THE EYES OF VENGEANCE
Deep in his gut, Mark Bider knew something was wrong. Terribly wrong. He didn’t have to be a genius to figure that one out. If he could just get one more look at the man’s face maybe he would at least understand why he was going to die. He struggled to sweep away the cobwebs clouding his mind as he stumbled around inside his penthouse suite and tried to put some distance between them. One clear thought did manage to breakthrough the barriers surrounding his muddled brain.
It was a great idea…except for one minor detail…Mark’s feet were having trouble following the game plan. “Now, dammit!” He willed himself to move toward the large window in the living room, teetering like a toddler learning to walk the whole way. Reaching his destination, he looked down. Lights from the city, forty floors below, blurred together into a kaleidoscope of colors. The man followed and used a hand to steady Mark. His breath wedged in his throat with the touch.
Shaking him loose, Mark spun around primed to speak, but his mouth wouldn’t cooperate. His body didn’t seem to work. “Damn strong Scotch…two drinks…only two…who did you…uh-mmm…you…are…can’t…member your name.” The words slurred as Mark fought to pull thoughts together long enough to form a coherent sentence.
“My name isn’t important.” The man’s voice was soft and husky. “Here, let me help you to your bedroom, buddy. You’re gonna need to sleep this off.” He cupped a hand on Mark’s elbow and stilled his swaying body.
A good sign. He was offering to help. Mark should feel relieved.
“Let’s get you to bed.”
“Wait…need closer…look…face.” Mark’s need to see the man grew stronger. He looked over his shoulder and strained to clear his hazy vision. Mark broke away from the hand steadying him. He tried harder to focus, but fell forward, toppling an end table. His head hit the corner and his world went black.
Mark awoke and found himself lying on his bed. How long had he been out? His head throbbed and he groaned. He started to reach up to rub the ache away and couldn’t. “What…the…hell…?” His hands were tied to the bed posts.
Mark wiggled, twisted, and yanked at the bindings until his skin split open. Warm blood trickled over his wrists. Panic hit like a fist punching through his chest, grabbing his heart, and squeezing it painfully. The sour taste of bile bubbled upward from deep inside his gut. He attempted to kick out with his legs. They were bound also. Mark glanced at his secured feet and gasped. He was only wearing underwear. His black silk sheets stuck to his sweaty skin. Fear knotted in his throat, making it a struggle to breathe.
“What…what the hell? Is anyone here?” His voice wavered. “Is this some…sort…sick joke?”
Mark began yanking the rough corded bindings in earnest. His heart raced, sending blood pulsing in excess to his head. Each beat pounded in his ears. The harder he thrashed, the more his head throbbed.
The killer sat in the darkest corner of the bedroom, settled deep into a soft, overstuffed chair and watched with a great sense of satisfaction as the man struggle to break free. Enjoying the view, the killer shuffled a deck of playing cards between steady hands. The smell of Mark’s sweat, and maybe his fear, filled the air.
“Calm down, buddy. You’re going to tear the hell out of your wrists if you keep fighting the restraints.” The killer used a voice perfected with hours of practice, keeping the tone hushed and smooth like the finest whiskey, knowing chills would race throughout Mark’s body.
“Who…who are you? Step closer so I can see you.” Mark’s voice wavered.
The killer rose, took a few slow and easy steps, and stood at the side of the bed, eyeing the prey like a vulture surveying road kill. After giving the restraints a hard tug, the killer scrutinized the man lying on the bed. “Good. Everything’s nice and tight.” The killer ambled to the other side of the bed and studied Mark through narrowed eyes. “I figured out at the bar you didn’t recognize me.”
Mark shook his head. “I’m sorry. Untie me so I can get a better look. Everything is…so fuzzy.”
“I’m crushed with your lack of memory. Of course the drug I slipped into your drink could be messing with your mind.”
“Drug? What drug?” The audible panic in Mark’s voice rose with each word spoken. “Please get the ropes off. They’re cutting into my skin.”
“Sorry, no can do. You’re scared shitless, aren’t you, buddy?”
“Buh…but, I don’t understand. Why me? What’ve I done?”
“I have plans for you, Mark. Big plans.”
“It’s like this. You’re going to die tonight.”
A look of pure horror spread over Mark’s face. Satisfied, the killer smiled and withdrew a large stiletto knife from a side pocket of neatly pressed khaki pants. The pearl handle had a small diamond in the dead center of both sides. The killer flicked the knife open and gently ran two fingers over the smooth blade, leaving a trail of beaded blood in its wake.
Staring at the small cut, the killer took a deep breath and pushed back the wave of unexpected sadness wrapping itself around the hardened heart beating inside. There was no time for sentimental nonsense right now.
The killer’s gaze turned to the weapon. “This is a family heirloom. It’s not much, but hey, it’s all I’ve got.” After licking off the small crimson dots aligned over steady fingers, the killer smacked smiling lips together with a dramatic flair.
Mark fought harder against the bindings and the exasperating noise put a halt to any lingering memories from the killer’s past.
“I bet you can’t remember in all of your sixty-three years, ever being this scared.”
Mark shook his head.
A growing wet spot appeared in the center of Mark’s boxers. Tears streamed down his face. “Please—”
“Would you look at that? You’ve gone and pissed yourself.”
“Please, I’ll give you whatever you want. Money? I’m rich. I’ll pay you anything.
Anything at all. Just don’t do this to me.” Mark’s voice trembled.
“Sorry, buddy. Looks like I’m already gonna get what I want. I want you dead.”
Hands steady, the killer made a quick, clean swipe with the sharp blade across one of Mark’s wrists, cutting through the skin as though slicing through butter. Arterial blood shot from the cut like hot water and steam from a geyser. The strong coppery smell blended with the acrid stench of urine, polluting the room within seconds.
“Ah, the sweet smell of death knocking at Hell’s door. Mark, you do know you’re going to burn in Hell?” The killer patted the bleeding man’s shoulder. “There now, the hard part is almost over. See? Feel the life draining from your body? I’ve always wondered how a person feels, knowing he’s only moments away from death.” The killer’s mind drifted for a few seconds.
Marks’s frantic twisting stilled. His mouth gaped open and he stared at his executioner. “Please?”
“Hey, don’t look at me like I’m some sort of a monster. You brought all this on yourself. You should’ve chosen your friends a little better.” The killer paused. Maybe I am a monster. Well, shit. Too late for second guessing.
“Here, let me make you a little more comfortable.” The killer cut the rope restraining Mark’s bloody wrist. “Would a monster give a dying man some relief?”
Mark struggled to lift his arm. Blood pooled on the silk sheets and began to soak in, blending with the urine.
“I don’t want to die.”
“Who does? We don’t always get what we want, Mark. I know this for a fact.”
Mark’s life was fading away with each pulsating drop of blood that spewed from his body. He looked too weak to plead for his life anymore. The killer saw terror fill the soon-to-be-dead-man’s eyes. The killer slashed Mark’s other wrist, then released it from the bindings. The killer gently laid Mark’s arm on the bed and gave it a sympathetic pat. The blood flowing from Mark’s wrists slowed.
The killer withdrew a card from his pocket and placed a deuce of diamonds in Mark’s bloodied right hand. Looking deep into dying eyes, the killer removed the fake mustache and asked, “Are you sure you don’t recognize me without the facial hair? Seems a shame for you to die without knowing who I am or why you have to die.”
Mark seemed to struggle with the mere act of opening his eyes and focusing. A pathetic gasp escaped Mark’s lips.
“Ah, recognition at last?”
Mark shook his head. “Not….not possible,” he whispered. “You’re dead. But, you’re not. God help me. There’s no such thing as ghosts.”
“I’m not a ghost, Mark. I am the eyes of vengeance.”