Who would leave their patio door unlocked in a neighborhood like this?

I’ve been watching It for weeks…coming home drunk and alone. Parking in Its spot so crooked as if It wants any spectators to know just how drunk It is. Almost every night It stumbles up the stairs and drops Its keys, blearily checking for attackers once It’s underneath the burned out light bulb, paying only enough attention so that if something ever happened, sympathetic neighbors could say that usually precautions had been taken.

I could have taken It at any time, but I waited. I figured since this would be the last one I took before some well earned time off that I could really put the effort into making the experience extra disturbing for both It and whoever found It later that day. There were certain rituals I had perfected over the years that needed to be followed to the letter. I call it attention to detail.

It’s 12am on a Saturday, and I have stepped over the banister onto the patio. Not only is the patio door unlocked, it’s open just a little bit. It’s too easy. No lock picking, no window smashing. I have a feeling something is off, but I’m too curious not to continue. There’s a light coming from a hallway towards the back of the house. To my left is a small room with a wooden table stacked high with neat piles of local newspapers along with a few from surrounding nearby counties. I gaze at the familiar headlines saying things along the line of “Torture Killer Still at Large. Citizens Arm Themselves At Record Highs.” They’re all worded differently, but they’re the same more-or-less. I feel a sense of pride. These papers are all about me. I walk toward the light and see that it’s coming from a bathroom. I can see It there in the bright white light that all bathrooms have. It’s the one that

helps you find your contacts, and the one that lets you see how dirty the sink is. I have about two feet of piano wire stretched tight in my hands.

It’s there on the floor with Its legs wrapped around the toilet scrubbing underneath the bowl with a t-shirt. For some reason I have the thought that it’s the cleanest toilet I’ve ever seen.

The adrenaline starts to surge like it always does, replacing the earlier feelings of uncertainty. But as I take a step forward It stops cleaning the toilet and without turning around says ‘Well?’  She faces me, holding the dirty t-shirt in hand and doesn’t look surprised or scared. Terror and surprise are my muses. Without them inspiring me my creativity and my adrenaline disappear like a deflated balloon. I say it, but I don’t feel it: ‘This is going to be the worst night of your life.’ She laughs joylessly while she turns back around shaking her head, continuing to clean. ‘My friend, you are WAY too late for that.’

‘Hang on for a second’ she says conversationally. ‘I’m almost done with this.’ She finishes wiping off the toilet, completely unafraid. This response is so abnormal. There has to be someone else here waiting to blow my head off with a shotgun. This was quite possibly the strangest thing that had ever happened to me.

I’m glad she’s not looking at me so she can’t see how confused I am. I know what I look like because I’m standing in the doorway in front of a huge mirror showing the look on my face. It’s the look dogs get when they think you’ve thrown a ball but you’ve only pretended to.

As she stands, I see her pick up what appears to be a glass of whiskey that’s been sitting next to the toilet. She stretches her arms up toward the ceiling. The noise her back makes sounds like a bag of walnuts being crunched underfoot. It sounds painful.

She walks past me, this time twisting her back from side to side, and waves me towards the living room as I follow her down the hallway. She asks me if I want a beer, and I hear myself saying yes. What am I doing? I sit down in a recliner still wary that this has to be some kind of setup. She walks into the kitchen and I hear the sound of whiskey being poured. She brings our drinks into the living room and sighs as she positions herself down on the floor to my left in order to stretch her back out. I only know that because she says ‘bad back’ as she closes her eyes and gets comfortable. Occasionally she rubs her stomach. There’s no fear in her. This makes things complicated, but definitely interesting. Who is this person? I find myself asking ‘so…?’ When I was younger I was so horrible in school that in class if called upon I would leave the question hanging open. I was always wrong so I would wait for the right answer by making it a question. I feel unsure like that again.

She says to me, eyes still closed ‘you don’t think I knew you were watching me?’

It’s becoming clear to me now why she isn’t surprised or scared. She was just pretending to be unaware. ‘Who could be that stupid?’ she asks. ‘Oh wait. Never mind,’ she sits up and points to the papers on the table. ‘I’ve been keeping up with you. I guess there are lots of stupid people out there.’

She drinks more whiskey and lies back down. For three hours we talk. She tells me about failed relationships, drugs, drinking, attempts at college, dead-end jobs and year after year of trying to maintain friendships with people who had constantly let her down. She sounds exhausted. I tell her about the stereotypical way I had grown up with drunken parents, abuse, etc. All of the usual occurrences that lead to a life of crime. She rolls her eyes sarcastically and tells me that most of her friends had dealt with similar childhoods, but had ended up drug addicted musicians and not violent murderers. We laugh about different childhood injuries that left us

with unique scars from our pasts. Hers is a small scar above her left eye from falling out of a tree. Mine is my loss of taste and smell after my father had hit me one too many times after a night of drinking.

She asks me to help her up off of the floor, and I give her my hand. ‘I want to show you this,’ she says and takes me down the hall into a room lined with shelves packed with books on serial killers. She shows me a scrapbook and how she has taken a particular interest in me. For some reason now I’m genuinely flattered unlike the impersonality of a headline.

‘I’d like to take a shower now’ she says. I offer my arm like a gentleman and help her to the bathroom because she’s a little unsteady on her feet. I had watched her occasionally swallow some sort of pill along with two pint glasses of whiskey. I’m happy she’s numbed herself. After all of the things she’s told me about, I know why she drinks so heavily. I find myself waiting for her outside of the shower, sitting on the lid of the sparkling clean toilet that she was cleaning when I first got here. She had told me that her back hurt so badly that at times it was hard for her to get in and out of the shower. So I’m waiting.

I look down and see the t-shirt she had been using to clean the toilet in the trashcan. I can see a picture on the front. It shows her with her fiancé on vacation. There’s a date underneath the picture that I can only assume was when they were to be married. She looks happy, but I know this wedding never happened. Two weeks before the end of his third tour in Iraq, her fiancé had tried to save two men in his unit after an IED explosion and had been killed in the ensuing fire fight. The water turns off, and I ask if she’s okay to get out. She is, so I walk into her room and wait, not exactly sure what to do. When she gets in her room a few minutes later, she turns off the overhead light and turns on the bedside lamp as she slowly relaxes into bed. I bring her the almost empty

glass of whiskey from the living room and place it on her nightstand. I sit on the edge of her bed as though we’re old friends.

 ‘I’ve never met anyone like you.’  

‘I’ll bet you say that to all the girls!’ she says in an exaggerated slur.  Her eyelids are heavy but at this moment looking right into my eyes, she seems completely sober when she says ‘Where have you been all my life?

 ‘I don’t think we were supposed to have met until now.’

She had told me earlier that she hadn’t gotten entirely used to sleeping alone so she keeps a pillow on the empty side of the bed. I put it over her face and she doesn’t struggle.  After awhile I place it back next to her.

For some reason I want her house to look clean. I pick up the glass from her bedside table and take it into the kitchen. I find the empty bottle of pills she had been taking throughout our time together.  Vicodin. I look for the bottle of whiskey she had been drinking but only find a can of paint thinner. My mind goes back to when I first came into her house, and she had said ‘you’re too late.’  I realize that she had been drinking paint thinner. I hadn’t been able to smell it. When she was rubbing her stomach it was the chemicals of the paint thinner eating at her insides. The Vicodin must have been for the excruciating pain it was causing her.

I rinse the glass and walk back into her room. There is a letter on her nightstand that I hadn’t seen before, and I open it. I see the many reasons why she had done this. In her eyes there wasn’t a reason to continue anymore. It all made sense now. In reality she had been watching me, and had practically lured me into her house by pretending to be unaware almost every night. I was a backup plan in case she had gotten scared to follow through. I stand looking down at her for awhile and then decide to slit her throat. I watch her bleed out and then begin to wipe down my fingerprints.

I take the letter she had written and put it in my pocket. I’m angry. I’ll never let any of them know what they had done to her.

When I leave I lock all the doors.

2/22/2018