Perhaps I expected her to flinch. Maybe. Truthfully, I wasn’t certain what I expected. I had the twenty-one-year-old daughter of two of my victims in my car riding along as if we were headed to our first date. This included the somewhat moody silence of two people in an enclosed space who don’t quite know how to relate to one another.
I eyed her carefully without losing sight of the treacherously wet road. She wasn’t unattractive. A trifle young for my taste, but not out of the realm of possibility. Yet her attractiveness or lack thereof had no true effect. I thought of her as the ten-year-old portrayed in the paper with her hair still done up in those hideous barrettes. How earnestly she stared into the camera as if she could will her parents back to life with her gaze. That was how I remembered her and this new apparition of her as an adult did nothing to change that.
“Why don’t you kill children?”
Amanda’s voice betrayed no fear, only curiosity. A gentle questioning as if she didn’t want to offend me. Every moment made me reevaluate her.
“I don’t kill children because they do not interest me in that way. They never have. I cannot say they never will, but as things stand, I am getting on in my years and I have yet to find a child I desired to dismember.”
I was honest. In most cases, I tend to be. Especially in cases where honesty will cost me no consequences. Locked in a moving box with a girl who had, by her actions, sought me out seemed safe enough.
She fell silent again. In those close quarters, I couldn’t help noticing the faintest scent of vanilla. It certainly did not come from anything of mine. My personal scents tended toward the brusque, overt and strong. Vanilla is often subtle, at least when applied to skin.
Outside, the rain slackened. The buildings on the side of the road became distinct once more, even taking on color beyond the uniform gray of a drenched day.
“If you had caught me, would you have killed me?”
There was a question I anticipated. History could not be rewritten, but in her mind, certain things were hardly set in stone. Her life, as it was, hinged on the fact that I didn’t kill her when the chance presented itself. Of course, she once again overestimated how important she was to my life. At ten, she wasn’t much of a threat. A willowy not quite adolescent who had undoubtedly still worshiped her father as the ultimate hero and her mother as the bringer of light could not have brought me down on my worst day. The night I killed the Freemans had been far from my worst night.
Following them home from the theater had been easy enough. I could still see how her mother threw back her head and laughed. Beauty personified. Amanda had her regal features, though her eyes were her father’s. The very same eyes that pinned me down once or twice as we moved through the dark streets of the late night. He knew I was there. He knew I was a threat, yet he did nothing.
If he had approached me, perhaps I would have simply been satisfied in the hunt and left off the kill. Unfortunately, he did not.
“That I cannot say.” The urge to reassure her came and went. What cold comfort would it be to be assured of one’s own survival when those nearest and dearest were bludgeoned and broken by the hands that would spare?
I am a monster. I have never claimed to be anything else.
“You said you wanted to talk,” I said. “But so far all you’ve done is ask questions. What is it you want?”
“To be like you.”
Her agenda laid bare and it had teeth.