By Russell Holbrook
Devon’s appearance was plain and unremarkable, and that’s the way he wanted it to be. He believed that blending in helped him move through life without being noticed too much, which made things easier for him. But Devon’s appearance wasn’t what the strangers he met on dark streets were thinking about. They were usually wondering why he was plunging a meat cleaver into the side of their neck. Well, sometimes it was a hacksaw or a plain, old-fashioned butcher knife. That last one was an undeniable classic, and besides, Devon wasn’t too picky about his instruments. He liked having variety in his work. He was saving up to buy a chainsaw.
It was on a Thursday evening that Devon ran into his arch-rival, Mach Tudor, at the local Slurp Fountain and Elixir Emporium. Devon fixed his enemy with a harsh glare. “I thought I told you to stay out of here, Mach.”
Mach returned Devon’s glare with a grin. “I can go where I want.”
“That’s not a reasonable explanation.”
Mach stared at Devon and sucked bright blue Slurp through an orange straw.
Devon stepped closer. He clenched his fists and whispered, “Get out. This is my spot. It’s where I go to think and right now you’re interrupting my thinking.”
“I like it here,” Mach replied.
“If you don’t leave now, I’m going to make you,” Devon said, fire burning behind his eyes.
Mach leaned his lanky frame against the counter and took another casual pull off his Slurp. “Yeah, I’m sure,” he said.
Devon fumed. “You arrogant prick! You know how much I need a Slurp after I…” he looked around and lowered his voice. “After, you know… I’ve been out… working.”
“Uh-hu,” Mach said. He took another drink. “I needed one too. I just did my sixth one of the night.”
Devon’s nostrils flared. “Six!? In one night?! That’s impossible!”
“Not when you’re as good as I am. Everyone knows I’m the best in town.” Mach’s voice lowered. “Maybe even the greatest of all time.”
Devon frowned. He looked Mach over, taking in the tall, trim man’s swagger and appearance. He’s so cocky, so self-assured, Devon thought. But I have to admit, he really is well put together. Then, something caught Devon’s eye: a bloody rip across Mach’s tight, ironed, otherwise spotless gray slacks. Devon could see through the tear, which was near the top of his right thigh, about three inches across. He pointed at the wound. “What’s that?”
Mach looked down, following Devon’s finger. “Oh, that?” Mach said. “That’s just a scratch.”
Devon grinned wide. “They fought back?”
Mach nodded. “Hard.”
“I like it when they fight,” Devon said.
Mach shrugged indifferently. Devon felt outraged by Mach’s flippant attitude toward the work that he himself had dedicated his life to. He shook his head and plowed into Mach’s personal space. His broad, muscular shoulders edged Mach out of the way. “You take no pride in your craft. You have no respect. You don’t care about anything. Get the hell out of my way.” Devon grabbed an extra-large cup.
“They’re out of grape,” Mach said lackadaisically.
“Dammit!” Devon cursed. He threw the cup on the floor and watched it bounce away. “I was having such a great night before I saw you!”
Devon stomped away from the purring Slurp machine and picked up the cup. He slammed it into the trash can. “Six? Really?”
“I have their heads in my trunk if you don’t believe me,” Mach said.
“I thought you drove a hatch back.”
Mach slurped the last of his drink, dragging his straw over the bottom of the plastic cup. He swiped the back of his hand across his mouth, sat the empty cup on the counter for the clerk to clean up, and walked past Devon toward the door. Devon followed.
Out in the murky night, in the empty rear parking lot, Mach popped the trunk. There, spread out on black plastic trash bag, sat six severed heads. Devon leaned in and inspected them under the trunk’s dim light. Dammit, they’re fresh.
“Told ya,” Mach said. His upper lip curled like he was about to do a Billy Idol impersonation.
For a moment Devon was speechless. He had no idea of what to say. Then, a new perspective, sudden yet welcome, came upon him. He turned to Mach. “You really think you’re hot potatoes, don’t you?”
“You’re an idiot,” Devon spat, “an arrogant, reckless, idiot. You think you’re invincible, but you’ll get caught and that’ll bring the heat down on the rest of us, and then everyone’s work will be in danger.”
“Shut up! I’m never gonna get caught!”
Devon sighed. “We’ll see.”
“I’m too good to get caught,” Mach asserted.
Devon walked away to begin the long trek back to his basement apartment. He hung his head and mumbled to himself, “We’ll see.”
Mach considered yelling a sarcastic remark or an insult at Devon’s back, but then felt that it wouldn’t be worth the effort. He reached down and plucked one of the heads out of the trunk. It had belonged to a student who was taking night classes at the community college. Her name was Sandy. She had been pre-law. Sandy’s mouth was locked in the scream position. Her canines protruded out beyond her thin, bloodless lips. Mach held the head up to eye level. “Hey there, little fighter,” he said, just before he shut the trunk and hopped behind the wheel with Sandy’s head cradled in his arm. The night clerk of the Slurp Fountain and Elixir Emporium found Mach’s empty cup and cursed the lazy customer’s insolence just as Mach squealed out of the parking lot.
Cool night air rushed in through open windows. Sandy’s head rested in Mach’s lap. His favorite band, The Power Trippers, came on the radio and he turned it up. As the chorus kicked in, Mach felt something cold and slimy sliding across the wound on his upper thigh. Ugh, what the… His eyes left the road and shot down to his lap, where Sandy’s head was tonguing the gash in his leg. He screamed. The car swerved. Reflexively, Mach’s leg bounced. Sandy’s head sunk her canines deep into Mach’s flesh. His scream turned to a wail. He slammed the break and slid the car off the road. He lept from the car with Sandy’s teeth still buried in his leg. Running into the woods, with a howl Mach tore Sandy’s teeth from his leg and threw her head into the trees. Pain radiated through his leg and lower body.
“I give you the honor of being a part of my work and this is how you repay me!?” Mach shouted into the woods at the severed head which he could no longer see. “You can just stay out there all alone forever!”
Grumbling to himself, Mach got back into his car and drove home. When he reached his house, he carefully placed the other five heads in the freezer and went to sleep.
Five Days Later
The headline surprised Devon so much he had to read it twice. House of Horrors Discovered on East Side. Devon’s eyes jumped down to the front page article. Gripping the paper between shaking hands, he read:
When local, award-winning jewel thief Kristen Calle’ entered 618 Maple Street on a routine heist this past Friday night, she found something most people hope to never see during the course of their lives. It was a sight so grisly, so macabre, Ms. Calle’ ran from the residence and didn’t stop running until she burst through the front doors of police headquarters in tears. Officers and CSI units were immediately dispatched to the scene and, following a routine survey, investigations began in earnest. Over the next five days human remains in varying stages of decomposition were discovered throughout the home, which CSI veteran Pauline McCabe called, “A museum of grotesque depravities.” She went on to say, “In all my thirty-seven years on the force, never have I witnessed such a vile display of human carnage.”
Devon was spellbound. He read on.
To date, the remains of three-hundred and sixteen victims have been discovered, having been found buried in the backyard and cellar, boxed up in the attic, hidden between walls and beneath floors, and stored in the refrigerator. The kitchen pantry was full of dried and cured skin, and a bedroom had been converted to a walk-in freezer which was dedicated entirely to the preservation of severed heads.
“Nice touch,” Devon said to himself. He turned the page and straightened the paper.
Investigators have linked the crimes to the home’s owner, local tennis shoe model MachTudor. Mr.Tudor was found unresponsive in the master bedroom, the apparent victim of an infected leg wound. As the number of remains discovered continues to grow, investigators suspect that Mach Tudor will go down as one of the most prolific serial killers of all-time, if not the most prolific, ever. Lead investigator Saul Grey stated, “All he needs is a spooky nickname and he’s ready for the true-crime history books. This guy was a true sicko; clearly, he really loved his work.”
Devon’s face turned red. Trembling, he ripped the paper in half and threw the pieces to the floor. He fell out of his easy chair and rolled across the floor, beating his fists against the hardwood floor and screaming, “Dammit!” over and over and over again. Disturbed by the violent outburst and annoyed by the noise, his upstairs neighbors called the police. Half an hour later, two officers knocked on Devon’s door.