The man stepped out of the entry closet and dropped to all fours. No sound or shadows came from her room. He wished he could make himself slither the way Dr. Seuss’s Grinch had, around the Christmas tree. Little Cindy Lou Who, from WhoVille, so young, so unsuspecting, so trusting. He knew that this woman was not trusting and certainly was not innocent.
He grinned. He wished he could look into a mirror.He knew the reflection of his smile would reach from ear to ear and his cheeks would point at the corners just like that beloved Dr. Seuss character, but there was no mirror available. He would have to find one, later. For now, he slithered on. Meticulous. Careful. Placing one hand in front of the other. A cat on the prowl. A wraith. A green serpent. The Grinch who stole…life.
He moved behind the brocade sofa for a child’s eye view and peeked out.
He crawled to the door of the bedroom.
Now only a thin hollow-core door stood between him and his destiny.
The apartment creaked, but he paid no attention.
He snuggled next to the doorjamb, his back against the wall.
He drew his knees up like a kid in front of a campfire.
No stirring from within the bedroom.
He smiled again and then shuddered.
He thought of how many times in the past two hours she had passed the entry closet. And there he sat among her coats and her umbrella and the leather boots. Her leather boots. Boots that surrounded her beautiful feet. And he sat, patiently, expectantly, waiting and watching as her shadow passed by. And that weirdo. His good-ole-boy accent and his racecar talk. That hick only had one thing on his mind. One reason for being here. But he would simply wait the hay-seed out, patiently. Patience was a virtue after all and if he were anything, it was virtuous. And so he waited. He pondered. He meditated. He could wait all night. Waiting for that dirty-deed to be done. Red-neck would have been no match for him anyway. He would have her. He would possess her. He would take her for his own.
She didn’t need that Randall.
She would never need another man again. Not after he got done with her. She would love no one else, sleep with no one else.
He had dealt with the weirdoes before. Macho men. He knew them. He would protect her from the world. Strutting around with their chest’s out like some rooster at a cockfight. NASCAR men. He would have annihilated Randall before he knew what hit him and then she would have screamed and all the fun would be over. All the anticipation. The yearning. The longing. The thrill of the stalk.
And if she would have noticed the door ajar and opened it after Randall left? Then what? It would have been like some third-rate slasher movie where the dumb-blonde coed explores the killer’s house in just her bra and panties.
But she didn’t concern herself. She was safe. It was her home. There were enough locks on the door, and the panic bar was firmly braced into the floor. She would think there would be no way anyone could penetrate her safety defense. But he wasn’t just anyone. And he did penetrate her defense. Right after she and Randall slipped into the bedroom for their dirty deed. He had no problem getting into her apartment and no worries. He was at peace.
But presently, his desire was building. His need growing stronger by the minute. He wanted her. He lusted after her.
He glanced at his watch and pushed the tiny button with his latex glove.
The dial threw a blue light on his face. If she happened out the door, she would have no problem seeing him.
But she didn’t come out.
She wasn’t coming out.
That was the last time she would look around the apartment. The last time she would turn off that stupid dolphin-lamp. He hated dolphins and he hated Sea World. And he hated…
It was time.
She was ripe for the plucking.
And no Cindy Lou Who to interrupt his progress.
He would take her present and break her ornaments and her bulbs would twinkle no more; and there was nothing that anyone, including Stockcar Randall, could do about it.
The Grinch was alive and well and had no intention of allowing a new heart to grow.
He pushed the bedroom door open.
She had oiled the hinge, good for her.
He padded into the room, closed the door, reached up and locked it.
The whop buzz, whop buzz of the red neon from the bar across the street illuminated the furniture. Red, dark, red, dark, like a slow strobe.
He felt like he was crawling on Mars.
Her breath was short. Steady. Just an occasional catch in her throat that culminated in a petite snore.
He crawled toward the king sized four-poster bed.
Her bedspread puddled on the floor.
Her scent disgusted him. Baby powder and cigarette smoke.
That would be one unhealthy little tike.
Why do women do that to themselves?
A woman, cut down in her prime, inhaling carcinogens into healthy lungs under beautiful breasts.
It looked sexy on the silver screen in the thirties and forties, but in real life…
His mom thought she was Tallulah Bankhead or Marlene Dietrich with the sexy, long cigarette holder stuck between her yellow teeth, but it didn’t get her anywhere. It didn’t land her a husband or boyfriend that could stand her for more than two consecutive years in a row.
And certainly not at the end of her life.
Good riddance to bad rubbish.
Good riddance to Old Mom.
Shriveled lips, crusty, baked bean teeth. Hacking up black-green phlegm. And then at the last, dear ole’ mom sucking on unfiltered Camels through the hole the doc had to poke in her throat.
He sniffed again.
If only he could crawl to the window, throw it open and gasp the fresh, night air.
When he was done.
He padded closer.
Two bed posts. Goal posts in the end zone. Touchdown was evident.
He pulled himself upright and peeked over the footboard.
He watched her beneath the sheets.
The sheets were white.
Then they were red.
His Grinch grin.
He pulled the green, rubber-mask from his back pocket. He didn’t need it, but he liked it. The element of surprise, just in case she woke up.
It was the terror; he loved it when they woke up.
But not tonight; tonight he would be o’naturale, just for her.
He put the mask back in his pocket.
He took hold of the two bedposts and climbed onto the footboard feeling the smooth wood through the latex gloves. He bent his knees and hung, as if suspended on a cross, pulling himself up and down in rhythm with her breathing.
She bolted upright in bed. The sheet fell away exposing her white tank top.