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Kittens Are Either With Us Or Against Us

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One

It is dark. The last rays of the sun have finally hidden themselves behind the trees and Taylor is awake, sitting in the shabby shed he calls a home. It is Monday, and Monday means that he will find a blonde. Mondays are always blonde nights, and even though he may not have started that way, habits grow onto him like barnacles to a ship. It has only been twelve hours since he returned home just before the sun rose, but he already misses the feeling, the power that it gives him.

He will leave soon, sooner than he expected. He does not want to shower or bother with clothes but he does not have a choice. Evidence of the previous night's excursions cover him like ink and he will not be seen like he is. It is a private thing, something he does not share with anyone. The water in the shower is cold, always cold, but Taylor no longer even feels it. It is a habit, part of a routine that has gone on for years. A single candle burns dimly on the ledge of the sink. Wax leaks down the side into a crack down the side, filling a space already occupied by a layer of thick, black mold. He showers quickly and cleans his teeth.

He pads across the sand-covered floor back into his bedroom - another candle, sitting in a dish on his bureau, lights the room. It has been years since he paid for electricity, years since he'd been on the grid. He comes and goes silently, in the night always. He is careful, more careful than others before him. He does not keep charms. He does not have a diary. Each night he burns his clothes and each morning he washes away the evidence. He dumps bleach down the drains and makes sure he leaves nothing behind.

After he is dressed and his hair is brushed, he leaves the shed. He makes sure the padlocks are in place and he heads out of the woods, careful to take a different route than he's taken any time recently. His walk is miles long, rendering him very hungry by the time he steps out of the foliage and onto pavement. A dog barks near him, he can hear it growling and while it is tempting to stop and force the creature to shut up, to have a quick snack before his real hunt begins, he suppresses the urge. Stunts like that are far too risky.

He finds a street that he recognizes and heads south, into the city. There are still miles ahead of him and he hopes that a blonde fitting his needs for the evening will cross his path before he reaches it. It is easier that way, in the outskirts where people are less cautious and he has more time if he can find someone sooner. His fingers are already twitching after twelve hours and his cock is restless, twitching with interest at every thought of the evening's plans.

He sees her. She is fifty or so yards ahead of him, just coming out of a dark house surrounded by nothing but trees and it is so perfect. She has a bag on her shoulder; it is small and won't present a problem. He is strong enough to take down almost anyone he sets his mind to, but he knows that he is weaker when he is hungry and his stomach is practically growling now.

She is searching for something in her pockets, distracted by missing keys or something that makes her easy prey. He sneaks up behind her - this is why he waits until the dark - and his hand covers her mouth before she even knows he is there. She screams, but it is muffled and he almost laughs in her ear. She is struggling pathetically against him, her fingernails digging into his skin. He can feel the blood pumping through her heart faster and faster with each passing second and he drags her backward, into the woods behind her house.

She hasn't managed to break his skin - her stubby nails are no good for that, and he is thankful. He hates it when they make him bleed, because when he is finished he has a larger mess to clean up. He slams her back against a tree, crushes her larynx down with his forearm and makes her look at him. Her eyes are wide and blue, alive with terror that makes Taylor's cock harden completely in his loose-fitting pants. He presses his hips against hers, lets her feel what her shocked panic is doing to his body and she squeezes her eyes shut, whimpering against his hand. Tears slip out from beneath her closed eyelids and Taylor groans, leaning in closer and inhaling deeply; he can almost smell her fear.

As much fun as it is to toy with his victims while they are alive, he knows that it is too risky. He whispers into her ear, tells her not to make a sound, and when he removes the hand holding her mouth, she stays silent. Screaming would be difficult with how tightly he is holding her neck, but he's had it happen and the last thing he needs is a curious neighbor coming to see what the fuss is about. He reaches into the waist of his pants and pulls out his knife. She gags, gasping and writhing against the tree after she's seen the weapon, trying to get away from him, trying to call for help, but it is useless. Her struggle only lasts for seconds before he has slit her throat and her body slumps against him, lifeless.

The smell of her blood fills his nostrils and he breathes in shakily, lowering his mouth to her neck. He drinks slowly, taking his time because no one will come, now. She tastes young, frightened, and there is a slight tang that Taylor can almost always recognize as a vegetarian. It is strange, how quickly he learned the different tastes of a woman's blood. He pulls his face away from her neck and moans, low and desperate. She is cooling underneath his fingers. He can feel her heat escaping and he must work quickly, now. He doesn't have long to play before she will go stiff and reject him.

He cuts away her clothing quickly, silently, and then removes his own. His shirt is blood-soaked, but he always wears black for precisely that reason so he tosses it away with enough care that he will be able to find it for the long walk home. She is beautiful underneath him, dyed red with her own blood. Her hair is streaked with it, her mouth open wide for him and he does chuckle, then, thinking about how wonderful the night is going to be. It has all gone perfectly.

Her body is as he wants it, her arms above her head and her legs spread open as far as they can be without breaking. His fingers are covered in her blood, wet and sticky with it, and he pushes two inside of her. He is panting now, his body rocking as he kneels between her legs, watching his fingers slide in and out of her body. He is getting crazy with it, his whole body twitching along with his cock and he knows that now is the time. He swipes his fingers along her neck one more time, coating them in blood again before he wraps his hand around his dick and strokes quickly, just long enough to get himself coated. He had struggled once, long ago, and learned from that. He still learns things now, but tonight is meant for pure pleasure because it is Monday, blonde day. He stops thinking as he presses himself inside of her - tight and still warm. Maybe too warm, but he does not have the time or the care. She is still beneath him as he thrusts into her and he laps at the blood on her neck, moaning into the gash.

He has gotten too carried away with this one, and he will have to burn her. The smell will be beautiful in the air and he will be light with pleasure and so, so full that he will not care when he hears the sirens. He knows the woods better than anyone, can get home from anywhere within them, and he does not worry. It never takes him long to come and tonight is no exception. He growls into the slit in her neck, biting down hard against it, and lets himself be overcome with the feeling of her around him. She is cooler now, even with the friction, and her body is pale and beautiful. He collapses on her, all sweaty and gasping, and wishes that it was not over yet.

Taylor is still hungry, though, more hungry than he was when he left, and he knows that it is time to eat now. His stomach growls in anticipation.


Two

He would normally drag the body deeper into the woods for his dinner, but since he will have to burn her remains, it is better to stay as far away from his home as possible. The police will come to investigate too quickly and they would find him if the body were within a mile or two radius of the shack. He is at least five miles away and he deems that relatively safe. Not as safe as he would like, but safe enough.

Before he can get started, Taylor finds his discarded shirt and pants and pulls them back on. With his knife in his hand, he returns to her body, positioning the blade at her breastbone. He slices into her flesh deeply, smiling as blood pools around his knife as he carves a deep V into her chest. He cuts a straight line into her torso, stopping at her abdomen.

He sighs when his stomach growls again, not wanting to rush through this, but knowing that he has no choice because his fingers are shaking and his vision is beginning to blur. He has to eat something soon. It's unfortunate and he wishes that he had stopped and taken a bite out of that annoying dog on the way out of the woods. He could be enjoying this more, savoring every moment of it instead of rushing through to get his fill.

His thumbs slip into the wounds he's made easily, sliding through the V cut and down the line bisecting the torso, pulling at the edges of flesh until they begin to tear. It takes him longer than he'd have liked because his hunger is making him desperate, but he soon has the body split open for him from crotch to thorax, an oozing feast of crimson.

Taylor would like to play for a while longer, to enjoy the scent and taste and texture of her skin and blood, but he doesn't have the patience tonight. He reaches into her body and takes hold of her intestines, pulling out at least a yard of bloody, sausage-like meat before he sinks his teeth into the tissue. He likes the meat beneath the ribcage best, but he has no access to the tools required to crack open a human's chest, so he is forced to settle with the wet jumble of the belly.

The acrid taste of acid hits his tongue before anything else. He relishes in the bitterness of it, the taste of her last meal in his mouth, sliding down his throat. She is delicious. His first taste of woman was an old kill, dead for hours before he bit into her flesh and the taste was similar, but fresh kills quickly became his favourite. Her body is splayed out in front of him, her insides exposed to him as he quickly eats. He is still hungry when he's finished, and he eyes her liver with interest.

He thinks that maybe he has had enough, but he will not be able to eat again until the next night and to leave hungry - to leave her body still so full of meat - is a sin. He reaches inside of her again and pulls hard at her liver, relishing in the sound it makes when it pulls away from her body. This tastes different, more meaty, and he thinks he will perhaps feel more full when he is finished with that.

When he has finished and his face is covered in her blood, his teeth and lips stained with it, he sighs contentedly, leaning back onto his hands and staring down at her body. She is so beautiful and he wishes so badly that he could spend more time with her, could take the time to sever the head from the spine and each of her extremities from her body. Unfortunately, it is too risky.

Taylor sighs and stands up, walking the few feet to her pile of clothing. He looks through her pockets and finds thirty three dollars in cash and a key ring with the name of a motel that he has never heard of on it. He leaves the key ring in the pocket but takes the money before moving the clothing onto her body.

He will cover her in leaves and use the matches in his pocket to ignite her body, but he takes a moment to stare at her a little while more, feeling so much longing that it is almost unbearable. Finally, he squats down and pulls her kidneys, two hard little bean-shaped things that he doesn't find too appetizing but can never seem to resist. He munches on one while he surveys the forest around him, looking carefully for the best things to burn her with. He has burned ten women - normally this would not bother him but he is still hungry. He wants to drag her through the woods and break open her chest so he can enjoy the meat still hidden away inside of her.

He finishes the kidneys and wipes his hands off of on his shirt. It is easy for him to want these things, but he knows that he cannot get careless. He must keep hidden. He keeps tiny bottles of lye and bleach in his pockets so he can clean them. He has no fingerprints, but he has hair and semen and sweat. He covers her quickly, using a branch and a rag of material from her shirt to stuff the bleach inside of her. He would do it himself, but it would sting.

It does not take him long to cover her in leaves and dead branches. He carefully lights the leaves with matches and watches for a moment - not too long - before he turns away and heads back through the woods. He wishes that he could watch her body burn, to stay with her while she turns into ash and crisp bone, but it would be careless and he is not careless.

Taylor knows this woods as anyone would know their own home. He knows every tree and every rock. Every ditch and poison ivy patch and every way to get back to his home without being tracked by police or dogs or FBI.

He walks for maybe fifteen yards before hoisting himself up into a tree and climbing up until the branches will only just hold him. The forest is thick, heavily wooded, and perfect for him. His scent is everywhere, he knows this, but he is always covered in different scents of women or the smell of bleach and nothing has been able to sniff him out, yet.

He stays in the trees for a while, moving as quickly as he can in the direction of his shed. He has at least an hour before the police will investigate and he should be nearly home by that time, ready to drop to the ground and walk the last mile to his hidden home in the hill.

Taylor hears the sirens so faintly behind him when they finally do come. He is always careful when he must set a fire, and he makes sure to do it in a clearing. When the smell of cooking flesh wafts through the neighborhood, that is when the police get called. He is happy about this, because it gives him enough time to get home safely.

When he does arrive, he strips down to nothing and deposits his clothes in a barrel outside the door. He piles wood and leaves and half of a bottle of lighter fluid on top of it all before he drops a match inside of it. He carefully covers the barrel, the holes just big enough to let the smoke out and not smother the fire, and then he goes inside.

It is dark, but he has learned to adjust to the lack of light over the years. He has been in darkness for almost five years, now, since a week after his twenty second birthday, and his eyes see just as well as they always had in sunlight. Sometimes, in winter when there is less opportunity for him to hunt, he becomes slightly insane from his hunger and is convinced that he can see in the dark because of all the flesh he has eaten, is sure that he is able to stay warm in a snow storm because of what he has consumed, thinks that the blood and meat of other humans gives him some sort of strength or power that he would otherwise not have. In the warmer months, he knows these things are not true, that his body has just adjusted to what he has made of his life.

He has one bookshelf, filled with books on medical practices, surgery, and studies of the female body. He has a table with one chair, made of wood and flakey plastic, a cot that serves as his bed and is more comfortable than he requires, and a single cabinet. The cabinet houses cans of food, for nights when he cannot satiate himself. There is a hose hung up over a hook in one corner that serves as his shower with bottles of bleach and lye stacked up around it.

There are many things hanging on his walls. Most of them are newspaper clippings about the murders he has performed. There is an entire section of wall space dedicated to recent news articles, ones that have suggested a slight pattern in some of the murders he has committed. A case was opened up, months ago, by a young detective, and Taylor has been watching the papers carefully, making sure that his life is not threatened in any way. The detective's name is Zachary Walker and Taylor doesn't want to have to kill him, but he will if he gets too close.


Three

Detective Walker is still new on the job. He is only twenty-six but all of his superiors like him, so he does not mind being singled out sometimes, by his peers. They all had made faces at him when he'd started connecting the five year string of murders. He still is not sure how no one had caught on to it before he did.

"Another one, Walker," his Captain says. Zachary did not realize he was standing in the doorway and it startles him, as everything does now. He dreams of a serial killer who does not have a face, just teeth and vicious claws for hands. Everything scares him now.

"Another?"

"A girl, just twenty. Blonde." It is Monday, Zac realizes. Of course it is a blonde.

"Where?" he asks, standing up from his desk so that he can take the file from Captain Larson.

"The woods," Larson tells him. "Just half a mile in. She was dragged there, but she was burned so there's nothing left of her, really."

"No DNA," Zac guesses, sighing and going back to his desk with the file. "I'll look over this before I head down there. Thanks."

Zac has been studying the murders for almost six months now, and when he'd started there had been sixty eight that he could pin on what the media had started calling The Lake Mills Killer, after the forest that he generally likes to use. This young woman - glancing at the file, he sees that her name is Jessica - is the seventieth. Zac has a feeling there are more victims. The missing persons reports for the Clarington area had gone up significantly within the past six years and the seventy bodies had been found over a period of five years. Only ten had been burned, left indecipherable, and the other sixty had been found in dumpsters, all killed differently and torn apart differently, but all with a certain method. Blondes were killed on Mondays. Brunettes on Tuesdays. Red heads on Wednesdays, though there had only been two found so far. Black haired women were on Thursdays, usually hispanic, and Zac has yet to figure out what sort of guidelines the killer followed for the rest of the week.

He takes her picture out of the file and pins it to the wall with the other sixty-nine victims. He is going to figure this out. He makes that promise to every family member he visits, asking about old boyfriends and strange acquaintances and if the women had been frightened at all. The answers always come up empty and Zac wonders if the killer even knows the women beforehand or if he chooses them some other way.

It is a short drive to the woods and he can smell burned flesh from almost a mile away. He puts up the window and turns off the ventilation so he doesn't have to smell it. It burns his nose and he has to resist the urge to vomit, but he pulls into the driveway and gets out of the car.

More than once they found the women in pieces. This is not the case for Jessica. She is whole, barely, because she is burned so badly that Zac isn't sure how they even identified her.
The lead officer at the scene, trying to keep everyone as far away from the police tape as possible, is Dan Wilke, one of Zac's close friends. They've been working together for a while, now, and he's one of very few people who was honestly glad when Zac made it to detective at such a young age. When he sees Zac's car pull up, he calls a rookie over to watch the line, keeping the mob away, and jogs over to Zac. "We had to use her teeth," Dan tells him, knowing what Zac's first question will be. "We've got to take her in for an autopsy as soon as possible, but I'm not sure they'll figure anything out. There's nothing but some bones left and a few pieces of flesh that he must have ripped off the body."

Zac sighs and wanders over to a nearby tree so he can lean against it. He's feeling nauseated, like he usually does when he has to investigate the killer's crime scene, and he just wishes he could go home to his wife and not think about this anymore. It's driving him insane. He has too many unanswered questions, too much anger and guilt for the victims that have been lost since he put on the case. He's honestly not sure how much he can take anymore. That, combined with the sight and the smell of the remains, is enough to make him lose his lunch.

"Did the dogs get anything?" he asks quietly, trying so hard to bite back bile. Dan just shakes his head. Zac knows they wouldn't have gotten anything, but it is always worth asking. He doesn't understand, because the usual pathology for a crime like this is the killer progressing, becoming more and more daring, almost bragging, but that is not the case with the Lake Mills Killer. He does not want to brag or to be found out. He just steals lives away from women, only God knows how many, and Zac hates him more than he has ever hated anyone in his life.

"Nothing," Dan tells him. "Bout three feet before they got confused. He's careful."

Zac knows this, and he almost wants to snap at Dan for bothering to mention it, but Zac cannot bring himself to hurt Dan's feelings. He's trying to help. "I know," he says softly, instead, shaking his head and turning away from the scene. "I'm no use here."

"I'll let you know if we find anything else," Dan promises and then Zac is gone, in his car and on the way back to the office.

Normally, he would have investigated. He would have gone over the whole area with a fine toothed comb, making sure that the officers hadn't missed any important details, but he knows better. He knows that there's nothing left behind and that he's wasting his time. He's already had crews of people search the entire forest and found nothing except for one rotting body of an African American woman, which didn't fit the killer's MO at all, so it was probably random. Everyone assumes that the Lake Mills Killer lives someplace else and drives into the Clarington area specifically for his meals and to get his rocks off.

It bothers Zac more when he thinks of his wife, a pretty red-head who cares for him and his little daughter so well, because they live in Clarington. He has nightmares of coming home and finding her dead in their living room, violated and opened up and eaten like a cow. It makes him sick some nights. Zac wishes they'd stayed in Brisbane and that he'd never heard of Clarington on those nights. On other nights, like tonight, all he wants is to find him and gut him. Another life has been lost to him, another life out of countless and Zac is determined to stop him. If it is the last thing Zac does with his life, it will be stopping him. He refuses to let his little girl grow up in a world where she could be taken unaware and.

He finds it hard to think the words, and just presses harder on the gas instead. His wife has a gun and pepper spray, but he isn't sure that these things will help her against the Lake Mills Killer. The man has to be strong and very, very fast and smart to have never gotten caught or even given them a trace to go on. It is so strange. Most serial killers become reckless after a while, thinking they can get away with anything. Most are too insane to actually be clever. This one, though. Zac isn't sure if he is more insane than the average serial killer, due to what he does, or less insane because of how easy it seems for him to get away with his actions.

The case keeps him awake every night for hours. All he could do was think everything over, figure out how he could stop the killer. He wants to put 24/7 surveillance on every female in the Clarington area, but that is obviously impractical. Nothing else seems like it will work, though, and he wonders what he is going to have to do to figure out who the killer is. He'd spent countless evenings driving around the forest, but it is so large that there is no way to monitor the entire thing.

All he can do is wait for a break and pray. He does these things so often they are a habit now. He waits and he prays.


Four

When Taylor wakes up on Tuesday night, he is in a good mood. He had spent the remainder of his evening last night reading a book that he had forgotten about, reminding him how to crack open a human chest during an autopsy. He is planning on doing it tonight, with a young brunette, hopefully with blue eyes and large breasts. It is going to be a struggle, getting her into the forest, close enough to his home so he wouldn't have to drag her miles and miles over rocks and sticks.

He keeps his hair a reasonable length and his teeth clean and his face neatly shaven. He is attractive enough, his eyes are honest looking and people like him when they meet him. Sometimes he forgets how to interact with other humans, but he mimics their behavior and is able to fool them into thinking that he's just like them. He'll seduce the young woman, make up some story about a haunting deep in the woods and promise to protect her if she comes with him. She'll have to be drunk, obviously, which means he must go into the city and find a bar.

He doesn't like going into the city. It isn't very often that he will find enough money in their pockets to get clothes nice enough for night clubs. He settles for slacks and black t-shirts, mostly, and black shoes that he often tears the soles right off of. He does not leave tracks. Where he can, he does not even walk.

Taylor showers off the blood from the night before and dresses. He wears the same thing almost every night and it is fine, like a uniform of sorts that reminds him of a time when he concerned himself with such things. He doesn't bother to anymore. Taylor's job is this, hunting and feeding himself. Keeping himself alive.

The biggest problem with going into the city is that he must take a bus. And, on the way back to the woods with the girl he hopes to find, he will have to take the bus. That means he will be seen with her and this is something Taylor has never done before. He is very nervous. He prides himself on his ability to be unnoticed completely by the society surrounding his forest.

He knows how to be careful, though. He's been careful one thousand and thirty seven times and the one thousand and thirty eighth time will not be his downfall. He will not allow it. He loves his life too much to let any bit of stupidity put his existence into danger.

It is ten o'clock when he leaves. It is pitch black in the forest and he weaves his way through it with practiced ease. He has become more crafty, lately, when it comes to leaving the forest. He does not want to be seen going in or out because there is so much talk of him and what he's done. It is new to him, recent in the last few months, to be famous. Fame does not fit him and he often wonders if it would be hard to kill the detective, or if that would make things worse.

He always settles on letting him live, though, because Taylor does not have a flavor for young men with donuts in their intestines. He has never actually killed a man before. There is no gratification in it for him, he is not interested in any sort of intimacy with a male corpse, so there is no reason for him to ever experience this. The detective very well may be his first male kill, but he would do nothing but dispose of the body. He would get no gratification from the murder, it would simply be for his own safety.

After he has exited the forest, ensuring that nobody could have seen him, he makes his way to a bus stop several blocks into the suburb of Malun and waits. He has no way of knowing what the schedule is, but he has become very used to waiting and it does not bother him to rest against the pole for a while, watching the neighborhood and listening to the things around him.

When a bus finally comes, almost thirty minutes since he arrived, Taylor boards it and inserts the required amount of change. The price has gone up since the last time he was on a bus, but he had been prepared for that and brought extra change. He sits in the back and is pleased that the bus driver did not give him a second glance and no one else boarded the bus with him. There are two other people, an elderly couple, in the front seat but they do not look up as he walks passed.

It takes another thirty minutes to get into the city and Taylor is getting antsy. He is questioning his ability to wait as long as it will take him to get a girl into the woods. He is becoming very hungry and his cock is becoming desperate.

As the bus enters the city, Taylor pulls the stop cord as soon as he sees a bar on a corner coming up. The bus stops and Taylor gets out through the back door, making sure that the driver does not look in his direction. He waits for the bus to disappear around a bend in the road before stuffing his hands into his pockets and putting his head down so that his hair falls into his face, something he's learned that women find endearing, and heads into the bar.

Taylor has not been into a bar in over five years. He has no identification on him and he hopes that nobody will ask him for a driver's license. He is twenty-seven and he does not look his age but he has no intention of drinking and, instead, he slinks against the back wall and watches.

He needs to find her and he needs to do it quickly. If he cannot get what he wants here, he will have to find another girl somewhere else and take her quickly. He doesn't like making them trash, but he will if he has to. He is starving and half-hard in his slacks and he just wants to eat.

There is a girl at the bar with a tiara on her head. She is perfect, Taylor realizes, taking in her curly, chestnut hair. She is thin, but her breasts are the perfect size and real, Taylor can tell. He slowly makes his way to her, sliding up next to her at the bar and flashes her a smile when she turns to look at him.

She is obviously already drunk. Her eyes are glazed over and she gives him a smile that is more gums than teeth, leaning towards him a little bit. "You're cute," she tells him and her breath smells like alcohol and sugar, a combination that he isn't too fond of but will deal with for the evening.

"So are you," he says. He does not see any one around her. If she has friends with her, they are not paying attention at all. The girl is leaning even closer and he thinks that his night might go even easier than planned because he can tell she will be more than willing to go home with him. Once he gets her near the woods, he will be able to make up a story that her drunken mind will believe and lure her as far as he can before he will take her.

Taylor rests his hand on her knee - something he remembers from when he was young and still did this sort of thing - and slides closer to her. "Is it your birthday?"

She nods, happily. "Twenty one," she says with a little too much giggle in her laugh.

"And no party?" Taylor did not have a twenty-first birthday party. Instead, he'd made his first kill.

When she shakes her head, her curls bounce. If she were a child, Taylor might have offered her a candy, but she is not so he focuses on her face, her lips, and the plunging neckline of her dress.

"No party," she answers. "I'm the oldest of my friends. They couldn't come."

He nods and squeezes her knee. "We could have a party," he suggests. "The two of us."

Taylor feels very proud of himself when she nods and smiles at him again. "That sounds fun," she says.

"We can go to my place," he tells her. She is so trusting, so willing to go anywhere that he suggests and he is amazed by his luck for the evening. The girl finishes her drink and picks up her purse and then they head out the bar towards the bus stop. It does not matter which bus they take, their ride will eventually take them to one of the suburbs and all of the suburbs are close enough to the forest for Taylor to find his way home. He just hopes his luck will continue so that nobody will notice them and he can get her into the woods without any problems. His body is not willing to wait much longer.


Five

They are deep in the woods before the girl starts getting nervous. Taylor tells her the story again, of the haunted part of the woods towards the middle where the ghosts play games at night. He says he is going to show her, and that it is not too far. They are a mile away from his shed and he knows they are close enough now, he doesn't have to wait much longer.

She wonders how he can see in the dark so well and Taylor offers nothing in return. He does not want to explain it or talk to her any more than he must. She is a meal and he is hungry.

When she asks again where it is he cannot take it anymore and pushes her against a tree. She thinks he is going to kiss her, he can see that in her eyes, and there is a terrified look on her face when she sees the glint of silver from his knife. He plunges too deeply with it, his hand pressing too much against her neck and there is no struggle. Her death is so quick he hardly registers it.

It doesn't matter because the kill is not what motivates him. It is what happens after the kill and he still has almost a mile to move her body before he can take pleasure from her remains. It is risky, dragging a bleeding corpse to his shed, but he is willing to do this tonight. He will clean up afterwards, with lye and piles of leaves to cover the scent and appearance of her blood. It will be worth the extra time.

He has everything set up already. He has cleared away the leaves and branches of a small area outside of his shed and he places her there. His handsaw is next to him, but he does not need to use it yet.

She is lying on her stomach and a pool of blood has formed around her. His stomach groans, demanding a taste, but he refuses to indulge himself until he has satisfied his other needs. He is determined to take as much pleasure from this girl as he can and he knows exactly how he wants everything.

Taylor begins by removing the head. The meat of the neck is supple and it separates into fleshy layers underneath his knife. He cuts from front to back on both sides until he reaches the spine. He inserts the tip of the blade between two vertebrae and pries them apart. He grabs a fistful of her hair, twisting the head away from the body and the spine separates from the body with a moist snap. He slices through what is left of her skin holding the head to the body and he holds it by the fistful of hair when it is removed, smiling triumphantly.

He leaves her body on the ground and walks three steps away, falling to his knees with her head cradled in his hands. He quickly undoes his pants and pulls his cock out. He is already hard and dripping and he cannot wait to press himself into what is left of her throat and fuck himself on her head.

Her esophagus makes a thick, squelching noise as he presses in and he moans loudly, pressing down on the cooling crown of her head until he is buried completely inside of her. He waits a moment, breathing deeply and enjoying the feel of her blood dripping down his thighs and the wet tendrils of flesh and vein dangling from her neck that tickle his hips. He does not want this to end too soon.

He waits only moments because his body is desperate, tingling with the need for release and he can wait no longer. He pulls her head away from his body, leaving just the head of his cock inside of it, wrapped up in the warm remains of her throat before he thrusts in again.

Taylor grunts as he thrusts, his eyes rolling backward and his cock twitching every time her throat makes a wet sound against his dick. His body is aching for release, begging for it, but he keeps himself in check until he cannot anymore. His hands are pushing and pulling her skull so quickly he can hardly make out her face anymore but it doesn't matter. He focuses on the sounds and the feel of her throat around him as he lets go of his self control and comes, hard.

It is always fascinating to look, afterward. He sees her head still impaled on his cock and his come dribbling out of the corners of her blue lips and around her eyes. She is perfect. No breathing girl could ever be as beautiful to him, as willing.

He removes her head and secures his pants again before returning to her body. It is becoming cold but he does not mind cold meat at all; he actually prefers it. He places her head aside because it is useless. Taylor has never been able to acquire the taste for brain.

He cuts her open much like he did to the blond the night before, slicing her open from neck to crotch and peeling back her skin until her insides are exposed to him. He has a sheet of clean plastic on the ground next to him, ready for the disassembly of her body, and he begins by pulling out the intestines, yard by yard until her stomach cavity is almost empty. He removes the liver and the kidneys and the stomach, placing all of them onto the plastic sheet.

Taylor leans down, inhaling the scent of her blood and waste and fat. His stomach growls again, protesting the length it has gone without sustenance, but it will have to wait a little longer. He reaches into the body with his knife, beneath the rib cage, and removes the organs she has left. Her lungs and heart go onto the plastic sheet with everything else. He spends a few minutes removing everything else, hand fulls of tissue and fat and useless organs and arteries that he tosses into a different pile, to the side.

He picks up his handsaw next, positioning it above her ribcage. He has not done this in at least two years and his mouth waters, thinking of how much he enjoys the fatty meat of the ribcage. It takes time and patience to saw through the cartilage holding her ribs to her breastbone. Taylor is starving, but he does not rush. His body does not like to go as long as he pushes it sometimes, but he knows that it will be more satisfying to eat the parts of her that he longs to instead of settling for intestines and liver again.

He pries the skin off of the bone, leaving just muscle and fat around her ribs. Her breasts flop to the side, leaking fat and blood all over the ground. He has tried breast meat before but it is too fatty for his tastes.

Her ribs are perfect. There is enough meat to fill him and his mouth is watering at the thought of it as he cracks her ribs out of her chest one by one. Once he has them all separated, in a neat line on the plastic, he looks down at her body. She's just scooped-out shell, now, with random fatty tendrils of flesh clinging to her hipbones that stick up, still, the only thing left still giving her any shape.

He turns away from her then and picks up one rib, bringing it to his lips. He sucks on it for a minute, making sure he gets all the blood, before biting down into the soft meat. The rib meat is tough, harder to get off the bone than other meat, but well worth it. The flavor is richer and he groans in appreciation as he swallows his first mouthful with closed eyes and his face set in appreciation. He definitely needed this and it is well worth the struggle.

Taylor takes his time. He is careful not to leave marks on the bones, using his fingers instead to pry the meat away. He does not want to leave teeth marks. He is always careful about that, even now when he is so hungry he doesn't feel like waiting any longer than he has to to fill his stomach.

He takes his time with her meat. She is delicious - fit and well-fed and perfect - and when he is finished, he looks over the plastic sheet to decide on what else to eat. He is not hungry anymore, but it is always harder on Wednesdays to find meat and he considers saving pieces of her somehow. He does not have access to ice, though, and he knows better than to eat rotting meat.

Her heart is cold in his hands when he picks it up. The blood has clotted into gooey, gelatinous lumps and he licks them off, savoring each mouthful until he has licked it clean. He is not hungry, but he wants to eat more. He has been so hungry lately because of Zachary Walker trying to find him, his nerves have not allowed him to enjoy his meals as much as he normally would. He will enjoy this one because he can. He is safe.

He bites into the heart and blood spills down his chin and onto his shirt while he chews the meat. This is not something he usually eats. The flavor is too rich for him and the blood has a different taste but he is in the mood tonight. Heart is tough, tougher than most meat on the body, but it is filling and Taylor doesn't mind working his jaw to near numbness if it means his belly will be full.

He finishes and leans back, looking over at the empty carcass. She is pale now, and probably stiff. Taylor shakes his head and hauls himself to his feet - so full, so achingly full he wonders if his stomach is going to burst inside of him. He has a lot of cleaning to do and it cannot wait any longer. It's three and the sun will be up by five. It will take an hour to erase their trail from the forest and probably another to bury her.

He gets to work.


Six

Zac gets the call at seven in the morning. A girl, brunette, is missing. Her name is Morgan and it was her twenty first birthday. Seven months ago, the police would have forced the family to wait until she had been missing for forty eight hours before they would investigate, but with a seriously dangerous killer on the loose, hunting down pretty girls every night, they are willing to start an investigation within hours of a call.

He gets to the office at seven fifteen and takes the file from Captain Larson before going into his office to look over it. It is up to him to decide if the Lake Mills Killer may have taken her, or if it is just a random disappearance. He hopes it is not the killer and that he can tell her family that she is probably still alive and drunk someplace after celebrating, but he knows that it is probably not.

Morgan disappeared from a bar in the city. All patrons have been questioned and they remember seeing her there but they do not remember her leaving. They do not remember any suspicious people in the bar.

This is very different from the killer's usual work. When he kills in the city, there is usually a body someplace nearby in a dumpster or a river. He has never left a body more than half a mile away from where he took the girl, but the police have already searched a two mile radius around the tavern. It is possible that she went someplace else before the Lake Mills Killer picked her up, but Zac thinks that, perhaps, this is not his work.

He will investigate it as if it were, until another brunette shows up missing. Zac figures this could be what he'd been waiting for all along - a misstep, a trail back to wherever he comes from. Zac doubts it because he knows better than that, but it is hard for him to not want to think he will finally catch him. The whole mess has been going on for far too long.

Dan comes into his office just as Zac is putting the file down. He looks up at his friend and Dan offers him an encouraging smile. "You'll catch him eventually," he says.

Zac shakes his head and rubs his eyes with his hands, sighing. "Yeah. But every day a new girl gets killed. Gets raped and eaten, Dan and what if it's my wife tomorrow? Or your wife next Tuesday?"

Dan frowns and comes over to Zac, placing a hand on his shoulder. "You don't let Molly go outside after dark, do you?"

Zac snorts. "I can't order Molly around. I tell her not to, but if she wants to, you know she'd just go." His wife is independent, something he loves about her, but he is terrified that she is going to die because of it. "I want to send her and Sandy to Francis Creek, to stay with her mother, but she just won't hear it."

Dan sits down across from him. "I don't let Anne go out. She's terrified, anyway. Won't even go to the store at twilight."

Zac wishes that all the women in the county were as scared as Anne. Then there would be no more victims, or he'd be easier to catch if he tried. Zac knows this won't happen, because everyone always thinks that murder cannot happen to them. He doubts Morgan thought her birthday night would end the way they are supposing it did.

He also knows that the Lake Mills Killer has murdered many, many more people than they have found. Perhaps, if people knew the possible number that the killer had in his head, they would be slightly more frightened. So many people refuse to believe that even the seventy that they have found are from the same killer. News reporters have spent too much time denouncing Zac's hard work instead of warning the people and telling them what to do and how to protect themselves.

Zac wishes he could turn the damn place into a police state.

He knows that will never happen, though, and until the Lake Mills Killer is caught it will be like this: wondering if the latest missing person is a victim, finding mutilated, burnt bodies. Finding bodies that have been wiped down so well, Zac wants to question every cop on the force. He wants to question every doctor, every nurse, anyone with medical training. He wants to question the whole city, but it is unrealistic and he knows that he doesn't have much of a choice. The Lake Mills Killer must get lazy before Zac can catch him, or daring, and if Morgan is an indicator, he might be getting daring enough to be caught.

"I'm going to go look around the bar," Zac tells Dan. "See if I can find anything."

Zac knows he will not find anything, that it will be a waste of his time but he is at a loss for what else to do. He also wants to wait to speak with her parents because it is possible that she is just missing and that a body will turn up someplace. Not that it would make the situation any better, but there is no reason to worry her parents any more than they probably are.

"I'll come with you," Dan offers and Zac nods because he appreciates the company.

"I've got to have someone search the forest for her body," Zac says as an afterthought. It seems pointless because he knows they will find no bodies, but it is something that must be done. If the killer is getting more daring, it is possible that he left something in the woods, some trace of a scent that might lead the dogs to his hiding place.

Dan nods. "We're on it already. The Captain organized a search party if you needed it. Just gotta say the word."

Zac is used to this now. On days where there is no body - and there are a lot of those days - things always follow a pattern. He will get the call, then he will come to work to find that half the force is already on it, working it like a Lake Mills case before a determination is made. Zac is glad for this, because he knows that means he is not the only one connecting the dots.

There is a room in the basement of the station. Some of the uniforms call it Lake Mills HQ, but Zac thinks it is inappropriate. The walls are covered with tiny photographs of missing persons matching the pattern and there are folders and folders of missing persons who don't quite match it exactly. There are maps of the county with pins pressed into the victims' homes, their works, the place they were all last seen. No amount of studying these things has ever led Zac any closer to figuring out who the killer is. He leaves no DNA, no prints, no footwear impressions in the damp soil of the forest. He is never seen coming or going from the woods.

And there is no pattern. Other than the blondes on Mondays and brunettes on Tuesdays and red heads on Wednesdays and black haired girls on Thursdays, there is no correlation between the victims. They are always between sixteen and forty and they are usually attractive, but there is no distinct reason for any of them, other than their hair color. And Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays are a complete mystery to Zac. He cannot figure out what makes the Lake Mills Killer decides on these victims because, to him, they seem completely random.

Several months ago, they attempted to set up decoys with the right colored hair on their corresponding days, but the killer did not take any of them. They were in the suburbs and were watched very closely, but no officers saw anything suspicious and every woman they used left unharmed. There had been kills on those nights, too, sometimes in the areas that the decoys were in, and Zac just did not understand what he was supposed to do, how he could catch this person.

He would go to the bar and poke around, then go speak with the family. He would proceed like this is a normal murder, even though everyone involved knows that it is not. He is never sure what to say to the relatives - how do you explain to a grieving family that their daughter or wife died because of her hair color? - and then he would come back to the office, work harder and think longer than the day before, hoping that somehow that would fix everything. He is not stupid and he knows that it will not, but it doesn't matter to him.

When he cannot think anymore, he will go home. His wife will be waiting for him with open arms and her pretty smile and Zac will take comfort in that. Until then, he is left mulling over a murderer in his head, one that he thinks is worse than any other in history.


Seven

Taylor likes Wednesdays. Especially after last night because he wakes up in his dark shed feeling warm and comfortable and well fed. He is happy today and he cannot wait to find a pretty red head to sink his teeth into. He does not know why, and he knows that it is probably entirely in his head, but he thinks red heads taste the best.

He cleans himself thoroughly and gets dressed before leaving. Tonight he will buy a paper and see what Zachary Walker has been up to, to see if he has learned anything new. Taylor must stay very aware of what the police are doing, of how their investigation is going, and he has not looked at the newspaper in several days. He knows this was very stupid and he also knows that he past two days he has gotten carried away. Tonight he must be more careful.

The woods extend almost ten miles north. Taylor almost always goes south, toward the city, because he knows the hunting is better there but he decides that tonight he will go north. He is full enough, still, to have patience and he is in no rush. Summer is beginning to turn into fall, and fall is one of the most dangerous times for Taylor. As the trees die around him, he has no choice but to hunt less and drag his victims farther and farther into the woods so he will not be seen.

In winter, the hunting is sparse, but in the fall women are everywhere, he just cannot risk it most of the time. It drives him mad. He hates eating canned beans and ham more than anything else in the world.

Taylor is fast. He can run a five minute mile and he does, jumping over rocks and fallen branches that he knows are there. He stumbles once but recovers, and by the time he reaches the edge of the woods, the stores on Main Street are closing their doors.

It is ten o'clock. Later than he'd have liked for a Wednesday. There is no moon in the sky so it is especially dark and he finds newspaper machine and buys the Clarington Journal. He doesn't need to look through the paper at all, the information he is looking for is right on the front page. They knew the blonde was his doing and they thought the missing girl from Tuesday night was also him, but they did not have much proof to back this up.

Taylor smiles, tossing the paper into the trash after he has read the entire thing. There is a picture of Zachary Walker in this one, speaking to the press, and Taylor commits his image to memory. He may need to know what he looks like in the future.

He is not worried that they will find the girl he took last night. She is buried very deep into the ground of the forest and nobody would recognize that it is a fresh grave. Taylor is very careful when he buries them and can rarely find their burial sites on his own after he has finished. She will not be found.

There is a shop around the corner that is surrounded in darkness. None of the street-lamps are on but he can see inside; a pretty red headed woman making a final purchase before the store closes for the night. The sight of her, the very thought of what he is going to do to her, makes his cock twitch in his pants.

He waits for her to leave in the shadows and her car is parked on the wooded side of the street, which makes him gladder. The employee is not facing them - he is counting money, probably, but Taylor doesn't care what he's doing as long as he does not see. He grabs her by the back, one hand crushing her throat down so she cannot scream and the other covering her mouth just in case.

She is thin and easy to drag back into the woods. She struggles, but she is absolutely no match to him and he has her half a mile into the trees in no time. He will kill her without blood and then drag her deeper into the woods. It is too risky to leave a trail of blood right now. He wants to be able to enjoy her without worrying about someone finding him with his hands half a foot deep in her carcass.

He presses her against a tree, looking into her eyes as he contemplates the best way to take her life. His favorite is with a blade, but he doesn't mind the intimacy of breaking necks or suffocation. He thinks maybe he would like to strangle this one, watch her pretty green eyes get swollen in her skull, watch how terrified she is while he refuses her air.

She is begging him silently. He can see it in her eyes and he smiles at her. He hardly speaks to his victims, so this will be new to him, to reassure her. "Be quiet," he murmurs into her ear. "No screams."

He takes his hand away from her mouth and she tries to pull in a breath. He is still pressing hard against her throat so he isn't surprised that she is having trouble. She is crying but Taylor doesn't think about it as he presses harder against her throat. The pads of his fingers are pressed against the veins in her throat and he can feel the life slowly slip out of her. When he is sure that she is dead, he throws her over his shoulder and begins to walk.

It was stupid of him to bring his last woman to his home. He will not make the same mistake again with this one. He is determined, instead, to go to a small clearing three or four miles away from him home and eat there.

He smiles a little, thinking about the night before. It may have been dangerous, but it had been well worth it. He clutches onto his red head tighter, groaning a little as he thinks about how good he felt the night before, how satisfied. His cock is hard, now, as he thinks about last night and what he will do with this one. It is difficult to make the last mine, but he manages.

He deposits her body onto the ground in the clearing and begins to strip her clothes off. For the first time, he realizes that she has a purse slung over her shoulders and he wonders how he did not feel it as he carried her. He stops what he is doing and sits down on the ground with the purse in his lap, peering inside.

Her purchase from the store is in there, wrapped up in a plastic bag. He inspects it, but upon finding it to be a music CD, he tosses it to the side. He has no need for music. There are many things inside of it, womanly things like tampons and a pink cell phone. He pulls out the wallet that sits neatly in the center of the purse and throws the rest of it off to the side, in a pile with the CD.

She has two hundred dollars in cash in her wallet, something that Taylor celebrates because he did not have that much money left and he needs new clothes and a new knife. There are photographs as well, three pictures in little plastic protectors. One of an old man and a woman, presumably, Taylor thinks, her parents. Neither of them would make a good meal, and that is all he cares about.

The next is of a child, and he hopes he did not orphan her. He never knows if his women have children, but there is something in him that gets upset at the notion of a child that would surely die without someone watching over her. She is only two or three and could not survive alone.

Last is a picture of his woman and next to her, there he is. Zachary Walker.

Taylor realizes that this situation presents an interesting turn of the tide. He has accidentally slaughtered his hunter's cow. A smile forms on his lips. This can be a warning, he realizes. A warning that Zachary Walker should heed, because Taylor does not take kindly to his life being threatened.

Taylor is even happier, now. He thinks he might like Wednesdays even more. It is not often - never, in fact - that he has the ability to leave such an meaningful message for the people who live in the towns surrounding his forest. This is going to be a great evening.

Taylor contemplates moving her back towards the edge of the forest. She will be seen easier that way, but with how desperately Zachary Walker is searching for him, Taylor has no doubt that he will find this body when he notices his wife missing. Maybe then Zachary Walker will leave him alone and stop his man hunt because Taylor does not plan on being captured any time soon. The detective needs to know that he is not willing to play games.

Taylor will take his time with her. He knows this is dangerous because Zachary Walker could go frantic with worry as soon as he notices that she is missing, but he wants to get his point across.


Eight

Taylor plans to violate her. He considers sex with his women to be one of the most intimate acts in his life, and he loves them all for their gifts to him: their bodies for pleasure, their meat for sustenance. But this one, this woman in front of him... He must do things to her that he would only dream of doing to any other. He must push himself.

He starts with her clothing, slicing through it swiftly and lapping at the thin, angry lines of blood that appear with every nick against her flesh. He slices off pieces of her skin and sucks the blood right from her muscles, moaning softly. He sets the flesh aside for later - not to eat, he doesn't like skin, but for some other purpose he hasn't quite decided on yet.

He will dismember her, he decides as he moans into a particularly deep gash in her stomach. She is heavy there, larger in the stomach than anywhere else and Taylor makes a face against her skin because he does not particularly enjoy the taste of fat. It is too oily, too slimy as it slides down his throat. There are other parts that he would rather eat, and he will take great pleasure in indulging in forbidden fruit tonight.

Once she is naked, he carefully moves her head to one side and focuses his attention on her eyes. He has only done this once before and it was the most exquisite experience of his life. He wants to do it again, feel his cock slide up against her brain, but he doesn't trust himself to keep quiet and he doesn't know if Zachary Walker is already scouring the woods for him. Taylor decides that there is no way the detective would get so deep within the woods before Taylor finishes and that he has strong enough willpower to be relatively quiet. He refuses to not do this after he has it in his mind. His body is desperate for it now.

He brushes some stray hairs off of her forehead before gripping her eyelid in his left hand and pulling it up, folding it over so that it is not in his way. He runs his fingertip across the eyeball before slipping it into the corner, watching as it shifts to the side, bulging out from the lack of room. His finger slides beneath it easily and he presses down against the iris with his thumb and pulls. The eye comes out easily and then he rips the nerve, successfully removing it from her head.

His cock is painfully hard as he stares down into the hole he's made. He runs his finger along the edges, moaning softly as he thinks about how amazing this will feel. He sets the eyeball down, with the flaps of skin he has ripped from her body, because he cannot wait any longer for release.

Taylor rips his own clothes away - he is in the woods, he does not have to worry about walking home in the nude with his clothes in tatters in his arms. After a moment, just a single moment, he is rubbing his cock against her eye socket, moaning softly to himself. He needs to lubricate the hole, so he cuts into her jugular and lets the blood pool in his hand. It is thick with death and he moans harder as he rubs it on his cock and onto her eye.

Swiftly, he presses into her and he cannot help the moan that rips out of his throat. It is loud and though he wishes he could have stayed quiet, the tightness followed by the softness of her brain is too overwhelming and he cannot stop himself. He is kneeling over her head, palms flat against the cool earth underneath him and he bucks into her over and over, his hips snapping flush to her skull. He is gasping for breath and moaning; the feeling is too perfect, too overwhelmingly hot that when he comes, splashing come into the emptiness around her brain, he lets out a ravenous scream.

When he is finished, he pulls away from her and sinks his teeth into her arm muscle He spits out the flesh and then bites down again, tearing muscle away from bone. He has not eaten this way in years, since his first taste of flesh on his eighteenth birthday. She tastes sweet, like candy, and Taylor pulls away from her rapidly cooling corpse long enough to check the woods around him. There is no movement, no light shining in the dark so he is not afraid. He picks up his knife and slices into her stomach while he chews on the muscle of her arm and he starts to disassemble her.

He has her intestines half ripped out of her body when he notices her uterus is heavy with a child - barely formed, he is sure, and suddenly the victory is even greater. The message will be better for Zachary Walker. He abhors killing children, he has never purposely done it before because the very idea of it makes him ill, but the child in her womb barely counts as human. He carefully slices open the uterus and removes the still fetus. He places it in her hand, bloody and still, and then returns to his task.

Her lungs are clean, pink and beautiful as he eats them and they taste like she has never smoked a cigarette in her life. He avoids the lungs, usually, because he cannot stand the taste of dirty lungs. He is determined to eat as much of her as he can. He will be full for days and will relish in knowing that she is still in his stomach days later.
Taylor cuts into her legs next, pulling away skin until he can scrape the muscle away from bone. He doesn't normally waste his time doing this, but the taste is pleasant enough and the texture different from anything else. There is little fat to her legs, unlike most of his victims, and he swallows mouthfuls until he remembers the treat waiting for him by her discarded flesh.

He picks up the removed eyeball, cold and dry now, and inspects it. She had pretty eyes and he thinks it would be a waste if he doesn't enjoy it. He puts it into his mouth and sucks on it for a moment, rolling it over his tongue before he pops it between his teeth. The gooey burst in his mouth is heavenly and he closes his eyes, sighing as he enjoys the flavor. He likes the treats he saves for special times, girls that are pretty enough to taste every part of them. It isn't often that he lets himself eat more than a woman's liver and kidneys and intestines. It's easier to get to and doesn't involve much more than a few carefully-placed cuts.

When he has the time, like now, he enjoys the rest of her. Eyeballs are particularly delicious when the kill is still warm and he looks longingly at the other for a moment before he realizes that he doesn't have enough time to indulge in the rich parts. He has her limbs to remove, perhaps her head, and he must gut her still.

It is a lot of work to crack her joints apart and rip through the flesh with his knife. It is getting dull and he knows this. He likes to replace it every so often anyway; it is easier to throw them over the waterfall and purchase a new one than it is to bring it to be sharpened. It throws the police off when he switches, anyway, and he is grateful for every time that happens.

Once he has her separated into five neat pieces, he picks up the flaps of flesh that he removed from her arms. There are seven all together and he slides two of them into the hole where her eye used to be. It does not conceal the evidence of their lovemaking, but it is enough of an anomaly to make them check behind them and see what he had truly done to her.

The other five he uses carefully, pressing one into her mouth, one into her anus, and three into her vagina. It is careful work to get them positioned so they are obvious but hidden enough that it will take an inspection to find them.

He doesn't like to play with his food like this, but she will be a work of art and a message to Zachary Walker. He must stay away from Taylor, away from his woods, and find himself a criminal to catch instead of wasting his time on a hunter.

He will survive this, and as he gathers up his shredded clothes and looks at her gutted corpse, he smiles a bloody smile. Yes, she is a good message.

He retreats home silently, leaving no trace behind him. He will not be found.


Nine

Zac does not know what to do with himself when Molly does not come home. She was running to get an album and left Zac in charge of baby Sandy. She should have been home not long after ten and by eleven, Zac is absolutely terrified.

He goes to the store but it is closed. Her car is still parked outside and he immediately calls the station, telling them to come and help him search for his wife. They are there within minutes and Zac is sick with worry, unable to think straight at all. He knows this, how the scenario plays out. He wants to cry. He wants to scream. He wants to do something, anything to get rid of the anger and guilt and sadness but he knows that he must find her body, must know for sure.

Dan comes to him and takes him into the diner on the corner. Zac does not want to go, but his body is shaking and his vision is blurry with unshed tears. He cannot help the search. "C'mon," Dan says softly, gently pushing Zac down into a booth. "There's enough people out there to tear the forest apart and more are on their way in."

"I shouldn't have let her go," Zac whispers as he grips the edge of the table. He is picturing it in his head, how scared she must have been. There is a small part of him begging that he not jump to conclusions, but he knows better.

Dan does not say anything. There is nothing to say. No words can make the situation better at all.

When his phone rings half an hour later, he does not want to answer it. It is Captain Larson and Zac knows what he will say. Thirty minutes is too soon to tell Zac that they cannot find her and if they had found her alive, she would have called him herself. He cannot bring himself to answer.

Dan takes the phone and answers it. He says hello and just a few other words. Mostly, he just sits there silently listening. Zac knows that does not mean anything good, and it is only worse when Dan's face pales completely. He wonders who is going to be the one to sit him down and give him the sugarcoated tale of what happened to her.

When Dan hangs up, Zac's tears start to fall down his face. He is not stupid. He knew she was dead the moment she did not come home and this confirmation is even worse. He wants to vomit, to scream and tear the woods apart trying to find the killer. Zac has never felt pain like this in his life.

Thoughts raced through his head. He needs to tell Sandy her mother is not coming home. He needs to find him, kill him. Slowly. He needs to keep his daughter safe and, perhaps, he will need to move far away from Clarington. Things are too dark here and the memories will be too strong. His tears will not stop and his chest is tight, pained, and he can barely breathe.

"I want to see her," Zac tells Dan after a long time of silence.

"I'm not sure that's a good idea," Dan says quietly and Zac is sure that he is right, but he does not care.

"I want to see what that fucker did to her," Zac tells him through clenched teeth.

"Zac. It's. You don't want to," Dan tells him and rests a hand on his shoulder but Zac shakes it off.

He gets out of the booth and leaves the diner. Dan is on his heels, telling him that he should go home to his daughter who is with the neighbor, that he does not need to see this. Zac ignores him and heads into the forest. He does not know how far he must walk, but he does not care. The search party has left heavy tracks and he knows which way to go.

The scene is under lights, taped off and heavily guarded. Half of the search party is milling around with pale, disturbed faces. Zac pushes through and ducks under the tape. The smell of decay hits his nose and it is strange how he recognizes it so well now, when six months ago he had barely seen a murder victim.

Captain Larson is there, in front of him with his hands reaching out for Zac. "Walker," he grunts. "Go home. You don't need to be here."

"I need to see her," Zac says, pushing Larson's hands off his shoulders. "I need to see what he did to her."

The captain shakes his head. "Zac, you don't need to see this. It's." The unspoken words hang heavy in the air and Zac already knows, he already knows that he is going to vomit everywhere and cry but he will not believe that it is Molly until he sees her.

"No," Larson tells him with finality and his voice is firm. Zac does not care. Zac will do whatever he must to get passed Larson and see his dead wife and something in his eyes must tell the captain this because after a moment he moves. "I'm so sorry," Larson says softly and Zac glances at him, sees him looking at the ground with tears on his cheeks and Zac wonders why they are all so much more affected by this death than the others. None of them have met Molly except for Dan and even though they know him, there is no reason for them to be any more said this time than with all of the others.

He looks ahead of him, towards her body. She is five or so yards away with police and detectives surrounding her, examining her. Someone is taking photographs of her body. Her purse is lying a few feet away from her hands. There is no denying that it is her. He would recognize her hair anywhere and her lime green shoulder bag from a mile away. There is no reason for him to get closer to confirm that it is her, but he cannot fight his need to see what the killer has done to her.

The walk seems to take hours and each step hurts more and causes more anger and grief in his heart. When he finally reaches her body, he sees immediately how different this murder is from the others. Her body is in order, the form of it correct, but her limbs have been removed. One of her eyeballs is missing. There are pieces of flesh poking out of the socket. The Lake Mills Killer has gnawed on her leg, her arm, and removed her tongue and left it next to her head.

Zac falls to his knees and fights back the bile and sobs. He bites his hand, hiccuping against it and just stares. An analyst is removing the pieces of her skin from the eye socket and Zac watches in horror as semen leaks from it, dripping down her cheek to the corner of her mouth before slipping down her skin. There is no holding it back anymore and he leans to the side, emptying his stomach. When he has finished, he opens his eyes and finds his wife's hand in front of him.

There is something in her palm. Something small and red and coated in blood. He whimpers, opening and closing his mouth several times before finally verbalizing his question. "What is this?"

The analyst gives him a sympathetic look. She stares at him for a few moments before she finally sighs and takes a step over to him. "It's a fetus, Zac," she whispers. "I'm so sorry."

He can't help himself from being sick again. He has not just lost a wife, but a child, too, and now he cannot stop shaking, cannot stop crying so loudly he feels like the whole world is hearing him. Captain Larson's hands are on his shoulders again, tugging him backward and away from the scene and he wants to struggle but he cannot bear it. He lets himself be removed from the scene. Dan is waiting just outside the tape and pulls him into a hug that Zac barely feels.

"Walker," Larson says when Dan finally pulls away from him. "I don't. I really don't think this needs to be said, but we're going to have to take you off the case."

Zac understands this. It is rational for the captain to take him off because it is personal now, he lost a wife and a child to the monster and he would not be able to stay focused, but right then he does not care. He wants to cry and beat the ground and he knows he is more determined than any detective in Clarington to catch him.

It doesn't matter to him. He knows he won't rest until the monster is dead and he is a thousand miles away from this place with Sandy tucked carefully in his arms. He will not let her live in a world with this monster.


Ten

When Taylor wakes up on Thursday evening, he is full and he feels good. His night was filled with dreams of the girl from the night before and how upset Zachary Walker must have been. Taylor smiles, stretching on his bed and yawning. He is sure that his message was received.

He goes about his usual routine before exiting his shed. It is early, barely eight, and he will take the shortest route out of the woods. He needs to buy a knife. It is even duller now after cutting through the red head's bone, and he fears it will be useless.

He walks for a mile before he hears it. It is just a rustling sound, far away from where he is, but it is not a sound that Taylor is used to hearing in this area of the woods. It does not sound like a deer or a raccoon. It is large and it is on two feet and Taylor knows it is a person. People do not come this deep into the woods, especially after all of the news articles about him, and he becomes worried. He needs to investigate and be very cautious.

He hauls himself up into the trees and jumps from branch to branch, following the noise as silently as he could. The person - male, he figures, because the steps seem to loud to be a woman - is close to his home, now. He does not know what to do because he has never been presented with this problem before.

He waits until the man makes the mistake of walking under him and then he drops. It is a long distance but Taylor has dropped from higher before. He knows how to break his fall and he lands just right, knocking the man onto his stomach. He does not move but he is alive and Taylor is terrified.

The man is large and muscular but shorter than Taylor by several inches. Taylor is not sure what to do. He could easily kill the man but he wants to know who he is and what he is doing so near Taylor's home, threatening him. He picks up a rock nearby and uses it to hit the man in the head. He knows just the way to do it, not so hard that he will crack the skull, but hard enough that he will cause the man to slip into unconsciousness for at least a while. Long enough for Taylor to immobilize him.

He drags the body back to his shed against his better judgement. There is no place else nearby that has a clearing and the man is too heavy to drag as far as he can drag a small woman. He positions the man against a tree and sees his face for the first time. It is Zachary Walker.

As Taylor gathers a length of rope to tie him with, he shakes his head. He did not heed his warning, and now he was going to have to pay.

It does not take Taylor long to secure him to the tree. He is full enough that he does not need to worry about hunting tonight. He will eat a can of beans before he sleeps and that will be enough, though he hates doing it. He is going to have to deal with this and it will not leave him enough time to hunt.

It takes Zachary Walker ten minutes to groan and rouse from sleep. Taylor is crouched down in front of him, looking at him curiously, and it takes Zachary a few moments to collect himself and realize where he is. Taylor sees the flash of recognition on his face. He has never met Zachary Walker before, but he supposes the detective is smart enough to suss out who he is.

"You should have listened," Taylor tells him and he frowns so that Zachary will know how disappointed he is.

The detective struggles against the tree suddenly, screaming low and angry in the back of his throat. The sound is animalistic and Taylor smiles. "You will not free yourself," he informs the detective. "Why did you come here?"

Zachary glares at him and Taylor assumes that he will refuse to speak. It takes a few minutes, but he finally opens his mouth. "You killed my wife."

"Yes," Taylor agrees.

"You violated her. You. You ate her. You're a monster." Zachary is obviously very angry. He is shaking. His skin has become red and he is sweating. Taylor finds his lack of fear interesting and wonders how long it will take for Zachary to realize what he has gotten himself into.

"I consider myself a hunter," Taylor tells him and he stands, then. He does not have much to work with - his knife is too blunt to do much damage to anything. "I need to eat."

"You eat people!"

Taylor smiles faintly. His hands go to his stomach out of instinct and pats it. "You eat flesh as well."

He does not know if Zachary Walker is trying to reason out the logic in his head or not, but it is a suitable distraction for a while. Taylor eats flesh because he can. It was delicious when he tried it for the first time and since then, since that first introduction, he has not been able to stop. Once a month was not enough, then once a week, and now once a day was even getting to be unbearable.

"Why?"

Taylor flashes him a smile as he picks up a bottle of lighter fluid from outside the shed. He tosses it when he realizes that the smoke will draw people into the woods to put it out and he is too close to his home, anyway, to light something on fire. He does not want to die. "Because it's delicious," he tells him.

There is no reason. It was given to him at a ritual in South America nine years ago and since then he has not been able to stop. "But it's wrong," Zachary says angrily.

Taylor laughs softly, looking through a box next to his shed with an assortment of medical devices. "There are many things that are wrong that your society participates in freely," Taylor informs him, pulling out the saw that he used on Tuesday. It is still covered in blood and dried up fleshy particles. It will work.

"You violate people after you've killed them," Zachary says loudly and Taylor thinks perhaps he sounds hysterical.

"What else should I do with them?" Taylor asks. He wonders if Zachary would consider it any more respectable if he just ate the meat, or if he just killed them without eating or having sex. "What does it matter to them, what I do with them?"

"You. You raped my wife's. My wife's." He cannot get the words out and Taylor smiles again, examining the saw.

"It was quite exquisite," he says. "I would suggest trying it, but you won't be able to in a few moments."

It seems like Zachary notices the saw for the first time. He starts to struggle harder against the ropes but Taylor is very good at tying things still. "This is quite a landmark for me," Taylor tells him. "My one thousand and fortieth kill. My first male."

Taylor is amused by the expression on Zachary's face. It is one of shock and he cannot help but chuckle softly. "How many had you calculated?" he asks, stepping closer to the detective and kneeling back down. He planned on torturing him, cutting pieces of him away until he passed out from the pain, but he no longer wishes to do this. He finds that he is not as bothered by the young man as he thought he would be and knows that he will find little pleasure in his death. There is no gratification for him in killing men. This is only for protection.

"M-maybe a f-few hundred," Zachary stammers, his eyes fixed on the jagged edge of the saw.

"I am very good at protecting myself," Taylor says.

"I have a d-daughter," he whispers pathetically, tears spilling down his cheeks as he gives Taylor an imploring look.

"You should have stayed home with her," Taylor says. "I warned you but you didn't listen. I am sorry that it has to be this way, but you've left me with no option."

He knows that Zachary wants to say something else, to plead and beg with him but Taylor does not have the patience for that. The saw makes quick work of his neck, through his vocal cords and to the spine, scraping against the bone there. He is dead almost instantly and Taylor knows that he will never be safe in Clarington again. He will have to move on.


Epilogue

She wakes up in the dark and yawns tiredly. She got to bed very late and she's still tired but she knows better than to sleep in. There is too much to do during the sparse darkness of the summer and if she doesn't hurry, she'll come home unsatisfied and hungry and Taylor doesn't like it when she's crabby.

He's already awake, sitting at the table in the kitchen with a soda. He never used to drink the stuff, barely even drank water, but Joyce likes it so much that he keeps it in the house and has even taken a liking to it. She smiles and pulls on some clothes before joining him.

"How did you sleep?" he asks her.

"Well," she answers, curling her legs underneath her and stealing a sip of his drink. He touches her face and chuckles. He knows her better than to think she is ready for the night.

"You'll be careful?" He always looks at her with such caution, like he is terrified she is going to slip up and get caught. She may not be as practiced as he is, but they have hunted together for so long that she is surprised he still has doubts in her abilities. She is silent and quick and good at what she does.

"You'll be careful?" she echoes back, because she cannot remember a life before Taylor and does not desire to know one without him. She knows there was one, knows by her red hair and dark brown eyes and skin that doesn't quite match his. She had a mother and a father once. She knows this, knows she was not always called 'Joyce', but it doesn't matter. She is newly eighteen and her father trusts her to go out on her own, to be home safe by sunrise with a full stomach.

He chuckles softly and stands. He kisses the top of her head and looks at her for a moment, as if memorizing her face like he does every day, before walking out of their home. She watches after him before standing and heading out herself.

Joyce is happy. She enjoys her life and enjoys the time she spends with her father. They are very quiet and very solitary people, even when they're together, and she likes this. She likes the way he's always protected her and taught her everything that he knows. She's never minded that she couldn't play with the children she saw playing outside on their hunts. She's as content as he is with their lives. All that matters is hunting and eating and being safe.

She heads north west. There is a basketball court that she likes, full of attractive young men who like to whistle at her when she walks by. It helps that she's attractive, but she thinks she would be able to find meals that appealed to her even if she weren't. It just makes things a little bit easier. She hunts differently than Taylor, she stalks her prey a bit more, sees a bit of their lives because it makes their death more meaningful to her.

Taylor had taught her to treasure life. Each meal that she eats comes from living, breathing flesh and without that flesh, she would wither away to nothing. She loves each meal for giving up their life so she can live hers.

Her man tonight is tall and thin, an athlete and she knows just by the look of him that he will taste delicious. She does not understand her father's attraction to female meals. He takes them thicker, fattier, and she cannot stand the smell and taste of fat. She prefers her meat lean, lanky and textured with years of running and jumping.

She whispers things in his ear and takes him into the forest. She is careful to arouse him just enough so that he is distracted, hard against her leg when she plunges her knife carefully into the side of his neck.

She knows he does not see it coming, could not see it coming, and she is always grateful for a quick death. Her father finds sexual gratification in his meals but she does not - dinner and sex are two different things that she will never bring together. She does not think her father is wrong for doing what he does, but they are different people. He does not find pleasure in the act of taking his victims lives, only in what comes after, but she savors every moment that she spends with them as they breathe their last breaths, as their hearts slowly stop beating.

Once all traces of life have left the man's body, she lays him flat on the ground. She wipes her knife off on his shirt and spends a minute or two tasting the blood spilling from his neck. It coats her throat and soon her hunger takes over and she must eat. She splits open his stomach, carving away the skin until she can access his liver. It is the only organ that she likes. Her father eats mostly the innards of his victims, the machines that keep the bodies alive, but she prefers muscle over those tastes.

She bites into the liver, chewing thoughtfully as she casts her gaze over the body. His legs and arms are lean and his sides are taut, all full of meat that she craves.

When she is done and he is buried, daylight is fast approaching. The woods Taylor picked for their home were good, thick and dark, but she still must leave behind no trail as she makes her way home. It is harder for her. She cannot jump from tree to tree like her father and she cannot run as quickly. She hops barefoot from rock to rock along the edge of the stream and hopes that is good enough. The little wet imprints will dry before the sun is up.

She makes it home just before the sun breaks over the horizon and after she goes inside, she makes sure the door is closed and locked. Her father is already home, curled up with a book under the blankets. She knows she must take a shower before she can sleep and it irritates her, because while she was growing up it was always the opposite. Her father is much more careful now, and their home does not look anything the few she grew up in. He has pictures on the wall in frames, and he even has proper furniture. She knows this is because of her, that before her and even when she was a child things were much more dark and dank. He always tells her that she lights up his life, but she never understands quite what he means.

She wonders, too, if he does this to better hide. She knows that her first father, the one she can't remember, stumbled upon Taylor's home. If someone were to look now, they would not see anything more than two people staying away from the world.

After her shower, she crawls into bed and yawns. She feels Taylor shift beside her and he puts the candle out. She hears his book land on the ground beside the bed and she knows that it is time to sleep. The days of summer are long and the nights are short and they are always both exhausted when they return home.

[end]