It’d been 25 years since they’d graduated. Like most small towns there were small classes that everyone knew every class member, and usually their histories. She moved away from the small Midwestern town and built a successful career in a small city. Now as she sat in a sports bar she thought back as memories came like snapshots.
Steve had been a nerdy kid – good at classwork. She remembered him standing uneasily on the sidelines at the basketball games, and less than comfortable in PE class. But algebra, biology, chemistry – these are where he really shined. As others looked uneasily at the preserved frog he excelled at the dissection lessons. From the slides of hair and blood to the chemical reactions he was in his element and took to the lessons eagerly. She imagined he was a medical scientist poised on the brink of a cure for cancer or finding a new medical treatment for burn victims.
She thought of his phone call – brought on by a recent class reunion. He was traveling through her area and it was good to revisit the past. She imagined the years would melt away and if nothing else it was a diversion from a boring night at home alone.
“Sorry I’m late…I had a slight delay finding the place” Steve said as he sat down.
She smiled. “Good to see you!” she said welcomingly. They ordered drinks and some wings, recommended as the best hot wings in town. A couple hours passed as they wrapped up in talking about current events and old times.
She glanced at her watch. Ten thirty. “Why don’t you come back to my place…it’s not fancy but beats a cheap motel for a place to stay? Cheaper too! And we could talk a little longer.”
“Sounds good” Steve said. “I’ll follow you ’cause I have no idea how to navigate the city!” He paid for the food and drinks and met her outside. A short drive later they were sitting in her living room.
“So what do you do now?” she asked.
“Well I’ve invented several things…mostly trade equipment…and…” he stopped as she cut him off.
“Really…what kind of things?”
“Well one was a better handcuff – helps police departments save money, more comfortable for prisoners and it’s tougher to get out of so safer for police.” He continued saying it saved departments money and reduced escapes.
“I bet I could get out of it.” She laughed at the challenge “Do you have one with you?”
He smiled quietly and said “As a matter of fact I do. I’ll be right back.” He went out to retrieve one from the car and thought this was playing into familiar territory even easier than imagined. He returned to the house and held it up.
She laughed. “A zip tie? Seriously? That’s what it looks like…let’s try it.” He had her sit in a chair as a prisoner might – something he’d never been on the receiving end of. After the cuffs were applied he watched her trying to wiggle out of them for almost five minutes. He had looped the tie around the table leg too so she couldn’t move.
He smiled again and said “There’s another pastime I took up after high school.”
She continued trying to work the ziptie off and thought it was distracting conversation so she’d quit. “Oh really?” she mused as she focused on wiggling through the tie. “And what would that be?”
“I’ve killed 30 people. Those classes in dissection and biology were great training but frogs weren’t enough.”
She paused then laughed nervously. People say things…it’s near Halloween…don’t be alarmed she thought. She’s known Steve since kindergarten. He’d never been violent.
He continued “It’s true. I’ve never gotten caught. I often wondered what it’d be like – the times the other kids picked on me. I thought one day it’d come back on them. So I practiced.” Her eyes opened wide in disbelief as he continued. “Do you remember Miss McKenna’s class? We worked together on a project and you laughed at me. Said you’d give your right arm to not have to work with me. And here we are!”
“Steve…come on this isn’t funny. That was 25 years ago! We were stupid kids.”
“NO!” The force of his voice caught her off guard. “This isn’t about stupid kids! This is about the snide comments. You let them taunt me. You never stood up for me! Now it’s my turn.”
She felt sleepy but at the same time terrified. “Did you like those cookies?” he continued. “I made them just for you.” He picked up the poker from the fireplace.
She moved to scream but no sound came out. She knew no one would miss her until Tuesday. She knew she couldn’t get away – the cuffs really were escape proof. Her breathing was fast like that of a trapped animal. Terror filled her mind as she saw Steve raise the poker. The world went black and as it faded she heard one last comment.
“Now it’s 31. Happy Halloween. 31 on the 31st.”