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       Retribution, p.4

           Jilliane Hoffman

  Then, in an instant, she felt the cool smoothness of rubber against her face and tasted the chalky bitterness of the latex glove on her lips. A tremendous weight pressed suddenly on her chest, crushing her lungs and knocking the wind out of her. She tried to cry out but heard no sound. Something smooth and soft was shoved far into her mouth and forced into the back of her throat, making her gag. Her eyes, now open wide in terror, quickly tried to adjust to the virtual blackness of the room. Her hands flew to her face, but in an instant, both of them were seized, forced back above her head and quickly strapped to her metal headboard with a tight-fitting cord. Her legs, too, were grabbed, spread wide apart, and strapped to a metal post at each end of the footboard.

  This can’t be happening to me. This must be a nightmare. Please, Lord, let me wake up! Let me wake up now!

  In less than forty seconds, she had been completely immobilized. Her eyes had now adjusted to the room’s blackness and she turned her head frantically side to side, canvasing the room for her attacker.

  At the foot of her bed, the figure was crouched, his head down, busy tying off the cord on her left ankle. Chloe’s stomach dropped. The face and head were a ghoulish white in the glow of the alarm-clock light. Two tufts of red hair stood out on each side of his head. He looked up then and Chloe saw the bright red smile, the bulbous nose. It was a clown’s face, a mask. In his right hand he held a large knife.

  Maybe he just wants money. Please, please, take the television, take my stereo! My purse is on the coffee table in the living room! She wanted to shout this at him, but because of the gag, could not speak.

  He slowly rubbed the sharp, serrated blade with gloved fingers, as he walked around the base of the bed. His eyes never left her, watching her from their empty, black peepholes in the mask. She could feel his stare, hear his breathing, smell his sweat. Frantically, Chloe flailed her arms and legs, desperate to break the cords on her feet, her wrists, but she could not move. The cord dug into the tender skin around her ankles, and her fingertips began to tingle from the lack of circulation. She tried to spit out the gag to scream, but could not move her tongue. Her body wriggled helplessly about on the bed and he crept closer still, until he stood at the foot post on her right.

  His finger touched her toe then and slowly, very slowly, began to trace along her calf, over her knee and up her thigh until it reached the bottom of her pajama top. Chloe writhed under his touch. There was nowhere for her to go. She could hear her own heart pound furiously in her chest.

  The air conditioner changed gears and hummed lower. Outside, she could hear the patter of heavy raindrops pounding on the window and on the protruding metal of the AC unit. The storm was here. A crack of thunder rumbled loud outside and lightning lit the sky, some of it sneaking through the sides of the window blinds, further illuminating the figure. She could see the shaggy red fur of his eyebrows, the black outline of his smile. Tufts of white-blond hair escaped on to his bare neck.

  He suddenly moved away from her to the night table and set the knife down. He opened the drawer and removed her two coconut-scented votive candles and a pack of matches. She watched as he lit them, their flames casting a soft glow in the room and filling it with the delicate scent. For several minutes he stood staring at her in silence, his breath coming fast through the tiny slit in the rubber. The candlelight cast an exaggerated, distorted shadow on the wall.

  ‘Hi, Chloe.’ The rubber face with its wide smile stared down at her. His words almost whistled as they escaped the air slit. She thought that she could now see ice blue eyes through the peepholes.

  ‘I’ve missed you, Chloe. I almost thought you weren’t going to show up tonight.’ He turned and picked up the knife from the night table and then faced her again. ‘Did you skip out on gym class just to spend a night with your boyfriend? Naughty, naughty, tsk, tsk.’

  Chloe’s skin went cold and clammy. He knew her name. He knew she had missed her aerobics class. Did he work at the gym? Her mind desperately tried to place the voice. It was deep and muffled as it escaped through the rubber mouth slit. She thought she detected the hint of a lisp, or maybe an accent he was trying to hide. A British accent?

  He bent down and knelt beside her. He moved his rubber face close to her ear, and stroked the hair off her cheek. She could smell the latex of the mask, and the hint of Quorum, a cologne that she had bought Michael once for Christmas. His breath smelled of old coffee.

  ‘You really should have let him stay the night, you know,’ the Clown whispered right into her ear. Another bolt of lightning crackled outside, illuminating her bedroom with a bright flash, and she saw the knife glisten as he suddenly raised it high, just a few inches above her stomach. Her eyes grew wide.

  He laughed and stood up. His finger traced over her body, down her arm, past her shoulder and over her pajamaed breast. The knife moved with him, floating just above his finger. ‘A pretty girl like my Chloe shouldn’t be left all alone.’ He suddenly lowered the blade and sliced off the bottom button of her pajama top.

  ‘Because you never know what might happen to a big girl in the big city.’ The knife sliced off the next button. A loud boom of thunder quaked outside to accompany the lightning. A car alarm sounded off in the distance.

  ‘But don’t you worry, Beany. I’m gonna take good care of my big girl. I’m really gonna make you smile.’ Another button gone.

  Her body shuddered. Jesus Christ, he knew her nickname.

  He drew an exaggerated breath in and sniffed at the air through the nose slit. ‘Mmmm. Chanel No. 5. I love it. I hope you wore it just for me. It’s my favorite, too.’

  He knew her favorite perfume.

  ‘What else are you wearing for me tonight?’ The last button came off and slid down her side before dropping to the floor. It made a dull, soft thud as it hit the carpet. The tip of the knife slid between her pajama top, parting it. Slowly and deliberately, it pushed one side away, until it fell limp off her chest and on the bed. Then slowly the knife tip traced back over her exposed stomach and belly button to the remaining part of the pajama top and pushed it, too, aside, revealing both breasts. He stared down at her. His breathing came harder.

  He traced the knife slowly over each breast, each erect nipple, and then up toward her neck. Chloe could feel the cold sharp tip gliding over her delicate skin, pressing deep into her flesh, but not yet splitting it open. He stopped at the heart pendant that rested on her throat and hesitated. He slid the knife under the necklace and yanked hard with the blade. The necklace slid down her neck on to the bed. He paused. Chloe could feel his stare penetrating her, up and down her body.

  Oh dear Jesus, please don’t do this.

  The knife angrily sliced down her leg and ripped away what remained of her pink pajamas. Her naked legs squirmed, pulling at the cord on her ankles. He traced the knife now up her bare legs, starting at her toe, and then up her ankle, her calf, and then the inside of her thigh, the knife pressing harder and deeper, but not yet cutting her, as he progressed. He guided the blade under the spaghetti straps on her hip and cut away her panties, exposing her.

  ‘You look so good, I may just have to eat you up,’ he said in a throaty voice.

  Oh God, no, no, no! This must be a nightmare. Let this be a nightmare! She could hear her father’s voice. Be careful out there, Chloe. New York is a big city with lots of different people, not all of whom are nice.

  Chloe struggled to push the gag from her mouth. She could feel her heart exploding in her chest. Her arms twisted frantically under the cord, until she could feel it abrading her wrists.

  He watched her wriggle and writhe on the bed. Then he lay the knife down on the dresser and pulled off his black T-shirt. He was tan and his chest was hairless, with well-sculpted muscles and a tight, defined stomach. He unzipped his blue jeans, carefully removing one leg at a time, and folded them neatly over the back of the chair. She saw that his left arm, just above the wrist, held an ugly raised zigzag scar that for some strange reason made Chloe
think of a DANGEROUS CURVES AHEAD road sign.

  ‘Lucky for you, Chloe, you didn’t come home too late,’ he said. ‘We still have lots of time together.’ He removed his underwear last, revealing his erection.

  Details. Get details, Chloe. Remember his voice. Remember his clothes. Look for other scars, marks, tattoos. Anything, everything.

  ‘Oh, and I almost forgot. I brought my bag of tricks with me! I know some fun games we can play.’ He reached to the floor and opened a black nylon bag. He took out what looked like a twisted hanger, a black glass bottle, and electrical tape. He looked around the room. ‘But I think I’m going to need an outlet.’

  In her head, she began to scream and her body jolted about on the bed.

  ‘You be a good girl now, Chloe, and Mr Clown is gonna give you a real treat,’ he whispered out loud. Then the Clown climbed on top of her and raped her until the sun came up.


  He whistled to himself as he rinsed the blood off the knife in her clean, white bathroom sink. His and hers toothbrushes sat side by side in a green porcelain cup on the edge of the sink, and her freesia body lotion sat on the opposite edge. The water ran a red river off the blade down into the drain. The Clown watched it, mesmerized, as it twirled around and around in the basin, thinning to a light red and then pink and then finally disappearing.

  He felt strong. The night had gone quite well, and they both had had a really good time. Even she had admitted it. Oh, there was that time when he had removed her silk panties from her luscious red, round mouth and instead of thanking him, the bitch had moaned and cried for him to stop. That had irritated him. A lot. But then the knife came out to play again and there was no more of that. In fact, she had actually begged him for more. But after a bit she started to whimper again and he had gotten quite sick of hearing it, so he had put the panties back in.

  He dried off the knife blade on her pretty mint-green-and-lace guest towel and placed it carefully back in his nylon bag along with all the other cleaned toys. The mask was off now and he rinsed his gloved hands clean, splashed cold water on his face and neck, and dried himself on the towel. He admired himself in the mirror, his firm, hard body. He gave his teeth a quick brush with her toothbrush and checked to make sure they were clean. Then he pulled the mask back down over his face and headed back into the quiet bedroom.

  She lay peaceful on blood-soaked sheets. Her eyes were closed, like an angel. He slipped on his jeans and T-shirt and hummed as he put on his work boots and tied them with a double knot. She still had the panties in her mouth, but she made no sound anymore, not even a whimper. He thought it strange that he actually missed that sound now.

  He blew out what remained of the candle stubs. Bending down over her face, he stuck out his lips and kissed her on her cheek through the tiny rubber slit, letting his tongue venture out to taste her soft, salty skin one last time.

  ‘Bye-bye, Beany, my love. My beautiful, beautiful Chloe. It was fun.’

  On the sheet next to her neck lay the broken heart pendant. He picked it up and put it in his jeans pocket.

  ‘Something to remember our time together by.’

  He blew a kiss in the air and quietly closed the bedroom door behind him. Then he grabbed the nylon bag from her bathroom and went down her tiny hall and past her kitchen one last time. At the Pier I end table, he spotted her small jade statue of the three wise monkeys, their hands covering their eyes, ears, and mouth: Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, and See No Evil. A present, he knew, from her parents’ recent trip to the Orient. He had heard once that folklore said the monkeys were upposed to bring protection and good luck to any home they were welcomed into. Not tonight, the Clown thought to himself and smiled. Next to the statue sat a picture of a happy Chloe and her Preppie Prick boyfriend at the Empire State Building. He paused, allowing his fingers to run over the image, before taking his own mental snapshot of this special night.

  And then, just as quiet as a church mouse, he slid open the living room window and dropped beneath the dense cover of the evergreen, still wet from the torrential storm that had since passed over. Then the Clown quietly slipped unnoticed into the purple-blue night, just as slivers of orange light began to slice across the sky and day broke over the deserted streets of New York City.


  Marie Catherine Murphy stood outside Apartment 1B and simply knew that something was wrong. Especially since it was already ten to nine, Marie was running late, today was the practice multistate exam, and Chloe was not answering her door. And while it was not unusual for Chloe to be late, too, which was partly why they were such great friends, she always eventually answered. Albeit, usually in her pajamas, but always with a great excuse and two enormous mugs of freshly brewed coffee in hand, as well as a box of Stella D’oro Breakfast Treats. They had carpooled to St John’s Law School for the past three years, and Marie could not think of one time that Chloe had stood her up. No matter how late Marie had been in getting there.

  An elderly woman had buzzed her in the building, and Marie had practically sat on Chloe’s doorbell for the past five minutes. She knew that Chloe and Michael had gone out last night, and she initially thought that maybe he had spent the night and they had both overslept. That thought made her pause for a few moments and hope that Michael would not answer the door in his underwear. Coffee or no coffee, Marie certainly didn’t need to see that. But after five minutes there was still no response to the ringing bell, and Marie was getting more than anxious. She tried to peep in Chloe’s mail slot, but found that it was covered with something from the inside.

  She headed back outside and lit up a cigarette. Upstairs, behind his window, she saw Chloe’s strange neighbor staring down into the courtyard at her, black coffee cup in hand. He certainly was creepy, half naked, with those thick glasses and that weird sneer on his face. A chill ran through Marie’s body. She saw that Chloe’s front curtains were still drawn shut and her bedroom blinds closed. Her car was missing from its usual spot and Michael’s BMW was nowhere to be seen.

  Don’t panic. I’m sure it’s nothing.

  She padded around to the other side of the brick building to where Chloe’s kitchen window was. The window was closed, but the curtains were pulled back. The window towered above Marie’s 5’2” frame by another ten inches. She sighed. She had to work that afternoon and was dressed in a skirt and three-inch-high heels. She put down her purse, cursed herself under her breath for not picking out a pantsuit and flats, and crushed out her cigarette. She climbed up on to the brick half wall that ran adjacent to the kitchen window and gated off the steps to the building’s basement. Using a garbage can for leverage, she hoisted her husky frame up to the window, holding on to the sill for both dear life and for balance, and peered in. In front of her on the kitchen table was Pete, still covered in his cage. To her left was a pile of dishes in the sink. She could see through the kitchen doorway into the hallway and the living room, and saw the table was covered with newspapers. Marie immediately felt better. If the apartment had been clean, she would have known something was definitely wrong. It looked, instead, as if Chloe had never even come home last night.

  She must have stayed at Michael’s apartment and forgotten to call me. He probably dropped her off at class this morning with a hot cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and a Boston Cream doughnut and she’s now learning how to pass the bar and become a lawyer while I stand here with my fat ass flapping in the breeze peering into her dirty kitchen like a moron.

  Now she was annoyed. And she was going to be late for the practice test. She had begun her precarious descent down off the garbage can when a thought occurred to her. If Chloe had not come home last night, who had covered Pete’s cage? She paused for a moment, troubled by something else she thought she had spotted on the hall floor, just outside of the kitchen. Something in the back of her head forced her to turn around again for a closer look, and she pulled herself back up on the garbage can and placed her face up against the window. She cupped her hands around
her eyes and squinted hard.

  It took several seconds before she recognized that the dark spots she was looking at were actually footprints. It was another several seconds before she realized that they looked like they were made in blood.

  That was when Marie Catherine Murphy fell off the garbage can and started to scream.


  We’ve got a pulse,’ a voice yelled out in the darkness. ‘And a beat.’

  ‘Is she breathing?’ Another voice.

  ‘Barely. I’ve got her on O2. She’s in shock.’

  ‘Jesus Christ. There’s blood everywhere. Where is it all coming from?’ Another voice.

  ‘You mean, where is it not coming from? She’s a mess. I think most of the bleeding is vaginal, though. She may be hemorrhaging. Man, this psycho really did a number on her.’

  ‘Cut those cords, Mel.’

  A fourth voice. A deep, heavy New York accent. ‘Easy, guys, that rope is evidence – don’t hack at it. Touch it with gloves. Crime Scene needs to bag and tag.’ The room, it seemed, was full of people now.

  ‘Christ, her wrists are completely torn up.’ The voice sounded disgusted, panicked.

  Police radios squawked with static and voices. Piercing sirens, more than one, in the distance and coming closer. The click of a camera, the sound of a flashbulb.

  Angry voices now. ‘Be careful, careful, with her! Hey, Mel, if you can’t handle this shit, just step back and get out. Now’s not the time to freak.’

  Silence filled the room for a few seconds, then voice number one. ‘Start an IV of fluids, and give her some morphine. She’s about five five. Looks about one-ten, one-fifteen. Call Trauma at Jamaica Hospital and tell ‘em we’ve got a twenty-four-year-old white female, multiple stab wounds, possible internal bleeding, probable sexual assault, in shock.’

  ‘Okay, okay, lift her gentle now. Gentle! On my count. One, two, three.’

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