This story is by E.J. van der Velde and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The small turnout at her father’s burial had surprised few, for he was a hard man and the little respect he had earned had been the by-product of fear as opposed to admiration. Her mother had shed tears of relief today. No one cried tears of sadness for the passing of her late husband, yet her words evoked deep emotion in the hearts of the modest gathering.
“I will not mourn the man who lays here today, for he is a stranger. Moments of tenderness have been overshadowed by enforced conformity and brutality. Yet as I stand here, my words do not come from a place of bravery, but cowardice.”
Her voice broke as she struggled to retain her composure. “I failed to protect my family, my little Meredith.” With this, her imprisoned tears escaped, flowing freely until she could no longer speak. As her mother bowed her head and returned to the seat beside her, Meredith quickly wiped away the single tear that escaped from the corner of her eye and hoped no one had noticed.
Meredith Miller traced her fingers over the raised scar above her eyebrow as she studied the face looking back at her in the bathroom mirror. Her black dress lay abandoned on the bathroom floor as she stood tall with perfect athletic posture attained through her father’s rigorous exercise routine. Rule of Conduct Number 1: Stay lean, kill clean, she recited.
She stared hard into her light green eyes, barely blinking, feeling her soul darkening with the shrinking of her pupils. She stared at her reflection long enough to feel haunted by the blurred demonic like figure staring back at her. I finally know how to make you proud Mr. Miller, I will teach your lessons, as you taught me.
Meredith was aware she didn’t have time to spare and dressed quickly. The tightness of her latex catsuit helped her focus on her task, or rather her target. She felt fast and powerful and the contrast of her green eyes against the blackness of both her suit and short hair gave her an intense appearance that mirrored the plans she had in store for tonight. It would be her first hunt without her father.
She made her way to the familiar street lined with majestic sweet gum trees, parking her car in the shadows some two hundred feet away from her destination. The cranberry bush at the edge of the lawn provided the perfect camouflage to observe her target.
A dog barked in the distance, though far away enough not to cause her any concern. She dared not make a sound as her eyes glinted through the leaves in the moonlight. She waited; her gaze fixed firmly on the front door illuminated by the rusty porch light. She peeled back the cuff of her sleeve. 8:39 p.m. It’s time, Daniel. It’s time for your Overeaters Anonymous meeting you fat bastard. Except you’re not so anonymous, are you Daniel?
Daniel Johnson was an enormous human being with an exaggerated sense of personal territory. On more than one occasion she had observed him unintentionally bumping others, unaware of the proximity of his girth to both people and objects alike. The morning on which she had chosen him, she had sat observing him in the local Starbucks as he ordered his usual Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino and a sandwich containing what appeared to be an entire fried breakfast as a filler. Having been handed his order by an overly polite waitress, he had smiled and continued smiling as he turned and tipped someone’s table sending their coffee nosediving to the floor. Completely oblivious to the destruction caused behind him, he sat and devoured his entire meal in less time than humanly possible.
Dirty Dan, she mused. She felt nothing but repugnance for his limitless appetite for food and lack of self-control. She flinched at the memory of his large frame hunched over the table as though guarding his plate and how he audibly exhaled in preparation for another oversized bite with his next inward breath.
Just like the scars on her skin, her father’s lessons were etched into her memory forever. Dan needed to be taught a lesson too, of that she was sure.
From the edge of the lawn, she watched him leave and followed soon after in her black SUV. She drove only half of Dan’s journey and would wait for his return on a quiet dirt track he used as a short cut. She attached the silencer to her Glock 17 and placed it in its holster on her right hip.
10:20 p.m. It’s almost time, Danny Boy. She parked her car across the track, dimmed her lights, and propped the hood open. She grasped the pepper spray tightly in her right hand, taking long deep breaths to steady her nerves. She had studied him well enough to know that he would easily be duped into offering his assistance.
Finally, in the distance, she could see lights approaching. Her heart was beating fast now as she stood waiting on the far side of her SUV. The red pickup truck soon came to a stop.
“Hey, y’all okay out there?” she heard Dan shout.
“Hello, Sir? Can you please help me, the darn engine gave up and I don’t know the first thing about cars.”
“Sure thing lady, let me grab my flashlight”.
Dan heaved himself out of the pick-up truck, breathing hard from the physical effort. He waddled slowly and awkwardly towards the SUV, each step requiring a concentrated effort as the breadth of each thigh restricted the movement of the other.
Meredith now stood by the hood of the SUV and as Dan approached, she could smell the vanilla of his cologne carried by the warm breeze. It dawned on her that she had never been so physically close to her target and as he neared to within a foot of her face, she saw a kindness in his eyes that she felt completely unprepared for.
Focus, you idiot! Her father’s words echoed in her mind. She stepped back, raised her right hand, and pressed her thumb on the pepper spray canister sending a blast of liquid straight into his eyes. He instantly dropped his flashlight, clasping his face with his hands, screaming and falling backward.
Now, go! She didn’t have much time. She ran behind him, wrapped her right arm around his neck, grabbing the bicep of her other arm. Using her left hand to push the back of his head further into the nook of her right elbow, she flexed her bicep against the circumference of his neck, restricting his flow of oxygen until he passed out. Already on her knees, she shoved him off of her, his face hitting the dirt. Having handcuffed his hands behind his back, she covered his mouth with duct tape, got to her feet and reached for her gun.
He came to thrashing violently, screaming muffled screams. As she held her Glock to his temple he grew still as a sense of panic washed over him and he felt the warmth of his bladder’s surrender on the inside of his thighs. Meredith recalled how she had also urinated in silent fear the first time her father had approached her grasping his belt.
“Do as I say unless you want a fucking bullet in your head. Are we clear?” Dan nodded his head without saying a word, never taking his eyes off her. She guided him to the back of her SUV.
She parked his truck out of sight, mounted her SUV, and drove to her father’s secret cabin where from a young age she had learned of the consequences that followed when you crossed his lines.
She sat facing her captive, the man whom she had studied so closely in the months leading up to her father’s death. She had repeatedly rehearsed how she would scold him on how people like him were the downfall of society, but somehow he no longer resembled the monster she had created in her mind. He looked scared and weak just as she had at the hands of her father for so many years. But surely there was no going back now that he had seen her face. He winced as she ripped the duct tape from his face.
“I’m guessing you don’t know why you are here, Dan. Why must you be so limitless in everything you do? Don’t you know what boundaries are, Dan? You disgusting pig.”
Now a broken spirit, he did not respond and his eyes were infinitely sad in that moment of truth.
Wait, where is the begging, the pleading? She could not torture this man with a soul already so wounded. She stood and approached him, her commitment to the cause visibly shaken. She pressed her Glock to his temple once again.
“I’m so sorry” she croaked, and his tears fell from her eyes.