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By Keith Adam Luethke
"I want to dismember him while he's awake," Johanna sneered.
"Yes, well that's all well and good, but can't you be a little more creative?"
Johanna sucked on her cigarette and ignored the man behind her.
"Yes. Kill him, by all means, but have a good imagination about it. How would
you think he'd feel lying on the master bed knowing you didn't spend any time
plotting his murder?"
Johanna spun to face him. "Who are you?"
"Who am I not?" The man wore a black suit and a welcoming smile.
"You're not mindful of your own business," Johanna replied, and blew a wisp of
smoke into his smiling face. "You seem familiar."
The man didn't blink or even cough. He extended his hand. "My name is Mark,
and I will give you real creative instinct in your husband's untimely murder."
Johanna flicked her cigarette onto the pavement and crossed her arms. "What
do you have in mind, Mark?"
"Well, first off you need to establish terror in him, real terror."
"Terror you say?"
Mark's lips turned upward. "Yes, to strike fear in him, because after the first cut
of a knife or chop of an axe his fear will drain into pain, and all will be lost to
such . . . unfortunate dismemberment."
Johanna swayed toward him. "And how do you think I should incite such fear in
"With this," said Mark, and held a small cardboard box in his hand.
Johanna's eyes widened. "How did you. . . where did that come from?"
"Take it with you, as a parting gift."
Johanna's fingers enfolded about the small box, a shiver coursed up her back
as she bushed Mark's cold hand.
He bowed to her, and turned to go.
"Wait," she called after him.
"What do I do with it?"
Mark laughed; it was a long and horrible sound.
"You open it my dear, simply open it.
Johanna's red fingernails dug into the top of the cardboard.
"Not now, urged Mark, "later, when he's strapped to the bed and pleading for
you to forgive him for fucking that babysitter.”
"How did you know?"
Mark smiled. "Take care of yourself Johanna. I'll see you soon.”
He walked away in the dark until he was a small dot.
Johanna clutched the cardboard box in her hand and watched him go.
A single tear dripped down her cheek.
His face was lost on her, but as Mark walked she recognized his limp. She'd
seen it a dozen times as he walked away from her home. He was the babysitter.
She opened the small box; it contained her husband's wedding ring. And to think
all this time he said it was lost. Johanna closed the box and slipped it into her
pocket. She went to her car and drove home. The axe in the passenger's seat
gave her a wicked, knowing grin.