“Portrait Of A Professional Psycho” Part 2 by James Cater
The scent of early morning dew over the dense forest always served to wake Lisa. Dressed in a dark blue tracksuit, she bounded along the dusty pathway, revelling in the exhilarating feeling created by the cool air rushing over her face.
Today would be hot. The sun was already growing in strength, although still low in a blue cloudless sky.
Occasionally she passed dog walkers, and her smile was returned by each and every one with enthusiasm which matched her own.
As the path wound deeper into the woods, the leafy canopy dimmed the light to a sullen and quite romantic grey.
Lisa, becoming aware that her lace was undone, stopped and bent down to attend to the Adidas shoe. It was then that the chirping of the multitude of birds abruptly stopped.
Lisa looked around her, the trees seeming to close in, the light no longer romantic.
She shrugged off her sense of paranoia, rising to her feet, but before she took a step a loud noise made her turn back the way she had come. A large stone bounced on the path a few feet from her, crashing into dry leaves and fallen branches. In the oppressing silence the noises seemed much louder than they were, and Lisa’s heart pounded against her breast.
Something much bigger thumped onto the path behind her, and she turned again, wondering where on Earth the rocks were falling from.
A dark shape was stood before her. It was the same figure she had seen following her on Tuesday.
He must have jumped out of a tree, and he looked like he was struggling to stand on a twisted ankle. His hand began to reach for the injured area, but then he quickly straightened up, gritting his teeth and staring at Lisa. He opened his long overcoat, and Lisa thought he was going to flash her. Underneath the coat, however, he was fully clothed.
The bad news was that he also had a firemans’ axe, and slowly but definitely he drew the weapon from a home-made sheath.
Lisa was no mug, and was already on the run, bounding through the undergrowth and dodging past trees. She glanced behind her, knowing she shouldn’t, and the opportunist brambles wrapped her legs and brought her crashing to the floor with a yelp.
The man was limping after her, axe held across his chest in both hands. She couldn’t see his face, as he had his head down as he came at her in a capering run.
Rolling from her back, her feet slipped on the scattered debris of the forest floor, and absurdly Lisa imagined herself as a cartoon character, legs spinning in mid-air before she shot off again.
She could hear the blade of the axe scything through the air just as she found traction, and she stumbled into a run once more.
Trees flashed by on either side of her as she cut sharply around them in an attempt to put some distance between them. Lisa didn’t know where she was, and didn’t care where she ended up, as long as she got there alone.
She ducked under a low branch, and as she broke into a small clearing her foot caught in a hole and again she was sent sprawling. She tensed, waiting for the whoosh of the axe, eyes closed tightly.
After a few seconds, Lisa tentatively opened an eye and swivelled it around slowly in its socket. There was no maniac stood over her.
She took a deep breath, realising that she was on the verge of passing out. The sound of her indrawn breath bounced around the trees and then disappeared into the silence once more.
Nothing stirred between the shadows of the ancient trees. If the birds knew anything, they were keeping it to themselves, as were all the other creatures usually heard in such a place.
This is where he appears from behind a tree, Lisa thought, getting slowly to her feet. She turned in a slow circle, saw nothing, and then looked up in the trees, remembering where he had first appeared from.
Lisa sought out the sun, trying to remember whether it rose in the east or the west. Japan, land of the rising sun, she thought, so it must be east. Knowing that a dual carriageway ran along the eastern side of the forest, she set off in that direction, walking as quietly as she could so that she could hear the slightest movement.
Eventually she reached the road, only having one scare along the way. A pheasant had been sitting on a branch above her, and only when she was directly beneath it did the bird take to the air with a loud slapping-whistling sound. Lisa nearly wet herself.
Still swearing at the bird under her breath, she traversed a low fence which marked the perimeter of the forest and started the jog home.
Rolling over, Ezra reached out to hit the top of his talking alarm clock.
His fingers bent back against the earthen wall, however, filling the pit with agonising clicking sounds.
Ezra was now fully awake, and realised that he was not, in fact, lay in his bedroom, but was lay three feet below ground level in what appeared to be a collapsed rabbit warren.
Small, dark tunnels lead away on all sides of him, and a grey rabbit watched him with eyes that looked like they were under severe pressure and might pop out at any second.
“Sod off.” Ezra told it, and the huge back feet thumped the ground as it spun away, tail bobbing into the darkness.
With a groan, Ezra reached upwards, grasped the grassy turf around the edge of the hole, and pulled a considerable amount of soil on top of his up-turned face.
After much flailing and trying to get soil out of his eyes, Ezra finally stood up, his head pounding. Looking up at a thick low branch which had pieces of a familiar looking scalp attached, Ezra realised why.
“Four hours!” He exclaimed, looking at his watch and estimating how long he had been unconscious. “Right, that’s the last bloody straw! I’m going to finish this once and for all.” He looked around at the deserted forest. “Once and for all!” He shouted at the top of his voice. A mad cackle began deep in his throat, but he cut it short and nervously looked around.
“Where’s that old lady?” He asked himself quietly.
Convinced that she was not going to show up, he continued his mad cackle.
“Once and for all!”
It was half past ten, twilight was fast turning to night. Streetlights had blinked on, but were still mildly glowing with a red light, not having changed to the glaring orange which shrouds much of the country at night, and does a good job of hiding the stars from prying eyes.
It was very humid, and even the few cars which passed through the streets did so with an air of laziness, the traffic as fatigued by the relentless heat of the day as the people.
The smell of cut grass floated upon the night air, accompanied by the droning of television sets and stereo systems through the open windows.
Two figures walked down the street. One wore a long, dark coat and a large flat-rimmed hat, the other black jeans and a long-sleeve tie-dye shirt.
“A tie-dye shirt?” Ezra asked his companion.
“It’s all I had.” Adam Hemmings answered in a defensive tone. “Anyway, it’s mainly dark blue.”
“Well, that’s all right, then” Scowled Ezra. The two walked on in silence.
Adam wiped his brow with the back of a hand the size of a spade. “Aren’t you hot in that great big coat?” He asked.
“Shut up.” Beads of sweat ran down Ezra’s face. He couldn’t explain to someone like Adam about how it was the look which mattered. Even if it did mean wearing a full-length coat on the most humid night for the last ten years.
They passed the house belonging to the monster with whom Ezra had almost had an unfortunate encounter with previously. This time he wouldn’t get the wrong house.
The two strode down Lisa’s path in silence, stopping by the door. Lights were on inside both upstairs and downstairs. They listened for a moment, heard nothing, and Ezra pulled a lockpick kit from a pocket.
Within a minute, they were inside.
Lisa lay in the bathtub, the old eighties hit ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ by the Communards sounding from the radio on the shelf. It was her second bath of the day, the first being when she returned from her jog, and this one because she thought it might help her get some sleep.
She’d spent most of the day at the police station looking at photographs and telling her story again and again. Assuring her that they would find him, and she shouldn’t worry any more about it, Lisa had been sent away with nothing but a detectives telephone number as protection.
Being a modern, independent girl, Lisa had found her grandfather’s old Luger pistol from the war, and this lay to the left of the radio. Not really being a pistol expert, She had nevertheless soon figured out the workings of the gun, after all, she did watch films. A full magazine was locked and loaded, and she thought the safety catch was broken anyway, so it was ready to go.
Maybe she was just paranoid, but either way, having a gun certainly boosted her confidence. Lisa just hoped that she wouldn’t need it.
She pulled the plug and stood up in the bath tub, listening to the water being sucked into the swirling drain before reaching for a towel to wrap around her body.
Ezra stopped as he entered the living room, and turned his head towards the gurgling sound, recognising it instantly.
“She’s in the bath.”
Adam failed to notice his partner stop, and lumbered into his back. Ezra stumbled forwards into the low coffee table, his shins crunching into the sharp wooden edge.
“Ow!” He cried as quietly as he could, slumping into the nearest chair and rubbing his injured legs with his hands.
“Sorry.” Adam whispered. “You wait here; I’ll go and get her.” Before Ezra could call him back, Adam had disappeared through the doorway and started the climb up the staircase.
Ezra tried to follow him, but as soon as he put his weight on his feet the pain in his shins made black and white spots appear around the edges of his vision.
“Oh, bugger.” He said, falling back down and trying to rub the pain out of his legs.
The bathroom door was flung open just as Lisa was reaching up to turn the radio off, and several things happened at once.
Firstly, Lisa screamed at the surprise intruder, who stood in the doorway and said “Ah, ha!”
Her finger slipped on the radio, knocking the volume slider all the way to its’ loudest position, and her towel dropped to the floor as she reached for the Luger with her other hand.
As the door was flung open with such force, it bounced against the pine towel rack and closed at much the same velocity as it opened at, striking Adam full on his nose, and finally rebounding with a crack and a squelch, to stand open once again.
By the time the door was still, Lisa was stark naked and pointing the gun at Adam.
Adam grinned stupidly, several teeth felling from his mouth as he looked her up and down, and then he fell backwards and into a deep unconsciousness with a final “Wow” coming from his leaking face. He was the happiest looking unconscious person that Lisa had ever seen.
Lowering the pistol, Lisa switched the deafening radio off. She bent down and felt for the mans’ pulse. She found a weak one, which surprised her, as he lay with both his open eyes crossed so badly that only a tiny part of his iris could be seen to each side of the bridge of his nose.
“Who the hell are you?” Lisa said. By the look of him, he would be out cold for hours, maybe days, but she quickly bound his hands and feet with towels to be safe. She had become quite adept at improvising bonds from playing ‘Cowboys and Indians’ as a child with her two older brothers.
Was this the man in the hat who’d been following her? This man looked taller. And his tie-dye t-shirt was in contrast with his other more sinister clothes. Well, she hoped he’d got a good eyeful of her, as he wouldn’t see that again in prison.
She pulled on some clothes on without drying herself, and went downstairs to call the police.
Ezra had heard the brief commotion upstairs, and thinking that Adam had succeeded where he had failed, had summoned the willpower to stand. His legs were not broken, merely bruised across the tendons and the bone, and he tenderly made his way bent-double across the room.
Lisa reached the door at the same time as Ezra.
Ezra saw her curvaceous tight denim jean-clad legs first, and before he had time to straighten up, was struck as one of them rose in a graceful arc to meet his chin. As Lisa screamed again, Ezra’s hat flew across the room to land atop the television set.
As Lisa turned and ran back up the stairs Ezra quickly recovered his equilibrium, and dived at her feet.
“Come here!” He yelled, grabbing hold of her ankles and tripping Lisa.
Lisa kicked and tried to squirm free of his grip, but it was solid. The Luger, which she’d placed in her pocket, dug into her leg. Lisa knew it would be pointless to try to use the pistol now – this psycho would be on her and overpower her before she could raise the barrel. She had to get away.
Ezra kept hold of her ankle with one hand, reaching into his coat with the other. The hand came back into view almost immediately, the chrome-bladed hunting knife reflecting the overhead light bulb and casting sinister fairy-beads over the walls. He brought the blade down in a scything arc, missing her legs by mere inches.
This gave Lisa the extra incentive that she needed to snatch her legs back from his grip, and she scrabbled up to the top of the stairs, screaming “Stay away from me!”
Ezra roared in frustration as Lisa broke free, and bounded after her with the knife held high above his head.
Turning through the nearest door to her left, Lisa flew into the spare bedroom. She slammed the door behind her, but Ezra was closer than she thought, and his foot stopped the door from closing. Lisa threw her back against the door and pushed with all her might.
Thrusting his arm through the gap, Ezra slashed wildly at the air with the knife, eliciting several sharp screams from the girl behind the door. On the fourth or fifth attempt the blade sliced across Lisa’s shoulder.
She leant forwards at the shock of the cold steel, releasing the pressure on the door, which opened another six inches.
Lisa quickly realised what had happened, and flung herself back at the door, crushing the flailing arm, which finally withdrew. The door banged shut and Lisa turned the lock and fell back to the neatly made bed which lay beneath the window.
Ezra stood for a moment clutching his crushed arm and sucked air in gasps through his clenched teeth. Then he started to fling himself shoulder first at the door.
Lisa fumbled in her pocket, and produced the pistol with a shaky hand. The door bowed but did not give as the man flung himself at it.
Lisa pointed the gun at the door, but the barrel twitched around like an epilectic slug in a bucket of salt.
The next thump from the other side was accompanied by a dry splintering sound.
Lisa took a deep breath. The gun steadied slightly. She braced herself for the next attack on the door.
Ezra came through the doorway with a crash and a shower of wood splinters, and Lisa closed her eyes and pulled the trigger.
When she opened them again, Ezra lay face down on the floor in front of her. Between the doorway and her.
“Oh, God.” She whispered. She held her breath and listened. After the roar of the Luger, everything was slightly muffled, but she was sure that the body before her was not breathing.
She edged towards him, keeping the pistol pointed at the man. There was no way to get out of the room without stepping over the body.
Lisa had seen this sort of thing a million times in horror films. The supposedly dead psycho springs back to life, and all that. She considered firing a bullet at point blank range into the back of his head, but couldn’t bring herself to do it. Instead, she opted for a good old-fashioned kick.
She curled her toes upwards and gently kicked his shoulder with the ball of her foot. That was pathetic, she told herself, I could have stood that without moving.
Drawing her leg back, she launched a powerful kick towards the prone figures’ head.
Ezra grabbed hold of her leg before it hit him, and Lisa shrieked and fell backwards and onto the bed, the Luger falling from her hand and skidding off across the other side of the room.
Slowly standing, Ezra tore open his coat to reveal the Kevlar bulletproof vest which he had bought at a crazy discount price.
“You should always use protection.” He said, looking down at where the bullet had punctured the Kevlar Ezra pulled at a corner of the vest, and Lisa jumped at the sound of tearing Velcro straps when he exposed his bare chest.
Laughter racked his body as Ezra saw the look of horror on Lisa’s face. She looked scared stiff! She was like a captured animal, knowing that she was going to die, and staring at the spot where her bullet, her final chance, had failed to kill him. The uncontrollable laughter shook his body once more, but this time a spray of blood exploded from his mouth.
Stopping the laughter immediately, Ezra looked down at the hole in the centre of his chest.
“Ah,” He gurgled as he fell forwards, “That’s why I got it so chea-”
This tim e, he was not getting back up.