Oh This is Embarrassing
Even Serial Killers Forget Things
Claudia's stomach clenched and hardened cold like a steel diving weight when she unzipped her duffel bag with a leather-gloved hand.
“Oh no, this is embarrassing....” She clicked her tongue piercing against the backside of her front teeth, looking down at the older, sweaty man strapped to the worn padded bench.
If it wasn't for the duct tape covering his mouth, his reply would've been understandable.
Instead, all that came out was high, frightened keen, his pupils tiny ants drowning in glassy birdbaths.
“I forgot the hammer.” Claudia sighed, rubbing at the yellow Speedo swimcap that tightly secured her coily black hair.
She caught a glimpse of herself in the shattered mirror in the abandoned pharmaceutical lab that she'd taken up shop in outside Fresno. Covid had taken a lot of these companies out at the knees, something she was well versed in doing to people, so she knew that she could hunt a few more degenerates before she'd have to move on.
Degenerates against the water and sky only, she had an agreement with herself and Kira her African grey parrot.
However, with her windbreaker and her swim cap on, her gut flipped right side up again. She remembered how just after she won gold in the state swim meet, she watched Justin Bokinsky, the boy who had crushed the class Easter chicks with a dictionary, drown in the deep end of their middle school's pool.
She could smell the sharp chlorine, taste the tang of adrenaline in her mouth, and feel the lactic acid buildup in her arms from holding him under the surface of the aqua water.
“We're going to just have to cut--” she pulled out the bone saw with a flourish.
“--to the chase, Horace Irving Bellweather.” a smile unpeeled across her face like a burst pomegranate.
The man writhed pitifully in his bespoke black Tom Ford suit. His silk Armani tie was undone and limp like every moral fiber this creature could've ever possessed.
“Billionaire Founder of the Syndex Chemical Processor and Manufacturing Corporation....guilty of poisoning the water table of at least three provinces...”
Bellweather shook his head back and forth like a well-paid bad actor.
His sweat began to dampen the pleather of the bench, and outside a bird sang, Eastern Towhee, male.
“...and countless other atrocities. Do you know how many egrets, endangered herons and waterfowl you poisoned? You weren't convicted in a court of law, but if anyone believes justice is blind, they must also know that even blind people can palm cash.” Claudia tongued out her cheek eyes darting between his left and right hand.
On his left hand, he dared wear a wedding band.
She put away the stopwatch for a rubber hose.
Claudia snorted and circled around his left hand strapped down by seatbelts she'd ripped out of a minivan in a junkyard.
“I'll start with the left hand, it's not like you ever honored any of these vows.” With a practiced hand, she tied the hose tourniquet tight and wasted no more time taking the bone saw and ripping the trusty serrated blade across her fingers.
This was her favorite part, the drag of skin across the blade, the resistance of the bone. The skin reminded her of sawing through pine lumber for her birdhouses when she was younger, but the bone reminded her when she sawed through oak for the first time and caught a knot. It took more work, more effort, the hardwood.
But the sense of accomplishment when the cut portion of the plank fell loose and free, filled her heart full and light. Next, she’d brush a finger over the prickly splintered edge of the wood and then sand it down with various grades of sandpaper to a soft, rounded edge to make yet another piece of furniture or perch for Kira.
These accomplishments, like the many swim medals hanging in her 6th-floor apartment, like the many Horace Irving Bellweathers she’d brought to justice filled her to the brim with pride.
Even with the tourniquet, this was far more messy than building furniture. She remembered skinning her knee on a coarse springboard at the school pool and watching her blood drip nice and thick into the thin water. If you let it, bad blood would taint anything, even the pure, sterile water meant for play and sport.
It’s why she laid down so many plastic tarps as well. A thousand uses indeed.
Bellweather's left pinky and ring finger severed with the same long, languid stroke of the bone saw. The gold wedding band was coated in a glistening crimson, the same color as a hummingbird’s throat.
She pinched his loose ring finger and held it in front of his face.
He bellowed under his muzzle.
“Ironic, you abandoned your first wife 'fell down the stairs' of your seaside mansion, rendering her crippled and mute. And now you've become just like her, abandoned and crippled. In sickness and in health, right?” Claudia smirked, as she watched his eyes roll back in his head, like sparrow eggs in wrinkled nests.
Just like all the countless days spent birdwatching and swimming laps, this too was just another day spent on another hobby.
Power in Numbers