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Mena had been in the shower for nearly an hour when the water-heater spit out the last drops having any semblance of warmth to them, prompting her to quickly shut off the flow before that damn chill re-attached itself to her. It was honestly the first time she had felt warm in a week. There were only two towels and they were…suspect, at best, but she made do nonetheless. The odds of her winning the lottery were probably higher than the odds of finding anything clean in this place. Two weeks ago something like that would have driven her crazy.
In a race against the cold, Mena dried off and put on the only clothes she could find that stood any chance of staying on her frame. Obviously, there would be nothing that would fit her, but with creative use of a belt, a red-flannel shirt acted as a dress and a pair of long-underwear were turned into baggy leggings. She placed three pairs of socks on each foot to act as shoes; avoiding the bathroom mirror at all costs.
The prospects in the kitchen were just as bleak. An extensive search turned up a half a loaf of stale, but fortunately mold-free, bread, unopened cans of green beans and corn and some ketchup. There was a large, meat-freezer in the corner of the filthy kitchen but…she wasn’t that hungry yet. She opened the cans at the table and put the ketchup on the bread; it was Thanksgiving dinner! She ate like a wild animal, lips-smacking, mouth open, and giggling uncontrollably while she did.
Mena had never known such hunger existed. Despite that, she had to stop half-way through her feast; her stomach had shrunk and it was painfully evident that if she continued to shove it in, it would just come right back out. Her stomach gurgled in unsettled agreement and she washed it down with a glass of ruddy tap-water. Leaving her mess on the table, she stood, stretched and yawned loudly; she was exhausted. She could sleep for a week…if only.
Meandering to the living room, stepping over a deconstructed lawn-mower and small stack of plastic, Christmas reindeer lawn ornaments on the way, she finally collapsed on the couch. It was the only piece of furniture in the room that hadn’t disappeared beneath a pile of crap in this hoarder’s wet-dream of a house. The television remote was on the floor next to the well-worn couch and Mena flipped on the old tube-style RCA across the room.
After a couple seconds of flickering, the picture came to life and the colorized version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” began to play. Mena sighed; was it close to Christmas? She couldn’t remember. It seemed there was quite a bit that she couldn’t remember. She flipped through the channels before stopping at her own face. It was her cheerleading picture. She loved that picture. Smiling, Mena turned up the volume.
“…again Jane, authorities are asking for any information that anyone might have that could aid the investigation, please call the number at the bottom of the screen. Mena Renee Metzler, seventeen, was last seen at the Hardwick Exxon on Claymore and Forty-ninth Avenue eight days ago. Her twenty-eleven Subaru WRX, was found deserted on Mishway Road and authorities do believe there were signs of a struggle. Police do believe there is a strong possibility that Mena may still be in the area and,” they changed the picture to one of her at the beach last summer with her mom and dad. That was a good day. “…they are asking everyone to please keep their eyes open and…” Mena turned the volume back down.
She looked at the picture on the television and then at her own greasy, stringy blonde hair; so many damn split-ends!
“Fuck it,” she said to no one as she got back up and made her way back down the hall to the bathroom. She didn’t want to see before, but now…now she did. Using one of the wet towels she had tossed on the floor, Mena scrubbed away as much of the crud from the mirror as she could and took a good, long look. Wow. She knew it was going to be bad, but this…could this have really happened in one week? It had felt like a month at the time and now…now it kind of looked that way as well. Mena was a shadow of herself.
She recognized her eyes, but that was about it. Her skin looked sickly pale and was pulled taut against her bony frame. There were large, black circles around her eyes and her cheek-bones seemed to poke out at a sharp angles that never existed before. It was like someone’s sick Photoshop joke; a skeletonized version of her former self. She sighed, immediately regretting the decision to look but in no way letting kill her amazing mood.
“Oh well,” she said before spinning on her socked heels and heading back to the couch. “I was wanting to lose a few pounds anyway.” Giggling to herself, Mena pulled the dingy blanket from the back of the couch over her shoulders and, using her arm as a pillow, proceeded to drift away into a very well-deserved sleep. Her last thought before REM took her completely being, maybe I should call someone first.
She was awoken some time later by a banging from downstairs. Mena cursed that it woke her and, sitting upright and stretching, tried to figure out just how long she might have been asleep. There were many, many windows in the old estate but they did her no good as they were all boarded shut with hammer and nails, not even allowing the thinnest streams of sunlight to enter; if it were daytime. Was it daytime? Another series of bangs from the basement caused Mena to pick up a shovel from next to the couch and smash it against the floor several times.
“I SAID SHUT UP!” She screamed with all her lungs would offer. Well…she was awake now, and she was getting hungry again. There was no way round two in that kitchen would be as appealing as it was the first time. It was getting to be about time to get the hell out of here and get some real food…tacos…oh yea, tacos. Her stomach began to roil from the thought.
The front door was sealed with no less than eight key-entry locks…on both sides. Cursing to herself, Mena tried to remember where she had seen the keys. She had become so conditioned to hate and fear the jingling of that damn key-ring it was genuinely surprising that she couldn’t remember where it was. She would have liked to been able to pace while she thought…she was a pacer…but the house didn’t really offer a great area to do so, so instead she carefully hiked around the first floor searching for it and trying to avoid the debris and scurrying rats. There were rats everywhere. When the next series of banging came it hit her: of course, they were in the basement…with him.
Just as well, she needed to end this anyway and say her goodbyes; kill two birds with one stone. Stopping in the bathroom first to pee and grab the fire axe from the bathtub, Mena made her way down the rickety steps to the stone-walled basement. In a striking dichotomy to the upstairs, the basement was free of clutter and trash; exactly opposite what one would expect. The torture chamber Edward, whom the media had dubbed “The High-School Killer”, had built down there was one of precision. Everything had a place and everything had a purpose.
Tools and blades hung from one wall which could, at first glance, look like any man’s workshop…until you starting taking a good look at what he liked to work with. The opposite wall, lined with shelves, held jar after jar of body parts in formaldehyde and even then one could be forgiven for thinking it might just be a mortuary. However, when the mounted hand-cuffs, leather strapped beds and variety of harnesses and hooks come into view it becomes painfully clear that one is in the belly of the beast. Mena still couldn’t bring herself to look at the butcher’s corner of the room despite her lengthy stay in it.
“How in the hell are you making that much noise?” She was genuinely curious since he was chained to a stone wall. Of course, he couldn’t answer with ball-gag in his mouth, but he certainly tried; spittle and snot flying off to the side. “Hold on…hold on,” she made her way over to him, “that’s disgusting. Just stop.” Mena didn’t want to touch the ball-gag at all; it was gross, but they needed to talk and it wasn’t going to work this way. She reached around to the back of his head and unsnapped the S&M device.
“I have to pee!” he screamed at her.
“So pee.” She replied.
“You bitch,” he hissed at her and lunged forward as far as he could, snapping his teeth together. Mena did not flinch and he seemed to change his tune quickly. “Pleeeaase? I have to pee.” Mena smiled.
“Maybe I can help.” With the dull end of the fire axe still in her hand, she lunged it forward into his gut; a flood of wetness soaking his pants and spilling down into a puddle around his feet. After several long seconds of struggling to get his breath back, Edward began to release a string of creative profanities directed her way, many describing the violent ways he was going to desecrate her. Mena just listened and smiled.
She remembered a day when she was ten. Her parents had taken her to Disney World on the premise that they were visiting relatives. When they woke her up in the car, just in time to see the massive “Welcome to Disney World” sign, it was, quite possibly, the happiest moment in her life. Sure there had been all kinds of great moments of happiness in her life, but that one had always stood out as the best. Until now. Damned if she wasn’t just giddy.
“Daddy?” she said in a baby voice, interrupting his tirade. “Daaaaddy…daddy?” He finally stopped and stared at her, eyes wide…lips trembling. “What’s wong?” she stayed in her baby voice, “You don’t wike it when I call you ‘Daddy’ anymoe?” Silently, he shook his head ‘no’. “How come, daddy? It’s what you always wanted befow. Am I not s’posed to be your wittle baby any moe?”
“Please stop.” There was something in his voice she had never heard before; something she loved hearing: fear. If it hadn’t made her physically ill to do the voice she wouldn’t have quit, but it had made her point well. “Please let me go. I won’t say anything.” Mena fell over with laughter, using the axe to keep her upright. This was almost better than a comedy show.
“You won’t say anything…you?” She shook her head. “Wow Eddie, you really are a messed up dude. Aren’t you worried that I would say something? Let’s suppose I let you go, Edward, what would you do then?” He shook his head. The conversation was going in a direction he wasn’t prepared for but needed for it to go, regardless.
“I…I don’t…I’ll move. I’ll leave. You’ll never see or hear from me again. And money…I’ve got some money. I can pay you. Please?” He was pleading. It was pathetic. It was wonderful.
“Eddie,” she sighed, “you didn’t say the one thing you should have said.”
“What? What? Anything…what? Just tell me.”
“What you should have said is, ‘I won’t kill and eat people anymore’. That’s what you should have said.”
“I won’t…I won’t” he was frantic. “I swear I won’t…never again. I’ve learned my lesson.” His cadence slowed as he tried to express sincerity. “I know I’m sick, Mena. I want to get help. I want to get better.” Mena nodded in agreement.
“Well…you’re right about one thing. You are sick. I tell you what Eddie, I’ll think about it.” Mena eyed the key-ring on a metal shelf and went to retrieve it. “In the meantime, you just hang out.” She giggled again and headed back to the stairs.
“Wha…What? You’re just going to leave me here?” He seemed outraged. “Fine bitch…just call the cops then!” This stopped Mena in her tracks and she turned back around.
“Edward…do you know how long a person can go without food and water?” He said nothing and after a pause she continued. “I mean, you should know…right? You’re kind of an expert on keeping people alive on the smallest amount of each as possible. So…do you know?” He hung his head down, still silent. “Okay…it’s fine, I’ll just Google it when I get home; I know it can be difficult to remember in stressful situations.”
Dropping the axe on the floor with a clank, Mena went to the wall of tools and selected a small, sharp utility knife before going back to Edward and quickly lashing out at his chest, slicing it nearly five inches across. It wasn’t deep at all; hardly life-threatening, but he blood began to flow down his chest, soaking in to his pants. Edward didn’t give her the satisfaction of a scream and she tossed the knife aside and began to head back to the stairs again.
“Two things Edward. First: you have a real rat problem here; and second,” she said as she reached the first step. “Why would I call the cops?”