The city of La Costa, Florida rose to a picture postcard morning. The sun dawned over a rolling blue sea, middle aged joggers ran along the waters edge and whooping gulls followed fishing boats into the Gulf for a free meal. The smell of sea salt, of popcorn and cotton candy wafted everywhere, an adrenal rush of summer and youth.
The Citizens warily picked up their newspapers and found no news worth reporting. They heaved a collective sigh of relief; the expected tragedy somehow averted.
It was a pretty little town like a million others in Florida, there were retirement communities and million dollar houses set against the deep, azure sea. Fifty miles south of Tampa/St. Pete, it bragged of being the perfect place for snowbirds and all the other people who felt their sister cities had just become too big. It had urban blight and a boardwalk filled with charming shops and entertainment pavilions and arcades. You would think it normal.
This community of retirees and sun seekers found itself under a curse, a high cycle serial killer dwelt in their midst and the police seems impotent to stop him.
But this morning it dawned quietly, perhaps just the eye of the storm. People of the water’s edge knew to be thankful, to dance in the eye of the hurricane. Maybe he had died or gone or just a bad dream they had finally awakened from.
Benjamin Dettrick had the cherubic look of an angel about him.
Though thirty-two, no one would have thought him a day over 21, a college student on his rounds. The brown hair cut in a presentable, clean-cut manner, his blue eyes deep and piercing and his clean-shaven face made him look younger still. The gentle curve of his cheek seemed like baby fat, but his medium height and muscular body are usually hidden under baggy clothing—he had a deceptively powerful frame. Adding to and perhaps making perfect the illusion was the manner of the man, timid, wary, like a lost puppy on a busy street corner. It brought out the maternal instinct in even the most jaded woman. He didn’t look people in the eyes, he would avert away in an unthreatening and shy way.
Ben slung his ever-present backpack onto his other shoulder and stopped when it bumped his back.
“Sorry” he whispered, and brought the bag back in front of himself. He opened it and looked inside. ”You ok?”
Moments later he nodded and proceeded up the steps of the La Costa Herald. Soon he stood in front of the old lady at the counter. The plaque in front of her read ”Lily Andrews, Classifieds.”
”Ca…Can I place an ad here?” He asked. She eyed him over her reading glasses and pointed to the sign.
A little boy smile flashed across his face and he reached gently into the bag. ”Sorry” he whispered again to whatever he had in there.
‘Maybe he had a puppy,’ she thought. He slid out a piece of paper and handed it to her. She read it.
”$10.75 for three weeks.” She offered.
”I only need it posted once.” He said. ”I’m Harold Johnson.” Their eyes met for a moment and then he looked at his feet. She found it so ingratiating a maneuver she softened.
”Two bucks, kid, and I’ll correct your spelling mistakes. Fill out this form and give me the money.” He dug in his pocket and handed her two wadded up dollar bills, and then scratched the well planned lie on the paper she had given him—a fake address, who would ever check?
Ben left the building and went home. He had to work tonight and thank God the monster inside him had been well fed for a day or two.
Donald De Franco rose and bade good morning to the empty side of the bed. He saw no reason to stop loving his wife even if cancer had taken her three years ago. He felt her still with him, haunting his memory and he had given up trying to erase her.
”I should look at the paper, Grace.” He told her, and kissed his hand and touched it to the pillow where her head had lain for some thirty five years.
He dragged his weary, flabby, old body across the room and rubbed his face, the morning beard rough under his hand. The mirror wasn’t kind to him today, either. It showed the same old face, the blood shot eyes and the salt and pepper stubble it had the day before. He did his comb over to give the illusion of hair.
“I’m going to retire today, Grace, put the paperwork in. Maybe move to Arizona, be a cowboy.” He could almost hear her laughter at the thought; he could see her shake her head and get up to make his breakfast.
He’d have quick shower and shave, then into his old gray suit to go to work.
“I’ll see you tonight Grace. Maybe we can play some canasta.” and he moved out the door.
On the way to his Buick Detective De Franco picked up the paper, unrolling it and as if joining the great mass consciousness of La Costa, sighed. ”Hopefully the bastard killed himself.” he said aloud and went to his car to go to work.
Louis still had her blood under his fingernails. It made him smile to think about it. He wished he could keep the whole fucking body, but that would be too dangerous, even La Costa’s finest would be able to find that. Not that they had found her body yet.
He bit at his nails and looked sweetly at the woman sitting on the bus bench beside him. He flashed his most charming smile, and yet still she flinched away from him. ‘Good instincts on this one, no wonder she’s so fucking old,’ He thought idly, then looked up at the front of the Herald Building.
Sometimes Louis amazed even himself. That had to be his boy, barely competent to walk down the street by himself, but beautiful to look at. He lived, no doubt on the kindness of strangers. The boy is younger than he had anticipated he would be, and talking fiercely to his backpack.
A fetish maybe? An invisible friend? Louis had a Bachelor’s in Psychology and had spent his whole life learning how to understand people. Made it much easier to take what he wanted from them. He could pick out a disorganized offender in Times Square. Besides you always know your own kind, his mother used to tell him.
He just sold real estate for money—a lot of money—and a little time alone with potential victims. But you couldn’t take those too often, not as fun but safer just to imagine the look of horror in the guy’s eyes as you made the yuppie fag watch - bound and gagged - as you raped his pretty little trophy wife and strangled her to death. Ah! The remembrance of sweet youth!
His target moved down the street to the bus stop. He moved fast, and was probably smart, but not really all that balanced emotionally. Once you got past the little boy looks and the timid facade, you could see the killer. It takes one to know one right? You always know your own kind.
The boy got on the bus and Louis followed, flashing his winning smile at the busman who blew him off. It pissed Louis off to no end. He hated to be dismissed. He knew himself to be superlative and everyone should know it. He thought for a minute, fantasized really, about how many times he would have to slam the guy’s face into the dashboard of the bus before he died.
Louis decided the fat man would suffer more living than he could make him suffer when he died. For most people the worst thing you could do to them was let them go on their merry way.