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The Midtown Butcher


Michelle fanned herself in the sweltering evening. As a college student living alone, she couldn’t afford a place with central air, and her dingy apartment’s wall-mounted air conditioner was a joke. The best she could accomplish was to open all the windows and hope for a breeze.

Her favorite sitcom had finished and the local news had come on.

“Police are continuing their search for the Midtown Butcher,” the announcer said with an appropriately sad face. “He’s killed six women so far, all in their early twenties, all in home invasions. Investigators believe he first gains control of his victims at gunpoint, and then-“

She turned the TV off. Nothing interesting to watch.

With a sigh, she pulled herself off the couch and trudged to the bathroom. She turned on the shower and doffed her clothes. After the water warmed to a reasonable temperature, she adjusted it to be a little colder than usual.

She stepped in and let the refreshing water wash over her. It coruscated down her body in rivulets of relief from the sticky heat she had endured all day.

Duchess, as she always did, loped into the bathroom and hopped onto the toilet seat. She watched Michelle through the glass shower doors and meowed in mild indignation.

“Yes, I know,” Michelle said apologetically.

Duchess meowed again.

“Yes, I’m a bad person for showering instead of petting you.”

Having lodged her complaints, Duchess flopped down on the seat and waited for the shower to be over.

Michelle grabbed the soap and began cleaning herself. She washed her face, then her shoulders, arms and chest. She had just started in on her legs when Duchess suddenly stood and spun to face the doorway.

Usually a mellow cat, Duchess cringed as she stared intently into the living room. She slinked off the toilet and hid behind it, never taking her eyes off whatever had her attention. Michelle craned her neck, but didn’t have the angle to see what the cat was looking at.

Michelle immediately remembered the news report she had heard only moments earlier. The police were still looking for the Midtown Butcher.

No, it couldn’t be, she thought. It couldn’t be!

Duchess cringed further behind the toilet.

Someone’s in the apartment, Michelle concluded. Shit.

She realized she had been frozen in place for several seconds. If he knows I’m on to him, he’ll have no reason to keep sneaking. I need time to think! She moved around a bit to make the water splash differently, as anyone taking a shower would sound like.

Could it be a friend visiting? She thought. No. None of my friends would walk in without knocking. Besides, the front door is locked. The only way in is to climb in through a window. Stupid, Michelle. Stupid, stupid, stupid. You left all the windows open.

Maybe it’s just a burglar? She thought. He can take my TV, computer, whatever. Then he’ll leave. I’ll just pretend to not notice and I’ll be fine, right?

She considered it for a moment, then shook her head.

No. A burglar wouldn’t break into a place with people in it. With all the windows open, anyone could hear the shower running from outside. The only reason to break in is to get me, not my stuff.

Her heart pounded as she shook with adrenaline. He’s coming for me.

She tried to keep from hyperventilating. I have a gun, but it’s in my car. Damn it! She darted her gaze around the shower. I need a weapon! Shampoo? No. Soap? No. Loofa? No. There are knives in the kitchen but that may as well be a million miles away.

She looked through the droplet-speckled glass door to the bathroom sink. Blunt objects…? Hairbrush maybe…? Oh, I’ve got it! The curling iron under the sink. Good handle and a solid metal shaft. I could do some damage with that.

A shadow flitted across the doorway.

A surge of terror gripped her so hard she could barely breathe. He’s coming. Now. I don’t have time to get to the curling iron. He’ll have a gun and it’ll be pointed at me. He could kill me with the twitch of a finger!

Her mind raced. I’m naked and unarmed in a shower. I’m small and I’m a woman. He won’t expect me to fight back. He’ll expect me to give up and let him do what he wants. That’ll buy me a few seconds. First thing he’ll do is tie me up or put me in handcuffs. I have to act before that or it’ll all be over.

She looked down at her body. I’m wet and slippery. Maybe I can run past him and make a break for it? No. Too risky. He might just shoot me.

The gun came through the doorway first, followed by the arms of the man holding it. He used a two-handed grip while keeping his arms parallel to the ground. Michelle abandoned hope of it being a misunderstanding.

He knows how to hold a gun, she thought. And how to walk with one drawn. He’s moving very slowly to keep me from noticing. I have three seconds. Maybe four.

She balled her fists. I’m not just going to let this happen. I’m going to fight with everything I’ve got. I may only have a few seconds before he kills me, but by God I’ll do some damage on my way out. Maybe he’ll be surprised enough for me to escape. Either way, he definitely won’t get what he came for.

The man pivoted around the corner and pointed his gun at her chest. She had never seen him before in her life. He was young and physically fit. She might have considered him handsome under different circumstances. He looked nervous even though he had every possible advantage. They locked eyes.

The glass shower doors! She thought. I’ll break the glass with my elbow and try to grab a shard. It’ll cut my arm to ribbons but it’s better than fist-fighting an armed man who outweighs me by 50 pounds!

She summoned all her courage and cocked her arm as the man approached the shower.

“Michelle Becker,” said the police officer. “You’re under arrest for six counts of home invasion and homicide.”

“You’ll never take me alive, you cop bastard,” she said. Then she shattered the glass with her elbow.