(I wrote this back in 2010. Just graduated from college then and had a lot of time to spare. Rey Anthony Ostria and I had wanted to write a series of stories on different ways of killing someone, hence the title, ‘Cut’. Rey followed with ‘Burn’ and then later on I wrote ‘Push’. The stories weren’t published anywhere official except in our blogs and on FB. I plan on writing another story if I have some spare time. Anyway, here’s ‘Cut’ if anyone’s interested. Comments and criticisms are welcome.:))
I guess I’ll be coming home late tonight.
It’s our first wedding anniversary and with my wife’s romantic heart, I know we’ll be sitting down for a cozy home-cooked dinner when I get home.
Yuki will be as pretty as a picture in one of her Versace dresses—green because that’s her favored color—with her silky black hair cascading down her back. In our townhouse, she’ll be stirring rich pasta sauce and checking if the chocolate fudge cake in the fridge is chilly enough.
The house will be ablaze with softly glowing candles again. I’ll have to remind her not to put the candles too close to the drapes; I don’t want the fire truck to come visiting for the third time this month. My wife is very fond of fire. I sometimes suspect her constant worrying for the electric bill is a convenient excuse to light up those candles.
Save us some money, she’ll say. So twice a week, we go by candlelight—gas lamps when it gets old.
I may have married a pyromaniac and one day I’ll come out of the shower in only my towel to find the house on fire and I’ll be forced to jump out the window to escape, leaving the towel inside and I’ll be standing on the lawn with the neighbors all laughing at me ‘coz I am flashing them my salami.
I have that particular nightmare every other week. I still love Yuki anyway.
But I’m gonna have to disappoint my lovey-dovey tonight. With the storm raging outside, it will take at least an hour before I arrive at the house. The rain’s gonna be difficult and the traffic impossible and I may just run over a coupla people crossing the street.
The heavy downpour is typical June weather in this city. I stand by my office window, watching rainy snakes slide down the glass, blurring my vision of the city’s nightscape. I am a junior partner in the firm of Solis and Solis; our offices are located in downtown Oceanic with easy access to the city hall and the public library. Right now, not that many clients. There’s something about stormy weather that puts off crime until the next sunny day. I guess crooks and crazies like their thievery and murder in good weather as much as ordinary people do their jobs.
A flash of lightning, a roll of thunder and the phone rings on my desk. It is half-past eight.
“Sweetie, aren’t you coming home yet?” asks Yuki.
“I’m sorry, honey,” I say into the phone. “With this storm, I may be an hour late.”
“Aww, that’s too bad,” she says and I can just imagine her pouting, “Just when I was wearing this really slutty lingerie under my dress. I bought it from a sex shop especially for you.”
My breath thickens as I say, “What lingerie?”
“A red bra with lace ruffles. It makes my breasts huge. I hope you like big breasts, sweetie.”
I clear my throat. “Uh, I like huge breasts just fine.”
“And the panties are red and crotchless. It’s very tight on me.” She moans. “I’m like a very sexy Santa Claus in this getup, and you don’t have to wait ‘til December.”
“So, am I on your nice list?”
Oh no, sweetie. You’ve been very, very naughty. When you get home, I may have to punish you.”
“You have a whip?”
Of course. I bought it to go along with the underwear. It has a reindeer cartoon on the handle.”
Because I am already panting and something big and scary’s about to spring out my Armani pants, I give Yuki a hasty goodbye. I can still hear her sexy laugh as I hang up the phone.
I sit on my desk, grinning and shaking my head. A moment later, my secretary Amanda knocks on my door. I turn to her.
“Good evening, sir,” she says, blushing a bit. She’s carrying her small gold purse. I gather she’s about ready to leave.
“Yes?” I ask with raised eyebrows.
“Well, I was wondering if you’re going home yet.” She fiddles with the collar of her blouse.
“I was on my way. Is there a problem?”
“No, no. Everything’s fine.”
I put on my coat and a heavy jacket with a hood. Amanda still stands by door, watching me.
I leave the briefcase with the Patrick Romano murder case file; I won’t be able to work at home anyway. The only work I’ll be doing is horizontal, and it’s going to be more tiring and fun.
I smile to myself as I walk pass Amanda, through the doors with the company title stenciled in gold over the glass. She follows me to the bank of elevators. As we wait, she says, “Can I ask you something, sir?”
I always wonder why the staff tiptoes around me like I’m a land mine. I don’t look threatening—I’m just a tall good-looking guy (says my wife and the bathroom mirror) in his mid-twenties with a laid-back attitude, even when I’m going head-to-head with the DA in the courtroom. I’m always polite, but somehow, I strike a little bit of fear in them.
Yuki calls it healthy respect.
Amanda hesitates. Then: “Is it okay if you walk me to my car? I’m a bit scared, with the Cutter loose and all…”
“No problem,” I say, giving her a reassuring smile. The elevator doors open and we get in. We silently watch the dial descend to the parking garage.
Men and women have been disappearing all around the city. Their remains—or what’s left of them in the chop-chop variety—will be found days later like clockwork. They are usually left at a very public place; now from what I heard on the news, the latest victim—an aspiring actress—has been found hanging on a flag pole at a grade school in East Saffron. Well, her severed head anyway. The police have found her other parts scattered all around the tri-state area like grisly party favors. The general public has been in an uproar since the third victim surfaced three weeks ago and the mayor has commanded the authorities for a citywide manhunt.
The media has dubbed this person the Cutter—which is very imaginative of them. And it’s been reported that he or she always leaves a knife-shaped metal keychain with each body piece. As we speak, dozens of keychains are being examined by the crime lab.
“I wish he’s in custody,” I say to Amanda, as if continuing a conversation we just had. That startles her.
“Who’s in custody?” she asks.
“The Cutter. I’d like to defend him in court.”
“You’re sure the Cutter’s a he?” She tears her gaze from me as the doors open to the relative darkness of the underground parking. We step off; there are still a few cars in sight.
She doesn’t say anything, but she walks closer to me, scanning the shadows for any lurking menace. To show her that I do have a sense of humor, I consider poking her on the back with a finger just to make her jump. But she has mentioned earlier about the stun gun she carries in her purse, so I scratch that off the list.
We reach her car and she deftly buttons her coat up to her neck. “Thank you, sir. I’ll see you tomorrow.” She smiles, unlocks her car and sidles inside. I give her a welcome-wave and amble down further to my parking slot.
Moments later, I am steering my Mercedes out the gate, tipping an imaginary hat to the guard in his little glass cubicle. Rain lashes the car instantly as I drive out the building. I put the windshield wipers to work. As I stop at a red light in 7th and Green, I dial the house’s number.
“I’m on my way, honey”, I tell Yuki with a chuckle. “Hold the pasta and wine, we’ll be eating something else tonight.”
“Be safe, sweetie,” she says sexily. “I’ll keep everything hot for you.”
That will be the last innuendo for the night.
The light turns green. Lightning flashes a twisted fork of electricity, gray cotton clouds crowd the sky, the distant drums of thunder rage over the city; it’s the perfect background for murder, as I’m about to find out later. I pass buildings of brick, glass and metal and flickering neon lights. People huddle under umbrellas or run for cover as liquid bullets pelts them from above.
I shiver involuntarily. I reach over and turn the heater to full blast. After a moment, I switch on the radio too. Rihanna begins to urge me to take her and love her. I smile and nod my head in time with the beats. It is almost nine-fifteen.
I am already a mile beyond the city limits before I remember to buy flowers; Yuki will expect her favorite blooms. I backtrack and drive around, looking for a flower shop that’s still open. In a jiffy, I am in and out of Orlando Bloomers with my arms full of white roses. I rush to unlock the car, careful not to bruise the flowers as I place them on the backseat. I get behind the wheel.
I wipe the water off my hair and face, key in the ignition. The engine rumbles to life. I sigh with relief.
And jumps when someone knocks on the driver’s window.
A woman in a hooded coat stands outside, like an apparition. She leans over to rap on my window again.
I make a split-second decision to lower the glass at an acceptable two inches. If she sticks a gun through it, my foot’s ready to hit the accelerator. Watching CSI has made me paranoid.
“Excuse me, mister,” begins the woman. She stops, peers at me and then says, “Sir, is that you?”
She looks a bit familiar. The light post six feet away hides most of her face but then she turns just a little to the side.
It is her, wearing a black sweater under a black Burberry. She’s ditched the sleek brown suit she wore at the office and her hair is now loose and dripping wet from the rain.
“I’m really sorry, sir,” she smiles apologetically, “but I’m afraid I’ll have to ask for another favor.”
“Hop in,” I tell her. I unlock the doors and she jumps onto the passenger seat when she sees the flowers at the back. She thanks me, grateful to be out of the wet and the cold.
“What were you doing out there?” I ask.
“My car broke down two blocks away,” she says. “I was in such a hurry to get home. I tried to catch a bus but the guy from the Carti station over there told me the bus won’t be coming in until 10pm. And I can’t seem to catch a taxi here so if it’s all right…”
“Sure. Why do you need a Carti bus though? Don’t you live near here?”
“Well, not anymore. It’s temporary but I’m living at the Hotel Sardinia now, all the way to Route 7.”
“Why? What happened to your apartment near Saffron?”
She rubs her wrists. “Problems with my landlord. So I’m staying at the hotel until I find someplace permanent.”
“Hotel Sardinia in Route 7, right?”
“No sweat. That’s just a short detour from Highway 10.”
“Thank you, sir.” She settles back to her seat. By this time, we are driving 5 miles beyond the city. We are silent most of the time; I don’t really know much about Amanda. Unlike the other staff, she doesn’t socialize much.
“That girl’s more awkward than Charice Pempengco playing at the NBA finals,” the older Mr. Solis, one of our senior partner will always say.Of course, I agree with him because it’s true.
Five minutes later, as the silence between me and Amanda grow longer, alarm bells ring inside my head.
I stare at her from the corner of my eye. She sits primly, her eyes on the road. She’s taken off her coat so at least she’s not dripping much on my upholstery. I can see that she’s actually beautiful, though thin as a rail. Her eyes are luminous brown, her hair shiny as black glass though still wet.
Her lips are rosy pink, her face pale. And something’s very wrong with her.
The music echoes off; a news report replacing it. “This is Debbie from WXS FM, giving you the latest happenings in the Metro…”
“I met him this way, you know,” Amanda mutters out of the blue.
She pins me with a cold stare. Gone is the sunny, apologetic demeanor she’s exhibited earlier. This woman, this efficient secretary is now a total stranger. Her dark staring eyes tell me so.
I find myself already regretting this good deed.
“My Gabby, I met him this way,” she says. “He gave me a ride in his car too, one rainy night on Christmas eve.”
“Is Gabby your boyfriend?”
“He was.” Her eyes do not leave my face. My hands tighten at the wheel.
“Oh,” I mutter, for lack of anything better to say.
“I’m sorry,” I say.
“I met Allie last summer,” she continues, suddenly leaning so close to me I can feel her breath on my ear. “Allie, she gave me a ride in her car too. We drank beer and went on a joyride. Her Cadillac was awesome. I never thought I was lesbian until I met Allie.”
I just stare at her. This is practically an oration to what I’m used to. And a little on the too-much-information side. If she’s trying her hand on socializing and sharing, she’s going all-out.
“I see,” I say awkwardly. “That’s nice. Where’s Allie now?”
And then she leans back to her seat, abandoning her invasion of my personal space.
The radio is saying: “Ohh, hot news. Our source just sent us this exciting new tweetpic! She just took a photo of supermodel Alessandra T. walking out of TV hunk’s flat in West Saffron! Who’s the TV hunk, well–”
“Ryan was a writer. He owned this old beat-up Mazda he used to drive me in. He took me to book signings. Curiously, he adored Martha Cecilia. He’s got all her books.”
“Martha Cecilia?” I asked incredulously.
“Yes, he was such a fan. Ryan, my boyfriend, who turned out to have a boyfriend of his own.”
“Ouch,” I comment.
“He broke up with me. And he died,” she says simply.
I’m sensing a pattern here. “You’re kidding me with these stories, right?” I say to Amanda.
“Kidding you?” she asks curiously.
“Yeah, all these talk of people giving you a car ride and then dying.”
“Oh, those stories are all true. Don’t worry.”
Which makes it even worrisome; this is storytelling from hell is what’s happening here in this car in a June storm.
“Lots of people dying around you? How did they die?” I ask.
She grins and cold sweat erupts from my forehead. “I helped them die,” she says happily.
I can’t do anything but stare at her. I’m still driving though, so I reluctantly turn my eyes back to the road. If what she’s saying is true, she hitches a ride from someone she’s had a relationship with and then she…kills them.
I try to think that I misunderstood what she said. Saying, “I helped them die” doesn’t mean she’s killed them right?
But a voice in my head chimes up, ‘Fat chance and good luck with that, buddy boy.’
“Now, Clarissa looked a bit like Allie,” she continues and I listen with an already bleak feeling. “She’s so pretty. I met her one afternoon by the beach. She gave me a ride in her car and we watched the sunset.”
I already know Clarissa’s fate but I ask her anyway.
“Let me guess, Clarissa died too?”
She looks at me as if I graduated college without learning basic math. “Of course, you didn’t think she’d live, did you?”
A dark silence, and I’m somewhat grateful for it. I turn my car to Route 7.
Debbie breaks out from the radio: “Moving on more serious things, the local PD is advising everyone to drive carefully. The storm isn’t likely to wane yet. Our weather consultant did tell us earlier that—“
“I don’t want them to go away,” Amanda says finally, “but they leave me anyway.”
“Er, why don’t we stop this storytelling now? It’s getting kind of, well…”
“Kind of what?” she asks with wide-eyed innocence. “Creepy and awkward.”
“Okay,” I say with a bit of relief. I make a mental note to fire her tomorrow. Mr. Solis will ask questions, but I can’t work with this woman wandering around the office reminiscing about lovers past—who’re all dead with her helping hand.
“Now Brent, I met him at a Halloween party,” Amanda blurts out and I grit my teeth. “He drove me around in his car. His was a shiny new Porsche his mother bought him for his birthday.“
“…keep an eye out for strangers,” continues Debbie from the radio. “After all the Cutter is still out there. Keep safe everybody! This is Debbie from WXS FM…”
I saw the lights ahead and I stop the car. “Here we are. Hotel Sardinia.”
It’s such a joy to see other people milling around besides the psycho on the passenger seat.
“No. Drive.” Amanda says coldly.
“Nope. I gotta head home. You said—“
“No. This is ridi—“
Suddenly, there is a knife piercing my side.
“Drive.” She is smiling now, a chilling slash of pink lips. The knife is long and wickedly sharp; it reflected the storm lights out the window. “And don’t attract attention.”
So I drive. And think of Yuki. Of her waiting at home for me in her sexy lingerie. Our brief flirtation on the phone seems like a thousand years ago.
The storm still pounds overhead.
“Where was I?” Amanda wonders. She cocks her head to the side and I gasp as the knife digs deeper into my flesh. Man, the knife really IS SHARP. Witness the way the blood oozes and stains my shirt?
“Oh, yes. Brent,” she says, her eyes taking on a faraway look. “It was a cold night when we went joyriding around the city.”
“And he died with your help,” I say. The blade lifts from my flesh for a second but then it enters me again, cutting a long painful line two inches from the first wound.
“No,” she tells me.
“No?” My ears perk.
She shakes her head. “No. Brent got away.”
“Yes. And then I found him and he died,” she says in that matter-of-fact tone. She idly makes another long, deep incision, drawing more blood, drawing more pain. She sticks her free hand over the wounds, rubbing it hard.
I can’t think of much; just that it stings. It hurts. You can’t imagine the pain.
You just can’t.
She takes her hand off. It is wet with my blood. She licks it all from her fingers.
“Bummer,” I say faintly. I have a vampire here on top of everything else.
The steering wheel is slippery from my sweating hands. If she keeps up this torture (and I know she will) I’ll soon be dying too, with her help. And I don’t want HER help to die. Actually, I don’t want to die, period.
We drive and we drive. It seems like miles and miles, lots of painful miles, thousands of them, for a very long time; pain forever. She controls me with her weapon and my flesh is a willing slave to it.
Kesha begins playing on the radio. I make a move to turn it off.
“Leave it,” she commands. A quick twist of the knife–the cutting knife– and red fire opens my shoulder. This expensive shirt from Ralph Lauren isn’t much defense; the blade just tears it to ribbons.
“Why are you doing this?” I say after a gasp.
She shrugs. “You shouldn’t have let me in your car,” she says instead, flipping her already drying hair back. “People who give me a ride in their cars always die, you know.”
“Like Gabby and Allie,” I say. “And—“
“And Clarissa and Brent,” she finishes happily. “And you’re going to join them.”
They were all good people I’m sure—before this lunatic got hold of them—but I think I’ll pass on that, thanks very much.
“Why are you doing this?” I ask again. I’ve never fainted at all in my life and this is like the perfect time to do it. No matter if I’m a guy.
But the pain anchors me to the here and now.
“Because I can,” she replies with a grin. “Still think the Cutter’s a man?”
The song is abruptly cut off. “I’m Debbie from WXS with a special news update. This just in, our source from the local PD just found out that the notorious serial killer, the Cutter is finally arrested! Yes, everyone, the reign of terror has ended. The Cutter is a 37-year old schoolteacher from West Village named Peter Navarro. He was in the act of dumping a body bag full of—“
“I don’t believe it,” Amanda suddenly yells, pointing the knife hotly at the radio as if it’s a threat. “It’s not him. I—“
Bless You, God.
I swerve hard to the right and then I push on the accelerator. She shrieks as the force knocks her against the side window, cracking the glass.
“You sonofabitch!” She wrathfully raises the knife, ready to run it through me.
I slam the brakes. She is not wearing a seatbelt; and she dives headfirst onto the windshield, a loud crack of splintering glass. In a flash of scarlet, blood flows profusely from the wedge on her forehead.
She gives a small moan. Grimly, I wrench the knife away from her. I roll down the window, I throw it away into the dark violent night. Her head turns to me and without hesitation, I slap her solidly on the right cheek. She slams back to her seat with a whimper.
I glance down to my ruined shirt, the cuts on my side and shoulder, still stinging and bleeding. I curse and thank God all in one breath. Then I take my handy roll of duct tape from the glove compartment.
I tie her wrists with it, doing it none too gently. I am way past that. She has fallen limp and silent, not making any move to fight.
But then she gives a shuddering gasp, a sob just as I begin driving again. Her tears mix with the blood running down her face. I give her a dispassionate glance before I turn my eyes on the road again.
“Not so tough now?” I say.
She doesn’t answer.
Debbie the DJ is reporting yet another detail about the Cutter’s arrest. For the first time this night, I smell the roses in the backseat. I remember Yuki.
I switch on my phone and she answers on the first ring.
“I’ll be later than I thought, honey,” I say. “I’m sorry but I’m going to have to make a quick stop.”
I terminate the call before she can protest.
Drive, drive, drive. It’s turning out to be the longest night in my life.
Miles later, we both spot the lights of the 14th Precinct. I am suddenly brimming with relief.
“I guess you’re taking me to the cops now,” Amanda says bleakly. Her tears make her voice thick. The cool smugness has vanished. As we get closer to the station she slouches deeper into her seat, perhaps dreading the concept of jail and its chilling finality.
To her surprise, I drive past the station. I turn the Mercedes to the right, five miles from Route 8, onto a small dirt road enclosed with woods on either side.
I pull over. I can just see the trees thinning and making a way to an old abandoned farmhouse.
It’s still raining.
My digital watch says 10pm.
She asks: “Why are we—“
I shush her, and then I rub my face with my hands. She waits; her ragged breathing is barely discernable under the pounding rain.
My hands fiddle with the duct tape. She seems to notice something metallic glinting inside the glove compartment, which I’ve left open.
“So the police caught the Cutter, huh?” I say cheerfully, finally as if outside is a beautiful sunny day. “And you say you’re the Cutter.”
Her eyes widen with alarm. She looks at me, to the tape and to the dozens of knife-shaped keychains in the glove box.
I grin as I tape her mouth. “I can prove all of you wrong.”
May 9, 2010