by CHARLIE ROGERS
The Syringe by Zior_ | Flickr
When I respond to the help-wanted ad for “Serial Killer’s Assistant,” I’m surprised to get a near-instantaneous invitation for an interview. My mental image of the person who placed the ad had vacillated between two vivid possibilities: tall and gaunt like a human scarecrow, or a sweaty, slovenly blob.
Instead, I discover he’s neither. He’s so nondescript that I forget his face the moment he turns. He invites me into his house where the decor is reminiscent of an old lady’s: hand-painted porcelain frog figurines crowd every surface; a stale scent of rose perfume floats above us.
I’ve told my mother where I’ll be and assured her I’ll call the moment I’m done. It’s our standard procedure for my interviews, so she shouldn’t worry. If I can’t secure a well-paying job soon I’ll go crazy squatting in her garage. My stint as a Mortuary Disc Jockey didn’t pan out and I’ve been hustling for new employment ever since.
“So glad you could make it on such short notice. I’m Eddie.” He offers me a chair and his hand to shake at the same time, in one awkward sweeping gesture. “We’ll start with a few introductory questions and then jump into a skills examination. This position has been open a while, so I’m anxious to keep the process swift and transparent.”
“Sounds great.” I cross my legs but quickly uncross them, concerned it might appear too casual.
“Your name is Alex, correct? Perfect. I only kill people whose names begin with consonants,” Eddie says, offering a reassuring smile. “I want you to rest assured there won’t be uncomfortable or life-threatening situations. You may be asked to operate some heavy machinery, but we’ll get to that.”
I nod, attentive.
“Have you ever murdered anyone, assisted in a murder, or wanted to murder anyone?” he asks, leaning forward, his brown eyes warm and disarming. Ideal for luring victims.
“No, no, and of course, who hasn’t?”
“Excellent answers. Honest. Appreciate that. Will you follow me into the back room? I’m looking to expand a bit and finance an addition to the house. For now, my torture chamber doubles as my trophy room.” Eddie chuckles as he leads me down a long, dim hallway to a small, square room illuminated by a bare hanging bulb.
The walls are dotted with mahogany shelves, each lined with rows of small black boxes. I wonder if the boxes contain body parts: eyeballs, earlobes, shriveled fingers? I’m curious, but it’s rude to ask a serial killer about his modus operandi on first meeting.
In the center of the space, a naked man, drenched in blood, is strapped to a metal table and I’m unable to discern if he’s unconscious or recently dead. I breathe in. Rosemary and eucalyptus mingle with the scent of fresh blood and sharp sweat.
“Now for the fun part,” Eddie says. “I planned to torture this fellow—Wyatt, I think his name was—for another seven days. I’d mapped out some delightfully wicked stuff to do to him. I intended to send taunting, cryptic letters to a particular police officer I’m sweet on, Detective Hanna. Like a game of cat and mouse, but you know, less cliche. Then stupid Wyatt croaked on me early. So disappointing.” He frowns, cupping his chin, then turns to me and grins. “Turns out his premature death was timed perfectly for your skills test! Ready? I need you to dismember him. If you get through that, we’ll work on disposal. Take your time. You’ll need this.”
He hands me a shoebox-sized box and a small, dog-eared manual.
“BEGINNER’S DISMEMBERMENT GUIDE AND KIT,” the title reads.
I’ve never dismembered anything except a chocolate bunny or two.
“A fair number of applicants bail at this stage. Then they have to sign nondisclosure agreements about what they’ve witnessed here, or...” his voice trails off.
I open the manual to page one.
One (1) standard hunting knife, six inches.
One (1) standard bone saw.
Two (2) clear tarps, six sq. feet.
Four (4) large reinforced trash bags.
One (1) hypodermic needle, sedative.
One (1) bottle, aloe-infused massage oil.
I compare the list to the contents of the box. The massage oil is missing, and the bone saw has known sharper days, but everything else checks out. The metal hypodermic needle is surprisingly large and old-fashioned. I run my finger around its plunger and smile.
STEP ONE: Begin with the hands and feet, if still present. You may wish to store these separately for disposal or display. (NOTE: If you’re planning a cannibalistic disposal, be aware that phalanges have little nutritional value.) If your victim is still alive and bound by the hands and/or feet, you may wish to adjust restraints before cutting.
“Did you write this?” I set the book down in the box.
“Oh, no, I wish! I bought it at Barnes & Noble. The whole kit. I misplaced the original box, though.” He catches my eyes again and his stare is hypnotic. “Ready to jump in? Mr. Wyatt isn’t going to dismember himself.”
I grab the knife and the saw and carry them to the table. Wyatt’s eyes open and he mouths words. I don’t read lips, so it takes me a moment to realize he isn’t saying “hip meat.” He’s mouthing “help me.”
“Uh, Eddie? There’s a problem. He’s not dead.”
“Plot twist! Grab me the hypo from the kit.” He circles the table like a hyena, never removing his eyes from Wyatt, the warmth of his gaze replaced by an icy glint.
“Sure,” I say. The needle is heavier than expected, but in a satisfying way.
Eddie leans forward as I approach him from behind. I stab the hypo into his neck.
“Hey,” he says, and crumples.
Wyatt mouths something that might be “that’s chewy” but like I mentioned, I don’t read lips. Plus I’m busy dialing my cell phone.
“Hello, Detective Hanna? Is the position of Serial Killer Catcher still available? I saw your ad.”
Charlie Rogers is a writer, photographer and amateur hermit who lives in New York City with the ghosts of some cats. His short fiction has appeared in Intrinsick, Pif Magazine, and the TL;DR anthologies Endless Pictures and Hope. He stalks twitter @unmutualcharlie.