Everyone showed up to the funeral. They grieved, they said nice things, they ate a nice meal, and then they left. And moved on. Or at least tried to. But then it happened again, just a few days later, and they were back at the same church, the same cemetery, saying the same nice things and eating leftovers from the same nice meal. And this time, they were afraid to leave. Because the important questions aren’t usually asked this close to the grieving process. The important answers aren’t usually as necessary. One death is sad, but two, and so similar in nature, is alarming. Were they both accidents? Or were they linked? And if they weren’t accidents and they were linked, the questions that came to mind among the grieving townspeople were as follows: Who killed them? Why did they kill them? And am I next?
That’s where Aunt Sarah comes into play. The wild one. The gossip. Most kids love Sarah for her eccentricity, but her charm wears off after puberty takes you down a path of maturity. She’s no longer fun, she’s annoying. She’s no longer exciting, she’s unpredictable and undependable. She’s no longer family, but a distant relative. But she’s got something that none of us have: she doesn’t let things go. Once she decided that this was a mystery and not a tragedy, shit really hit the fan. She always had stories for those who would listen, but now she had a captive audience. After all, it’s not every day that a serial killer selects your family for their masterpiece. And she should know… because Aunt Sarah had been sleeping with him for a few months.
They met at a dimly-lit hotel bar in Seattle after a flight from hell. Sarah is a flight attendant, originally so she could justify seeing the world as a career, but now because of the cheap hotels and the excuse to be temporary in everyone’s lives. He was tall, dark, and handsome and she knew he was trouble when he sent her a drink from across the bar. They were the only two people who looked like they knew their way around the opposite sex’s body in the entire hotel, excluding maybe the bartender, but he was wearing a wedding ring and looked like he was probably a boring fuck. They didn’t speak at first, just exchanged glances and enjoyed the out-of-place talented piano man as he played what he wanted to play because he clearly didn’t give a shit about tips after midnight. He was good, but the stranger slowly became more interesting to her, so she broke her cardinal rule (they approach you) and made a confident-but-available stride toward the empty seat next to him.
“You’re uncommonly beautiful,” he said.
“And your suit looks expensive. What brings you to this hotel bar in the middle of the saddest city in the country? Business or pleasure?”
“Pleasure is my business,” he said, or something equally stupid, and she was his.
That was about three months ago.
Before meeting Sarah, the killer would never have imagined being happy. It just wasn’t in him. He didn’t understand why people thought Bret Easton Ellis was funny. He was perplexed by the laughter in the theater on opening night of American Psycho. Patrick Bateman wasn’t satirical, he was real. His delusions of grandeur were not delusions at all… some people are just better than others. The only thing people like the killer (and the character in the book and the film) had in common with the average every day person was their utter lack of respect for losers.
But that feeling of rage dissipated when he was with Sarah. He felt something new. He felt… something at all. It wasn’t love. No, he could possibly be capable of that. Not even a little bit. But it was strange, not wanting to dissect her and send her internal organs to her loved ones. It was even stranger that when they were together, it wasn’t just about sex. Sure, she liked all of the same things he did and the roleplaying was never any indication that he was going to lose interest in her body. But the fact that she saw him, really saw him, and didn’t care. That made it special.
One night, about two weeks into their affair, she caught him washing blood off his hands and simply said, “I don’t care. I really don’t. I just need someone to fuck me like a whore and tell me I’m pretty after.”
So he did. And he did. And they never spoke of it again.
She never asked what he did for work. He never asked why she was realigning her flights to fit his schedule. They never met at her home, his condo, or the same hotel twice. Sometimes they didn’t even sleep together. And they never made small talk. Sometimes it was enough to just exist in public or in private with one another. She was wildly lonely and looking for a connection of any kind. He was a nihilist who deep down wanted to get caught. And those two life goals came into focus one night when she received a text from her perpetually-dying mother guilting her into coming home for the holidays this year.
“I want to meet them,” he told her, much to her surprise.
“Who?” she asked, hoping it was a momentary lapse in judgment, praying he would backtrack his way into cooler waters.
She wasn’t about to let him ruin this. Once he met them, it was over. The questions would pour in, scaring him off. “How did you meet? How long have you been together? What do you do for work? Is it serious? Do you plan to get married and have kids and own a house and join the neighborhood association and who did you vote for in the primaries and what’s your favorite local restaurant and what’s your best vacation spot and tell me about your family and…”
“Stop that,” he said, derailing her nightmarish train of thought.
“I don’t want to come to the holiday dinner. I don’t want to become one of the family. I want to meet them one at a time.”
She didn’t ask for clarification. He didn’t give it. But deep down, they both knew what he meant. He wanted to do this for her. He wanted to do this for him. He wanted to make her happy by taking away the group of people who made her most broken. He wanted to make himself happy by restoring the thrill to his work. She would become rich and famous and be able to tell her stories to a new audience and he would begin the chase of a lifetime.
He would kill her family. For her. For him.
And he did. And when she finally got their attention again, when she started to realize that she could save them all from the monster they thought she was, the monster she had become, and the monster she had pointed at them… she decided she had to choose.
Image – dd