HE WANTED TO know what she smelled like. A scarf of green silk covered the woman's head, yet wisps of dark hair fluttered about her face. He strained to see her mouth as she sipped from a bottle of juice. She tossed bits of what he guessed to be a tuna fish sandwich to a gathering of pigeons.
It was a beautiful October day and City Hall Park bustled with life: business people with brown bag lunches, civilians on break from jury duty, drunks and the homeless with their own bags and bottles. Seagulls perched on the rooftops of Seattle and hovered above the park, their calls merging with the hollow horn blasts of the ferries.
From his bench he saw a chunk of the skybridge linking the King County Courthouse to the County jail. It seemed days ago that he had crossed that skybridge, a jail guard at his side, on his way to the County's work-release facility. In actuality he had only been out for twenty-four hours. He sucked on his cigarette, ignoring the cast-iron monument next to him dedicated to the "Battle of Seattle," a skirmish with the local Indian tribes in the 1850's.
The woman in the green scarf watched as he deliberately flicked his ashes at a pigeon. He watched her watching him and felt the urge. Red and brown and orange leaves twirled from the treetops as he turned up the collar of his threadbare overcoat. Just then, a business man strode past and shot him a look of unmasked contempt; the same look he'd received from the foreman at the crabpot factory that morning. When he left for his lunch break he knew he would not return. Neither would he return to the work-release holding facility. He spent his lunch allowance on cheap wine and cigarettes. He was enjoying living moment by moment. Following his urges. He targeted a pigeon, aimed and threw his burning cigarette. Hit, the bird twittered across a bed of leaves.
Looking up from her lunch, she saw the cigarette hit the bird. He stared at her, challenging, but the look she gave him was not of fear but disdain. It made him angry. He was tired of people looking at him like that. She checked her watch and packed her lunch things into a satchel. As she walked by, he noticed the muscles of her calves work under her nylons. Her wool coat, fashionably large, left the curves of her body to his imagination. He gave the woman a head start then followed her out of the park, keeping several paces behind her until she disappeared through the glass doors of an office building.
The next few hours he spent on a pier smoking cigarettes and drinking strawberry wine from his bottle in a bag. Near the water the wind was quite cold. On Elliot Bay, small whitecaps crested in the wake of the Bainbridge Island ferry boat. He felt its foghorn in his wine-warmed stomach. Above him, the late afternoon sky was blue and streaked with cirrus clouds which seemed to melt into the Olympic Mountains on the horizon.
All of a sudden he decided he wanted the knife stuck in the wood of the pier beside a tackle box several yards away. Two grizzled men leaned on a railing, holding their poles gingerly and watching their lines. At that moment, on Alaskan Way, a trolley car passed, its bell clanging. With feline grace, he padded towards the knife and in one easy motion pulled it out of the pier and into his overcoat pocket. The fishermen watched the trolley as he walked down the pier, crossed Alaskan Way, and settled beneath the freeway viaduct. With his back against a garbage dumpster he listened to cars click across the steel girders of the viaduct.
It was a fillet knife of stainless steel. The blade, measuring ten inches, was similar to a carving knife. Three-quarters of an inch wide at the hilt, the blade narrowed gradually, then curved into a tip. In the shape of a spoon, the handle was used for gutting fish. He wiped phosphorescent fish scales and blood off the blade.
It was getting dark when he sat down at the bus stop at Third and Cherry Streets. He watched the glass doors that the woman had disappeared through hours before. Busses stopped in front of him took on passengers and pulled back into traffic. When the wind came it was in bursts causing pedestrians to look at their feet. Bits of trash bounced amidst the slow-moving vehicles of rush hour traffic. In one coat pocket he felt the near empty wine bottle, in the other the knife. He lit a cigarette while wondering if the Seattle police were actively looking for him. It was then that the woman emerged, securing her scarf in a knot under her chin. He felt a surge of anger as a man came through the doors after her and the woman stopped to talk to him. As he wondered what he would do if the two remained together, they parted, she at a hurried pace down Third Avenue.
He kept pace on the opposite sidewalk, his eyes following her legs in the headlights of idling cars. While most of the people around her hurried into the entrance of the underground bus tunnel, she headed down James Street. He had thought she was going into the bus tunnel. His plan had simply been to snatch her purse, so it was with another surge of adrenaline that he realized there could be other possibilities. He watched as she crossed to Yesler and towards a parking garage that looked like a sinking ship; the stern and upper deck rising several stories whilst the bow disappeared below ground. Parked cars looked as if they might slide sideways the slant was so steep.
He followed her up a flight of stairs to the second floor. Dimly lit, the garage was cold and damp and many stalls were already vacant. As the woman inserted her key into the door of a silver Toyota, the wine bottle struck the crown of her skull, and her body went limp. He caught her from behind and pushed her onto the driver's seat. Snatching the keys out of the door, he opened the passenger door and pulled her over the console onto the passenger seat, laying her on her side as if she were asleep. Then he tossed her bag into the back, next to a child's car seat, and got behind the wheel.
It was at the intersection of Fourth and James that he smelled her. Beneath the noxious dregs of strawberry wine was a faint, clean smell: soap and hairspray. He smiled. Momentarily, he turned on the dome light to glimpse her face. A thin stream of dark ooze trickled down from her hairline, across the bridge of her nose and down her left cheek. He turned off the light and put his fingers to her neck to check her pulse.
Next to the southbound onramp to Interstate-5 sat the King County Jail where he had stagnated the past several months. He laughed as the Toyota gained speed then veered onto the ramp to Interstate-90, heading east.
Forty minutes later, he noticed traces of snow as they climbed the Interstate into the Cascades. There were signs for the towns of Preston and Snoqualmie and the moment he saw the rest stop sign he decided it was time to dump the woman.
The rest stop was vacant, save for a pick-up truck parked next to the bathroom. He parked at the far end of the lot and cut the engine. As the motor became quiet, the woman twitched, then moaned. Quickly, he stepped from the car and surveyed the parking lot and when a man wearing a cowboy hat emerged from the restroom and returned to his truck, he cocked his head like an animal, listening as the truck moved out of the rest area and towards the Interstate. Then there was only wind blowing through the evergreens.
When he opened the passenger door he saw her stockinged legs and his groin stirred. She turned her head and with fluttering eyelids she groaned when he slid one hand under her thighs and the other under her back. He found himself intensely aroused as he picked her up and out of the car. The Moon and the Toyota's dome light illuminated the snowy grass he laid her upon. He observed the curve of the instep on her shoeless foot then he pulled open her coat to appraise her body. As he did so, the wind rippled her dress up her thighs and she moved her hand to her head. She moaned through parted lips and her eyes started to open.
Once he decided to act, it took only seconds to pull off her stockings and undergarments. With the knife's blade between his teeth and his pants around his knees, he mounted her. She screamed suddenly, as she stared up at him in horror. He enjoyed the terror in her eyes as he thrust himself into her. She gasped for air and screamed and tried to push him away. Then she scratched his face with her fingernails so he took the knife and cut her cheek. Finally, with all the strength she could summon, the woman drove her knee up into his testicles. Momentarily stunned, he winced in pain as he stared into her wet eyes. Enraged, he slit her throat and released himself into her.