The stinging was almost incidental. An afterthought. Something was terribly wrong, but Callie couldn’t process what. Her legs went rubbery. She slid down the wall. Hit the concrete. A burning sensation began along her side.
“You’re like all the rest. You’re not really Jessica. You aren’t perfect at all.”
She recognized the contempt in his voice as he walked away, his hand swinging by his side, the knife dripping. She was confused. It was blood. Her blood. It hit her. He’d stabbed her. More than once.
She touched herself. Blood. Sticky. Messy. She needed help. The thunder rumbled angrily as the rain continued to come down now in sheets. She could hear the rats scrambling through the garbage behind her.
She couldn’t die. She wouldn’t die. She had too much left to do.
Things began to fade to black. She needed to move where she would be seen. Could she stand?
She tried and almost passed out. But she could crawl. She pushed herself to the alley’s entrance and then collapsed on the sidewalk. She was so tired. So cold. Every breath hurt, coming in shallow spurts, like a panting dog in the sweltering heat of a Louisiana summer.
She quit struggling. It didn’t matter anymore. She wouldn’t make it. And it pissed her off to think that every obituary would shout that “Jessica Had Died.” Not Callie Chennault. Every picture accompanying every article would be of Jessica. Not her. She’d lost her identity in a character so long ago that no one knew the real her anymore.
Even if someone passed by on foot, they wouldn’t stop for a bloody, limp Callie. She was a stranger, not the sophisticated beauty on the cover of In Style or Entertainment Weekly, the cool blond with the fiery lips and temperamental attitude.
No, she would die alone on a New York sidewalk. A no one.
Callie took one last, painful breath and gave up.
He placed the last of the wet dirt on top of the second grave. Smoothed it with the back of the shovel. Reached for the collection of branches and rocks and leaves that he’d gathered before he began digging. He tossed them haphazardly over his handiwork and stepped back to survey the ground. Perfect. Anyone venturing off the Appalachian Trail this far would have no idea what rested beneath the soil.
He took pride in his handiwork. Years of honing his skill had made him a master of death. He’d started years ago in his teens, picking up hitchhikers. Perfecting the art of torture. Perfecting his knife skills. Dismembering the specimens. Learning how to dispose of body parts.
Other hunts followed. Sometimes, a single specimen. Sometimes, a group. He’d especially enjoyed seeing Atlanta frantic during his series of child abductions and murders. He thought it pure genius to focus on the little ones of public servants. He’d taken the kids of a fireman. A city council member. The school superintendent’s daughter. A cop’s twins. And the pièce de résistance? The mayor’s grandson.
His latest specimen gathering consisted of high-end prostitutes. The Chattahoochee National Forest had provided cover for this most recent hunt. Its miles of wilderness proved the ideal disposal area. He’d witnessed the arrival of spring as the area greened up. Watched it blossom into its summer loveliness. Seen the explosion of fall colors come vividly to life as he buried his precious specimens.
But he was at the end of this cycle of murders. He refused to tramp through isolated areas during winter snow. Last night’s kill would be the final in this series.
He returned to the campsite. Packed up. Pulled his keys from his pocket. Noticed the rain had stopped. The sky lightened.
And then he saw it. A rainbow in the sky.
That was it.
Just as God placed the rainbow in the sky as a promise to Noah that He would never flood the earth again, He’d generously gifted him with a new idea.
His next mission would be served as The Rainbow Killer.
Thoughts raced in his head as he planned a new series of murders to commit. The specimens would share nothing in common, making him impossible to catch. But every murder would end in spectacular colors. In hues of the rainbow.
Confidence pulsated through him. This could be his claim to fame. A lasting legacy.
He couldn’t wait to begin.