Red, the colour of danger and passion, just the right match.
The sun was going down. The lake shone red and then amber as the sun tipped the mountains behind it, making them appear as if on fire. He licked his lips. Watching from his canoe he enjoyed the spectacle as the young girls frolicked, enjoying the warm sun, giggling when their legs hit the ice-cold water. Their dresses all tucked up, showing their long brown bare legs, they presented the picture of nubile innocence to watching eyes.
One caught his attention. A red head, she was taller than the rest. That red hair was just the right shade. The rest he didn’t need. The green eyes were just the wrong shade of emerald. He needed forest green, but the hair was just perfect. It was like looking at a catalogue and choosing the right dress but in this case the model was real flesh and blood and good to taste.
The girl came regularly with her friends. A High School girl, her parents thought she was safe. He had an appointment with her next Sunday if she could be distracted from her mates. He needed her. His collection was getting nearer to completion, but he was finding it more difficult to get what he needed without being found out.
That Mary Jane episode had distracted the police for a while. The red herrings he had placed had sent them in the wrong directions although they had a damned interfering profiler who was sharper than the rest and was like a terrier looking at all the leads. He would have to watch out for him.
Mary Jane had been useful even if she had insulted him with her last breathing words. She had not been as sweet and innocent as he had hoped but good enough in the end. She had betrayed him, flaunting herself on the beach in front of other men instead of saving herself for him! But death had cleansed her; made her pure again, just for him!
Only five more pieces and his puzzle would be complete; the clues ready to send to the police and the newspapers to show what sort of man he really was. They would never work out the clues, but their readers would be fascinated for a period and he would be infamous even if anonymous. He would be gone far away, out of danger, away from the interfering police; able to observe their bewilderment via the media when the killer could not be found.
He went back home and sat in his lounge. Only a few inane reality shows on the box that evening, not enough to stretch his intellect. He went to bed a satisfied man. Those wild dreams and nightmares didn’t wake him up that night. His next victim was in his sights and the end of his journey was nigh. He fell into a deep happy sleep.
It was Sunday and Louise looked at herself in the mirror again. She giggled with excitement. She was going to the lake with Kristen and Jane. Providing they stayed together their moms would let them take the bus and picnic by the lake. They were modern and not frumpy like some other mothers. They trusted them to behave and if that meant a little flirting with the young men who swam in the lake then what harm could it do?
She put on her shorts and halter top and tied her red hair in a ponytail. Her costume was in her bag if the water was warm enough to entice swimmers in. Meeting her friends at the stop they took the back seats and compared their nails. All of them were practising the latest trends they found in the magazines they read from page to page, emulating the celebrities they saw there.
Sitting in the canoe with binoculars, he had a fine view of the girls’ torsos. Young and well developed, they were the right age for him, still virginal. He knew the parents who took good care of them, giving them just the right amount of freedom and avoiding them rebelling against parental dicta. He needed to separate them. Madeline would distract them. She was useful at times when he needed her, and he could put her in the background when he had no use for her.
They arrived safely at the lake and lay back sunbathing, watching the boats and canoes go by.
‘‘That man is there again,’’ noted Louise. ‘‘The one who watched us all day last week. He gave me the creeps.’’
‘‘He is probably just frustrated and likes to look at pretty girls,’’ said Kristen. ‘’If he doesn’‘t approach us, and we stay together we should be safe. I‘ll tell Dad about him when I get home.’’ Kristen’s Dad was a detective in the local force and would take any report of a lurking man seriously if he thought he threatened the safety of his daughter. He had trained her to look out for traits in men who abused girls.
The observer paddled the canoe to the cave entrance where he stored it and secured the thing tightly. He kept his second cell and other useful things he might need deep in a dark dank smelly tunnel where no-one looked; it being narrow and cobwebbed and full of rats and other nasty things most families would dislike on sight.
The girls felt relaxed when the canoe was out of site. They lay back bronzing in the sun wishing school hadn’t started and the winter and end of semester exams weren’t coming soon. Louise went to the kiosk to get ices. A shadow fell over the sunbathing girls. A woman stood over them smiling invitingly. Tall and slim with raven hair and green eyes, she wore casual clothes that cost the earth, with shoes that screamed out Laboutin; this woman did not dress from Walmart or other discount stores.
She held out her card and said, ‘’Please may I sit down Ladies. I would like to talk with you about something that might interest you.’’ Kristina took the card. This woman was a talent scout for a top modelling agency.
‘’You probably wonder am I doing around here scouting girls, but I am not. I’m on vacation but saw you and your friend. I’m in the area for a week. If you are interested in modelling, please ring me on this number.’’
‘’What sort of modelling?’’ asked Jane suspiciously. Her mom had warned her about talent scouts searching for girls to go to the city. The modelling contracts turned out to be non-existent and the girls ended up working for smutty video companies.
‘‘Bona fide companies want to start their models off young. Only decent stuff. You can check the agency if you want,’’ she said. ‘‘My name is Cassandra Sanders.’‘ The girls’ eyes widened. This woman was one of the most important scouts in the modelling world.
‘‘Gee, Ms Sanders. We will ask my mom and ring you tomorrow if that is ok,’’ said Jane the most fashion conscious one of the girls.
‘‘Certainly girls. I’m staying with friends in the next village and can make time to talk with you again. Your parents might wish to talk with me as well to ensure I am bona fide. Tell your friend about me as well.’’ She got up and made to leave.
‘‘Our friend Louise is over there buying ice creams.’’ The woman looked at the girl who had reached the end of the line and was paying for her ices.
‘‘I’ll talk to her myself then. See you soon,’’ she said and walked elegantly to the young girl who was making her way toward them.
She met the girl and said, ‘‘You must be Louise. Here is my card. I’m a modelling scout and have asked your friends to contact me about some work in the future. I’m particularly interested in you, my dear. Your hair and bone structure are fantastic.’’ Louise felt sunny inside. Her tall figure and pale complexion with high cheekbones and auburn hair made her stand out and feel self-conscious at times. This woman made her feel good about herself.
‘‘I have some photos in the car I would like to show you particularly, if you have just a moment. It is just behind the ice-cream kiosk.’’
Louise saw her friends smiling at her. This woman must be all right. Kristina was suspicious enough for all of them, but she seemed happy. She followed the woman. Behind the kiosk was a small wooded area with parking. Only one car was there, and the woman opened the car door and pulled some brochures on to the seat.
‘You sit in the car and look at them while I find more in the back,’ she said. ‘Look at these divine dresses,’ she said, placing the brochures on the seat. Louise saw they were made by her favourite designer and sat in the open car wrinkling her nose at the funny smell she could not identify. Her head in brochures, she didn’t notice the arm come across her shoulder until a hand covered her mouth with some cloth. She could barely breathe as she tried to avoid inhaling the sickly-sweet vapour invading her body. A tiny prick in her arm made her turn quickly. The movement made her head swim as she felt sick and sank into a blank unconsciousness.
The woman shut the door and jumped in the other side and drove off quickly. After she had driven ten miles to the other side of the lake and parked it was safe to take off her wig and shake her hair out. Michael would be pleased with her. She wanted to please Michael and would do anything for him, even kill if necessary. He was a necessary part of her existence. He made her feel complete.
She pulled the blackout blinds down in the car and locked the girl in. Quickly, she went to the cave where the canoe was. He was there already and was pleased. She had made him happy. She wanted him to be content and then he would want her to stay with him for ever. For now, she could escape, leaving him to do the sophisticated work.
He came to the car and quickly pulled the girl out and carried her to the cave. Madeline was no longer needed, and he was on his own. The girl would wake up in two hours and he wanted her finished by then and to be gone. He laid her down on a plastic sheet he had prepared. He inspected her first. Yes, she was pure and clean. A virgin which is what he wanted. He had no intention of tainting his work with soiled goods.
He lifted her pale neck and made a delicate slice along her throat, just enough to do the trick as he watched her life blood flow into the bowl he held out. No need to make the job dirtier than was necessary. Other killers enjoyed the killing. He wanted the job done quickly. His killing served a purpose. A means to the end.
He took a blade, a scalpel and started removing the flesh around the forehead until he could remove the scalp. He held the red-haired scalp high and waited for the blood to finish dripping and then he bagged it. He mopped up the excess of blood and rolled the girl up in the plastic and tied it up. Tonight, she would end up in a lake. For a while he did not want any body found until he had time to identify his next few victims. They were becoming too difficult to find now the police had warned young women of a killer on the loose.
Looking out the cave, he saw all was clear. He put the plastic bagged girl in his car, this time breathing heavily as he did it. He needed to build his strength. That bad virus had sapped his strength more than he had realised. He was using his asthma inhaler more frequently recently. More steroids were needed. All the weightlifting practice could not prepare him for shifting this girl although she was as light as a feather. He must prepare his next one more carefully. Make the work less arduous.
Driving the car away, he knew he had got away with it again. Madeline had disappeared and would never be recognised as the raven-haired scout. She would vanish from the area for a while until he needed her again.