Ten seconds, ten seconds, is all it took to pull the woman who now squirmed under his grasp while she released muffled cries into the alley.
“Ssh, be quiet, everything will be okay.”
Stein wasn’t one of these killers who put the victim to sleep with chloroform. No, Stein preferred to have their corporation or consent in what he considered a form of marital status, which ended when death did them apart.
“Please, don’t hurt me, please.”
Panic, fear, all victims reacted alike, calm Stein pursued without trembling this was a routine procedure, and so he did his part trying to reassure his prey.
“Ssh, be quiet.”
"I told you to shut up, shut up, shut up. Oh, shit, that was a little too hard.”
A cold and silent winter night, like those you’ve lived before, except for 20-year-old Lee Min Ju; this night was exceptional. The woman had no clue about the life-threatening encounter which waited for her in the dark. Seoul prosecutors issued a curfew. No woman from age fifteen to thirty was permitted to walk the streets after 10 PM.
Min Ju finished her shift at 10 PM, what was she supposed to do?
Two younger siblings and a sick father depended on Min Ju’s income. At the head of her family, quitting her job was unthinkable, even if Stein lurked somewhere in the shadows, spying like a vulture.
Within a year, Steinson, as the police baptized him, rocked the capital to its foundation. The police had found five women so far; the youngest victim was fifteen years old.
Steinson or Stein’s son, a fitting name for the killer who played doctor Frankenstein; the bodies discovered always had one part missing: Hands, feet, fingers, ears, and so on.
The killer mutilated every person using the same method, performing transplants of body parts that the police found on the next victim. The puzzled forensic agents believed it was a ritual that became his signature. Jigsawed bodies and accurate incisions; one could not qualify Stein as a butcher but a meticulous surgeon.
Stein took off Min Ju’s shoes, jewelry, and accessories like he usually did. For the trail, it was his cookies to the witch’s house.
The items left behind pointed out the right direction, why didn’t the investigators ever find the messages hidden behind them?
The police force was closer to catching Stein than they thought, but with every corpse, he added to his record they discouraged, and the gap between them and the killer widened.
Stein did his best to leave hints, the answers laid in every report, but no one paid attention. For now, his face harbored a perplex expression; he didn’t wish to knock Min Ju senseless, it was so much better when they walked barefoot and willed like maidens of Celtic sacrifices.
Stein lifted Min Ju and carried her on his shoulder; there was no one in sight with the curfew. The kidnapper who knew the placement of all the street cameras walked with assurance. Stein didn’t even fear the police patrol; everyone knew they were understaffed and spent their time following hoax calls, leading nowhere. Dressed as a police lieutenant, anyone who crossed him in the night’s obscurity would believe he was doing his duty, picking up the drunk and the homeless.
Min Ju was light if not to say weightless for the killer; it wasn’t a good sign.
Min Ju would be quick to die, and Stein needed her to live; the killer was lonely. Perhaps she could distract him.
The young woman had his favor; he had watched her. Min Ju always gave a penny to the homeless; she nursed her father and took care of her family. The lady was one of those people with a compassionate heart and a sense of sacrifice; she was perfect; the 20-year-old college dropout was the one he needed.
Stein placed Min Ju on the passenger seat and secured the belt around her. Min Ju asleep, the scene merely looked like the officer drove her home. The human eye only suspects what renders itself suspicious, Stein never lied. He showed the world his acts, but no one noticed the details of the truth he displayed. And so he drove away humming gleefully in his car as he distanced himself from Seoul.
“Don’t worry. We’re almost home.”
A distorted view, aching limbs, hair drenched in sweat and blood, Min Ju heaved, relieved to feel her lungs collapse with every breath, refusing to ponder about how many intakes of air she had left in this lifetime. The memory of being hit on the head stood vivid; the rest remained a total blackout.
Barefoot, the woman couldn’t move; an intense pressure stopped her no matter how much she shuffled. Min Ju’s eyes wandered and stopped at her ankle’s sight attached to a ball and chain.
Handcuffed to a pipeline Min Ju’s hands had nothing to envy her foot. A flickering light showed the room in snapshots; dark and damp like a basement, the place resembled an empty cellar. Min Ju decorated the room with her presence, and the wide-open door gave in to the darkness, which Min Ju didn’t want to venture into, even though it was the only exit.
Mouth unbound, a scream would be of custom, and Min Ju didn’t lack the desire to do so, but something warned her yelling was of no use, and only the aggressor would come.
The cuffs Min Ju thought, she could slide her hands-free. After a few fruitless attempts which left her wrists bleeding, she gave up.
You will die, Min Ju, just let it happen fighting will only pain you more.
Despite her inner reflection, she wanted to fight and break free for her family; she couldn’t just die and leave them.
Min Ju tried to slide her wrist out once more, grating her skin, which curled up like parmesan cheese on the handcuffs. The woman sobbed it was all she could do as she prayed for her family to forgive her for being stupid and getting caught by the killer. Her hands throbbed with pain; Min Ju blew on her metacarpus’s naked flesh as she tried to smooth back on the wrinkled skin.
What was going to happen to her now?
Death was inevitable, but how would the murderer proceed?
What part of her would he chop?
Would he kill her beforehand or watch her scream in agony as he cut her alive?
“You want to run, don’t you? No, no, you want to know what I plan to do to you.” A shadow in a door frame asked. The voice was husky like one of a person who did not speak in a while, or smoked.
Min Ju’s breath halted, he was there. She hadn’t even heard footsteps.
Was he there along, observing her?
Stein stepped out of the dark, and Min Ju gasped as she recognized the face.
“Surprised, everyone is always shocked, don’t worry, I’m used to it.”
Min Ju couldn’t answer; all she thought was she wouldn’t live to tell the tale.
Stein advanced and came to kneel in front of her, “oh, how I love your terrified expression,” he said as he whiffed her like a dog,” the fragrance of your fright is exquisite.”
The killer closed his eyes, savoring Min Ju’s scent.
“Fear is good; fear will keep you alive, fear me; Min Ju, and you’ll live,” Stein whispered, grazing Min Ju’s face with his lips with every word he pronounced. The killer neared his mouth close to her earlobe and repeated, «fear me,” in a faint murmur which broke the remaining residue of willpower Min Ju possessed.
The sound of leaking water interrupted Stein’s monologue. The liquid dripped to the floor, and Stein backed away from Min Ju, who urinated.
Stein chuckled, “well, I see you got the message. I like you.”
Min Ju’s reaction was gratifying; this is what Stein thrived on; the execution was the last step and not the most exciting part. Stein hoped Min Ju would live a little to entertain him.
Stein is on his way,
Lock your daughters away.
Don’t come out to play.
Hush, hush, hush,
Don’t let the dogs bark
will pull you in the dark.