His breathing was shallow. It had taken practice, but he had learned early on to control his excitement; heavy breathing could give you away. If you were in the company of someone, rapid breathing unnerved them and put them on edge, and if you were hiding, well, heavy breathing could cost you that one essential element; surprise.
The name still caused a surge of anger to tear through his body, flushing his cheeks crimson and tightening tendons. Anger not directed at Melissa, but at himself. How foolish he had been to let excitement sabotage all that hard work. Days of sitting outside her house in his car, following her, learning her routine. He had even managed to find online some old real estate photos of inside the house so he could make a more detailed plan of where best to wait. And all for what?
He had sneaked in so carefully, taking care of the horrible little yapping creature darting around the backyard with a dose of drugged biscuits, before squeezing himself as far as his torso would allow through the dog door. Stretching up he had just about been able to turn the key left in the lock (ah, the saving grace of a home intruder; home owner stupidity). So stealthily had he navigated through the house, having even put on overshoes just as an added precaution, before concealing himself in a small room in the master bedroom that the previous owner had used as a walk-in closet (although walk-in, as the real estate agent online tried to hype it up, was a joke; he had only just managed to squeeze in there himself with the fitted shelves). But up to that point all had gone to plan. And then—
Not just breathing, but almost panting with the thrill. What a dumb schmuck. What a prize A moron.
She had heard him before she even came into the bedroom. He still could remember the slight quiver in her voice as she called out, “Hello?”
Why did people even say that? If they really thought someone was there, what were they hoping for by saying hello? That it would somehow catch the perpetrator out by them responding hello back? I mean shit, he was dumb enough to be breathing loudly, but he wasn’t that much of a dumb-fuck.
But that was when the plan started to fall apart. Well not so much fall apart, as shatter into fragments before his eyes. He had thought her dumb for leaving the key in the back door, but now he wanted to punch himself in the face right there in the cupboard as punishment for his own idiocy.
She had backed further down the hall, away from the bedroom, this time calling out, “Is someone there?” (Again what was she expecting? Him to reply, “Yes, I’m here waiting for you in the closet?”)
He had had to make his move before she got too far away, leaping out the room and chasing her as she screamed and hurtled down the stairs. Hell, she almost made it to the front door before he managed to leap down the stairs, twisting his ankle in the process thanks to those damn overshoes, and grabbed hold of her hair as she reached for the door handle. Her head had been pulled back, still screaming and contorted with fear, but he had managed to drag her to the floor and, after a short but vigorous bout of wrestling, had gotten her in a choke hold, but not before she managed to kick the sideboard in the hall knocking off a vase and a pot plant.
Man, he hated that. He tried his upmost best to make every abduction not look like there had been a struggle. He wanted his victims to simply vanish, as if smoke blown away on the wind. And there he had been, sweeping up soil from the spilled pot plant and picking up shards of the vase, hoping that this wouldn’t be his undoing.
That had been a hard learned lesson, and if he had been breathing heavily before, then after the struggle it was like he had just ran a damn marathon.
And why did he go to all this trouble? Of course there were easier ways to add to his collection, but what fun was it simply driving down the street and bundling someone into his car, or loitering around in the park waiting to drag some unsuspecting sap behind the nearest shrub to bludgeon them? All that voyeuristic thrill would be lost.
I mean, why does a cat lose interest in a mouse as soon as it’s killed it? Because it’s all about the chase. It was the build-up before the actual act. Just simply killing someone was like skipping the main course in a restaurant and going straight for the dessert. Yes, it still would taste sweet, but ultimately it would be a brief and unfulfilling experience.
Of course, sometimes a main meal was not on offer. Not every collectible was accommodating enough to have a dog door, or leave the keys in the lock, or both as in the case of Melissa Staple. Yet even on these occasions when he couldn’t access the house in the covert manner he preferred (which to be fair was most cases), he tried to be creative and milk each situation to still glean every bit of enjoyment from the moment.
Posing as a police officer had been especially satisfying. He took a morbid delight in the acute irony of pretending to an officer with only the communities best interest at heart—“Morning ma’am. We’re going around the neighborhood asking people if they’ve seen anything that might be of interest regarding these latest spate of killings, and also offering advice on self protection. Would it be okay if I stepped in and took just a couple of moments of your time?”—walking around his victim’s home, pointing out all the weak security points, their gullible faces so free of any suspicion that the most dangerous part of their home was the man stood next to them in his imitation uniform. And so long as he didn’t screw it up, he could still milk a serious amount of satisfaction from this. Maybe not to the degree of a main meal, but certainly a decent appetizer.
Just so long as he didn’t give in to the thrill and start breathing heavily again.
But that was then, and this was now. No need for a phony police uniform this time, a window left ajar was invitation enough. And standing with statue-like stillness behind the door of this, his latest collectible’s bedroom, he knew he had honed his skill. And even as he heard the sound of the kitchen door open and then the shuffling of footsteps climbing the stairs, his rate of breathing remained unchanged, and his hand unshakingly held the syringe at the ready.
Propofol. One of the advantages of his career as an anesthesiologist, access to this most useful little ally. Quick acting, thirty seconds at most; in many cases quicker, as the increased panicked heartbeat of his chosen recipients surged the drug through their body. All that was required was to restrain them until the drug kicked in. And this wasn’t a chore, oh no, this was one of his favorite parts of the whole play, the thrill of feeling their body go limp and lifeless in his grasp, their head lolling to one side, powerless and totally at his mercy. The only real trouble was that the effect of the drug was short-lived, too short to really relish the moment as it only allowed enough time to get his victim ready for their starring role.
The sound of footsteps entering the bedroom. Watch your breathing. It was okay, he was cool and collected. He was no longer the bumbling amateur that panted like a dog on a summer’s day and had to chase his victims through the house. Now he was an artiste.