He checked his watch. 05.36. Right on target. Three people in this house. A man and his wife and their baby girl. He stood on their back porch beneath the perfect night: low clouds, no moon. Using his glasscutter he broke in through the window above the kitchen sink. Once inside he went upstairs. The layout was well known to him. Twenty-seven other houses on the street were built from the same plan. Upstairs he opened the back bedroom door. There, knees drawn up, thumb in mouth, doll on the pillow beside her, lay the little girl. He needed no more detail than her presence there in the room and her stillness. He lifted his gun, checked the silencer. Phut! Then to the front bedroom. A man and woman asleep in bed. This man was a nine-to-fiver. A factory worker. Phut! Phut! Not anymore. The killer went back downstairs and left through the back door. He turned right, crossed a bit of worn decking and hopped the fence into next-door’s garden. He checked the door first, and to his glee found it open. Luck had been with him tonight. A low yellow glow from the living room, but he knew it was a lamp the old couple left on at night. Upstairs he went. Front bedroom. Phut! Phut! went the gun. He stood over the dead couple. He smiled. He reloaded. This had been a fine idea. His best, perhaps his only first-class idea in his otherwise tiresome and pointless life. He glanced once more at the couple. Man and wife. Maybe dreaming, maybe not. Maybe dreaming of the future, and then a big black, sudden puncture, widening in an instant to nothing more to come. If he’d had a wife, the killer thought. If he’d ever found a way to escape the influence of his domineering mother. Maybe children, maybe dreams of a future…he clamped his mind shut on these thoughts, not for the first time tonight, and turned and went downstairs. Outside it was starting to lighten, just a faint softening of the night, almost imperceptible. 05.51. He was getting faster. One more house on this side and the job was done. He jumped the fence. Again the door was open. He made a little noise but not much. He went upstairs. He went straight for the front bedroom and opened the door. He made more noise than usual, but it was complete now. He crossed the carpet thinking of factors. How he had chosen the street, how he had watched and planned for months. He watched from a bench on the corner, and he watched from his car at night. How to pick your street? Factors. Are there night workers? Are there early risers? Don’t do it in the summer: people go on holiday, people have guests, people party. The light isn’t in your favour. He chose the end of February. The End of February. It sounded like a line from a poem. Or maybe a Raymond Carver short story. He liked Carver, enjoyed his epiphanies. He reached the bed. An old woman snored, her mouth a toothless, quivering ring sucking the life out of the room. Phut! Phutphutphut! What else was important? Something new. Something never done before. He had scoured maps for days. Did nothing else, just looked for a name. The right name with the right resonance. Something to remember. Like Rillington Place. Or Cromwell Street. Or Thrawl Street. Names are important. Like story titles, the killer thought. And it had to be the right kind of road. Not too heavily populated as to make the job impossible in one night, and invite the unforeseen, but not too intimate a close as to render it easily forgotten, a mediocre stab at infamy. Not wealthy, as he wanted no alarms. And no big dogs. And then he’d had an epiphany of his own. Another epiphany to be accurate, but no less forceful than the first, when the idea had originally come like a blow to the head. He had thrown down the map and laughed. Coot Street. Coot Street! It was perfect. It had been right under his nose! He laughed again, here in the present, and sat on the edge of the bed. He lay back against the pillows and stretched out next to the old woman. The question had come to him: is it possible to kill every member of every household in one night in one street? To leave a crime scene so mystifying and a motive so pointless as to render the perpetrator the greatest and shortest lived serial killer in history? Something so repulsive, so senseless, it could never be forgotten. At first it had been a conundrum, something to think about during the long dismal day. And then he had started to plan, to work out possibilities. And then he had found, at the point where the process had captivated him completely, that it could be done. That it was feasible. And then he had bought the gun and silencer, from a man he knew who drank in the pub on the edge of his estate. And tonight, at two o’clock precisely, he had started at the rear of number one Coot Street, no longer caring how it would end, perspiring with the excitement of an athlete lining up for the race he had endured years of hard training for, and had ripped through the entire population in one night. How unprotected people were, how easily they could be taken. He imagined the empty morning. He imagined the first discovery, those subsequent, and the terrible dawning and panic to follow all that. The full revelation of what he had done could take days. He sighed, content. He put the gun to his head, and listened to the sound of the silent street. Her street. He’d never got on with his mother’s neighbours. They had always seemed to distrust him. He smiled, and pulled the trigger.
WRITTEN BY PAUL MELOY
ILLUSTRATED BY NICK GUCKER
Paul Meloy has written short stories for Black Static, Interzone and anthologies such as House of Fear and The End of the Line.
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