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Part one: The Predator
I followed the deep footprints that broke the glistening snow and discovered the golden heart shaped locket buried deep within its depths. It barely peaked out from the radiant snow. The set of tiny footprints next to the little locket were messy, pushed down in haste as she ran away from me. In the jumbled outline of the footprints I could feel the urgency to run.
Smiling, I kneeled next to the locket and gingerly took it from its grave in the snow. The large fluffy white snowflakes clung to the freezing metal not melting. I took a deep breath filling my lungs to capacity and exhaled on the locket. A puff of my white breath bathed the metal in its embrace, melting the snow. I watched as the melted snow glistened off the metal, sliding down effortlessly like a tear upon a broken hearted lover’s cheek.
Lazily I opened the locket with my thumbnail, it snapped open effortlessly, unlike before when I had first attempted to unlock it. The two heart halves each held a picture, one of Daniela, the other, me.
Dani’s tender heart shaped face was stuck in her frozen happiness. Her large gray eyes were the color of the moonlight, and the color of the blanket of snow in the tranquil forest untouched by man, having its complete natural beauty. Her hair was as fine as silk, with her long strawberry blonde ringlet curls appeared to be the life sized version of an antique porcelain doll.
I closed my eyes and felt the sensation of her warm, abiding skin underneath my touch. The skin was so fair, and beauty so rare that Snow White would be jealous. I remembered running my hand through her soft, luscious locks and practically shivering with pleasure, something Dani never noticed.
I turned the locket around over in my hand and gazed at my image, frowning with distaste. My long forehead, sharp angled nose had a slight crook in it, chiseled from stone. My mouth was turned up in its usual charming, enticing smile like a trap set with bait waiting for the unsuspecting victim. To all oblivious people it was just a warm, friendly smile.
How many times had I been compared to Adonis? The comparison was made far too many times. Although, they were right, I was gorgeous. My pale blonde hair and dark eyes were unworldly, strangely attractive, and elusive. If only they knew the man lurking behind the mask.
I looked back over at Dani’s picture. Behind those ashen eyes was the quiet little defiance that resonated deep inside her entire being. From her obstinate eyes, to pouty full lips, to the stance she always took, Head cocked sideways, legs spread apart like a strong fortress that couldn’t be knocked down, with her arms crossed ready to object to whatever anyone said.
I felt the memory of desire rise in me as I saw her shudder from my touch and object all my advances, even though they were so clever, so calculated, and perfect. Any normal unwitting girl would have let me, even encourage me as I led them to their doom. They wouldn’t realize it until the last moment.
Dani was different. She put trust in me cautious at first, then whole heartedly believing I was the one who I pretended to be. As my ingenious plan was set into motion Dani became slightly suspicious, mostly because of Alex. I had managed to trust me again. I could trick an equally as cunning woman for so long until she caught on to my devilish scheme.
Feeling the anger rise I closed the locket listening to it snap shut and tucked it into my pocket letting the chain hang from its edge.
“Oh Danny boy the pipes, the pipes are calling.” I sang slowly rising to my feet knowing her eyed would be following me from the thick woods.
‘Danny Boy’ was our song. Our first date was to see a play called ‘Night Must Fall’, a murder mystery play and it is where and how I decided to kill her. When the actor began singing ‘Danny Boy’ I watched from the corner of my eye as her face became intrigued and lit up as the plot unfolded before her. Oh, I savored the irony!
Obtuse Dani was so absorbed in the play to even glance my way. If she would have turned to me, she would have seen the slow and thoughtful calculations of my plan coming into place. Once my plan was completed I became energized. My foot thumped against the ground like a metronome, the pace getting faster as the clocked ticked at an agonizing slow pace.
Dani’s arm brushed against mine accidently, sending the urge crawling up my spine, dipping into my blood like a poison pumped through my veins, making my skin crawl with excitement. The spot where she had touched me was warm like a fire that did not burn the skin. Her touch made my breath catch in my throat; every time.
My mind kept hammering me with her touch and all too soon I’d feel her fragile, soft neck under my control, my power. I salivated, tasting anticipation as I thought more and more of her all too soon death. I’d kill her slowly, oh so slowly. She’d beg me to stop, she’d plead with her worthless little life for mercy, for I was the one who could destroy her or let her live. Of course she wouldn’t live. They never did.
“From glen to glen and oe’r the mountain side,” I let the sickly sweet words flow from my mouth letting my harsh edge discolor them. “The summers gone and all the flowers are dying.”
A smile spread across my face as I was filled with glee. She’d be breathing hard now, her mind moving too lethargic to fully comprehend what was going on, and her heart would be hammering her chest like a frightened rabbit caught in a snare. Those large gray eyes of hers would be scared, obviously, and soon they’d be full of the Grim’s image. The cold air would penetrate her lungs in sharp angry bursts, causing each breath to be very audible. Maybe not though, Dani was different than any of my other countless victims.
She was well read, stubborn, curious, mischievous, and she seemed to have a sixth sense about people. I had to pull out all the stops with her. At first it frustrated me, but the closer I got and the closer she was to being my next victim, I became ensnared in her spell. She had a way of drawing people to her peculiar ways, her odd habits were fascinating. Dani was almost like me. She had a way of luring people to her, but unlike me, Dani was an exotic flower. I was a Venus flytrap. Interesting, not seen very often, sometime you just have to get close to unravel the complexity that is my brilliant mind. That’s how I trapped those other girls.
All those girls I killed, each in a unique way left me feeling completed. I loved them, each and everyone. The simplest touch from my prey sends spine tingling joy through the course of my body. Each kiss was just one more drop of desire in my hands, another drop of poison in my heart. No kiss, touch, or woman I killed compared to Dani. She was unique, darker than the other girls. Her soul left unexplored, her heart untouched. How thrilling it became that I’d figure her out, I’d break her barriers, and I’d be the one to kill her.
“Tis you, Tis you must go and I must….wait!” My voice grew louder with a crescendo instead of a decrescendo.
Snow crunched under my feet parallel to Dani’s footprints. The wind held the huge snowflake’s that were overflowing from the purpled starry night sky. My vision was obscured by these snowflakes and I had to squint to see past them. The wind bit like a feral dog and I pulled my pea coat closer around myself savoring in its warmth.
“But hurry back when summers in the meadow, or when the valley’s hushed…and…white…with snow,” Each word became a breath of air in quick succession, hitting the note on the first letters hard, and then pulling back.
Ahead of me, past the falling frozen water droplets and biting wind, was the heavily wooded area where Dani hid from me. It would come down to a cat and mouse game. I could wait her out. Hide underneath a white capped bush near the entrance to the woods, but there was no fun in that! Anyway, she didn’t have a coat. I just hoped I’d get to her before Jack Frost did. I made a low, throaty hyena chuckle, which originated in the back of my throat and leapt from my lips echoing in the air. The bubbling ecstasy of my conniving hunt left me giddy.
“Then I’ll be here in sunshine and in shadow…” I saw a black shadow against the white snow move and disappear. Oh Daniela has made an appearance!
My speed remained constant as I approached the opening of the menacing tall trees with the spindly branches covered with a blanket of snow. I saw the faint outline of a person duck from view heading deeper into the wood. A smile played on my lips,
‘Run, run, my dear, for you shall not be doing that in a matter of minutes!’ I thought swallowing the burning in my throat. Oh so soon, the kill urge would be satisfied.
“Oh Dani girl, oh Dani girl,” I crept up to the spot barely breathing. My heart was unusually calm as I entered the woods falling into its cancelling shadows. The darkness was my playground, the night was my friend, adrenaline was my drug, and Dani was my release. “I love you so…”
I jumped with my arms out reached towards Dani’s shadow. The smile grew like a child on Christmas morning heading down to examine their haul. Come on Dani, let me see you beg! My arms only caught the frigid air, my fingers coming up empty.
“Oh Dani, come out, come out wherever you are!” I sang gleefully. My long fingers and sharp nails twitched in my eagerness.
I saw another shadow dance sideways like a ballerina. Such a graceful swan that was perfect for the cunning fox to devour. My mouth watered at the thought. I needed her dead, that feeling was thirsty for blood; Dani’s blood. I watched the shadow remain still and saw the puff of white air rise into the starry skied heaven like a plea for protection. Too bad for Dani they’d go unanswered. Soon Dani, soon you will join you father!
With hands outreached waiting for the kill I jumped forward once more. Immediately as I moved forward, something solid slammed into my face like a brick wall had been hurdled at me. I stumbled back feeling the audible crack as my nose broke and blood flowed like a sea covering me in its crimson sheet, soaking through the mid calf length snow staining its pure, iridescent color.
“Dani won’t be your next victim Aaron!” An angry voice spit at me. I smiled as I recognized it.
“Alex, how nice of you to join us,” I wiped the blood from my face with the scarf that Dani had given me. “How nice indeed,”
Part two: The prey
“Don’t stop, don’t stop,” I stuttered to myself as I stumbled through the quicksand snow. “Come on Dani faster!”
I urged myself through the pristine white snow in a mad dash to safety and security of the woods. I had to put distance between Aaron and me. If he caught me I couldn’t even begin to imagine what he had in store for me. Why hadn’t I seen the monster chained inside his beautifully deceiving mask? I should have known, Alex, protective Alex, had warned me. Why didn’t I listen?
The below-freezing wind sliced deep into my skin like a sharpened razor, gnawing at my bones, and rattling my teeth inside my mouth. I wrapped my goose bumps covered arms around myself trying to trap in my body heat even though the small act was useless. My jeans were of little protection, the material was already soaked.
I pushed myself through the snow reminding myself that my life was hanging by a thing fraying thread. It was a delicate thread to which Aaron held scissors. I wasn’t watching my footwork and my foot got stuck, and I stumbled forward, my golden heart shaped necklace that Aaron gave me fell next to my set of disjointed footprints. My hands went through the powdered mess and when I pulled them out they were shaking because of the temperature. I didn’t have any time to waste on feeling the numb chill creep inside of me. There wasn’t time to feel my heart strike my chest with its jackhammer, not my pulse quicken as the seconds flew by and I moved painfully slow, nor could I dwell on the fact that I was fooled. There was only time to run.
I brushed a glob of the thick white mass of snow from my eye and sprinted as fast as I could through the snow. At least in the woods I could semi conceal myself. This man—this monster—I thought he was a good person, I thought he loved me. How wrong I really was.
I met Aaron over six months ago. From the moment I met him I knew he liked me, I knew he felt a strong attraction towards me, like oppositely charged magnets. Aaron and I were eerily similar though, like equally charged magnets that could only resist for so long until they succumb to the other.
He was different, to say the least, a genius, quite literally the smartest person I ever met. He was eloquent, sophisticated, and gentle when he spoke. He was always calm; never did I hear him raise his voice above his soft, purring, awe like tone. Well, tonight he did. He showed me what truly rested in his ugly soul.
I was at his home for Christmas Eve. His Victorian era house set deep into the New Hampshire backcountry, with its majestic mountains and scenic woodlands, was breathtaking. Adding on to its fairytale quality was even more ethereal was his house in question. It looked like a red ruby inside a white swirling wonderland with its tall curving columns, masterful carpentry work with precise detail reminiscent of a simpler time, and the windows glazed over with a thin sheet of frozen water and under the ledge held a small amount of snow. The inside was just as spectacular.
Aaron had exquisite taste. Inside the parlor was a roaring fire that sent its orange glow from wall to wall, bathing me in its warmth. The antique walnut carved loveseat across the blazing fire was in the center of the large spacious room. Above the fireplace was a painting of the house in the summer. Wild flowers clung to the sides in a multitude of colors bringing life into the old house and beside the vegetable garden was a porch swing overlooking the rolling green hills in the backdrop.
Antique lamps, furniture, decorations, figurines also had their place in this blast from the past house. Aaron had impressed me greatly by the décor early this evening. I had never been to his house in our five months of dating. Aaron said it wasn’t quite ready yet. Now it looked like perfection.
He led me to the loveseat and upon sitting down our bodies became very close together, a mere hairsbreadth away. I felt the heat resonating between us, though it wasn’t from the fire. His dark, often cheery eyes were lively in the light as they twinkled looking at my gray ones the color of a moonstone.
“Do you like my house?” Aaron asked as he grabbed my coat and hung it on the coat rack. He took off his coat and scarf as well and did the same with them placing them next to mine.
“This place is incredibly beautiful!” I said smiling as I gazed around looking at every inch of the room I could. “Did you decorate this yourself?”
“Not entirely, my mother and sister spent many hours making this perfect, for my twenty first birthday present. Many pieces of furniture and such were already in the attic and just had to be refurbished. As for the rest they bought them at auctions. ” He hurried to the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of chardonnay and two wine glasses and set them down in the middle of the walnut coffee table.
There were two things I noticed right away. First was the elegance of the carvings on the leg and edges of the table, which matched the carving on the outside of the house. Second I noticed a wooden jewelry box in the middle. I thought it odd that it would be placed on a coffee table in the parlor instead of someone’s bedroom vanity.
“What is that?” I asked reaching for the box with my left hand. Aaron’s hand shot out like lightning grabbing mine.
“No!” He bellowed. “You can’t touch that!”
“What, why?” I stuttered confused by his drastic change in demeanor.
His face so fiery and animated like the fire drew back quickly, subdued and calm once more. The storm around him was quiet.
“Sorry, it’s just that it is very fragile and valuable. My mother gave me strict instructions to watch over it with my life.” He said dipping his head in an apology of sorts.
His hand still held mine and I felt the exuberant pressure he was exhibiting. He was always so gentle, never harsh or rough. Aaron was a mellow person.
He noticed my gaze and lessened his hold but didn’t let go. Instead he leaned forward taking his other hand to my cheek stroking it affectionately. Before letting my hand go he cupped my face in his and leaned into me kissing me softly on my cheek. His lips barely grazed my skin.
I tilted my head towards his, our lips meeting like two halves of a whole. The kiss was slow and calculating just like Aaron was. Then it changed, his lips moved unexpectedly faster with more force than I thought he could produce. I was surprised by his odd behavior but didn’t pull back. Just then the phone rang in somewhere in a room in the back of the house.
Aaron pulled back sighing and stood up to go answer the phone shaking his head slowly.
“I’ll be back soon my love. It’s probably a business call or my sister calling from her vacation.” He rolled his eyes and disappeared.
I waited for his return pulling my cashmere sweater closer around me crossing my arms across my body hugging in the heat from the fire. It was only a second or two since Aaron left that my own cell phone rang from within the mess that was my purse. I fished it out and pulled it to my ear answering it not bothering with caller ID.
“Hello?” I asked the mysterious caller.
“Dani?” The nervous voice asked.
“Yes?” I said slowly for the dimwitted caller.
“Oh Dani, thank God you are alright!” Said the voice I recognized all too well.
It was Alex.
“Of course I am. Why wouldn’t I be?” I smirked at Alex’s tone of concern.
“Daniela, listen to me good. Aaron is not the man you think he is! He has deceived you! He is a liar and a killer!” His voice was frantic and I heard the subtle moan of the wind in the background.
“Alex just stop! You have to deal with the fact that he and I are together, and I’m tired of you saying untrue things about him. How could you even accuse him of being a killer?” I said completely disgusted with him. “Goodbye!”
I was about to hang up when Alex stopped me.
“Wait! Just wait!” He rushed the words out. “Do you remember that story about the twelve girls that disappeared from around New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, and even New York?”
“Yes what about it?” I sighed like I wasn’t interested, but I couldn’t help that his tone had caught my attention.
“The killer hasn’t been caught, about half of these bodies have been found, no particular pattern to their deaths except,” He breathed in quickly before exhaling. “Something had been taken from each victim, a ring, a picture, a wallet, a locket…”
My eyes grew wide despite the fact that I didn’t believe him. My hand reached involuntarily to my neck picking up the necklace and feeling the metal on my fingertips.
“Alex—” I began but he cut me off.
“Dani, he has been acting weird lately hasn’t he? He’s acting odd, not his normal self. Dani he’s going to try to kill you. You have to get out!” He warned.
Suddenly, a chill crept over me like the black hand of death had placed his rotting corpse hand on it. The fire couldn’t warm my cold insides. I shivered as the chill traveled up my spine.
“Yes, he has been acting weird, but how does that mean he is a killer?” I said uneasily.
“He must keep his trophies from his victims somewhere.” He said his voice deep in thought. I could just see his olive green eyes thinking a mile a minute, his soft features would be frantic and his thin lips would be trembling slightly. His face was kind and kind of goofy looking, Alex was always playful with me, and never a cutting word until I started dating Aaron…Then it hit me.
The jewelry box!
“I think I know where it is…” My voice wavered as I locked eyes with the impending wooden box. With shaking fingers I unhooked the clasp and opened it. I gasped when I saw the contents. An emerald ring, a Coach wallet, an old creased photograph, among countless other trinkets, was inside. The gold diamond hairpiece my grandmother gave me was lying underneath. I had lost the hairpiece four months ago… No! It couldn’t be true!
My heart dropped like a stone in my chest. I felt like someone just knocked the wind out of me. My mouth ran dry like the desert air. Aaron was a killer!
“Oh no, Alex, oh my God Alex,” I began to tremble violently.
“Dani what’s wrong?” Alex’s voice was urgent and scared for me.
“It’s all here. He is a killer Alex!” My voice was low. I hardly managed to even say anything. I was in shock.
“Hold on Dani, I’m coming to get yo—” Alex’s voice was drowned out by Aaron’s gurgling giggle. I whipped around my eyes wide as saucers as I saw Aaron for what he really was.
He was a few steps behind me leaning up against the ogee. His face was cast in shadows from the fire’s light. His eyes two dark jewels lusting for what I understood was my death. His arms were crossed as he stepped towards me. I was frozen in place with fear that had my blood run cold as the brewing storm outside. All the sudden Alex’s phone cut off. Numbly, I dropped it into the cushions of the loveseat.
“Oh Dani, how unfortunate that you found out this way, pity really. But for me, it just got even more exciting.” He gave me his devilish chortle. His features were suddenly more hostile than before. This was really happening.
Suddenly he lunged out me his smile wide and ferocious, his razor teeth gleaming in the fire’s strong light. I stumbled from my seat falling to the ground and quickly stood up running for the door. Aaron changed his direction and trapped me. I charged forward trying to get past. He clutched me around my waist. He giggled in my ear making my skin crawl like a thousand bugs were climbing all over me.
“Oh Danny boy the pipes, the pipes are calling.” He started singing ‘Danny Boy’ stopping to kiss my neck. I tried pulling away but his hold was strong as steel. “I love you Dani,”
I turned my head and bit hard into his arm. He seemed to be immune to pain and just laughed harder. His grip waned and I managed to pull free somehow. Once out of his grasp I punched him hard in his jaw sending him shocked, stumbling backwards.
I didn’t turn and Iook back. I raced to the door and ran out into the blizzard night. I didn’t turn around as struggled through the snow into the woods.
‘Is that how I got here?’ I thought to myself sadly. Did it all start with me trusting a mysterious suave man? Now I’m hiding in the woods, waiting for the predator to find the helpless prey.
I heard his voice rise from the night singing the song I knew all too well. My breath caught in my throat as I heard his approach. God help me! I closed my eyes and waited for him to find me. There was no way I could outrun this madman.
All the sudden a hand reached around my mouth, covering it and holding my body tight against his. The grip was iron and I felt the fear crash down around me. My heart sprinted in my chest, skipping a few beats in its frightened haste. I screamed but the sound was muffled, and swallowed into the cold hand.
“Shh, shh Dani it’s me, Alex.” He whispered lowering his hand. I turned around to face him scared tears rising in my eyes.
“How’d you find me?” I sobbed quietly relief washing over me.
“I’m your protector, when you are scared or in pain so am I. I knew he was a liar! I knew there was something off, so I followed his car but I lost it. I had to guess my way down the back roads with the blizzard attacking me.” He pulled me into a tight hug kissing the top if my head. I was shaking with cold. No longer could I feel my fingers.
He noticed my shaking body and hands and pulled me tighter kissing each of my fingers in turn. He pulled off his thick wool coat and wrapped me in it, rubbing my hands hoping the friction would warm them.
“He’s coming.” I said burying my head into his chest wishing his safe arms could protect me from this killer.
“He won’t hurt you Dani. I won’t let him hurt the women I love.” He kissed the top of my head as I tried stifling my tears.
Why did I even date Aaron? Didn’t I know all along that I loved Alex? None of this would have happened if I was just forthcoming with my feelings for him. I loved his quirky attitude, and simple outlook. His arms around me felt like home, a place I never wanted to leave. I loved him, God how I loved him. And now it was my fault that Aaron was coming after us.
“I have an idea.” Alex whispered low to me, bending down to pick up a large fallen tree branch. Alex told me to hide behind a tree. Reluctantly, I left his side and crouched down low breathing silently.
I heard him approach following the shadow he thought was a human, but it was Alex raising a tree branch. Aaron followed it and Alex quickly ducked down coming to the tree in front of mine.
“Oh Dani, come out, come out wherever you are!” He said in a sing song voice. He jumped forward and Alex raised his tree limb and smashed it into Aaron’s face with great force.
“Dani won’t be your next victim Aaron!” He said.
“Alex, how nice of you to join us,” He smiled wiping off his scarf that I gave him as a present and wiped the blood from his smashed up nose. “How nice indeed,”
Alex raised the branch again but Aaron was too fast. He rushed forward tackling Alex to the ground. I yelped quietly as Aaron pulled his fist back and punched Alex repeatedly in the face. I left my safety space and rushed forward to Alex’s aid, trying to push him off.
Aaron turned towards me his face animalistic and gleeful like a happy child. He stood up wrapping his hands around my neck and squeezing. I coughed surprised before my throat closed up as he started choking me.
“Dani I love you. I love you so much.” He purred tightening his grasp.
My arms rose to his hands and I tried clawing his hands off of me. Soon the world was spinning around me, darkening as I was close to fading into oblivion.
“Back away from Dani!” Alex ran forward punching Aaron in the face causing his hands to let go of me.
Alex and Aaron started fighting again, their blood mixing and falling into the snow like a blood red rain. I fell on my knees gasping for breath trying to understand what was going on. I heard a decisive sound of a fist hitting another’s face and silence. I looked up to see Aaron raising the branch to Alex laughing madly.
“Stop!” I screamed. Aaron turned to me his face severe. “Let him go and I will go with you.”
He stopped for a moment and lowered the branch looking at me strangely.
“Promise?” He grinned down at Alex.
“I promise.” I said bowing my head. Alex couldn’t fight all my fights for me. I just couldn’t let him.
Aaron dropped the branch, stepping on Alex as he made his way over to me. Alex groaned and turned over feeling his swollen face. I had to fight the urge to run over and comfort my protector, funny how our roles were changed.
As Aaron approached me I lost sight of Alex’s moaning body. Aaron stood like a looming building blocking the heavens from my view. He smiled down at me like his old self. I opened and closed my mouth several times but words failed to come.
“Daniela, you were the most unique and challenging case I’d ever encountered.” He laughed like he was normal, like every other person in the world. I tried to not shudder with revulsion as his hands slipped through my long hair. He leaned in close. “I loved you most. I’m sorry it has to end this way.”
I closed my eyes so I wouldn’t have to see those sharp, gleaming, white animal teeth or his lifeless eyes as I took my last breath. That haunting smile would be my last memory. I hoped Alex could get away. I prayed he’d be alright. I shut them tight and waited for the end.
“I’m not sorry.” Alex said roaring behind Aaron raising the branch and bringing it down with as much force he could on his head.
It all happened so fast. One second I was waiting for death, the next second I was being saved. It ended in a matter of seconds.
I stood shaking like a leaf my mouth hanging open with trembling lips as Aaron collapsed on the ground. I couldn’t process it at first. Aaron was dead and I was alive. Alex dropped the branch, rushing to me hugging me close and kissing me all over my face. His tears of relief mixed with mine, staining our faces.
“It’s over Dani. It’s over.” He said running his hand through my hair.
I looked up to Alex’s face and broke out into a small smile. Alex looked at me peculiarly. I reached up on my tip toes and kissed his lips quickly. It was always him all along. I would never let him go.
I glanced downward and noticed something that caught the faint light of the moon. I reached down and picked up the locket feeling the cold metal. I closed my fist and watched it sparkle. It was over. It was finally over