Thriller Thursdays: A KILLER LIKE ME (part 3 of 3)

Today’s Thriller Thursday brings you the 3rd and final chapter in this preview series.

I know, all you want to do is keep reading. Chuck Hustmyre has that effect on readers. So when you find the detective in you screaming “WAIT WHAT’S NEXT?” as your eyes hungrily devour the last words in this post, don’t fret too much. None of that frustrating waiting-around-for-publication is in store for you; A Killer Like Me was released in trade paperback and e-book just last week!

It’s common publishing folklore that a thriller should never be left partially read, because really, who wants an unsolved mystery on their conscience? So buy away and get that horrid Lamb of God criminal locked up already.

I hope you enjoyed this peek into A Killer Like Me! Stop by next week for an excerpt from James L. Thane’s No Place to Die.

Thrill on,

Hannah

Giveaway winner: congratulations to Mr. Lad Castle!

CHAPTER THREE

Tuesday, July 24, 10:40 pm

The woman is tall, a good two inches taller than he. Her long legs spill from a black skirt the size of a paper towel. The tattoo across the front of her thigh barely stands out against her dark skin. He has to walk past her on the sidewalk to read it. Written in script, the tattoo says, “Johnny’s Girl.”

Her black hair is wrapped in a tight bun. She carries a small purse and wears a white blouse that shows a lot of cleavage. As he passes her, she gives him a long look, assessing him. Cop or john?

He turns to watch her sashay past. He has seen her before on this part of Tulane Avenue. Tonight, she is working the corner at South Dupre, just one block from the colossal granite courthouse that looms over the intersection of Tulane and Broad, and only two blocks from the back of the still-abandoned police headquarters building.

She hugs a streetlamp and spins around to look at him. For a minute he feels uneasy. She’s staring at him, expecting him to say or do something. Just like his mother. A half block separates them. She’s confident. He’s not. As he lurches toward her he tries to hide his unease.

The woman nods at him. “How you doing, sugar?”

An old Camaro, fire-engine red with loud pipes, blows past them on Tulane. The driver lays on the horn as he roars by and a young guy hangs out the passenger window. “Get you some, you fucking loser!”

The woman’s slim brown arm shoots up. She flips the bird at the passing car as it heads south in the direction of Saint Michael’s Catholic Church, less than a dozen blocks away. After a few seconds she drops her arm and turns toward him. “You looking for some company?”

He stares at the fading taillights of the Camaro.

“Don’t worry about them, sugar. Momma’s gonna take good care of you.”

A trickle of confidence seeps through his body. He sees her for what she is, a dirty slut who trades sex for silver.

Just down the street stands a three-story flophouse, easily within sight of the criminal-court building. The motel’s only customers are prostitutes and johns. Whores and drug dealers prowl Tulane Avenue all night long, while drunks and addicts shuffle past like zombies. He has seen dealers selling heroin on the courthouse steps, and whores down on their knees on those same steps.

It has to stop.

New Orleans is the new Sodom. And just like in the original, there are not even ten righteous men left here. He is the last, and his job is to call down the Lord’s wrath, to bring forth the cleansing fire that will make holy this unholiest of places.

His cleansing began more than a year ago. Tonight it will continue with this fallen woman on Tulane Avenue, a harlot so brazen she is unafraid to ply her trade only blocks from a house of God.

His wrath is growing. All he has to do is get through the next few awkward moments. He must make her believe he is an addled, sex-crazed cretin.

“H-h-how m-m-much?” he asks. His cursed stutter makes him feel weak. When his mother is drunk—which is nightly—she teases him by impersonating him in her whiskey-slurred imitation stammer.

“Depends on what you want,” the woman says. She glances around and lowers her voice. “Full service will cost you a hundred.”

The harlot isn’t mocking him with her voice, but he can still see the scorn in her eyes. “I-I-I’ll take f-f-full service,” he says.

The prostitute casts a glance at the motel. “A room cost extra, or we can just go behind one of these buildings. I’ll bend over and you can do me from behind.”

“I—I—I h-h-have a car.” He has to force the words from his constricted throat.

She shakes her head. “It better be big ’cause I ain’t getting in the backseat of no itty-bitty car.”

He steps closer to her. For an instant her eyes widen. Is it fear? A tiny pulse of electricity shoots through him. “I l-l-live j-j-just a few blocks away. We can g-g-go to my house.”

“Uh-uh, sugar. I ain’t going to nobody’s damn house. You might have all kind of freaky shit going on there.” She points to the flophouse. “We can go to that motel right there, or just do it in one of these alleys. I’ll suck your dick in your car, but I ain’t about to go to no house with you.”

He reaches out and takes hold of her elbow. The first contact sends a jolt through him. His confidence surges. “How much for a b-b-blow job?”

“Fifty.”

“Okay.”

He leads her to his car. Along the way she brushes her hand against his crotch a couple of times. She’s trying to get him excited. She has no idea it won’t work, that all she does is disgust him.

His car is parked on Gravier Street, in the middle of the block. He selected the spot carefully when he went looking for the woman. This section of Gravier is lined with run-down houses, many of them abandoned since the storm. The few residents still living here park on the street. His ten-year-old old Honda Civic blends in well.

Late on a weeknight there is no one else out. He opens the door for her and watches as she lowers herself into the passenger seat.

“Put your s-s-seat belt on,” he says. “I don’t want to do it in front of all these houses.”

She pulls the shoulder strap across her breasts and snaps it. “Don’t go too far, sugar. You’re already on the clock.”

He walks around the car and slides behind the wheel. “How about under the overpass?”

She nods. “Momma got you to stop stuttering, huh?” She leans toward him and reaches for his belt buckle. “Let’s see what else she can do for you.”

“Not until we get to the bridge,” he says, an edge to his voice.

She sits back in her seat. “Okay, sugar. I can wait.”

He starts the car and pulls away, making the first left onto South Salcedo. A block ahead Salcedo ends at Perdido Street. He stops for a moment and stares straight ahead at part of the sheriff’s prison complex across the street. He once spent four days locked up inside that hellhole. He raises his hand to finger the jagged scar those four days left above his right eyebrow.

“You gonna drop me off at the jailhouse, sugar, or do you want me to suck your cock?” the woman says.

He ignores her and turns right. Three blocks ahead, Perdido Street dead-ends under the South Jefferson Davis Parkway overpass. He drives beneath the overpass and pulls to a stop on a litter-strewn piece of asphalt between two concrete support pylons. Surrounded by empty parking lots and a fenced storage yard, the underside of the overpass is cut off from the rest of the world. The only danger is from passing police cars leaving the jail complex.

The harlot unbuckles her seat belt and leans toward him. She rubs his crotch with one hand as she pulls his belt loose with the other. She unsnaps his pants. “Momma’s gonna give you some honey right now, sugar.”

He slips his right arm between the front seats and curls his fingers around a hard plastic cable tie lying on the floorboard behind the passenger seat. Then he hooks his left hand through the door latch as he lifts the heavy-duty cable tie over the seat until it hovers just above the woman’s head.

She tugs at his zipper, then reaches inside his pants and rubs his limp, unexcited flesh. “Sugar, I’m going to have to give you some help, but don’t you worry, Momma’s gonna take good care—”

Moving quickly, his right hand drops the looped twenty-four-inch tie over the harlot’s head while his left hand yanks the door latch. He shoves the door open with his knee and grabs the bun at the back of the woman’s head with his left hand. Then he pulls her face into his lap and yanks up on the cable tie. The plastic ratchet makes a zipping sound as its ridged tongue rips through the locking mechanism.

As soon as the tie is cinched around the woman’s throat, he slides out of the car and stands beside the driver’s seat. He reaches back inside and pushes her facedown into the cracked vinyl upholstery.

With her airway choked off, the woman can’t scream. But for a full minute, she flails her arms and claws at him. Just before she passes out she leaves a long scratch on his right forearm.

Scanning the area under the overpass, he sees only the darkness and hears only the quiet. No one has noticed him. Grabbing the harlot by the wrists, he drags her from the car and dumps her facedown on the asphalt.

As he waits for the last remnants of the woman’s life to drain from her, he thinks about how he had been drawn to her from the first moment he saw her more than a week ago. Since then, he has known she was going to be a part of his next cleansing, despite the added danger of her working so close to the courthouse and the jail.

Sadly, he won’t have the chance to explain to her why he is doing this. Finding an abandoned bar near where the last harlot worked had been fortunate. God had given him the opportunity to explain to her why she was being sacrificed and how her soul was being cleansed. He couldn’t expect to have that opportunity every time.

After a few minutes, when he is certain she has passed from this life, he rolls the woman over. Her eyes are already glassy, their edges lined with burst blood vessels. He unbuttons and removes her imitation-silk blouse, then pulls off her high-heeled sandals and peels away her skirt. She wears no bra or panties. This woman was a true harlot. Soon she will be clean again.

He spreads her arms and legs wide and then looks around for something to use for the rest of the ritual. She will get no physical contact from him because he has no interest in her whore’s flesh. But he will treat her like the whore she is. This one won’t feel it like the last one did, but her soul will know the Lord’s hand has reached out and touched her vile places.

She is his tenth sacrifice, and still no one has recognized his work. No one even knows he is here at all. But he has a plan. If this dead harlot doesn’t capture the attention of the police and the press, he knows what will. He has something more dramatic in mind, something much more dramatic.

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