Mr. Hawaiian-shirt’s posture and voice changed. He seemed to grow an inch or two and confidence flowed into him as if it was air filling a toy balloon.
“I’ve been walking around down here for the better part of a week, flashing a roll and hoping you would get me out of any trouble I was in.”
“Are you insane?” I asked, nearly screaming. The police siren seemed to be in the alley with us, but I knew it was still several blocks and seconds away. “You aren’t a cop, reporter maybe, but definitely nuts.” The expression on my face was hidden under the knitted mask of the swat style headgear, but in the sketch he gave the papers later you can tell I was disgusted, unbelieving, and curious all at the same time.
“Give me your cellphone number and.” He flipped a single use phone to me and turned on his heel, heading in the direction I knew the cops were coming from. In two steps he seemed to morph back into Mr. Hawaiian-shirt, stooped, limping, afraid, injured.
I thought about dropping the phone in the nearest dumpster then slipped it into an inner pocket of my jacket and slipped away into the alley. Two blocks away I took a moment to change my shoes, stow the cap and reverse the jacket I wore. I jogged back to my car and went home. I had decided that if the phone had a tracker in it I didn’t care. The scanner in my apartment would warn me in time if the cops showed any interest in my area.
From the first night I had been sure I didn’t hunt too close to home. I was careful to cruise areas I didn't know well to make sure profilers looked for people in the wrong end of town. All the books on serial killers said they ramped up from sexual behavior to rape and murder over time. There was a sexual component to my so-called-crimes, I felt the thrill every time the justice in my .45 put an end to someone’s nightmare, but that wasn’t the reason I kept on. I didn’t hear voices, or feel driven to do more. I just needed to make it end.
After the first week I went out of my way to keep from killing when I didn’t have to; like the creep that was menacing a service-station attendant with a box cutter some time in the early weeks of my “rampage”. He was the first one I let live.
I had been cruising the Embarcadero after a movie. The cap and the piece lay in plain sight on the passenger seat. At an intersection in the high ten-thousands I pulled in for gas. As I filled my tank I saw a guy look around quickly and duck into the store part of the station across the way. I cursed and cut off my fueling early. I jumped in the car and drove to the back of the other station. It took me a minute or two to get there without driving straight to the front and giving some camera nice view of my plates. I hoped I wouldn’t be too late or that the clerk would be smart and give up the cash without a fight.
I slid into the store to find no one at the counter. A quick look over the counter didn’t reveal body or blood, then I heard a muffled scream from the back. My right hand pulled the piece out of its cozy holster and my feet drug me towards the back room. The click of the hammer as my right thumb pulled it back seemed to echo in the small room that was the front of the store. The door to the back room slid out of my way as my feet advanced to the twisted metronome of my mind. “Kill him... Kill him...”
Almost instantly I saw the creep from the street hunched over the female clerk. Something shiny glinted in his fist and a nasty cut on her arm bled freely adding a messy smear of gore to the scene. Silently, my feet stepped behind him and my hand stuck the muzzle of the piece in his ear.
Her eyes almost popped out of her head.
“Oh... please, mister don’t.” He said whining a little.
“And why not asshole?” which is more than my mouth had said to one of these creeps in a long time.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I.. Please oh please don’t kill me.” He babbled, begging.
“Please, Mister, I don’t want him dead.” The clerk said in a hushed whisper of a voice.
My eyes turned their attention to her and my hands leaned on the butt of the .45 just a little, grinding it into his ear. She was wearing a name tag that said, “Hello! My name is Margery!” She had decorated it with little flower and star stickers.
“Marge, He comes in here, robs you and cuts you and then wants to rape you, and you don’t want him dead?”
“No, I don’t want his death on my soul.” She said.
“You’ll be sorry. The courts will let him go.”
I thought about it and while I considered the weight of his death on her soul my fragments came back together and stayed. I pushed the piece into his ear hard and he fell over. He dropped the box cutter. He moved away scrambling to keep me from shoving the piece into his brain. I followed him until his head was caught between the concrete wall and the muzzle of the .45.
He started to beg again but I cut him off.
“Don’ fuckin’ move. Don’ blink.” He seemed to grow roots. “Good.”
Looking around I saw some of that cellophane they use to hold stuff on pallets together and a pipe that was braced about 8 inches off the wall. I grabbed the front of his dirty jacket and pushed him up to the pipe. I pointed to the roll of cellophane.
“Marge, drag the cellophane over here please.”
She nodded and scrambled to do it. I noticed her arm hung uselessly but the blood was more seeping than running. She drug the roll of cellophane over to me.
“Wad a chunk up and stick it in the asshole’s mouth Marge.” She looked at me, at the guy with his shriveled dick and dirty face, then back at me.
“Your choice, Marge. Help me out here and do what I tell you or go call the cops and I will kill him.” She looked back at the guy and he just opened his mouth and left it open.
“I don’t have anything to cut it with.” She said.
“Stuff some of the end of it into his mouth. I'll take care of the rest.”
Marge finally got the idea and wadded a piece into the guys mouth. I jammed the piece into it’s cozy holster. I picked up the roll and wound it around his body and the pole until only his head was exposed.
He looked like some kind of b-movie insect victim.
The papers made a big deal of me not executing him. Made him out to be some sort of poster-child for the homeless. Three days later the cops killed him in a hostage rescue two blocks from the store where I spared his life. He had killed Marge’s mother and taken Marge hostage. In a TV interview she looked into the camera and whispered, "I wish the Vigilante had killed him."
It was hard not to kill every one of them. Caught in the act, in the midst of their need for violence it was hard not to give in to the whispers of "kill-him", but I did. I did when the ass-holes were not lethally armed.
I let them live if their victims asked me to, and if they gave up right away no matter how they were armed or what they were doing. Most times the decision was not mine. I still fragmented and watched as my hands and feet made their own decisions.
Sometimes the decision was a good one, sometimes it just made things worse. I caught Hubert red handed. Hubert as called Huey by most of the people that new him. He matched the image, big, clumsy, easy going maybe even affable. But Huey had a mean streak. Huey wanted a smoke but he had two problems. He didn't have the money for it and the clerk at the store wasn't going to give it to him free. Huey had the clerk by the neck and was pulling him over the counter with one hand while he tried to stuff the carton of smokes into his back pocket with the other. I stepped into the store, scanned the isles for other people and stuck the .45 in Huey's ear.