THERIOPHOBIA: FEAR THE BEAST Part Seventeen
Chaney had just reached the exit, turning off the Interstate into Birmingham, when the feeling came over her. Disquiet, foreboding, and familiar, a nagging sense that something, somewhere, wasn’t right.
Am I feeling guilty now, or what?
Chaney dismissed the thought, pulling a cigarette free from the pack and lighting it. She turned up her CD player. Yet the feeling persisted, gnawing. She ignored it but it didn’t go away. If anything, by the time she pulled into the studio parking lot, it had gotten worse.
It had rained, and a curtain of steam rose off the wet pavement. The studio, looking no different from the score of small warehouses that surrounded it, had been washed clean by the shower, its yellowed aluminum walls still gleaming and damp in the security lights. Cars rushed past on the highway behind her, climbed and descended the nearby overpass. A dog barked, unseen.
Something isn’t right.
The door had been left unlocked for her and Chaney went inside. The cool air chilled her skin, pricking goosebumps along her spine, her shoulders. If she felt cold already in her jeans and tube top, they would for sure have to turn down the AC when she got naked.
She stepped through a double door into the studio proper. Most of the crew were already in place, setting up. The set had been dressed in pink frills and lace, a Victorian fainting couch against a fake window backdrop, lit by false sunlight. A period piece.
“There’s my star,” the director, Sam, said.
“Hey.” Chaney looked around. She still felt weird. She pulled her cigarettes out of her purse, lighting another one.
“Something wrong, kiddo?”
“Mmm?” She faked a smile. “No. I’m fine. Who am I working with today?”
“Vic,” the director said. “Gonna get a little ‘jungle fever’ going on. Mistress and slave kinda thing.”
“Cool,” Chaney said. She’d met Vic but had never worked with him. He seemed like a nice guy. She wondered how he’d be in action. Chaney felt the little thrill she always got before getting it on with someone for the first time. The feeling disappeared just as quick, submerged in the other, the anxiety, the uneasiness.
What the hell is wrong with me?
“See which one of those dresses on the rack fits you better,” Sam said. “Vic came here straight from work. He’s in the shower.”
“Okie-Dokie.” Chaney walked over to where the cart rack had been pushed into a corner, just behind a stand of lights. She set her purse down on the floor and slipped off her top, draping it over the back of a folding chair, kicked off her sandals. She unbuttoned her jeans.
She turned. Debbie, the manager, came over from the doorway.
“You’re from Ironwood, right?”
“You haven’t heard?”
“Heard what?” Chaney asked.
“There’s a murderer on the loose!” Debbie said with a little shiver, grinning, delighted.
“Oh, yeah,” Chaney said. “I heard. This guy my sister’s dating, he knew the lady who got killed.”
“You have been out of the know,” Debbie said. “There’s been two more. Some old couple.”
“For real?” Chaney paused, her zipper halfway down.
“Yeah. They caught the guy who did it, but he got away. It’s all over the news. They’re warning people to stay indoors, ’cause they think he’s still in the area.”
“You be careful if you’re planning on going home tonight. Don’t you stop for anybody.”
“I never do,” Chaney said. “Shit. I wonder if Marley’s heard.”
“If she’s been near a TV or a radio, she has,” Debbie said. “They’re showing the guy’s face every commercial break.”
“I’m gonna give her a call,” Chaney said. She picked up her purse.
“Oh, I’m sure she’s heard,” Debbie said. “I didn’t mean to worry you.”
“Like I said, it’s been on the news all day.”
“Just tell her to keep an eye out for a guy named Lucas Vale.”
Chaney froze. A bucket of ice water poured down her back. Liquid nitrogen. “What?” She turned to Debbie. “What’d you say his name was?”
“Vale. Lucas Vale. Why?”
“Oh my God!” Chaney grabbed up her purse, digging for her cell phone.
“What’s wrong?” Debbie asked.
Chaney pressed the number two button, her sister on speed dial. The phone chimed four times, then Marley’s voice mail activated. Chaney tried again.
At last she remembered where and when she had experienced that sense of foreboding before. Kindergarten. Six years old. When Marley fell off the monkey bars and broke both her arms and her jawbone. Chaney had felt it like she’d broken her own.
The phone continued to ring. No answer. Chaney hung up and dialed her parents. Her mother answered on the second ring.
“Oh, baby, I was just about to call you,” Bernadette said. “I just heard on the news…”
“Mom, listen,” Chaney said. “That guy they’re after, the one they think killed those people, Marley’s been dating him.”
“Well, they only went out once. But I’ve been trying to call her and I can’t get hold of her. Can you and Dad go check and see if she’s home? I just want to be sure she’s okay.”
She’s not okay.
“Yes, of course,” Bernadette said. “Baby, where are you?”
Chaney bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling. She looked around her at the studio, set up and ready to go. Vic had gotten out of the shower and busied himself rubbing baby oil on his dark skin, his shaven head. Everything, everyone waiting for her.
To Hell with all that!
“I’m coming home,” Chaney said.
By the time he arrived back home, Leland had gotten over his initial dejection. So what if he’d grabbed the wrong bitch? They were twins, weren’t they? Had to be. And besides, he’d gotten away with it. His plan had worked to perfection, and everything had gone off without a hitch. No, Leland realized, he had nothing to complain about. Nothing at all.
Never look a gift horse in the mouth, Leland reminded himself.
With the girl bound by the duct tape, getting her out of the van proved no problem at all. Besides, the mace had already taken the starch out of her sails. All she could do was whimper as he carried her up the steps and into the trailer, dumping her on the floor. The logging chain lay waiting, and he grabbed it up, wrapped it around the girl’s neck. Not so tight as to strangle her, but almost. Pulling her hair up out of the way, he fastened it in place with the padlock. Then he stepped across the room to the TV stand, pushed up against the far wall so as to be out of the way, where he’d left his other supplies. He grabbed a plastic grocery bag and the thin, two-foot cattle prod he’d bought at the Farmer’s Co-op. He figured he’d need the latter before long.
Leland dug his case knife out of his pocket and cut the tape around her ankles, then her forearms. He let her pull the tape off her mouth and eyes, snatching the strips out of her hands and putting them in the plastic bag.
“W-who…!?” the girl said. A pathetic, beaten little voice. She sat up. She still couldn’t open her eyes because of the mace. She sat on the bare plank floor, blinking and rubbing them.
“Rule number one,” Leland said. “You speak when I give you permission to speak. First time’s a warning.” He couldn’t believe it. Candy Paradise–or close enough to her–right there in front of him, a gift waiting to be unwrapped. All for him.
The girl managed to get one red, irritated eye open. Wiping tears, rubbing at her other eye, she stared up at him. Like one of his rabbits, terrified. His dick, already as hard as a shovel handle, swelled even stiffer.
“Guess you’re wondering what the fuck’s going on,” Leland said. “Well, you’re gonna be fillin’ in for your sister, got it? You know, like an understudy. You just got cast in your very own starring role, playing to an audience of one. You like the sound of that, Ms. Kidde?”
“What do you want?”
Both eyes were open now. Both wide, beautiful, terrified eyes. Green. Not like Candy’s. Of course, Candy Paradise wore contacts. Everything about that bitch was fake. Eyes, tits, everything. Plastic as a goddamn Barbie doll. But not this girl. Leland could tell there wasn’t anything fake on her. She was all natural.
“You’re gonna do for me what your sister does for all them skinny little shits in her movies,” Leland said.
“You’d better let me go!”
Leland stuck the two copper prongs of the cattle prod to her exposed ankle and pressed the button on the handle. The prod vibrated in his grasp. The girl yelped, jerking her foot away.
“That’s for breaking rule number one,” Leland said. “Rule number two: you always do what big daddy Leland tells you to do. Now,” he grinned. “Take off your clothes.”
The girl blinked. She looked up at him. Her face became a rictus of fear and dread. “No, please!”
Leland stuck the prongs of the cattle prod to her elbow and fired. She screamed in pain.
“This thing’s got plenty of juice,” Leland said. “And neither one of us is going anywhere. Might as well save yourself a whole lotta misery, and do as I say.” He held the prongs out in front of her face and mashed the button. It purred and she flinched away from it.
“Take ’em off!” Leland bellowed.
He stood back, leaning on the wall, cattle prod at his feet, and watched as she complied. She kicked off her tennis shoes, unbuttoned, unzipped her shorts, slid them off while still sitting on the floor. Leland found it hard to breathe. He exhaled, wiped sweat from his forehead and throat, sucked in a deep breath. He collected her shoes and shorts and stuffed them into his bag.
“The socks, too.”
Next, she pulled off her panties. White-lace, bikini-cut. Leland took them from around her ankles, his hands trembling. His dick throbbed like it would split open. He held them to his face, his nose. Leland grunted, crushing the panties in his grip.
“Umm!” He stomped his foot on the floor. “Like that a’plenty!”
The girl couldn’t get her blouse off because of the chain. Leland took his pocket knife and cut it loose. His hands brushed her warm skin and he gasped. The girl refused to look up. She wept in silence, pausing to wipe her face before removing her bra. Leland had to cut that away as well. He couldn’t resist reaching out with one finger, to touch her perfect, pink nipple.
No. Business first.
Leland rushed through it, and finished in half an hour.
He stomped back in the front door, as naked as the girl. He had calmed down somewhat, out in the night air. She didn’t look to have moved an inch from where she sat on the bare floor.
“What’s your name?” Leland asked.
She refused to even look up at him.
“Don’t make me get the shock stick again, bitch! Answer me!”
She whispered. “Marley.”
“Marley Kidde, huh? Alright. My name’s Leland. I don’t mind you knowing.”
She still wouldn’t look at him. She just sat on the floor, hugging herself. Still shy. Leland grinned. He’d fix that. PDQ.
“I’m afraid I had to burn your clothes, Marley,” he said. “Good thing you ain’t gonna need ‘em anymore.”
Leland had a rabbit in his hand, held by the scruff of the neck. Its hind legs kicked the air.
“I also burned my coveralls and work boots,” Leland said. “See, the police, if they find one fiber off your clothes, they can nail you. Or say if I left footprints. They make a cast, and then they compare the soles of your shoes.” He took a roll of electrical tape from the TV stand and began to bind the rabbit’s legs.
The girl had her knees drawn up, arms wrapped around them, and chin tucked down against her thighs. But he knew she was listening.
“Those weren’t my regular boots, of course,” he continued. “In fact, they weren’t even my size. Two sizes too small. I damn near couldn’t get in ’em. And I drove all the way up to Tuscaloosa to buy ’em at some used shoe store. They’ll never be able to trace ’em to me.
“Here.” Leland walked over and handed the rabbit to Marley. “Hold this.”
At first she just looked at it as if she didn’t recognize what it was. Then she took it. Leland stepped outside, came back in carrying a bright blue tarpaulin.
“Did the same thing with the tires. Burned ‘em,” he said, smoothing out the tarpaulin on the floor. Marley sat cradling the rabbit to her belly, sheltering it beneath her tits. Its white fur contrasted with the dark bush of her pubic hair.
“Had to burn it all.” Leland walked out of the room, came back carrying a separate pair of work boots. He sat down on the floor, pulled them on and began to lace them up.
“And I’m gonna scrub out the van to make sure you didn’t leave any hairs or spit or anything else with your DNA signature. There won’t be a single shred of evidence to connect me to your kidnapping.”
Marley met his gaze. “Are you going to kill me?”
Leland grinned. “You know what?” he said. “We’ll pretend like you’re Scheherazade. You know, from the Arabian Nights. The longer you can keep me entertained, the longer I’ll let you live. But you’ll have to do a bit more than tell me stories to keep me entertained. Quite a bit more.” He chuckled. God, he was going to enjoy this.
“Oh, by the way, you spoke out of turn again.” He stood up. Marley flinched. Leland chuckled. “You’re learning,” he said. “We’ll let that one slide, though, since I’m feeling amorous right now. How about you?”
Now he saw a flash of something else in those pretty eyes, something besides fear. Anger? Even hate, maybe? Whatever it was, it was sexy as hell.
“Alright, Marley,” Leland said. “First things first. Before I fuck you backwards, forwards, and sideways, I need a little warm-up. An appetizer. And I want you to watch.”
“Watch?” she said, whispering, her voice failing.
“Yeah. And you can finger yourself if you want to, if it turns you on,” Leland said. “Now give me that rabbit. You’re gonna love this.”
* * *
WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS (www.evilcheezproductions.blogspot.com, www.facebook.com/evilcheezproductions), specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced and directed (and occasionally acted in) over a dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and Crime genres. His first novel, THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER: WEREWOLF, is available for purchase at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/734763
MORTUI VELOCES SUNT!