Change of Plan

Rudy was getting antsy waiting in the shadowed recess outside the boutique’s locked front door. There were a couple of after-hours security lights on inside, near the rear of the sales floor, casting the scattered mannequins in murky silhouettes. They made him nervous, like they were watching him through the plate glass door and window. Plus it was weirdly quiet. There were usually tons of people still on the street at this hour, just getting out from late shows or heading out for a night on the town. But tonight the pickings were pretty slim, forcing Rudy to bide this time, lurking, looking for the opportunity.

He jerked, startled when the bell in the church down the street began tolling the hour. He counted. Midnight.

It didn’t look like he was going to do any good here tonight. He had just decided to move on, to seek out some other, more likely spot. He knew quite a few and rotated through them. Each one was nuanced, time sensitive, representing a shifting balance between too many and too few targets.

But wait! Someone was moving toward him along the sidewalk, hugging the storefronts. They looked a bit unsteady on their feet, maybe a little buzzed, and not too big. A little closer and Rudy could see by the intermittent light spilling from the shops that it was a woman. He grinned. He liked doing women. They were usually pretty easy and showed their fear. And they were soft. He liked soft.

She was almost abreast of the boutique. Rudy pulled himself deeper into the shadows, holding his right arm down, close to his body, a little behind his leg, hiding the knife from any glint of light.

It looked perfect, no one else nearby.

He pounced, quick, vicious, practiced. His left hand tangled in her long hair, jerking her back, She screamed, loud, piercing, frantic, scared shitless Rudy loved it and swung his right arm up and around, bringing the knife to her throat and drawing it sharply from one ear to the other.

But something was wrong. She was still screaming. There should only be an incoherent gurgle of blood. And something was wrong with his own neck, a searing pain lancing across his throat. There was wetness spilling down his shirtfront. His hand lost its hold of her hair and she pulled away, turning to face him, her face lit by the dim light from the boutique. Her eyes, wide with fright, changed, incomprehension and horror replacing fear. Rudy staggered back against the door. The knife fell from a hand no longer able to grip, clattering to the walkway. The saw the sidewalk rushing toward him, but never felt its impact.

People began to gather. A man was speaking into a cell phone, terse, urgent. Someone was tugging at her arm, pulling her away from the wash of dark liquid surging across the sidewalk, cresting the curb, dribbling into the gutter. There were loud sounds, strobes of red and blue, bobbing beams of light dancing, glancing across the body on the sidewalk, flashing into her eyes.

David K. Aycock 2013