like a pink hat brim.

1985

The alley was the safest place to rid himself of his ruined clothing. It ran like a slender scar between the hotel and a row of shops that contained a liquor store and a fly-by-night tabernacle. He could hear the moans of the worshippers now, over the traffic and non-stop hum of planes. It was dark down here, shadowy, a paradise for rats. He liked to undress behind the big green Dumpster, where he’d done his first-ever kill – a homeless dog, which offered little resistance to his tire iron. Naked, he pressed his back against the wall, trying to regulate his breathing. In the distance, a siren squealed. He felt coldly exhilarated. The knife still dripped in his hand.

2015

Another bullet sliced diagonally from Room 602, a loud POP announcing its violent expulsion. It whizzed across the hall on an invisible path, narrowly missing the junkie girl’s shoulder. She heard the 6.5-inch cartridge fly past her like a metallic wasp to punch into the metal wall behind her. Raymond, his legs sprawled out in front of him, groaned in his throat. Jammed into one corner, the girl glimpsed the old man’s exposed skull, a black streak running down the middle. She had never met Raymond before in her life, but already she wished he’d go ahead and die.

1985

He paused, thinking back to that first kill. Not the dog, that had been easy enough, but his first human kill, or what he liked to think of as “the Show.” For his first Show, he had selected a 56-year-old woman who lived alone. (It was better when they were single, widowed, or divorced, though he had progressed to multiples.) He had carved her up nice, like a cake or a piece of fruit, reveling in the juices, the screams, the exodus of endorphins. He’d come back to the hotel that night, too, though he wasn’t yet a resident. He hadn’t had any money. That was before he started raiding pocket books and wallets. These days, he had all the cash he needed.

2015

For some reason, the elevator door wasn’t closing. The girl’s panicked mind raced, having no idea she’d already dragged her fingers across all the buttons in a mad effort to escape. Already she could hear screams, cries for help. Someone nearby was speaking in a loud, clear voice, narrating precisely: “We are on the sixth floor. We got us a sniper firing live ammo. No, sir, I am not joking. We have a LIVE FIRE SNIPER on the sixth floor. Looks like he’s in Room 602. Where am I? I’m in 608, down the hall. I can see the elevator from where I am standing. It looks like he shot somebody in the elevator. There is another dead body just up the way. It’s a woman. Yes, I’ll hold.”

1985

He was halfway across the alley when he heard the scritch-scratch of shoes on pavement and paused to stare over his right shoulder. Not 20 yards away, toward the Main Street entrance, stood a figure silhouetted against the neon glow of a strip club. The way the figure tottered on his or her feet, it was clearly a junkie, one of those punks from over on the Row. He crouched down, his limbs bending easily, as he’d trained them to do over the past few months. He was careful not to make a sound. Had the junkie spotted him?

“H-hey,” came a gravely voice, the silhouette as shaky as a leaf in high wind. “Hey, man? Got any money? Trying to get myself a beer.”

Still crouching, he readied the knife.

2015

The girl sank to her knees, quivering fearfully. Raymond had just breathed his last, though she had no idea that was his name. To her, he was just another old man, one of hundreds in this shitty place. They came out of the woodwork to tease, wheedle, cajole, gawk, beg, spit, grope, jerk off. This one died with a look of relief on his face, the eyes that had soaked in her body only moments ago going quietly blank. Surely, the doors would close soon. No way she was stepping out into that hall, no way.

Crack! Another rifle shot silenced the narrator in the hall. She heard a thump as the body hit the floor. With a shriek, the girl dove out of the elevator, her foot snagging on Raymond’s splayed heel. She stumbled going out, running headlong into a floral display. Her head smashed into an ornate mirror and she slumped as Raymond had done, collapsing in a bloody heap.

1985

The wobbly silhouette drew nearer, hand outstretched. Raymond could already smell the man. These Skid Row bums reeked of shit and cheap weed. It was a nauseating odor, more objectionable than the stench of death itself. Raymond pivoted with the knife, his hand flashing out for the bum’s. Gripping the man’s wrist with one hand, he slashed with the other, drawing the blade across the junkie’s throat. Blood jumped like catsup squishing from a packet. Raymond felt it on his face as the old man drew in a deep, ragged breath – his last.

The body sagged to the ground. Raymond jumped on it, stabbing again and again.

2015

The girl flopped over on her back, breathing shallowly. Blood ran into her eyes from a gash across her forehead. Realizing what had happened, she shoved up on her butt, pressing her back against the wall. She was now directly across from the elevator car. The old man was propped similarly, his head cocked at a boneless angle, blood soaking his Van Halen t-shirt and jeans. The bullet had knocked him halfway out of one dirty sneaker; she’d tripped on it going out the door. Fuck.

Sliding her gaze to the right, she saw a black man with half his face blown off, still clutching his cell phone. She heard a tinny voice on the other end: “Hello? Hello? Did you say the sixth floor? Hello? Do you see the shooter? Hello?”

1985

Raymond used the back entrance to access a little-used flight of stairs. They were mostly dark, reeking of cigarettes and human waste. Now his body was sticky with fresh blood. He’d stowed the junkie’s body beneath the Dumpster where the rats could get to it. Perhaps they would finish it off before the next trash pick-up. Either way, there was no way to tie the corpse to Raymond. He’d left no trace.

He dashed up six flights of stairs on bare feet, a grinning, grunting avenging angel. Anyone passing him might have thought they’d encountered a brief, strange breeze, unaware their life was about to be cut short. Arriving at the sixth-floor landing, he paused, buzzing with excitement. How could he rest? How could not go out and do it again?

No, he needed to shower and sleep, lay low a few days. Soon the city would explode with fear; news of his crimes would fill every broadcast in the land. His work would keep dozens of police detectives occupied. It would be studied for years by criminologists, sociologists, and Hollywood screenwriters. Raymond shivered, awestruck by the new world he had created.

2015

The girl frantically tucked her knees up beneath her chin at the sound of the rifle bolt slamming home. In that instant, she heard the pneumatic sigh of the elevator doors. Her eyes went wide as the doors slid shut, closing the dead man up inside.

“No, wait!” she screamed, lunging toward them, one arm outstretched. “WAIT A GODDAMN SECOND!”

She never heard the shot. It slammed into her left ear and punched a hole out the other side, taking most of her brains with it. She stretched out in a straight line, eating the carpet. Gun smoke filled the corridor. Behind the half-cracked door of 602, the killer ejected his empty brass and slapped home a fresh round. These deer were dropping like flies.

1985

Raymond peeked into the hall, his naked form concealed behind the door. He still had his knife in one hand. The coast looked clear. How long could he go without getting caught? How long would the City of Angels turn a blind eye? How much longer until his luck ran out?

Realizing it was now or never, he stepped out into the hall, making a beeline (on silent feet) for the ornamental table and mirror opposite the elevator doors. He glanced at the lighted numbers, seeing the car was at the lobby. Hardly breaking stride, Raymond stuck his hand under the table, raked it left to right, and came up with the room key he had taped there. In that instant, he glimpsed his reflection in the ornate mirror.

He did not recognize the thing he had become.

Clutching the key, he ran toward 602, head down, eyes front. Time elapsed: 20 seconds. He got the door open and slipped inside. One minute later, the elevator rang open to admit a young man and his bride. They thought the carpet seemed a little sticky.



March 15, 2021 19:39

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