The beam of my flashlight sliced through the darkness of the alley, illuminating
everything it touched with its golden finger. My soundless footsteps vibrated the
grimy green dumpsters. My hushed breath echoed numerously, giving me the feeling
that there were others hidden beneath the immense sea of sinister blackness. Fear
thundered throughout my trembling body as I flicked off the light, the pitch
As I waited, questions danced around inside my head. I knew what he wanted,
but, how would he retrieve it? Would he hold me at gunpoint? Would he slit my
throat? Would he suffocate me? Finally I came up with an answer. All I could
possibly do was continue to be patient and be prepared for anything and everything
this Mad Man wanted.
The headline on the front page didn’t come as a surprise to me. The same
thing had been happening for the past month now. Mad Man Strikes Again! I sighed
and shook my head, tossing the paper in the trash. You’d think that the San Diego
Police would be smart enough to track down and arrest the psycho who was out there
committing these murders.
Towards the beginning of the month there were several murders reported on the
south side of San Diego. I didn’t worry much since I was in the northern part of
the city. But, soon the murders began to get closer to where I lived, until
eventually they were popping up right around the general streets that pointed
towards my condo. Then I began to worry. But eventually this Mad Man or whatever he
was called settled down and the police went on their merry way. Today would have
them in a tizzy. They thought they had arrested the murderer. I’m sure they’re
in the office congratulating each other on their success. I can only imagine how
much criticism Judge Newman, along with all of the officers involved, would
I finished up my breakfast, tossing the dishes in the sink before I headed
upstairs to change for work. In my room I looked around. I was such a neat freak. My
bed had been made to perfection, no wrinkles or sheets hanging loose from under the
comforter. My carpet was cleaned every day until I was sure it was whiter than the
day before. The pictures on my shelves were all perfectly angled to where the light
hit them just right. My clothes were organized by color, all fitting perfectly in my
closet. I breathed a heavy sigh, laughing at myself. I scanned the closet, finally
deciding on a soft yellow blouse and a pair of khaki slacks.
I stood in front of the full length mirror and frowned. Even when I wasn’t
trying, I ended up being an attractive woman. My long black hair descended pin
straight down my back, a trail of liquid charcoal. My eyes, big and round, were the
color of emeralds. My skin tone was a creamy, sun-kissed tan, looking as if I had
spent my whole life in the rays of the sun. My body was almost perfect, tall and
lean with perfect curves. I huffed and went over to the shoe rack and picked out a
pair of white stilettos.
I ran a brush through my hair, applied make up, and headed back downstairs and
to my cherry red, 1968 Mustang. I backed out of the lot, straining to look behind
me. I pulled slowly out onto 7th Avenue. I put my car in neutral and rocketed to
Cosmopolitan Square. I pulled into the employee parking and glided into my regular
spot. I checked my watch. I was ten minutes late from the biggest meeting of my
career. I raced into the building, shouting a “hello” to Margaret as I passed
the front desk. I jabbed the elevator button frantically, bumping into co-workers as
they stepped out. I hit the button reading Seventh Floor and practically danced
inside of the elevator until the alarm dinged and the doors opened. I dashed down
the hallway, weaving in and out of clients and more co-workers, eventually reaching
the conference room. My boss Butch Hartman sat at the head of the table, his phony
million-dollar-smile playing across his face.
“Hello Natalie.” He said in his annoying, car-salesman-voice. “It’s nice
to see you here---ten minutes after your normal curfew.”
“Butch, I’m sorry. I wasn’t paying any attention to the time when I left
or I would have been here sooner.” I said in an aggravated tone. I sat down beside
the newest member of our staff, Janice Gilbert who was absorbed in the employee
Butch excused my tardiness then began by talking about the amount of money we
had been receiving per month, then about how high our sales had gone (which was not
very high), and then finally about who was getting the five hundred dollar raise in
their paycheck. Butch looked right at me, eyes wide with played-out anticipation.
“Natalie,” he said to me. “I am proud to say that you, out of all of your
co-workers, have showed outstanding progress in your work. So I am appointing you a
new office and the raise which, as we all know, will have you making at least one
hundred fifty thousand dollars a year.”
The other men and women in the room gave a weak, slightly jealous applause,
rolling their eyes and knowing they would never stand a chance. I wasn’t surprised
that Butch had picked me. For the past six years, or at least since I had started
working here, Butch had fallen head over heels for me. He has been contemplating
ways to get me on a date, but to his dismay I have turned him down every time.
Don’t get me wrong. He is a nice looking man.
Tall, about 6’3”, with broad shoulders and a nice build. His hair was the
color of chocolate. His eyes were a shocking steel blue. His jaw was firm and his
cheekbones high. He is an exceptional man, but his personality is that of a wet mop.
Apparently he thought a raise and a new office would get my attention and draw me
closer to him. I grimaced at the thought.
After the meeting came to a close and the other employees left I thanked Butch,
trying as hard as I could not to cringe as he took my hands.
“Natalie, anything for you; I hope you realize I would give you this whole
building if you wanted it.” He said, another smile stretching across his face. I
knew Butch was too greedy to actually give me the whole office building, but I
smiled anyway, hoping it didn’t look as fake as it felt.“Please let me know if
you don’t like your new office and we can find a better one, one that suits your
“Sure.” I said through clenched teeth. I pulled my hands away and grabbed
my purse before dashing out of the room, glad to be rid of Butch and his
That evening the phone rang. I checked the caller ID, expecting someone from the
office or a no-good salesman trying to get me to buy the newest brand of paper towels
as if they didn’t already have enough. I didn’t recognize the number so I ignored
the call. Thirty seconds later the same person called again. By the third time I was
ready to scream. I answered the phone, regretting it immediately.
“Natalie,” Butches commercial voice said through the speaker. “It’s
Butch. I was calling to ask you if you would like to join me tonight for dinner. I
was with a few clients and wondered if you would be interested in coming. I would
really appreciate it.”
I thought about what he just said. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to go on one
outing with Butch. Besides, there were other people there. He would never have time
to be sappy and gushy with me. I clenched the phone, my knuckles aching.
“I guess I could spare a few hours, Butch.” I said, my muscles tensing.
“What time should I be ready?”
“Natalie, I’m waiting outside your condo.” He said with a chuckle.
“Oh.” I said
“Will you invite me in?” Butch asked, almost impatiently.
“I’ll be right there.” I said and I hung up the phone.
I walked to the front door. Butch was already on the front step. I opened the
door and he handed me a bouquet of daisies, my favorite.
“Thank you, Butch. That’s very sweet.” I said, hardly meaning it.
“I would take you out now, but, I don’t think you’d want to go out in
that.” He said, noting my tank top and boxer shorts.
“Yeah, I think I’ll go change now.” I said, my cheeks turning red.
“I’ll be right back.”
I ran upstairs. I scanned my closet, looking for something presentable. I took
out the nicest dress I owned, a red cotton dress stopping at my knees. I pulled up
the straps and struggled with the zipper, sliding it up until it snapped. I slid on
a pair of white platforms then pulled my hair into a twist. I checked myself in the
“I think you could have left your hair down.” Butch said from the doorway.
I screamed when I saw him. “How long have you been standing there?” I
“Just since this very second. I heard you struggling and I thought I’d come
up” He replied coolly. “You don’t have to be nervous around me, Natalie.”
“I’m not. You just scared me.” I huffed. “You think I should leave it
He just stared at me with a dreamy look in his eyes.
I took out the hair tie and shook out my hair; its fell in long, thick waves
down my back. It would have to do. I took one last look before walking over to Butch
who, immediately, held out his hand. Willingly, I took it. His grip was firm, but,
We drove his ginger colored BMW to a restaurant called Ocean View, supposedly
the most expensive restaurant in town. The hostess, an oriental woman, greeted us as
we walked in the door.
“How many?” she asked.
“Just two, if you please.” Butch said.
“I thought you were with some of your clients.” I whispered as we followed
the hostess through the restaurant.
“I wasn’t.” Butch confessed. “I just wanted you to come, so I lied
knowing you, of all people, would believe me.” He let out a small snort and
continued behind the hostess.
I scowled at him, almost ready to walk out and publically humiliate him.
“You’ll forgive me.” He chuckled. “I know you all too well.”
The hostess seated us at a small iron table outdoors and handed us our menus.
“Will you be having wine, sir?” she asked.
“Yes please. We’ll have Bordeaux 1943, if you please.” Butch replied.
I sat and stared at the menu, still steaming over Butches little scheme.
“Please don’t be mad at me, Natalie.” He pleaded. “I brought you here
mainly to talk to you about something.”
I looked up from the menu. “What is it?”
He sighed and massaged his temples. “Do you remember Janice Gilbert?”
“Yeah, she’s the new girl, isn’t she?” I asked.
“What about her?”
“Natalie, she didn’t show up for work today.”
“Maybe she was sick or something.” I said assumingly. “I mean, there’s
a cold of some sort floating about.”
“No, Natalie.” Butch said. He lowered his voice. “She was reported
murdered. I got the message early this morning, right before you showed up. I
didn’t tell anyone because I knew what would happen to the business.”
I was silent. Janice Gilbert was dead.
“Who---who did it?” I stammered. “Why would anyone do that sort of
“There didn’t have to be a reason. There wasn’t a reason.” Butch said.
“Supposedly it was the…Mad Man.”
“You mean the guy who’s been committing all of the other murders?”
“That’s the guy.” Butch said.
“You’re wine, sir.” The hostess interrupted as she poured it, a red
puddle filling halfway in our glasses.
“Thank you.” Butch said, waving her away.
Once she left, Butch continued. He talked about where Janice was found, who
found her, and how she was killed.
“She was found in the middle of the Westminster Bridge with a knife in her
back?” I asked. “Goodness, that’s repulsive.”
“I hardly knew her.” I whimpered. “This is terrible.”
“Natalie, everything will be ok.” He said, again taking my hands. “I
On the ride home, Butch was silent. I was silent too. Not because we had
nothing to talk about. Mainly because he was allowing the news time to settle down
in my mind. Butch pulled into my lot at about 10:00 PM. He hopped out of the car and
came around to the other side of the car to open my door. He took my hand and walked
me to my steps.
“Well, thank you, Butch.” I said. “That was…fun.”
“Natalie,” He whispered. “I love you. You know that, right?”
“I kind of caught on.” I said with a laugh. Butch laughed too be fore going
He was silent for a few minutes, before quickly pulling me into a kiss. At
first I struggled, before I felt myself melting into his arms. It was a gentle kiss,
one that you think about over and over again. One that you wish would last forever.
It would have if I had not been dumb enough to pull away.
“Goodnight, Natalie.” Butch said. He sounded disappointed.
“Goodnight.” I said. “Thanks again.”
I waited until he was out of sight before I went inside and cried. I didn’t
bother to change out of my dress. I merely lie on the couch and let the tears spill
over my lashes, my mascara staining the accent pillows on the couch. I could
not---would not allow myself to have feelings for my boss. Before long I was sound
asleep on a soaking wet pillow.
I had a horrible dream that night. Janice and I were running. We were running
from the Mad Man. He was catching up. Janice tripped and I kept going. I turned to
look back and saw that he had killed her. He turned to look at me and I saw his
face. It was Butch. Butch was the Mad Man!
I woke up screaming. Sweat poured down my face. I gasped for air, standing up
on wobbly knees. I walked over to the door to make sure it was locked tight. It was.
I sighed and went down the hall to my room. I changed into a T-shirt and slid under
the blankets. I closed my eyes, but, sleep never came.
The next day at work we had another meeting in the conference room. Butch
explained to everybody about Janice’s murder. Many of the women cried although I
have no earthly idea since none of them had been properly acquainted with her. After
a moment of silence, Butch introduced Jared Taylor.
“Jared was once a cop working for the San Diego Police Department.” Butch
began. “He quit once his father was imprisoned for drug abuse. He is going to be
working with us. So everyone give him a warm welcome to Jared. Be sure to help him
out if he needs it.”
I felt my heart skip a beat as he stood up. He was the most gorgeous man I had
ever seen. He must have been at least 6’2”. His body was as if it were made of
stone, his navy suit hugging the muscles in his upper arms; His hair was the most
beautiful shade of auburn, the lights reflecting off of it, giving it this slightest
shade of gold. His eyes were a piercing honey color. His complexion was the softest
shade of cream. He flashed a picture worthy smile which was aimed right at me.
“It’s nice to be working here.” He said.
After the meeting, Jared waited for me at the doorway.
“Hi.” He said with a heavy southern accent. He held out a large hand.
“I’m Jared, as you may already know. Who might you be?”
His hand covered mine completely when I took it. “I’m Natalie. Natalie
“Natalie Forrester.” He repeated. “You have a nice name.”
I blushed. “Thanks.”
“So I was wondering if you’d be kind enough as to show me the ropes around
here.” He said. “I pretty much know the standards. And I know what and what not
to wear, but, I just don’t have much experience with computers. I know a little,
at least I had to when I was a cop, but, all of that is behind me now. It’s not as
if I have no knowledge what-so-ever. I just don’t know as much about them that is
required. Make sure you don’t tell Butch that.” He laughed. “But, I’d
appreciate a few tips here and there if you don’t mind.”
“I’d be glad to.” I replied.
“Maybe we could talk about a few things over dinner?” he asked.
I was speechless. This extremely handsome man, probably capable of causing any
woman to fall head over heels for him with one blink of his eyes, was asking me out
“Sure!” I replied after a few seconds of awkward silence.
He laughed a hearty laugh. “Ok then. It’s settled. What’s your address?
I’ll pick you up around seven.”
I wrote it down for him on a piece of the office stationary. He took it, folded
it in half and jammed it into his coat pocket.
“Thanks. So, I’ll see you around.” He said. He smiled again, winked then
walked down the hall and into the elevator.
“Ahem.” a voice came from behind me.
I whirled around and saw Butch towering over me.
“What was that?” he asked.
“What was what, Butch?” I said as if I had no idea what he was talking
about. I nervously twirled a spiral curl of my hair.
“You know what I mean, Natalie.” He said. “What happened to last night? I
thought you shared the same feelings for me as I did for you.”
“Butch, it’s not like that between us.” I said, feeling guilty already.
“What happened between us was a mistake I made. I never meant to lead you on.
Butch turned red. He sighed.
“I suppose you’re going to take away my office and my raise.” I said
assumingly, expecting a bigger punishment than what I had suggested.
“Natalie,” he said. “I would never do that. What you have is what I gave
He gave me a gentle pat on the shoulder before locking himself in his office
for the rest of the morning.
Work was tiring. As soon as 5:00 came around I dashed out of the office and
flew home as fast as I could. I had two hours to get ready for my so called
“date”. I quickly took a shower then began to choose outfits. I was sure it
wasn’t anything formal and I was pretty sure he didn’t want me showing up in a
pair of old jeans and a baggy T-shirt. I had at least ten different outfits lined up
on the bed. Before long I decided on a simple black dress and a pair of flip-flops.
Not too formal and not too casual. I clipped my hair back so it was out of my face
and applied a fresh coat of make-up. About the time I got downstairs the doorbell
rang. I answered the door, pulling it open slowly as not to seem so eager.
Jared stood on the first step wearing a black jacket and a pair of baggy jeans.
He held a long-stem rose in his hand which he held out to me when I greeted him.
“Thank you, Jared!” I gushed. I quickly situated it in a glass of water.
“So are you ready to go?” Jared asked.
“Yeah, just let me get my purse.” I said.
I ran back upstairs and to my room. My purse was on my bed. I scraped it up and
turned to go. Jared was blocking my way. I jumped at the sight of him.
“Oh my goodness, you scared me!” I breathed. “How’d you get up here so
quietly? I could have sworn there was a squeaky stair on the way up.”
“Sorry.” He laughed. He took my hand and led me down the stairs and out the
His car was waiting outside. A blue 1967 Cadillac Convertible. He opened the
door and did a low, playful bow.
“Your chariot awaits, My Lady.” He said.
“Why thank you, good sir.” I said as I played along.