Friday, January 20, 2012

The Ninth Victim: Part 1

Ladies and gentlemen, Friday has arrived, and with it, the end of our first week here at The Veillee. Thanks again to all those who contributed; please continue following and submitting work! We're so excited that this collective effort is finally underway.

Now, on to the fun stuff! I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to introduce a piece of short fiction from my fellow Veillee founder, Jess! In her story, "The Ninth Victim," she takes us into the mind of a serial killer who gets way more than he bargains for. 

So, grab a warm beverage, put aside that work (it's FRIDAY, people!), and settle in for the captivating first part of:

The Ninth Victim
By Jessica Pherson

I watched her from various parking lots for weeks. At the grocery store, the dry cleaners, the salon, the mall, the drug store. I followed her home and watched her house from the dark street at night. I cased her house to see what kind of locks she had and peered into her windows. She had the type of locks that were really easy to pick. Soon, I felt I was ready.

The day I decided to do it was a Friday. I knew she would be home and that she wouldn’t go out because she never went out. And if she did, I would just try again the next day. I followed her through her regular errands of going grocery shopping and picking up some dry cleaning (this woman really liked to get her clothes dry cleaned) and then she returned home. I waited outside for a few minutes, then went back home to prepare.

I had already set aside the necessary tools- the lock-picking instruments, the rope, the gag, the plastic sheet, the chloroform (in case I should need it, I’d only ever had to twice) and of course, Betty, my knife. Betty had a long, slick, 10” blade and a black leather handle. I had been using Betty since my very first kill. Now I would just concentrate and wait, and prepare my body and mind for what was to come that night.

I have learned to fast before kills so as not to be interrupted by my bladder or any lagging in my physique that may occur due to what I may have eaten earlier. I maybe just have an apple and piece of bread with water no sooner than 2 hours before I leave to take my victim, then I relax and concentrate until I feel I am ready.

I chose this woman to be my next victim two and a half months ago when I was browsing the magazine rack at Barnes & Noble’s. I was looking at a hunting magazine, just perusing the knives, when I happened to look up and see her on the other side of the rack. I was struck for a moment with that type of feeling you get when you just have a good feeling about something, something that you desire and wish to achieve. She seemed to radiate some type of vibe that drew me in, and I could not take my gaze off of her. I stared long enough to take her in; she was about 5’7” and long and lean. A very rigid frame, in a way that made her edgy and athletic-looking, like she was a runner perhaps. She had very high and sharp cheekbones, and very full and poutty lips. She had a long, strong nose and a tanned complexion with very tight, clear skin. Her eyes and hair were what struck me most- she had really big, deep brown eyes, like two pools of dark, dark water, so dark it wasn’t blue anymore, it was just dark and bottomless. She had thick lashes lining them and her pupils sparkled with a little something…I just can’t put into words for you. And her hair- her hair was amazing. Long and thick and blond- naturally blond –and just the type I was aching to run my hands through. There were strands that looked bleached and strands that looked amber and strands that looked reddish and strands that made me think of brown sugar. I wondered what she tasted like.

Then she looked up and saw me watching her, and she just smiled. The quick, tight-lipped smile that polite people make when they want to diffuse what could be an uncomfortable situation. Her eyes darted away and then back to me again, waiting for me to smile and go about my business. So, I did, since what else could I do? I nodded then went back to the magazine, and continued to look at the same page, until she wandered away from the rack and off to the little Starbucks cafĂ© to get a coffee. She had wanted a magazine to read along with her latte I suppose, and I watched her walk over to the counter and noticed what she was wearing (a mint green knit top and gray cotton pants- the kind the girls who take yoga classes wear –and black sneakers, with a rosewood-colored pocketbook) and how she walked; she was confident, more confident than I normally liked them. But, there was something about her that I was just hopelessly attracted to, something I don’t think I had ever felt before. 

After she had read her magazine (National Geographic Traveler, fantasizing about Peru I guess) and had her latte, she left and I followed her out about twelve feet behind her, looping around the opposite side of the parking lot in a fashion so I could still see her. She got into a maroon mid-size SUV and got right onto the highway with me not far behind. I followed her about ten miles to a cozy little suburban development just forty minutes away from where I lived. Her house was a two-story colonial-style home, nice, but not too nice. It was a soft yellow color with a white roof and matching white windowpanes, and a door with a stained glass window. Her lawn was neat and her flowerbeds were kept, but she appeared to live alone. I just had that feeling, but I couldn’t be sure, so I waited until about midnight a few houses away, and sure enough, no one else came home that night.
I came back to check on her the next day- first early in the morning, then late at night –to see if anyone new had shown up, and still just the blond woman with the SUV left in the morning then came back in the late afternoon. And so the stalking began; from this I acquired the following information: her name was Christine Salerno according to her mail and she subscribed to Women’s Health, National Geographic, Time and Land’s End. She appeared to work from home or else to have acquired much wealth somehow, because she did not seem to ever go to a job and she spent a lot of time on the computer on certain times of the day. She had a regular exercise routine where she would run at six a.m. every morning and hit the treadmill at night. I believe she may have done some type of yoga or tai chi in her bedroom since she would disappear up there for an hour or more at certain times on certain days and come back downstairs appearing to be very refreshed. I did not have access to her upper windows.

She rarely got phone calls and rarely made them; she seemed to be a very lonely woman, which amazed me since she was so beautiful. I figured her for a cold-hearted, uptight bitch that no guy wanted to deal with, or perhaps an introverted lesbian. Either way, I wanted her under my knife even more. 

I gathered enough information about her to know when would be the best time and the best way to strike, and I waited until I was ready to make my move, and tonight was the night.

I parked three houses away from hers on the next block and snuck into her yard from the neighbor’s yard that was behind her home. Of course, I had made sure she was definitely home, and then I waited until all the lights went out and then for another hour after that until I decided to find a place to park. Then I made my way into her house. The lock was easy to pick and the bolt was an easy slider with the right tools; I entered her kitchen quietly as a cat and was also greeted by her longhaired black cat with white whiskers and paws as soon as I closed the door softly behind me. It meowed at me with half a purr, then sat on the floor and started to lick its paws and stroke its head. I moved right on past it, only thinking for a moment about breaking its neck, deciding it was too risky as it might cry out.

The kitchen was pretty big; I walked quietly across the linoleum-tiled floor to the counter with two barstools in front of it. I thought about how lonely this woman must be and how I might actually be putting her out of her misery while satisfying my own. I glanced at the walls, searching for picture frames, and I did see a few, but all with images of fish and landscapes and abstract art that made no sense- none with people who might be family. A lonely woman. I was here to carve a lonely woman. Hadn’t they all been in some way? It didn’t seem to matter how beautiful most of them were, they were still lonely and miserable. And I’m sure they all deserved it.

As my right foot touched the soft white carpet of the living room, I was suddenly accosted by something. For a ridiculous and stupid second I thought it was the cat jumping on me because it moved so swiftly and softly, but it wrapped one arm around my neck and covered my mouth with the other. I grabbed at the arms, tried to pull them off of me, struggled with the bottle of chloroform I was now kicking myself for not having ready to use. The bottle was knocked out of my hand and my neck was pulled tighter, tighter and tighter, until I started to feel light-headed and the dark room got darker and darker. 

*        *        * 

I awoke some time later feeling very weak and dizzy. I opened my eyes and it took me a moment to realize I was tied to a chair. My legs were bound to the chair’s legs and my hands were tied snuggly behind the back of the chair, and the kicker was this had been done with the very rope I had brought. I slowly lifted my head, wincing in pain as my neck was aching from my head hanging down for so long, and my mind was hazy. The lights were on and very bright to my weakened eyes and I had to squint to see what was in front of me, and there she sat, reclining on her beige leather sofa in loungewear with a mug of what appeared to be hot tea in her hand. And she was looking right at me. 

“Well, hello there, sunshine,” Christine Salerno said to me, taking a sip from the mug. I could see the vapors from the steaming beverage dance around her face. Like a witch leering over her cauldron. 

I just stared back at her, unsure of what to say or do. I could tell without having to struggle very hard that my hands and legs were tightly bound, expertly in fact. I was just perplexed and a little nervous, and my only fear was that she had called the police and they were on their way. But, how had she caught me? How had she bound me like this? Surely a simple little woman like her could not have done this to me alone. My eyes darted quickly around the room searching for another body. 

“No worries, darling. We’re all alone,” she said to me, as if able to read my mind. “No need to search…you will find no one.

End of Part 1
(Check back next week for Part 2!)

Jessica Pherson is one of the Founders of The Veillee and author of her own blog, Healthy Mommy, Healthy Baby. She works from home part time for an eco-friendly jewelry company/retailer and is also a stay-at-home mom to Lily.

Learn more about Jessica by checking out The Matchbox section of this blog! 


  1. I like a lot of your word choices and thought progression. Some of your sentences could be divided up into two or three clearer ones though. 3 or 4 conjunctions in one sentence makes it hard to keep track of what the sentence is really saying. A few places have word oversaturation like "type of feeling you get when you just have a good feeling about something." Of course, this is all preference, and style is style!

    1. Hi, Shouldntbreed, Jess here. Thanks for your feedback. I greatly appreciate it! I am aware some of the sentences seem to "run on" and that was done purposely, as I intended to evoke the protagonist's stream of thought and action in that manner. Thanks for letting me know how you felt about it, and for understanding "style is style!"

      To respond to your comment below, thanks for telling me that also. When I wrote that part, I was meaning to suggest that Christine may have used the chloroform on him as well. It was merely implied, but perhaps not enough. But, thanks for the technical note, perhaps I should do a little more research next time!

      I hope you'll also read parts 1 and 2 and provide your in-depth feedback there as well :)

      By the way, I just have to ask...what's with the name?

  2. Oh yeah...Technical note: You described the protagonist being choked (or strangled) out, but he woke with the reaction of someone knocked out (which is done with trauma to the head). When you wake up from being choked out it basically feels like getting scared awake in the middle of the night. The only physical effects are a few moments of disorientation and maybe some shaky limbs for a few minutes after. Personal experience with both and I much prefer a good blood choke to a blow to the noggin.

    Those who can't do, teach. Those who can't teach, critique!

    1. Hi Shouldntbreed,

      Thanks so much for commenting and giving us some feedback!It really is very useful for authors to know what their readers are thinking.

      (Annnnnd...I'm not even gonna ask about your first hand experience with choke holds and head injuries!)

      Thanks again.


Thanks for commenting! Please keep in mind that this is a place for new writers to get constructive criticism. So be open with your honesty, but go easy on the brutality.