by Jillian Appel
The first time he saw her was on a Sunday afternoon. The sun was shining and it was unseasonably warm. She stood outside of an ice cream parlor texting with her plush lips pushed into a slight pout and her well-groomed eyebrows knit together. She was dressed nice and her hair and makeup were done. He suspected she was on a date, or at least she was supposed to be on one.
She angrily shoved her phone in her pocket before storming into the parlor. He was tempted to follow her in but quickly decided against it. Instead he chose to observe her more openly, peering into the window from his seat with a bored expression to appear as if he was just people watching. But his eyes remained glued to her.
He watches as she pulls her phone from her pocket again, this time though she appears to be going though social media as she appeared to be less troubled, and more amused with the screen. When she finally reached the counter, she fished through her purse for her wallet. In the process she pulled out her car keys and name tag.
He recognized the name tag. It was for a local bookstore. A bookstore with only one location nearby.
The name tag was back in her purse as quickly as it was removed, preventing him from making out a name. It didn’t matter, he knew where to look now. He knew where to wait now. Though, he still watched as she paid, collected her ice cream, and left—likely back to her car so she wouldn’t be seen eating alone.
He finished his ice cream—outside in the heat. The image of her long hair swaying in the soft breeze, the way her hips moved as she walked, and her soft figure.
She was just his type.
As he stood to throw away his trash, he couldn’t help but wonder how soft her skin would be, after he cut it up.
. . . . .
He waited a week before going to the bookstore, at least, he waited in the parking lot everyday for a week to figure out what days she worked before stepping foot in the store. His heartbeat quickened at the thought of seeing her again, making him have a slight skip in his step.
He saw her as soon as he walked in. She stood behind the register, wearing a pink button-up tucked into a black pencil skirt. When she saw him, she gave a polite smile and then returned her attention to the customers waiting in line. He slinked further into the store, carefully looking at the shelves and taking time to pick a book. He wasn’t a regular, and he didn’t want anything other than her—but he had to make it look like he wanted a book but didn’t know which one.
“Can I help you find something?” He wasn’t surprised an employee wandered over to ask if he needed assistance. He looked the girl over. They had a mousy demeanor and messy hair accompanied by thick-rimmed glasses. Their posture was hunched and they were as thin as a pole.
Not his type at all.
“No, I’m just browsing,” he replied curtly but still polite. They only gave a small smile in return before scurrying away to bother someone else. He waited another few minutes before grabbing a random book off the shelf and walking over to get in line to check-out.
The line wasn’t very long. Before he knew it, he was standing in front of an angel.
She was even prettier then he remembered. Her hair was pulled back now, but she wore no makeup. She looked tired, but her skin still glowed healthy and clear. Her eyes are shiny and bright. Her teeth are white when she smiles. It all takes his breath away.
“Did you find everything alright?” Even her voice was perfect; a low and smooth alto like velvet instead of a screeching soprano.
“Yes, I did…” his voice trailed off as his eyes focused on her name tag. “Lily.”
They stood in silence for a few moments while she rang up his book. She asked a few questions and he agreed to a membership with the store. Just so he had the excuse to talk to her a little longer. He handed her his driver’s license with ease, not even worried about if Lily could identify him. Dead girls couldn’t say no and she had no reason to cry wolf.
“Here you go John,” Lily said with a glowing smile as she handed him back his driver’s license.
“Thanks,” John replied—relishing how her soft fingers gently grazed his own. She also handed him his member card before finishing the transaction and handing him a tan shopping bag with his book.
He promptly left the store then with a satisfied grin. So, Lily was her name. So sweet and pure, it truly was fitting. It burned its way into his memory to the point of her name became a blaring siren in his head.
Entering his car, he didn’t wait long before pulling out his phone to find her on social media. He couldn’t find a Twitter, and her Facebook was only viewable by friends. Her Instagram though, that was open to public viewing. Her gallery was filled with photos of various plants that she had adorably named human names like Finn and Henry along with pictures of her cat. There were photos of her in cocktail dresses with a few girlfriends and some funny pictures referencing TV shows.
There were no photos of men and no photos of family.
She posted regularly, which was a minor annoyance at best since she did appear to have some friends. However, that was easily fixed with access to her phone.
John drove home and then continued to analyze her habits.
Lily Malcolski was a twenty-one-year-old student majoring in botany. The one true love of her life was her plants she kept alive in her basement with the help of a sprinkler system and some powerful UV lights. She lives alone in a house her parents rent for her. Trust-fund baby and such. She worked most of the week and partied at night on the weekend.
Well, it looked like he was going to have to iron his button-up shirt soon.
. . . . .
To be safe, he waited two weeks before he went out to “bump into” Lily.
Two, agonizing, weeks before he could see her again. All the while the only contact he had was seeing her posts on Instagram, following her under a made-up account. She was trying to decide what to plant next in her garden.
He often found himself staring at her picture for hours. Touching himself, imagining her soaked in her own blood. Her body cold as he crawled on top of her. The sound of his skin hitting hers.
Maybe he would even have her alive for a round or two, so he could hear her soft whimpers of pain and pleasure. He would make sure she felt good first. To see that conflict in her eyes.
He shook his head abruptly. He could debate what to do later. First, he had to get ahold of her.
The club she was at was a hole-in-the-wall. Not at all where he would expect his precious Lily to be. However, he still found himself shrugging off the development and pushing forward. He slipped the bouncer a twenty and entered the establishment.
Thankfully, the inside was much better looking then the outside of the establishment. The place was still dimly lit and the music was still slightly trashy for his taste, but at least nothing appeared to warrant a call to the health department.
He scanned the bar and his eyes seemed to almost magnetize themselves to her. Lily sat alone on a bar stool with a cocktail glass in front of her, eyes glazed over as if lost in thought. He guessed her friends had decided to stay in for the night. That or they had already paired off for the night with some guys they had picked up.
He wondered if they would miss her when she was gone.
Smiling, he prepared to make his entrance. The key was confidence but remaining grounded. If he was over confident, he would come off as a jerk which would make getting her to trust him much more difficult. If he was underconfident she would lose interest.
“Hi,” he said trying to come off as safe or nice. She blinked and looked at him with wide doe-eyes. He had to restrain himself from grabbing her to destroy that sweet innocents then and there. “Can I buy you a drink?”
“Only if I can buy you one too,” she retorted with a coy smile and a small laugh.
“I think I can live with those terms,” He said before taking a seat on the bar stool next to her.
She was quick to wave over the bartender, a lanky boy with an ill fitted shirt and dress pants and shaggy hair hanging in his face. His eyes lit up when he saw her and John could briefly understand the desire that filled them when Lily was in the line of sight. Too bad she would never entertain a guy like him. Not a guy who couldn’t even talk to her.
“A vodka soda for the gentlemen,” she said smoothly to which he just nodded.
“And a martini for her, dry.” He gave her a wink as he said it and she shyly brushed her hair behind her ear. The night might be easier then he thought.
The rest was a whirlwind of drinks and casual conversation as time passed by quicker then he would have liked. He needed to act quick if he was going to get this done. The longer he waited the more likely she was to tell someone about him. God, what kind of liquor had she ordered for him?
His head was feeling fuzzy. He was vaguely aware of Lily grabbing him and letting his body lean on hers. He could hear her laugh and felt his body moving almost on its own. Then everything seemed to black out. It was a shame he messed up. She would have been his masterpiece.
. . . . .
When John woke up in the morning, he was hit with a horrible head ache and a bright light. His head felt heavy as he slowly lifted his head up…
Wait, lifting his head up? He should be sitting up, not just lifting his head up.
In a panic, John’s eyes few open and his attempted to jerk his arms closer to his body. But he was only met with resistance and the cutting feeling of plastic on his wrists. His vision was over loaded as he tried to take in his surroundings.
There was a lot of green where he was and a few splashes of other vibrant colors. He could tell he was in a sturdy wooden chair from feeling and looking down in an attempt to stay calm. When he looked up again, he could see the wide array of plants. Some were more tropical, others more domestic. Yet, it all felt eerily familiar as if he had seen the garden a million times before.
John looked up and was met with blinding, florescent lights. So, wherever was he was it was inside.
He jumped at the intrusive sound and his head turned sharply to face the source. And, as soon as his eyes met the source, the entirety of the previous night came flooding back. The club, the drinks, Lily—it all came back in a whirlwind. But it didn’t explain anything other then how he got to Lily’s house and in her greenhouse/basement.
It didn’t explain why he was strapped to a chair. Or why she brought him back to her place. Or why she now stood in front of him with a cup of coffee in hand like it was the most casual thing in the world to have a stranger tied up in her house.
“Did I do something last night to warrant being tied up or is this just some kind of kinky foreplay?” He joked as he spoke, but something about the way she just stood there out of reach both upset and unsettled him.
She didn’t reply right away. Instead she took a long drink from her mug and eyed him curiously. Studying him for something, with the same unbridled inquisition of a child picking apart an insect.
“If you’re going to try and make a girl forget she met you, then you should try to be less interesting.”
His breath hitched.
This wasn’t the first time a girl recognized him. Faces aren’t always easy to forget and if they found him attractive, they would be more inclined to remember what he looked like. But this was still the first time one brought him home and tied him up.
“If you recognized me from the bookstore you should have just said something last night.” He gave an easy smile to her, but she still looked at him curiously. It made his stomach roll.
“I wasn’t talking about the bookstore.” As soon as the words fell from her lips, the color drained from his face. She had noticed him at the ice cream parlor. While this situation still wasn’t as bad as it could have been it did begin to draw out some panic. She could call the police for stalking, claiming to tie him up for safety measures after he had propositioned her, then they issue a restraining order. That would be the least of the issues he could deal with.
But if an officer got nosey about him—where he had been—then he ran the risk of them noticing the match up between where he had been and a long list of missing persons and murders. Then it would be over for him. His endless escapades would be over. Not ever to feel the rush of adrenaline as he ended another life. Never feel soft, cool skin pressed against his own again.
He would rather be dead then experience that torcher.
“Please,” he began to beg—letting his head fall forward. “I couldn’t help myself. I didn’t mean to frighten you, but I didn’t know how to approach you. Even at the club I felt like I was going to be sick with verves. So please, don’t call the cops. I’ll leave you alone I swear.”
There was a breath. Then laughter. John peaked up and saw Lily smiling as she continued to laugh with fingers running though her hair. He might have admired the view if he wasn’t so conflicted about the predicament, he was in. The sound continued on for several minutes before dying down and her eyes fixed on him again. But this time she looked like a cat about to play with a mouse.
“Oh honey,” she purred. “That should be the least of your worries.”
“What do you…” He trailed off as she stepped forward leaning over to look closer at him, but she still remained out of reach.
“John Davis, you really should make your social media pages more secure,” she said with a smile but it only increased his confusion and anxiety. “I know everything about you. Only child, an orphan, working as a traveling sales man. Not to mention, every town you have been to has an unsolved murder or missing persons reported shortly after you passing though for your work.”
He was shaking now, as a result of her over confidence while she rattled off the facts of the cases and how she always kept a close eye on the news concerning murders and missing persons. So, finding the connection between the two was never hard. He was shaking now but he couldn’t tell if the reaction was coaxed out of him by anger or fear. Anger of her mocking and underestimating him, at her lack of fear. And his own fear developing from her lack thereof.
“And to think, such an interesting catch from just flashing a name tag.”
He digs his nails into the chair. The idea of her name tag being flashed on purpose had never occurred to him. But he still refused to show fear. Not to some cocky college student.
“Smart enough to give a hint where to find you again and track my history, but dumb enough to hope a few drinks would keep me drunk enough while you tied me up.”
“You were drugged not drunk, idiot.” She rolled her eyes and took another sip of coffee, clearly less amused by him baring his teeth at her.
“What?” His face must have shown a good bit of confusion again because she laughed once more.
“The bartender is obsessed with me. After catching him going through my garbage he agreed to do what I said if I didn’t turn him in for stalking, much like you begged a few minutes ago, and I took advantage of that. Now anytime I order as specific drink he drugs it. He really is a good boy. Does what he’s told an doesn’t ask questions, sometimes I even throw out good underwear as a reward for him.”
John felt little anger now. Now all he felt was fear.
“What are you going to do with me? Since you obviously aren’t turning me into the police.” He did his best to stop his voice from shaking, but failed as his sentence broke in strange places.
Lily smiled in response before pulling something out of the back pocket of her pants. His eyes quickly widened in recognition. It was the knife he kept in his poket. Th knife he used on all the girls before. The knife he used to cut them up and make them pretty. She circled him a bit, letting the cool steel run up his body. He jerked his best to try and get away, upset the chair, break the zip ties—anything. But nothing gave. Finally, she was in front of him again and she calmly sat in his lap. The palm of her hand caressing his clammy cheek.
Then a cut across his cheek.
“I wonder: how long can I play with you until you bleed to death?”
The answer: three hours, of endless screaming no one could hear.
. . . . .
Lily made a post on Instagram later that night. She was smiling with dirt lightly smudging her face. The photo was in her basement garden and there was a new patch of Venus flytraps on the ground.
The caption read: “Meet my new Venus flytrap patch, John.”