Turn the Light On, Andrew

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  Don’t bother with the well-known social media apps. They’re bad, but not bad enough. To find a guy worthy of your efforts, you need to search Chat App in the app store and go to at least the third page. That’s where you’ll find what I’m talking about.

  I don’t use my picture, but she looks enough like me that the men on this app would be fooled. She has dark hair, I have blonde hair, so that right there is enough to fool them. I just bleached it, do you like it? Teehee.

  I’m cuter, too.

  As long as they see something they like, it makes little difference if the pictures match up perfectly. Their brains see what they want to see, and if I say I am Janelle from the Smoochie app, they believe me.

  I’m here, after all, aren’t I? There’s no reason to even question it.

  “Hey,” the man who gave his name as John says.

I smile brightly, “That’s me.”

  He nods. “Nice.”

  “What’d you tell your wife?”

  “Does it matter?”

  “Nope.”

  The men on this app are trash. Even if they start out not being trash, believe me, they’re trash. It’s anonymous enough that no decent man would be lurking around there, sending unsolicited dick pics to girls who could be twelve or sixty-five.

  The picture this guy sent me was from at least a decade ago. A hard decade, by the looks of it.

  “So...” He says, his voice trailing off.

  “Yeah,” I say, still chipper. “Thanks for showing up. When you mentioned meeting, I thought you might not show.”

  “Why wouldn’t I show?”

  “People on social media are a lot of talk.”

  “Not me.” He’s glancing around, seeing if anyone is nearby.

  He’s a lot less talkative in person. Online, I couldn’t type out a sentence without three texts from him coming in.

  We’re at a park at one in the morning, what this guy told his wife, God only knows, but he is wearing a ring.

  I give him my best dumb, horny blond look and he takes a few steps towards me, wrapping his arm around my waist, pulling me close. His breath smells like beer and meat. You’d think these people would at least brush their teeth before going to meet a pretty girl.

  “Uh oh,” I say in an airy tone as my phone hits the ground. “I dropped my phone.”

  He’s annoyed, but being the true gentleman he is, bends down to grab it. That’s when I strike. I’d been wearing the knuckle-dusters the entire time; he didn’t notice. Nobody ever notices it. One quick hammer-like blow to the back of the skull and my date hits the ground.

  A blow with brass knuckles has to be precise, otherwise, it can result in a bunch of broken fingers. That’s why I chose the downward movement on the back of the skull. Just like my grandpa taught me when I was a little girl.

  He was right. It’s never failed.

  With my date facedown in the grass, I remove my weapon and slip it into my pocket, then slip on my gloves. I check his pockets and remove anything of value, which besides his wallet, isn’t much. I search his car and steal anything of value, then as my curtain call, I smash his phone so he can’t harass any other females.

  At least for a while.

  Nobody ever reports the crime as it actually happened. To do so would result in answering a lot of questions these guys really don’t want to. Instead, it’s always some random mugging, or brawl, or just not reported altogether.

  Either way, nothing is ever traced back to me.

  I go home, delete that account from whichever chat app I’m using, and make a new one.

  The secret to a good catfish, at least in my experience, is to use a picture of someone who could pass for you. That’s important. You don’t want your targets to have pictures of you, otherwise, they might get cute and do a little snooping around until they find you.

  Use a fake picture, but be smart about it.

  Sometimes guys will think they’re clever and ask for a selfie before agreeing to meet. But not just any selfie, they’ll tell you to send a selfie of you touching your middle finger to your nose, or something stupid like that.

  Whatever you do, don’t send a picture of your face. Always choose a compromise. Show your body to prove you’re actually a female and do whatever ridiculous shit he wants you to do, from the neck down.

  And never take the pictures in front of anything that could identify you, just use a blank wall, because if anything does go wrong, you don’t want anything linking you.

 

  The next time, I play the game again, this time with a new app and a new account. It doesn’t take long for the dick pics to come rolling in. I respond to a few that are within a short driving distance and agree to meet one of them.

  Same plan, different park.

  He pulls up in a dark Honda Civic, his headlights illuminating me sitting on the swing, sucking on a blow pop. It’s a nice touch if I do say so myself.

  He steps out of the car and I can tell this guy’s picture isn’t the same at all. Not like it matters to me, but what exactly was his plan? Anyone with at least one halfway functioning eye would know the pictures don’t match.

  Oh well.

  “Hi,” I say, giving him a flirtatious wave.

  “You can’t be out here,” the man says. “Park’s closed.”

  Oh. That would explain the pictures not matching. This guy isn’t my mark.

  “I’m sorry, mister. I just had a fight with my boyfriend and needed to escape. Didn’t feel like walking all the way home in the dark, so I came here.” I lay it on real thick. Men love a woman in distress.

  “You okay?” he asks.

  “I’m okay,” I say, annoyed that I’m probably going to miss my game due to this guy.

  “I’d offer you a lift home, but it doesn’t seem wise.” He throws his hands up in surrender. “Believe me, I get it.”

  I shrug.

  “Do you have a car? I didn’t see one when I drove up?”

  I shake my head no. I have one, of course, but I’m not dumb enough to park it where it could be noticed.

  “Then let me call you an Uber or something. Pretty girl like you shouldn’t be out alone in a dark park. Lot of weirdos out there.”

  “Don’t I know it?"

  “So I can call you a ride?”

  I shrug again. “Sure, why not.” Whatever gets this guy out of here the quickest.

  He smiles and pulls out his phone. “What’s your name?”

  “Janelle,” I lie.

  “Nice to meet you, Janelle. I’m Nick.”

  I smile. Suddenly I’m very tired and just want to go home. My fun has been ruined. I briefly consider rolling this guy, but that would be stupid and reckless. He would report it for sure. Not like he’s out on the prowl, he would have nothing to lose by going to the police.

  I sigh. “Look, Nick, I appreciate it, but I think I would just like to walk home, come to think of it. I’m sorry for being out here and sorry for the hassle.”

  “Are you sure?” he asks, lowering his phone.

  “I’m sure,” I say, getting off the swing. “I’ll be okay. It’s not that far.

  He cocks his head to the right, then says, “Alright, well, you’re an adult. Just be careful.” He walks towards and extends his hand for me to shake. “Good luck.”

  To shake it would be to expose the knuckle-dusters so I just nod, leaving him hangin’.

  He nods back. “Fair enough.”

  I walk past him towards the street, not giving him a second look. I don’t get ten feet when I feel his hands wrap around my throat. The pressure is so strong I can’t make a sound. I try desperately to scream but nothing comes. My vision is getting foggy; my face feels like it might explode.

  I try to go limp, fall to the floor, but his grip is so powerful I barely move at all. Instead, I start flailing my legs, high stepping, trying to connect with his balls. I’ve given up trying to break his grip, opting to swing wildly. It works.

  Briefly.

  I find myself facing him now, looking him in the eyes as he chokes the life out of me. My brain feels empty; there are no images of my life flashing before my eyes. My only thought is to get air.

  My right hand connects with the side of his skull, the pop is so loud I actually hear my fingers break, but it’s enough. I can take the air. I feel it burning in my lungs.

  I swing again. I feel nothing. Another swing. Another.

  Nick stumbles back against his car. Another swing and my hand turns to jelly but Nick goes down.

  I’m about to call the police but have a change of heart when I realize they may start asking me a few questions I don’t want to answer. Instead, I search Nick’s pockets, pulling out everything I can find and shoving it into my bag, his wallet and my knuckle-dusters included, before running off into the night.

 

  Back home, I’m glad I had the foresight to remove my weapon because right now my fingers are so swollen I never would have been able to get them off. I’m holding a frozen bag of peas on them, but they hurt so bad they feel like they’re pulsating. I chase three Motrins with a shot of Southern Comfort I keep buried deep in my freezer and hope for the best.

  The traumatic events of the night have me seriously thinking about returning to selling pictures of my feet to the real creeps. Five bucks is five bucks, and there’s very little chance of me dying from it.

  I lie back on my bed and stare at the ceiling for what seems like hours, unable to sleep. It’s almost 4 am before I remember all the stuff I shoved in my purse.

  I pull out Nick’s wallet and take a little peek. No license, which would be strange for anyone but a night stalker. If his credit cards are to be believed though, his name isn’t Nick. Shocking.

  It’s Andrew Saltzman.

  I do a quick search for him across the most popular social media platforms and come up empty-handed. Again, not surprising given his hobby.

  Something dawns on me, though. Why was he out there? I was barely noticeable sitting on that swing, and the only way to see me was to pull into the parking lot. Not unusual had he been a cop or security, but he was wearing normal clothes, driving a normal car.

  A chill hits me, so strong I start shivering.

  No, Andrew was the man I was supposed to meet tonight. Not only that, judging by his choice of strangulation instead of a weapon, Andrew just might be the man they’ve been talking about on the local news lately.

  What did they call him?

  The Choker.

  They called him The Choker.

  Not very original, but it certainly gets the point across.

  He’s one of those guys you hear about but never pay too much attention to because bad things certainly would never happen to you. You’re too smart to be trapped by some idiot stalker murderer guy.

  I give myself a moment to take everything in before realizing something. This guy knows who I am and he knows that I can identify him. Of course, my best bet is calling the cops, but I don’t want to get pegged for my past crimes.

  At the same time, I don’t want to be the girl you see in all those Lifetime movies that could have all her problems solved by calling in the police.

  I could place an anonymous call, but I’m not even sure that is possible these days. As soon as I dial 911 from my phone, they’ll have all the information about me that I really don’t want them to have.

  Are payphones still a thing?

  I could go to the gas station and buy one of those burner phones, I suppose.

  Yeah, that might work. The Choker had enough cash in his wallet to cover the bill, making this justice all the more sweet.

  It’s a five-minute drive to the nearest 24/7 gas station. I worked up a story about why I needed a phone in the middle of the night, but the clerk barely even noticed me, let alone cared what I was up to.

  I opened the phone in my car and dialed 911.

  “I have information regarding The Choker.”

  After a brief discussion about what I was actually talking about, I gave the operator the details, giving her Andrew Saltzman’s name and description. She asked for my details, which I refused to give, which may or may not help my case.

  Police have to get anonymous tips all the time, right? Probably constantly, which means this tip will just be another one piled on some detective’s desk.

  Well, at least I did something. And at least I’m alive.

  As I’m pulling into my parking structure, a feeling of uneasiness sets over me. The police may or may not take my tip seriously, but Andrew most definitely is taking this seriously. He might not know my real name or legit photograph on me, but he’s seen me. He knows who I am, and something tells me he’s not going to let this slide.

  Inside, I fall back onto my bed, holding the phone up in front of my face, and open the app I used to meet him. His fake picture did sort of resemble him, now that I think about it. I guess we were both playing a game.

  I type a message.

  Nice try, fuckface. Missing your wallet? How about the paperwork from your car? Your credit cards? Sorry about that, Andrew. Want ‘em back?

  My heart is pounding as my brain desperately tries to form a plan.

  The return message comes quickly.

  Well played, Janelle. Well played indeed. And yes, I will be needing that stuff back. Give me your address and I’ll come pick it up.

  Funny boy. How’s your head?

  How’s your neck?

  I’ll be in touch.

  I drop my phone on the mattress and take a deep breath. That was more intense than I anticipated and I’m suddenly just as terrified as I was when Andrew’s hands were wrapped around me.

  My phone dings. Another message. I don’t have the nerve to read it right now. Instead, I shut my eyes and sleep comes quickly.

 

  The sleep itself isn’t great and didn’t last long. My mind just wouldn’t shut down and allow me to get any real rest. I grab my phone and see it’s still just the one message from last night. I open it.

  Sleep well AXT629W

  My license plate number. I want to throw up. I fight the urge and type another message.

  We need to end this.

  I agree.

  Here’s how it’s going to go down, Andrew. You’re going to pay me ten thousand dollars in cash in exchange for your goods. Once that transaction is completed, consider this whole matter settled.

  You’re trying to blackmail me?

  Yes. But think of it as a business transaction.

  I was pretty happy with myself for that response.

  His end is quiet. I imagine he’s thinking this over. If he has the money, maybe paying me off would be the easiest way for him to get rid of me. He doesn’t know if I’d set up any safeguards that I can bribe him with later on. But then again, all I have is his wallet and some paperwork. If he went to the police, it would be his word against mine. He could tell them that I robbed him, beat him over the head and stole his wallet, and I would tell my side of the story, and the end result would probably be a stalemate.

  But, something tells me Andrew Saltzman won’t want any police involvement. Sometimes a rookie detective might stick his nose where it doesn’t belong and not give up until he smells blood.

  Minutes pass before his response comes through.

  $5000

  Fine. I’ll let you know when and where. I think we both need to be careful here.

  Of course.

  I’ll be in touch.

  I close the app out, annoyed with myself for digging my own grave.I shouldn’t have done this. I should have gone straight to the police and if they figured out what I’ve been doing, so be it. At least I would be safe.

  Shit.

  Maybe I wouldn’t have been so safe, not if he has my license plate number. It will only be a matter of time before he finds out my name and address, regardless.

  Think, Melanie, think.

  We need to meet in a public place, that would be safest for me but I doubt he would go for it. A room, maybe a motel. Someplace semi-private, but not private enough that I can’t raise a ruckus should something happen.

  I have my grandpa’s rifle but I’ve never fired it before and I’m not even sure I know how to. And if I did, who knows if I could even hit the backside of a barn with it.

  Be smart, Melanie. A gunshot would draw a lot of unwanted attention. Seems like a last resort sort of thing. A knife for sure. And the ol’ knuckle-dusters, but I would prefer to not get that close. And, more than likely, I wouldn't even be able to slip them over my fingers, which now look more like a softball more than a hand.

  No, the smart move is to finish the transaction and be done with it.

  Actually, the smart move would have been to never get in this situation in the first place. As long as he’s alive, I won’t be safe.

  He needs to die.

 

  Heavy rain is predicted for the day after tomorrow. That’s when I’ll do it. That’s when it will work best. I’m going to use a booby trap my grandfather told me about when he was old and senile and didn’t realize what he was saying.

  I’ll rent a room in a no-tell motel and have him meet me there. If everything goes as planned, he won’t have time to try anything. It will be over in a flash, silently, and no one will be the wiser until someone comes to check the room. By then, I’ll be long gone. I have to say goodbye to the blonde hair for the night. A wig should work, shouldn’t be too hard to come across one.

  By doing it the day after tomorrow, that’ll give the cops almost two days to get off their asses and pick this guy up. If that works, then I’m golden. But I’m not putting all my eggs in that basket.

  I open the app and send him another message.

  Scared of my safety. I need to take precautions.

  I appreciate your hustle. There will be no problems as long as you keep your end of the bargain.

  I will. I promise.

  Good girl.

  Day after tomorrow. I’ll give you the location when I know it. Expect a room somewhere. We can get it done real quick and go on our merry ways.

  Stupid. I regretted it as soon as I hit send.

  Deal. Keep me posted, Melanie.

  So that’s it. He had my name. Which means he probably has my address.

  Coming to my apartment before seeing how our meeting plays out might not be the smartest move for him. If he comes here I can shoot him dead as soon as he steps in and he knows it.

  No, I think I’m safe until Tuesday.

  As for the no-tell Motel, I’m not ashamed to admit I know of the perfect place. I don’t need to fill you on in the details of that little speed bump of my life.

  I’ll rent a room there tomorrow.

 

  I pull around the back of the motel so my car can’t be seen. I do this for two reasons; the first is, well, to not be seen. The second is because I need to remove my car battery and I don’t want anyone asking questions. If a man sees a woman doing anything with a car, they immediately butt in and assume the woman is helpless and needs a big strong man to help.

  I don’t have time to deal with that shit. Not right now, at least.

  In the motel room, with my car battery at my feet, I pull out the magnetron from my microwave. This is the key to the whole trap, it’s one my grandpa taught me in his last days on this planet, when his mind was slipping and he finally spilled his guts about Vietnam.

  I suppose I’ll have to buy a new microwave when this is all over with, but I’ll be able to afford it.

  Outside, the rain is starting to fall. Perfect.

  I open my phone and send Andrew another message.

  8 pm. Room 105. Don’t be late or I go to the cops.

  The cops. What a joke. Almost two days and not a single bit of progress. I literally handed them their killer’s name and still nothing.

  At least I tried.

  The rain is picking up. Good. There will be a smaller chance of anyone lingering outside their room and catching a glimpse of what is going on. Although, if you’re staying in a rat hole like this, being seen isn’t exactly something you want anyway.

  A message from Andrew dings.

  C U Soon.

  That’s cute.

  I pull a roll of copper wire from my bag along with a pair of gloves. I slip the gloves on and string the wire from the battery to the magnetron. With a screwdriver, I remove the faceplate from the light switch on the wall and connect my wire to the live wires in the room with a few twists, then return the faceplate, leaving a bit of wire hanging out for good measure. If everything goes according to plan, Andrew will walk into a dark room, see the shadow of me against the far wall, and flip the switch on.

  As soon as he touches it, the amps should be strong enough to stop his heart.

  A millisecond. That’s all I need.

  Fingers crossed he’s not wearing gloves. He wasn’t wearing any when his hands were wrapped around my neck, so I’m hopeful.

  The rifle I have hidden up the pillow on the bed is plan B. Not a very good plan B, but better than nothing.

  In the bathroom, I fill the ice bucket with water and drench the carpet in the entryway, this will ensure the shock is enough to get the job done, and with the rain outside, won’t seen suspicious.

  This place isn’t exactly the Ritz.

  Now all I have to do is wait.

  So I wait.

 

  8:05 there is a knock on the door before the knob turns and a sliver of outside light pours in, backlighting my new friend.

  “Hello Andrew.”

  “Hello Melanie.”

  “Stay right there. Let’s make this as easy as possible. You have the money?”

  Andrew raises his right hand, holding what appears to be a manila envelope, stuffed full. “You got my stuff?”

  “Yeah, I’ve got it.”

  “Good. Don’t come any closer. I’ve got a gun. I swear to god.”

  “That’s fine. I believe you. Smart girl like you wouldn’t come unprepared. I mean, look at the setup you created.”

  “Just toss the envelope on the bed. Slowly.”

  Andrew laughs at me. “Yes ma’am. You’re the boss.”

  He makes a show of tossing the envelope. It lands at the edge of the bed, just out of my reach. If he’s trying to get me to take my eyes off of him, it’s not going to work. That can wait.

  “Now I believe you have something for me.”

  “Right here,” I say, holding up a plastic bag filled with his stuff. “It’s all here, packaged nicely for your convenience.” I throw it poorly hoping that if it hits the floor he’ll flip the light switch on. The bag lands in the moist carpet near his feet. “Bad throw. Hit the light if you want.”

  “No need,” Andrew says, bending down and grabbing the bags.

  “Check it.”

  Turn the light on, Andrew.

  “I trust you,” Andrew says, I can see a smile forming on his face, even in the dull light.

  My heart is racing and I feel like I might throw up. Please turn the light on, Andrew! Turn the light on! Andrew! Turn it on!

  Turn the fucking light on, Andrew!

  “Shall I consider our business transaction completed?” Andrew says in a nasty little tone.

  I don’t say a word, just nod.

  “It was a pleasure meeting you, Melanie,” Andrew says, stepping backward out of the room and pulling the door shut. From outside, I hear him say, "Perhaps our paths shall cross again someday."

  Shit!

  Shit!

  I remain breathless until I hear a car start in the parking lot. The headlights illuminate through the dirty curtains of my room and I finally allow myself to move. I reach forward and open the envelope, emptying the contents onto the bed. I don’t need light to see that this is just cut-up newspaper.

  I’m furious!

  I hop out of bed and run to the door, throwing it open and stepping out into the night, hoping to find which direction Andrew went.

  I didn’t see anything; I just felt the vice-like grip of hands squeezing my neck, blocking all airflow.

  The car that left wasn’t Andrew’s. It was someone else’s. Andrew is right here. I’ve made a mistake.

  He’s so strong my feet are off the ground and I’m floating backward, back into the room I just left. My vision is splotchy, I’m disoriented.

  Andrew kicks the door shut and pushes my face against it, his grip never loosening, until I slip away into dar

 

  I drop Melanie on the floor, facedown onto this shitty carpet, soaked with filthy water and the footsteps of a thousand wretched souls. It’s more than she deserves.

  No. Actually... She got what exactly what she deserves.

  I see she found my little surprise in the envelope. What did she expect? I needed to lure her out, away from the weapon she no doubt had concealed.

  It worked fine, and a place like this, where privacy is king – well, I couldn’t have asked her to pick a better place.

  I reach down into the bag to see if she followed through with her end of the bargain. I assume she did. If you’re blackmailing someone, the best rule of thumb is to have the blackmailing material on hand.

  I can’t see a goddamn thing in here.

  I need to turn on some light and then I'll be

 

 


Submitted: May 06, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Grant Fieldgrove. All rights reserved.

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Sharief Hendricks

What an excellent cat and mouse thriller, you created Grant !!

This was truly great work, and for a fellow lover of thrillers and mysteries with twist endings i can appreciate the brilliance and bitter sweet ending of it !!

Loved it Grant !

Mon, November 30th, 2020 12:05pm

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