Chapter Twenty ~
He sat in the basement, simmering. He’d managed to stay one step ahead of them the whole time, until now. They knew who he was. Although Amy Masters remembered he’d cleaned their pool, she obviously didn't remember he'd come in to 'use the restroom.' He'd had their place bugged ever since and was amazed they hadn't thought to check for them, knowing what a maniac Jackson Masters was over their safety. He cackled as he remembered their prayer to their God to enable them to catch him. No one could stop him if he didn't allow it. He rubbed both hands through his thick, dark hair and slid to the floor, crying uncontrollably. He knew he was losing it, but he had one more move to make before the 'glitter killings' could end. I have to kill Jude Johnson. Back in high school he’d admired Jude for his good looks, smarts, and his popularity, all things he hadn't possessed back then. He still possessed all those charms, only ten-fold more. It wasn't fair. And that’s why I have to kill him. Why should he be allowed to live?
The memory of how Jude had cuffed him on the head when he'd timidly asked for a little friendship from his high school hero still stung just as much now as it had then. He'd never asked for friendship before, and he never had again.
As if it wasn’t enough my father abused and tormented me, I’ve had to live with the knowledge of my rejection from the one person I looked up to. He took a deep breath to quell his anger.
He’d gone crazier and crazier each night his father had come home covered in blood and gore. One night, he couldn't take the torment of not knowing what his father was up to anymore and he snuck out and followed him. He watched as his father murdered a woman, cut her body into pieces and spread red-and-gold glitter all over the house.
At first, young Kenny had been horrified, but the fascination soon set in. When his father left the house, his young son snuck in. He took in every detail of that crime scene and he'd recreated it so many times now he'd lost count. He'd been so good at copying his father the police had never even suspected it wasn't the same killer committing all the crimes.
When Kenny went home that first night, he'd waited until his father had showered and gone to sleep, and then he'd killed him like he'd seen his father do just hours before. He'd dragged his sorry carcass down the steps of the basement, chopped him up in little pieces and fed him into the hungry iron mouth of the coal stove. He'd never looked back. The certainty he'd come to was that his mother had suffered the same fate. He'd told her goodnight one night and gone to bed like usual. When he came down to breakfast the next morning she wasn't there, and she’d never returned. Kenny knew his mother would never have willingly given him up. She was dead, and he believed his father had murdered her. He could still smell the sunshine of her short, dark-brown hair and hear the tinkle of her huge hoop earrings as they swirled and scratched against each other.
Kenny realized he was on the floor, but powerless to move. His thoughts were too painful to pull out of. He felt the childish tears as they ran down his face. He swiped at them like an angry child and stood up in a huff. "I will not go down this way." He stomped over to his work bench to ready for his next guest. He hoped his table was long enough for Jude to fit on...he was one tall drink of water.
The others had already begun to show up downstairs the next morning when Jude put in his first appearance. "Good morning. I trust you all slept well?" He grabbed a blueberry muffin from the platter in the middle of the table and took a seat.
"Grumble, grumble," Jackson responded in a mock-grouchy voice as he walked in behind Jude and grabbed a strawberry, banana-nut muffin and plopped down in his own chair. "Chester, I smell the coffee. Would you be a dear old soul and grab me a cup?"
"Most certainly, Mr. Masters, sir."
"Cut it out, uncle. Everyone here knows who you are now," Jackson said with a little curl to his lip.
"Yes, but it's such fun to get a rise out of you." Chester gave a hearty chuckle.
"It's so hard to find respectful help these days," Jackson returned.
"Yes, and twice as hard to find respectful nephews and employers," Chester finished with a quirk of his lips. He walked over and poured Jackson a cup of strong, black coffee, and handed it to his nephew. "Will that be all?"
"Yes Uncle Chester," Jackson laughed. "Lauren isn't up yet? I would think as an FBI agent she would be an early riser," He said to Jude.
"She usually is. She's probably just more exhausted than usual because of all that's been going on. I'll go up and knock on her door." Jude moved to get up from his chair.
"You'll do no such thing, mister. Lauren is a single woman and it isn't proper for you go to her bedroom. Besides, I stopped on my way down and she yelled she was in the bath tub. Give her some breathing room before you smother her with kindness," Amy said as she came into the kitchen and grabbed her own strawberry, banana-nut muffin and plopped on one of the bar stools at the counter.
"Wow, is it always this crazy around here?" Justy asked from her seat at the table.
"No, it's only crazy when Scott starts talking," Otis kidded.
"Oh sure, pick on the partner,” Scott said affectionately from his position at the bar.
"At least you have a partner to tease,” Amos said as he came into the room and grabbed a muffin.
"Did anyone have any genius ideas about how we're going to catch this guy?" Amy asked as she finished her muffin and grabbed an apple from the fruit bowl in front of her on the bar.
"Well, I didn't exactly have any genius ideas, but I figure we're one up on the monster because he doesn't know we know who he is. He'll go on thinking he's free and clear and we'll be watching and waiting for that fatal mistake," Jude said. His phone rang and he pulled it out of his jeans pocket. He didn't usually wear jeans, he was a suit man, but today seemed like a 'casual' day. "Hello?"
A sinister laugh was the first thing Jude heard, and then, "Hello Jude, my friend." It was said in such a hateful and sarcastic voice Jude flinched.
"Who is this?" Jude asked, already knowing the answer.
"This is your friend, Kenny, remember?" The killer said in amusement.
"How did you get my number?" Jude asked. What is he up to now?
"Oh, I've managed to get pretty much whatever I've wanted in this life. It just takes a little bit of will power, and a lot of meanness." He laughed crudely.
"Why are you so set on causing me trouble?" Jude was fed-up with this man's games.
"Oh, how soon we forget the error of our ways," The killer said in a sing-song voice.
"Just tell me what the deal is, I'm sick and tired of you," Jude returned firmly. He was trying to make him angry. He knew if he did he might get the upper hand. People made mistakes when they got mad.
"You know, when I was young I wanted a friend something fierce. Around about the time I went to high school I finally got up the courage to ask someone to be my friend, and he laughed at me. Do you know who that person was?" His voice had gradually risen until he was almost screaming.
"That was a long time ago, man. Don't blame me for your evil soul," Jude said. He was feeling anything but calm on the inside, but he wanted Kenny to think he was unaffected.
"It feels like yesterday to me," Kenny screamed. "You want to know why I'm so angry, that's why. What you did to me, how you made me feel, that's what made me what I am today." He wasn't screaming anymore but he was still loud enough for Jackson to hear. He was sitting close to Jude and he mouthed the word 'speaker.' Jude hit the speaker button and waited for Kenny to start talking again.
"You men think you have me now? You're nothing but a bunch of has-beens. You've even got two preachers trying to help you. Pulease...give me some credit. Even I can outsmart the likes of them," He said nastily. "It would help you guys if you were playing on the same level I am. Ask yourselves one question; Where is Justy's poor little kitty cat?" He asked in a pouty voice and hung up the phone. They all looked at each other.
"I forgot all about that cat," Jude said in exasperation.
"I did too, and he’s my own sweet kitty." Justy went to look for Mr. Piddles. "Mr. Piddles, where are you?" She ran from the room.
"Has anyone seen it lately? I can't believe I forgot all about it." Jackson pulled out his phone to make a call.
An hour later it was obvious the cat was indeed gone. There was no hope it was still alive. If Kenny did get him they would never see him again. "What are we going to tell Justy...?” Jude began. His sentence was cut-off as she walked into the room.
"Tell me what? That my cat is missing? I already know. He wouldn't have wandered off by himself. He's too lazy, besides, he's a scaredy-cat. He probably already killed him, didn't he?" Her voice was small and sad.
"I hate to say yes, but it’s probably true. If Mr. Piddles managed to get out of the house he could’ve snapped him up," Amy said. “I hope he’s just hiding in here somewhere.”
"That call was a little too odd. There's no way he wasted the time to call you with news he'd taken Justy's cat. There's something else," Shepherd said. "He isn't going to tip his hand with that."
"What are you thinking?" Isaiah Cobb asked.
"I'm not sure yet. Maybe he was trying to discern where we were."
"How could he tell by a phone call?" Justy asked.
"I don't know. Maybe he hoped Jude would give it away somehow. I just know he was up to something," Shepherd said.
"We have to get him before he kills someone else," Amy said.
"I want to be the one to get him. He made a fool out of me," Lauren said as she entered the kitchen and grabbed one of the now-cold muffins. "Where are the kids?" She sat down at the bar and took a huge bite out of a strawberry, banana-nut muffin.
"They’re in their dining room upstairs with Maria. I wanted us to be able to discuss what's going on without exposing the children to it," Amy said, smiling softly.
"That's a good idea," Pastor Shepherd told her. "The children need to stay as innocent of this as possible. So many people today expose their children to so much violence it's almost natural that they gravitate that way."
"I'm off to the living room. I want to look up a few things on the computer," Jackson said as he stood up. Most of the men stood up to follow, and so did Amy and Justy.
"Are you coming with us?" Amy looked asked Lauren, who hadn’t followed them.
"Yes, I’ll be in as soon as I finish my muffin.”
"Don't worry about it, just bring it with you. I usually take something in there with me when I'm hungry,” Amy suggested.
"Okay, I wasn't sure. A lot of people don't allow eating in the living room." Lauren got up to follow them.
"I normally wouldn't either, but the couches are washable. Besides, you don't want to miss anything being said, do you?" Amy asked.
"No, you're right about that. I just wanna catch this guy so bad I can almost taste it," Lauren said.
As they followed the men to the living room, Justy was wondering, what’s going to happen to me, to all of us?