Carved in Darkness

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Authors: Maegan Beaumont
Tags: thriller, Suspense, Mystery, Mystery Fiction, serial killer, San Francisco, victim, homicide inspector
not at all surprised when Lucy refused to answer. “Okay … we’ll do things your way.” He straightened and returned to the counter to take a quick inventory of what he’d collected there. A hammer and nails. A roll of trash bags. An extension cord. A dishtowel.
    Whistling along with the music, he opened an upper cabinet and rifled its contents. He found a carton of salt, gave it a testing shake—nearly full. He added it to his collection. Not at all what he was used to, but he’d worked with less. He retrieved a mixing bowl from the sink and rinsed it out before filling it with hot water.
    “You know, of all the things my daddy taught me, the value of hard work stuck with me the most,” he said to her over his shoulder. “‘ Nothing worth having ever comes easy, boy.’ Every time he said it to me, I wanted to cut out his tongue. But he was right.” He chose the hammer and nails and showed her what he held. Cocked his head to the side and gave her a lopsided grin. “Last chance,” he sang and waggled the hammer at her.
    She spat at him.
    His smile widened. “I was hoping you’d say that.”
    He carried it all to the table and set it out carefully, prolonging the pleasure he felt at the prospect of what lay ahead. Breaking them was always the best part.
    He opened the carton of salt, poured it into the bowl of water. He shook out the last few grains and tossed her a wink over his shoulder. “Every bit counts,” he said before he dropped the dishtowel into the briny mix.
    “You’re insane.” She said the words quietly, but he heard her and for a split second, hated her.
    “There’s no cause for name calling, Miss Lucy.” His tone was light, but she shrank away from the look he gave her. “I tried doing this the easy way. What happens next … well, you got no one to blame but yourself.”
    He picked up the trash bags and unrolled them, tearing them off one by one. He started whistling again, picking up the tune where Gene sang about September seeming as sunny as spring. The music buoyed his spirits, and he forgave her.
    “It’s alright Miss Lucy. I’m not mad, and I want to apologize ahead of time. This is gonna get messy,” he said. He laid the trash bags on the floor, overlapping them around and beneath her chair. When he finished, he picked up the roll of duct tape and ripped off a strip.
    “I’m gonna go ahead and gag you again. As far as screaming is concerned, I’ve found a little goes a long way.” He slapped the tape over her mouth and gave her cheek an affectionate pinch.
    She began to cry in earnest, though she tried hard to fight it. She breathed heavily, dragging air into her lungs through her nose, so fast and hard, each whistling intake flattened her nostrils. She sounded like a teakettle set to boil.
    “You need to try and calm down, now. You keep breathing like that, you’re gonna pass out and miss all the fun.” He knelt down in front of her, pinning her left foot beneath his knee and reached for the right. Her eyes squeezed shut, and she jerked her leg to the side, fighting to stay out of his grasp. He captured it easily—his fingers circled her bony ankle and pulled it back in place. He forced her foot flat on the floor and held it there, a nail pinched between his fingers.
    He could feel her foot straining against his hand, but it was useless. “You prayin’ Miss Lucy? You beggin’ God to save you—deliver you from evil? Deliver you from me?” He lifted the hammer and tightened his grip on her foot. “I’ll tell you something else my daddy taught me. God helps those who help themselves ,” he said and drove the nail home.
    Shrieks ripped from her throat, got caught behind the strip of tape and collected there—building to a high-pitched hum he was sure only a dog could truly appreciate it. He grabbed another nail and forced her other foot flat.
    “Where is she?” He raised the hammer, held it high over his head and looked up at her. She writhed and moaned in

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