Cheaters And Beaters
The grandfather clock tolled, the booming sound resonating down the empty corridors of the Higgins residence. The fireplace, usually warm and stoved from a night’s use, had been left cold, the poker knocked askew on the floor. A porcelain vase lay in shards by the mantelpiece.
Framed photos of a happy, smiling family hung crooked on the wall, a large portrait lying flat on the floor in a mess of glass shards. A stereo belted out Beethoven’s 9th symphony, looping endlessly. Mrs Higgins hadn’t had the time or the chance to cut her homemade apple pie, nor had Mr Higgins had the chance to wolf down his share. Instead, the Higgins had been preoccupied with other matters. That evening, Ryan Fletcher had paid them a visit.
Ryan plunged the knife in deep. Mr Higgins screamed. He squirmed on the floor, gasping and panting like a woman in labour. Higgins was a porcine son-of-a-bitch. Beady eyes, a bulbous nose, and an agonised squeal no pig could outmatch. Ryan pinned him to the floor. It was no difficult task. Ryan outmatched the podgy car salesman in height and muscle by the double. Ryan yanked the knife free.
With every swipe and splatter, the walls resembled a grotesque Jackson Pollock improvisation. Ryan worked in time with the music. Stab, slash, slash, stab. The music drowned out the screaming. It moved his heart in a steady lub dub. This was Mr Higgins’ favourite song, the kind he played when he ‘entertained’ the ladies.
Ryan caught his reflection in the pooling blood. He smiled.
Blood had spattered his shirt in the frenzy, soaking the cotton to his skin. His rounded face, his stubbled chin and his ruffled blond hair revealed traces of the Higgins’ piggish gore. Ryan plunged the knife in deeper, harder, stab after glorious stab.
Finally, as Higgins gulped and gasped, Ryan slashed the blade across his throat. Higgins gurgled, eyes growing dull. Ryan shifted to his feet, breathing heavily. Upstairs, the children were already dead, their throats slit. Mrs Higgins screamed in the bedroom. Ryan ascended the stairs, knife in hand.
A squirt of tomato sauce glistened on Ryan’s open burger, oozing down the grilled meat. He smiled, pressing the halves together and taking a bite. The bistro buzzed with activity. It was Friday football night at the RSL. Avid football fans crowded by the big screen, beers in hand, cussing and cheering as their teams pummelled each other into the dirt.
Ryan wasn’t there for the football, nor for the company. He hadn’t eaten in hours. Work at the office and his ‘extra curricula’ activities often made eating a second priority. His colleagues, Danny and Tony, had invited him along to the club. He’d accepted the invitation.
It was better than coming home to an empty apartment. Yes, he was lonely. But for good reason. He was a solitary creature. It was less complicated that way. No alibis required.
‘Mate, this is a Roosters game. Looks like I’ll be fifty bucks richer,’ Danny smirked.
Danny gave Tony a hearty slap on the back, lounging back in his chair with a contented sigh.
Tony, a middle aged man with a receding hairline and a bulging waistline, grimaced, slicing his steak. From the poisonous glower, Ryan chanced a guess that he was willing to use his steak knife for another kind of meat.
Their chatter drowned out to a faint murmur as Ryan studied the bubbles rising in his foaming beer. He recalled his last kill. The Higgins had been the second family this month.
After every kill, it was the same. Snuffing out the life of others kept him alive. It was his personal adrenaline rush. You could say that his emotional switch had been flicked off during adolescence. Sometimes he didn’t feel anything at all. He viewed life from behind a glass wall. He could hear and see everything, but he couldn’t penetrate the wall of apathy.
Maybe he lost all sensation after watching his father beat his mother, or maybe after the bastard slit her throat like a common pig.
It was wrong to delight in the life and death struggle of one close to death. But the power behind it made every second seem so right, so ecstatically good. Mrs Higgins was the highlight of the week. Running the bath, throwing her in the tub, hearing her screams gurgle and welter out as he cracked her skull at the bottom of the bath tub. Holding her down, sleeves rolled up, elbow deep in lukewarm water. The air blasting from her nostrils, bubbling furiously on the surface. The jerk of her final waterlogged breath and the lazy roll of her eyes…
‘You comin’ to Patrick’s surprise party?’ Ryan jolted, almost dropping his burger.
‘Patrick’s surprise party. Are you coming?’ Danny repeated.
Taken off guard, Ryan shook his head. Danny watched him expectantly. ‘No, not really.’ He swallowed a mouthful, ‘I’ll be busy.’
Danny laughed. ‘Busy? You’re always busy—’
‘Danny. I won’t be at the party,’ Ryan said emphatically.
The truth was, Ryan already had a surprise for Patrick. He had been planning it for weeks. It would come the day after the party. No gift wrap required.
Ryan had done his research. Patrick Dickinson was a man of pride. A middle class accountant with a way with numbers°… and hookers. Like Mr Higgins, Patrick was a rotund, piggish pathological liar. The two were promiscuous sons of bitches, paying top dollar for young flesh and the hungry, sucking mouths of Cherry, Harriet, and Vera. When Patrick said he was working back late, he and Cherry were grinding away the hours in a hotel room in Newtown, exploring the fantasies of a middle aged man with marital issues.
Patrick and Mr Higgins were beaters and cheaters. The best kind of victims. Like the bastard that murdered Ryan’s mother, they were all abusive and worthy for the chopping board.
Patrick pulled up at the curb in his flashy sedan, a BMW perhaps. Ryan couldn’t make it out in the darkness of the shrubbery. Ryan waited by the front porch, hidden in the shadows. Patrick made his way up the footpath, suitcase in hand. By his confident swagger, he’d skipped work early and called Cherry for a quick ‘pick me up’ before retiring for the evening.
Ryan’s father had often come home with the same radiance.
Ryan could recall the night when he came home with a pair of lace panties tucked into his trouser pocket. Ryan’s mother found the lingerie. She demanded answers. She received a solid backhand instead. Ryan could remember hiding in his bedroom when the real heavy beating started. The sobbing, the begging, the thump of boots on flesh and the unbuckling of a belt. The abuse went on for years. Every time his father finished up his business, the bastard always left the room with the same confident swagger, his belly rolling like jelly.
Patrick whistled, slotting the key in the front door. He closed the door behind him. Ryan pursued him, creeping onto the porch, a hot fury boiling in his veins. Ryan opened the door by a crack. Patrick lingered in the hallway, dumping his suitcase. It was now or never. Ryan crept inside, skulking in the shadows. His boots peeled on the floorboards, catching loose confetti on the floor. A red balloon slinked by on an idle breeze. Ryan lunged for the accountant. The blade sunk deep between his ribs.
Ryan slapped a hand over Patrick’s mouth, muffling his scream. The adrenaline pumped with every gulp and drag of Ryan’s heart. It was an ecstatic sensation, a release. He plunged the blade repeatedly, deeper, harder, faster. The blood came pumping, dribbling and oozing on the floorboards, flowering on Patrick’s shirt. Glorious blood! Patrick gasped, fighting in his iron grasp. Ryan let his grip loose.
Patrick staggered towards the lounge room, slipping and sliding on the bloodied floorboards. Ryan sauntered after him, hands slick with blood. Every step of the way, he imagined his father staggering, bloodied and broken. As far as he was concerned, Patrick didn’t exist. This was between Ryan and his father now.
The lounge room was incredibly dark. He kicked Patrick in the ribs. He wheezed, rolling on to his back. With widened eyes, Patrick cringed on the floor. Ryan smiled, falling to his knees. He slit the pig’s throat. A smatter of blood caught him on the cheek.
A gentle click made him jolt. Light flooded the room. He blinked, dazzled by the glow of fluorescents. A trapdoor seemed to open beneath him, the blood in his veins running ice cold. Streamers hung draped from the ceiling, balloons drifting across the floor. A banner, painted with the words ‘Happy Birthday!’ had been pinned to the back wall.
He stared dumbly at his audience, panting heavily, covered from head to foot in blood. Patrick’s bloodied body lay at his feet in a tangled mess.
His audience, all colleagues, work friends and strangers, stared back at him, faces washed pale, jaws dropped.
A wine glass shattered on the floor.
For a moment, all he could do was stare, and feel the crushing dread as the room closed in like a solid steel cage.