The most deadly predator frequently parades as prey


To: Administrator Jason Cossley

From: Gary Adams, PhD.

Re: Terry James

... (S)ubject continues his delusion. ... I've enclosed a tape and transcript of my last visit, and based on this and three other interviews am recommending Mr. James be transferred to the Bigg's Unit for the Criminally Insane in Fulton.

Based on these interviews, we have James' admission in at least two non-negligent homicides, and his apparent collusion in the death of an acquaintance. ... The criminal investigations have been hampered by authorities' inability to find one woman's remains.

* * * * * * *

We live in the soft underbelly of the city the Chamber calls the Last Livable City. Here, we dwell, alone, preying on each other.

The night Billy and I saw the dolly, strollin' down the street, she set us back. She walked forcefully, with authority. I wouldn't have taken here down if Billy hadn't goaded me.

"Look at here," he said. "Bet she's toting dope or money."

"Cool it," I said. I loathed Billy. He and me hung out together for over three years, but I never got used to him. That day, I made up my mind to be shed of him. Never expected it to be so abrupt.

Dolly made me nervous. She wasn't a hooker though she did have that look about here -- that look of a predator. Her face had that cadaverous look you see on some of the older whores who've used their bodies up until nothing's left. But Dolly was too young to be that old. Lousy makeup, I decided.

Dolly ignored catcalls from a couple of winos and turned aside the advances of two undercover dicks who were rousting whores for the mayor. The Republicans were due in that bicentennial year, and the mayor wanted clean streets. In more ways than one.

She strode past us, and we quietly picked up her trail; so as not to tip off the two dicks. We followed her a couple, maybe three blocks. At least I think we followed her. She made it easy for us to keep close; up until Billy and I flanked her, I wasn't sure who was stalking who.

We pulled alongside her; bounced her into the alley where she hit a wall and spun off the brick.

"Your purse," I said.

She didn't say nothin'. She closed her eyes to slits and she hissed like a friggin' lizard.

"Your purse, woman," Billy said. He lunged for her bag. She turned on him, kicked, and sent him sprawling. He fell holdin' himself and bawlin' like a baby.

Dolly spun and I remember wishin' she'd calm down, take it easy. All that crap they teach you at the YWCA don't mean squat out here. I pulled my knife.

When I circled and moved in, Dolly kicked my wrist, knocking the knife away. She was fast. I saw her aimin' another kick and I waited until she settled. When she committed herself and was just a little off balance, I leaned into her, caught her foot when she kicked, and dumped her hard onto the pavement. I hung onto her boot and twisted her onto her belly. She lay there, stunned, while I pulled the garrote.

It was a short cord. Piano wire. I carried it in my jacket's sleeve, a habit I'd gotten into while livin' on the streets.

While Dolly lay there, gaspin', I pounced on her back, looped the garrote under her chin and around her throat, and pulled it tight. I was afraid she might start screamin' and bring the two undercover dicks down on us.

I cinched it tighter, arching her off the pavement and bowing her back. Her fingers clawed at the wire, which was biting deep into her throat and cutting off air and circulation. She kicked and bucked. Her claws raked my hand but I had the angle and the weight. She couldn't break free.

She bucked again.

Billy gained his feet. "Kill her," he wheezed. "Kill her before she gets free."

That wasn't likely, I remember thinking. I'd taken down a few people this way, most recently a hooker who'd turned her pimp off when she decided to freelance and keep the night's take; she went down easy and no one ever found her.

But Dolly was a fighter. She kicked a couple more times, then weakened. She bucked back once more, and I felt her lose a little of that strength. She didn't buck anymore, but I did feel her strain against the wire, then weaken some more. Strain, then weaken; strain, then weaken; strain, then weaken. A slow cycle. Even that died. When her struggles ceased, I pulled her back more deeply into the alley, away from where a car might light us up. I kept the garrote tight for three or four more minutes, then loosened it and rolled her over onto her back.

Billy had finally gathered himself when I walked out of the alley. I didn't bother to look at Dolly -- I knew from experience what she'd look like. Her tongue would be swollen and stickin' out of her mouth, lookin' for the world like a red rat too fat for the rat hole. Her eyes would be red and blood would be streaking down from the corners of her eyes. Blood would have frothed around her painted lips, and her face would be dark blue or purple, depending on how close to the surface her blood vessels were. She'd look like a stepped-on kitten with claws extended to feebly rake the crushing boot of an attacker.

"She dead?" Billy hissed. I started -- he sounded like Dolly.

"Dead." I said. I leaned against the wall, suddenly weak.

While I'd been doin' Dolly, Billy had been lashin' around, looking for her purse. He'd found it, and opened it while I caught my wind.

Under the glare of a street light, he pulled open the purse, and whistled.

"No wonder she'd put up such a fuss," he said.

Billy pulled out a fistful of bills; tens, twenties, fifties and a couple I'd never seen before. We quickly counted out three thousand dollars. And more. In the wavering light, Billy and I saw gold jewelry, an expensive man's watch, a dozen or more large rings with diamonds and jewels. It was a huge haul.

"I bet we hit her just after she stiffed some john," I said, relieved. That made sense -- that explained her actions. Dolly was one of us. But she was out of her league in this part of town.

"Bet she's got some stuff on her," said Billy.

"C'mon," I said. "Forget her. Let's get out of here; we got plenty." But Billy ignored me and scurried into the alley to paw over Dolly.

I waited at the mouth of the alley, waitin' for Billy and watchin' for the cops. If anybody'd shown up, I'd have split. I'd retrieved my knife and rewound the garrote. I stood in the shadows, waiting.

"Billy." I whispered, not too loudly. "C'mon. If you can find anything by now, there ain't nothing."

There was a flurry, like rats running for boxes, then silence. After a couple of seconds, I heard a soft pop, then sick, liquid noises.

"You idiot," I hissed, louder. "You ain't got time for that crap. Those cops'll be here any second. Move your butt.

No response.

The sibilant sounds ceased.

After a few more seconds, I went back to fetch Billy out of there.

I tripped over a body. I cussed when I fell -- I skinned up my knee -- and I pushed away the corpse. It didn't feel right; felt heavier.

Feeling a cold spot growing in the middle of my stomach, I hooked the body's foot and dragged it toward a pool of light.

In the night light of the city, Billy's empty eyes looked at me.

As I stared at the body, I felt nerves screamin' a warning. He couldn't be looking at me, I thought. He's layin' on his belly on his belly his belly and his head omigawd his head his head his head.

His head was turned completely around.

Billy was lookin' at me, his head twisted around on the shoulders and lookin' backwards.

He was lookin', all right, but not at me, not at me. I felt the short hairs on my neck liftin' and saw he was lookin not at me but behind me behind me right right BEHIND ME.

I spun.

There was movement at the edge of the light, and hissin'. That lizard hiss. But Dolly wasn't there; there was nothin' there.

I felt my right leg go numb and I tumbled to the pavement. Under the light, I fought her; I put my hands to my throat. I could see her, spurts of her, lookin' at me, cursin' my hands and raking them again and again and again with talons, suddenly longer, sharper. Her eyes were red and her skin deep blue (vessels were close to the surface) and I pushed up, turned to run, but she kicked me. Casually. I felt my left knee explode and felt it slosh like water in a wine bottle. Then pain. Searing pain streaking up my left side, burning the nerves wide open. I tried to scream, but Dolly wrapped long hands around my throat, closin' off my air.

Light shined off broken glass; dark red eyes burned into mine. Dolly's face, her lips curled, wide, long teeth, her lips curled wide, opened -- a rat peeked his head out from behind her tongue -- lolled her mouth open wider and wider and wider; she pulled me closer.

Those teeth! Those damn, damn teeth!

Copyright © 1996, Jim Roberts

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