by C.J. Edwards
Jimmy Wade had been watching her for a month. She had smiled at him when she had walked her small poodle around her front yard as the movers hauled her things into the renovated double. He hadn’t been sure what to do about that. Pretty girls never smiled at him. His pudgy frame and pimple-scarred features didn’t inspire smiles, even from the homeliest of girls. Living with mother after the age of thirty didn’t help much either. So when those bright even teeth framed by plump lips flashed in his direction he had turned away to hide the crimson sheet that flashed across his face, and the erection that sprung up against his sweat pants. He almost didn’t make it to the mini-barn behind the house, to spill his junk into the oily rags piled behind the John Deer riding lawn mower.
From then on he had taken every opportunity to catch a glimpse of her. From her mail he had discovered her name, Carley Jacobs, and from the White Pages online her phone number. Her Facebook account had provided him with a wealth of knowledge, even some shots of her in a bathing suit from a spring break spent in Cabo. They now hung on the wall in the back corner of the mini-barn. He didn’t dare keep them in his room for fear that his mother might find them. She had discovered him in the bathroom once when he was thirteen with a Victoria’s Secret catalog swiped from a neighbor’s mailbox.
“You filthy little animal,” she’d screamed at him. “I’ll not be having such dirty sin in this house.” Then she snatched away the catalog and proceeded to beat him with it as he fled outside. All the while she screeched her condemnation of the foul nature inside the souls of all men. Banished to the barn he could still hear her calling on the Lord to save her from having to witness such abomination.
After that first month of watching Carley from afar, glimpses of her from his bedroom window as she walked her dog, or as she mowed her lawn, Jimmy finally worked up enough courage to take a peek in one of her windows. They were quick and furtive sorties at first. Her half of the double had a single stretch of a privacy fence separating it from Mrs. Jeffries’ house next door. Mrs. Jeffries was Carley’s landlord, and Jimmy did odd jobs for her from time to time. The fence didn’t fully enclose the yard, and there wasn’t a security light.
Darts across the street turned into strolls, which then became lingering skulks in the shadows beneath her windows. As spring grew warm Carley would often leave her windows cracked open to let in the evening breezes. Sometimes Jimmy was treated to phone conversations between Carley and her girlfriends. He became intimate with the sound of her voice, especially her laugh. Boldness, nurtured by continued success, led to his first extended peek into the living room.
It was a Wednesday night. He had crouched just below the open window listening. The TV was on, and he could hear Ryan Seacrest hosting the latest American Idol. During commercial breaks, Carley would call her friend Amanda, to discuss the performance of their favorite contestant.
“Did you see their faces when he hit that high note? … Oh my god I know… He is so hot. Too bad he’s gay…He is too…Okay, yeah whatever…”
After another commercial, Jimmy finally worked himself up enough to raise his eyes level with the window sill. Another male crooner was belting out a remixed Michael Jackson eighties hit when his eyes collided with the sight of Carley’s bare legs as she sat on her faded couch painting her toe nails. He could smell the tang of the polish that she spread across each nail with a red stained brush. His body began to shiver as blood rushed to his groin. She had just finished with her right foot, and was preparing the left when Carley’s poodle perked up his ears and growled. Jimmy ducked as the curly haired dog bounded to the window.
“What is it Max?” Carley said.
Jimmy ran. This time he didn’t make it to the mini-barn. He was forced to climb up to his room to change his briefs. As he stripped off the sticky underwear, heart still pounding from almost getting caught, Jimmy realized that he had to do something about the dog.
The next couple of days Jimmy kept to his room, plotting. By the weekend he had a plan. When Carley went to work the following Monday, Jimmy walked over to the window where Max had almost exposed him. It was cracked as usual, security pegs preventing it from being opened all the way. A crack was all he needed, for now. Sliding up the screen just enough, Jimmy set two moist doggy treats on the sill and waited. He was rewarded by Max’s snuffling nose followed by his pink tongue licking up the tiny treats.
Jimmy returned two more times that day with offerings for the little pooch. On Tuesday he followed the same schedule. Wednesday he began feeding the treats directly from his fingers to the poodle’s mouth. Before the week was out Jimmy and Max were good friends. Jimmy almost felt bad about what he was going to do next.
On Friday nights Carley would usually go out. She would sleep in the following morning. On these occasions she would let Max out into the small fenced in area behind her half of the double, and then go back to bed. After a week of making friends with her dog Jimmy watched from his bedroom that Friday evening. He had seen Carley come home from work, and three hours later watched her red Honda back from its parking space into the alley and pull away. Before going to bed, Jimmy set his alarm to wake himself at six A.M.
* * *
Strangling Max turned out to be easier than expected. After luring him from the yard with more treats, he took the dog to the min-barn. Inside, while Max gobbled up a pile of the meaty bits, Jimmy looped a thin cord around the dog’s neck.
“That’s a good boy, Max.”
He tied one end to the bottom of the mower, then took a firm grip on the other, and jerked. Afterward, Jimmy pushed the lawn tractor to one end of the barn’s interior, pried up three of the floor boards, and dug a shallow grave.
When Carley had knocked on his door later that afternoon, for a split second Jimmy thought he had been found out. He stood, face frozen and mute, staring at her. Sweat beaded on his forehead, and a lonely trickle snaked its way down his spine.
“Hi,” she said. Her smile was thin. “I live across the street. I was wondering if you might have seen my dog Max today.” Her hand reached out. In it was a lost dog poster with a picture of Max’s curly haired face set in the middle of the paper. His little head cocked to the side, his open mouth made him look like he was smiling.
Relieved, Jimmy took the poster. “Um, no. I haven’t seen him.”
“Okay. Thanks anyway. Please, let me know if you do.” She turned to go.
“I could take a few more of those,” Jimmy said, and pointed at the stack of posters in her hand. “Maybe post a few for you?”
“That would be so sweet. Thank you,” She said.
With Max out of the picture, Jimmy resumed his visitations. He overheard the tearful conversations Carley had with her mom, then her sister, about poor old Max. Different emotions flitted across his mind. He sampled each one as he watched and listened to her distress. Guilt was never a good flavor. Guilt was what he felt when his mother chastised him for some new offense, or filthy male habit he had acquired. Sadness worked all right. When he saw those tears trickle down her soft cheeks he could almost taste what it would be like to sit down beside Carley, put his arm around her, and squeeze away her pain with his urgent fingers.
After savoring each, Jimmy settled on satisfaction. He could still feel the rough cord tight against his hands, vibrating between his fingers while Max had flopped, then twitched, eyes bulging, his little teeth snapping at the still air inside the barn. The thrilling satisfaction reminded him of the feeling he got while jacking off into the dirt outside Carley’s window, while he watched her folding laundry in a t-shirt and shorts.
The weekend following Max’s disappearance, Jimmy began to realize that the relationship between him and his beautiful neighbor must progress to the next level. She needed him closer, so she could finally get over her lost pet.
Lifting the spare key to Carley’s house was as easy as switching it with the same brand of key he had purchased from ACE hardware when he stopped over to see if Mrs. Jeffries needed anything. Now, all he had to do was wait. The following week seemed to drag as he anticipated Carley’s Friday girls’ night ritual.
In his darkened room the following Friday, Jimmy watched until Carley’s car made its backward turn into the alley and drove away. Not able to contain his anticipation a moment longer, he pulled on a black windbreaker and skipped down the stairs. Before he made it to the door his mother called to him from the front room where she was hunched over her bible.
“James Lester Wade, where are you going?” Her steal eyes probed his face. “Out to do the devil’s work?”
“Look at me when I’m speaking to you.”
Jimmy turned and raised his head from his chest where it had fallen when his mother had called to him.
“You’re up to no good. I can smell the sin on you boy.” She pointed her bible at him. “Just like your father, always thinking your dirty thoughts. Don’t think I don’t know what you’re always doing out in that shed.”
His face boiled red. His mother cackled. She made him think of sour milk.
“God will send you to the roasting pit for it. You, and your filthy little hands!”
Jimmy bolted from the door. His mother’s laugh chased him from the porch. It wasn’t until he reached the shadows beside Carley’s house that he unclenched his fists. He felt a stab of pain in his right palm where the spare key had jabbed deep into his skin. He felt the blood recede from his face. His heart rate and breathing returned to normal.
When he fist inserted the key into the lock on the back door it stuck. It was a copy, and hadn’t been used much. He pulled it out, put it back in, and jiggled. The lock turned. Jimmy stepped into the kitchen. After the door was closed and locked behind him, he turned to face the short hallway that lead to the front of the double. The smell of roasted chicken hung in the air, fading into the underlying scent of candles, and the slightest hint of perfume. He stood there for a long time in the light of a single florescent bulb left on over the sink. Jimmy closed his eyes and breathed deeply. He listened to the silence, wallowing in anticipation.
The digital clock on the stove had read 9:45 when he had let himself in. A loud hum shook itself from the refrigerator. He flinched, and opened his eyes. Jimmy looked at the clock. It was 10:10. He moved towards the living room, glancing around at the familiar furnishings as he went. Not able to wait any longer, he climbed the stairs, passed the bathroom door, and approached Carley’s bedroom. Jimmy’s fingers brushed a towel draped over the dresser as he entered. It was still damp. The smell of perfume was stronger here, coiled around the aroma of moist fabric.
Jimmy’s knees shook. He crossed to the unmade bed and sat down on its edge. The soft sheets and comforter invited him to stretch out on them. He pressed his face into Carley’s pillow. The rest of his body shook. He reached a hand down into the front of his sweat pants.
There was a click. Jimmy froze. He felt his blood crash to his chest as it fled from his extremities, leaving the prick of needles on his skin. His ears strained. Someone had opened the back door. Footsteps tapped on the white linoleum, then disappeared when they reached the carpet of the living room.
Rolling from the bed, Jimmy peeked through the window that looked out over the back yard. Carley’s Honda sat in her parking space idling. The parking lights spread an amber glow over the gravel.
“Fuck,” he whispered. If he hadn’t been so turned on, he might have heard the car pull up.
A creak announced Carley’s arrival at the stairs. Jimmy’s head snapped back and forth as he looked for a place to hide. There was no time to get out a window, or hide in a different room. The closet was an open cutout in the bedroom wall across from the bed. It didn’t have a door, and it sunk about two feet deep, with two foot wings stretching to either side of the opening. He crossed the room in two strides. The left cavity was filled with extra blankets, pillows, and shoe boxes. The right had only an umbrella and an extra curtain rod next to it. Brushing past the clothes, he squeezed himself as best as he could into the tight space.
Carley reached the bathroom. Jimmy could hear the sink faucet come on, water making gulping noises as it found the drain. The water shut off. Maybe she’d just needed to use the sink and whatever she had forgotten was downstairs. Maybe she wouldn’t come into the bedroom, or at least not to the closet.
Light flooded the bedroom. Jimmy shut his eyes. He had read somewhere that if you didn’t look directly at someone they might not realize you were so close by. There was a sound of clothes rustling. A shadow fell across Jimmy’s face as Carley’s body blocked the light from the room from where he crouched in the closet. He could feel her next to him as she began picking through the clothes on their hangers. The light taste, almost memory of her fragrance, was replaced by a heady sledgehammer of her perfume and bare skin. It was too much. Jimmy’s eyes wrenched themselves open.
Carley stood mere inches from the tip of Jimmy’s nose. The bedroom light fell in a halo onto her blond hair. She was shirtless. When he saw her breasts loosely bound in her black lace bra, he gurgled deep in his throat. His hand rose to cover his mouth. For a moment Jimmy held onto the hope that she wouldn’t notice him, that she would select a new top, and leave him undiscovered.
Carley scrunched her lips into a delicate pout as she picked through the hangers. Jimmy didn’t know whether it was the sound in his throat, or the movement of his hand that alerted her to his presence. It probably had been a combination of the two. In the end it didn’t matter. What mattered was the look on her face, and the sound of his mother’s voice in his head.
“Now you’ve done it, you filthy boy!” he heard his mother trumpet. “I always knew you’d get into trouble. Just like your father.”
For the smallest of moments, Carley’s face didn’t register anything at all as her eyes met Jimmy’s. Then the gravity of what she was seeing washed across her face. It started in her eyes. Those thick eyelashes rose, pulling the lids high. Wide pupils dilated even more until they banished all of the blue from her eyes. The carefully prepared blond hair tossed. Her nostrils flared.
The head toss trickled down through her chest. Her arms came up. Her hips squared toward him, and then her knees sagged, almost collapsing with shock. Carley’s feet writhed while they fought with the decision of whether to fight, or make a run for it.
As Jimmy took all this in, something occurred to him. For the first time in his life he felt… powerful. The terror taking shape on Carley’s face and spreading across her body was because of him. Someone actually feared him. His chest filled, blood exploded through his muscles. Adrenalin stabbed at his heart, flooding his veins with a lustful inferno. He saw everything clearer and brighter. Under Carley’s perfume he could smell new sweat spring to life along her skin, her hair spray, soap, the leather of her belt, and the musk between her legs.
Carley’s lips peeled back as a scream built in her chest. Jimmy burst from the closet. His heavy frame slammed into Carley’s tiny one, his hands clamped over her mouth with stunning force. He heard the hiss of air forced from her lungs as one of her high heels gave way and her back struck the floor with Jimmy’s weight pressing down upon her.
Jimmy felt Carley’s teeth sink into his palm. To avoid being bitten again, his hands slid beneath her chin onto her throat. At first he just wanted to keep her from screaming, but then his grasping fingers severed Carley’s lungs from her air supply. Jimmy found that he liked the way her eyes bulged, and the pretty purplish color that spread from his hands up to her hair line as he choked her. He clamped down harder and her body began to writhe beneath him. The sound of her heels stomping up and down was muffled on the carpeted floor. Manicured nails clawed at his fingers as Carley tried to buck him off with her hips. Jimmy got hard again.
White splotches were now splattered across the purple skin of her face. Her mouth gaped and her teeth bit at the air that couldn’t reach her lungs. She looked like a goldfish, Jimmy thought. The one he had as a child. He would pull it from the water to watch it twitch and squirm. Heat stained Jimmy’s sweats as Carley urinated. It washed across the skin of one of his thighs. He came as Carley’s body stilled. Her pupils opened wide, and the sea blue color of her eyes disappeared.
Jimmy was panting like a dog when he rolled off of Carley’s limp, lifeless body. He lay staring up at the blank ceiling for a while, and attempted to process what he had done. When his breathing steadied, he rolled over onto his side, propping his head up on one hand. A silky smile grew on his lips. He stared at Carley’s face, now blooming with tiny red dots from neck to eyebrows. Her features gazed at him and he could see the whites of her eyes turning crimson. Now she was even more beautiful, he thought.
* * *
The next morning Jimmy stepped out of the mini-barn and wiped sweat from his face. His hand left muddy smears across his nose and cheeks. A couple houses down he heard a car horn blare. He walked around to the front of the house and glanced across the street. Standing next to a moving truck was a large breasted girl in a tight t-shirt and shorts with the word PINK stenciled across the ass. She turned. Her long red hair flicked over her shoulder. When she saw Jimmy looking at her she waved.
C. J. Edwards has been a police officer for the Indianapolis Police Department for eleven years, and is currently assigned to investigations. His non-fiction short story can be found in American Blue: Real Stories by Real Cops from Varro Press. This is his first fiction publication.