THERIOPHOBIA: FEAR THE BEAST Part Sixteen
There it was. The red Camaro. Candy Paradise.
Leland’s heart started to pound. He hadn’t waited long at all.
Stay cool. Don’t get excited. Mistakes happen when you get excited.
Leland repeated these mental commands in an unspoken mantra. He cranked the van and pulled out. He had to time it just perfect. Candy signaled, slowing as she approached her driveway. Leland accelerated.
She pulled into the driveway, stopped to wait while the garage door began to inch upwards. Leland pulled to a stop in the road behind her. He honked. Candy looked back at him in her mirror. It had gotten dark, and he couldn’t quite make out her face. Leland felt an instant of disquiet.
What if it’s not her?
Leland waved, offering his biggest smile. He rolled down his window.
Candy Paradise got out of her car, stood beside it. She didn’t approach the van. Leland breathed a sigh of relief. Candy had dressed up a little, now wearing a pair of black shorts and sandals, a button-up white blouse that looked way too big for her, and a baseball cap. But there was no mistaking that face. He’d seen that face too many times. He’d come on that face. At least on the TV screen where it displayed. And in his dreams.
“I sure am sorry to bother you, Ma’am,” Leland said, grinning. “I was just wondering if you’d seen my pooch?”
“Your dog?” Candy asked.
“Yes, Ma’am.” Leland held out the picture. “My little Missy. She ran off yesterday, and I’ve just been worryin’ myself sick over her. Have you seen a dog like this, by any chance?”
Come on come on come on!
Candy took a step closer. A second. Leland could scarce sit still.
“She ain’t never run off like that before,” Leland said.
“I don’t think…” Candy took another step closer.
Leland dropped the picture. “Aw, shoot.”
Candy bent over and picked it up. She stood to hand it back to him.
And Leland sprayed her in the eyes with the pepper mace.
She spun around, gasping. He’d counted on that. Leland had been maced himself. He knew how much it hurt. Takes your breath away. Leland had counted on a couple seconds of shock before Candy started screaming. And he’d been right.
Leland jumped out of the van. He grabbed Candy around the neck with his left arm, then locked it in the bend of his right. The sleeper hold, just like he’d used to do it when he still wrestled. He clamped down hard. She stopped struggling.
Careful! You’ll break her goddamn neck!
His heart pounded and a clammy sweat coated his exposed skin, plastered his coveralls to him. He held Candy beneath her armpits, dead weight, difficult to pick up, even for him. He had to lower her to the ground.
This is taking too long! Way too long!
He opened the sliding side door of the van. He stooped and slid an arm under Candy’s knees, another under her shoulders. He stood, lifting her. He tossed her into the van, climbing in after her, and jerked the door closed. Candy groaned but didn’t wake up.
Move, goddamn it! Move!
Leland grabbed the roll of duct tape he’d left on the floor of the van. Holding Candy’s ankles together, he wound the tape around them several times, tearing it with his teeth. Then he bound her wrists and forearms, holding her hands pressed together as if in prayer. At last he pulled a strip free and pressed it over Candy’s mouth, added another to cover her eyes. Her face was wet with tears and snot from the mace, but the tape stuck anyway.
The baseball cap had come off during the struggle. Leland paused. Had the bitch dyed her hair? He noticed something else. He grabbed her blouse and jerked it open, buttons popping. Candy whimpered.
But it wasn’t Candy. Candy Paradise had much bigger tits.
It’s not her!
Leland held his breath. His mind spun. In that instant he seemed to recall another rumor that he’d heard once, one that his memory had disregarded until now. That Candy Paradise had a twin sister.
“I got the wrong goddamn one!” Leland said out loud. He shook his head to clear it.
Move your ass!
Nothing to do for it now. He’d acted. He had to carry through. Leland climbed behind the wheel. He pulled away. Quick, but not too quick. People noticed things like squealing tires.
On the floor of the van, Candy–or whoever the hell she was–had regained consciousness. She whimpered and sobbed, thrashed around, trying to scream.
“Shut the hell up!” Leland said, trying to catch his breath. “I ain’t no happier about this than you are!”
Leland turned onto a side road, then turned again, heading back towards the main highway and home. He passed under a solitary security light atop its pole, countless swarming gnats and moths bursting on the van’s windshield in the glare.
Of all the luck. Of all the goddamn luck.
He took a curve a little too fast and the girl rolled into the side of the van. She sobbed as best she could with her mouth and her eyes taped shut. Leland looked back at her over his shoulder.
“Well,” he said. “I guess you’ll just have to do.”
* * *
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!