The home stood silent at the end of the darkened cul-de-sac.
A large lawn dissected by a flagstone walkway ran from the sidewalk to the front of the light brown house. The house was flanked by juniper bushes, making it look more regal than it truly was.
In the back was a small, immaculately groomed putting green, complete with sand trap, chipping area and a commemorative U.S. Open flag. He knew it was there because he’d been watching the house for several days.
He knew that the owners often kept the back door unlocked too.
Earlier in the day, he had used a silenced pistol to shoot out the bulb in the street lamp closest to the house. He had placed a small rock in the middle of the broken glass on the ground. He then did the same thing to two other streetlights. The police would assume it was teenager vandalism.
Now all the light and movement in the house was highlighted with sharp clarity.
A slight breeze blew from the east. The palm fronds on the tree he stood against rustled slightly above him.
At precisely 7:45, same as the last three nights, the garage door opened and a blue Lexus sedan backed out onto the street. The woman driving reversed, braked and then accelerated toward the main street. He knew from recent observation that she was headed for her shift at a homeless mission downtown. She’d be gone at least three hours.
His eyes darted left and right, checking the windows in neighboring houses. No obvious watchers. No busybodies.
He walked towards the garage, stepped into the shadows at the side of the house, and pulled a dark ski mask from his back pocket. He slipped it over his face, then retrieved black leather gloves from his front pocket and fit them over his hands. He reached behind a bush and grabbed some rope he had hidden earlier in the day, hoisted it over his shoulder and walked quietly to the back of the house.
There was noise. It was coming from the study; it would either be a ball game or the Golf Channel. The only person in the house would be there, likely drunk on over-priced Scotch and dead to the world by now.
Soon. Just dead.
He reached the back entrance and tried the door knob. It turned quickly and quietly. No need for his lock-picking tool.
Slowly closing the door behind him, he saw the kitchen ahead, lit only by the faint light thrown off by LED displays. He detected a smell, sweet but antiseptic, and for a moment he was back, a child in the Kentucky hills. His mother had used Lysol to overpower the rancid scent of booze and failure in his home.
Maybe this woman was trying to mask the odor as well? He put it out of his mind.
He made his way through the kitchen, down a short hall and rounded a corner to the study. From behind he could see his target sitting straight up in a large leather chair, his right hand holding a remote control and his left wrapped around a glass of scotch balanced on the arm of the chair.
Damn! Was his target awake? If so, he’d have to come back tomorrow night. He moved closer. The man was facing the TV, where a golfer in yellow pants was lining up a putt. As he stepped closer, he could see that the man’s eyes were closed. His target was snoring lightly.
He knew the ceiling in the study provided a perfect, sturdy main beam. He tossed the rope over it, grabbed the open knot and slipped it over the man’s head. A snore erupted into a snort, but that was his only reaction. The guy didn’t even move when the knot was cinched tight around his neck.
He threw the end of the rope under the heavy couch nearby and looped it around its leg, painstakingly tying the knot. He tried it several times until he was sure it would hold. He grasped the rope and slowly—with effort that took his breath—began hoisting the man out of his chair. Once the body was suspended well above the chair, he yanked as hard as he could.
It flew skyward instantly, startling both him and the target. Now the man was awake, his eyes pinballs in their sockets, his legs kicking frantically. The man grasped at the knot and tried to scream but nothing came out of his mouth.
The man’s eyes focused on him for a brief moment as if pleading for help; as if begging for an explanation.
The killer looked away and surveyed the study. Lining the walls was golf memorabilia, golf trophies and photos with famous golfers. “Okay, I get it, you liked golf buddy,” he said under his breath.
When he turned back, the body was still, the eyes open, the tongue protruding. The killer reached into his left back pocket for a small mirror, held it in front of the man’s nose and mouth. No fog. His target was dead.
God, what an awful way to die, he thought. But, really, was there a good way to die?
He snapped himself back; still work to be done. He went back into the hallway, thru the kitchen and thru a door to retrieve the six-foot ladder he had seen in the garage.
Back in the study, he set the ladder close to the body that now twirled, ever so slightly. He spread the ladder’s aluminum legs, and then knocked it down.
Did it look like the man had kicked it out from under his feet? He adjusted it a bit. That’s it; that’s what it would look like.
He walked toward the desk in the corner of the room.
Unlocked doors, a target who was drunk as a skunk every night, and now, no password protection on his personal computer...He’d gotten lucky. It was a killer’s dream scenario.
He started up the computer, called up a Word doc and typed what he’d been told: I’m sorry. I love y’all. I just can’t take the losses.
He had no idea what the words meant.
He punched ‘print’ but nothing happened. What the...? He realized he had to turn on the printer, which started up noisily.
He printed the note, folded the paper into quarters and crossed the study, avoiding the sight of the swinging corpse as he walked by. Wishing to get away from the dangling man, he quickened his pace and headed towards the door.
He stopped. Shit. He almost forgot something.
No ignoring the body now. He went back to it. Pulling it toward him with his left hand and reaching around it with his right, he thrust the paper into the man’s front pocket.
He left the house, closing the door behind him. After a few steps, he pulled off his gloves and ski mask. He was shaking some, but not much.
He strode to the front of the driveway, retrieved from his jacket a cigarette and a cheap lighter. The lighter had a slogan imprinted on its face: Visit Beautiful Orlando. One of the Safest Places on Earth.
Before he lit the cigarette he had one more thing to do. He opened his cell phone and dialed the number he had been given. “It’s done,” he said.
“Good job,” came the response on the other end.
“I’ll be back soon.”
There was a pause and then the voice on the other end said, “And, Curly, God Bless.” The line went dead.
He looked at the lighter again and managed a small chuckle. He lit the cigarette and strolled down the street.
It was a nice area. But for the dead body in the study, it probably was a safe neighborhood, generally speaking.
Probably a perfect place to raise the kids.
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