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"Malls are great places to shop," she said. "You can find everything you need under one roof." Tanya remembered that day like it was yesterday, walking around the gargantuan building stuffed with expensive and recognizable name brand stores that just never seemed to end. She was about six at the time, still holding her mother's hand unashamed and unwilling to let go. Despite her mother's great fascination and outright joy about shopping malls, the brunette was incredibly uneasy about going to them. All of these strangers around her, carrying those big bags; it just left the little girl with an uneasy stomach.
Mrs. Steutel's green eyes lit up as she spotted one of her favorite stores - Macy's. Clutching onto her mother's manicured hand as tightly as she could, Tanya reluctantly picked up the pace, struggling to keep up with her as her impressive high heels clacked across the tile floor.
Now inside, the young girl was instantly subject to what she figured were experiments as Mrs. Steutel had the child try on dress after dress after dress, oohing and ahhing at how her daughter looked in them. After two hours of nonstop fabrics rubbing against her delicate skin, Tanya's mother finally figured out which three dresses she loved out of the dozens she had picked out, purchasing them with her shiny new MasterCard. The two had just settled into a shoe store when Mrs. Steutel had gotten a call on her equally new cellphone.
"Wait here," Tanya's mother said, walking away from the commotion that was awaiting her inside. Tanya waited patiently by the front of the store, next to the 'for sale' sign that promised 15% off heels and pumps if you bought a pair of the latest black stilettos. She sighed, knowing that when her mother returned she would have to endure an hour of waiting. Tanya glanced down, and realizing that one of her shoelaces were untied, knelt down on the ground to tie them, which was something that her mother would have been ashamed or, dare say it, disgusted by. The six-year-old had almost finished her double knot when out of the corner of her eye, she saw a pair of sneakers walk in front of hers, white ones with a little mud on the bottom. Her eyes slowly looked up to see a blank expression and a shock of red hair. Tanya abandoned her knot and flinched in fear, almost knocking over the sign she was standing next to.
"What's the matter with you," the boy said, his face now plastered with a wide, unsettling smile. "It's not like I'm trying to kill you, now am I?"
Now thirty-years-old, Tanya isn't that passive little kid anymore - or at least she says, anyway. Engaged to a Marine in the Reserves, she sat patiently at home waiting for her fiance to return from the grocery store. Flipping through channels, she yawned; even though it was only midday, her body ached like she had just worked a twelve-hour shift. Tanya had just started to doze off when the cheesy sitcom was suddenly interrupted by breaking news; her eyes opened slightly to see a mugshot on the television screen that sent chills down her spine.
"The state police plan to begin an intense manhunt after a patient at the Harmony Valley Mental Hospital escaped. Thirty-one-year-old Bishop James Proctor was sent to the mental institution after a local judge deemed him a menace to society following an armed robbery that occurred almost sixteen years ago. There is no word yet on whether he will return to his hometown or not; keep in mind that this story is still developing, but authorities urge you to stay alert and remain vigilant."
And just like that, the news announcement had ended, leaving Tanya alone on the couch, frozen in fear. His mugshot was etched in her mind, that long red hair and think eyebrows destined to haunt her nightmares. "There's no way he would come back here," she breathed. "That would be a death sentence; he knows better." She shivered as her mind went back to the day in the mall where she first met that man as a child, where she first met BJ Proctor.
Lance Corporal Deitrich Mendota wasn't as shaken up as his fiance when he had heard the news report from his radio. In fact, he was nonchalant after hearing about the man's escape. The mental hospital he was in was located hundreds of miles away, and he was certain that law enforcement would catch up to him soon. What would he have to come back to this small, rinky-dink town for? He continued to drive to his girlfriend's house, humming the Marine's Hymn just loud enough for only him to hear.
The next morning, Deitrich's arms were wrapped tightly around her body, giving her an intense sense of safety. Tanya sunk deeper into her boyfriend's arms, not wanting this moment to end; the sharp knock on the front door that soon followed deeply annoyed her. She groaned in disappointment as Deitrich's arms abandoned her in bed. "Baby, it's probably nothing," Tanya mumbled. But it was too late. Deitrich was already awake, alert, and walking out of the master bedroom. "Can't hurt to see who it is," he replied. Tanya curled up into a ball, complaining about the atrocity that is morning people. She was just starting to fall asleep when Dietrich loudly called out her name. Tanya nearly screamed, scrambling to get out of her bed amongst the many blankets she had wrapped herself in and around. Her fiance called a second time, a bit more forceful than last, by the time she had finally managed to free herself from the bed, shuffling out of her room and down the hallway to the living room.
Dietrich, Tanya, and the county sheriff had respectively sat stiffly in front of the flat-screen television in the living room, their eyes glued to the screen.
"The manhunt for the missing psychopath Bishop James Proctor has turned up empty. There are no signs of Proctor, an escaped patient from the Harmony Valley Mental Hospital, in the state of New York. Because of this, authorities believe that he is far from the state of New York, possibly even outside the country altogether. A former resident, Bishop James Proctor is considered to be extremely dangerous and anyone that has any information about him or sees him is urged to call 911 immediately."
"He can't come here," Tanya whispered. "It's a death sentence. He knows that." As denial set in, so did her intense fear. Deitrich decided to stay by her side at all times.
It took only a few hours after that for authorities to find the bodies. A housewife in White Plains was found with her throat slit in the bedroom, a few articles of her husband's clothing missing from the dresser, the handle swiped clean. Nothing else was taken. About ten miles from the corpse's home, an entire family was found dead in a ditch near the highway - a father, mother, and their two children - from gunshot wounds to the head. The minivan the neighbor swore the family was riding in wasn't found at the scene of the crime. A redheaded man with "a crazy look in his eye", according to the cashier that rung him out, bought hair dye, razors, two candy bars, and two tall bottles of water at a rest stop in Camden, New Jersey. A hoodie over his head, the crazed individual threatened to kill the cashier's mother, swearing that he would do unspeakable things to her body if he had ever called the police. The cashier finally had the courage three days after the encounter to tell the authorities, after assuring himself that the wanted man was long gone. All that told Tanya - and the rest of the town - was that BJ Proctor was headed south, and was closer than she'd care to admit.
Everyone in the town was on edge. The state police patrolled the town often, and the neighborhood watch took shooting lessons and became armed. Dietrich had close friends guard Tanya's house when he was away, and Tanya was forbidden to leave the house under any circumstances. The clock continued to tick, and Tanya was beyond miserable being in the house 24/7.
Deitrich was home when she had ordered herself a pizza from The Pizzavant, a locally owned pizzeria with a real talent for making delicious Sicilian classics with a modern twist. She ordered her four-cheese pizza with extra sauce like she usually does, trying to figure out what to do for the next fifteen to twenty minutes. Tanya decided to stare at her future husband as he sat on the couch next to her, still in his uniform, looking attentively at his cell phone. Tanya quickly noticed the bags under his eyes, the eyelids themselves drooping down slowly. His head snapped towards the front door when the doorbell rang, however. "Don't answer it," he whispered. "I'll get the door."
The Marine squinted his eyes as he looked through the peephole. There was the pizza guy as expected, although he was a little later than usual. He noted that drivers from The Pizzavant usually can get there sooner than what they say over the phone, approximately five minutes earlier in fact. Luckily, the fellow Marine he texted will arrive shortly, just in case something goes wrong; you can never be too sure.
Determined, he opened the door. The pizza guy had short, black hair, thin eyebrows, and a pencil thin mustache. His large, hazel eyes analyzed Deitrich, as if waiting for something, his scrawny arms still clutching the pizza tightly. His thin lips curled into a smirk. "Here's your pizza, sir," the pizza guy said, his voice firm and flat like a warm soda. "That'll be $18.75." Deitrich dug into his left pocket for a twenty dollar bill, handing it to the expectant delivery driver. The bill was dug deep into the driver's pocket. "Sorry," he said. "I don't have any extra change on me. The last house sucked me dry of that." Deitrich, although confused, kept a straight face as he respectfully nodded his head. "Thank you very much," he replied, setting the box down on the end table next to the door. "Don't forget to tip your driver," the delivery boy reminded him. Deitrich nodded as his cell phone rang. "I'll tip you in a second if you don't mind," he stated. "Sorry, but this is a very important call." As he held the phone up to his ear, he watched as the pizzeria employee twitched his nose like a rabbit's before smiling again, like a fourth grader on school picture day. "Certainly, certainly. But remember that time is of the essence."
Deitrich politely smiled, clearing his throat in an attempt to hide his sudden discomfort. "Hey, Dad," he said. "What's up? How'd the operation go?"
"Don't answer the door."
"Dad, what are you talking about?" The sheriff's message concerned the Marine, as he stood there watching the man who was staring back at him -hard. "Did you forget your medicine again? Where's Mom? What's the matter?"
"That pizza place - the delivery boy was found in the dumpster in the back of the building. His throat was slit open. His car is gone. I'm on my way. Don't open the door. Period."
"What are you talking about, Dad? Have you been watching those specials again? It's me, your son. Don't worry, Dad. Let me just tip the delivery driver and I'll be on my way to the home."
"Shit! I'll be there soon! Just stay there!"
Deitrich's blood went cold as he saw the driver's pupils dilate, when his eyes turned almost completely black: he had heard everything. "You know," the psychopath began with a whisper, "all of this time I had thought your parents were dead. I had spent many hours researching you before I got here and I could have sworn you have no living family left. Nice to see that Daddy has risen from the grave."
A sudden jab in the kidneys made Deitrich double over in pain, the blade piercing his organs. His phone crashed to the floor, and he could hear the love of his life screaming behind him. "And another thing," BJ snarled as he dug his knife deeper into his victim's abdomen. "The extra sauce - I made it special just for you." With a quick motion, the blade was ejected from one part of Deitrich's body and into another, jabbed directly into his Adam's apple; Proctor let him sink to the ground. Deitrich unsuccessfully gasped for air as his own blood created a puddle around him. Screams could be heard from both his cell phone and the living room where his fiance had waited for him. Blood seeping out of his mouth now, he twitched uncontrollably as he watched Tanya be strangled by the wanted man, who cackled loudly like a hyena. As his girlfriend gurgled her last breath, Bishop James Proctor loosened his grip on her throat.
"I always wanted you to be my first," confessed the psychopath. "Ever since that day, I knew you had to be mine." His smile grew wider as sirens were heard in the distance. "I'm almost sorry to say that you weren't my first kill," he said. "but I definitely didn't want you to be my last. You weren't my first conquest, but Tanya, baby, you will always be the most special."
BJ's attention was quickly turned to the dying man on the floor, his life hanging on by a thread. "What's the matter with you, Mendota," he asked. "It's not like I was trying to kill you. You just got in the way of unfinished business. You know how it is, right? Sure, you do."
The last thing Deitrich saw before he blacked out was BJ's taunting, smiling face watching him die, eyes growing glassy as the authorities surrounded the house. He chuckled heartily before a bullet slammed into his forehead, turning his hair red again.