“Back away from the body!”
Echoes of Tyler’s command bounced around the dark, empty room. A small window lay a streak of moonlight onto his fedora, leaving his face shadowed, illuminated only by the glow of a lighted cigarette. It hung lazily from his lip, its smoke scrawling elegant calligraphy on the air around him.
He scanned the area with a flashlight, examining the patterns of filth that covered the walls and floor, then pressed it against the side of his gun and pointed both at his target, Kalle. She was wanted by the police for questioning regarding a series of murders, but Tyler wasn’t there to arrest her; he wasn’t even a cop. Tyler was a man with a unique specialization that lies outside the law, and he was there because the children of one of Kalle’s victims had paid him to do something no cop or legal system could: give her what she deserved.
Light slithered into Kalle’s disheveled hair as the beam of Tyler’s flashlight crawled down her face, revealing waves of wrinkles like a skipped stone across a still pond. Kalle was on her knees, straddling the torso of a man she had just disemboweled. Her neck was jerking spasmodically as she fed on the man’s entrails. His veins were laced around her teeth, poking out of her lips.
“I said,” Tyler repeated, “Back. Away.”
She paused long enough to acknowledge Tyler’s presence, then, hovering over the face of the deceased and tilting her head as she stared into his dilated pupils, thrust her hands into the corpse’s chest. Bones cracked as her fingers burrowed toward the man’s lungs and heart. She smacked her lips as she snapped his rib cage open.
Just then, Tyler fired a warning shot at the ceiling over Kalle, causing plumes of disintegrated plaster to fall and be absorbed into the blood spread out on the floor around her. Startled, she looked up at Tyler, her face limp and expressionless.
“Look,” he said, “I’m not here to hurt you.”
Her back, tightly curled in an unnatural way, slowly unrolled until she was sitting upright.
Then Tyler smirked. “That comes later.”
At that, Kalle lunged at him, hissing and spitting blood in his face. Reflexively, he spun his flashlight around in his hand and used the base of it to knock her unconscious. As she hit the ground, he took a rag out of his pocket and wiped the blood off his face, then dropped it over her mouth. Out of his other pocket, he grabbed a flip-phone and dialed the only number saved in it. After the person on the other end picked up, he said, “I got her,” and hung up.
Kalle woke up lying in dirt, clothes torn off. Her arms had been placed over her head, with her wrists bound and tied to something.
“Good, you’re awake,” said Tyler as he dropped his cigarette on the ground and snuffed it out with his shoe. “We can get started now.”
Without explaining what he meant by that, he left her side and went out of view. She lay there confused for a minute, then heard a car door open and close behind her, and an engine start somewhere nearby. Then, she heard the driver put the car in gear, and then the crackling noises of tires rolling over gravel as the driver slowly took off. She breathed heavily, nervously, for several seconds.
Then, something yanked her hands and began dragging her along the dirt, on her back.
“What is this!” she screamed.
A few seconds later, the dirt changed to asphalt as the car she was tied to turned onto a paved road. Tyler was at the wheel, and he lowered the window and reached outside, holding the flip-phone open. Kalle shrieked as the abrasive road licked the skin off her lower back and heels.
Tyler brought the phone back inside and closed the window. “Can you hear that?” he asked the person on the other end. After getting an answer, he smiled with reciprocated satisfaction. “Yeah, I thought you’d like that. I’m bringing her right back. I just wanted to wake her up a little more so that she can enjoy the full experience.”
After hanging up the phone, Tyler made a U-turn and dragged Kalle back to where they started on the dirt road. By the time they arrived, her open wounds had been packed full of sand and gravel, and she was hyperventilating and weeping hysterically.
“Wow! You look disgusting!” Tyler said, wincing. “They didn’t even pay me for that part, by the way,” he added with an irrepressible grin. “I just knew you deserved it. I heard about what you did, what you’ve been able to get away with every time. You can fake out a lot of people, but I know evil when I see it. And I believe every bit of what I’ve heard about you.” He lit another cigarette and took a long drag. “Plus,” he said before a lengthy exhale, “I’ve been paid to torture you. And once I’m paid, I always follow through.”
Instantly, Kalle stopped crying and squinted her eyes out of hatred instead of pain. “You think you know what evil is?” she asked. “You have no idea what evil is.” Throwing her head back, she laughed half-heartedly, then threatened Tyler with, “But you will.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Tyler replied as he raised a crowbar to knock her out. “Looking forward to it.”
“Female, Caucasian, mid-40s,” said Officer Harris into his shoulder mic, “Looks like she’s been dead for about … 12 hours, I’d say.”
Harris’ partner, Norton, walked over to him. “What the heck happened here?”
“Well, that’s what we’re trying to find out.”
“Hey, that’s the woman implicated in the Richardson murder. Isn’t it?”
“Yeah – well, she was, anyhow. The case went nowhere, was never solved. Everybody we talked to said she was the nicest woman they’d ever known. The guy’s kids kept harassing us, but we couldn’t get anything on her, so we dropped it.”
“Looks like they didn’t.”
Just then, retired Officer Green approached them. “Hey, guys. What’s going on? You tryin’ to ruin my breakfast? I come to my favorite café for the world’s best omelet and espresso, and I have to pass a nasty, old, beat-up carcass?”
“Hey,” Harris intervened, “Show some respect. That’s someone’s mom, I’d bet. And the way she was killed …” Harris’ face scrunched in revulsion, “just … no human being should do that to another.”
“Well,” Green said, “maybe she wasn’t human then.”
Harris laughed a little, “Right, sure.”
Green lit a cigarette, then excused himself, “All right, boys. I’ll leave you to your dead demon, or whatever. Enjoy.”
“OK,” said Harris, “Take care, Tyler.”