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Authors: Maggie Shayne

Killing Me Softly

BOOK: Killing Me Softly
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Praise for the novels of

“A tasty, tension-packed read.”

Publishers Weekly
Thicker Than Water

“Tense…frightening…a page-turner in the best sense.”

RT Book Reviews
Colder Than Ice

“Mystery and danger abound in
Darker Than Midnight,
a fast-paced, chilling thrill read that will keep readers turning the pages long after bedtime… Suspense, mystery, danger and passion—no one does them better than Maggie Shayne.”

Romance Reviews Today
Darker Than Midnight
(winner of a Perfect 10 award)

“Maggie Shayne is better than chocolate. She satisfies every wicked craving.

New York Times
bestselling author Suzanne Forster

“Shayne's haunting tale is intricately woven… A moving mix of high suspense and romance, this haunting Halloween thriller will propel readers to bolt their doors at night.”

Publishers Weekly
The Gingerbread Man

“[A] gripping story of small-town secrets. The suspense will keep you guessing. The characters will steal your heart.”

New York Times
bestselling author Lisa Gardner on
The Gingerbread Man

Kiss of the Shadow Man
is a “crackerjack novel of romantic suspense.”

RT Book Reviews

Also by Maggie Shayne





Wings in the Night series

















Look for Maggie Shayne's next novel


available August 2010


To my critique group, the Packeteers: Cactus Chris Wenger, Micki Malone aka Michele Masarech, Gayle Callen aka Julia Latham, Laurie Lance “Bugs” Bishop, Theresa Kovian and Ginny Aubertine. I couldn't have written these books without your brilliance and brainstorming. More importantly, no writer could dream up friends as beautiful and as true as all of you. You are loved, and deeply, deeply appreciated.


t had been sixteen years since I'd killed anyone. But I was going to kill someone tonight.

It had also been sixteen years since I'd taken the Thunderbird out of the garage, where I kept it under lock and key. Garage, hell, it was more like a crypt. I'd thought the killer inside me would die, given time. So I'd buried him in my subconscious, and I'd buried his car in my garage, even covered it up with a death-shroud tarp. I'd covered up the trophy wall, too. I'd told myself never to set foot inside that garage again.

But I had.

Every now and then,
voice would get to me, and I'd go in, start the T-Bird up, let it run, listen to it purr and feel that old thrill I used to get when we had been on our way to take another victim. Sometimes I would even slide the phony pegboard wall aside, to look at the cinder-block it covered. To look at all their faces. So pretty. Always smiling. Always young.

I'd taken the T-Bird out tonight. And the kit. I'd brought the kit along, as well, though I had no intention
of using it. I nearly always had the kit at hand. It was a way of testing myself, I think. A way of making sure I was the one in charge, the one in control. That I could resist the urges of the beast within.

I was going to kill the rookie cop, yeah. But it would be a simple kill, just a bullet to the back of the head and a scene made to look like a home invasion gone bad. It wasn't the nemesis within me committing this crime. It was me, all me, this time. And I had no choice.

But my alter ego was with me, coming along for the ride, getting a hell of a thrill out of the whole thing. He loved killing. He loved it way more than I did. And that was saying something, because I'd come to relish it myself. There was no other rush quite as potent.

Still, this wasn't going to be like the others. This wasn't about the rush; this was about necessity.

Getting inside the house was easy. It would've been easy even for a virgin without any kills under his belt. For me, it was child's play. The small brick house's door wasn't locked. There was no security system. Every light in the place was turned off. A cop oughtta know better. Even a rookie like him.

There had been a party earlier in the evening, but the guests had cleared out. The doorknob turned easily in my hand, and I stepped inside, into inky darkness. I paused there, just inside the door, giving my eyes time to adjust. It was darker inside than out. A different kind of darkness. Heavier. Denser.

Still, I managed to see a little. And I could tell what I would have been seeing, had there been any light,
just by the smells permeating the place and assaulting my sensitive olfactory receptors. Overflowing ashtrays. Half-filled beer bottles, some of which had been used as ashtrays, so the scents of sour beer and wet tobacco mingled in the air, nearly making me gag on them. Stale potato chips and spoiling dip melted together in plastic recyclable bowls, adding to the pungence.

My senses were always heightened when I was getting ready to kill. They were heightened to hell and gone tonight, maybe because it had been so long. I was shivering with it, feeling everything. Even the rub of my black clothing against my skin was arousing to me.

I moved carefully, slowly, taking my time and knowing I had plenty. All I wanted. The rookie wasn't going to wake up. So I took my time, enjoying every second of it. Walking soundlessly through his darkened home I felt, I thought, like a hunter must feel when stalking prey through a dense jungle. But not just
prey. I'm talking an elephant or a lion. Something that could kill you just as easily as you could kill it. Something dangerous.

Though you might disagree with me, given the nature of my victims, I've never believed there is any animal more dangerous than a human being. I never will. It's the intelligence. It's the mind that makes it so. Be it a young, beautiful woman, or tonight's prey—a young man in his prime. A cop.

I made my way to the bedroom, measuring every step I took. It didn't feel as if it had been as many years as it had—sixteen since my first time. Her name was Sara,
that first one. I remembered every detail of her face—and of her death. I was as sharp and as tight tonight as if I'd killed only last week. Or last night. Maybe the years had mellowed my nerves and honed my skills. I wasn't even shaking or sweating the way I usually did when I got into the same room with the evening's chosen one.

Silencing my thoughts, I listened, and heard slow, steady breathing from beneath a mound of blankets on the bed. My heart pumped a little faster. The compulsion came to life within me, like a fire in my blood. I felt that dark, hungry twin, alive inside me. I'd kept him silent for a long while, trapped in some kind of induced coma—until now. Now he was wide-awake. I closed my eyes and reminded myself—and
—that this was going to be different. We were not going to start up again. Not like before. It would be just this once. It was necessary.

We had no choice, really. He knew, you see. Or, at least, he suspected.

Gently, we pulled the covers back.

And the dark twin within my soul roared in delight, even while I shook my head in denial. For the person in the bed was not the man I had come here to kill.

A young woman was lying there instead. She was sound asleep and reeking of beer, but still, beautiful. In the darkness, her skin appeared pale and flawless. Her hair was long, straight and sleek. Just the way I liked it. It looked to be light brown.

It had to be,
my newly awakened twin whispered to
That's your favorite shade, isn't it? She's here for us. I knew she would be. So did you. Come on, don't deny it. You knew.

What I
I reminded myself, was that the voice, the twin, was not real. It was nothing more than a part of my mind, a twisted part, the part I'd managed to ignore all this time. Though I'd never silenced him entirely. Even while he'd slept, I heard him in my dreams. Maybe he only slept while I was awake, and vice versa. I wished he would shut up now, though, because this was not what I wanted. Not now.

You knew she would be here,
he pressed.
Sooner or later, she had to be. That's why you used the T-Bird tonight. It's why you brought the kit in with you.

But he was wrong. I carried the kit as reminder—a testament to the power of my will and my ability to control the impulse. To control

Bullshit. You brought it for this. You brought it in hopes of finding this very moment—this moment we both knew would come. It's a gift! You've been waiting sixteen years for this! Take it out. Come on, take it out. You know you want to.


Yes. And you know you will.
will. Why fight what we are?

My hands trembling, I slid the backpack off my shoulders and, reaching inside, pulled out the leather bag. The one that hadn't seen use in the sixteen years since I'd taken my final victim and framed another man for the crime. It was about the size of a shaving
kit, with a zipper on three sides. I felt alive again as I slowly unzipped it, careful not to make too much noise and yet exhilarated at the risk that I would be heard. I leaned over her. I felt passion I hadn't felt in a decade and a half. My heartbeat pounded in my ears, as my skin heated and my hands tingled. It seemed as if my other half melded with me as I crept to the head of the bed and stood between her and the wall behind me. So I could get her from behind and watch her face in the mirror that topped the dresser on the opposite side of the room.

I took the black silk stocking from the kit and slid it carefully beneath her neck, all without disturbing her drunken sleep. Her skin was warm against my gloved fingertips. I heard the twin inside me groan in delicious anticipation as we pulled the stocking into position. As we began to pull it tight. And then tighter. And tighter still.

She came awake fast. Her eyes flew wide, and her hands rose to clutch at her throat. I pulled the stocking even tighter, lifting her upper body off the bed as I did, so that she, too, could see the entire game play out in the mirror.

As I'd hoped, the sight enhanced her terror. Seeing me there, behind her, all in black, big and powerful, steadily choking the life out of her. She knew there was no hope. She thrashed in the bed, mouth opening wide, face turning red. A rush, not unlike the one produced by a hit of Ecstasy, only much,
better, washed through my body like a warm, vibrant, all-
encompassing wave as we slowly, steadily, squeezed the life out of her. She wasn't so pretty anymore, with her tongue swollen and filling the space between her parted lips.

When her eyes rolled back in her head, I let go of the stocking and turned to the case again. I took out the two custom-made shot glasses, with the artwork on them that so seemed to reflect the predator inside me. The crimes we committed together. I took out the copper flask, as well, and I poured both shot glasses full of whiskey.

After a moment, she started to rouse. Her eyelids trembled rapidly, before they fully opened, then widened as she realized I was still there. She opened her mouth to speak, and I gripped her chin with one hand, forcing her teeth open. I poured her shot of whiskey into her throat. She couldn't swallow; she began to choke. Without letting a second tick past, I dropped the glass and grabbed the black stocking again, and this time I pulled it tighter, jerking it harder, twisting it with all my might and easily crushing her throat with that soft bit of black silk.

I heard the gurgling as she drowned in the whiskey. I saw the foamy spit running over her lower lip and her chin. Her eyes bulged as if they would pop, tears running from the outer corners. Her entire body jerked and spasmed. A single purple vein in her forehead expanded and pulsed beneath her blue-tinted skin.

And then it stopped pulsing.

There was a palpable change when they died. I always
knew the very moment when it happened. There was no more awareness on their part, no more struggle or shock or fear. There was just a sudden absence of…of
really. And, with it, came a rush of release within me that made an ordinary orgasm pale in comparison. There was nothing like this feeling.

As life fled the girl's body, as I
it flee, the sensation continued trembling through me. It lit me up. I felt it in every nerve ending, in every deliciously sensitized inch of my skin, in the quivering of my stomach and the aftershocks convulsing my muscles. I eased the pressure on the silk stocking, my head tipping back, my eyes falling closed as I sighed and shuddered in delectable bliss.

Then slowly, cell by cell, my brain came back online, like a computer being rebooted. The lights came on in order. The hard drive began to whir. The pleasure ebbed into a warm glow that filled my body and would last, I knew, for days. But the delight receded enough to allow rationality and practical considerations renewed access to the forefront of my mind.

I hadn't accomplished what I had set out to do tonight. Not precisely. But I could still achieve the end I'd intended. I'd just need to take a slightly different, and perhaps more torturous, path to get to the same destination. I could still do it. I knew how.

And besides, this way was so much better.

You're right, I told my twin, alive and wide-awake inside me now. It was. God, it was. It's been so long.

Sixteen years too long.

I nodded. Then quickly stopped myself. It won't happen again, though. As good as it was, I can't let it happen again. I won't.

Oh, who the hell are you kidding? You're back, my friend. You're back, and you're glad of it. You've missed this. You know you have.

Ignoring the one who, in that moment, felt like my oldest and dearest friend—and the only one who ever had or ever would understand me—I released the stocking that had seen so many throats before, slid it from around her neck and returned it to the case. I had other work to do this night, to make this go the way I needed it to. But first, there was one more thing.

I picked up the second shot glass, from where I'd set it on the nightstand, put it to my lips and tipped it up, swallowing my celebratory drink.


It was tradition, after all.

BOOK: Killing Me Softly
5.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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