Snow blanketed Beverly Koproski's rose-colored hood. She walked along Fisher Street with the wind upon her face, and quarter size snowflakes melted off her nose. Young men from the neighborhood sounded their car horns in appreciation of the brunette's sapphire eyes. Sixteen, a senior, and six days remained of her Christmas vacation.
Beverly turned left on her driveway to her brick home. The dryer's exhaust from her neighbor's basement window filtered a sweet scent from the fabric softener. A warm mist from the duct formed a pool on the drive. Silent snow glided downward.
The puddle mirrored snowflakes floating in two directions, both up and down. Bluster of wind disturbed the flakes....
A picture of a life size Santa greeted as she opened the storm door, and unlocked the inner door to enter. She let down her winter's hood, slid off the coat and hung it up.
She pulled off her wet boots, placed them on the steps atop yesterday's newspaper. The kitchen clock showed one-fifteen. Violet and Abigail will be here soon.
Beverly identified the knock at the side door. In an upbeat voice, "Hi Violet. You have a couple gifts to return too."
"Bev, I should have driven--weather's terrible. That really is a gorgeous sweater."
Locked the inside door. "Not sure I like the shade of bright orange? Let's go up to my room and try on a few of my presents."
Several changes later. "Be right back." Headed toward the bathroom.
The teen picked lint off the orange sweater and rushed to the downstairs phone in time for the disconnect.
Switched on the living room radio, and before she turned the volume down dialing in her station, the doorbell rang. Parental guidance taught her to check before opening the door. A pine Christmas wreath blocked her view. She peeked through the front window, no one stood on the porch. No sign of a third or any footprint on the driveway, for their prints all covered by snow.
The side doorbell rang. She hurried to door. "Who's there?"
Recognized the name, above the blaring radio, she did not discern the lower voice inflection. She greeted a woman whose skin and manner matched the weather. Exhaled sour breath. "Beverly," shoved her way into the house to lock the storm door.
Spun away to avoid the stench. "Oh I thought you were someone else. I didn't invite you in. What do you want?"
Doreen Lewis grabbed the teen's hair. She placed the cold blade again her cheek. "I can't stand ... oh the excitement."
"Don't hurt me...."
"Harm you? The wasted time...."
"We didn't meet sooner."
"Out of this house...."
"Are you sure...?"
"I won't tell."
"I'm waiting for you to tell me how attractive I am without my thick glasses."
"Get--out of here."
"Sorry...." Pressed the blade into the side of her mouth, splitting her flesh.
Spat blood. "I know you--I'll tell. The phone...."
Clutched her hair. "No time for your steady...."
"What are you talking about? Help...."
"That's my girl--your steady, Dwight."
"He's not my boyfriend. Beverly's up--"
The knife cut into her face. "You must mean Violet...."
"Help-" The blade slashed deeper....
Doreen savored the teen's shaking--pure, delicious fright. Every minute gesture of terror, she aroused a stronger drive, an untamed desire to degrade her, to gain domination--a depredation controlled, yet madly in motion.
The bloodstained knife captured light as Doreen shed an overcoat. Not like the kitchen verity or her father's hunting knife. The distinctive components; the six inch blade curved upward and appeared razor-sharp.
Doreen held the stained knife to her open mouth. The curved steel reflected white even teeth. She hissed to dull the image. Gloves, stocking cap and scarf, hit the floor.
Over the roar of the radio. "I want to behead you, my love. Escape with you, Beverly, free-fall into a wonderland and discover your adventure."
Contorted her face. "You're crazy."
"So little time, dear."
Her cheeks similar to a ripe, split peach. "Get out of here--help...." Attempt to pull free.
"Try to run, I possess much worse."
Cold sweat ran down the sides of her neck and the small of the back. She detected a sweet scent competing with Doreen's breath ... compared the sweetness from the local Candy Shop.
Struggled to the stairway, her knee knocked over the wastebasket dumping cheap jewelry discovered yesterday at the back door. "Leave me alone."
"You slut. The bracelet's not fancy enough?" Slapped her to the floor.
Crawled to the stairs. "Beverly's upstairs."
Doreen opened her mouth and nostrils to inhale pungent fear emitting from the teens pores. "I'm sure...."
Her knees weakened. She backed on the staircase. Her sweater brushed the carpeted stairway to ignite charges of static electricity. Her cheek smudged the wall. Her legs gave little response as she fell into the dark horror to jolt her body back.
Screamed ... nothing came out. She screamed to a whisper, "Stay away...."
Found herself in the bedroom behind the closed door. Girlfriend out of sight.
"Don't move, dear."
"Help me." Gagged from Doreen's breath
"You deserve more color."
The teen stared into the mindless eyes of insanity itself. She listened to herself, "What do you want? Why are you doing this? Why are you hurting me? I won't say anything--I promise...."
"How things change...."
"Downstairs you threatened to tell."
"First time, sweetheart?"
Doreen touched the red drops clinging to the high-school-senior's forehead, not to wipe the droplets, but form as a conduit. 'Why am I? You're a stunner Beverly. I'm captivated by you...."
"No." Jerked her head away.
"Brace yourself my dear." Grasped a cord from the back pocket.
"Leave me alone, I don't understand."
Doreen flopped next to her to breathe in her muted cries.
A young cat with its prey, Doreen pressed her palm on the chest of the teen's drumming heart. Her moans, and her extreme fear radiated heat. A slash through the right side of her butchered face--sensation of another burn. She stopped the flow with her left hand.
Again, the blade became a blur; she placed her right hand to her other cheek.
Somewhere from her disfigurement, her voice came back. "You said if I didn't run you wouldn't hurt me."
Her body tingled, twitched and screamed on fire. The soggy clothes helped her writhe free.
She scrambled up sensing a gash through her arm. A strong hand grabbed her wrist. She slipped out of its grasp like a wet bar of soap. Her second step gained strength, then another. The tear of her blouse being torn away from under her sweater, she pulled loose and spotted a book of poems on the floor. Scooped the book in one motion, and threw striking the sash.
Doreen yanked her from the window. The teen managed a glimpse at the friendly figure on the driveway. She was forced to the bedroom door, and surmised; outside, tired waiting in the cold for Beverly or Violet to open the side door, Abigail Fay walked halfway down the driveway not noticing the neighbor's dryer in use, yet paused to listen to a thump, before she headed home.
Doreen slammed her against the door. The back of her sweater clung to the door, forced to listened to heavy breathing, overpowered by hot, sour breath. "Your girlfriend seems to have found her way to the driveway. Did you fancy the short dash? Now enjoy what I promised, if you ran...."
The youth followed thick twine drop in front of her face. She gave no resistance being dragged and flung. The momentum caught and turned them around to crash into the wall, smacking her head without breaking the stranglehold. Chunk of plaster dropped to the floor. The teen jabbered, ... "I'll clean up before anyone finds the mess."
The noose loosened creating a soft rub. Her head whipped back. "Can't breath ... let this end," she pleaded.
The struggle faded. The teen imagined a dark, cold pond shimmer like glass. A reflection appeared to entrance her. Recognized herself smiling, holding out her hands, bidding her to come. Flowed deeper into the simmering liquid, she met and became one. Her brunette hair radiated casting a glow upon a clouded gate. Willed her body to glide into the blue, purple clouds. The snow-white gates opened and her Great-Grandmother, Kathryn beckoned, "My little child, come ... everything is going to be all right."
The hunt ended. The Killer sucked in air to hold on to her drive, rolled on the corpse, lifted a lifeless arm to let the limb drop, and pawed at the head like a cat intoxicated with the kill.
Brought out a cloth tape measure, measured, and cut the cord to three lengths. Whispered into a warm ear . "We shared something in common. I'll leave a clue...."
Clouds parted and sun rays illuminated the body. Bothered by the light, she draped the cord over the remains, cursing the thought of returning to the Lewis Candy Store.
Doreen approached the the dresser mirror, admired her bloodstained clothes with a face freckled in red. Appearance would need washing ... not yet....
Moved to the corpse, Doreen extended an index finger, probed the punctures and extracted lukewarm blood. Faced the mirror and painted her dehydrated lips. She pulled the teen's blouse and sweater up to the armpits, cut loose her bra, and studied her blue eyes. The teen searched as Doreen smeared the left breast with a kiss.
Doreen examined the lip print, snatched the knife, and butchered most of the body beyond recognition, yet elated she behaved sparing the eyes and breast.
Ran toilet paper under cold water to remove the discolored makeup. Thought of flushing the soiled tissue, paused in front of the bathroom mirror, to detect the teen's fragments. A collected person stood on the other side. "Sacrificed my unspoiled face--I'll be careful next...." Placed the tissue near her mouth, jammed the blotched toilet paper inside her bra, next to a small gift wrapped bag of assorted hard candy. She strolled down stairs to put on her finest coat, gloves, scarf and stocking cap.
"My friend." Bounded in a moistened shoe upstairs to recover the knife. Stole time to recap the scene, she turned to leave. Arousal crept back, drawn to the bloodstained portrait from the young woman's frame captured upon the bedroom door.
Doreen rushed downstairs, unlocked the back door, and left the spring loose to re-lock. She started to close the door and creep off the porch; reeked of the kill, trailed by a mortal scent, she froze at the sound of an auto pulling behind the house.
The killer backed into the kitchen. Sounds of adult voices approached the backyard. Doreen opened the front entrance to find teenagers huddled in conversation on the sidewalk. She moved out of view, closed the door, and took the stairs two at a time to the bedroom.
The radio turned off, Doreen listened to heavy footsteps. She hid in the small walk-in closet. Few inches away, close to comatose, Beverly Koproski, cringed under layers of clothes.
The killer's breath compounded in body heat permeated the closed-in space. Trace amount of air filtered from the thin opening between the closet door, where she viewed the corpse.
The teen muffled a gag from the stifling stench of spoiled blood. She fell to a dead faint.
Outside, death remained near to what began as a passionate venture. Time worked against the Koproskis and Firestones. They returned from a matinee on a wintry day.
Joe Koproski took up the entire side of the driver seat in the Lincoln Town car. He burped open mouth. "Good butter popcorn--hmm, Beverly must have company with these high schoolers out front...."
Eleanor Koproski wore the smallest, petite clothes. She fidgeted focusing on the side entrance. "Oh honey," in a high-pitched voice, "It's the holidays, though she left the side door open letting in the cold."
Joe belched closed mouth. He being big as his wife was small. "Now, who's the grumpy one? I'm sure Beverly's on her way out...."
"Stop at the side, Joe, they may want a ride." Concerned by the fidget gust of December wind, Joe Koproski and the Firestones stayed in the car. Eleanor pulled up her collar, and tried the door handle. "Something's wrong. The storm door's locked and Beverly never plays music so loud.
Seated in the back, wearing an eye catching blue fox coat, Sue Firestone turned her long, slender neck, and in a cultured voice, "Teenagers...."
Eleanor buttoned her coat. "The radio's on my station."
Joe adjusted his sixty-inch waist pants, leaned to the left to give leverage to work his way out of the Lincoln. "Come on...." He wrapped a XXXL green coat around his girth. Called out through the storm, "Go 'round the back--they're not going to hear us."
Eleanor sidestepped a crimson footprint on the porch. "What's...?"
To get out of the bitter air, Joe and the Firestones paid no attention.
Above the roar of the wind, Joe held the door open. "Dear, the cold." Big Joe lumbered through the kitchen into the living room toward the blaring noise. "Beverly. Beverly, turn this music down. You upstairs? Come down this instant."
Eleanor sprang straight to the radio, turned it off and stopped herself from shouting. "Joe don't become so excited." The four experienced a disturbed silence. Eleanor touched her nose. "What's that odor?"
"I'll check the basement. You go upstairs."
The Firestones were left standing....
Joe shed his coat, grabbed the banister to waddle up the staircase. Halfway up he paused to breathe hard to come upon a reddish-brown smudge marked the wall. "The hell...?" reached for the railing to haul himself up to Beverly's bedroom.
Sweat patched his shirt. The door ajar, he gripped both sides and nudged it. His moist fingers caused the substance on the interior side to become sticky. The abstract painting displayed a good part of the bedroom door. Odd decoration, he pictured.
Joe rubbed the residue which forced a recall of reek during his combat duty in War. He recognized the human-size matter as a massive overlay of blood.
Backed from the door, he recalled the smudged stairway wall. "Beverly--Beverly...."
Rested his forearms on the dresser. Perspiration dripped on a blood, splattered lace doily. The mirror revealed a mutilated body blocked out by the bed. The shredded, orange sweater gave clue to Beverly.
The stillness of stained rope draped across her exposed torso followed the silence of the dead, prevented Joe from uttering a sound. The young woman's glare lay fixed to an unnatural angle. She reached for help, encrusted in blood.
A Father turned an unrecognizable face. "Beverly ... Beverly...." The innocent wide-open eyes of a helpless child's stare, captured her nightmare struggle in death. A lip imprinted on the left breast rekindled another flashback. The horror, every conflict he faced in a war zone, the bodies, the odor, flooded to combine all Joe was taking in. "No.... Oh God--no. Beverly. My Beverly. No...."
Eleanor entered the bedroom. "What's wrong? Oh my...." Mrs. Koproski dropped to her knees, hovered over what she perceived being her daughter. Her tears flowed on open eyes. Their tears blended to weep for one another.
Still kneeling, Joe Koproski sensed a dull, burning against the back of his neck. He placed his thick fingers into the deep laceration. His vision blurred as the figure moved toward Eleanor's bowed head. Joe crashed to the floor.
Eleanor flicked her eye lids from a sharp, stinging at the base of her skull. Still focused on unblinking eyes--oh my God, she's not Beverly....
Paralyzed, Joe followed movement of his wife's eyes. She studied someone wearing a stocking cap move to the door. Joe moaned as Eleanor's sight takes on the image of the dead youth....
"What's going on in...." James Firestone entered the room fixed on the carnage. Joe stared to the back of him. Six-foot-six-inch Firestone breathed in something distasteful. The faint breath from behind alarmed him to witness the blur of a blade come under his chin, slicing through his throat. Doreen split more nerves, before he finished his silent screams.
James towered over his assailant, and forced out gurgles of air. He dropped to his knees to splatter blood over Eleanor and Violet.
Breathless, Sue Firestone, stood numb inside the bedroom, clutching her fur coat.
Joe sensed his body temperature drop to listen at the quiet, disturbed by flesh sliced open. Doreen cut into Sue, as if her neck were a whetstone.
She studied Mrs. Firestone's heart beat like a startled rabbit. Her wounds created a warm-blooded, osculating fountain spaying the room. Mrs. Firestone died striking the floor.
Joe's hearing gone, and suffering clouded his senses, he struggled to identify Sue's twitching body lay by his wife.
Doreen undressed the torsos of both women, examined them with unhurried care, yet ignored their earrings, watches, and rings.
Doreen dipped her index fingers in harmony into the necks of Sue and Eleanor to layer her lips off-red. She repeated the ritual smearing kisses on their left breasts.
Joe Koproski's life drained from the wounds. A blurry figure came to him, wiped a knife on his shirt, and moved toward the door.....
Uncertain of the time, the closeted teen regained consciousness. Leaden in a medicine like induced state, she gasped and shivered if the killer was in the closet. She peeked out from under the pile of clothes to find she was alone. Whimpering, she came out of hiding to face the fact her parents were murdered, standing among five innocent souls.
Beverly understood she was in danger of being the intended victim. An odd merriment played within knowing she escaped death. She crossed through the soaked carpet to make sense of the door's fresh image.
In the kitchen, she again and again miscalled Abigail's number.
Beverly sensed a watcher. She replaced the phone and moved to the side of the backdoor window. At the far end of the yard blasts of strong wind stirred up the snowfall creating a vortex. A shape appeared shrouded in snow. The figure held a length of rope and sliced through with one swipe. The admirer faded within the white-out....