A Portrait of A Killer in Red

by jamesmerolla

An expensive leather dress shoe steps down into the muddy slush of the winter street. The pants, also expensive, are soaked and soiled at the bottoms. They’ve been dragging through the icy dog shit of the worst neighborhood in town.

Hands are plunged with cold frustration deeply into the pockets of a long gray coat. The coat does not match the value of the pants or the shoes. It is a worn out warehouse coat, thinned and soiled with the musty stench of forgotten closets. He wore it for a purpose, along with a scarf tucked deep beneath its folds.

He stepped up to the old style ticket booth. The dead light bulbs on the marquee stared down like hollow eyes, while the others winked and clung to life. The man in the booth,  his yellowed fingers caressing glossy sex, was noticeably bothered by the intrusion,

Inside, the red velvet carpeting was smeared by the dirt of better days. The square ceiling blocks framed brown water stains like abstract art. Old posters for films long dead, sagged faded. Even the sculpted faces in them were ghosts.

This old theater was ready to die. In fact, this was the last show. No one seemed to notice it anymore, hunched over on the corner, sheepishly accepting its fate. But it had to pull itself together for one more showing. It straightened its tattered curtains, spit shined its gold framing, and dusted off a scratchy rendition of Lawrence of Arabia.

The man gave an honest smile when he got his small bucket of popcorn. He didn’t eat much, but it smelled like the fog of memory.  It was the young warmth of the past he cradled.

He sat, amongst the ornate plaster relics of his innocence. Shadows of a love he never realized flickered across his face. He was like a child in the dark, fascinated by the light outside his window.

When the great epic ended, he sat motionless while the closing music bellowed, as if waiting for it to play again.

He didn’t know he was smiling, and before he could wipe away the cloud of escapism, a knife plunged deep into the back of his neck, and up into his skull. It was twisted slightly opening up flesh like a spigot pouring out velvet red water. He crushed the half empty box of popcorn in his hand and his expensive shoes wriggled, and convulsed with the sound of the sticky floor beneath them.

When it was done, he slumped in his seat as the final shocks of life blinked across the screen.

The killer calmly slipped out of the theater and into the bathroom. He patiently washed his hands, and took a moment to notice the frayed stitching on his leather coat. He kept his eyes from looking up in the foggy mirror, but looked directly at his warped reflection in the towel dispenser.

He straightened himself, stepped out of the bathroom, and walked out the back door with purpose. He was in no hurry to get to his car, even slowing to answer a text message.

When he reached his car, before even turning on his headlights he searched his MP3 player for the right song, All Tomorrow’s Parties.

He sang in a tempered, but beautiful voice as he slid through traffic. The muddy urban setting wheeled by as if on a crank.

He thought to himself “someday, only small pieces of nature will exist solely for the purpose of being filmed.”

He lived in a large house. Even the spirits of its past had vacated.

He pulled off his clothes and dropped them on his bed. He was a thin man. His rib cage looked like fine lines drawn on his skin. His arms, back and chest were decorated with tattoos, all separate and distinctive mementos of the others he had killed.

He stopped to rest on the bed. His shoulders rolled forward and slumped as he watched himself in the mirror, naked. Lawrence’s eyes looked back at him from that old stained screen. He could feel his wonder. Could he have known what would happen next?

The killer shakily propped his gaunt body up in the shower letting the water baptize him of his sin. He looked up at the ceiling. His bottom lip buckled to hold back tears.

A feminine shadow appeared in the curtain.

     They’re going to kill you.

     I know.

     ‘Who hunts the hunter?’ That’s what you say before you do it, right?

     Just leave me alone right now.

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