Don’t Even Breathe by Keith Houghton
Long before she’d agreed to go on a date with him, Tyler had known he would kill Lindy Munson.
One day. Somehow. Preferably slowly.
For years, whenever Tyler had thought of the girl with the sallow complexion and the snow-white hair, he’d fantasized about doing something bad to her—probably from as far back as the sixth grade and the very first time she’d caught him studying her from across the school cafeteria.
Long-legged Lindy, with her teasing personality and her annoying popularity. A throat that was ripe for strangling.
Back then, Tyler had meant nothing to her. Not even an irritation. Something less than human. He’d been invisible, her gaze penetrating right through him, as though he didn’t exist. It was a look of absolute indifference that had gobbled up every bit of his universe, until all that had remained was Lindy the Langolier eating into his brain.
Tyler couldn’t recall the exact moment he’d decided to kill the most popular girl in school. The cafeteria incident had been the first of many, with Lindy’s continued aloofness consuming him through the years.
What would it take to make her notice him?
Tyler had asked himself this question countless times during the past four years of high school, usually when he was lying awake at night and visualizing all the ways he could make Lindy see him. He’d lost track of how many abduction scenarios he’d planned out in fine detail, and what he’d do to her once they were finally alone together.
Tyler’s stomach clenched as he glanced at the girl sitting next to him in the passenger seat of his Dodge Charger, her hands tapping along to the song on the radio. Her long smooth legs seemed to bend in the middle without any hint of knees, and her elbows seemed equally inconspicuous. Lindy Munson was a living, breathing Barbie doll, and although her curves were subtle, she knew how to make boys notice them. But as with most things made of cheap plastic, they could snap easily.
“Is this your first time?” she asked him as he parked the car so that it faced an area of undeveloped land opposite the high school, its headlights stirring up ghoulish shadows in the trees.
Far too loudly and far too quickly, Tyler laughed a “No!” as though her question was totally insane and without merit, because of course he did this kind of thing with a different girl every night of the week. Duh!
“It’s okay if it is,” she said, unbuckling her seat belt and smiling at him through her sticky red lip gloss. “I’ll make it memorable.”
Tyler had to suppress the urge to rip the self-serving grin off her face.
Even though they had been in the car for some time now, negotiating the evening traffic and making light chitchat, Tyler was still slightly disbelieving that the girl of his bad dreams was here in the flesh, and a blaze of unexpected nerves still burned in his belly.
She’d texted him:
Meet me outside Family Dollar @ 7
And he’d picked her up, teeth brushed, deodorized, his nerves through the roof as Lindy had gotten into his car.
Nobody had seen them leave the strip mall parking lot on Pine Hills Road—the most popular girl in school driving away with him. Everything was still a blur.
To avoid traffic cameras, Tyler had deliberately taken a circuitous route, keeping to the speed limits all the way. He’d kept their date a secret, and he doubted Lindy had shared their Saturday night rendezvous with any of her judgmental BFFs.
As far as everybody was concerned, Tyler was the last person in the world whom Lindy would be hanging out with on Halloween.
It couldn’t have worked out better.
“I know this cool place in the woods,” Lindy said, her long fingers curling around the door handle while her other hand pushed the door fully open. “It’ll be perfect.” She climbed out, fingertips sliding along the passenger window and leaving tracks.
He’d have to wipe away her grease. Wipe her off the face of the earth while he was at it.
Lindy continued around to the grass in front of the car. Tyler watched, a low rumble in the back of his throat as she raised her arms, dancing in the mote-filled headlights, her pointy breasts gyrating against her red tank top, her whole elasticated body swaying and twisting.
Lindy the temptress.
She looked like a girl in a James Bond title sequence, the one who ended up dead in the first act.
Tyler had fire in his belly.
Working on the problem of how to dispose of Lindy Munson’s body had tested him, forcing adjustments in his plan, until he was confident he had it right.
In any populated area, completely disposing of a corpse in such a way that it would remain forever undiscovered was likely impossible. There was always the chance that some incriminating part of it would turn up unexpectedly and point an accusing finger at him. Bury it in a shallow grave, and there would always be that pesky one-in-a-million dog that would come snuffling along and dig up a bone. Submerge it in water, and gaseous decompression would break it apart, bits of it bubbling to the surface, where it could become snagged on fishing hooks. Even feeding it into a wood chipper would spray a ton of blood evidence all over the place. Besides which, the mainstream media had introduced the world to the power of police forensics, and Tyler knew for a fact that if he wanted to get away with Lindy’s murder, he’d have to make her disappear in a puff of smoke.
Then, at some point, he’d realized he didn’t need to dispose of the body at all, just burn it. Toast marshmallows while Lindy fried. And that was why he’d also stashed a can of gasoline in the trunk, because fire was the only guaranteed way to destroy DNA evidence. Every last bit of it.
Lindy summoned him with a wave of her hand. “Come on,” she called. She turned, skipping along a sandy trail that snaked downslope across the grass.
Tyler killed the engine and the headlights died.
Then, beneath the dusk-bruised sky, he followed her toward the woods, his legs a little wobbly at first, but strengthening with each stride. Becoming purposeful. He’d waited years for this moment. This could be as alone as the two of them might ever come to be. It was now, or maybe never.
The sandy trail headed downhill sharply before disappearing into the trees. He fumbled his way through clawing branches and around prickly undergrowth.
“Right this way,” he heard her say from a dozen yards ahead.
Stoked by the anticipation of what was to come, Tyler picked up the pace, closing in on her, the fire in his belly spreading into his chest, fueling him, igniting him, propelling him.
No more humiliation.
No more Mr. Invisible.
No more Lindy Munson.
All he could think about was wrapping his hands around Lindy’s scrawny neck and squeezing the life out of her. The feel of her flesh under his hands. The quickening of her pulse. The sheer terror in her widening eyes as she realized what was happening to her. The heaving of her breasts as she struggled to breathe. Her nipples hard and erect. Strangling her slowly, maybe not even ending it right away, but rather letting her revive, over and over, each time with her knowing that the next throttling could be her last.
Making her see him.
Adrenalized, Tyler crashed through the undergrowth after her, his breath hastening and his senses sharpening.
“Hold up!” he shouted.
She did, and in just a few seconds he caught up.
She faced him on the path, nibbling her lower lip, giggling as she reached out and placed her hand on the hardening bulge in his pants. “Patience,” she tittered, her smile growing into a whorish grin. “Don’t jump the gun, little boy. We’re almost there. I promise it’ll be worth the wait.”
But Tyler couldn’t contain himself anymore.
His vision pulsated.
His ears rang.
He was about to burst!
Before she could lead on, he brought up his fist and cuffed her on the chin, hard enough to send her staggering backward. Even in the poor light, he saw confusion twist her face.
Was she beginning to see the real him for the first time?
With hooked fingers, he reached out for her again.
This time, Lindy turned and ran.
And Tyler gave chase.