CHAPTER 01 <
CHAPTER 02 <
CHAPTER 03 <
CHAPTER 04 <
CHAPTER 05 <
CHAPTER 06 <
CHAPTER 07 <
CHAPTER 08 <
CHAPTER 09 <
CHAPTER 10 <
CHAPTER 11 <
CHAPTER 12 <
CHAPTER 13 <
CHAPTER 14 <
CHAPTER 15 <
CHAPTER 16 <
CHAPTER 17 <
CHAPTER 18 <
CHAPTER 19 <
CHAPTER 20 <
CHAPTER 21 <
CHAPTER 22 <
CHAPTER 23 <
CHAPTER 24 <
CHAPTER 25 <
CHAPTER 26 <
CHAPTER 27 <
One of the most vivid memories of that night had been standing outside in the protective arms of Mrs. Spinetti, her clothes soaked in her stepfather's blood. The blood had seeped through her clothes, and clung to her skin like a tattoo. Mrs. Spinetti had first showered her, and then let her sit in a hot bath for forty-five minutes. Still, she felt the blood like a second skin. Mrs. Spinetti had been allowed to take a suitcase of clothes, before the police had sealed the house for the night, and she went to bed in her own pajamas. The clothes felt suffocating, however, and for the first time she'd slept naked.
The kidnapping had triggered the opposite response. With only a blanket to protect her from prying eyes, she layered herself with clothes upon her release. She'd sat in class, in her new school, bundled in a coat, over a sweater, over a blouse, and no amount of cajoling could coax her out of her cocoon, no matter how hot it got.
But even then she had felt uncomfortable. The clothes were a shield, nothing else. She would come home drenched in sweat, a rancid odor permeating her body, shut her door and strip completely.
Slowly, as her psyche was brought into balance, she'd adjusted, but she had always felt most comfortable in the nude.
The claustrophobic anxiety had returned in full intensity only when the overwhelming urge to kill had taken hold of her eighteen months before. As she stalked her quarry, her body strained against the confines of her clothes. The closer she came to confronting each devil, the greater the constriction. She could feel her body release its poison in the form of perspiration, and she'd sweat so profusely she had to bring a change of clothes to work to get through the day.
Today, watching Bobby had been at once exhilarating and excruciating. Like a jigsaw puzzle, the hazy outlines of Bobby Chattaway's daily routines were coming into focus.
Sunday morning he had returned to the rowhouse he'd visited the day before, the envelope of photos under his arm. He'd let himself in with a key and was out of the house in ten minutes. At eleven-thirty, dressed in the overalls of Duvall's Sunoco, he'd sauntered off to work.
Shara had watched in her car for several hours from a McDonalds' parking lot across the street. Bobby and an older man spent most of the day filling gas. Shara noticed how he would flirt with teenagers, seemingly taking no interest in a number of attractive women in their twenties who stopped for a fill-up.
At four, purely on impulse, Shara decided to get a closer look at the man. Her clothes by this time were drenched in sweat; her body odor pungent even to her. She locked the door to the women's room at McDonalds', stripped and washed herself with water from the sink. She donned a tight pair of cutoff jeans, halter top which just barely hid her tattoos, and a red wig, then drove across the street for a fill-up.
Bobby had given her a quick once over, and dismissed her. She'd gotten out off the car, bent over while he pumped gas, giving him an even better look. Still no reaction. She'd attempted to make smalltalk. His responses were monosyllables. When she'd paid him, she'd purposely ran her fingers over his hand; an open invitation that was rejected.
Across the street, she fought for air, the confines of the car so stifling she thought she would pass out. So close to him. It had been purely a lark, an experiment to see if only young teens appealed to him, but she hadn't counted on how being so close to him would affect her. She briefly made eye contact with him, and the impulse to run was so great, she had to literally fight the urge by holding on to the door handle of her car. His eyes had measured her, but in the end rejected her.
Fifteen minutes later she was saw him fawning over a girl no more than fourteen; the girl's brother, Shara assumed, who drove the car, ignoring the interplay that transpired. Bobby was animated, his hands making contact with the girls' several times. His laughter, at some crack she made, was loud enough to be heard across the street.
Yes, she thought, it was young girls and only young girls who interested Bobby Chattaway.
At six, the two men closed the station, and Bobby went directly home. Shara remained outside his apartment until eleven-thirty, but he never ventured out.
Driving home, Shara was aware she was still soaked to the bone. Her breathing was labored, and her body ached fiercely. She imagined all her pores clogged, poisons within her body unable to find escape. Lightheaded, she felt herself fortunate to get back to her place without passing out or being involved in an accident.
Only when she had been naked for fifteen minutes, did a semblance of normalcy return. Situps and pushups had slowly rid her body of its toxins; sweat streaming to the floor as her pores cleared. Still, she felt tense and paced the room like a caged animal, scratching the unblinking eyes on her chest.
She needed an outlet.
She thought of Deidre and instinctively picked up the phone and dialed her number.
Deidre picked the phone up on the first ring. Had she been waiting? Shara wondered, the thought bringing the first smile in hours to her face. Ever so slowly she began to relax, at one with her body that had seemed disembodied just a while before.
"Been busy?" Deidre replied.
Shara had to give her credit. If she'd been fazed by the call, she hid it well.
"Matter of fact I have. I've found him, Dee. The last. After him no more hungry eyes."
"How many times have you said that to yourself, Renee? Just one more, and you'll be free. Aren't you deluding yourself? After this one, they'll be another and another until you're caught."
"No. This is the last. This one's special. How many days was I held captive?"
"One for each day. Five down, one to go."
"Are you so sure? Can you turn it off like a faucet or have you lost control?"
"Six, Dee. I've saved this one for last. He's special. Different from the others."
"One of the cryptic clues you promised?" She sounded put off.
"A piece to the puzzle," she said. She was feeling so much better. The eyes no longer itched, no longer demanded attention. She was giving Deidre too much, she knew. Careful, she thought. You want her in the game, but there can be no sparing Bobby.
"I talked to your mother today," Deidre said.
It was like a slap in the face to Shara. She hadn't called to hear about her mother.
"And I thought my day was tough," Shara replied, masking the feeling of unease she felt. "How was the old cow?"
"Was she that bad to you?"
"Were the news accounts all true? We never talked about her much, but I recall you read and reread every article written about you."
"Some of the speculation stretched the truth a bit, but for the most part it was accurate, and there was more. How would you like asking who your father was, when you were seven or eight, and being told it could have been anyone of three or four men, maybe more. Even then, she wouldn't give me names. I don't even look like her. Both she and my half-brother have real light complexions, but mine is tawny. You don't know what it is not to know who your father was." She paused for a moment, deep in thought.
"You know, she didn't start to get real fat until after I was born. Blamed that on me, too. Told me time and time again her pigging out was my fault. I did something to throw her metabolism out of whack. She called it her plumbing. Gained a ton during the pregnancy, and kept going after I was born. She didn't have enough sense to go to a doctor to find out the cause. Figured I was to blame, and she made me pay, soon as I was old enough to sweep and cook and clean."
"I found her charming," Deidre said. "Your loss had a profound impact on her."
"Bullshit." She knew she was being baited. "Why did you speak to her anyway?"
"Didn't I tell you? I'm writing a series for the News. A retrospective to coincide with the anniversary of your release. The first part will be in Monday's paper."
"What kind of game are you playing?" Shara didn't like the feeling of losing control. This series had something to do with tracking her down. But how? "Talking to my mother won't help you find me. The clock's running out and you're spinning your wheels in sand."
"On the contrary, Renee. I'm gaining a whole new perspective on you. I also spoke with Costanzo's sister today. That will make for a fascinating story."
"What did she tell you? That I kidnapped him! You don't know what you're doing," she rushed on without waiting for an answer. She felt panic well within her, and had to fight to keep her composure.
"But I do, Renee. Remember you set the ground rules. Tell me where you are, I'll stop my probing right now?"
Shara was silent. She didn't want to say anything that might betray her churning emotions at the mention of Costanzo.
"I thought as much," Deidre finally said. "So we each continue on our way. But enough about my day. Tell me about the man you're tracking. What makes him so special?"
Shara told Deidre about Bobby, grudgingly at first. She was still angry. But once she began, the words flowed. She had always kept everything bottled up inside of her. Now here was someone she could talk to who would understand the man she hunted. She was tempted to play the tape she'd made, but didn't want to risk having her hear his voice. Instead, she painted a vivid picture of Bobby Chattaway that she knew could only make Deidre cringe.
"He's the worst scum, Dee. He rapes without touching. Ravages the soul. Destroys from within. Young girls, Dee. Lures them into his web, and scars them for life. And chances are if he's ever caught, all he'd get would be a slap on the wrist. He terrorizes them, but doesn't touch them. If rape can get you six months, and you know some can, what will he get? A first time offender to boot."
"How did you locate him, if he's never been arrested?"
"Did I say that?"
"He's been arrested, then, but never convicted?"
"Didn't say that either."
"Playing your little game again."
"C'mon, Dee. You expect me to give you his name and address? I've already told you too much about him. Just know this. We're talking about the worst kind of rapist. These girls, little more than children, will never lead normal lives. What he's done to them will be the focus of their existence; will tarnish all future relationships."
"Like what happened to you? Is that why he's so special? He's so much like Costanzo. Doing to young girls what Costanzo did to you?"
"Draw your own conclusions, Dee. But he's going down."
"You're a fraud, Renee."
This came out of the blue, and got Shara's attention. Deidre was clearly angry about something.
"This isn't about your ridding society of perverts. Cut the Vigilante bullshit. This is about you. You told me so. Six days held captive. Six victims in revenge. You can justify and rationalize who you kill all you want, but it's for you. The children whose lives he'll destroy are purely incidental."
"Can you blame me, after what I've been through? I never said I was this Vigilante the media created. You people come up with these convenient labels to hype the news. Well, you have to live with what your kind has created. Of course, what I'm doing is for me. And for me alone. I never said I was playing with a full deck. I'm no better than a junkie in need of his next fix, but I'll tell you, Dee, after this one I'm through."
"Why? I don't buy the one-for-each-day-you-were-held-captive crap. If the sixth were Costanzo, I could see closure, but he's long dead. Your sixth may be reprehensible, but like the junkie you say you are, can you stop at six?"
"I've already told you too much." She knew she sounded petulant, but if Deidre knew how close she was to the truth, she'd know why Chattaway would be her last.
"You're sounding like a broken record, Renee. You call me when you want to vent your spleen, and I get nothing in return. Sure, when you're caught I've got a great story, but it's not enough. You challenged me to track you down, but you offer no clues. Give me something, Renee. Or are you afraid I'm more than a match for you?"
Shara could have called her bluff, because she was fairly certain that's all it was. But, she decided to give her a morsel. It wouldn't be much, and it might keep her from getting too close.
"You want to interview someone who can give you a lead? Try my foster parents. I'm not jerking your chain. In an oblique way they can lead you to me. We'll talk soon, Dee. I'll be looking for your article."
With that she hung up.
Shara felt deflated. Though she hated to admit it, she had begun to think of Deidre as a friend. Their conversations, though, were becoming confrontations. She had gone seven years without companionship, and instead of communicating with Dee, they sparred with one another.
She had never had a man; knew she never would, though she didn't particularly regret it. As a dancer she'd come close, but no matter how much they offered she had never gone all the way. Any desire she might have had died when she was kidnapped.
The other Shara had been her only lover, but sex had played just a small part in their relationship. She'd learned only she could satisfy herself, and any pleasure she derived was only fleeting. Just another reason why Bobby couldn't be allowed his pillaging.
Her conversation with Deidre should have satisfied her, but instead she was disturbed. Deidre had put her on the defensive, had controlled the course of the discussion. Deidre was turning out to be a worthy adversary. Under normal circumstances she would have been pleased, but her obsession with Bobby clouded all else. She had to be vigilant. She was too close to her objective to be denied. Yet, she still wanted Deidre to be able to put it all together, after she had finished her work. She wanted to tell her everything so she would understand.
Drained, she drifted into a fitful sleep; the night filled with Bobby's eyes feeling her up, coursing through her body at will with no way for her to rid herself of him.
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