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T. M. Nienaber
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gooddeeds.jpg
Art by Aisling Kerins © 2012

 

Good Deeds

 

by T.M. Nienaber

 

Vickie heard the sound of heels echoing through the parking garage and knew she had to hold the door.  True, she’d just worked a double shift and wanted nothing more than to get to her car and start heading home, but she also didn’t want to leave another woman, who probably wanted to get home as much as she did, stranded.  As Vickie continued to push the ‘hold door’ button her mind wandered to what she needed to do when she got home.  First, she’d change clothes and take off her own set of high-heeled work shoes, then maybe make some tea and settle in to watch something on t.v. with her husband.  The idea of being able to sit back and relax was a wonderful one and the more she thought about it the more impatient she became.  It was Vickie’s job to be kind and obliging to customers all day, and she really was a good person at heart, but at the end of the day, it was time to go home.

 

Vickie’s hand hovered over the ‘close door’ button for several seconds, then she sighed and went back to holding the door.  She told herself she probably hadn’t been waiting that long, that she was just being impatient.  Vickie let her mind wander off and she began to mull over her day.  Her job was a good one.  It seemed like working on commission was one of the only ways you could make a decent salary these days, and she’d made more in commission this weekend than the rest of her department had made all week.  It wasn’t glamorous, it didn’t get her much respect, but it paid the bills and she was good at it. 

 

The heels finally reached the elevator and Vickie let go of the ‘hold’ button with a small sigh.  It was impossible for her to hold the button and see who was heading towards the elevator so she wasn’t sure exactly who was joining her for the ride up.  The doors were already shut by the time she was able to see their face.

---

“How long ago did you find the body?”

 

“Just a few hours ago, I swear.  I called as soon as I,” the girl choked on a sob.  Her car was obviously used, but still in good condition, like half the cars in the country.  What made her car different was the trunk, or more importantly, what was inside the trunk.  The girl still wore her work uniform and it was obvious she’d just finished a long shift.  It was hard not to feel sorry for her.  The girl’s hands were shaking and her face was pale.  She’d just found the body of one of her co-workers in her trunk.

 

While she seemed too shocked to have known about the body, it had to have been there for at least a week, about as long as her co-worker had been missing.  The whole situation was a mess.  It made no sense that the murderer would report the body a week later, but it was almost beyond belief someone would be driving a dead body around for a week and not realize anything was wrong.  The girl had been working the last night Vickie had been seen and the two parked in the same employee garage, but she had an alibi.  That night was new employee orientation, and Vickie had left at least an hour before the girl was able to go home. 

 

“And you haven’t noticed anything in a week?  That’s a long time to be driving around a dead body.”  The detective sent to investigate the homicide was trying to look both sympathetic and intimidating, but the whole scene was too odd for him.  Nothing made sense.  He had no answers and the girl just kept looking at her car and trying not to cry.  The young girl didn’t seem capable of murder, especially one without any real motive, but every crime needs a suspect and she had been driving around with the body.

 

“I park outside, I just thought something had died in the engine like a mouse.  It happened to a friend of mine, she said she couldn’t use her AC for weeks because of the stench.  I assumed it was something like that and I wasn’t sure what to do about it.  I figured it would go away eventually.”

 

The detective nodded, but he wasn’t really convinced.  It seemed hard to believe anyone would just ignore that kind of stench.  The girl did seem a little naïve though, spacey was probably more accurate, and she seemed capable of that kind of obliviousness.  If she wasn’t the killer the murderer couldn’t have picked a better trunk to stash the body in. 

 

The next body was found just hours after the girl had been sent home under suspicion.  It was in the same parking garage but on a different level and in a different trunk.  This time the owner of the car was a waiter in a restaurant down the street.  The story was almost exactly the same.  He didn’t use the trunk of his car much, but he’d needed some spare change and thought that might be a good place to look.  The body couldn’t have been there more than a day, but the waiter couldn’t identify who it had been.  It wasn’t a big jump from two bodies to serial killer, and it was the only assumption that made any sense.

---

“Are you sure you don’t want me to walk you to your car?  The lot gets pretty creepy at night, and that last customer we had, well, you have to admit he looks like the ‘Scary Larry’ type.”

 

“I can see my car from here, Alex, and there’s not a creeper in sight.  It’s almost a shame, might have been a good excuse not to do homework later.  Where’d you park?”  Alex and Liz had been friends since birth and working together was just an added bonus, although they used the word ‘work’ loosely.  The two usually just sat around the counter and made up stories about the customers.  Their last customer of the night had been an older man, nicely dressed, who just wanted to know what time it was and when some of the other stores closed.  It wasn’t uncommon for them to be asked questions about other stores, sometimes they had more people coming in to do that than to actually buy something from them.

 

“The satellite lot, everywhere else was full.”

 

“Sure it was,” Liz laughed.  Alex parked in the satellite lot every day because if you had to park there and walk over you weren’t yelled at for coming in a few minutes late.  Alex was always late.  The satellite lot was a good excuse.

 

“Yeah, yeah.  Well, drive safe!  Don’t get murdered!” Alex’s voice carried through the empty parking lot and Liz just waved as they went their separate ways to their cars.  Alex was always the nice guy, even when he was more of an interference than a help.  He just liked helping people and solving problems.  He also liked Liz.  Alex waited until he saw her car pull out of the lot before he started walking towards the lot where his own car was parked.

 

The satellite lot was always dark because no one bothered to change the lights, but he could hear someone’s heels as they walked around the lot.  As he got closer to the noise, he started to see a shadow bent over by a car and looking for something, probably dropped keys.  “You need some help?”

 

The shadow didn’t respond but it stood up and started to walk over to where Alex was standing.

---

Alex’s body was found in the trunk of an abandoned SUV in the satellite lot the next day, just three spaces over from where his car had been parked.  The media was taking advantage of the killing spree like only the media could, and every other headline or news story was a warning about the dangers of late night shopping or the threats lurking in the parking lot.  People were encouraged to check their trunks often, park close to doors, and walk with a friend.  Stories of barely alive victims found in trunks were popping up everywhere and the story was more of a sensational episode of CSI than an actual crime.

         

Real evidence didn’t seem to exist.  No one had any real or useful information.  Every lead was a dead end.  It seemed like there would be no end to the killings and even behind the intrigued façade, people were starting to get scared. 

 

---

“Come on, let’s get to the car, don’t stop sweetie,” a hassled mother practically dragged her four year old to the van.  She hadn’t meant to stay out so late, but her son had been so good at the mall – an unusual occurrence – she couldn’t say no when he’d asked to play at the mall’s mini-indoor playground.  Now it was dark, the stores were closing, and the parking lot where she had almost gone to war over the last empty space was almost empty. 

         

“Do you remember where we parked, sweetie?  Do you remember the number I told you to remember when we played the parking game?”

         

The child looked up at her and shrugged, still enjoying being outside and thinking about the playground, “I think you said a letter,” he smiled back, trying to be as helpful as he could.

         

“Oh, come on,” the mother tightened her grip on her son’s hand and she almost broke into a sprint when she saw her purple minivan sitting welcomingly under a security light and waiting to take them home.

         

She fumbled trying to get her keys out of her purse while still holding her son’s hand and their shopping bags.  The longer it took the more she started to panic.  Finally, she had her son buckled into his booster seat and they were ready to go.

         

“Wait!”

         

She didn’t recognize the voice, but the sound of heels echoing in the garage as the voice hurried to catch the car before she left convinced her to stay.  She’d probably dropped something and some woman noticed and didn’t want her to drive away without it, knowing how important the little things can be.  She would have done the same.  She might even have left her cell phone or wallet on some counter somewhere and one of the sales clerks, who was already tired, had been forced to chase her down. 

         

The child was contentedly pulling things out of his mother’s purse and throwing them on the ground when the door slid open and he was taken out of his seat.

---

Finding the child was the worst.  People getting killed can be dealt with and rationalized, most people even have a select few they’d like to see dead anyway.  But a child.  That was something different, something monstrous.  It wasn’t just a serial killer anymore, it was a monster.  The media stopped sensationalizing things for a while, but even with plain facts panic started to spread like wildfire.  Parking garages were hiring more security guards to patrol multiple levels, but even with promises of extra security, stores were losing business.  No one wanted to be out at night.  Even employees desperate for hours were requesting to work morning shifts or to have an escort out to their cars.   People had even started duct taping the trunks of their cars to make sure anything out of the ordinary would be detected right away.

         

There was still no news of a suspect, no signs of a killer, and not one victim had shown signs of a struggle.

---

They say the killer always returns to the scene of the crime, and I guess that’s technically true.  But I’m not here to revisit old memories.  Especially not when I can still make new ones.  She was working the cosmetics counter.  I told her I was buying something for my wife.  Our anniversary, I told her.  That line has always gotten me very good customer service from the hopeless romantic types.  I overheard she wasn’t even supposed to be here today – covering for a sick co-worker.  Good heart too.  They’re always the easiest.  Stay the latest but don’t want to put someone else out so they leave alone.  But it’s the empathy, really, that catches them.  Always willing to do a small kindness because they ‘know how it feels’.

         

A shadow moved behind a parked car as the girl walked towards the elevator that would take her to employee parking.  The shadow slipped a pair of men’s jogging shoes into a shopping bag and quickly put on a pair of stilettos.  They always made fun of my feet for being so small, they’d always tease me.  Funny how our worst feature becomes an asset later on in life.  He started walking as the elevator doors opened and waited until they started to close before beginning to run, “Hold it!”

         

It didn’t matter my voice was just a little too deep, or that something seems just a little bit out of place in her mind.  Or even that her intuition is starting to prickle, that she’s starting to feel like she should just get herself home and not worry about anyone else.  She’ll hold the door, they always do, just because they know the sound.  Dress shoes are part of the uniform, and what did any of them have to fear from an overworked sales associate ready to go home?  Nothing.  Well, nothing as long as there wasn’t commission on the line.  So much for gender stereotyping being dead.  Everyone lets their guard down at the sound of those pointed heels on cement.  What did you have to fear from the sound of something so recognizable?

         

Once trapped in the elevator, of course, things will change.  Her body will go into panic and shock, she’ll be frozen to the spot.  Then her face will transform into a mask of pure terror.  But there are still a few cars left on the upper lot, and she’ll be someone else’s problem in the morning.  I wonder how long it’ll take the next one to figure out he’s picked up a new passenger?

         

Don’t blame me.  None of them had to stop.  They could have looked out for themselves, but instead, they kept that door open.

 

  Edit Text

Theresa Nienaber has been previously published in a variety of horror fiction ezines and print magazines, including Black Petals.  She also recently published her first book, a young adult horror novel entitled The Price of Life in August and is the editor of the ‘zine Zombie Coffee Press (http://zombiecoffeepress.com). 

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