We don't always know the people closest to us. At least Angel doesn't.
What Angel Doesn’t Know
By Calvin Turnage
."All units be advised, multiple 187 suspect is at large in Ortonville development. - Suspect is believed to be wounded. - Be advised, suspect is armed and dangerous. - Suspect has been involved in officer shooting. - Again, multiple 187 suspect is at large in Ortonville development.- Possible gunshot wound from police shooting. - Suspect is believed to be armed and dangerous. - Rue, you be careful."
"I am, Marge"
What’s happened to this place, Rue Tucker, former Dallas Desperadoes running back, contemplated. This place used to be perfect. Now it’s gone to Hell in a hand basket. Where are these creeps coming from?
A quiet little town in Northeast Texas, Avalon Point grew out of generations of hallmark moments, in spite of its harsh frontier origins. This quaint little farming community greeted the sun each morning with the smell of freshly grilled bacon, eggs, and buttermilk biscuits. As the sun yawned on the horizon, some of the older men rounded up dairy cattle for milking. Others readied their tractors for plowing or loaded beef for the sale. No matter what their choice, by seven o’clock they were all at "the office", the local coffee shop where every man took his turn telling lies and courteously pretending to believe the other men’s
If Norman Rockwell’s brush attempted to portray its homey warmth for The Saturday Evening Post’s readers, it failed miserably. For example, there stood at the edge of town a sturdy sign reading "Everybody Welcome". Its sentiment was genuine. Avalon Point was home; everyone’s home. Every day, townspeople sat up at the square, unofficial ambassadors of the city’s hospitality. They offered friendly conversations to visitors walking by or waved to those to busy to stop and embrace the town’s rustic charm. During those hours of the day when it was too hot for them to sit out on the sidewalk, the old folks made their way up to the bandstand on the square to fan themselves under its shade.
This is the country charm of Avalon Point, isolated as it was from the rest of the world. For years votes flooded in declaring it as the best out off the interstate stop in Texas to enjoy a Sunday drive or spend a weekend at a bed and breakfast or even to raise your children. Attractive antique shops filled with well preserved treasures of bygone eras lined the square on the south side. Quaint restaurants accurately advertising quality, home cooking filled the square with the aroma of their delicacies. To top it off, at the corner, just of the square in a well-seasoned, red brick building with paint from an aged sign peeling off on the side, stood Miller’s Drugs.
What used to be a pharmacy now housed only an old fashioned soda fountain. This was the real deal. Walking in a person could draw up a stool and sit right up against the counter like in that Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Here Dr. Pepper and Coca-Cola could be ordered, but they came from scratch ingredients assembled before your very eyes and not in a bottle. A person could get anything from a milk shake to a purple cow. Mrs. Mable could concoct things to get rid of sniffles, coughs, and congestions from whatever she had back there making those drinks. Then, she would wink, smile, and take your $3.50.
However, it seemed like all that good fortune caught up with the settlement with a population of 7,786, or so the green and white highway department sign outside the city limits read. Over the past four years several people in the area, many from the town, had come up missing. The bodies of most of them had been discovered strewn across a two hundred mile circuit of highways. Avalon Point sat right in the center of all those morbid deposits as if those responsible wanted everyone to glare at this humble citizenry with cruel suspicion. Somehow, crime had managed to stay at bay here in Avalon Point all these years. Especially violent crime. The town incorporate in 1889. Since then there had been exactly three murders. One when famed outlaw John Wesley Hardin killed a store owner for an undeclared reason. Another when a man thought his wife was cheating on him. The last happened during the township’s only ever armed robbery. Other than that, things stayed quiet in Avalon Point.
The FBI came down and decided they had the work of just two competing killers. One they dubbed the Toymaster. His victims experienced horrendous pain before finally welcoming death. Their flesh had been torn, but no one could figure out how. Then, he dressed his victims up as pop figurines from newly released children’s feature films before killing and posing them at his deposit sites for all to see. It was like he considered himself some kind of demented artist. Anytime a popular, new children’s movie came out, the police could expect a new victim to imitate a scene somewhere along the highway soon.
The other inhuman wretch became known simply as the Crypt Keeper. His victims were drug peddlers that were too often popping up in the area, likely because of the terrible economic downturn. When one of them would get off with a light sentence, they seemed to disappear sometime in the night after just a few days. They would show up lying in a homemade pine coffin like one would see in an old western.
These two kept police busy for the past four years until another one showed up a few months ago. He seemed to be a well known import from Cleveland, Ohio. Nicknamed the Cutter, he slashed his victims brutally in their homes. His kills were vicious, sickening attacks on idealistic, untainted females. Immediately, calls went out to all the surrounding cities asking for off-duty volunteers to help patrol the streets. So afraid for their own jurisdictions, local and county officials sent as much help as they could spare to back up the State and Federal authorities.
At exactly seven fifty-three that evening, two off-duty officers from neighboring jurisdictions discovered a prowler hiding in the shadows outside an elderly widow’s home on Andrews Road. They noticed her car gone from the driveway and went to speak with him. When they did, he opened fire. He hit the first officer in the leg right away. As the policeman went down, his partner drew and fired. A 9mm round pierced the suspect’s shoulder searing the flesh, but the adrenaline flowed so thickly he did not even wince. He just leapt to his feet and began exchanging rounds. The first officer had his gun upholstered by then and returned fire. One of the two men hit the suspect’s thigh at least once, maybe twice. Either way, he got the better end of things as both men ended up on the ground with several rounds in them. The whole exchange took all of eighteen seconds.
Sirens told the suspect backup was on the way. He fled up the road. His adrenaline carried him for two blocks before the pain and blood loss began to catch up to him. In a matter of moments, his should burned and agonizing sharp pains shot up his leg and through his body. He crawled underneath an unidentifiable evergreen, probably one of the popular junipers in the area, to hide. He waited as long as he could, but too many cars, too many watchful eyes kept passing by. He knew he had to move or they would find him soon.
A community this small grows close quickly. They have to. Therefore, Officer Rue Tucker knew as he patrolled the streets, the dispatcher sat anxiously gnawing her fingernails to nubs. He figured she needed reassurance. Squinting his eyes as he studied the tract homes along King Avenue in the heart of the development, tall, handsome Rue, with the thick mane of red hair spoke reassuringly into the handset, "Don’t worry too much Marge. Tucker over." He lowered the window to get a better feel of the air as if it might speak to him. Maybe he would hear something. Perhaps, He might just feel something. His eyes study the familiar homes. He hunted for anything out of the ordinary to tell him the suspected serial killer was in the area.
He would be the one to know too. This had been his patrol, a part of his life for the past four years or so. He knew every home, every family, and every pet in the area. He knew which SUV, hybrid, and car belonged to which homes. If there was anything out of place he would know it. His keen eyes studied the scene like a predator on the prowl.
Besides, he knew the damage this killer could do. This killer had imported from north Ohio; his reason was unclear. Up there five victims experienced the brutality of his rage as his unhinged mind lost touch with reality. The devastation to their families was unimaginable. Rue knew only too well he could not allow this to happen here.
Not here. Not on my watch, he thought.
There are those in the world whose crystal palaces remain untainted by the degradation, the baseness this world. Their lives stay on track. Each appointment is kept. Each school lunch gets made. Every dish gets washed and all the rooms are neat, tidy, and the floors are vacuumed.
Inside the second to the last house on the right at 1232 Poe St., twenty-seven year old Angel Robbins, a beautiful, blonde that looked like they may have modeled Barbie dolls after her, stood at the counter placing the last of the dishes in the cabinet. She lived in just such a world. Her untarnished life went on day in and day out every fiber securely fastened. Nothing ever came unwound. She never gave thought that somewhere someone in here world might have shot someone else, or been shot. If she had heard the shots, they would have been kids playing with kids playing with fireworks in her world.
Not once had she heard a single of her friends or neighbors mention the horrible goings on behind the scenes in the bucolic wonderland of Avalon Point. For her. Life consisted of play dates with Gabe’s friends and helping kindergartners learn how to spell their names. Cute little learning crafts to take home to Mom highlighted many of her days as she cleaned runny noses and brushed the dirt off scraped knees. There were no worries about serial killers, kidnappers, or even robbers. Not here in good old Avalon Point.
As long as she could remember her life had been just like this. She grew up in a town like Avalon Point in south Texas where she and Greg met. He quarterbacked the high school football team while she captained the cheerlead ring squad and the debate team. Her intellect matched her incredible beauty. She guaranteed success had she chosen to move to California or New York to pursue modeling. But Greg had her heart from childhood. Both of them knew it.
They married right out of high school. Greg worked a job and went through tech school at night to become an electrician. She worked two jobs alongside him to get him through it. Along the way, she had a miscarriage, but they never talked about that. It was a long time ago. It happened as a result of her accident. An uninsured, drunk driver hit her when she was pregnant in the middle of the afternoon. She had just gotten off work and headed home for a nap before starting a second shift at her other job. He blindsided her. It cost her both her left leg and her baby. For a long time after that, Greg and Angel struggled with things.
But Angel was not the type of person to allow these influences to corrupt her world. Throughout her school years, she never became the person in the cafeteria who sat off by herself with her lunch while everyone else chattered away ignoring them. Instead, she had such a vivacious, bubbly personality that everyone else clamored to be around her. And instead of sitting over there with the others satisfied with not being the fat, freckle faced kid sitting off by himself; she marched over and snatched up his sandwich and milk, hooked her arm in his and said, "Come on." Everybody else accepted it, because it was Angel. At least for that one day, he was special. He got to be the prom king. Years later when he died of complications from diabetes or suicide or whatever, his parents would tell everyone how that was the best day of his life. That was the kind of person Angel was. That was how she treated everyone. She did not let this thing ruin their lives either.
The best thing to happen to them and their marriage was when she became pregnant again. There she stood three years later as her son, Gabe, played on the floor in the den just in sight. She swiped the counter with a dish towel out of habit and nothing more. It was already clean. She was meticulous about things like that. She kept everything in her world in perfect order. She was the kind of person all the women around her thought she was, not just the kind who looked like it. Some of them could of resented that, and probably did.
Turning around, she smiled at Gabe’s playful "zoom, zoom" when his tiny truck’s hard rubber wheels rolled over the carpeted deck. She checked the clock. It read eight-seventeen. Angel folded the towel into a nice little square and laid it neatly beside the sink thinking,
Greg will be going to break in a half-hour. I’ll get Gabe to bed so we can talk then.
She bounced over to her toddler, limping a little like she might have stumped her toe on the front porch steps, and scooped him up into her arms. She kissed him on the crook of the neck like young mothers do.
"Ha, ha, ha . . . I got you!" She giggled.
Gabe giggled too.
"Time for bed, Honey."
"No! No bed, Mommy!"
"Okay, I’ll let you take a bath first if you want too."
Angel learned she could get Gabe in the bathtub easier if she made him think he was getting to stay up longer that way. Now, he loved to bathe. She threw him over her shoulder stomach down to carry him up the stairs and into her bathroom. She liked to use hers because it was bigger than his. Once they got up there, she turned the water on. She let Gabe play with his truck until she got the water just the right temperature. Then, she added bubbles and started undressing the three year old for his bath.
Cutter’s shoulder burned. It felt like someone stuck a hot poker all the way through it. Yet his leg’s throbbing overshadowed it. Being shot will do that to you. Still, Cutter had to move. Too many people were looking for him and the ground was too hard. The needles from the tree he hid under prickled his skin irritating him which was surprising with all the pain he was in.
He did not know if the cops who shot him lived through the firefight of not, but he did not think so. He was a pretty good shot under fire. He had plenty of practice. What he did not understand is how come they were after him. Either way, the authorities were onto him now. They would be relentless like they were in Cleveland.
How could the have figured it out already? Man, this place was ripe. It must have been those other guys who ruined it. Cutter thought wincing under the agony.
He limped down the street, hiding from shadow to shadow. Anytime a pair of headlights shined his way or an odd noise sounded, he slipped behind a tree, shrub, or nearby structure. Anything to keep people’s eyes off him. The last thing he wanted was attention. He had to get out of there.
He did not know for sure where he was going, but he had to move. He got turned around in the shooting and this was new territory. It was not like Cleveland where he grew up and he knew every stone, every corner, every storefront and trashcan. This was a strange place. He had not gotten familiar enough with it.
I should’ve stayed in Cleveland. What was I thinking?
But he knew what he was thinking. He was thinking what the other were thinking. He read the magazine articles abut Avalon Point and decided this little slice of paradise was perfect. It was unspoiled. A slice of heaven on earth. There is no such thing as such a place and he would prove it by showing everybody. He would expose it by coming down here and making it as ugly and sickening as the place he grew up. Then they would all see it and know. Now, he was in trouble. He was wounded and lost.
He accidentally found himself at the end of a dead end street. He turned to leave, but there were two police cruisers sitting at the end. The officers was talking. There was no way he could go that way. If he had not been so stupid and lost his gun when he ran, he could kill them too. But, he panicked when he fled. He hurt so bad. He did not know how bad his injuries were, but they had to be terrible.
He looked around him. The four homes at the end of the block had their lights turned on. Through the windows of three of the homes couples sat happily watching television as if the world were perfect and beautiful and normal. Nothing seemed to be wrong in the world. He hated them. It infuriated him that they could sit there like that and be so oblivious to how dangerous and unseemly the world really is. Healthy, he would have risked a confrontation. He would have gone into those homes and done things to those people to make the world see just how stupid and foolish it is to believe in a world so safe and carefree. What he would do to them . . .
Cutter had to stop himself. He felt the rage welling up inside him. His vision blurred again. The colors were fading to red and black like they did before he killed. He had to fight back the wildfire within him that unleashed destroyed so much and made havoc of the serene havens of the world he hated. He paused to refocus himself, shaking the cobwebs from his mind.
In the other house, a young mother was just carrying her toddler up the stairs. She seemed happy, too happy. They both did. If he could find a way in, that would be the place to go.
He slipped up to the door and ran his hand along the top of the frame.
No key there, he thought. Under the mat maybe.
He rolled his eyes when he say the straw pad. A smiling kitten cradled a basket of flowers with its front foreleg while offering a yellow blossom and letting everyone know they were Purr-fectly Welcome here taunting him as though it knew how false the world it presented was. He stomped on its face silently the best he could not caring if she could hear him; not worrying because she was upstairs anyway. He threw the silly thing into the flower bed in disgust, but saw no key hidden beneath it.
The cruisers at the end of the road drove off. For a moment, Cutter thought he had caught a break, but another one turned down the street headed his direction. He fell into the bushes next to the house, curling into a ball. The rustling leaves annoyed him. Their fresh aroma tickled his nose teasing him with a sneeze. He dared not give in. He fought it back, only barely successful in his efforts.
Rue hated it when cops got together and talked, especially when they should be patrolling. Tonight, they had two fellow officers down; men who might not make it. But, here they were, talking instead of patrolling. Worst of all, they were sitting in his way. This was his watch. There was no way a killer was going to get away tonight. He decided to make them move.
Rue pulled up and motioned for the off-duty volunteers to get out of his way. At first they protested. He parked alongside them.
"We got a killer on the loose out here. What are you doing?"
"We know. We were just comparing notes." The younger of them answered. He could hear the young officer’s voice quiver telling him this was probably his first experience with an police shooting.
"Have you checked down there?" He asked pointing his finger down Poe Street.
"No. That’s a dead end. No one in their right mind would go down there. They would be penned in."
"No one in their right mind would open fire on cops either. Besides, you don’t know that he knows it’s a dead end. He’s on foot and may not have seen the sign. Get out of my way. I’ve got to check down here." He ordered.
They rolled their eyes defensively and reluctantly drove off.
Rue pulled his cruiser down Poe St. knowing they were correct. It was a dead end street. No killer in his right mind would come down here. There would be no way to escape. It would be like putting yourself in a jail cell. Nevertheless, he had to get those guys out of there. So, he checked it out anyway.
He did not put out a lot of effort as he drove down the street. He just surveyed the neighborhood only slightly more carefully than he would on a standard patrol. When he neared the end of the road, he pulled into the last driveway and turned around, eyeing the homes the whole time. He still looked for any sign of the killer. Then, he headed back up the road.
Cutter saw no way out of this now. There were too many cruisers in the area. He already saw three of them penning him in. He was going to have to get into the house if he was going to survive. He struggled to his feet and limped out of the bushes. When he got back onto the porch, the crumpled up doormat he had thrown into the flower bed caught his eye again. He could not help himself. He stepped up and kicked it with his the foot of his throbbing leg. A sharp pain shot through his body almost making him pass out. He broke his fall against the brick wall. Then, he pushed off and limped around back, looking for an entrance.
The street light out front was bright enough to cast nice long shadows up there, but no light illuminated the side or rear of the residence. Darkness may have been his friend when he hid, but not now that he needed to find a way inside. He struggled along the wall to the back having to pause a couple of times due to the piercing swords of anguish. Every agonizing step brought a fresh grimace to his face. He sat hard on the ground taking time to catch his breath. He found the back gate with much trouble.
He had to work the lever on the privacy fence. The gunshot to his shoulder made it difficult to operate his right arm. He told his hand to move, but it did not cooperate. It took too long and did not have the strength he needed. He fumbled around until he got it open. Then, he jerked the gate free with his left hand.
When he stumbled into the backyard, Cutter discovered the garage entrance unlocked. Relieved, he slipped in out of sight of spying eyes.
Inside, he smelled those garage smells, oil and dust. For a second, he thought he might could have embraced suburbia in another life. But that was only a maybe. And, this was not that life. This life did not involve the proverbial American dream. In this life he did not get a wife, two and a half kids, a dog, and a minivan. In this life, he was the monster, the predator who showed everyone else what the real world was like.
He slipped into the kitchen and listened. From there, he could hear the family upstairs. The playfulness, the familial warmth grated against him. It was an experience he never had. The closest thing to motherly love he received came from his father’s whores when they were not working, and before he killed them or sold them to another pimp because he no longer found them profitable. Even then, they only showed him that kind of attention if they thought it would get them somewhere with his dad. When they found out he was just a piece of property like them, they ignored him. His face reddened.
Looking up, he grabbed a knife out of the set on the countertop and headed up the stairs. He knew he would have to bide his time if he was going to get out of this alive. He had no intentions of killing this family. He just wanted to hide out and get out of there alive. He moved upstairs and into the closest room thinking he had escaped the course of traffic. He realized his mistake when he looked around, but he was penned in and to weak to run. He hobbled over to the closet and stepped inside. Cutter readied the knife in his hand in case the young mother approached the closet. He knew it was the only way he could overpower her in his condition.
Angel let Gabe play with the bubbles for a while before she let her gentle hands wash him. She remembered how she enjoyed playing with bubbles as a kid. She would pile them high and blow them all over the place. Sometimes she would rake them all together and slap them sending them flying all over the place. Then, she would giggle. Her own mother would stand by with her hands on her hips and a harsh, but false, scowl on her face. Angel smiled.
A few moments after she began her tender washing, he was clean as a whistle. Her hands dried him off with maternal care.
She had soft, motherly hands that could offer comfort to her crying baby and consolation to her disappointed husband. These hands doled out love and affection to both. Her hands possessed strength and tenderness. They were gentle, beautiful and perfect. They could have been the hands of one of those television models who advertised things and all you see are her hands. Instead, they were a mother’s hands. Hands she used to care for Gabe.
Gabe squealed delightfully squirming to run away. Angel pulled him close, warming him in the towel. Her nurturing embrace smoldered his feisty limbs for a moment. She could not resist tickling his neck with her chin as mothers do sometimes; though she had to admit she did not try very hard to fight the temptation. With another short giggle exploding from Gabe, she dressed him in his big boy Spiderman pajamas. Then it was off to bed.
Angel hesitated instinctively when she reached the hallway for a split second thinking she caught a whiff of dirt, sweat, and that odd scent Gregg sometimes had on him when he had a hard night. But he was not due back for several hours. If something had happened for him to come home early, she would have heard him down stairs.
Must be my imagination, she thought.
Gabe’s squirming encouraged her to finish her task. She cradled him in her arms, bouncing him to keep him settled. He chuckled the rest of the way there. Once in his big boy bed, she flipped the switch on his nightlight.
Angel enjoyed watching Gabe’s eyes curl up at the edges in delight when he heard that sound. The young mother softly brushed back strands of brown bangs before she leaned over and kissed him on the forehead as she sat on the edge of the bed. She teased him by making it an extra wet kiss.
"Ooh," Gabe giggled. Then, he swiped his hand over the spot. Throwing his hands to show empty, open palms, he said with a grin, "All gone!" Then, he giggled again.
Angel giggled too.
For some reason she enjoyed the bedtime ritual. It seemed like at that one time of day, life was like it was supposed to be. There were no bills, no worries, and no distractions. She did not have to worry over housework or her silly job at the school as a paraprofessional, which was a fancy word for an underpaid, overwork teacher’s aid. It was just her and Gabe. She could enjoy being the mother she always dreamed of being.
Rubbing her belly, she thought, Not for much longer. What are we going to do when the new baby gets here? She shook the thoughts out of her head. There would be plenty of time to worry about that later. She wanted to enjoy this moment with Gabe. There were not going to be enough of them left.
Gabe clapped his hands on her cheeks softly.
"I love you, Mommy."
Angel leaned in close rubbing her nose on his giving Eskimo kisses.
"I love you, too, Big Man. Time to get some sleep."
"Sing to me, Mommy"
"Okay, but only one song."
Then she began to sing a soft, soothing lullaby. She surprised herself. The melodic tones flowed from her as though sounding from an angel’s harp. Almost every note came out perfectly for the first time since she could remember. She sang several verses for Gabe.
When the song ended he asked for more. She refused but agreed to lay down beside him if he would be a good boy and go to sleep. He promised he would. She laid down. Her arm fell folded across his body with her hand positioned to caress his face. She brushed her fingers across his eyes gently enticing them shut.
Cutter hated himself for choosing this house. He just wanted to get away. He wanted to survive. He was trying to escape the police not looking for another woman. He had slipped into the closet of the kid’s bedroom safely enough. His plan was to hide. He would let the kid go to sleep. Then, he would sneak back out and get out of town after everything settled down. However, things were not going as well as he had hoped.
The young mother’s tenderness penetrated him through the slats in the closet door. Her genuine innocence enraged him. Life had robbed him of that experience. He never knew anything like that. His mother died at his birth. His drug peddling pimp of a father raised him selling him to Johns like the other prostitutes. His father discovered one night that respectable society men would pay exorbitant amounts of money to fulfill their perverted desires with underage boys in the backrooms of their backstreet hovel. His true love being money, he indulged them; and indulged them as often as he could get by with it. In return they protected him and his dirty little business. That is how Cutter knew the world Angel lived in did not exist. It could not exist.
That’s not real. The real world’s not like that.
His mind raced with thoughts like these. She shouldn’t lie to him like that. She should teach him the about the world’s true hideousness.
He could not get his brain to shut off. It zoomed off like this. The lovelier the scene before him, the more he loathed it. Spite built up within him until he felt like he might just explode right there in that closet. Each despicable, motherly touch grated on every fiber of his soul. But the worst of all was the singing, the soft, soothing lullaby. Every perfect note, every loving tone, every abhorrent element of that dreadfully loving voice tortured the single thread of sanity he clung to. He was in no condition to fight with anyone, including an innocent young mother, however unsuspecting. So he fought against the rage out of simple self preservation. He shook of the blinding, torturous indignation the best he could, because even the most rabid animal will fight for self preservation as long as it has a shred of mental stability left within it somewhere.
Cutter could feel his strength waning. All the blood loss was having its toll. His head spun and his knees quivered. He felt the knife in his hand weighing him down. He rested against the wall, but that only held him for a short time. He knew he had to make a decision before long. Soon enough, he would have to go for broke whether or not the woman was in the room. He could not hold out much longer. The shooting pangs through his body from his leg and the throbbing from his shoulder were becoming too much, but they were all that kept him conscious.
He instinctively reached up and touched the shoulder wound, which was a mistake. It felt like getting shot all over again. But something else, something far worse, worried him now. Fresh blood coated his fingertips. Immediately, he understood if he did not get the blood to stop, he would die before the night was out.
He panicked. He panicked like never before in his entire life. He flew into a frenzy worse than when he realized what his dad was doing to him, how he was using him. It was worse than when he finally exacted his revenge on his dad for all the ugly moments in his life he had to endure. That was his first kill. Only this time it was worse. His panic only drove his mania. The last straw came when he looked out and saw the young mother caressing the toddler’s forehead. Everything in his mind turned black, then red. Then, it blended into a color somewhere in between he had never imagined or seen before. The indignation exploding out of him was like none he had ever experienced before. None of his other kills had ever driven him like this one. His last coherent thought before trailing off into insanity was;
How can she destroy this child’s life with such a terrible fantasy world?
Everything after than was pure brute impulse. The beast within him freed itself like the Hulk exploding out of Bruce Banner. Unleashed, its savage flame burned upon the kindling of contempt. A new strength surged within his muscles. His heart pumped blind adrenaline into this raging beast as he shattered the frail closet door meant only to hide clothing not pen in a storming monster. Out he charged. Fury he had never felt before drove him.
This kill would please him like none other because of the shear innocence of his victim. He would paint every virtuous feature with her blood. Then it would be ruined. Her world would become as ugly and mutilated as his when he was finished. But this was all contained within the rage, because blinded as he was by his insanity, he could not think about it. He simply blasted threw it all, threw the thread of space and straight toward his victim. Screams of terror and cruel violence filled the twelve by fourteen room echoed by flashing lights and reverberating bass notes.
A young, unsuspecting mother, she lay there stroking the face of her sweet baby boy thinking, I am so lucky. I hope the new baby is as good as Gabe. Angel’s left forefinger traced an invisible line along his nose ending with an affectionate dot. She started rolling over to get out of bed when everything shut down. The whole world around her blew up raining down destruction and chaos upon her.
The closet door exploded. A fearsome creature, unrecognizable as even a living being with all its wrath contorted features, burst from the closet. As it came into the room, the streetlight shining through the window reflected off the blade in its hand like a camera flash. She blinked. Then, the room filled with terrific screams. It was so noisy. Sounds reverberated all over the room. There was no way to tell whether the sounds were real or imagined. There were just noises, all kinds of them. She threw her hands up. Then, she collapsed backwards. She fell across Gabe to protect him from the closet monster.
Her heart raced. It pounded in her chest as if there was a desperate caged gorilla caged up inside her trying to beat its way out. She panicked. Hysteria overwhelmed her. Everything else melted together like wax from different colored candles on the same setting.
The next thing she knew blood sprayed everywhere. It covered her face, blinding her. She recognized its horrible stale scent from the car accident she had a few years back. It was bad; she almost did not make it. That was how she lost her left leg. The taste though that was what she remembered most. Blood has a distinctive taste. She could not forget it. However, she did not remember her blood tasting exactly like that; close, but not exactly.
Angel thought, My babies, what’s going to happen to my babies?.
Then, she just lay there. She heard Gabe screaming hysterically. The beast from the closet lay atop her. He stayed completely still. He did not move, not a twitch. She did not even feel the warmth of his breath on her cheeks as he lay there.
She was afraid to move. She feared the thought of stirring. What if she moved and the horrible closet monster moved? What if she tried to move and could not? If she could not move, did that mean she was dead? Or, was she dead already?
There was so much blood everywhere. Gabe was crying, but she could not reach him. His blood curdling screams tortured her, but she could not respond. She was his mother so she must be dead. She began to think; So this is what it’s like to be dead. You don’t feel anything except a heavy load on your chest and a warmth flowing over your body.
About then, the closet monster stirred. She noticed it was just a man. He was just a dirty, bloody man who had snuck into the house. He was a pathetic excuse for a human being who snuck into their house for whatever reason and it was him that lay there dead. Yet, he was moving. He moved, she realized, not because he wanted to, but because an enormous uniformed police officer lifted him. She smiled.
Rue had this feeling inside that something was wrong down Poe Street. He did not know for sure what it was. Most cops called it their gut or instinct. But he knew it was that subtle clue, just a hint of something off, that his subconscious caught. He decided to trust that restless gnawing in the pit of his stomach.
Okay, it’s my gut, he conceded.
He made a u-turn.
His cruiser inched its way back down Poe Street as though it knew what to look for. Creeping along, Rue turned his radio down real low so he could hear better, which was against protocol.
He mouthed a silent response, Serial killers are against protocol, too, the last time I checked.
He kept his keen eyes on the houses and yards peeled for anything out of place. At first he thought his gut had let him down. But as he neared the end of the road, he saw something unidentifiable in the yard at 1232; the house next to where he tuned around earlier. He turned his remote back up long enough to report in.
(Squelch) "Marge, This is Rue, I’m going silent for a few. I’m going to check out the residence at one - two - three - two Poe Street. Again, This is Rue, I am going silent to investigate the residence at one - two - three - two Poe Street. Any back up, be advised to approach without sirens or lights. I will be silent for a few minutes for stealth reasons. Be advised not fire unless fired upon." (Squelch)
(Squelch) "Roger, Rue. All units in the area, be advised, One-Bravo-Niner is silent. All backup units proceed to one - two - three - two Poe Street, no lights or sirens. Do not fire unless fired upon first. Again do not fire unless fired upon first. (Squelch)
Certain the others had his message, Rue switched his radio off. Only then did he feel safe to head out on foot to check things out. He rolled his car back up the street a couple of houses and parked it. He rolled the windows up and locked it. Next, he walked down the sidewalk to the house in question. As he did he reflected upon the family that lived at there.
This is the Robbins family. They got that Norman Rockwell thing going. She works at the elementary school. They have a three year old son. The man, Greg, works at the electric company running service calls all night. They’ve moved here three and a half years ago. I better make sure this creep doesn’t ruin everything in their perfect little world.Rue approached the yard cautiously. He picked his way over to the dark clump in the middle of the yard stopping every few feet to listen for noise. He heard nothing. When he got to the object, he realized it was the Robbins family’s doormat.
Unusual. The whole time they have lived here this stupid thing has been in precisely the same spot. It has never moved.
His gut began speaking to him again. Apparently they were back on good terms after he had questioned it earlier. It told him to investigate further. The serial killer might be here. About that time he saw a small light flick on in the front bedroom.
Too small to be a lamp. Too steady for a flashlight. Must be the kid’s nightlight. He checked his watch.
Yep, it’s his bedtime.
Rue started around back shining his flashlight. As he rounded the side of the house, he noticed the gate was partially opened, another anomaly.
They never leave that open. And it has a dark stain. She’s too meticulous about cleaning. This is bad. He has to be here.
Rue unholstered his Berretta 9mm and flicked the safety off. He readied himself for anything. He did not like surprises, especially unsavory surprises from serial killers. Each step was like the aspiring Cain on rice paper from the ‘70’s television series Kung Fu, light and careful.
Rue drew the gate open. Thrusting forward and drawing backward again, he attempted to thwart any ambush endeavor. No attacks or shots rang out, so he figured he was safe. He slunk through the gate, spying the open door to the garage. He followed the same path Cutter took. Step by step, careful not to take any unnecessary chances, Rue pressed forward anxious for this young woman and her child knowing her husband was away at work. He could not allow the Cutter to spoil such a virgin world.
He stood at the base of the stairs trying to figure where the Cutter could be when he heard the grumbling roar of a ferocious predator pouncing upon its helpless prey. It was the sound a lion makes to let the prey know its time has run out. It has no hope left. That blood-curdling bellow had only one purpose - to rob the prey of its heart.
Rue recognized it.
Not in my town, he thought, springing into action.
He took the stairs two at a time. Bounding with the precision of a professional athlete, he played professional football for two years in the arena league with the Dallas Desperados, he cleared the steps and hit the second floor before Cutter covered the distance between the closet and the bed. He began firing as soon as his feet were securely planted. All his rounds hit home inside Cutter’s body. All over Cutter’s body, and from that distance they did a lot of damage.
Time froze right there. Nothing and no one moved or breathed. It seemed like everyone was afraid if they moved or said anything, things might not be like they seemed at that moment. Cutter might be savagely ravaging the young mother right there in front of her toddler son showing him how horrible the world is. Rue might be firing blanks, or the bullets might be missing or bouncing off him like the did off Superman or something like that. He did not want to think about it. No one would have.
Young, innocent, perfect Angel Robbins lay motionless. Cutter, lifeless as he was, could neither move nor breathe. Rue, held his weapon steady smelling the aroma of gunpowder.
Not the way I would have liked for this to have gone down, he considered.
Rue took three giant steps and snatched the Cutter up tossing him off to the side. He looked down at Angel still in shock over the suddenness of it all. He spoke.
"Ma’am. You stay right there. It’s going to be okay. I’m a police officer."
Scuffling around downstairs alarmed him. Reddening in the face now, Rue jerked his head up throwing a concerned look over his shoulder as his left had reached back and turned his radio back on. He heard all sorts of chaotic radio traffic. The buzz concerned his shooting. He yelled out to the people on the floor below.
"Get off the radio so I can get an ambulance up here. We have an injured woman. We’re going to need to get a supervisor in here. I’ve got the Cutter. He’s dead."
He looked back at Angel reassuring her all would be okay.
(Squelch) Marge, This is Rue. Be advised multiple 187 suspect involved in police shooting earlier has been apprehended. Suspect is dead. We need the chief and an EMS unit to one-two-three-two Poe Street. Resident has been injured. Note apparent massive blood loss. (Squelch)
Angel still in shock had not moved though Gabe started crying. He crawled to her. Motherly instinct moved her to console him as best she could without actually moving anything except her arms. He struggled to crawl up to her, but she pushed him off so he would not see how bad things were. She did not want him to know what had happened; not ever.
Rue lifted the boy, fighting to stay with her away. Even his giant size and enormous strength could scarcely contain the desperate toddler. All the squalling in his ear nearly deafened the officer. In different circumstances, the intolerant Rue would have scolded him something fierce even though it was another person’s kid.
Studying the scene with seasoned eyes. Cutter lay on the ground where he tossed him. What remained of his body was a jumbled heap of human remains. All those rounds had torn him up pretty good. It was hard to tell where what used to be inside began and ended.
He looked at the delicate mother. She seemed different now; polluted, violated, corrupt. He no longer saw the dainty, Barbie doll he once idealized. All he could see now was her blood soaked torso, covered with lots of blood and flesh. The Cutter’s knife stuck out of her left thigh from where he fell when he was shot. The whole bed was a mess. There was no telling what really was going on there.
"Ma’am, do you have a first aid kit anywhere?", Rue inquired. He did not think it would do any good, but it might comfort her in her final moments to know he at least attempted to do something.
"Yes. It’s in our bedroom in the top of the closet."
Rue handed Gabe to a young officer topping the stairs in the hallway and dashed across the hallway, then over to the double doors covering the master bedroom’s big walk-in closet. He pulled them open. Reaching up he snatched the first aid kid accidentally dragging with it an odd looking leather strap lined with nasty iron barbs. By that time, officers were swarming the floor.
He took the first aid kit into the child’s bedroom as one of the reserve officers carried little Gabe out. Angel was sitting up talking on the phone with her husband. A volunteer from out of town held it because her hands shook. Tears flowed. He realized as he entered the knife stuck in her leg did not seem to bother her as it should. He drew out a roll of two inch gauze to wrap her leg up, but he was interrupted.
"Don’t bother," the officer next to her stated, shaking his head as his hand pressed on Rue’s shoulder. "That won’t be necessary."
"Huh?" He questioned.
Rue was having trouble comprehending things at the moment. All these people, strange people were polluting his world. They came into his town and violated his territory. Now, they stood in this home where he had saved the young mother and her son. All this noise, all this chaos, all these people, and the shock of everything built up. It started wearing on him. His mind could not sort things out. Maybe it was just the shock. Maybe it was something else. Maybe it was his secrets were trying to surface, trying to make their way out too.
"What do you mean?" Rue asked.
"She lost it in a car accident when she was a kid. It a prosthesis. As least she had that going for her today."
Rue ducked his head. He did not want the others to see the crimson wash across his cheeks when he heard the news. All this time he watched her in her perfect little world keeping her safe, and she kept this secret from him. How could he have not seen it? How could he not have known? He thrust the cotton netting back into the plastic first aid kit and angrily tromped back into the master bedroom where he threw it into the top of the closet. He could be alone there.
He thought for a few moments about what a horrible world he lived in. It was as if he lived inside one of those old time snow globes with the glass globes. Now it was shattered and all the ugly things from outside attacked his world disintegrating his crystal castle. The pretty background scene that held everything together was falling apart revealing a world built upon shards of glass.
Officer Martinez, an off-duty volunteer from nearby Sulphur Springs, came in behind him.
"You okay, Buddy?"
Rue pulled himself together quickly as he stared at the closet. He forced a smile on his face before he turned about.
"Oh, yeah. Just a tough night, you know."
"First time to have to kill someone like that?"
"No. . . I mean yeah. I mean since the war."
Somewhere downstairs a voice called up. "Hey, Tucker. Chief wants you down here. He needs you to give your statement about what happened."
Rue knew this was coming. Standard procedure dictated it. He started turning when the nasty looking leather strap with vicious barbs.
That’s not a toy. It’s not a piece of clothing.
All of a sudden Rue realized something. He could not prove it, not with this, just this. But, he knew it. Deep within his gut he knew who the Toymaster was. That one clue told him it was Greg Robbins the electrician. Angel Robbins had been living this whole time with the Toymaster and did not know it. It made sense. He should have figured it out sooner. No should have known better than him.
He could not do anything about it at the moment but the time would come when he would take care of Greg Robbins. If he could not get the evidence to bring him to justice, he would do to him what he had done to all those drug dealers who polluted his streets and got off with just a slap on the wrist. They would find him on the side of the highway somewhere soon.
"Tucker!" Someone called.
Rue came back to the world. He answered back, "Yeah!"
""The lady wants to talk to you. Come here."
The tall, thick bodied officer returned to the child’s bedroom, now overflowing with EMT’s and law enforcement professionals. He saw another face in the room, someone he recognized. It was Greg Robbins. He smiled knowingly.
Angel introduced them.
"Officer Tucker, this is my husband. Greg, this is the man who saved our lives today."
Greg stuck his hand out.
"I’m thankful to meet you. Thank you for saving my family. I‘m Greg Robbins."
Rue grinned broadly as he received the hand. He pulled the man closer.
"I know you. I know who you really are." Then, he winked.
Angel stood up. Tears of joy, such joy as could be experienced in a scene of such carnage, began streaming down her cheeks as she hooked her arms through both of theirs and around their waists.
Then she stated, "I did not realize people like that really existed. We are so glad Gabe and I have you two in our lives. You two keep us safe from people like that. You keep them away from us."
She looked them in the eyes and gave them tight, loving hugs; genuine hugs. Angel’s hugs.