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She walks down the dark street, head tucked low beneath her rain soaked hood, eyes furtively darting around her surroundings. She knows the dangers that could befall a girl like her walking alone at this hour of the night. Her heart races imagining the horrors. She could be pulled into an alley, behind a dumpster and have her skirt pulled up around her waist to reveal her most vulnerable parts so her assailant could violate her repeatedly. She knew someone this happened to. They said that girl’s skirt shouldn’t have been so short and that girl should not have walked home alone, drunk from a party. Yet, here she is, doing almost the same thing, walking home alone from a party in a short skirt. She could be robbed too, a purse snatched off her shoulder as the thief fled into the night. She could be kidnapped for torture or murder at some alternate location or sold as a sex slave. Apparently, sex slavery was more common than most people were aware, especially in college towns.
This whole college town felt gray. The buildings ranged from gunmetal to slate gray depending on how wet they were while sidewalks were a slightly lighter shade of ash gray. It appeared the local paint stores only sold shades of gray judging by the homes she passed. She loved a good rainy day to stay in and read a book or make some jewelry but so many consecutive days without the sun was depressing. The rain fell harder sending rivulets dripping down her face. Up ahead, on the left someone was sitting on the dilapidated brick steps of a row house. That someone was definitely male. She spread her keys between her fingers, because that is what you’re supposed to do. A key between each finger as you defend yourself from an attack. She is five steps away from the man on the stairs. She turns her head ever so slightly to the left to meet his eyes. With drooping eyelids he meets her gaze with a mere glance through her. He is drunk. She thinks she saw him at the party earlier. She doesn’t think he is a threat but she stays alert. Her boots click clack down the ash gray sidewalk; there is no silently creeping home trying to avoid drawing attention to herself from a potential predator. She wonders how many girls make this same trip home safely and how many do not. How many think it’s only a few short blocks, I’ll be safe? How many tentatively walk alone because they are ditched by their friend who hooked up with the cute guy at the party?
She sees the doorway of her building ahead and her colorful hippie van parked outside. She had a great day thrifting today. Two Coach purses, a vintage Member’s Only jacket in mint condition, some classic rock on immaculate vinyl, and whole organizer full of beads and stones. The beads and stones were for her jewelry making, the rest would go on eBay. She is still amazed at how easy it is to travel the country supporting herself on eBay sales and selling her jewelry at craft fairs. As she ponders the price points for her treasures she thinks she will make it home without incident or an encounter with the man who has been raping local college girls’ at their apartments. The police don’t know how he is getting into the girls’ homes. The word on the street is that these girls may have taken him home for a one night stand and won’t fess up to it for fear of getting blamed for being promiscuous. Maybe he is too cowardly to approach women on the street where they can run. Maybe he is overweight and slow. Keys still grasped in her hand, she reaches her doorway and unlocks the heavy wooden door. The adrenaline buzz is fading a bit, her heart rate slows. She should be safe in her apartment. She wonders if she locked her windows.
There is a small wrought iron lamp on the table in the entry way and she clicks it on as she enters. A perfect circle of light illuminates about a four foot diameter area of space in her three room home. She doesn’t turn on the overhead light. She likes the dark, it amplifies the silence or lack thereof. Her apartment is sparsely furnished; a chocolate brown, faux leather couch and a sturdy coffee table from the thrift store occupy the living space. No carpet, she hates carpet. It’s too hard to clean up spills and messes, but there is an area rug. Area rugs are easily replaced if they become soiled and keep the chill from seeping in through her feet on cold mornings. Her bedroom has only a bed and a nightstand with another small lamp, just enough light to read by. Her tablet sits beside the lamp in its usual place. She mainly uses it to read the news. She likes to stay up to date on what is happening in the country. She passes the bed with its plain navy blue comforter and matching sheets and heads toward the last room in her home, the bathroom. She will get undressed and get ready for bed.
Was that a shuffle she just heard coming from the corner near the closet? That corner seems extra dark today; maybe because of the rain. No moonlight is coming in the window. She clicks the bedside lamp. Nothing. Guess she needs to replace the bulb. She listens again. Silence. So she continues to the bathroom to brush her teeth and wash her face at the lonely sink mounted to the wall, pipes nakedly exposed. She pulls her hoodie and t-shirt over her head and tosses them over the shower curtain rod. They are soaking wet. She stands in front of the out-dated medicine cabinet mirror in only her bra, skirt and boots. She is a very attractive young woman. Her blond hair is cut in a neat bob with bangs, she doesn’t like her vision obstructed. She is very fit, a fact she usually hides under baggy hoodies or flowing dresses. As she stares in the mirror, her hands grip the sides of her minimalistic sink, corded biceps suddenly pop into view and back and shoulders go taut. Movement behind her catches her eye. The time for silence is over. She speaks, “Alexa, play The Pretty Reckless.” The Amazon personal assistant instantly streams “Take Me Down.”
Adrenaline surges. She is not alone. Fight or flight kicks in. She was never a flight kind of gal. Her heart races, not out of fear, no, out of rage. He moves quickly and comes into view behind her putting his large hand over both her nose and mouth, face covered in a genuine ski mask. She wants to laugh. This guy is a rookie, she almost feels bad for what is going to happen next. Almost, but not really. Three girls have been raped in this college town, so no, no matter how amateur this moron is, she won’t feel bad about what she does to him. He is only a few inches taller than her 5’6” frame. She is guessing he is maybe 5’9”. She leaves the razor knife she taped under her bathroom sink where it is. This could be over in seconds with a slice to his femoral artery with that weapon but that is very messy. She tries not to be messy. Ideally, she’d like to simply snap his neck. No muss, no fuss. Easy clean up and disposal. She will see how this goes, he looks like he may be thick, if he is a wrestler, neck snapping may not be an option. She allows him to drag her back to the bedroom, putting up a little bit of a fight so as not to arouse his suspicion if she is too calm and cooperative. He tosses her on the bed and produces one of her kitchen knives from his belt.
“Scream, and I’ll slit your throat,” he threatens.
Not with that knife, she thinks. Did he really grab a serrated knife to threaten her with? She lay on the bed trembling with rage. He probably thinks she is terrified, which enrages her further. Those other girls were not like her, she is sure they were terrified when he broke out a weapon and his penis. He pulls out a roll of duct tape and moves to tape her hands together. Everything is happening so quickly but in her heightened state of awareness it seems to be slow motion. Just as he reaches her, she quickly brings her knees to her chest. He mistakenly thinks she is curling up into a fetal position to protect herself. He even jokes that if she likes to do it with her ankles by her ears he will oblige. Instead, she sends both boot clad feet to his soft stomach and launches him across the room. He crashes to the ground with a thud and she pounces on top of him hoping to make quick work of this guy by knocking him out. He is definitely not an athlete, his doughy stomach reassured her of that. He catches her with a surprise uppercut that glances off her chin and knocks her off balance. Rage has subsided, she is now calm and collected, enacting Plan B. She dashes out of the room before he can stand and hides just on the other side of the doorway. As he stumbles through the unknown surroundings in the dark, she tackles him from behind and takes him to the ground. In a split second her right hand reaches around to the left side of his jaw, her left hand instinctively lands above his right ear and in one swift twist he is lifeless. A bloodless kill. This one was easy. She removes his mask. There is nothing remarkable about this young man. He is neither ugly nor beautiful. He has mousy brown hair, thin lips, and pale brown eyes. Everything about him is average. She is guessing he is a student here. He probably just faded into the background. Maybe he got tired of being no one, of being unremarkable. Honestly, she didn’t care what his motivation was. She didn’t care if he had a terrible childhood, if he was abused, if he was bullied, or if some girl humiliated him and broke his heart. It didn’t matter. Bad things happen to people every day, we all have a choice how we handle them and move forward, a choice if we let the bad ruin our lives or if we rise from the ashes.
She rolled him up in the area rug. She would put him in the van in the morning. Loading a van in the middle of the night would arise suspicion. She would dispose of the body somewhere between here and the next town. She brushed her teeth and washed her face. She ordered Alexa to turn off the music. She made herself a cup of hot apple cider and climbed into bed with her tablet. She had to list her items on eBay and she had to check the news. She had been following two news stories, one was a series of female body parts found in the swamps of a small town in the Florida Everglades, the other missing girls in the Nevada desert. She would head to Nevada first, missing could mean still alive and she’d love some dry weather after all this northwest rain.
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