“Portrait Of A Professional Psycho” By James Cater
Whistling along with the radio, Lisa traced her hands down her trim waist, over her shapely hips. When she was in school she’d always dreamed of being a dancer, and had worked hard with her friends to create inventive routines, dreaming of performing on Top Of the Pops. At the age of twenty-four, she’d given up on this dream long ago, but thanks to an active life-style and supreme dietary control had managed to keep the body for it.
As she tied her long, brown hair back into a ponytail, she stepped along with the music, over to where the smell of freshly baking carrot cake wafted from the oven.
This was the first week off that Lisa had taken from her job as a legal secretary for a long time. To mark this as the first day of her holiday, she had decided, in the tradition of her mother, to bake a cake. Living away from home since she was eighteen, Lisa was a competent cook, and the sight which greeted her as she opened the oven brought a self-satisfied smile to play on her lips.
“A few more minutes to brown, and you should be a masterpiece.” She told the cake, happily.
The hourly news broke the flow of music from the radio, and Lisa switched it off, not wanting to break her mood with reports of murders and disasters. Being at her home in the week in mid-afternoon was a relatively rare occurrence for her, and she found the silence almost eery.
She jolted as the telephone rang.
“Hello.” Lisa said into the receiver.
“Hello, is this Lisa Russell?” A voice like a rusty razor slicing through a bass drum.
“Yes, who’s this?”
“Do you still like to dance?”
“Well,” Lisa looked out of the kitchen window – there was nobody in sight. “Yes, I do. Who is this?”
“Do you always talk to strangers on the ‘phone?”
“Actually, I don’t get many strangers calling me.”
“I’m not that much of a stranger.”
An uneasy silence.
“Michael! I thought you said you wouldn’t call until Wednesday-”
“No, no. I’m not Michael.”
“But you just said you’re not a stranger?”
The answer was sharp in her ear.
“I’m not a stranger, because I’m waiting outside your front door!”
Lisa spun around, looking down the hallway to the front door. Three small panes of frosted glass failed to reveal if anyone stood on the other side.
“Oooh! A scary crank-caller!” She said, waving her fingers in the air in the ‘spooky’ gesture. “I suppose you’ve got a big knife, as well?”
“Er, yes.” The voice sounded puzzled. “I really have, you know.” He pleaded.
“And if I hang up on you, I suppose you’ll gut me like a fish!?” Lisa smiled again as she thought of the film ‘Scream’.
“I’m going to put the ‘phone down and open the door, now, so I’d make sure your mask is on properly.”
With this, she hung up the phone and went to the door.
After a few steps, she returned to the kitchen, and picked up an all-purpose knife. Just in case.
Standing facing the door, Ezra quickly put the mobile ‘phone back in the inside pocket of his full-length leather jacket. He pulled the large flat-rimmed hat low to cover his eyes and readied the Rambo-style hunting knife.
The call to his victim hadn’t gone like it was supposed to.
He had put on his best voice, which gave him a sore throat and made him want to cough, and even that didn’t seem to rattle her. Still, now he’d show her.
He tensed himself, ready to spring when the door opened.
Further up the street to his right, a door was flung open and a young woman stepped outside, looking around her.
Oh, shit, Ezra thought.
A huge face pressed itself against the frosted windows at the door in front of him, and Ezra dived with all the grace of an unconscious sparrow into a small bush.
The face peered around slowly, then opened the door.
Ezra was only about five foot ten and slimly built. The thing stood in the doorway must have been six-eight and looked like an ex-pro-wrestler. A very heavy-looking mixture of muscles and flab rippled beneath a dirty string vest as the monster looked both ways along the street.
“…thought I heard something…” It mumbled in a mountainous voice, before thankfully lumbering back into the house.
Ezra decided it was safe to breathe again, and stealthily extracted himself from the greenery. Lisa had gone back inside.
“I can see you!” A voice screeched, making Ezra jump so badly he feared his soul had been jolted from his body. “What’re you doing in there?! I’m calling the police, you know.”
A tiny old lady. shopping trolley in tow, was stood at the top of the path. She frowned at him from the midst of a flowery headscarf.
“Shh!” He held his finger to his lips, quickly creeping out of the garden and glancing back regularly at the front door, a look of abject horror on his face.
Ezra pulled his hat even lower over his face, and ran, not wanting anything less than to hear the sound of that door opening.
Lisa closed the door behind her and ran to the oven, dropping the knife in the sink as she did.
“Just in time.” She placed the cake on the side to cool using a pair of bright pink oven gloves.
Crank-callers, she thought. Still, it was a novel twist saying that he was outside. For a moment she considered what she would have done if he had been stood by the door. No, he was probably some bored accountant picking numbers at random.
Well, not random, because he knew my name, so it must be from the telephone directory. Yes, that was it.
No point in getting worried over one sicko, after all, the world was full of them.
Several hours after reaching his home, Ezra Murphy sat in front of the television drinking a cold can of Budweiser.
The living room looked a lot darker than it really was, which was probably due to all the walls being covered in posters from splatter-movies and other selected horrors. He couldn’t understand what was wrong with the world these days. All he was trying to do was bring a little drama to people.
Six weeks he’d spent planning out his tactics. He’d spent hours watching Lisa, although that was the first time he had been to her house. He could have just gone storming in with a big bloody knife and lopped her head off, but no, he’d had to inject some drama into the proceedings. It was hard work stalking a potential victim – something they don’t tell you in the films.
Back in high school, Ezra had dated Lisa briefly. For about two hours to be precise, but that’s not the point. The victim, if it was a good-looking girl (an understatement for someone in Lisa’s league), had to be an ex-girlfriend. It was the same in all the good films.
The only thing that Ezra hadn’t planned for was Lisa being awkward. All she had to do was pick up the ‘phone and get scared. Then there was the wrong address business. Hmm, the less said about that the better.
Still, tomorrow is a new day, he reflected, checking his neatly listed plan. He crossed out a couple of things on the list, and checked his scheduler.
Tuesday, was Lisa’s shopping day.
Lisa used her Visa card to pay for a pair of grey marl leggings from BHS. As she was waiting in the queue she thought she had seen a man in a long grey coat and a flat-rimmed hat staring at her from across the shop floor, but when she turned to get a good look she could see no one. It was strange, because she thought she’d seen him across the road when she had arrived at the shopping centre on the bus.
The plastic carrier bags were cutting into her hands, which was painful, but was also a sign that she had enjoyed a productive mornings shopping. Her stomach was starting to make funny groaning noises, and although she loved McDonalds, she decided to leave the covered shopping centre and head for a small cafe she knew around the corner.
The cafe had wooden tables situated out front, next to a two-lane road. The traffic passing on this road wasn’t too heavy, and the sun was floating in a clear blue sky, so Lisa ordered coffee and a salad sandwich and took a seat outside.
“Lisa!” A short, fat woman with dyed red hair waddled over to Lisa, dragging a small child.
“Hi, Clair! How are you?” Lisa motioned her friend to the table.
“I’m absolutely knackered.” Clair said as she lowered her ample frame into one of the chairs. “I’ve been walking around all morning trying to find some shoes for Michael.”
A tiny, freckled face pouted up at Lisa.
“Hello little Mike.” The boy did not reply. He was looking at something across the road.
“He’s just pulled a temper-tantrum in the middle of a Kays.” Michaels mother explained. “We need to find some shoes for his fourth birthday next week.”
“Are you nearly four already?” Michael continued to ignore her.
A woman brought out Lisa’s coffee and sandwich, and Clair asked for a cup of tea. Michael started waving at something across the street.
“Have you heard about Louise Hall?” Clair asked, in the tone of someone who’s ‘not one to gossip’.
“The one who works in the hairdressers?”
“She’s getting married to Adrian Donovan.”
“The one who’s just come out of prison?”
Michael was pointing at something.
“Three years for stealing cars, they say-”
Lisa followed Michaels’ gaze, and saw the man stood on the opposite curb. He was stood dead still, like a scarecrow, wearing a full-length grey trenchcoat. A hat was pulled low on his head, covering the wearers face in its’ shadow.
A blue double-decker bus passed along the road between them, obscuring Lisa’s view for a fraction of a second. Lisa had no time to draw Clair’s attention to the man, for in that instant, he had gone.
“Arghh!!” Cried Ezra as the bus hurtled along the street.
It was a little known fact that children actually notice everything that happens around them, as that kid with Lisa’s friend had proved. He had seen Ezra straight away. Lisa, however, had taken bloody ages to spot him. He’d had to move into several different positions, even resorted to dancing around in the hope that the little boy would attract Lisa’s attention
By the time Lisa had looked over at him, Ezra was standing right at the edge of the curb, giving his best menacing stare. Then the bus had passed between them.
Which brings us back to Ezra, coat caught on a twisted panel at the back of the double-decker, hopping as best he could between bouncing off the tarmac surface of the road.
“Arghh!!” Screamed Ezra again, as he couldn’t think of much else to do.
His fingernails clawed desperately at the back corner of the bus, trying to find some kind of handhold. Luckily for him, if that was the right phrase to use, the lower deck of the bus was almost empty, with just a few people sat on the seats near the front. They were all oblivious to his plight.
Just as the stitching on his coat finally gave, the big, red brake lights flared in his face as the driver reached the next stop.
Ezra slammed face-first into the back of the bus, and slid to the ground with a whimpering sound.
When the bus pulled off again, blasting thick, black exhaust fumes into Ezra’s gasping mouth, there was only one person in sight.
“I can see you!” Screeched a voice from the pavement. “What are you doing down there?”
Ezra stumbled to his scuffed feet and dragged his aching carcass home as fast as his pain would allow. He could hear the tiny old lady in his head all the way.
By Friday evening, Ezra had recovered sufficiently to continue with his plan. He paced around his murky living room, having just bid farewell to his friend, Adam Hemmings.
Following the bus incident on Tuesday, Ezra had spent his time reviewing his extensive library of horror films. He had come to the conclusion that the success of his campaign would be much increased if he employed a partner.
His long-standing friend had recently been released from the latest in a long chain of mental institutions, and appeared to fit the bill nicely.
Adam Hemmings could forsake of his hunched slouch to stand six-three. His general build was the wiry solidness of a troll, a title which was also adequate to describe his looks. If brain power was created by lots of little men pedalling bikes inside a person’s head, then a single drunken gorilla on a tricycle was to be found circling the cranium of Mr Hemmings.
Unfortunately, his partner had to attend a rehabilitation workshop all the next day, so would not be free until the night.
Ezra paced now, as he turned his thoughts to the forthcoming weekend. He wanted to finish this as fast as he could, so had decided to make one last attempt in the morning.
It wasn’t the first time Ezra had done this kind of thing. He had been booted out of University for playing practical jokes on the lecturers. It was following this that Ezra’s practical jokes became nastier, injuring several people before he turned into a professional psycho. He travelled all over the country, choosing a victim and stalking them. Lisa would be his tenth victim.