By Aaron Rodriguez
I know you expect me to be sorry, to feel remorse. But I’m not and I don’t.
I count the exact number of times the red neon sign above me blinks per minute, six. I breathe into the black mask that helps conceal my face and allow my peripheral vision to take in the street around me. The night wind sends a chill through me as I pull open my red coat to slide a long knife into my boot. My high heel clicks on the concrete as I step back. I know I’m supposed to keep in the shadows, to be completely hidden but I figured I’d throw this city a bone. They haven’t connected the dots. It’s my work that’s sent them running, that has them scared. I scoffed when I read the headlines. A man. Please. Even in homicide they’d underestimate a woman. I soften my eyes and look directly at the surveillance camera overlooking the hotel entrance. Cameras are easy to manipulate but I’ll allow them to be the voyeurs, this time. They should know who they’re dealing with. They might even give me a nickname, Red Coat, or something just as uncreative. I suppose it’s better than the ever-cliche Black Widow.
Five more seconds pass, that’s enough. I move from the hotel’s entrance and cross the street. The clouds make the moonlight dimmer than usual. I disappear into the trees in front of me and hide to wait for her. Beyond the trees is the old government building, a grey looming gargantuan in which people come to work their life away. Or in tonight’s case, a female who decided to stay late to catch up on what she missed during her vacation the week before. She won't see it coming. They never do. That's when this is the most exciting. I don't quite know how to put into words that electric feeling of power when someone realizes you hold their life in your hands. It's addictive.
A silhouette moves across the window. My cue. I slip up the concrete stairs and position myself. I hear a door open and the shuffling of shoes. A petite girl in black descends the stairs, she doesn't notice me in the shadows as she passes by. The street noise and city life mute my movement as I get into position to follow her. Her head hangs as she continues walking, headphones on. I can tell she's deep in thought of what tomorrow’s work tasks will bring, what she’s going eat when she gets home, or perhaps some other trivial thing.
I almost pity her. Almost.
I draw the knife from my vinyl boot and then the street offers a sudden moment of silence. She finally hears my heels coming up behind her. I see the familiar alarm and fear behind her glasses when she turns around. She tries to turn back, to run, but she's too late. I raise the knife and sprint after her, she screams and stumbles over her own feet, trying to get away.
“Please!” she screams right before I feel the knife pierce the surface of her skin. I pull it out, blood splattering on the sidewalk around us and then I stab again. She collapses, her hands try to block each strike as I stand over her, stabbing again and again until she stops moving. The contents of her backpack have spilled and I see a plastic lanyard with her photo and the name Victoria in black letters.
“I actually like the name Victoria,” I say and look into her eyes, “My name is Charlotte, but I think I'll be Victoria now.”
I put my knife back in my boot, take a last look at the mangled girl in front of me, and turn to vanish.
Who was she? I don’t know, but if I wanted her alive she would be. “You can’t do this!” I remember someone begged last week. “Yes I can and I will!” I allowed myself to spit back. The adrenaline pumps through my veins as the night begins to swallow my footsteps. Already, her body is far behind me. “A girl did this?” I can almost hear them gasp when they’ll find her. None of them will feel safe now, always looking behind them, always questioning what they see in the mirror. None of them will be certain about who to look for, who to trust. I did that. I took that away. And what I just did to Victoria, that’s going to be a picnic compared to what's next.
Just sit back and watch me. After all, that’s really the only thing you can do.
Emma Moody as Charlotte
Photos by Victoria Cardenas
Wardrobe Styling by Aaron Rodriguez
Hair/Makeup by Jessica Fairbanks
Videography by Johnathan Nicholas