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Carol Simmons smiled shyly at herself in the mirror as she held up a simple blue dress to her body. She loved the fit and how the neckline dipped, but she felt that it washed out her pale face too much and made her look too much of a hick along with her blonde hair.
“Mom?” Carol called out, wanting to ask her advice on the dress.
She had a date that night that she was nervous for. She had never met the guy in real life and they had only talked online. She had learned so much about him in the last few weeks like how he had a border collie named Chett and how much he wanted to travel to Australia so that he might get to see his mom for the first time in five years.
Carol waited patiently for her mom to come, but resorted to picking up her dress and going to her herself. The old wood floors creaked under her feet as she headed to her mother’s office. The hall was lined with pictures of her family; pictures of Carol’s mom, dad, and of herself. She considered their family to be happier than most. Sure, they got into their fights, but they always figured out a way to work it out in the end.
She knocked on the door to the office and when she heard her mom say the okay to enter, she opened the door. The room was dimly lit with dark panels of wood lining the walls and floor. The walls were covered in the hunted heads of animals such as deer and hogs. Carol’s mom sat at her desk with only a lamp to allow her to see the bullets she was loading into her shotgun.
“Hey sweetheart,” she murmured, fully invested in what she was doing.
“Do you really think that thing is necessary?” Carol asked as she looked at the gun.
“Of course, honey. What if this guy tries to pull something funny? I know that you’ve been on plenty of other dates before, but it still makes me nervous, ya know?”
Carol sighed as she pulled up a chair and sat by her mom.
Carol had been told that she looked like a mirror image of her mother. They both had the hay colored hair and bright blue eyes that was so common in the south. Her mom was developing crow’s feet at the corners of her eyes and the skin on her hands became thinner, but instead of making her look old and worn out, Carol thought it made her mom look tough and wise.
“You know I’ll be okay. I’ve done this tons of other times and they’ve all went great.”
Her mom looked at her with sad eyes, like she wasn’t quite ready to give up her little girl.
“Alright, I trust ya. Now, what do you have there? Is that your dress? It looks real lovely. Isn’t that the one your cousin bought ya?”
“Yea, I think it washes me out though. Do you think I look alright in it?”
“I think you look beautiful.”
Darren Welles admired himself in the mirror as he straightened his tie. He wore a dark blue business shirt and black pants to match. He thought about Carol and just how beautiful she was in her profile picture as she was in real life. They had never met face to face before, but after studying some of her pictures online, he determined the area and the neighborhood she lived in. All that it took to find out which house she lived in was do the slack jaws of some of the neighbors and a charismatic smile.
He took one last look at himself before he began to clean up his room. He wanted the place to look nice even though the house looked ready to fall over and the neighborhood had three murders on it in the past year. His plan was to chat her up and pretend that he was interested in what she had to say. He would seduce her into his car and drive her back to his place. Then, he would give her a nice glass of wine traced with something to knock her out quick. He would proceed to tie her up in his basement and have some fun with her for a couple of days until he grew bored and beat her until her heart stopped. He always did like to give them a proper funeral by throwing them in a dump.
The memories slipped into his mind like a snake. He was hiding in a closet as he listened to the whimpers of his mother in the room. Her blouse had been torn at the sleeve and she had blood trickling down her face to match its color. Her brown hair had been turned into a nest of tangles and bald spots from where his dad had ripped it out. He watched as her head flicked from side to side as she took each punch from his father’s massive fists. His dad screamed, “I saw you looking at the young waiter. I saw that you had eyes for him, how you gave him that big tip. Don’t you pretend you don’t know what’s going on!” He remembered how her body had stopped struggling. How when her face turned toward her precious son hiding in the closet, her eyes were empty, but his dad kept hitting her until he grew tired and threw her body back onto the ground. He kicked her one last time for good measure before he left the room and came back with a garbage bag and stuffed her inside. Darren had never thought you could fit a person inside one of those until his father did it. His dad dragged him out of the closet by the collar of his shirt and made him come along. He watched as his dad threw Darren’s mother into a garbage truck and walked away like he had just taken out the weekly trash.
With veins popping from his forehead, Darren pulled at his hair and launched himself into a wall trying to fight the memory away. He just wanted it to go away. He always remembered the one thing his father had told him after he had killed his mother, “She was a whore Darren. A filthy skank. All women are. If they’re dead, they can’t go and sleep with other men.”
Darren smiled, knowing that this was going to be the last night that Carol Simmons was going to be seen alive.
Carol heard the doorbell ring and hurriedly slipped on her heels. She took one last look at herself in the mirror and, pleased with what she saw, marched to the door. She stood in front of the door, took a deep breath, and opened it to a handsome smiling young man. She gave him a nervous smile back, but she kept reminding herself that she had done this a million times before and this was no different than the others.
“I’m off, Mom! See you at eleven,” Carol said, waiting for a response.
“Bye, Hun. Be safe,” she replied.
“Should we go, then?” Carol suggested to Darren.
“Of course,” he said as she closed the door behind her and they headed off down the street.
Carol’s mom had told her not to get into his car since this was their first date and they had only met online, so she was glad when Darren agreed to a simple walk around the neighborhood so that they could get to know one another.
“You look absolutely stunning,” Darren complimented.
“Thanks, you too. You look handsome in blue,” she said back.
“This old thing? This was worn on my dad’s wedding day. He wanted me to wear it for tonight. He thought it would give me good luck,” he laughed to himself.
Carol laughed as well. Darren knew women always liked to think that men have tight bonds with their family because it makes them seem gentle, kind, and understanding. It was a tactic he had used with the others.
She thought about her mother and how she always liked to follow her and her dates in a car, but she had seen none go by. She hoped that maybe her mom had finally learned to trust her judgement and leave her alone for once.
“How’s Chett doing? I know that it’s been a couple of months since you got him. He must be really big now,” Carol said.
It took a moment for Darren to understand what she was talking about until he realized that he had mentioned how he had gotten a dog and named him Chett. He had actually bought a dog out of curiosity. A rough and tumble little border collie pup, but the damn thing kept pissing all over his carpet. When he went to kick it to teach it a lesson, it flew into a wall and never took another breath.
“Yea, he’s doing alright. Little guy’s already up to my knee. Never stops eating and grows like a weed.”
“That’s good,” Carol said as she searched for another subject to talk about. “Oh, how about Australia? Do you think you’ll be heading there soon to see your mom?”
Again, it took Darren a second to figure out what the hell she was talking about. It irritated him how much she was remembering from their conversations online.
“Yeah, I think I’ll be going there pretty soon. You know what? You should come with me. You’ve helped me so much over the past few months to gain the courage to go and find her. I think it would help me a lot to have someone as strong as you by my side,” he said, trying to make her think that he trusted her, but he could see her smile falter.
“Oh, I’m not sure. We just met and all, but maybe I’ll think about it. How about that?” she suggested, beginning to feel nervous that he would ask something like that so soon.
Darren knew that he had made her feel uncomfortable and that she might ask to go home soon. He had to act quickly.
Carol was nervous to see that no one was outside, but it had grown later and most people were probably asleep. She tried to reassure herself that everything would go to plan, but she found herself trying to see if her mom’s truck was somewhere nearby.
Darren was delighted that no one was out and that the neighborhood was small enough so that there were no cameras keeping an eye on the streets. He knew he had to get her soon or he would miss his chance. He began to untie a long piece of rope that he had wrapped up his arm when Carol noticed what he was doing.
“Why are you reaching up your sleeve like that?” Carol asked as she stopped walking.
“Oh, just a little itch I have…” and before she could even respond, he punched her in the face hard enough to knock her out. He watched as she took a few steps back, but remained conscious. She faced him, but instead of a face of fear, there was just pure anger. “What the hell…” Darren said to himself as Carol slipped off her heels and ran at him.
She tackled him to the ground and began to punch him over and over again, her eyes burning with fury. Right as his consciousness was about to leave him, he managed to grab onto her arm, flip her over to that she was on the ground, put his thumbs on her windpipe, and squeezed. Horrible squeaks and gurgles came from her mouth as she fought for breath. Her hands tried to reach for his throat, but he was able to easily avoid them.
Carol’s world was beginning to leave her as the darkness crawled into her vision and her body felt weak and fuzzy with lack of oxygen. She tried to kick and punch, but they only came out of her body as spasms and twitches. She didn’t want to end this way.
“Looks like the hunter’s been turned into the hunted,” Darren said with a cruel laugh, but Carol could barely hear him.
Darren’s eyes were wide with excitement as he saw Carol’s consciousness nearly slip from her, until he suddenly blacked out instead.
The weight was lifted from Carol’s throat as she took in ragged breaths. She felt like she wanted to vomit and her legs shook from fright and shock. She looked up to see her mother looming over her with her gun.
“Did ya…?” Carol began.
“No, I only knocked him out with the butt of the gun. We need him good and ready.”
Carol nodded, just trying to focus on the ground.
“Thank you for coming,” she said weakly.
“Hell, kid. I knew you weren’t ready to handle one like him on your own. You almost had him, but your anger got in the way.” She laughed. “You should’ve seen his face when you ran at him. Ya nearly had ‘im.”
Darren woke up to a hunter’s moon shining in his face. He was in a small shed that was empty except for pictures that lined the wall. He still wore his dress shirt and black pants that he had worn the night of the date. He didn’t know what day it was, but as he got up, he noticed how the pictures on the wall had Carol had her mother posed with the animals they had killed. Some were with deer and there was even one with a bear, but there were others that caught his attention.
They were there, looking almost like regular pictures, but they were the very opposite. Besides the pictures with the animals, they posed happily with the lifeless bodies of people. Carol and her mother gave broad smiles as the corpse of a person lay between them, mouth and eyes open as if they had died screaming. It wasn’t just one picture. He saw the pictures line the walls of the shed like wallpaper. His heart quickened and sweat began to bead on his forehead. As he looked closer at some of the pictures, he saw that the people were labeled. Some were labeled “child molester” or “rapist” or “murderer”. There were many other titles, but the one that was framed and in the center was one labeled “Dad” and “Domestic Abuser”. He frantically searched for a way out, some kind of escape.
He found the door quickly, but before he could pull it open, he saw a walkie talkie tied onto the handle. He took it off and looked at it curiously.
“Hello, darlin’,” came a sweet voice from the speaker.
Darren dropped the walkie talkie out of fear and backed away into the corner at the sound of Carol’s voice.
“I bet you’re wondering what you’re doing here. Well let me explain some things. We knew that there was something wrong with you when you showed interest in me online even though I was under age and you were ten years older. We knew that there was something very special about you though when we noticed you sneaking around our house trying to spy on me, so we decided to do some spying on you as well, and guess what we found? We saw you throw the dead body of a beautiful young woman into the dump and leave her there. That isn’t a very gentlemen thing to do, so we had to take it upon ourselves to give her a proper funeral and let her family know that she was finally at peace.
We thought ourselves so blessed to have found ourselves the notorious trash can butcher. We have seen you all over the news, leaving women in dumps for others to find. I’m sure you have some tragic backstory that explains why you feel obligated to end the lives of young women, but frankly, I don’t care. We have left you in an extensive forest in the middle of nowhere with enough provisions to last you for a few days. We will hunt you until you are dead and then we will take a lovely picture of you so that you can join the others on the wall. It looks like the hunter’s been turned into the hunted,” Carol finished with a twisted laugh.
In the distance, Darren could hear a horn sound along with a pack of dogs barking. He grabbed his pack and left the shed with now wet pants and frightened eyes, never to kill another soul again.