Post by Will Dockery Post by Michael Pendragon Post by Will Dockery Post by Michael Pendragon Post by Will Dockery
Michael, the poem did begin with "It was in a dream..."
A lot of things happen in dreams differently than they do in real life, and this was one of them.
You dream about a girl you barely knew back in high school. You dream that upon meeting up with her, you almost immediately stick your finger in her "hole" (apparently to prove to her, or yourself, or both) that you weren't gay. Then you end the poem with an open message to her (presuming that might see it in print some day) telling her (in a Freudian double-entendre) that all you want to do is get in contact.
I'm sure any girl reading that would be flattered -- and would never dream of looking into the possibility of a restraining order. ;-)
Well, again, it was a poem based on a dream. A very sexual dream, true. I could have either not written the poem, changed the language or the "story" (which I actually did do a couple of years later, before just shelving the poem for 35 years, perhaps now I see for very good reasons, actually changing th line "put my finger to her hole" to "played in the snow" which made no sense, but I suppose that's better in this case) or, as I did do, shelve the poem.
I'm detecting a Bukowski influence in there, as well, which I now doesn't help matters. :)
"Do not mistake the speaker of the poem with the writer of the poem..."
But in the end, I accept the blame... I was young, horny, had a thrilling dream, and wrote it down the next morning.
And so it goes... or in my dreams it went somewhat smoothly.
I'm just messing around. I've written stuff a hundred times more creepy in a stalker sorta way than that. For instance, I've got a first person, stream of conscious, psycho-stalker-killer story about a guy who kidnaps his pretty co-worker, beats her, rapes her, kills her, then rapes her again. Sonofabitch gets away with it, too.
I think I remember that one... or a poem of yours called "Stalker", or something similar to that?
I've got a pair of poems called "Stalking," but they only score a low-to-moderate rating on the Creep Scale.
Here's the story (and, to turn the creep factor up several notches, "Melanie" was the name of a co-worker I had a crush on at the time), and yes, she really did live in Hoboken, etc. The protagonist's name was added in a later revision, and is the name of a one-time member of another group who was (incorrectly) considered by everyone to be one of my sock puppets.
I'd said that this was in the first-person, but it's also gone through multiple revisions, and such is no longer the case. It's one of my earlier stabs at fiction, and was written with a specific magazine in mind ("Nasty Piece of Work," which turned it down). To give you an idea of what "Nasty Piece of Work" published, one particularly sickening story was about a contest where muscle men held live dogs up by their hind legs (one leg in each hand), and proceeded to rip them in half. They eventually did publish one of my poems. :-)
For I had rather owner be
Of thee one hour, than all else ever.
-- John Donne
The whole affair had seemed like it was torn from out the pages of a fairy-tale -- at least at the beginning. How could things, he asked himself repeatedly, have gone so terribly wrong? A sudden blast of chilly autumn air through the cracked window of his Ford Explorer immediately brought his thoughts back to the present. He cast a sad, remorseful glance on the unseemly bundle stuffed beneath the passenger-seat dashboard. The suicide seat, he thought with the hint of a smirk tugging his upper lip. How ironic.
He remembered the first time he'd laid eyes on her at the annual company picnic. Melanie. That was her name. Sweet and beautiful, like the melody of unseen birds that, he suddenly recalled, were singing that day in the trees over top their heads. And she was so very beautiful ... then ... with her long red hair flecked with golden glints of sun, and her blue-green eyes like gemstones flashing brilliant sparkles through the lazy skies.
So what if it was the warm, July breeze gently playing about the hem of her yellow mini-skirt that first drew her to his attention? Sexual attraction is a necessary part of love, after all. Of course, it was her body that first drew his attention to her. For cryin' out loud! What guy was ever in love with a girl who didn't turn him on? But if she were just another tease, he'd have never suspected it then. She seemed as natural and as artless as the careless summer day that framed her every movement with the fertile greens of nature.
Somewhere along the rolling hills she'd taken off her shoes, and her long, lithe legs were almost the color of cream. He couldn't help thinking they were even more delicious to the taste. Yes, he smiled as he thought back on her that day, he'd been crazy about her from the very first glance. Too crazy, perhaps. Crazy to the point that he couldn't bear to pry his eyes away from her. So crazy that she commandeered his thoughts from the moment he woke up at 6:45 a.m., till the time he finally fell asleep at night. No doubt she filled his dreams each night as well, but Charles Rogan never remembered his dreams.
Anyway, the prospect of sex wasn't the only reason he'd fallen for her. Okay, maybe at first, but attractions of that sort wear themselves out once the novelty wears off. Not so where Melanie was concerned. His obsession with her only seemed to grow more and more intense with every passing day. He couldn't help it -- somewhere along the way, he'd fallen in love with her. He loved the way she'd smile, the way she'd tilt her head a little to one side when she laughed, the way she always seemed so cheerful -- vibrant -- happy just to be alive.
She'd been like a ray of sunshine in his life -- though far too fleeting. He often felt as though he only lived to catch another glimpse of her commuting to and from their job each day. He'd always make sure to arrive and leave before her, if only to steal an extra glance of her walking down the street. Just a few precious moments, five days a week. Sometimes when she worked late, he'd remain standing around the front of one of the nearby buildings as inconspicuously as possible, chain smoking cigarettes and feeling like the world's biggest fool.
When he was apart from her presence, it seemed that he was only marking time. Until last week, that is. He flicked on the Explorer's wipers as a sheet of lightning flashed across the sky, signaling the onset of the storm. Almost instantaneously, the rains poured down in angry torrents -- washing over his vehicle like waves across the deck of a sailboat. One good thing, he thought to himself ... there sure as hell won't be any tire tracks or footprints. He cracked a bitter smile at the thought ... and despised himself all the more for it.
If only he could shake the memories! They kept on playing themselves out before his eyes -- over and over again. And not just those of the past few hours. Images from the whole, damned, unrequited, three-and-a-half month mockery came flooding back to him in all their ridiculous glory. It was as if God couldn't resist getting in one more laugh at his expense. Well the little comedy was over now.
It wouldn't be easy, of course, but deep inside he knew that he could someday place it all behind him. There had been many episodes from his past that he'd rather not remember. Too many. But he'd gotten over them. From childhood on, people had pegged him as an easy target. It seemed like he'd been the plaything of every bully that happened to come within five hundred yards. And, of course he'd end up being the recipient of every smarmy put-down known to man.
He'd learned early on to shut himself off from the feelings of others. If you harden your heart to a great enough extent, it becomes bullet-proof. This late affair really wasn't any different. He'd let himself be made a fool, this time, that's all. But that was all over now. Melanie would never laugh at him again. He'd made damn good and sure of that!
The weekends had always been the worst. What excuse could he possibly make to justify his walking aimlessly through her neighborhood all the live-long day? He wasn't even supposed to know where she lived. He only knew because he'd spent a week or so following her to the PATH train from work. A dozen blocks to the PATH train at 34th Street, then a twenty minute ride beneath the Hudson river ... so near and yet so far! It was torture for him to stay in the city till Monday, but what other option did he have? He didn't want her to think that he was stalking her.
She didn't even know his name. At least, he didn't think she knew it. They didn't talk to one another then -- not really. Just a smile and a nod when they'd pass each other in the halls, the lobby, or in the street. And he'd always made sure that they would pass. Sometimes she'd even say "Hi" to him. She initiated it! He'd never so much as spoken to her before, then suddenly, out of nowhere she says "Hi" to him while he's waiting for the coffee pot to fill up in the break room. It had to mean she wanted him. It had to. The only other possible explanation -- and he'd given the matter more thought than it probably deserved -- was that she knew that she was driving him wild and got some kind of twisted kick out of it.
But she wasn't like that. She wasn't a tease like all the others. She was sweet, and good, and kind. She understood him. He'd felt that from the first. He'd always felt it when they'd meet and pass. They were kindred souls. And they both recognized this for a fact. They had a sort of understanding -- an innate sympathy -- a mutual, unspoken knowledge ... God damn! his head was starting to throb. He should have spoken to her then! That was the time -- the moment for it -- and he'd let it pass. Sometimes you can be such a coward, he chided himself. And cowards never get a second chance.
It seemed as though he'd been driving for ages. He was in the Catskills now -- nearly at his journey's end. "Thank God for four-wheel drive," he mumbled, as the Ford turned down a muddy, woodland trail. Suddenly it hit him like a thunderbolt. What if she'd told someone about him. Someone at work. She had a lot of friends at work -- and he didn't have any. He'd been there for seven years -- she a mere five months. Life's strange that way. Anyway, most people seemed to have an immediate aversion to him.
He used to think it was because of his weight. He'd been overweight since the age of nine or ten, and had never been able to stick to a diet long enough to make any headway against it. But it was more than just the fat. Fatter guys them him seemed popular enough. Not with the ladies necessarily, but they seemed to have more than their share of friends. No, it was something else -- something deep inside of him -- something about him -- something dark and twisted that "normal" people could pick up on. Something that made them uneasy.
Naturally, he'd always kept to himself at work. The less people came to know him, the better his chances of being able to keep his job. Social pariahs are hardly a company asset. And he couldn't afford to lose his job -- not on his salary! Better to be the equivalent of a corporate ingrown toenail, he told himself, than to stick out like a proverbial sore thumb. But that was an excuse as well. The truth was that he couldn't interact on a social level to save his life. Several of his coworkers had tried to start up conversations with him. He'd smile at them like some stupid two-hundred-and-forty-pound puppy and wag his tail, grateful for the attention. But the words always stuck inside his throat.
Perhaps it was for the best after all ... all things considered, that is. He didn't have to wonder whether he'd ever made any comments about Melanie -- of either the admiring or lascivi-ous variety -- to one of his coworkers. Nobody'd have any reason to suspect him. None whatsoever. Then again, perhaps he'd be thought of as one of those quiet loner-types -- a whacked-out Lee Harvey Oswald ready to snap. They'd get him then for sure. If she'd told anyone about them -- about him -- that is.
It was pretty weird, he supposed, if you thought about it long enough. Their relationship; for in its own bizarre way, that's exactly what it was. But of course he never thought about it at the time. At the time it just seemed like the natural progression of things. Sure, some people just pass on the street, strike up a conversation, and thirty minutes later are heading for whichever of their apartments is the closest, but those kind of relationships peter out almost as rapidly as they flare up.
This relationship was different. This was one of those special relationships that needed time to develop, to mature, to be carefully nurtured until it would grow so strong that nothing on earth could ever make it wane. How could he have known that she was secretly laughing at him all the while? Damn her! Miserable little slut! How could he have ever guessed at such a thing?
Love had blinded him -- yes, that was it! Love had dulled his senses; clouded his mind with pink, satiny daydreams and rendered him imperceptible to the true nature of things. He'd actually believed he had a chance with someone so beautiful. A pitiful sound, somewhere between a laugh and a sigh rose up from his throat every time he thought about it. How could he have been so stupid! She was a tall, leggy goddess with a figure to kill for. And what was he? ... a squat, ugly, fat man with little money and a nowhere, dead-end job.
He should have known. He must have given her -- given all of them -- a good laugh over it. They were always laughing behind his back -- the "normal" ones. Ever since he was a kid. They'd laughed at him in front of his face back then, the other children that is. Now his coworkers laughed at him behind his back. He couldn't say which one was more painful. Some people seem to have been put on this earth with no other purpose than to give others something to laugh at. It's always easier to swallow life's little compromises when there's someone worse off than you to look down on. "Hey, at least I'm not Charlie Rogan!," they can say.
But even the Charlie Rogan's of this world have their limits. And this Charlie Rogan had finally reached his. He'd long grown insensible to the sniggering when people thought he was safely out of earshot. At least no one meant to cause him any pain. But what Melanie had done to him went be-yond the bounds of cruelty.
He still couldn't believe it was a joke. At some point, in the beginning, he told himself, he must have had a chance. He'd looked relatively handsome -- for him -- the day of the picnic, after all. He always looked better in casual clothes which could help to hide his weight problem. Maybe she'd initially mistaken him for an upper-level Administrator. And some girls actually prefer big, husky men. Surely her smile wasn't that of a tease ... the look he'd always seen in her eyes ... it was far too real to be a put-on. Too intense ...
His hand pressed down upon her forehead, forcing her to her knees. Her entire body shaking uncontrollably, the tears rolling down her harlot's cheeks ... Not yet. He suppressed this latest set of images. The end at least made sense. It was the chain of events leading up to it that he didn't get. But more importantly, the fatal question still loomed over his head: what if she'd talked about him? Okay, let's assume the worst -- let's assume she had. Suppose they were all laughing at him ... what did that prove? That he had a crush on her? That he was a fat, sweaty, drooling pervert ... Crack! the back of his hand struck hard against her face. Her mouth was one big mess of blood. He liked the fact that it was on his hand. Her blood! Just thinking about it made him want to orgasm.
It didn't prove anything. They'd need a body before they could prove anything, and he'd take good care of that. But what if she hadn't been laughing? What if she'd been scared? What if she'd told people he'd been stalking her? He never should have followed her to her home a week ago. He never would have found out then. This whole, accursed night might never have happened then. Was he some kind of closet masochist? Why, why, why did he have to do it?
It was on a Friday, after work. He'd waited around the corner of the building like he always did -- smoking a cigarette -- waiting to get a final glimpse of her before heading home for another long, tormented night. At 5:27 she appeared. She hardly ever stayed beyond 5:30 these days. He'd watched her from behind, like all the other nights, as she quickly disappeared into the rushing crowd. He liked to catch a glimpse of her buttocks gyrating as she picked her way along the bustling street.
In the past, he'd always let it go at that. Sometimes he'd follow her for a block or two, but would always turn down a side street so as not to arouse suspicion. The following night he'd resume the pursuit at the point where he'd last left off. It was in this manner that he'd managed to follow her to the train at 34th Street. Yet, unlike all those other nights, this time he followed after her -- all the way home -- taking care to always be keeping himself approximately one block behind her.
She was bawling like a soiled baby once again, so he back-handed her another time to shut her up. At any rate it knocked the volume down a bit. Having duly secured her hands behind her back, he pushed her flat against the ground and slowly reached his fat hand up her skirt ... She'd boarded the PATH train, as per usual, at the 34th Street station. So, she lives in Jersey! he remembered having thought triumphantly the first time he'd watched her board the train -- although one surely fails to fathom why. Perhaps his finding out any information about her whatsoever had been perceived as a victory of some kind.
He'd never gotten on the train with her before. He couldn't risk being seen by her aboard it. Had she caught him there, he'd have had to confess his feelings for her -- and he could not yet bring himself to risk that. What if she were to reject him? As painful and unsatisfying as their relationship was, he didn't dare risk losing it. That would have been too much to bear.
But on this fateful night, he was riding too high on his own adrenaline to simply turn around and head back home. He stealthily entered the car directly behind hers. It was all too perfect. He should have been a private eye, he complimented himself -- and would have if he'd been around in the thirties and forties. Unfortunately the world of Phillip Marlowe and Sam Spade had long since passed -- there were just too many sickos out there.
Taking his position in front of the sliding door at the forward end of his car, he had a clear view inside her coach. He wondered why he hadn't done this earlier. It was so simple -- and now so many pieces of the puzzle that was her life, were able to put into place. He'd merely have to see what stop she got off at, and he'd be able to get her number and address from information. She wasn't the type to have an unlisted number. She was much too friendly for that sort of thing. The idea of following her once she left the station was still too daring to consider. He watched her sitting there with her legs crossed -- reading a paperback book whose title he couldn't make out -- and imagined himself sitting across from her, trying to steal a peek up her skirt.
Around five a.m. he brought the Explorer to a halt. This was to be the fated spot. He immediately sensed how right it was. Nothing but wilderness for miles on every side! Who would have thought there could be so much wilderness in New York? He double-checked his equipment one last time: flashlight, shovel, kerosene, waterproof matches. He was all set. He was a criminal mastermind -- Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, O. J. Simpson -- none could hold a candle to him! His whole being surged with a sense of power that he'd never felt in all his twenty-seven years.
If only he could be certain that she hadn't mentioned him to anyone. Oh well, it was too late to worry about that now. The train had just pulled into the station at Hoboken. As he watched her stand up and make her way to the door, he realized that he'd been taking too much for granted. The PATH let out at a train station, for chrissakes. She could live anywhere. Hell, she could even park her car in Hoboken and drive to the backside of nowhere, for all he knew.
He jumped off the train without a second to spare. She was nowhere to be seen. He started to run up the escalator, but checked himself. He couldn't do anything that might draw attention. Not that he was planning to kill her at the time -- he wasn't. He'd never even thought of killing her. It was only that he didn't want her to catch him spying on her like this -- like some moon-eyed school-boy. It was downright embarrassing.
"You're not too good for me now, are you slut?" He spread her cheeks apart and entered her from behind.
"Please, please, please let me go ..." she whimpered helplessly beneath his hulking two hundred and forty-something pound frame.
"You should've thought of that before, you dirty little tease!"
She exited the station and walked on in the opposite direction of the parking lot. He caught a welcomed glimpse of her just as she turned the corner. That settled it -- Hoboken. He didn't follow her any more that night.
He slowly pulled the bundle out from under the dashboard, and set it gently on the passenger seat. Breathlessly he unwrapped it, thrilling in the anticipation like a little boy opening up his Christmas gift. There she sat -- still beautiful, if perhaps a bit disheveled. He sat in the cab beside her and took her already cold, still hand in his. For only a few minutes he pretended she was alive -- that they were a loving, happy couple parking in a dark and secret spot to make out together. It all could have been so wonderful.
He swallowed hard, his eyes beginning to mist. It really had seemed like a fairy-tale at first. So many years alone, unloved and unwanted. Then, from out of nowhere, she appeared -- her smiles inviting him gradually into her life. It was like a dream about to come true. To think that this vision of loveliness -- this princess -- could desire such a toad as him! Unfortunately, it turned out that she couldn't. She couldn't even bear to have him touch her ... when she was alive ...
After having returned home from following her that Friday, he was too worked up to sleep. He lay awake in bed until the first rays of morning sunlight cast their faint, and ghostly glow on the waking world outside his window. It would be rough going without any sleep, but he'd pulled more that a few all-nighters back in college -- and his college days weren't all that far behind him. Anyway, if worse came to worse, he could always catch an hour or two of shut-eye with a late afternoon nap.
As things turned out, he never got the nap. All day long, he'd walked Hoboken's streets; explored the rows of quaint cafes and shoppes, picked through the old albums at a used record store, browsed through a book store and several antiques shoppes. He had both lunch and dinner at a couple of sidewalk cafes -- making sure to get an outdoor table so he wouldn't miss her if she happened to pass. That would be the ideal way to break the ice, he thought; feign surprise at seeing her, call her over, invite her to join him ... it was practically a date. But late Saturday evening everything went wrong ...
The day passed by without so much as a single glimpse of her. Well, he couldn't know she'd even be there that day at all. He gave an involuntary, and bitterly ironic smile at the thought that she might, at that very moment, be window shopping in the streets of Midtown New York. Anyway, the day wasn't a total bust. There were plenty of nice looking women to check out, and more than enough beer to make the outing a pleasant one. Sooner or later he'd have to run into her here. If not today, then definitely tomorrow. And Hoboken was a fairly little town -- about three miles long by one mile wide. Sooner or later their paths were bound to cross.
They crossed alright! He brushed back a strand of hair from her lifeless, porcelain face. My God, she's beautiful!, he thought. He tenderly stroked her bruised and bloodied cheek -- there was so much love inside of him to give. If only her soul had been as lovely as her outward form. But such was not the case. Her flawless breast concealed a twisted heart -- as malignant and corrupt as her corpse would soon become. Looks can be deceiving, he told himself -- he'd learned the truth of that old saw alright -- the hard way.
"You've learned it too," he thought aloud to the dead girl beside him as he carefully wiped the blood from off her lips. "Like everyone else, you thought that I was harmless. A joke. A roly-poly clown too ridiculous to be dangerous. But you know better now, don't you?" He noticed that some smears of blood had gotten on the front of her dress. His anger for her having all burned up, and feeling once more in a loving mood, he proceeded to wipe it clean. Upon finishing, he pulled her unbuttoned blouse aside and wiped the blood from off her breasts as well.
Once again the old lust was upon him. Her breasts, though growing cold, still held all of their alluring power. He was in heaven. He suddenly realized that hadn't even exposed her breasts while raping her. Rape is said to be an act of violence after all. Now with trembling fingers, he hurried to undo her dress. His fat, anxious digits fumbled clumsily with the buttons. It was crazy, but he felt embarrassed and a little shy. It was almost like being a teenager on a date, he supposed; for the truth is he had never dated as a teen.
It was nearly midnight when their paths finally met that Saturday. He was sitting in Stinky's, one of the local pick-up bars. There's at least one pick-up bar per block along Washington Street -- Hoboken's three-mile-long main strip -- and all of them with Sinatra on the jukebox. She was there as well. He didn't see her come in, but the bar was so packed that it was almost impossible to see the front door. He sincerely doubted that she saw him though, as the sleazy long-hair she was with was all over her. They were really putting on one helluva show. It was absolutely disgusting. How could she possibly behave that way?
"Slut! Tramp! Whore!" he practically spat in her uncomprehending face, as he pumped up and down on top of her.
His heart nearly broke as he glared at her from across the bar. All this time she had only been playing with him. Teasing him. Making a fool of him so she and her scum-bag boyfriend could get a couple of laughs. The string of lights that framed the mirror behind the bar grew fuzzy and started to waver and blink. His barstool began to wobble as a queasy feeling rose up from the pit of stomach to tickle the back of his throat. He pulled a few dollars out of his wallet to cover the last drink and its tip, then quickly forced his way through the crowd to the side door.
It was only a distance of about eight or nine feet, but the barroom was so densely packed as to make movement almost impossible. Fortunately for Charlie, his desperate condition was obvious to everyone who got a look at him. They quickly moved their less attentive friends aside while loudly announcing to all within earshot that the "Fat boy's going to lose it!"
Which is exactly what he did the second he got his head outside the door. He hoped that Melanie hadn't seen him -- not that it mattered any more. She was probably too busy swapping spit with the wannabe rock star to have noticed if the bar had gone up in smoke around them. Not that the others patrons were being nonchalant about it. Several of the female customers shrieked and made disgusted noises, while their male companions made asinine comments of the type that pass for humor among drunks.
He didn't dare go back inside the bar. Instead, he staggered off down one of the dimly lit side streets; blindly stumbling away from a memory he'd give his eye teeth to forget.
"Bitch! Cunt! Lousy good-for-nothing tease!" As he came inside her, he sank his teeth into her upper lip.
The hopes and dreams which preoccupied him for the past three and a half months had scattered and dissolved like a puff of smoke from a cigarette -- not that he was smoking with his stomach in the state is was. It had all been nothing more than make-believe; games; play acting; twisted, twisted lies. As he flopped down on a wooden bench in what he took to be some sort of little park, he thought of all the times she'd lead him on. He could still see her, smiling so prettily as she said "Hi" to him each morning -- practically begging him to get over his goddamned shyness and strike up a conversation with her.
He could also see her (in his imagination, that is) laughing about the "fat boy" while she and her long-haired lover lay naked in bed. Well she could laugh all she wanted to tonight. But he knew the truth about her now, and her laughing days were numbered. Charles Rogan was not the kind of man one ought to trifle with. He'd fix her wagon, but good. He chuck-led at the thought as he slipped into a deep and dreamless sleep. Her day of reckoning lay just around the corner ...
As things turned out, it was even closer than he'd thought. He didn't remember what time it was, afterward -- only that it was late. The bars had already closed their doors, but the streets were still spotted with lingering groups and couples, too busy enjoying the moment to resign themselves to calling it a night. The diners were still open, as were several pizzerias
and bodegas, and the Dunkin' Donuts on Washington Street was the last chance for many revelers to sober up over a cup of steaming black coffee before buckling themselves into their cars and driving home.
Perhaps it was the chill in the late October air that roused him prematurely from his drunken sleep, or the hardness of the bench making his left side grow numb, but he was soon sitting up wide-eyed and alert -- and wondering where the heck he was and how he would manage get himself home.
Not that he'd forgotten the devastating events of that fateful night. He simply didn't know what direction (or directions) he'd been wandering the back streets of Hoboken in order to have ended up where he was. He had been much too upset to be paying attention to street signs at the time -- even if the signs had stayed still long enough for him to read them. All he had wanted to do was to run as far away as his faltering legs could carry him.
He wanted to get away from her, and her "lover," and the pain that throbbed and pounded in his head, and seared his heart with a thousand red-hot irons. Oh well, it wasn't too difficult to regain your bearings in Hoboken. Just start walking in any direction. If you hit the water, you turn around and head the other way. Plus, in his earlier condition, he sincerely doubted that he'd strayed far from the beaten path.
It wasn't long before he was back alongside of Stinky's. Someone, probably one of the bartenders, had washed down the mess he'd left on the steps. Next time, he promised himself, he'd leave them a little something extra as a tip -- assuming there would ever be a next time. In light of the present situation, he didn't see much reason for returning.
But he would be returning -- every night for the next six days, as a matter of fact.
For fate had one more card in store for him that night. While making his way back toward the PATH station, he caught a glimpse of Melanie out of the corner of his eye in one of the all-night diners. With hair as red as hers, she was difficult to miss. She was seated by herself in the corner booth with the back of her head reclining against the plate glass window. His heart stopped ... and he did likewise. For a few, fleeting seconds, he entertained the idea that the long-haired man had left her. Perhaps, he kidded himself, she'd had too much to drink, and that sleazy looking guy had been taking advantage of her. Until she came to her senses again, that is.
From somewhere behind him, a hand grabbed hold of his shoulder and whipped him around to face the street. There, just a few inches in front of his nose, stood the selfsame slime-ball who'd been taking advantage of his love ...
"What do you think you're staring at, loser?" he half-shouted in his startled rival's face, practically spitting on him in the process. He was one of those people that alcohol doesn't mix well with, and as luck would have it, he was blind stinking drunk and itching for a fight.
"I-I-I ...," Charlie blurted out. He was much too taken aback to answer.
"Ay-yi-yi," his bullying assailant mocked him. "Hey Mexican Joe, East LA is that-a-way," he hollered as he shoved Charlie down the street in the direction of the popular Mexican eatery.
The PATH station was in the opposite direction, but Charlie kept on going. The last thing he wanted was to get into a fight with this jerk. Not that he was afraid of him, although, truth be told, he hadn't ever been in any fights. He figured he outweighed this guy by a good seventy-five pounds, and could probably have stomped him into the sidewalk without breaking a sweat. But a fight would draw attention to him -- Melanie's attention -- and he'd rather suffer humiliation at the hands of her lover, than the greater humiliation of having her know that he was here.
"That's it! Keep right on goin'," the drunk man shouted after him. "Go stare at the girlie pictures in a porno mag, you goddamn pervert. Creeps like you shouldn't be allowed out on the streets."
His last words faded into the distance as Charles practically ran down the nearly empty street. As he turned down 8th Street and leaned against the shadows of a wall, his anger slowly grew into a white-hot rage. He'd get them -- both of them! And as he thought of bashing in their faces he pounded his fists into the brick wall behind him till his knuckles were covered with blood.
Getting them both proved to be easier than he'd thought. Crossing back over Washington Street, he took up a position in a shadowy nook across from the diner ... and waited. Nearly an hour later, the couple stepped out of the diner, and started walking down the practically deserted street arm-in-arm. Charles waited until they'd gone nearly two and a half blocks, before he stepped out of the shadows to follow them. Eventually they disappeared down one of the side streets, and Charlie ran after them until he reached the corner they'd turned on. Luckily they were still there, nearly two blocks ahead of him, making their way back to what turned out to be Melanie's apartment.
He hadn't really wanted to kill her. If only she'd confessed her love for him, he'd have forgiven her everything. But the look of utter disgust had been stamped upon her face throughout the entire ordeal -- especially when he'd finished with her boyfriend. She'd looked at him like all the others had. It was painful -- utter torture! -- for him to have to look into her eyes. He knew then he could never allow her to live. How could he? She'd have turned-him-in in a second.
It took a little doing, but he finally managed to remove her bra. God but she was exquisite! He buried his pudgy face inside her cleavage, and hungrily nibbled at her delicate little nipples. And she tasted good, too. Nice and salty -- probably due to the blood. He lifted up her head and looked into her eyes. There was no fear left in them now ... no revulsion, no disgust ... She was as calm and as natural as the cool night air around them, or the silhouetted trees whose guardian trunks and branches now shielded them from the prying eyes of the world.
The couple soon made another turn, and Charlie ran to catch up to them once again. This time he'd just made it, for when he peered around the corner, they were already opening the door of an apartment building. He noted down the address on a scrap of paper from one of his pockets, and headed homeward, once again -- an angry, broken soul. It was nearly 5 a.m. when he finally climbed into bed. Apart from his nap on the park bench, he hadn't slept a wink in over two days. No sooner did he hit the sheets than he was out like a light till the evening.
That night he parked on her street, as close to her apartment house as possible -- and waited. Eventually she'd have to go out by herself after dark. There were a thousand and one reasons for her to do so -- perhaps she'd need a late-night snack, or maybe she'd run out of cigarettes and be too weak to hold off until morning. Maybe her long-haired boyfriend, who seemed to be spending most of his nights there, would run out of condoms -- assuming that he used any. It really didn't matter why; the important thing was that sooner or later, one of them would be out.
And so they both were: in and out at least a half-dozen times that week; only before the streets were empty enough for him to make his move. On Friday night he finally got his chance. It was a little after 2 a.m. and much like the previous Saturday, the couple were slowly staggering their way down the block. He pulled a knit ski mask out of his coat pocket and waited for them to pass by his car door.
He brought the whole thing off without a single hitch. Just like a pro, he told himself with a smile. Funny the sort of things one can find to take pride in. Still, it's only natural for one to take pride in a job well-done, regardless of how morally repugnant the job. That would be a problem, too, he thought -- his job. He'd play it cool at work, of course. Really cool. She'd worked in a different department and he did little socializing. He couldn't afford to seem overly interested in her disappearance.
Then again, he might not even hear his coworkers talking about it. He chuckled softly at the thought. Who'd have ever thought his lack of sociability could be a plus?
No. He wouldn't hear a word about it -- unless, of course, she'd talked. If her co-workers had been in on the joke he'd hear about it for sure. No matter. He could just play dumb. Who? Melanie who? Not the nice little red-headed girl from bookkeeping? God, I hope nothing's happened to her.
It was only a fake gun that he'd pulled on them; a blank shooter that he'd ordered from the classified section of Popular Mechanics when he'd first moved to the city. Nevertheless, it served his purpose well. Billy Longhair wasn't such a tough guy with a popgun shoved up his nose. The threat was enough to get Melanie inside the Explorer and to get lover boy down on his knees. A swift crack from the gun butt to the back of his skull and he was out like a light. Charlie tossed him in the back of his s.u.v. and quickly bound him hand and foot with some duct tape and rope he'd picked up at the local hardware store. Melanie was left to sit quietly beside him in the passenger seat.
There wasn't any point in manhandling her like he'd done with ol' Longhair. She wouldn't dare try anything so long as "Billy's" life hung in the balance. "Just sit tight and keep your mouth shut," he snapped at her, "and nobody'll get hurt." Part of him still felt bad about the whole thing. Part of him wanted to take her trembling body in his arms, kiss away her tears and tell her that everything was going to be all right. But another part of him remembered how she'd been callously toying with his heart for the past three months -- and that part wasn't about to forgive because of a few tears. Especially not when the tears were for Billy Longhair!
"What are you going to do to us?" she whimpered as Charlie drove the Explorer onto Route 1 & 9.
"Just sit back and enjoy the scenery, babe" he purred back, delighting in the sarcasm of his reply.
They followed 1 & 9 for about a half an hour before Charlie turned off onto a dimly lit rural road. Melanie had been trying to note down the streets in her memory, but the small street signs here were often impossible to make out. In the back of her mind she wondered if she'd survive to give a report to the police, but it was all she could do to keep from going crazy. "Billy" groaned from the back of the s.u.v. She started to cry as she thought about him there.
When Melanie glanced at the clock on the dashboard, she realized that another forty minutes had gone by. The landscape around them was getting progressively more and more rural -- long stretches of trees were broken up every so often by what appeared to be a driveway. What few houses there were now seemed very far back from the road. Charlie turned down a particularly large looking driveway that turned out to be a dirt road. Five minutes later he brought the Explorer to a halt at the banks of a small, wooded lake.
"Ride's over. Everybody out," Charlie joked as he motioned to the passenger side door with his gun. "And keep in
front of the headlights where I can see you," he warned her, "or the cops will be picking loverboy's gray matter out of the carpet." He reached over the seat and pointed the gun at Billy emphasize the point. Not that it needed any emphasis; but Charlie was getting into play acting his new role and found he had a flair for the dramatic.
Charlie climbed out of the driver's side door and walked over to Melanie, dangling a pair of handcuffs before his face. "Turn around," he ordered her.
She obeyed, and he shoved her around to the driver's side of the vehicle and forced her in through the open door. He slapped a cuff on her right wrist, threaded it through the steering wheel, then clapped one on her other wrist, leaving her securely anchored in place.
He next dragged her still unconscious boyfriend from out of the back of the Ford and dumped him on the sand in Melanie's line of sight. He looked down contemptuously at the slim figure lying before him, then sent a few swift kicks to Billy Longhair's stomach.
"Help!" Melanie screamed. "Help! For God's sake, somebody help us!"
Her cries echoed like ripples across the deserted lake, but there was nobody around to hear them.
Her boyfriend opened his eyes, and looked confusedly about. Whether he was roused by her screams or by the volley of kicks to his midriff is anybody's guess; but when he saw the hulking, masked figure glaring down at him, he froze like a deer caught in headlights.
"Remember me, señor?" Charlie taunted him in a mock-hispanic accent. He took off his ski mask and smiled gloatingly, like a wolf salivating over his prey. Billy just blinked stupidly at him, all the more confused.
"Charlie?" Melanie called out, sounding as muddled as her boyfriend. "Charlie Rogan? What is this? Is this some kind of a sick joke?"
"I'll show you how much of a joke it is," he spat back at her, while launching another round of kicks to Billy's helpless form. The kicks to the head must have broken his nose, and perhaps taken out a few of his teeth, for his face was soon covered in a sticky mess of blood. Melanie began screaming uncontrollably. She managed to press her elbow up against the horn, which let out a long wail into the deserted night.
Charlie raced over to her and smacked her hard across the face. Her mouth was one big mess of blood. He liked the fact that it was on his hand. Her blood! He felt a rush of adrenaline pulse through his body and smacked her several more times to maximize his pleasure. He felt a different kind of rush inside his pants, and decided to take her then and there -- with her lover looking impotently on.
He undid her left handcuff and pulled her close against his chest. His hand pressed down upon her forehead, forcing her to her knees. Her entire body was shaking uncontrollably, and tears were rolling down her harlot's cheeks. He rubbed her face against his pants, then shoved her to the ground before his feet.
As soon as Melanie saw that she was free, she tried to scramble over to her injured boyfriend, but Charlie grabbed her by her ankles and dragged her back to the spot where he'd first thrown her. She was bawling like a soiled baby once again, so he back-handed her another time to shut her up. At any rate it knocked the volume down a bit. Charlie yanked both her arms behind her back and fastened them together with the cuffs. Having duly secured her hands behind her back, he pushed her flat against the ground and slowly reached his fat hand up her skirt. "Hey, loser," he hollered over to tangle of hair and blood that once had been a face, "take a look at how a real man satisfies a lady!"
Grabbing hold of Melanie's ankles, he spread her legs apart, then dropping to his knees, pulled her thrashing buttocks up against his crotch. Then, as his excitement grew to an unbearable pitch, he lifted up her skirt and yanked down her panties, leaving them dangling about her ankles like a second set of cuffs.
He took her. Right there on the ground like a horny dog humping on a leg. "You're not too good for me now, are you slut?" He spread her cheeks apart and entered her from behind.
"Please, please, please let me go..." she whimpered helplessly beneath his hulking two hundred and forty-something pound frame.
"You should've thought about that before, you dirty little tease!"
It was hardly the way he'd once imagined they would first consummate their love. His dreams had been along more traditional lines: a small wedding, honeymoon at Niagara, a little cottage with a white picket fence and the requisite 2.5 children, two cars and a dog. But that was before ol' Longhair had shown up.
Leaving Melanie sobbing in the gravel laden sand, Charlie pulled up his trousers and lumbered on over to her boyfriend. He grabbed a handful of his hair and pointed his face in the direction of Melanie. With just that one hand of hair, he could feel the rage pulsing through her lover's body. It was like holding a tiger by the tail. Only this tiger had no chance of striking back.
"See that, big shot. Who's the loser now?" he gloated.
"You think that proves something, fatso," the injured man spat back. "Just throw down that gun and get these ropes off me. I'll show you what a real loser is."
Charlie laughed. "You had your chance, lover boy. The gun only shoots blanks." That said, he pulled the gun out of his pocket and pointed it in the hapless tiger's face. "See," he childishly taunted before he squeezed the trigger. The gun emitted a loud, realistic "bang!" It prompted Billy to wet his jeans, but left him otherwise unharmed. "But even so," he smiled silkily, "it'll still get the job done." And, as though to prove his point, he proceeded to use the gun butt to bash in his former rival's skull.
Melanie quickly scrambled to her feet and bolted. Her hands were still clamped tight behind her back, but she could still run. The woods around them offered the prospect of shelter. But Charlie sprang after her with a quickness uncommon for a man of his size. Moving quickly in general was uncommon for him as well, but his adrenaline was still pumping full force.
He caught up with her just as she'd made it to the forest's edge. He grabbed her, pulled her toward him, tried to kiss her. But she resisted his advances. Twisting and thrashing she shouted "I hate you!" and sent a gob of spit against his cheek.
Furious, Charlie whacked her in the side of the head with the butt of his gun. Several times -- even as she crumpled to her knees. Before he knew it, she was dead. He wrapped her body in a blanket and gently stuffed it under the passenger side dashboard of the Ford.
"Sorry, pal," he said to the dead boyfriend's body, "this time you're not invited." Then, stuffing some rocks in the dead man's pockets and pants, he hoisted him up and tossed him into the lake. Winter was coming and it would soon be frozen over with ice. He doubted there'd be much left to see by spring. Then after kicking some loose dirt and leaves over the bloody areas, he climbed into the Explorer and headed for the Catskills.
He'd never been to the Catskills, but had always wanted to see them -- ever since he'd read about them in some stories by Washington Irving. He must have been in the fourth or fifth grade then. He couldn’t remember which for sure, but it didn't really matter. Nor did it matter that the Catskills were a good two and a half hour drive from where he was -- the farther away, the better, Charlie thought.
He flicked on the Explorer's wipers as a sheet of lightning flashed across the sky, signaling the onset of the storm. Almost instantaneously, the rains poured down in angry torrents -- washing over his vehicle like waves across the deck of a sailboat. One good thing, he thought to himself ... there sure as hell won't be any tire tracks or footprints. He cracked a bitter smile at the thought ... and despised himself all the more for it.
Around five a.m. he brought the s.u.v. to a halt. This was to be the fated spot. He immediately sensed how right it was. Nothing but wilderness for miles on every side! Who would have thought there could be so much wilderness in New York? He double-checked his equipment one last time: flashlight, shovel, kerosene, waterproof matches. He was all set.
He slowly pulled the bundle out from under the dashboard, and set it gently on the passenger's seat. Breathlessly he unwrapped it, thrilling in the anticipation like a little boy opening up his Christmas gift. There she sat -- still beautiful, if perhaps a bit disheveled. He sat in the cab beside her and took her already cold, still hand in his. For only a few minutes he pretended she was alive -- that they were a loving, happy couple parking in a dark and secret spot to make out together. It could have all been so wonderful.
He brushed back a strand of hair from her lifeless, porce-lain face. My God, she's beautiful!, he thought. He tenderly stroked her bruised and bloodied cheek -- there was so much love inside of him to give. If only her soul had been as lovely as her outward form. He noticed that some smears of blood had gotten on the front of her dress. His anger for her having all burned up, and feeling once more in a loving mood, he proceeded to wipe it clean. Upon finishing, he pulled her unbuttoned blouse aside and wiped the blood from off her breasts as well.
Once again the old lust was upon him. Her breasts, though growing cold, still held all of their alluring power. He was in heaven. He suddenly realized that hadn't even exposed her breasts while raping her. Rape is said to be an act of violence after all. Now with trembling fingers, he hurried to undo her dress. His fat, anxious digits fumbled clumsily with the buttons. It was crazy, but he felt embarrassed and a little shy. It was almost like being a teenager on a date, he supposed; for the truth is he had never dated as a teen.
A second time he groped beneath her skirt. The insides of her thighs were still wet and sticky with his cum. He smeared it over her ass and pubic hair. His dick was nearly ready to explode! Last time he'd taken her in anger -- this time he'd take her solely out of love. But the old feelings of jealousy and betrayal were still too strong.
"Slut! Tramp! Whore!" he practically spat in her uncomprehending face, as he pumped up and down on top of her. "Bitch! Cunt! Lousy good-for-nothing tease!" As he came inside her, he sank his teeth into her upper lip.
He stood up, towering over her slender, perfect body and quietly zipped up his pants. He felt a bit remorseful seeing her that way. It was a shame to have to have destroyed so lovely a creature as she had been. Then again, it seemed an even bigger shame for her to waste her loveliness on anyone other than him. Oh well, if he couldn't have her, then no one would.
The earth was soft and rather warm for early November. He dug a shallow grave in it, then laid her body out inside the grave. He reverently crossed her hands atop her chest, then poured the kerosene over her corpse as though it were some kind of holy water. They had been lovers, after all. The thunderstorm was still going strong, however, and he knew he'd have to act fast. She burnt to a cinder on the first match. The fire only seemed to burn for a couple of minutes -- but it was enough. He buried her, and covered the spot with leaves. No one would suspect a thing. Not in a hundred years.
A profound sense of exhaustion came over him as he started up the Explorer for the long, ride home. Thank God it was the weekend, he thought to himself. Thank God, at least, for that.
Monday morning he reported to work at his regular time. In fact, he'd stuck to his daily routine that morning as if his life depended on it -- which, it would be no great exaggeration to say, it did. He had to appear perfectly normal throughout the day -- throughout the next week, month, year -- however long the investigation took. He couldn't afford to allow for the slightest display of odd behavior. Melanie ... the unfortunate young woman ... was practically a stranger to him after all. So long as he was able to keep his cool, no one would ever suspect him.
The detectives were already there when he arrived. There was a tangible feeling of electricity in the air at the office that morning. Everywhere he looked, he could sense that the emotions of his coworkers were in high gear. Some were talking excitedly in hushed voices, others were rushing about from cubicle to cubicle, still others, mostly the women, were sobbing. Suddenly Charles Rogan stopped dead in his tracks -- unsure of what to do, but knowing full well that he had to do something -- and fast.
He figured that the detectives were watching everyone that morning. There was probably a hidden video camera filming him that moment as he paused in the center of his section of the floor. Should he ask a coworker what all the excitement was about? It was blatantly obvious that something was amiss -- something out of the ordinary -- and for him to pretend not to notice it would be a dead giveaway. On the other hand, it was markedly unlike him to approach any of his fellow employees. Such an un-Roganlike action might tip people off to the fact that he had a little more interest in the matter than he should.
Fortunately, his indecision proved to be his salvation. For while he was standing there, looking for all the world like a lost visitor, Sally-Anne from payroll came up to him and informed him that Melanie Johnson had been killed.
"M... M... M... Melanie?" he stammered out, his nervousness getting the better of him.
"Yes, Melanie Johnson," Sally-Anne repeated, "you know, that pretty red-haired girl in bookkeeping."
"Oh... h-h-her...," Charles stuttered, looking worried. "Wh... wh... what happened?"
"No one knows, but the police are here questioning people," Sally-Anne reported, happy to have a captive audience for her horribly lurid gossip. "From what I've been able to piece together, they found her body in a forest up in the Catskills. Burnt to a cinder! Apparently her family had put a missing person report out on her and they were able to match up her teeth with her dental records. You've really got to hand it the NYPD, they can really do some amazing things these days."
"Wh... wh... who ...," Charles interjected, desperately wanting to know who they suspected. Since they were here, he was more than a little worried.
"Who would do such a terrible thing?" Sally-Anne finished asking for him? "You got me, big guy. That Melanie was one of the sweetest people on this planet. Always cheerful, always friendly, always saying 'Hi' to everyone she'd meet ..."
Suddenly the room started turning cartwheels and it was all Charles could do to keep himself from crashing to the floor. Sally-Anne's innocent words tore through his heart like shards of jagged steel. It wasn't so much the discovery that his anger towards Melanie had been without justification, as the realization that she had never really taken the least interest in him. That thought was far too much to bear.
Sally-Anne continued to talk, but Charles no longer under-stood her words. She had become a five-headed gorgon, shrieking gibberish at him while her quintet of faces rotated before his eyes like the cars on a Ferris wheel. He felt his knees begin to buckle under him, but he knew he had to hang on until the harangue had come to an end. If he fainted, he was done for -- his guilt revealed as surely as though he'd broken down and confessed.
But the gorgon wheel kept turning before his eyes, and the room kept spinning about his head, and before he knew what had happened, Charlie Rogan went crashing to the floor.
The funny thing about it was that, rather than making him a suspect, his display of weakness merely showed his co-workers what a sensitive, caring fellow the big oaf really was. Anyway, the police already had the perfect suspect. Her boy-friend's body hadn't been recovered, and it was generally assumed that he'd skipped town after having murdered her. Seems he wasn't thought to be a particularly reputable type.
Anyway, from that day on, Charlie was promoted from being a persona non grata in his workplace to a nice, young man who happens to be a little shy. The older women in the company became especially fond of him, and often seemed in a competition to fix him up with a younger relative or friend.
"They say it's the quiet ones you've got to look out for," Sally-Anne was fond of telling all her friends, "but Charlie Rogan's the sweetest man a body could ever hope to meet!"