CTTK – Prologue


7 February 2005


New York

She was tied to a table, the metal unbearably cold against her back. The gag in her mouth muffled her cries and screams for help.

The skin on her wrists had been rubbed raw from her failed attempts at pulling the knot out of the ropes that had her trapped in the damned basement. It smelled like cologne and musty mold, an oddly unappealing combination, a smell that was an assault on the woman’s olfactory nerve. There was a twinge of something iron, but the scent thankfully wasn’t quite as obvious or strong as the former, much more offensive pair of scents.

She heard a door open. She turned her head to look at the man as he walked through the open doorway. Her wide, panic-filled brown eyes met his much less panicked forest green ones. He smiled softly, reaching back to shut the door. “Good morning, Christine,” he said. His voice was deep and smooth. His face was clean-shaven, his jawline harsh in the bright lighting of the room. “I’m sure you’re wondering why you’re here, how I know your name.” He crossed the room to stand beside the table.

Christine’s dark eyes followed him. He stared at her for a moment, allowing his gaze to drag over her naked figure.

“I’ve been watching you, Christine, following you.” He smiled, something much warmer and kinder than the darkness of his words. “Kind of like your eyes are following me. Except… my following is much more advanced, more… on your tail. Before last night, I had been inside your house nineteen times. Let me tell you, Christine, you’ve done a lovely job of decorating the place. It feels very homey. I’ve seen you shower thrice. You have a lovely singing voice, by the way, not to mention how beautiful you are when water is cascading over your naked body,” he said, brushing a finger over her cheek.

“Mm!” The sound was loud, despite the gag. Even the man seemed almost surprised by the sheer volume and strength of the raw sound.

“I’m sorry, Christine. I guess you don’t know this, but I can’t really understand you. See, that’s what the gag is for. Now, I’d take the gag off, but we both know you’re not exactly trustworthy enough for that.” He tapped his index finger to the end of her nose. “Not to mention that I have discovered you are quite the screamer. Jesus, woman. What was his name last night?” he asked. He snapped his fingers before pointing at Christine, a disgustingly charming grin on his face. “John. I distinctly remember you screaming John over and over again last night. I mean… before I murdered him in your bed, of course. That was pretty fun, wasn’t it?”

“Mm,” she mumbled weakly. Tears leaked out of her eyes as she squeezed them shut.

He watched one drip onto the table. “I’ve followed you to the bar seven times.” Her eyes shot open. “You loosen up on the dance floor when you’re drunk…” He slowly traced his gloved fingers over the long blade of one of his knives, all laid out neatly on a small, metal tray beside the table.

Christine’s eyes widened. “Mm!” she screamed behind the gag. She struggled to free herself from her bindings, but it was still no use.

“See, right there. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Quite a screamer,” he said. He shook his head. “Where was I? The bar. Right.” He sighed softly, shaking his head. “Such a carefree beauty, Christine. So carefree, in fact, that you never noticed me lurking around, following you.” Again, he shook his head. Hands locked behind his back, he bent down, leveling himself with her. “It’s dangerous to be carefree in this world, Christine,” he murmured, his lips soft against the shell of her ear. She whimpered. He straightened himself back out and picked up a knife.

Christine let out a muffled scream, thrashing against the ropes.

“There are lunatics out there that will take advantage of someone as carefree as you, Christine.” He buried the blade in her lower abdomen; she screamed, writhing in pain. “It’s a shame that some… monster would want to hurt someone like you.”

He flicked his wrist, slowly dragging the sharp knife up Christine’s torso. Behind the gag, she gasped as he pulled the blade from her flesh, a deep squelching sound echoing through the room.

The long blade pierced her right side, just beneath her rib cage. Christine let out a pitifully muffled scream as white-hot pain ripped through her body, coursing through her veins.

“People are so crude in this world. You just can’t trust anyone. You never know who may be a killer, Christine. Everyone’s dangerous. There’s just no way around that, you see,” he said. He set the bloodied knife back in its place, switching it out for a much shorter, less intimidating blade. He wrapped his free hand around her chin, turning her head so she was no longer facing him.

The tip of the silver blade cut deep into the skin just beneath her left eye. She screamed, struggling against him. He held her head still as he carved his way down her cheek and into her lower jaw.

He set the knife back in its place on the metal tray and turned Christine’s head so she had no choice but to look him in the eye. “The beautiful ones are always the easiest targets, Christine. It’s a proven fact,” he said. “It’s all scientific. You really can’t even blame me. It’s you, sweetheart, not me.” He shrugged half-heartedly. “Should’ve asked for your momma’s poor genes instead of the blessed ones you got from your daddy.”

He picked up a tool that looked like a much sharper version of a loop tool meant for clay. He examined it for a moment, the metal glinting threateningly in the light. “This’ll only hurt a bit, Christine.” A hand pressed firmly against her bloody stomach, he dug the tool so deep into her hip that she swore it touched bone. She arched her back off the table as much as the ropes and the hand on her stomach would allow, but it did nothing to combat the fiery pain that ripped through her body.

When the pain finally became too much for Christine’s fragile body to handle, she welcomed the darkness with open arms.

By the time he was done with Christine, she was barely recognizable. He pushed the knife cart over to the sink. He washed his hands of her blood first, humming a soft, gentle tune he didn’t recognize. He had it memorized, but he didn’t know why, didn’t know where he had heard it before.

He went about cleaning the knives and other tools that had been used, including the grapefruit spoon he had used to take out her eyes, all the while humming the happy tune he didn’t actually know.

With the knives washed and set neatly on a towel so they could dry, he cleaned out the sink, wiping away watered down blood and chunks of dug out flesh. Still humming, he shut off the water. He could hear the soft buzzing of the overhead lights, the dripping of Christine’s blood as it fell from the table and onto the concrete floor.

He looked back at Christine, smiling softly. Not because she was dead. He didn’t care about that. No, he had finally figured out why he knew the song.

Christine had been singing it in the shower two nights before he took her and cut into her soft, pale, unmarred skin.

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