Barkley led Audrey from the squad car, down an alley and through a door into an empty warehouse. She gimped handcuffed and helplessly along, surrendering to the fact that she would not live through the night. She didn’t speak, despite the fact that Barkley never shut up. He gave her a play by play of every move, and Audrey wasn’t sure at times if he was talking to her or to himself.
“When we get inside I’ll make you nice and comfortable on the bed,” he told her. “My ladies are usually not delivered to me conscious so this is a little different. It’s exciting actually.” He led Audrey through the dark, to the back of the warehouse and toward a yellowish glow that came from a lamp sitting atop a cardboard box.
He sat her down atop a queen sized bed with an un-sheeted mattress that had seen better days. Audrey surveyed her surroundings. Chains with locked cuffs were attached to the metal legs of the bed frame and positioned eerily atop the mattress awaiting the next victim. “Don’t mind the restraints,” Barkley said. “I’ve never had to use them.” The warehouse was damp and cold and looked as if it had been abandoned for years; but it smelled of flowers.
“I have to tell ya,” Barkley began, taking off his police belt. “You’re not the one I was supposed to do, but like I always say, beggars can’t be choosers.” He dragged a folding chair over to the bed and sat down in front of Audrey. “You were the back-up, the understudy, if you will.” Pulling a pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket, he slid one out and lit it. “But tonight, you get to be the star of the show.” He took a long drag from his cigarette and blew the smoke up in the air. “Tonight, it’s all about you.” He ran his fingers across the burn mark on Audrey’s thigh, as if he were studying the wound. “Somebody wasn’t very nice to you, were they?”
Audrey didn’t answer. She just stared at him, certain that he was crazy and uncertain of what might set him off. She thought she saw a spark of anger in his eyes as he studied her burn and she didn’t know if that anger was directed at her or the person who had hurt her.
Making a clicking noise with his tongue, Barkley’s shoulders slumped forward. “It isn’t nice to mistreat a lady like that,” he said, running his fingers over the burn mark again. This time Audrey winced. “Oh,” his eyes widened and he withdrew his hand, “does it hurt when I touch it?”
“Then I won’t touch it anymore.” He ran his fingers up the inside of her left thigh and down the inside of her right thigh. “That didn’t hurt, did it?”
Audrey stared at him, her mind racing and fear growing in her gut. “My name is Audrey,” she said quietly, remembering from an episode of CSI that abductees who connect with their abductors statistically live longer and have a higher rate of survival. “May I have a drink of water?”
A grin spread across Barkley’s face, as if he enjoyed the fact that she was conversing with him. “Anything for a pretty lady,” he said, retrieving a bottle of water from a small refrigerator that sat in the corner next to the bed, dually serving as a nightstand. Unscrewing the lid, he poured the water into her mouth. It was cold as it ran down her throat.
“Thank you,” she uttered.
“You know I wasn’t always the bad guy,” Barkley said as he screwed the lid back on the water bottle and set it on the floor by the bed. “I used to be a damn good cop; but then I realized that even as a cop I couldn’t stop shitty things from happening to good people. You know what I mean?” He took another drag and then dropped the cigarette butt to the floor and put it out with his shoe.
“How long have you been a cop?” Audrey asked, figuring every second she kept him talking was a second longer she would be alive.
“Long time,” he said. “Too long.” Barkley’s eyes appeared to gloss over. “I worked my ass off at first, but I just didn’t have the instincts that some of the others had. It was frustrating to work so hard for something other people just took for granted.” Barkley rose from the chair and walked toward a steel cabinet, opening the door and retrieving a pair of latex gloves. “You’re not allergic to latex are you?” He asked and fear gripped her. Why was he putting on gloves? Was he going to kill her right now? He slid his hands into the gloves, closed the cabinet and then approached her. “We should get this show on the road.”
“I smell flowers,” Audrey blurted, trying desperately to keep the conversation going.
Barkley’s face lit up. “Do you want to see my garden?” He pulled her up and walked her across the warehouse, through a doorway and into a room that looked like a greenhouse. Temperature controlled lights hung low over all different types of flowers. “Let me see,” he said, tapping his finger against his lips. “I’m going to need a camellia flower for you.”
Audrey was shocked that he knew her name from The Candy Shop. “Did Lucas tell you that?” She asked. “Is Lucas paying you to kill me?” Tears formed in Audrey’s eyes and spilled onto her cheeks and Barkley reached over and wiped them without missing a beat. “Why does he want me dead?”
“There’s no need to cry,” Barkley soothed. “It’s business. It’s nothing personal. I’m sure Lucas likes you very much.
“Why do you have to kill me?” Audrey sniveled as he led her back to the bed. “Why can’t you just let me go? No one will know.”
“That’s not possible. See, I have to slit your throat and chop off your left ring finger and then leave you to be found in a dumpster. But don’t worry, you’re not gonna feel any pain. I promise.” A smile filled his face. “I’m not an animal.”
Audrey started to cry harder.
“I know it sounds bad, but it’s necessary symbolism.” He held her head against his stomach and stroked her hair. “See, the left ring finger represents the bond of marriage and the commitment one enters into with holy matrimony. When that bond is broken by infidelity, well, it is severed forever. So, the finger must be severed, but don’t worry, I’ll sedate you so you won’t even know it happened,” he assured her.
Insanity oozed from him as he spoke, and Audrey knew that her only hope was to keep him talking. Just keep him talking. “What do you do with the fingers you sever?” She asked and she could tell by the way he drew away from her and sat back down in the folding chair that he was excited to talk about it. It was as if he wanted to tell someone about his methods and reasoning.
“I throw them in the dumpster with the body, but away from the body, to symbolize that the marriage was thrown away. Do you get it?” Audrey could now see the wild excitement in his eyes. He was completely insane. Before she could answer his question, he continued talking. “You see, I burn the prints off of all the fingers except the one I sever. Do you know why?”
Audrey shook her head to indicate that she didn’t know the answer.
“Because even if we try to hide who we are and what we’ve done by severing our marriage vows, the evidence of our infidelity still exists with God. It still exists on our commitment finger.” Barkley’s eyes widened as he pointed upward.
Omigod, he’s not only insane, he’s an insane religious fanatic! The most dangerous combination on the planet. Audrey cleared her throat. “Can I ask you a personal question?”
“Absolutely,” Barkley beamed. “I’m really enjoying our conversation. Like I said, all of the other ladies were delivered to me sedated so I haven’t had a chance to talk to anyone.” Barkley’s grin spread from ear-to-ear and Audrey forced herself to smile back at him. “So, what’s your question?”
“Was someone unfaithful to you? Is that why you do this?”
The smile quickly left his face and Barkley sank back into the chair. Oh no! That was a bad question to ask. You need to keep him smiling! Audrey berated herself.
“No. It was my sister that was forced to betray her own body and she wound up dead because she broke the bonds of holy matrimony.”
“Did you kill her?” Audrey hesitantly asked.
“No. Her lover did.” Hatred filled Barkley’s face and Audrey could see his jaw tighten with rage.
“That must have been hard to lose her,” Audrey feigned sympathy. “You must have loved her a lot.”
“I did.” Barkley smiled again. In fact, the first woman I killed resembled my sister and it was really hard, but I did it for Adrienne. I did it to honor her and to cleanse her from her sinful ways, but mostly I did it to punish the man who violated her.” Barkley’s eyes lit with a gleam of insanity. “You want to hear something ironic?” He asked but didn’t wait for her to respond. “The man who violated my sister and is ultimately responsible for her death is going to be blamed for all of the murders.” He let out a sinister chuckle. “The ironic thing is he’s a detective who specializes in finding serial killers.” Barkley laughed so hard his eyes began to water. “Is that the best thing you’ve ever heard or what? It’s brilliant, right!”
Audrey pretended to appreciate the irony, but she wasn’t sure that Barkley was buying it. “Well,” Barkley slapped both hands down on his knees and raised himself out of the chair. “This has sure been fun. I’ve really enjoyed our little chat.” He walked to the cabinet and retrieved a syringe. “But, it’s time to get down to business.” As he approached her, Audrey began to kick her feet and scream. She thrust her body upward to try and run but she was still weak and no match for his girth. “Don’t fight it. It’ll just be a little stick in the neck and then you won’t feel a thing.”
“No!” Audrey screamed with a deep, raspy tone.
“Relax. I’ll give you love before you leave this world.” He pushed her backwards on the bed and climbed on top of her.
“No!” Audrey yelled. “Please! I don’t want to die! I don’t want to die…please…pl…” her screams faded into sobs and then the stinging sensation in the side of her neck made her body go limp.