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Predator

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Some evil is real - Editor

Predator

by Jack Straw

The man had been shadowing the six year old little girl for almost eight days. He felt like a patient wolf that follows an unaware fawn. The mere ebb and flow of her small chest as she breathed caused his pulse to quicken. He had gotten close enough to touch her, but he hadn’t; he thought he had smelled her though, or at least he hoped he had. There was nothing imaginable more beautiful, pure and innocent.

Today she wore a sunshine yellow dress with white lace edging and a ribbon by her throat and soft powder blue tap dancing shoes. She had large, soft green eyes and light, almost blond hair that flowed around her face. It was so naturally wavy she looked like the pictures on those posters in the windows of hair places he passed. She got it from her mother. Her mother had given her looks and love, but that was about the limit of what she could give now.  She would not be able to protect her from his kind any more than the deer can protect its fawn from the wolf.

Mothers at the Madge Jeffries Shelter for Women tried their best, but most of them had been beaten down by lives they never thought would happen to them. Even with the free help offered by shelters like the Madge and the heightened senses of those who have been victims, they were not yet ready to take control of their environment with the strength and intensity of the state of motherhood. They were sometimes occupied with treatment or counseling sessions and trying to deal with their own mental or physical abuse, or both. That could provide opportunity for their children to become vulnerable. The man had even seen young children at the center who were supposed to be watched over by the overworked and understaffed counselors wander away from the half-fenced, half-dirt tiny back yard into the adjacent alleys and seedy storage sheds. Many ignored the clichéd, but very wise, admonition to never talk to strangers.

He had taken the maintenance job at the Madge for that very reason. There was always a ready, rotating supply of damaged, vulnerable women and the perpetual enticement of their prepubescent children. He had never been arrested for molestation, so nothing showed up on the mandated background check when he applied. He intentionally didn’t mention his degree or real past jobs because he knew the Director would have felt he was overqualified and denied him this opportunity. To the Shelter staff, he was just an Army vet who could fix things and was a little down on his luck.

The young angel in front of him was especially prone to disappearing as she explored the large world she did not understand and where she should be afraid but wasn’t. It was an ideal setup for a man with a taste for the unsoiled. That’s why he had barely slept for eight days, watching her every movement and thinking about what a perfect, virgin little doll she was, and how available she was.

Her name was Lily, like the flower. He liked that. She was standing on a patch of dirt surrounded by brown grass and holding a dusty, out-of-round hula hoop against her middle. It was much too big for her, but she gamely kept trying to throw it around her waist to get it started, while shaking her hips. Every time tried, the hoop would fall clattering to the ground, where she would pick it up and try again. He wished she would not move her hips like that.

The girl finally tired of the uncooperative plastic toy and alternately skipped and shuffled as she went inside the building. At that age, they were so light they seemed to float when they walked. The man leaned against the fat oak he had been peering around, inhaled deeply from a cigarette and tried to calm down.

About a quarter to ten, Sally, Lily’s mother, came out the front screened door, holding young Lily’s hand. The child was now dress with a coat and patent leather shoes. The mother’s other arm was wrapped around a small stack of manila folder files. It must be time for one of her court hearings. He had overheard enough to know she was in some kind of dispute with her husband that involved Lily. They walked up to the barely usable rust-spotted Shelter van. “Jump up inside, Sweetie,” the counselor who at one time had been a Shelter resident, said to the little girl.

As they got settled, and the van chugged and complained, he slipped out through the tall, uncared for hedge and loped toward the bus stand. As long as he got the weekly list of maintenance tasks done, no one paid any attention to where he was or checked up on him. He was sure he could get there before the hearing was over, given the normal pace of court proceedings. The ponderous wait there was worse than when he got treated at the free clinic, but he had learned the wait could be worth it. He felt the old, familiar satisfaction of the hunt come upon him.

He got to the courthouse before eleven and hurried up the steps as fast as he dared without drawing attention to himself. He found the right room and the heavy, real wood doors polished by thousands of hands over time were closed. The hearing was still in session. He wished he’d taken time for a cigarette - the adrenalin was pouring through his veins. He had done a lot of research on the best ways to acquire prepubescent girls. Most offenders did research. Like most serious crimes, it was a rare situation that a chance just presented itself and was exploited on the spur of the moment. It took talent and planning to be a successful at most things, including being a predator.

In the last month, he had twice bought kiddie porn in the prostitution district on the rundown south side of the river. This eventually gave him an entree into a small group of men who enjoyed this particular type of excitement. Just like cops and jocks have bars they favor together, there was a place in the district called Linden Tavern that attracted Lolita-loving men who liked to share their conquests and mementos once you became known to them. It was there he learned that, of all places, the local courthouse was considered a fine place for “tot trolling.” The interminable court proceedings meant that small children often had to be taken out of the room to settle them down or to go to the bathroom while the parents were making their cases before a judge. If the attending adult was preoccupied or sloppy, opportunity presented itself. Another helpful aspect was that you could quietly stick your head in the hearing room door and scan the room for potential targets, like you were looking over the wall menu at McDonald’s. You wouldn’t normally be noticed, because everyone was facing the judge, with their backs to the door. He softly pulled the right door ajar and could look to the right while staying out of sight of even the judge. Lilly’s mom was sitting at a desk with a man who was probably her pro bono attorney. Lilly sat by herself in the first row behind the railing just behind the desk. Good; the bailiff was a man.

He walked slowly down the hallway toward the restrooms, listening to the steps of the walkers who wore hard-soled shoes that clicked on the slick, dark marble floors and reverberated off the barren granite walls. There was no unisex restroom in the antebellum courthouse. He sat on a hard maple slat bench, where someone had left a newspaper. He picked it up and held it as if he were reading it while he waited for the clicking of heels and the movements in his peripheral vision to subside. When they did, he jumped quickly toward the door that said “Women” on it and went inside.

The room had a vanity with two sunken washing basins on the left and above it a large, flat, metal trimmed mirror stretching the length of the counter. An ancient crank towel dispenser hung to the side, nearer the door. At the far end was a cloudy glass window covered with a bolted on, heavy mesh screen. On the right were four stalls with thick, heavy-grained wooden doors and simple slide locks. He stepped into the last stall. If he locked the door, that would signal it was occupied, so instead, he left the door slightly open. He wanted no one who entered to have a clue that their destiny might lie only a few feet away.

He unrolled a third of the roll of toilet paper and tore it into several fistfuls. He dipped each one partially into the water of the commode and then dropped them so they made a mess from the part of the stall floor visible from underneath the door to a foot into the common area. He did this so no one would choose to use his stall. Closing the toilet lid, he squatted on top of it, as he had learned from the locals when he was in Viet Nam, and waited.

Over the next half hour the only visitors were two women who talked constantly while they briefly used the two stalls farthest from him. He still sat without moving, also as the Vietnamese had taught him, for another half hour, when the door barely whispered open. This time, there was no conversation. The person went into a stall - he couldn’t tell if it was the first or second stall - and locked the door. He was just listening to his own soft breath, when he realized the entry was the only sound. There had been no sound in the other stall. No splash of water hitting water or porcelain.

Could he have not heard the other leave while he was meditating? No, he had performed this same exact routine four times before, and part of his mind was always tuned in. He waited.

After five minutes that seemed like forty, the silence was broken again when the entry door partially opened and a man’s voice said, “Anybody in here? Hello.” No response. Then, “Go ahead, Lily, I’ll be right out here.”

The little girl’s tiny heels clip clopped as she hopped into the bathroom. She put something on the vanity counter, probably the coloring book she had carried to keep her occupied. Her shoes clicked into the stall next to him. He still didn’t move, but he shivered as he could feel the thrill of a successful hunt come over him.

The sounds of her clothing being lifted so she could use the toilet were suddenly mixed with the scuffing sounds of rubber on marble. The man who had entered and never left the other stall was now in the stall with Lily. She didn’t have a chance to cry out.

He sprang from his crouch while grabbing and throwing his stall door open. He was into the adjacent stall before the man holding Lily with one hand over her mouth realized he was not alone. He had been right. It was the one from the Linden known as The Purveyor. The man who had bragged to him that he had “done” thirteen children and then asked him how many he had experienced. He had not wanted to answer. He tore the man’s grip away from the delicate little girl. She fled out of the stall, leaving the two men flailing at each other. He grappled for a few seconds with the other, smaller man until he got him turned around. He held the other’s back against his chest and pinned his arms with his long, muscled right forearm. He stretched his left arm around the man’s head and grasped him by the lower jaw.

He whispered into the immobilized man’s ear, “I understand you. I feel as you feel. But I do not act as you act.” He paused. “Do you remember that question you asked me, Purveyor? How many have I had?” He sneered. “The answer is, in my mind, thousands.” He braced his feet and said, “In life, none,” as he twisted with his whole body and heard the man’s neck give a satisfying snap.

©2010

 

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