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Malicious Justice

Catherine has published many informative articles and enjoys the brevity of haiku verse. This is a first effort at writing a short story.


In the eerie blue glow of the TV, Tommy Skelton sat, slouched in his shabby oversized recliner. He smiled wickedly and felt a stir of excitement at the thought of the sassy blonde news anchor's cheerful face turning into a mask of horror.

The coverage of an arson and the discovery of grisly charred remains were all over the major networks. As he watched the lame interviews with bystanders, however, his dissatisfaction grew, and he vowed to step up his game.

Tommy turned off the headlights as he pulled to the curb in his dark 1978 Mercury. He slunk low behind the wheel and waited for his target to exit the parking structure. Catching sight of the signature blonde hair-do, he set off at a safe distance and followed the silver Infiniti into the night.

Francie Reid turned into her driveway and opened the garage door. Tomorrow she would put away the case of Fancy Feast and the two 16 lb. bags of dry cat food from her weekend shop at Costco.

Gathering her mail, she made her way to the front door and smiled as she took in the heady fragrance of the potted pink jasmine, a favorite harbinger of spring. It felt good to know the weather was warming and she could finally open up her house to the fresh air.

She had been hired as a copy editor by WTNH after impressing station management with her video interview while at the Beardsley Zoo. She quickly moved up the ranks and became a co-anchor for the nightly news two years ago. Since the untimely death of her husband in a climbing accident, Francie filled her time between the station and her volunteer work with the local cat rescue.

It had been an especially hard day with the media frenzy surrounding the arson/homicide and even more unsettling to think of a sicko within the local community. Francie kicked off her heels and made a stop in the kitchen to pour a glass of wine before heading upstairs. She was exhausted, yet wound up, and decided a hot bath would do her a world of good.

Tommy saw the light go on upstairs and licked his lips in anticipation. Francie Reid's love of cats was well known throughout Bridgeport, and he knew just how to get under her skin. He opened his trunk and removed his gloves, the Havahart trap, a towel, tuna, and gasoline can then headed to the side yard where he set up the trap and waited.

The hot soak, wine, and music worked their magic. Francie set her alarm, turned off the light, and soon drifted to sleep.

Tommy heard the snap of the trap and the frantic meowing of the very agitated tabby caught inside. He covered the trap with the towel, doused the whole thing with gas, and tossed in a match.

The inhuman scream was hair-raising, and the random lights came on up and down the street as people where jarred awake. Francie bolted down the stairs and out the door. Her next door neighbor was already on the scene and had extinguished the flames and called the police.

The acrid smell of charred fur sent Francie's stomach into spasms, and she vomited between heaving sobs while her neighbor offered support. This was likely the feral cat she had been patiently trying to coax for weeks, and Francie was overcome with anger and grief.

Detective Nathan Chambers took the call and prepared himself for the likelihood of a copycat prank in the wake of the day's awful news. He called his partner, Laura Kimball, apologizing for waking her and summoning her to duty on what was to be a much needed day off. Thankfully, Laura did most of the fact gathering since Francie was too traumatized for the cold interrogation of Detective Chambers.

Once the report was taken, Francie was asked to drop by the station in the morning for more questioning. The forensics team took over, and the detectives climbed into their Crown Vic, disgusted at the senseless animal cruelty. The neighbors, who had gathered, began to disperse, and Francie went inside and fitfully tried to sleep.

Tommy, who had blended in with the crowd in the ensuing chaos, felt thrilled that he had so deeply struck a nerve and been successful in weakening his prey. His need for torment and sadism was insatiable and growing stronger.

"Do as I say, or I'll widen that pretty smile of yours," he whispered in ragged breaths. "Now get up slowly, and we'll walk to the bathroom."

Francine, after dropping by the police station in the morning, was still too shaken to do her broadcast, and Tommy noticed. He took this as his cue.

Tommy stuffed his tools into an old canvas gym bag and threw it into the trunk. He still had a nearly full container of gas. As he cruised by Francie's house, he saw the lights on upstairs and decided to park in the cul de sac and wait for them to go out.

Allowing time for Francie to fall asleep, he entered through an unlocked kitchen window and carefully pulled his gear in behind him. Tommy made his way into the front hall and assessed the layout, remembering the light in the window was in the southeast corner of the house. Once his eyes adjusted to the ambient light, he crept up the stairs to Francie.

Tommy could see that she was softly breathing, likely sedated with sleeping pills. He set down his bag and pulled out a 6" knife. Francie's eyes sprang open, and he put his hand over her mouth and the knife to her throat.

"Do as I say, or I'll widen that pretty smile of yours," he whispered in ragged breaths. "Now get up slowly, and we'll walk to the bathroom."

Francie got up carefully while Tommy held the knife at her neck and shuffled to the adjoining room. The blade nicked her, and there was a little blood on the lacy trim of her garment. Her eyes widened in fear when she saw the tarp in the tub, the gasoline, and the handcuffs dangling from the faucets.

"Get in!" he barked, excited to think of her being forced to watch herself burn in the mirrors that lined the walls. His hands began to tremble as Francine did what she was told, and he retightened his grip on the knife with his blood smudged fingers.

Tommy locked the cuffs one at a time, first the right, then the left. He was glad to finally drop the knife. He stuffed a washcloth in her mouth and placed a strip of duct tape over it, then secured her ankles. It gave him sadistic pleasure to imagine her efforts at saving herself with shower water when he had turned it off at the main.

Tommy saw little need to enshroud her like his other victim since her synthetic nightgown was readily flammable and would likely stick to her skin. He was reaching for his lighter when the door burst open and he knew he had two Glocks intently aimed at him.

"You're the one being burned. Now hands up!" shouted Detective Kimball. "We've got the whole thing on camera." "Read him his rights, Chambers! I'll call for back up."

© 2022 Catherine Tally

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