let’s drape one more gold chain across your . . .” he said as he laid the
necklace across her bare breast. “There! Now that’s the look I want.”
stared at the ceiling, counting the water stains she saw there in order to calm
herself before she responded. “This is the same ‘look’ you saw in that old
Neal replied. “No, I thought of this myself.”
Marie countered. “You showed me the picture weeks ago. You thought it was
it is artistic,” he said. “I recognize an aesthetically-pleasing
composition when I see it—I’m an artist after all.” He immediately
changed his tone. “You look so delicious in those thin chains—you’re so
striking in this light!”
rose from the bed. “I must take some photos before we . . .”
get on with it,” Marie said. Why did everything have to be such a production
* * *
I don’t know why you put up with Neal,” Dina said before taking a deep drag on her
little green and white glass pipe. She passed it to Marie. “I mean,” she
continued after exhaling a cloud of sweet smoke, “it’s not like he’s
rich—though his parents are—and he’s not particularly handsome or charming.”
I know,” Marie said before putting the lighter’s flame to the pipe. “I’m just
sticking around until someone better comes along.” And they always do—like
that trust-fund ‘poet’ in Austin. He was easy enough to get rid of, she
added to herself, after I helped him with his ‘overdose.’ She took a
deep drag. “Neal’s funny, and sort of—”
think you mean sort of funny looking,” Dina commented, sending both
women into giggles. “Seriously, though, after that business at his parents’
pool, where he posed you—naked—on the diving board? Like you were some
kind of dead fish, ready to be gutted! He’s such a freak. What if you’d been
shrugged. “His folks weren’t home; he was house-sitting. They were in Mexico,
or some place. Some place far, far away.” And I saw to it his nosy parents
were never coming back, she was tempted to add. She half-smiled at the
that time he posed you—again, naked—through the open sunroof of that old
silver Thunderbird, out in the middle of an empty field on a moonlit night!
Jeez, the whole thing sounded like you were about to be a ritual sacrifice to
the God of North American Land Yachts.”
continuing, Dina took the pipe from Marie’s hand. “What if he’s a serial
killer, posing as a photographer?” She took a hit. “Seriously, remember that
report on TV about that guy in California who worked as a free-lance fashion
photographer—who was a serial killer?”
went on. “He’d sweet-talk attractive, gullible young women into modeling for
him way out in the desert, on the pretense of ‘fashion shoots,’ and then he’d—”
he was a killer, I’d already be dead,” Marie said, cutting off Dina’s lurid
train of thought. She dragged her finger across her throat, rolled her eyes and
pushed out her tongue. Dina laughed so hard at that pantomime, she fell into a
fit of coughing.
with that,” Marie said, rising from the sofa, “I take my leave. Got to get home
to Mr. Poser.”
* * *
was aware of Neal rummaging around in the bathroom cabinet before she opened
her eyes. She sat up, and leaning on one elbow, watched him look at bottle
after prescription bottle until he found the one he wanted. He popped the cap
and shook out several capsules.
doin’ in there?” Marie asked from the bed.
spun around. “Good morning, doll!” He shoved the capsules into his jeans
pocket. “I had an inspiration! We’re going to the State Park to do a wilderness
shoot. So get up, get dressed!” He pulled the sheet off the bed. “We’re burning
daylight. I’ll get you a cup of coffee.”
when does he get me coffee in the morning?
was back with a full mug of black coffee just as she walked into the bathroom.
He handed her the cup. “Sip, sip.”
know I don’t like to be watched while I do my business,” Marie said, kicking
the bathroom door shut with her heel.
the door closed, she poured three-quarters of the coffee out in the toilet. She
pushed the handle down, and as the toilet flushed, she tilted the coffee cup to
confirm what she suspected was there: a couple of broken, half-melted green and
white capsules sticking to the bottom of the mug.
tried to slip me a mickey this morning. Amateur!
* * *
the car, she pretended to drowse.
that coffee you gave me this morning,” she murmured, “sure was weak.” She
yawned dramatically. “I’m still so sleepy and muddle-headed.”
his eyes off the road, Neal turned to stare at her. He wore a wolf-grin Marie
had never seen before; she didn’t like it.
thinks he’s drugged me, she pondered. He thinks
he’s going to
take me into the big bad forest to molest me and then stage my murder. Pose me
like a ripped-open rag doll. Just like that loser photog in California did to
those naive young women.
then closed her eyes, plotting all the while.
* * *
car came to an abrupt stop in the gravel parking lot on the edge of the State
here!” Neal said as he hopped out of the car. He was on her side, opening the
passenger door before she could unbuckle her seatbelt. “Out, out, out!” He
pulled her roughly from her seat. As he reached into the backseat to get his
camera bag, she noted the top of a buck-knife peeping out from his back pocket.
allowed him to drag her deeper and deeper into the woods, until they came to a
small clearing. On the other side of this treeless space was a large, flat slab
of granite near the edge of a small cliff.
okay,” Neal said, pointing to the slab. “Strip and lay down there, face up.”
slipped off her shoes. The stone was pleasingly warm under her bare feet. She
turned to Neal, pulled him to her. “Kiss me, you fool,” she said, entwining her
arms around him. He did as he was told, and as he did, Marie expertly lifted
the buck-knife from his back pocket.
pulled away and turned her back to him before she lifted off her sundress. She
opened the knife and hid it in the folds of her dress. She then laid down on
the warm slab, making sure her dress, and its hidden blade, were well within
his knees, Neal positioned himself between her legs, quickly taking one picture
after another. He reached down with his free hand to fondle her breast.
the molestation begins immediately, she thought, somewhat
disappointed. He’s so predictable.
continued to take pictures, but moved his free hand to his back pocket, feeling
for the knife. Marie stretched and slipped her hand into her discarded dress,
feeling for the knife.
for this?” Marie asked, as she plunged the knife deep into his belly. Before he
could answer, she raised the blade all the way up to his sternum, effectively
gutting him. Like a fish!
toppled, frantically attempting to shove his intestines back inside.
stood up and slipped on her sneakers. “You thought you were going to pose me
like one of those sad victims of that killer in Cali, didn’t you?” He
gurgled in reply. “I know you saw those crime scene photos—thanks to the
national media, everyone saw those photos.”
attempted to protest, but the only thing that came out of his mouth was a burst
of bloody bubbles. “I wondered how long it would take you to decide you were
going to duplicate one of those scenes.”
not an artist,” Marie grunted as she dragged Neal over to the edge of the slab.
“You’re a copy-cat, a hack. A poser.” His mouth quivered as blood
burbled out one corner. “And your parents? They never made it to Mexico—hell,
they never made out of their garage.”
she posed Neal on the brink of the slab, she added, “Just so you know, my tire
iron made for a swingin’ going-away present. I still have their luggage in the
trunk of my car.”
as for you—you’re not even a real serial killer.” Marie said, and careful not
to get blood on her shoe, kick-shoved him over the edge. “I should know—because
I am.” She
leaned over the edge of the slab to watch him roll and bounce down the rocky
slope of the steep little ravine. He came to a thudding stop against a towering
pulled on her sundress, picked up Neal’s camera bag, and then dug around inside
that bag until she located his keys—for both his car and apartment. She had
lots of photos she needed to delete from his computer, and from any of his
external-drives or cloud-storage locales. She was going on a scavenger hunt!
Neal’s keys now in hand, she slipped the bag across her shoulder. Humming a
happy tune, she receded into the cool darkness of the woods, and disappeared.