Barry Hoffman's HUNGRY EYES

Chapter Two

She paced the room like a caged animal. Naked, she was oblivious to the sweat streaming from her body from the exercise routine of pushups, situps and aerobics.

The room itself resembled an oversized jail cell; spartan to the extreme. No bed or mattress; only a pea green blanket she'd purchased from an Army Navy store spread under the rooms' only window indicated this was where she slept. Unbreakable mirrors covered three walls and the ceiling, watching her every move. She instinctively touched the three inch scar on her left breast, now covered by a tattoo, recalling the glass mirrors she'd had to replace. In one of her rages against the eyes peering at her, she had broken one; shards, like razors, piercing her body. A dozen stitches, and a hard-earned lesson.

To the left of the one bare wall was a wide-screen TV she kept on day and night, muting the sound only when she played her music.

She'd felt exhausted after her work of the night before, and had called in sick. Though she knew otherwise, she'd hoped Walt Grimes' death might end the attacks, but the hungry eyes had ravaged her as she'd tried to sleep.

In the beginning she'd gotten a reprieve after her kills; two weeks after the first was the longest. But the eyes always returned, as she knew they would, mocking her. Last time they'd returned after only three days. This time they'd never left. She'd had a fitful sleep and felt drained.

She now scoured the newspaper's TV listings and planned her day. Good Morning AM on Channel 6, Donahue on 3, Montel Williams on 3, Joan Rivers also on 3, flip back and forth between 6 and 10 for the noon news, then Channel 10's soaps for today - One Life to Live and Guiding Light. Then Oprah! on 6. Always Oprah! Infuriating, but oh so satisfying. She'd channel surf with her everpresent remote from five to seven o'clock. Snatches of Action News mixed with Inside Edition on Channel 3. Current Affair on 3 at 5:30 looked interesting, though an occasional flip to Action News was necessary. At 6:00 she'd surf from one local newscast to another; at 6:30 one national news broadcast to the next. Cartoons on TNT filled her evening until 8:00, then a HBO film till 10:00 and Dateline until the news at 11:00, topped off by Nightline, though she might take a sneak at Letterman. She'd fall asleep to music: MTV, BET or VH1.

Pacing back and forth she'd interact with the tube. On GMA a 200-pound anti-porn feminist, with enough hair on her upper lip to resemble an adolescent's first attempt at a mustache, was plugging a book on pedophiles, referring to a Sunday School teacher who videotaped young boys playing with one anothers' genitals. "He had been exposed to pornography at an early age," she lectured. "But the vicarious thrill wasn't enough . . ."

"Bullshit," Shara yelled at the blimp who kept on talking.

" . . . desensitized . . . "

"Right on sister," Shara's voice dripped with hostility. "Like without porn he would have been a model citizen. Give me a fucking break."

" . . . been at a religious retreat for six months . . . embraced Jesus . . . well on his way to recovery . . ."

"Well on his way to recovery my ass," Shara barked at the woman. "Put him back on the streets and see how long he embraces the Lord." She threw a nerf ball at the screen, as an act of final dismissal.

Nerf balls of every sort littered the floor. They'd become a necessity after she'd broken her third TV in as many months; the result of heaving whatever came to hand when some dweeb on the tube was particularly infuriating. The widescreen she had recently bought was a real indulgence, and she wasn't about to let some fool anger her to the point where she would react hastily and destroy it. Nerf balls were another thing, though. She could vent her spleen without a second thought.

The ball bounced off the screen harmlessly and landed on her desk, falling onto a straight-backed chair to the right of her window. These were the only other furnishings in the room, and contained thousands of dollars of state-of-the-art electronics: a computer, six cameras -- still and video for surveillance work -- a microcassette recorder, boom mic and more. Above the desk on a corkboard were newsclips and charts. On the back of the chair her uniform and gun. On either side of the desk small piles of clothes randomly tossed. On the left there were those that were clean; on the right those that needed to be washed. When the pile on the right exceeded that on the left, Shara grudgingly wasted an afternoon at a nearby laundromat.

She was awash in anticipation as Oprah! came to a close. The news at noon reported a mid-afternoon press conference on the latest victim of the Vigilante. A break in the case? she wondered. No, she'd be the first to know.

On Action News the killing of Walt Grimes was the days "big story" as the anchor was fond of saying. After a brief intro by the stations' crack City Hall reporter, a lumbering black man at a podium announced the formation of a special Task Force to coordinate the investigation. The FBI's Behavioral Sciences Unit was sending a special agent to assist. The man looked uncomfortable, Shara thought. In one of those deals with the devil, he'd been given command of the Task Force in exchange for genuflecting before the assembled press. Poor bastard, she thought.

The camera cut to their reporter who explained a coordinated effort was necessitated by overlapping jurisdictions; two of the victims had been killed at their homes in the suburbs. He then said the Mayor was quite concerned and would be in daily contact with the Task Force leader Lamar Briggs. The camera pulled back exposing a thirysomething woman to the reporters left. "We have with us the Mayor's Media Liaison Deidre Caffrey --"

Shara, who'd been watching intently, stepped back involuntarily as if she'd been struck.

" -- who says the Mayor is upset with the medias coverage. Miss Caffrey, what is the Mayor's concern?" A closeup of Deidre as she began to speak. "Dan -- "

Deidre was working for the Mayor! Shara recalled reading something about it, but she hadn't been this close to Deidre since . . . since just before her death.

" -- the Mayor fears the media is turning a vicious killer into a folk hero. The whole idea of anyone acting as judge, jury and executioner is totally repugnant to a civilized society."

"But isn't the Vigilante sending a message to the police and judicial system that pedophiles and rapists must be dealt with more severely?"

Shara had recovered and pressed the record button on her VCR, and gazed intently at the screen. "Let him have it Dee," she cheered her on.

"The means don't justify the ends, you should know that Dan," Deidre said with just a hint of condescension.

"Way to go, Dee!" Shara threw a nerf football at the reporter's head.

"This Vigilante of yours doesn't dispatch justice," Deidre continued, and now looked directly into the camera, speaking to the viewers, not the reporter. "He tortures his victims, not for their alleged crimes, but because he gets off on it. This Vigilante is demented. If someone barged in while he was torturing a rapist, he wouldn't think twice about killing that person, too." She snapped her fingers to underscore her point. "Think about that before you put him on a pedestal."

"No Deidre!" Shara shouted at the woman looking at her, talking to her, and only her, even as she continued to speak. "I'd never hurt an innocent!"

But Deidre was gone, the reporter summing up the days events.

Shara turned to Eyewitness News. " . . . That was Deidre Caffrey, the Mayor's . . ." Then to Channel 10. "In other news . . ."

"Damn," she shouted at the TV. She rewound the tape and replayed it.

" . . . means don't justify the ends . . . "

" . . . tortures his victims . . . "

" . . . gets off on it . . . "

" . . . put him on a pedestal . . . "

And again.

" . . . tortures his victims . . . "

" . . . gets off on it . . . "

And again, and again, and again.

" . . . gets off on it . . . "

" . . . gets off on it . . . "

" . . . gets off on it. . . "

"You don't understand, Deidre," she said to the freeze-frame image of the woman on the television. "You must understand. I don't get off on it." She smiled. "You will understand."

She turned off the VCR. Ignoring the Acu-Weather forecast, she went to the mirrors, looking at herself.

She was oblivious to the gaunt diminutive figure that stared back at her; just over five feet. The short cropped brown hair held no fascination. Neither did her angular face or the smooth tawny skin that had yet to see a trace of makeup. Some thought she was Hispanic; others that one of her parents must have been black. Truth be told they could all have been right. Her mother had been a tramp. Any of a half-a-dozen men could have been her father.

It was her breasts that grabbed her attention, though. Not the fact they were large and firm, so out of proportion to the rest of her. Her eyes, rather, were drawn to the tattoos that adorned them; eyes that stared at her. Dead eyes, eyes that couldn't peer into her soul. Eyes that had been hungry, but were no longer. Eight eyes stared at her. She caressed them, and groaned at the touch. Tomorrow, after work, she'd add two more: Walt Grimes'. She pinched the two that cupped the bottom of her nipples until she cried out in pain.

Tomorrow she would begin to stalk her final victim.

She raked the eyes on her breasts with her long nails until they bled.

She should wait, savor the moment, but somehow she knew she would get little satisfaction in replaying Grimes' death. And she would be haunted by the hungry eyes until she'd fully played out her hand.

Watching the unseeing eyes bleeding at her in the mirror, something about Deidre's interview bothered her. She played the tape a half-dozen more times until she was sure. "The eyes," she whispered. "You clever little bitch!" she yelled at a freeze-frame picture of Deidre. "You know! You don't believe a fucking word you're saying. The eyes, the mirror to your soul, you once told me. You couldn't read mine, and it drove you to distraction; really disturbed you. See, Dee, it's the eyes that betray you. Erect a curtain behind them and no one will ever know your innermost thoughts. But you, you're transparent. You know it's me. Trying to get under my skin, anger me so I'll make a mistake. How did you find out, Dee?" She paused in thought.

"My messages!!" she said finally.

She smacked her forehead with her palm. "Of course, my `hungry eyes,' messages" she said to the still visage. "Have you known all along or did it just dawn on you? Have you told the police?"

She began to pace the floor, blood dripping from the scratches she had inflicted on her unseeing eyes. Two thoughts crowded her mind, finally crystallizing. She wanted a confidant; someone who'd understand what drove her to kill. Needed someone to know the need to silence the eyes. Maybe even someone to tell her side of the story if she was caught. And she needed someone to feed disinformation to the police, so she could complete her mission, and free herself from the eyes once and for all.

She met Deidre's eyes. "You can't deceive me, Dee. You're an open book. I've got your number; always have. Catch me if you can," she taunted. "I'll even give you some help." She threw a nerf ball and hit Deidre between the eyes. Then another and another and . . .

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