Despite the danger, I felt it too obvious, if I didn’t appear at the school last night. Now the end is at hand, I seem to get greater satisfaction from the most mundane things. Walking along the deserted avenue muffled up against the biting wind filled me with a new-found awareness of the world. I wonder what my life would’ve been like if fate hadn’t dealt me such a hand. I tried to imagine I was normal, just an ordinary man on his way to take part in the search for a missing child. No secrets, no lies, nothing to distinguish me from the other men who waited, but I’m not a man. I’m a monster.
It thrills me I’m the phantom boogie man they whisper about. I wonder at their reaction when the truth is revealed. I’m not particularly handsome. There’s nothing about my features to draw the eye, no one would say I’m ugly. I blend into the crowd, which is just as well given my leanings.
The tension was at fever pitch when I reached the school. The energy acted like a dynamo sending waves coursing through my body. I joined with the others trying to second guess what happened to the boy and how the act was carried out. None of the ideas put forward came close to what really happened. I stayed well back hidden by the shadows, when the woman appeared with the dog. I told you before she bothers me. I’ve come to think of her as my nemesis; the one that could bring about my downfall. I didn’t follow her when she disappeared around the side of the school and waited for news to filter back. Rumours flew and the school yard buzzed with anxious whispers about what was happening. These were stunned into silence when word reached us blood was found.
I couldn’t suppress a shiver of ecstasy as the word dripped from mouth to mouth and my reaction was mistaken for one of revulsion.
“It’s a terrible thing,” the woman nearest me patted my shoulder.
Paul O’Farrell appeared carrying the woman and I almost wet myself in anticipation. Was she dead? She certainly looked it. Her face appeared ghostly in the light of the full moon, but she’d only fainted. Still I had the pleasure of watching the needle driven into her arm, and I bit down on my lip as the tip pierced the skin. It hurt her; I could see she felt its sting. She opened her eyes in alarm. I voiced my concerns about her health to both Paul and the doctor and was reassured she was strong and would recover. Such a pity, but you can’t have everything. I take pleasure from the suffering of others. I suppose that’s why I stay in our little club. My appetite for such things was piqued at Erebus, where I took delight in bullying and hurting those weaker than I, but then I had the backing of Christy and Freddy.
The barking of the dog is ringing in my ears and I swear I’ll hear it until the day I die. The horror of its pointed teeth, lips drawn back in a snarl and eyes blazing with anger was something to behold. I managed to move back into the crowd, and I hope I was out of range of the accusing gaze of the detective. The dog knew me, knew I was a carrion and lower than its kind. Had the door of the car been open, I’ve no doubt it would’ve torn into me. Such a messy end to an orderly life and not one I’d have chosen.
I doubt I’ll come across the animal again. I excused myself from the search with the rather weak explanation of having a cold. No one expected very much from me, as my health is not good. I was sent away with advice on combating my fake illness. Let the others spend their nights out on the hills in the bitter cold chasing shadows. The boy is hundreds of miles away and not even God could save him.
I spoke to Christy on the land line before leaving the house. He assured me all is well. The boy is stowed away in the cellar and will remain there until we’re ready.
The walk home was lonesome. The traffic was sent away from the village to search the byroads, and the only sound to break the quiet came from my own breathing. The chill wind did little to spoil the pleasure I felt at being part of the secret. The lights were on in the houses I passed, and I smiled aware all the doors would be locked and bolted against the terror stalking the night. Little old me. I can imagine the shudders of revulsion of my dear neighbours and work colleagues when they learn of my deception. I could go up to any of the houses I pass, and I’d be admitted. I’m trusted you see, that’s what makes what I do easier. I’m not the recluse, the unwashed beggar who makes others suspicious. You know me. I pass you daily and there’s nothing about me would make you pull your child closer. That’s the scary bit, isn’t it? I look like you.
If I imagined the night couldn’t get any better, I was wrong and unprepared for the sight I met when I rounded the corner into the avenue where I live. Paul O’Farrell’s car was parked two doors away from my house. We’re neighbours, isn’t that maddening? He’ll kick himself when he realises the man with whom he shared some of his deepest thoughts and worries, was the person he was hunting all along. He may recall the times I managed to steer him off the scent. Do you suppose there is humour in Hell, because if there is, I’ll be laughing?
He parked the car quite a bit away from his house and I wondered at this, until I saw the shadows moving around inside. He’d abandoned his precious cargo, but I never found him to be particularly bright. She lay alone and easy pickings for the predator. The dog wore itself out and was curled up on the back seat. I could creep close enough to watch the easy rise and fall of the woman’s breathing. There is a hedge running along the wall beside the streetlamp. By keeping into the shadow, I could stand unnoticed. There was no one about last night, I remained in this position for a few minutes studying the outline of her face. The blouse she wore was open down to the deep valley between her breasts, and the black lace of her bra showed against the whiteness of her skin. The doctor exposed the flesh in his anxious search for a heartbeat. To my delight he’d forgotten to close the buttons. She turned her head as though sensing my presence and I drew back closer to the hedge. I felt its bare branches piercing my skin, but I didn’t dare move in case she opened her eyes. I held my breath until she turned away and I realised she was tossing in her sleep, trying to break free of the drug’s hold. Mothers are wonderful, or so I am told. It’s hard to imagine someone who seems frail and weak could have the fortitude to fight to regain consciousness. I wonder if my mother would’ve done the same had she known. Would she have come and rescued me from the nightmare of Erebus?
Upstairs in the window of Paul O’Farrell’s house, I saw his shadow moving against the bright backdrop of the bedroom curtains. He was dressing, and I knew I didn’t have much time. Easing myself away from the wall and the treacherous points of the twigs and bare thorns, I stepped towards the car door. The light from the streetlamp made her skin glow and I imagined the way it would feel beneath my fingers. She has such a little throat and despite my frail appearance, my grip can be strong. In the throes of the compulsion, I felt the bones snapping and envisioned the small struggle, as she remained within the grip of the tranquilizer. Slipping my hand under the handle, I eased it up as quietly as I could and found it was locked. Cursing the man who’d done it, I allowed the handle to slip back into place and was about to walk away when a movement in the back of the car caught my eye. I was face to face with the dog, with only the thickness of the glass separating us. In my determination to reach the woman, I’d forgotten about the dog. It happens to me sometimes during the kill, all sound ceases and I’m aware of nothing other than the need and the promise of release.
I stood frozen, hypnotised by the dog’s eyes. I saw, though the interior of the car was half in shadow, the hair on its back standing upright. Once again, its mouth was drawn back exposing sharp, pointed teeth and the throaty growl seemed to rise from the depths of its soul. I felt its voice reverberating on my face. I averted my gaze and moved back from the car. The dog went into a spasm of barking, clawing at the window then howling like some werewolf. The sound caused some nearby houses to turn on their hall lights, and I knew front doors would soon be opening. I reached the shadows of my own front porch before Paul came running along the pavement. I saw from his dishevelled condition he hadn’t finished dressing and his face was flushed with anger. Waving away the concerns of the handful of neighbours who watched his every move, with the assurance there was nothing to worry about; he climbed into the car.
“Will you shut the fuck up?”
I laughed, when he said this to the dog, and heard its low growl of resignation. Though I have never liked animals, I assume from its reaction the dog is clever. I must check out poisons on the web and see how much it’d take to kill an animal that size. Of course, if I don’t find what I am looking for there, Freddy has a supply on hand, and I wouldn’t want anyone, especially not a dog to interfere with our plans. I don’t feel quite as depressed today as I have in the past weeks. Maybe it’s the thrill of the secret. The standing around last night, being part of the drama. It’s not the missed opportunity of killing the woman. But in the cold light of day, I realise what a mistake it would’ve been. It would’ve destroyed everything we have worked for, and through Paul O’Farrell is no Sherlock Holmes; even he couldn’t miss putting two and two together. No, I lost control; this is intolerable and can’t be allowed to happen again. I daren’t mention my little lapse to the others, because I know they’d be annoyed. They question my loyalty to our group, and I don’t want to endure any more of Christy’s smart comments about putting me out of my misery.
The answering machine light was blinking red when I opened the front door. I waited for the car to drive away before stepping out of the shadows. The cold drove the nosiest neighbours back indoors and I slipped inside unnoticed. There was as expected no message to any of the calls and I erased them before dialling. We never let our voices be recorded, and the silent buzz of the dial tone spoke volumes. I rang each of them in turn and became the schoolboy of yesteryear, as I giggled and planned what we’d do over the coming days. I don’t think there was anything in my tone betrayed my intention and I’m sure I appeared normal. If either of them noticed anything, they never said, but then I can’t be sure what they say behind my back. I double checked the window locks and turned on the alarm before going to bed. My sleep was troubled.
Christy is the one I fear most. The life he’s chosen is a constant delight to him and he’d do anything to stop it coming to an end. Freddy is harder to read and though we each know one another weakness, he’s sardonically arrogant. Everything and everyone bores him and he’s the most secretive. He can appear emotionless, but he shares in our perversion and the fact we know his weakness is painful to him. Only in our presence does he lose control, and this is terrifying to witness, as he becomes more animal than man. I take comfort in the fact while all three of us are staring into the abyss, only I have my finger on the trigger.
Time to face another day of drudgery, as outside my window the avenue comes to life and the world continues as normal. Today is the day for rubbish collection and mothers vie with trash cans and flocks of multicoloured children. Each child is guarded by an adult as they pass my window in a wave of sound. Today there will be no scolding and tonight they’ll hold their children a bit closer when they think about the boy. The countdown continues, 127…