The Lady Killer

The Lady Killer

My second instalment from the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. This time I came fifth in the round given a thriller, set on a cliff, featuring a wedding ring. I really like this piece and am glad I get a chance to share it. As always, your comments fuel my need to keep writing. No pressure.


Jenny and I are strolling through the park holding hands after a pleasant morning of shopping for wedding rings. I am carrying my orange flip flops so I can feel the cool, hard-packed path under my feet. My Sunday runs are in this park. I love those runs because they smell like Christmas trees and remind me of our walks.

Jenny is excited and waving her hands as she describes the wedding preparations. She loosely tied her blonde hair with an elastic from last night’s dinner asparagus. Her dress is covered in yellow emojis and hugs every curve which makes me smile.

Punctuating her story is what sounds like a car backfiring followed by Jenny’s intake of a sharp breath as fear spreads across her face and it drains of colour.

The silence of the shot entering the soft, perfumy neck of my love slows the passage of time. I think I am screaming, but I can’t hear the sound as I fall to my knees to wrap Jenny’s haemorrhaging neck with my hands.

Then Jenny breathes out her last gasping words, “I love you.”

As I cry over Jenny’s lifeless body, I whisper, “I love you. I love you my beautiful Jenny.” I hear the distinctive click of a gun cocking bringing me back to the problem of the gunman.

The man with the gun is wearing a faded Motley Crue concert shirt, a black ball cap, paint strewn jeans, and has some food stuck in his unkempt red facial hair. He is close enough for me to detect his dark eyes are wild with agitation and his jaw is moving at his cheekbones as he clenches before he breaks into a smile revealing silver capped incisors. I want to reach my sidearm but remember I chose not to wear it because Jenny asked me to trust the world today.

“Well, what do we have here? A couple of lesbo lovebirds in the woods?” the gunman spits over his left shoulder to underline his questions.

I don’t want to leave Jenny’s side, but know she would want me to save myself. I stand with a start to charge at the gunman hoping to throw him off balance. I feel the air escape his lungs as my head barrels into his stomach. The impact makes us stumble, and I run past.

I am clutching the delicate fabric of my dress and run, barefoot, off the path dodging the evergreens. My heartbeat is a hammer in my chest and my breath a steady metronome of dread.

Over the sound of my footfalls, I hear the gunman continue his threats, “Don’t be shy. We can talk about your dead girlfriend before I rid the world of another dyke.”

My mind is racing faster than my legs. Is this The Lady Killer they have been talking about in the media? He has killed twelve gay women in the past four weeks. Jenny makes thirteen. I am widening the gap and pick up my pace to outrun him to safety.

I’ve lost him for now, and my tempo slows to slump behind a giant oak tree for rest. Our oak tree. The tree has our names carved in the trunk, and I wish I could run my naked ring finger over it now to remember this morning, before…

I rouse from my reverie by a shot hitting our tree. “Damn this bright orange dress,” I think to myself as I roll under the bushes behind the tree to hide. There is another shot, and I feel the breeze of its passing through the shrubbery I am using as my shelter.

“Quick, Robyn. Get a plan,” I am thinking as I continue my run to the other side of the shrubs. I hear his evil cackle behind me. I dart in an erratic pattern to avoid being an easy target. I am expending more energy and making my route longer doing it, but it is giving me time to make a plan.

With an idea, I rush left through the low-lying shrubs. They slow my progress, but I need to get to the other path.

“Step by step. Little by little. Slowly he turns,” the gunman is taunting me as his pace relaxes to a saunter to pass through the shrubs. I choose this moment to sprint straight into the bushes towards the sound of traffic.

The traffic is on the other side of a towering cliff. I plan to make the gunman believe I have gone off the edge to my death. I plunge into the thick shrubbery beside the sheer drop just in time to avoid the fall. I strip and throw my dress over the edge hoping it will trick him into thinking he has won if he even stops to look.

“Here dyke-y, dyke-y. I’ve got something for you.”

I find a few rocks under the bushes to arm myself and curl into the fetal position to try and stop from shaking. I attempt to slow my breathing to make myself undetectable, but my body is vibrating causing the hedges to rustle.

He is methodical, using his gun to part the dense foliage to look into the hedging.

“I love playing games. You hide, I’ll seek, and the winner gets to live another day.”

He is only six or seven steps from me, and I fear my shivering will give me away.

“Don’t move. That wouldn’t be fair. You want to play fair don’t you?”

Four more steps.

“You lezzies sure like games.”

Two more.

“Come out, come out, wherever you are.”

I throw the rocks over the cliff. The gunman looks over the edge of the precipice to see if it was me falling. I curl out of my ball and kick his knees, and he stumbles enough to throw him off balance and push him over the edge.

“That’s for Jenny,” I scream and fall to the ground in fresh grief.


Here is the judge’s feedback. I found the comment, “would she really be wearing an orange dress?” strange… considering my favourite dress is, in fact, orange. I was also flummoxed by the suggestion he could disguise himself. Hey, subjective constructive but I’ll take a hard pass on that one.

”The Lady Killer” by Kristine Laco –   WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY – {1597}  This is a dark, frightening, and gripping thriller. It is horrific and has a big emotional impact. You did a good job creating tension and tightening it more and more as the story progresses.  {1793}  The action works well. The gunman and Robyn are solid characters, and the dialogue is crisp.  {1504}  The man’s nickname in light of his appearance is ironic. The quick pace is a plus. The suspense is effective.  WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK – {1597}  I think if you want to revise the story to make it stronger, you just need to iron out some details. For example, would she really be wearing an orange dress? Some of the dialogue is a little cartoonish and could be edited.  {1793}  The story might be improved by adding more dialogue to Jenny. If she references an earlier time they were at the spot, or the tree, it might add depth to her character and reinforce the memory on Robyn’s part.  {1504}  You might consider adding a little more plot complexity. For example, perhaps the man is able to disguise himself. When the protagonist slumps behind the giant oak tree, it takes suspension of disbelief that she’d be thinking of anything other than survival.


Comments

  1. You’re right – those comments make no real sense. My only question would be why Robyn would ordinarily carry a gun. Is she a cop? Or just well armed? It was a moving and timely piece, and troublingly believable.

  2. At first, I felt the short sentence structure was a bit hard to read. As the story progressed the shortness of the sentences mirrored the panic in the runner. Good choice. I like the use of the elastic band😏. Great job climbing the literary ladder

  3. This was very tight and well-crafted and also seems frighteningly timely. The one thing I wondered about was, given the recent events, and yet as soon as that comes to mind I can think of several reasons. Maybe this is the first time “The Lady Killer” has attacked so openly. And I’ve known LGBT people who simply refuse to be cowed, even by murderous cowards.
    Christopher recently posted…He Was Grrreat!My Profile

    • Bah, I hit reply too soon. What I meant to write was, given the recent events, why would these women walk alone in the woods?
      Christopher recently posted…He Was Grrreat!My Profile

      • I imagined they felt invincible together. Curtailing your life because there is a madman ‘somewhere’ doesn’t seem like something someone as badass as Robyn would do. I was really glad when he fell off the cliff. There are many people I wish I could write right off a cliff these days 🙂

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