Someone shadows Merry Church down Chester Street. She’s a chubby girl with witch black hair, white makeup, black jeans, and a black leather jacket, “Rose Tattoo Parlor” stitched across the back. He’s known her for a long, long time; knows everything about her.
She’s almost jogging now, sensing someone behind her, but the stalker scuttles into the gaps between buildings. Staying out of view. For now.
He loves this part: night air hanging thick with fear. Moving subtly through the dark, his shoes are soundless, his breathing almost non-existent. But she knows he’s closing in.
Her backward glances convey a lament more clearly than a banshee’s wail.
Shadows stretch across the sidewalk like grasping fingers, Merry slipping through them, light-dark-light-dark. He picks up speed because the private park, its key warm in his hand, is just ahead.
Then he’s on her, wrapping himself tightly around her, lifting her from her feet. She kicks hard and squirms. She’s heavy too, he knows that about her, but he’s quite large for a quiet man, and strong.
Her ragged breath feels more real than his own. The newborn shrieks in her throat die before breaking into air as he rams her against the metal fence, crushing her into it, so he can insert the key into the lock. The gate shrieks open and he hauls her inside.
A shroud falls across the moon. When he stumbles, she slides down and he lets her thump to the ground. Then he grabs her arms, drags her along the cement, through bushes.
In the middle of the park, surrounded by a circular brick apron and a hedge of privet, stands an old well, its maw covered with a steel plate bolted on four sides. But as the moon skids out from dark clouds, a round gleam of metal can be seen against the well wall.
Here is where he drags Merry and collapses on top of her, angling his head toward the sky so the moon’s pale light reveals his face.
Recognition floods her face, and he smiles, both hands resting firmly on her neck. “And what, Merry Church, is my name?”
Her eyes widen and she tries again to wrench away. “I – don’t know.”
“Then what do you think my name is?”
Her eyes flit back and forth. “C-Charles?”
Through gritted teeth, he growls, “Say it. Say it.”
She’s crying now, tears cutting through her make-up.
“But what did you CALL me before? How did you taunt me a long, long time ago?”
“Okay.” He sits up, letting his fingers relax. When hope creeps into her eyes, he tightens the grip around her neck.
When the beat cops cruise the park the next morning, they won’t notice the steel plate securely reattached to the well opening, nor will they suspect that Merry Church’s body is sixty feet below in a stolen Humpty Dumpty costume.
Previously published by Apollo’s Lyre