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Authors: Richard Laymon

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BOOK: Cuts
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SEVENTEEN

SWEET CHARLENE

Albert woke up in Kansas City, still in the house of Charlene and her parents. The bed was king-sized. Reaching out his arms,
he couldn’t touch both edges at the same time. What a bed! He wouldn’t mind waking up in one like this every morning.

How many mornings did this make?

Three. Three fantastic mornings.

Rolling onto his side, he curled up and snuggled his face against the pillow. A shoulder was exposed to the cool morning air
blowing in through the window. He covered his shoulder with the electric blanket.

It was great being so warm and cozy. He could stay here forever, except he had to take a leak.

At the edge of the bed, he reached down and picked up a wadded bathrobe. He threw aside the blankets and started to shiver.
The flannel robe helped, but not enough. He ran across the carpeted floor and into the connecting bathroom. With a flick of
the switch, a heat light came on overhead. It felt like warm hands on his hair and shoulders as he stood over the toilet.

One of the robe’s sleeves had come unrolled. The cuff hung to his knuckles. That Abercrombe had sure been a big guy.

Albert smiled, remembering the ease with which he’d killed the man.

If I can kill a big guy like that, I can kill anyone.

He rolled up the cuff, flushed the toilet, and tied the robe shut. Then he slid open the shower door.

Charlene looked up at him from the tub. Her legs were held upright by clothesline tied to the high shower nozzle. Her bound
hands, crossed between her thighs, were fastened by a length of rope to the faucet knobs. A red blanket kept her naked back
off the bottom of the tub. A pillow was under her head.

“Good morning,” Albert said. “Cold?”

She blinked, but her face was expressionless.

Kneeling on the bath mat, Albert ripped the adhesive tape off her lips.

“Cold?” he asked again.

“No,” she muttered, and turned her face away.

“Want a hot shower? That’ll warm you up.”

“No.”

“What? Speak up.”

“No!”

“Two were enough, huh?”

Reaching down, he ran a hand up one of her breasts. The skin was cool and rumpled with goose bumps. His fingernail picked
at the edge of a bandage. When he realized what he was doing, he stopped. He didn’t want her bleeding again. Not just yet.

He cupped his hand over her breast and joggled it.

“Your mom’s tits were a lot bigger,” he said.

He watched his forefinger follow a threadlike ridge of dried blood down her chest and along her belly to where it disappeared
beneath her crossed hands.

Cutting her a little bit at a time had been all right.

But nothing like the turn-on he got when he
really
stuck it in.

Of course,
that
killed them.

He wanted to save Charlene for as long as possible so he could go on enjoying her a little bit at a time—while savoring his
anticipation of
the big stab.

Shove it in all the way.

Maybe today.

“I’m hungry,” Albert said. “How about you?”

Charlene said nothing.

“I spoke to you,” he said. Reaching behind one of her upraised legs, he gripped the hot-water handle.

“I’m not hungry,” she said in a voice barely loud enough to hear.

Albert let go of the handle and slid his fingers down the back of her thigh.

“You oughta be starved. You didn’t eat more than two bites of that steak last night.” He laughed. “Not that I blame you. It
was awfully tough.”

She turned her head and looked at him. “You didn’t cook it right,” she said. For the first time since learning of her mother’s
death, there was some life in her voice. “You don’t cook
anything
right.”

He thought about that. “Can you cook?” he asked.

“A lot better than you.”

“Do you know how to fry eggs over easy?”

“I’ve done it.”

“Okay.”

He spent the next few minutes untying Charlene.

She couldn’t move, so he lifted her out of the tub and led her to the toilet.

After relieving herself, she hunched over, head between her knees, auburn hair hanging down, her small breasts pressed flat
against her thighs as she rubbed her feet and ankles.

While Albert waited for her to recover, he stroked her back. It was warm. In several places, the skin was stained from cuts
that had opened during the night. The deeper cuts were bandaged. Others—from a couple of days ago, he supposed—had already
formed scabs, their seams crisscrossing her back. Her muscles went taut as he picked at part of a scab below her right shoulder
blade. Blood slowly bloomed out, bright and glistening, to form a droplet. He smeared it with his finger, then licked his
finger clean.

“I like the taste of your blood,” he said.

She didn’t answer.

“Okay,” Albert said. “That’s long enough.” He stepped in front of Charlene, gripped her beneath her arms and lifted her off
the toilet. He swung her against the wall. “Don’t move,” he said.

He let go. She slumped slightly, but stayed on her feet.

He turned away from her, crouched by the tub and snatched out the six-foot length of rope. Kneeling by her feet, he tied one
end of the rope around her left ankle.

When the knot was tight, he raised his head. Straight in front of him was Charlene’s groin, pale and smooth and hairless—with
only a few small nicks from the razor.

I’ll shave her again after breakfast, he thought.

Leaning forward, he licked her.

So smooth.

At the touch of his tongue, she flinched. She moaned softly. But she didn’t fight him.

A quick learner.

“Yummy yummy,” Albert said, and smiled up at her.

She stared straight ahead, her face grim.

“Okay,” he said, “let’s have breakfast.” Keeping the loose end of the rope in his hand, he stood up.

“Can I put my robe on?” Charlene asked. “I’m freezing.”


I
can warm you up.”

“Don’t you want breakfast?”

“Yeah. Let’s do that first.”

Her bright, quilted robe was hanging from a hook on the bathroom door. Albert handed it to her. She put it on, drew its front
shut, and slowly fastened its buttons.

“You go ahead of me,” he told her.

Holding on to the rope, he followed her out of the bathroom.

Somehow, the robe made her look smaller and more fragile. Her legs, below its hem, looked very cold.

She walked slowly, limping down the hallway, down the stairs and through another hallway toward the kitchen.

Albert enjoyed watching her walk. He had watched many women from behind: women in skirts that blocked his view just as the
slanting thighs were about to meet; women in culottes that looked like skirts but cheated with a panel of fabric between the
thighs; women in baggy shorts so loose you could probably see everything if you looked up the leg holes; women in tight little
short-shorts that hugged their buttocks and showed pale crescents at the bottom; women in loose-fitting corduroys or jeans;
others in trousers so tight he could see the outlines of their underwear—or no outline, which was even better. Always the
nakedness so obvious underneath. Always the urge to put a hand up the skirt or culottes or down the waist of the trousers.
Always the urge, but never the opportunity.

Usually never.

Albert tugged the rope.

Charlene was yanked backward. She grabbed the refrigerator handle to keep from falling.

“Stand still,” Albert said.

He let the clothesline fall to the floor, came up close behind her, crouched and reached under the back of her robe. The air
felt warmer under there. He slid his hand up the smooth inner side of her left leg.

Charlene didn’t move. She seemed to be holding her breath.

Where her thighs slanted close together, Albert felt her warmth on both sides of his hand.

He moved his hand higher.

She stiffened suddenly as if burnt, but she didn’t protest or struggle.

“You know better,” Albert whispered.

“Huh?”

“Than to fight me.”

Keeping his hand between her legs, he stood up and pressed himself against her back.

With his other arm, he reached around in front of her. He opened a button, put his hand inside her robe, and squeezed one
of her breasts.

Charlene pressed her face against the refrigerator. “There’s nothing left to fight for,” she muttered in a tired voice.

“You could fight to get away,” Albert suggested. “The door’s just over there.”

“I can’t get away,” she said.

“I know.”

As both his hands delved and caressed Charlene underneath her robe, he felt the weight of the knife in the pocket of his own
robe.

I could do her right now.

But I want to
keep
her. I don’t want all this to end. I don’t want this
ever
to end.

Anyhow, who’d make my breakfast?

He let go of Charlene, stepped back and picked up the end of the clothesline. Then he went to the breakfast table. He swung
out a chair and sat down.

Charlene stood between him and the kitchen door.

The door had four panes of glass in its upper half. Sunlight blazed through them, hurting his eyes when he tried to look at
Charlene. He wished he had sunglasses.

“I want my bacon crisp,” he said. “Nothing worse than limp bacon.”

She raised her head and pulled open the refrigerator door.

“I think you’ve got to use low heat,” he said, squinting as he watched her take out the flat box and shut the refrigerator.
She opened the box as she carried it to the counter. There, the sunlight no longer blazed on her.

Much better. He could see her much more clearly now.

She crouched and removed a large skillet from a cupboard. Then she peeled off strips of bacon and arranged them in the skillet.

“If the heat’s too high,” Albert said, “you’ll burn the bacon. It winds up tasting like sawdust. I can’t stand burnt bacon.
It’s better off limp than burnt.”

“I’ll keep the heat low,” Charlene said in her quiet voice. “It’ll take longer, though.”

“I’m not in any hurry.” Scooting down on the chair, he crossed his legs at the ankles. “We’ll have plenty of time no matter
how long breakfast takes.”

“How many slices do you want?”

“How many fit in the skillet?”

“Six. But they shrink up later on.” She lifted the skillet and carried it over to the stove. “I could put in a couple more
then.”

“Do that.” Albert flicked his wrist, making the rope leap. A wave seemed to roll down the rope all the way to her ankle. “Six
for me, two for you.”

“Thanks,” she said.

He tugged the rope. It snapped taut, jerking her foot sideways off the floor. She dropped the skillet. It clamored against
the burner as she flung up her arms to keep her balance.

Albert slackened the rope. Her heel thumped the linoleum.

“Next time,” he said, “don’t get smart.”

“You’re gonna kill me anyway.”

“Maybe, maybe not. All depends.”

She turned on the burner under the skillet.

“Depends on what?” she asked.

“I don’t know. On how you act, I guess.”

“I’m trying to be good. I do everything you tell me to, don’t I?”

“Pretty much,” he admitted.

“I don’t try to fight you.”

“Not so far.” Smiling, he added, “Resistance would be futile, of course.”

“I haven’t even complained.”

“Not very much.”

“I’ve let you do everything, no matter how…no matter what. I’ve gone along with it all, haven’t I?”

“Why don’t you take off the robe?” Albert said.

She looked over her shoulder at him. “But I’m cold.”

“Gosh, that almost sounds like a complaint.”

Charlene took a deep breath, then stepped back from the stove and unfastened her buttons. She slid the robe down her arms,
caught it with one hand and came toward Albert.

He watched the way her breasts jiggled up and down just slightly as she walked. Her nipples were pointing straight out, pink
and stiff like the erasers on brand new pencils.

His gaze roamed down her belly, down to the shaved triangle, down to her hairless cleft.

She thrust the robe at him. “Here.”

He took it and tossed it aside.

“Now back to the bacon,” he said.

She turned around. On her way back to the stove, Albert stared at her sleek, bare back and the smooth slopes of her buttocks.

He took a deep breath, drawing the scent of bacon into his nostrils.

“Boy,” he said, “life doesn’t get much better than this.”

“Ow!” Charlene blurted, lurching back from the stove.

“Huh?”

“It’s spitting!”

“So?”

“It
hurts
.”

“You’re gonna hurt a lot worse if you let the bacon get burned.”

She looked down at herself, shook her head, then frowned at Albert. “Let me wear the robe, okay?”

“Nope.”

“An apron?”

“You’re fine the way you are.”

“It
burns
me.”

Albert smiled. “Least you’re not
freezing
anymore. Get back to the stove.”

She stepped toward it. Flinching and grimacing as specks of hot oil flew against her bare skin, she picked up the spatula.
She shoved at the bacon. After a few seconds, she shook her head.

“What’s wrong?” Albert asked.

“I can’t turn the bacon over with this thing. I need a fork.”

“Just use the spatula.”

She threw the spatula at the wall, whirled around and stomped her bare foot on the floor. The stomp made both her breasts
jump. “It doesn’t
work!”
she blurted.

“Okay, okay. Get a fork.”

“Thank you.”

She hurried across the kitchen, pulled open a drawer beside the sink and took out a long-handled fork. She carried it to the
stove. Gripping the handle of the skillet, she started to turn the bacon slices.

“Just don’t try any funny stuff with that fork,” Albert warned her.

BOOK: Cuts
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