What You Need (The Complete Story)

I'm continuing to post all the stories that have ever appeared here, in complete form. Today's is one of the more recent ones:

When people look at Taylor, they don't just see him - -they see what they want most in life. Because Taylor has... What You Need.

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What You Need

Taylor was in Portland.

Taylor had taken a plane to Portland, because he had the airplane ticket to go there. He’d been given the ticket by that old lady who was positive he was her nephew. Taylor had decided that he’d see Portland for a while, give the lovelorn widows and starstruck daughters and grieving businessmen of Dallas a break, get out of town for a while. So he’d gotten the old lady to give him a ticket to Portland, her thinking that he was some nephew or other, and him thinking nothing more complicated than I guess it’ll be Portland. He’d picked out Portland sort of on a whim, and wondered if maybe one of the Dallas women had mentioned it. Not that he paid much attention to them when they talked. But for some reason, when he’d been talking to the old lady at the home, and he’d mentioned that he had to be going, and she’d said “You’re flying out already?” Taylor had thought Portland, and had said “Yeah, you know what my schedule’s like.” Then he’d paused and said “It’s just tough, with the economy the way it is.” And before long, she’d offered to charge the tickets on her credit card. Why wouldn’t she do that for her nephew, she’d asked.

Taylor had wondered where her nephew really was. Alive, or dead? Did he sometimes visit her and she’d just not seen him in a while? Or had he stopped, long ago, and she’d been pining away for him?

And why her nephew? He’d occupied himself at the airport in Dallas with that thought. Was she one of those old bags that never had kids and so had glommed onto her sister’s kid?

That was about the extent of the musing he’d done on the whole trip. He’d gotten to the Portland airport, braced himself in the cold, wet Oregon air, and walked towards a rental car counter, waited in line scanning the people behind the counter. He’d waited, letting a family skip, until he could get the man behind the counter who looked a little down, who looked grim, who looked a little lost. Taylor had stepped up to that man’s window, and waited. The man had looked up, initially not doing much of anything.

Yes?” he’d said.

Taylor had waited a moment, smiling, and then the man had said “You? Taylor had nodded, then, firmly and convincingly. The man had said “I thought you weren’t going to be back for six more months.

Taylor had then assured the counter guy that he was back, that it was him, and before he knew it, he had a car, with the counter guy promising to take care of the paperwork and Taylor would drop his stuff off and they’d get together for dinner as soon as the guy was off work…

… and Taylor had driven away, knowing he’d never see the guy again and wondering who he’d been for those few moments. He hadn’t congratulated himself. The first couple of times he’d gotten away with it, he’d thought I’m really something. But he knew, now, that it wasn’t anything he himself did. That’s just the way the world worked, the way his life was and it wasn’t worth mulling over for very long. Not anymore.

He’d stopped thinking about it, in fact, as he’d pulled the car in to get some snacks at a GO-Drive convenience store. He’d been thinking about nothing more complicated than maybe finding a hotel, because he was too tired to be a dead husband or a dead son or a long-lost college buddy tonight, and thinking, too, that he shouldn’t have mixed two kinds of sodas into his 144 ounce cup, and that had occupied his mind so much that he barely noticed George staring at him, and then when he did noticed that George was looking at him, even then he didn’t really register it other than to think to himself Hey, loser, go stare at someone else.

Then he’d gotten into the rental car and decided that yes, he would get a hotel room. The flight hadn’t been long, but there were two layovers; that old lady had him traveling cheap, and while he shouldn’t complain, he would. She must not have been too crazy about her nephew, Taylor thought to himself. He started up the car and began to back away from the parking lot. In his rearview mirror, he saw the man he would come to know as George staring at him, again.

“Geez, what’s your problem, buddy?” Taylor said to himself, window rolled up. He drove away, pulling out onto the road towards the city, and looking one more time in his rear view mirror.

The man, the one he didn’t know was named George yet (but he would, soon) was still staring after him. Taylor didn’t know the man and didn’t think further about him that day, other than to again shake his head, mutter “Buncha hicks around here,” and drive off.

Taylor’s peculiar talents didn’t include forecasting the future, which is too bad, really. If he had been gifted that way, too, he might have known that in a surprisingly short time, George would be holding an axe to Taylor’s neck and asking:

Did you cut off her head slow, or quick?

Taylor didn’t know he’d be hearing that soon – soon enough – and so he drove down the road, away from the GO-Drive convenience store. The sky was cloudy, which matched perfectly with what he’d always assumed about the Pacific Northwest (that it was gray and wet and dank and dark) but which also provided a good change from the wide-open, the scorched, the blue of the southwest where he’d been living, for the past 7 months, with Andrea. He tried to remember, as he drove, how he ever ended up in Dallas. Where had he lived before that? How had he met Andrea? But all he could come up with, at first, when he thought about her, was the bluish-white sky that hovered over Texas, always too far away. Had he been reflective, or poetic, he would have thought about how in Texas, the sky seemed farther away from the ground than it did elsewhere, and seemed more washed out and pale and drier, the way the ground and the air was washed-out and more pale and drier than elsewhere, as if Texas itself, every element in Texas, was sun-bleached.

But Taylor wasn’t poetic or self-reflective. He slurped at his giant soda, he ate some beef jerky, and he tried to remember what Andrea looked like, whether she was pretty or not. It didn’t matter, he knew. It didn’t matter if they were pretty or not. They were needy, and that was all he himself had to have: A needy person, someone who needed someone, someone who was looking for something or hoping for something.

What had Andrea been looking for? Needing?

She’d had brown hair. Short. Not too short, not all butch. He hadn’t thought she was a businesswoman or a lesbian, so it couldn’t have been too short. He hadn’t met her in Dallas, either.

She’d thought he was her husband.

Taylor had amused himself one day by looking up her husband, and he was glad he’d done it. He’d used her computer in her office while she was in a meeting – he’d come down to have lunch with her and she’d been busy – and he’d googled her husband and found online court records and found that her husband had filed for divorce only a few days before. Taylor knew what that meant: Going to be served. He didn’t know what that might do to his sweet gig here – Andrea was still fresh and new and also she had a lot of money, working in something in finances – but he knew that it meant trouble one way or the other.

So when Andrea had gone to lunch with him that day, he’d said “We should get away for a while. Work on us,” and she’d smiled and gotten a tear in her eye and said to him:

You really mean it?

I do,” Taylor told her. He’d liked that and thought she would, too, so he repeated it, trying to say it like he was at the altar: “I do.

They’d gone away, he remembered that. She’d arranged a couple of days off and Taylor had called her husband’s lawyer, said that he was a lawyer. The attorney he’d called was businesslike and professional but grateful to have gotten a call from opposing counsel.

He’d needed a call, Taylor supposed. Taylor had said he was a lawyer, too, representing Andrea, and that he’d found out about the suit, and said to mail it to him and he’d save the trouble of having it personally served.

Taylor tossed a beef jerky wrapper out the window, now, in Oregon, and wondered if Andrea knew yet that she was divorced. She knew he wasn’t there anymore, that was for certain. He and a lot of her money and some CDs of hers were gone. The money was withdrawn and in cash in Taylor’s carry-on. The CDs were either in the suitcase, or thrown out the window of the pickup truck he’d driven in Dallas.

He smiled at that thought: Andrea’s crappy CDs littering the side of the road to the Dallas airport. Except for the one CD she had of The Sound of Music. He’d given that one to the old lady that thought he was her nephew. A going away gift,” he’d told her. Or, I guess I should say, an until-I-come-back” gift.

She’d loved that movie, she’d told him.

Uh-huh,” Taylor had said, wishing she’d just give him the receipt for the e-ticket he’d had her purchase.

Taylor slowed as he neared the outskirts of Portland. Mentally, he counted the money in his carry-on and on his credit cards and in his bank account, accessible by ATM. Nothing too fancy, not for tonight. Just a break from all the god-damned women and men and kids who wanted husbands and brothers and daddies and business partners and, apparently, long-lost high school buddies who were going to be best men to car-rental counter guys but were off at war, a chance to just be himself tonight and watch some crummy TV and eat potato chips and maybe go get a beer at some bar where people didn’t talk to others much and so no drunk would come over and mistake him for his brother, a brother who’d thrown the drunk out 10 years before and now had located him to make up for lost time.

Sometimes that shit got so tired and old, Taylor mused, and pulled into a motel parking lot that advertised “Free Intern” and “Cab e TV.” He wondered if someone had stolen the missing letters or if the motel owner was too poor or lazy to care. But it looked kept up and there was a pool in front, and separate entrances for each of the rooms, so he’d take it, for tonight.

A forty-dollar prepayment later, Taylor was stretched out on one of the two double beds in his room, clicking through the cable channels and wondering what the picture above the TV was supposed to be showing. It looked, to him, vaguely like a forest, but not really. Like a “modern art” forest, maybe. He hated modern art.

He settled on a sitcom, something that he’d never seen but which looked like it would be easy enough to understand, and wondered if he could get a pizza delivered here. He watched as the husband on the sitcom tried to argue with a daughter about whether she could use the car to go out with her boyfriend, and smiled a little. He wondered how old this sitcom was, and how old the daughter would be, today. She looked like she’d grow up to be hot. She was probably about 15 on TV, so maybe she was thirty now? The hairstyles looked about fifteen years old.

He thought about going to Hollywood. What would people need there? I wonder.

There was a knock at his door and he jumped a little.

Probably the manager, he thought. He looked over at the phone between the beds. Wouldn’t the manager buzz him on the phone? The drapes were closed so he couldn’t see who was there.

He went to the door, peered through the peephole. He saw a man’s face, distorted, through it, a large nose and beady eyes and a rounded forehead and almost no chin.

It was George, but Taylor didn’t realize that – didn’t realize it because he hadn’t, yet, gotten a good look at George and the glimpse Taylor did get of George was nothing like the view he had through the peephole now.

Taylor would get a better look at George, not long into the future, than he’d gotten at the convenience store or through the peephole. He’d see George’s face up close –the first close up would be when George woke him up with the pistol pointing right at his face.

“Don’t move a goddamn muscle or say a goddamn thing,” George would say to Taylor. Just sit up, slow.

But George didn’t say that now, and Taylor didn’t know he’d be hearing that not long into the future. Instead, he heard now:

“Sorry to bother you, but you left your headlights on.”

Taylor backed away from the peephole and went to the curtained window. He peered out through a crack there. He was always cautious, this way, when weird things happened. Weird things like this; his experiences with running into needy people were, at this point of his life, no longer weird. “Weird” was not a college professor believing that he was a brilliant student who’d abruptly dropped out years before, only to turn up now on campus, a student so brilliant that he of course could stay with the professor for a few weeks while he found a place to live and then continue his research. “Weird” was strangers knocking on his hotel room door in a city he’d never been to before. So he carefully peered out at his car, in front of the hotel. Its headlights were off. A few spaces down was a car…

… George’s car, but he didn’t know that…

… with its lights on. He moved back to the peephole and looked. The guy didn’t look like a cop. He looked strange, distorted.

“It’s not my car,” Taylor said, through the door. The man looked to his left, then back forward.

“You sure?” he asked.

Taylor said “I’m sure, buddy.” Get outta here, he wanted to say, but he didn’t. The man stared forward a little longer, almost long enough to prompt Taylor to say that, after all. But Taylor kept quiet, looking through the peephole at the beady eyes that would be staring into his, not far into the future, beady eyes that would be bloodshot from crying and would have bags under them from not sleeping at all, not sleeping a wink from the moment he’d seen Taylor right up until the moment he broke into the apartment with his gun, the night that Tina would be working late, and woke Taylor up, made him sit up, and then made him come to the kitchen and sit in a chair, a chair that George would handcuff Taylor’s hands to, one at a time, keeping the muzzle of the gun pressed up against Taylor’s forehead the whole time, until he was sure that Taylor was securely handcuffed (and footcuffed) to the kitchen chair, at which point, George, with his eyes bloodshot and baggy, and hair sticking up awkwardly, and shoulders hunched with the sadness of years and years of turmoil, would finally put the gun down, leaving a tiny round circle of indentation where he’d pressed it into Taylor’s skin.

George would put the gun down, and say “I’m not going to use that.”

Then he would pick up the axe and say “I’m going to use this.”

Taylor slept poorly that night, waking up three or four times and having trouble falling back to sleep each time. At one point, when the clock radio on the nightstand between the two beds read 2:11 he awoke thinking that he'd heard something.

He laid in bed, holding his breath, and listening.

Aside from the distant hum of tires on the highway, he heard nothing. It was so quiet, in fact, that when the clock clicked to 2:12 he heard that, the tiny flipping of numbers as the old-fashioned clock ticked away the night.

But he sat up, and then stood up, anyway, and cautiously walked to the door. Without touching anything, in the dim light that seeped in around the edges of the drawn curtain, he examined it. The deadbolt still thrown to the right, the bar-lock closed at the top. He peered through the peephole and saw nothing but the distorted view of the parking lot. He sneaked a glance out the curtain window and saw nothing there, either. Finally, he lay back down on the bed and stared at the ceiling, trying to fall back asleep with little luck, hearing the click every minute as the clock radio ticked away the night.

He must have fallen asleep, though he didn't remember doing so, because he woke up, later, with brighter light pouring around the curtain's edge. Feeling groggy and hung over even though he hadn't drunk anything, he pulled on a pair of jeans and a Coldplay concert t-shirt he'd bought in Dallas and walked to the door. Just before he opened it, though, he thought better and stopped, hand on the doorknob, to peer through the keyhole.

Just the parking lot. He looked out the curtained window, too. Nothing -- a parking lot with 7 or 8 cars, including his rental car, a car that had a rental form signed with a scrawled signature. The rental agent had looked at it and said "Same old handwriting. Shoulda been a doctor" and Taylor had chuckled in a way he knew the rental agent would see as friendly.

He opened the door and then closed it behind him, locking the deadbolt with a room key. Down at the office, the "continental breakfast" advertised by the sign on the road turned out to be an assortment of doughnuts and muffins with two pots of oily-looking, and oily-smelling, coffee next to them. The coffee was lukewarm, and so were the doughnuts. He piled three or four onto a paper plate and poured a cup of the coffee into one of the tiny styrofoam cups that were set out for that purpose. The desk clerk, or manager, or maybe the one person was both, never looked up at him as he walked back out into a day that seemed unusually bright, given what he'd seen the day before and what he knew about the Pacific Northwest, which was cloudy and rainy and cold. The sky was blue and there were a lot of white clouds, puffy white clouds, floating through slowly, the kind of clouds that are so voluminous and low and clear-looking that they almost seem to be movie props at first, a fake background painting.

He squinted and went and leaned against his car, setting the flimsy plate of doughnuts on the hood as he looked at the hotel and thought about what he'd do that day. He had $400 in his pocket, and more that he could get to using his ATM card. He wasn't worried that anyone from Dallas was looking for him. Nobody would be looking for him. They might be looking for Andrea's husband, but they weren't looking for Taylor Christenson. Nobody had ever looked for Taylor Christensen, not since he was a young boy and had figured out why everybody loved him so much.

He remembered, with crystal clarity, when he'd first begun to sense what his mysterious talent was. It had been at his cousin's funeral. His cousin Shane, who he'd never much liked anyway, had died a dumb death, riding his dirtbike down a flight of stairs at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus on a dare. The family hadn't talked about that much in the days leading up to the funeral, but Taylor had heard it from his mom, who told him everything.

"Don't say anything to your aunt about it," she'd warned him.

Taylor didn't plan on talking to his aunt, at all, and had assured Mom he'd keep his mouth shut. They'd gone to the funeral, Taylor, then 15, wearing a pair of black jeans and a white button-up shirt and a tie he'd borrowed from his dad. The casket had been closed, with a picture of Shane on top of it. It was a picture of him on his bike, and Taylor thought that, too, was dumb.

Throughout the service, his aunt had cried and then looked over at Taylor, who was sitting in the second row at the church, on the aisle seat, next to his mom who was next to his dad. His aunt would cry and look at the casket, the picture, the priest, the eulogist, but in between, each time, she looked at Taylor and then blinked and cried and sniffled. It creeped Taylor out, and as soon as the service was over he tried to sneak away.

"Don't go far," Mom said. "We'll be going to the cemetary next."

Taylor had waved her off and had gone out the side door of the church. He'd stood there, blinking in the June sun (just as he was blinking in the unexpected Portland sunlight now, remembering that day), hands in pockets and wondering if he could sneak around back and smoke one of the Marlboros he'd stolen from Dad's pack. The side door had opened and his aunt had come out, crying, still.

Taylor had looked at her and then looked down at the ground, not sure what to say. His aunt was his Mom's older sister, and he'd never talked to her much.

His aunt had dropped her handkerchief as she came out and picked it up, flicking a leaf off of it and then dabbing at her eyes before looking at Taylor. When she did look at him, her eyes got wide and her mouth opened wider.

"Is it... you?" she'd asked.

Taylor looked up at her.

"What?" he'd asked.

"It is... it can't be... it is..." his aunt had babbled.

"Um..." Taylor had said, and edged away. His aunt had appeared, then, mad and relieved at the same time.

"Is this some kind of joke? Some kind of trick? What's going on? Why would they do this to me? Did your father put you up to it?" His aunt had asked, and Taylor had looked around for someone to help him. His aunt was going on "They never let me see the body and they told me it was for the best and it's all so sudden but that's why, isn't it? It was a joke, a trick, something ... a ... a prank or something," and she'd rushed at him and wrapped him into her arms and buried his head in her shoulder and hugged him with a strength and ferocity that had scared him.

"Shane, Oh God Oh God I'm so glad it's not for real," she'd said and Taylor had tried to struggle out. His aunt's voice had been so loud that people from the front of the church had walked around the side and now they pried the two apart, saying things like What's going on? and Dorothy, what's gotten into you? and they had to hold her back from him. She kept crying and yelling and saying But he's not dead, it's wrong, he's right there and pointing at Taylor, who had looked nothing like Shane but clearly his aunt thought he was Shane.

They'd taken her to the hospital, sedated her, and kept her there for observation for three days, his Mom told him. The general consensus was that she'd been temporarily nuts. The family kept her away from Taylor after that, though.

Taylor had thought about that a long time that night and in the weeks after. That kind of thing had happened before: People talking to him out of the blue, waving at him, smiling at him, and more often than not, confusing him with someone else. He wondered about it and began paying attention as it happened more and more. When he waited for the bus to take him to school (on those days he didn't skip out) he looked at the old ladies who nodded at him. He tried to see which bus passengers were staring at him and how long they did so. He kept track of girls looking at him in school (and guys, though he paid less attention to them.)

Aunt Dorothy had thought he was Shane. She wasn't confused. He'd felt that hug. She'd been absolutely convinced that he, Taylor, was Shane, even though there wasn't any real similarity between the two. Shane was a big dumb jock of a guy, the kind of jerkface Taylor hated anyway, always roughhousing and playing football and drinking beer when he was 12 and watching basketball games with his dad. Taylor was skinny and a "dirtball," the kind of kid who wore a jean jacket even into class, a jacket that had a Bic lighter and some smokes in the breast pocket, a kid who wore mostly t-shirts and jeans and tried to stay up late and watch the Playboy channel on cable and who didn't take part in gym class and who grew his hair a little too long. Nobody would mix up Shane and Taylor, especially when they'd just walked out of Shane's funeral service.

As he thought about it, he remembered something Mom had said about Aunt Dorothy in the days leading up to the funeral: "Since her divorce, she's really leaned on that kid to be her companion. Do you know she asked him not to go out for baseball so that she could spend more time with him?" Dad hadn't answered, that Taylor remembered.

Shane leaned back against his car, in the rare Portland sunlight, ate the second doughnut off his plate and washed it down with now-cold, still-oily coffee, and looked up at the cloud that was over his head. He remembered what his mom had said, next, though:

"She just needed that kid so much."

That had been the final clue Taylor needed. After that, he watched people who watched him, talked to people who talked to him, and kept track of those who did that -- watched him or talked to him -- more than others. Because he knew, even before he could really put it into words, what he did to people, then. Aunt Dorothy had been the big clue, Aunt Dorothy and what Mom had said.

He was what people needed.

People looked at him and saw what they needed, saw the person they needed to see.

That thought occurred to him one day as he walked home from the bus stop. I'm what they need, he thought, and he was so stunned by the clarity of that concept that he'd stopped for a second. I'm what people need, he thought. He had been, so far as Aunt Dorothy was concerned, Shane, because Aunt Dorothy had needed her son more than anything right then, needed him to be alive.

And Aunt Dorothy had died within a year. She'd committed suicide, Taylor remembered now. She'd taken all of the anti-depressant medications she'd saved up for months, taken them all at once and been found dead.

Before that had happened, though, Taylor had already started figuring out how to use his peculiar trait. He'd begun figuring out how to use it with Jenni Stewart, the hot senior girl who'd had to retake Algebra II, sitting in class with a bunch of juniors like Taylor.

Jenni Stewart, the girl who'd also been dumped by her college-age boyfriend a month after Shane's funeral, was Taylor's first project. He came into class one day, Algebra II, and took his seat midway back in the class -- not up front where the smart kids sat, and not in the back where the real punks sat. Jenni Stewart was near the back, with the other kids who didn't really care, and she was sad-looking that day. Taylor had heard, through a couple of kids he'd known, what had happened: Jenni had dated the same guy (Todd) for four years, and Todd had gone off to college, was just finishing up his first year of college, and had emailed Jenni to say he wasn't going to see her anymore.

Taylor had wondered, as he peered at her out of the corner of his eye, how much she'd loved Todd.

How much she'd needed Todd.

Now, biting into the third doughnut and deciding to go for a drive, Taylor remembered how much Jenni had needed Todd.

"Quite a lot," he said. "Quite a lot." He opened the door to his car and sat down. He dumped the coffee out on the parking lot and dropped the styrofoam cup. He tossed the third doughnut off into the parking lot and started up his car. As he backed up, the now-empty plate blew off in the breeze to flutter down onto the ground, and Taylor pulled onto the road and drove off to scout around for someone to support him here in Portland for a while.

He would be gone all day, spending the day cruising around a few shopping malls and finding the bars and stores and eating a fast-food lunch. He would not know that George had pulled into the parking lot about twenty minutes after he'd left, that George would drive into the parking lot and look around, trying to remember what car Taylor had been driving, before parking his own car and getting out.

Taylor wouldn't see it, but George would go up to the door of Taylor's room, and would knock on it. George would nervously hitch up his pants and tuck his sweatshirt around the bulge in the back of his pants, the place where George had hidden the gun that he would later use to abduct Taylor.

George would not abduct Taylor from the hotel room and would not abduct him that day. He would catch Taylor coming out one evening, a week or two later, to get away from Tasha for a few minutes. Taylor would step outside the door of the townhouse and close it quietly behind him, thinking to himself God, that woman never stops talking, no wonder her husband left. He would lean back and think Maybe I should take up smoking again and look up at the cloudy gray dark sky and the streetlights near the condo, and then he would see stars and be dizzy as George would hit him in the head with the butt of the pistol -- the same pistol that was tucked into the back of his pants that day at the hotel, the first time George had gone to abduct Taylor.

George would hit Taylor as hard as he could on the head, coming out of the garage where he'd been hiding, quietly and quickly moving up behind Taylor and smacking him with the butt of the pistol. It would make a sickening crunch sound and Taylor would, just like on TV, drop to his knees, but he wouldn't be out cold. He would grab at his head and yell "What in the hell" before George would put a hand around his neck and switch the gun around, inexpertly but rapidly enough, to hold it with the muzzle pressed up against Taylor's nose, where Taylor would be able to look, cross-eyed, at it.

"You sick asshole," George would mutter. "You shut up."

George would have to wait to do that, because he'd missed Taylor that day at the hotel. After a few minutes, he'd looked in the window and then hitched up his pants (and the gun) again and left. George missed Taylor, that day, and Taylor missed George.

* ** * *

Taylor leaned back in the booth at the club and looked around. Martinis, the club was called, and Taylor didn’t ever stop to think about the lack of the apostrophe in the title and what that might mean, or not mean. He’d picked out the club as one on the seedier side of the town, judging by what he’d seen as he drove around over the past few days, but not all the way on the seedy side of town. Just getting there, the kind of club where people who aren’t yet hopeless or losers or done for might hang out – people who weren’t yet those things, but who were headed there.

He’d been encouraged, though he didn’t know why, by the neon sign saying Martinis and the brick exterior of the building that was going gray, and by the way the club looked as though it was trying for a retro, Seventies’ feel – looked that way until one examined it more closely and realized that these were not mock-ups of vinyl booths from the Seventies, and these were not lovingly restored vinyl booths from the Seventies… these were the original booths that Martinis had installed in the Seventies and then repaired with electrical tape and thread, or not repaired at all, recently, as Taylor sat in the booth feeling the depressed area in the seat below him, and toying with the fuzz at the edge of the booth’s bench, where the filling was slowly leaking out.

He wasn’t looking at the fuzz, though. He was looking at Tasha, who had come in not long after him. Tasha had come walking in and looked around, not seeing anything in the dimly-lit interior at first, and Taylor had shrunk back a little, pulling his beer with him, so that he was behind the banister that stood between him and the door, while he’d examined her.

Sad, was the word that first sprung to mind. Sad, and then droopy. Tasha would have been an 8 or 9 in high school, if she’d tried, but she looked as though she’d not tried then, or not tried now, or never tried. Blonde hair, straight, and shoulder length, but without any sort of style or set to it. Shoulders that were slim but unshaped, not athletic or skinny, just there. A small chest and no real shape to her body even though the skirt and blouse combination she wore should have done something for her body, Taylor thought, but it was as though they were worn wrongly, not quite fitted or put on a little askew. They did not belong on Tasha’s too-plain, too-not-trying body.

Taylor figured, instantly and correctly, that she was there for him.

Or whoever he was supposed to be.

She walked up to the bar and waited while the bartender stood at the other end of the bar, looking up at the television and watching the end of a local news show, catching some banter about the weather. There were only about 8 people in the club, counting Tasha and Taylor and the bartender, and the other five were in two groups (of 2 and 3) near the back. Nobody was asking for the bartender’s attention, other than Tasha, who sat at the bar expectantly but with a resigned air about her.

The bartender ignored her for a minute or two longer, wiping down the bar and emptying an ashtray and then finally walking down by her. He mumbled something and Tasha said something back and a few minutes later, the bartender put a drink in front of her. Tasha placed some bills on the counter without saying anything more. The bartender took them and rung something into the cash register. He offered no change back.

Taylor sipped his beer and watched. Tasha was not looking at the television, and was not looking at the window. She appeared to be deliberately not looking at anything, much. She turned her head and looked at the liquor bottles on the back of the bar. Then she cocked her head again and flicked her hair as she watched in the mirror. Then she took a sip of her drink and turned to her right, casually or seemingly so. Taylor was pretty sure that she’d intended, all along, to look right but hadn’t wanted to be obvious about it.

He wondered when she’d look at him, without being obvious about it, and he wondered who he would be when she did so.

He didn’t have long to wait. A minute or so later, he watched as Tasha (whose name he didn’t know yet) got up and went to the back of the club to use the restroom. Taylor straightened up and sipped his beer and watched expectantly as she left, trying to decide whether her body would be any good under that outfit. Probably not he concluded, but that didn’t matter, really, did it? What mattered was a place to live for a couple of weeks until he got sick of being her boyfriend or husband or brother or something, and conned her into giving him some money and left.

He kept looking that way, waiting for her to come back and trying to look as though he was watching television (ludicrous though that might be, since he could not hear it and the screen was far enough away that he couldn’t really see it, either) and paid no real attention to the door opening and a man coming in and sitting at the end of the bar. Taylor glanced only once at the man, and didn’t recognize George even though Taylor had seen George twice, now.

George came in and sat at the end of the bar, a few seats away from Tasha’s drink, and ordered a beer. The bartender brought it to him and George paid but never sipped the beer. He stared at Taylor, while trying not to stare at him. George would look at Taylor and then look away, look at him and then look away.

Taylor looked over at George only once, quickly, and then turned back and to George seemed to be watching the television, though he was pretty far away from it.

Tasha came back out of the bathroom and walked down the length of the bar, carefully keeping her eyes straight forward until she neared Taylor’s booth and glanced over at him. Taylor thought she tried to make it look accidental or unintentional, but she failed at that.

It didn’t matter. As soon as she looked at him, and he met her eyes, it was done.

“Daniel?” she asked.

Taylor nodded. “Yeah…” he said, carefully. So I’m Daniel. He thought quickly. Probably an ex-boyfriend.

“I haven’t seen you since high school,” Tasha said, excitement in her voice.

“Long time,” Taylor said noncommittally.

“But it’s weird,” Tasha said. “I was just thinking of you, just today. That’s actually…” she blushed. “That’s actually why I came here. But I didn’t know if you still would come here, after all these years…”

“I don’t come all that often,” Taylor said. He didn’t really have to worry about what he said. He knew from experience that it would all work out. He wondered, in fact, sometimes, whether he could derail these encounters, whether there was anything he could say to make the other person not believe that he was who they thought. He’d never had occasion to try that.

George stared, now, openly, sure that the man and this blonde woman were paying no attention to him. He said his name was Daniel. George knew that wasn’t true. He knew this Daniel was lying. He tried to control himself as he watched the blonde woman slide herself into the booth, then get up to get her drink, then sit back down, a shy look on her face.

It wouldn’t be tonight, or tomorrow night. But soon, in about two weeks, George would be as close to Taylor’s face as this woman was, closer even. George would be only a foot or so away as Taylor would drop to his knees. George would tell Taylor again: Shut up. Don’t say anything.”

Taylor would choke a little, and try to stand and George would dig a finger into Taylor’s throat, press the gun harder to his head, digging the muzzle in. I’m not kidding,” George would say. Don’t say a goddamn thing or make a fucking noise, or I’ll kill you.”

George would then pull Taylor hard by the throat, flinging him down onto the sidewalk, hitting Taylor’s head hard enough on it that there would be a crunching sound. George would wonder if he’d broken Taylor’s skull, and then would decide it didn’t matter, because of what he was going to do. George would quickly drag Taylor’s body into the backseat of the car that was idling nearby. He’d look at Taylor’s now-unconscious face lying there, and then he wouldn’t be able to help himself. He’d rear back and punch the dead-to-the-world Taylor as hard as he could in the face, so that when Taylor woke up, tied to a chair in the kitchen, his entire face would be in agonizing hot searing pain from the broken nose and cheekbone.

And the first thing Taylor would hear as he woke up and choked on blood in his throat would be “Were you going to rape and kill that other woman, too?

Taylor and Tasha stumbled as they walked, arms around each other and legs intertwining, into Tasha’s bedroom in the townhouse condominium on the outskirts of Seattle. Taylor was drunk, but not too drunk to keep his wits about him as he kissed Tasha with his eyes open. He looked around the room and liked what he saw. With one hand behind her back he maneuvered her over across the room towards the bed, pausing at the foot of it. His other hand remained on her right arm, and their mouths were pressed together. Tasha’s tongue tasted like ice cream and mints, and Taylor tried to remember what the last drink she’d had was. It wasn’t unpleasant, yet, but he felt it might be in the morning.

Outside, George sat in his car and stared through the window, watching “Daniel” make out with that woman he’d picked up the bar. George wondered whether he should call the police, or go knock on the woman’s door. For a moment, his resolve wavered. Could he let her get hurt, too?

Then he steeled himself. The police wouldn’t do anything. They hadn’t done anything and they wouldn’t do anything. How many times had George called them and asked them for an update? How many times had he e-mailed the detective with new theories or thoughts on the case, only to get back a tersely-worded thanks?

Interesting ideas, one said. That was all the detective had written.

George had been about to give up hope, and then he’d seen Daniel, who he knew was not Daniel, who he knew was called Taylor, who he knew was lying about himself to this woman. And seeing Taylor at the gas station, at the motel, at the bar, each time, George had become more convinced that he’d found the guy and more convinced that he needed to do something.

Besides, what were they going to do if he did call the cops? Question this guy? He was obviously an accomplished liar – Daniel! – and even if they did arrest him, then what? Dig up Laurie’s body? Do more tests and cut her up? Put this guy on trial, with gruesome pictures of Laurie’s mangled body posted on the Internet, all to end up with this guy maybe getting off anyway?


He would not call the police.

He would not warn the woman, either. She had walked right into it. Laurie had not.

George waited until the couple he could see in the window dropped out of sight, and then he started his car and drove off. He had some things to get.

Taylor had been right. Tasha’s breath was worse the next morning. He woke up first, at about 6 a.m., needing to go to the bathroom and with a horrible hangover headache, and the first thing he got was a whiff of Tasha’s morning breath, alcohol-and-old-mint laden, too sweet, rotting. He rolled over carefully and got out of bed, wondering where the bathroom was. Quietly he stepped out of the bedroom, naked, walking down the short hallway. The first door opened onto a home office of some sort. The second was the bathroom, full of orange flowers and seashell-motif towels but, thankfully, free of cat-related items.

Taylor hated women who loved cats. There was something particularly annoying about them. He hadn’t seen any cat paraphernalia in Tasha’s condo yet and was glad of that.

He relieved himself and then stretched in the mirror, running the water lightly and splashing some cold water on his face. He ran it through his hair and wondered if he could take a shower. He wondered, too, about Daniel and what his story was. He’d gathered that Tasha had gone to school with Daniel, somewhere, and had harbored a crush on him. She’d asked Taylor, at one point, if he’d noticed how much weight she’d lost.

How’d you do it?” Taylor had asked.

I dieted for months, and work out all the time. Every morning,” Tasha had said. I probably shouldn’t be drinking this,” and she’d pointed to her frothy ice-cream drink.

From that, Taylor now thought this: She was a fat chick who liked some guy that used her for something. She always thought he’d love her if he only got to know her.

He heard a stirring noise in the hallway, and opened the door. Tasha was standing there in running shorts and a tank top and sports bra.

“Oh! Um…” she said, and looked all around, anywhere but him.

“Sorry,” Taylor said, but he wasn’t.

“I guess I shouldn’t be shy,” Tasha said. She said it shyly, though.

“No, not after last night,” Taylor said.

“I was just… going running.”

“Right,” Taylor said.

“You can stay if you want,” Tasha said. “For breakfast, I mean. I’ll be back in twenty minutes or so.”


Taylor didn’t offer to cook breakfast, or offer anything else. He knew he didn’t have to. Everything would take care of itself, and then it did:

“Don’t be shy, yourself,” Tasha told him – mistaking Taylor’s silence for embarrassment. “I’m glad we ran into each other. You know…” she paused. “I shouldn’t tell you this. But I went there last night looking for you.”

“You said that, last night,” Taylor said.

“Oh. Um. Right. But what I meant to say is… I go there a lot. I go there, like twice a week. There. I said it. I kept hoping to run into you, because of that night.”

“And now you did,” Taylor said. He didn’t really care what happened on what night. It’d work out. He stretched.

“So, I mean, you can stay.”

Definitely a fat chick with a crush, Taylor thought. Aloud, he said: “I’d like that.”

She smiled and came over and gave him a kiss, and then apologized and went downstairs. He heard the door open and close and he walked back to the bedroom, finding his clothes. He’d have to go to the hotel and get the rest of his stuff. He assumed he’d be moving in here. He looked around the bedroom, seeing the few pictures on the walls – more flowers, looking painted, not photographed, and amateurish at that – and examining the dresser. He saw Tasha, through the window, go jogging off. She waved at him as he pulled on his jeans from last night, and he held up a hand. He had to do some playing along, after all. He didn’t want to push it. He wasn’t sure how much he could actively resist this phenomenon and didn’t want to find out now. She was attractive enough and her place looked comfortable enough that he might stay here for a month or more. Until he got tired of her. Then, Hollywood, maybe.

Hollywood would flash through his mind, not long into the future. He would wake up, coughing up blood and feeling throbbing pain in his head, like the skull was caved in, which, in fact, it would be, a little. The room would be dark, almost pitch dark, just a tiny light off in the corner, a small bulb above the stove lighting it up.

A kitchen, he’d think. What the fuck am I doing in a kitchen. He would hear George’s question and say What other woman?

Then there would be a cracking, smacking sound as a hand hit the back of his head, where it felt (and was) crushed in already.

You’re a murdering liar,” George would say. He wouldn’t scream it. He was crying, Taylor would be able to tell. His voice would be wracked with sobs. But the slap or hit on his head would hurt, would send Taylor’s vision swimming and make him vomit, a little, in pain and confusion. It would run down his chin and trickle onto his legs as he would slump over.

What’s going on?” he would ask.

Another hit, another surge of bile in his throat, and he would black out for a moment, he thought. When he woke up, this time, George would be staring at him, sitting on a chair across from him. There would be a table, pushed to the side, and a third chair, knocked over and off to the left, in the small kitchen. He would see dark spots on the floor.

George would be staring at him, eyes wide and wet and lips quavering. His hand, holding a piece of paper or something, would be shaking. He would hold up the picture and say “Why’d you pick Laurie? She never did anything to you.

Taylor would not be able to focus on the picture. His vision would be unworkable, much, and he would have to concentrate to understand what George was saying. He would shake his head and regret that and feel new dampness draining down where he worried his skull was split open.

You picked her and raped her and killed her and now I have to kill you,” George would say, and the words would have to work their way through the foggy nature of Taylor’s mind. When they did sink in, Taylor would look up and try to say “You’ve got the wrong guy,” but he wouldn’t be able to talk much because he’d cough and vomit a little more. And then George would take a steak knife that had been in his other hand and would jab it down as hard as he could into Taylor’s thigh. He would be crying while he did it.

* * * *

“You never used to look at me like that,” Tasha told Taylor over dinner one night.

Taylor put his glass of wine down and thought to himself I bet this Daniel guy did used to look at you like that. He’d been thinking, as he took a sip of wine, how sick he was of seeing her face, morning and night. She was lying there looking at him when he woke up, and she leaned over to kiss him at night, each time smiling that sickening grin that he had come, in just a week, to loathe.

Whatever he’d been thinking, though, it hadn’t come through, and he wondered again How far could I push it? He knew maybe he should find out some day, but he just wasn’t that interested in testing this out, in working out how it worked and how it didn’t and what the boundaries were. Each time that thought surfaced in his mind, the idea that I should know better how this power works, he got bored and reminded himself that woman after woman, man after man, person after person had simply fallen for it. They’d look at him, the needy sick fuckers, and think he was the guy they needed, and do what he asked them to do. So while he toyed with the power, from time to time, like he was doing now, he never really tried to figure out if he could turn it on and off.

Now, instead, he looked at Tasha and said “Sure, I did.”

“Uh,uh.” Tasha shook her head, and Taylor supposed that she thought the way her hair flowed and swirled around her looked pretty. But it didn’t, not to him and probably not to Daniel, either, the guy who had used her for some sexual experiences in high school seven years ago. She’d confided to him two nights ago one of her treasured memories, meeting him out back at a party and quickly proceeding to have sex in the garage of one of his friend’s houses. If only your parents would have let you date me,” she’d told him. We wouldn’t have had to wait until now to get together.”

Taylor had only thought that Daniel must have been pretty sharp, to come up with that, and Tasha pretty dumb, to fall for it. How’d Daniel explain dating other girls? Taylor had thought.

Now, over dinner – a dinner Tasha had cooked when she’d come home from work – she looked at him and said “You never had that glow in your eye that you have now.”

“Didn’t I?” Taylor-as-Daniel asked. Spark? He thought. Christ. I was thinking how sick of you I’m getting. He wondered, as she went on, whether he shouldn’t just grab her credit cards tonight and go. He was pretty sure they were in her purse. He didn’t like to do that, though – because they could be traced.

“Nope. You used to look at me and I could see you liked me but there was always something missing. I think it was because you were afraid.”

Afraid of getting caught doing a fat chick? Or of you realizing that Daniel was just using you? Taylor thought. “What do you mean?” he asked.

“I know that your parents didn’t like me and didn’t want you to date. I figured you were always just trying to not like me. But you couldn’t.” She paused and leaned in. “But now you’re free to do that. To like me. Aren’t you?” She smiled. “You don’t have to hold back. That’s why I see the glow now.”

“Oh.” Taylor knew he should say something more but he didn’t know what to say. Then he hit on it.

“We should take a trip,” he said.

“What?” she asked. “Where?”

“I don’t know. Someplace nice. Someplace warm.”

“Do you think it’s a good idea?”

They’d not discussed the fact that Taylor was now living here. It had just happened. He’d known it would just happen. He’d picked up his stuff the day after he’d met her, and had it in her car and then slowly had moved some stuff in over the course of the last few weeks. He hadn’t discussed it because he didn’t want to push the limits – he didn’t want to find out how far was too far. He wasn’t ready to move on yet. He had almost no money left.

“Why not? We’re finally together…” Taylor trailed off. He ran a finger around the edge of the wine glass and wished he could just have a beer. Sometimes he hated being someone else, especially when he had to be someone like this Daniel guy, who liked wine.

“I suppose I could take some time off of work.”

Taylor had never discussed with her whether he was working or not. She hadn’t asked.

“I’d like it.” He searched his mind. What the fuck do men say in this situation? Then he said: “I could show you off to the world.”

She smiled, and blushed and said “I’d be showing you off.”

Later that night, Taylor slipped outside while Tasha was on the phone with a friend of hers. He closed the door behind him and stood outside, just breathing, just being himself for a few seconds. He tried to use the quiet to think. Get her to take some time off of work, get her to book the trip to Hollywood, find out where she banks… but he couldn’t gather his thoughts. This one was clingy and talky and overwhelmed him. He took a couple more breaths and looked around.

The parking lot was, as usual, quiet. There was a distant hum of cars on the road, and through some open windows he could hear the buzz of televisions. He watched as the sky grew a little darker step by step and tried to gather his thoughts.

There was a click! of rock hitting rock, a stone kicked or moved quickly, and Taylor looked in that direction.

He didn’t see anything, not right away, in the gloom. He kept looking.

The streetlights were on by the road, but they were too far away. There weren’t many porchlights around here and the moon, if it was up, wasn’t in view and wasn’t giving much light. Everything was shadowy. But he thought, after a few seconds, that he saw someone… standing there. Dark clothes. A man?

He peered into the darkness.

“Hello?” he said. Then, louder: “Whatta you want?”

The gloom grew darker, not lighter, and he tried to get his eyes to adjust, to see only fifteen feet away on the path between the gravel-lined flowerbeds that dressed up these condos. He couldn’t. Was it a man? Was it a bush?

“Hey. What’re you doing?” He said. He tried to sound tough. He tried to make out a face. “Who are you? What’re you doing?” He thought about moving towards the man, or thing, but didn’t want to, suddenly. He felt paralyzed by the doorstep.

A light went on behind him and the door opened. In the sudden flash of the porchlight that Tasha had turned on he saw a face, eyes, turn, and a man running away.

“Who are you talking to out here?” Tasha asked behind him.

“Where are you going?” Taylor called after the man. “What do you want?”

Where are you going? Taylor would say, about a week from that night. As his leg oozed blood around the steak knife that stood, upright, buried in his thigh to its handle, he would try to pull his hands out of the rope that bound them behind him, unsuccessfully. Each movement would make the leg pulse with agony again and cause more blood to well up. His eyes filled with tears and his mouth went dry as he looked at it.

George would stand up as Taylor said that, turning his back on him.

“To get my axe,” George would say.

What do you want? Taylor would try to scream. But it wouldn’t be a scream. It would be a hoarse whisper, and even that would make more blood bubble up from his leg as George left the room.

* * * * *

Tomorrow, then, Taylor thought, as he lay in bed awake. Tomorrow I’ll head out. He’d convinced Tasha to take a trip with him, to head off to California with him on vacation. He’d originally thought that he’d go with her and just ditch her once they were there. She’d booked a great hotel for them, right near Redondo Beach, and he figured that he could use that as a home base while trying to figure out his next move, and then sometime during the trip just up and disappear, maybe with some money.

“Are you getting traveler’s checks or anything?” he’d asked her.

“I don’t think so,” she’d said. “Do you think I should?”

“What’re we gonna use for money?” Taylor had asked, watching some cop show on television as she’d cleaned up after dinner.

“I thought my credit cards, and my ATM card,” Tasha told him.

Taylor leaned his head back and looked at the ceiling of her condo, saw a spot where the painters hadn’t bothered to paint, a large-ish four-foot patch. He wondered why she’d never told him to get a job or worried about money. He hadn’t done much of anything in the last week or two other than sit around and eat her food and one day drive around the city while she’d been at work, and watch TV. He was getting bored.

None of them ever asked him to get a job, he realized. None of them ever told him not to keep mooching off of them. None of them ever questioned why he was not doing anything to support himself.

What a bunch of needy bitches, Taylor thought, now, laying in bed, and he looked over at Tasha, asleep on her pink pillowcase, her mouth slightly open. He could hear her breath go in and out. Her hair lay mussed a little around her, and one hand was held up by her head. The fingers were curled, slightly, and as he watched in the moonlight he could see them flex slightly back and forth.

He got disgusted, then, for some reason. He always did. He used these women, these needy women who thought he was the man they were looking for. He used all these people, these people who thought he had what they needed, somehow, and in the end, they disgusted him and frightened him, all of them no more or less disgusting and chilling to him than his aunt had been the first time, hugging him desperately, a pathetic woman with a gaping hole in her life that she could not get beyond and so, for some reason, she tried to fill it with Taylor.

He lay there in the bed and watched Tasha’s fingers curl, slightly, back and forth, as though they were scratching at something, or trying to pick a piece of paper off of the floor, and he loathed her. He loathed her and could not bear to spend the thought of one more minute with her.

She had, he knew, cash in her purse for the trip. He also had seen where she set down her credit cards and purse for easy loading into the car early in the morning for the drive, but he wasn’t going to mess with those. Just the cash. In her purse. All he had to do was slip out of the bed, downstairs, grab the cash, get in his rental car, and go. The car wasn’t rented under his name and he’d have to get another one, but he could get it to Los Angeles and then ditch it, get a new one.

He looked again at Tasha’s hand, in the glow of the moon or streetlight. He couldn’t stand it. Fingers twitching back and forth. He slid out of the bed.

His own fingers, later, would move just like that. He would slump in the chair and stare at his hand, slightly curled, on his right leg, next to the hole where the knife had been plunged in, and later removed, and he would see the fingers twitching as though they were scratching at something, or trying to pick up a piece of paper. He would stare at his fingers dully, and wonder where he had seen something like that before. He wouldn’t remember. But it would be familiar and comforting and he would think I like that. I like that as he watched his fingers twitch.

Then his head would be pulled back by the hair, part of his scalp feeling as though it was tearing off, and maybe it was. His nose would be bleeding and smashed, by then, into his face. He would have spit out a tooth and been hit in the head more times than he could remember.

George would have left the room for some time, then come back with a bat and a hammer. Taylor would have looked at them, by then, with his thigh throbbing and bleeding, hands still tied behind his back to the chair, then, unable to pull the knife out, and he would ask George:

What do you want?

“I bet that’s what she said to you,” George would tell him, and he would show him the hammer, show him the bat. “I decided not to get the axe, yet.” Taylor would be dizzy with pain and would try to focus on the things he was being shown, and George would go on: “You didn’t make it fast for her and I’m not making it fast for you.”

Taylor would say “Make what…” but before he could finish the sentence George would swing the bat, one-handed, and crack Taylor’s head on the side, hitting his left ear and making it feel like it, and his head, was breaking. It would not even be that fast of a swing, but the aluminum bat would whistle into the side of his head and for several moments Taylor would not be able to hear or think anything as his head rang and his mind juggled. When he could focus again, nausea rising in his stomach, he would hear George say

“Did you do that to her? To my daughter? Did you hit her in the head? They said her head was cracked. Is that what you did?

Then George would drop the bat, which would clang on the tile, and he would swing the hammer down, one two three four five times into Taylor’s knee, until Taylor could hear bones crackling like gravel underfoot. George would be hollering something about her knees and her legs and asking Taylor if he did that, too.

Then it would stop, for a second. Taylor would muster his breath and his strength and he would feel vomit in his throat, and he would talk around it, and say “You’ve got the wrong guy, I swear.

George would just stare at him, for a long time. Then he would pick up the bat and say “I’ve been looking and looking and looking for you. I felt like I would die if I didn’t find you. I’ve got…” and George would swing the bat again, down this time, on top of Taylor’s head, finishing after: “… the right guy.”

That would go on for longer than Taylor could think it would, ending somehow with George freeing his hands. George would disappear again, after more hitting and pounding and screaming and comparisons to his daughter, and reappear, this time with the axe, sharp white-cold metal gleaming on the edge. George would tell him it had been sharpened just for this night, that he’d spent all day doing that.

Then George would hit Taylor, on the side of the head, over and over again, with the flat of the axe. He would drive the axe handle into Taylor’s stomach and leave Taylor gasping for air and throwing up bile again.

Then George would disappear from his sight and Taylor would feel his hands freed, his body freed. He would slump forward and his hands would lay on his legs, and he would watch as his fingers scraped, weakly, on his soaking wet jeans. Wet with blood and stomach contents.

Then George would grab Taylor’s hair, his head, his scalp, and pull him back, and Taylor would realize that George had gone behind him.

“Still think I’ve got the wrong guy?” George would ask.

Taylor would feel the axe blade against his neck but be unable to talk. In his mind, he would be thinking Yes you do yes you do you do you do you do.

Then he would wonder if he should pray and try to remember how to.

George would let him go then and Taylor would fall onto the ground, on his stomach, face down, laying there panting. He would feel the cool tile on his cheek, and would close his eyes. His head spun.

George would begin talking, and Taylor would open his eyes, see a blurry George standing over them.

“I read, in the coroner’s report,” George would say, quietly, “That my daughter… my daughter… apparently tried to crawl away from her attacker. That she made it about ten feet.”

It would get deathly silent in the room.

“Ten feet,” George would say. “Then, you killed her.”

Taylor would mumble. He felt like he was saying It wasn’t me but he knew it was gibberish and he felt more blood spill from his lips.

“You cut off her head after she tried to crawl away from you,” George would say, even more quietly. “You watched her crawl and let her think she was getting away and then you cut off her head.”

Taylor would try to move his mouth but couldn’t.

George would hold up the axe. It would be shiny in the night.

“Start crawling,” George would say. “You’ve got ten feet to go.”

Continue previewing the things George does – while Taylor goes about his business meeting a new needy woman here and planning to go to HOllywod. In Flash forwards, we see George kidnap Taylor, then bind him up and torture him and explain why, all while Taylor seduces a new woman.

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