The Dawkins Murders is a four-part opus that I wrote in high school in the late 1980s!
"Brutal Vision" is Chapter Two.
A sudden jolt shook Barbara from her sleep. The bus had driven through a huge pothole, and all around her people were picking up their various coats and briefcases that had fallen into the narrow aisle of the bus. It was rush hour in Washington D.C., and the bus was filled with dozens of executives with leather briefcases and Italian raincoats who were rushing home to their houses in the quiet suburbs. One well-groomed man who was sitting across the aisle from Barbara was carrying an especially handsome briefcase. The letters GLD were monogrammed on the side in gold. The man saw that Barbara was staring at him, and he turned to face her. A faint trace of recognition immediately showed on his handsome face.
“Say, aren’t you Barbara Atkins? I saw your picture in Time last week. You’re some kind of big-time equal rights crusader, right?” The man’s voice had a deep bass resonance that gave her the chills.
“Yes I am. But I don’t believe we’ve met. I would have remembered someone like you.” The stranger immediately smiled, flashing her two rows of shiny white teeth, but his grin soon vanished as he realized that Barbara was not paying him a compliment. He held out his large hand anyway, and she reluctantly shook it. As she looked into his deep brown eyes, a light suddenly flickered on in the back of her mind. Where had she seen his picture before? She closed her eyes to concentrate as the man droned on and on about how much he admired her work. After several agonizing moments, she gave up and opened her eyes.
The man was gone.
She had not felt the bus stop. Her heart beginning to pound, she shakily stood up and peered over the heads of the chattering commuters sitting behind her. The man was nowhere to be seen. She slowly sat down in her seat, wondering why she was getting so excited and uptight. She glanced out the smudged window and realized that the vehicle was nearing her stop. The night was beginning to creep in and fill the dusky sky with clouds. The sun had almost set in a glow of subdued purple, and Barbara noticed a light drizzle starting to fall.
The bus came to a grinding stop at the top of the quiet residential street where Barbara lived. Gripping the green seat for support, she got to her feet. She gathered up her raincoat, briefcase, and purse; and walked down the aisle toward the front of the bus. She heard the hiss of escaping air as the elderly bus driver opened the door for her. Taking one last look at the rows of passengers behind her, she stepped gingerly off the bus and onto the slick sidewalk.
Barbara lived near the end of a wide but shady street that stretched for several blocks before it reached the river. She pulled up the collar of her overcoat and began to stroll down the road. Puddles were already beginning to form in the potholes that dotted the street. A chill wind was beginning to blow, and the low-hanging trees and bushes that covered the laws cast eerie shadows on the road. Barbara had heard stories of vulnerable young men and women who had been brutally attacked while walking down dark streets. She remembered reading in the Washington Post about a young woman who had been killed in the parking lot of a local shopping mall over the holidays. It irritated Barbara that the young woman had put up no visible defense against her attacker. Barbara had just finished a nationwide campaign that urged young women to carry some kind of mace or hairspray in their purses to defend themselves against attack.
Suddenly it came to her where she had seen the man on the bus before. There had been a rough police composite of the suspect in the shopping mall murder case printed several days before. The drawing and the stranger looked exactly alike! She had been chatting with a cold-blooded killer!
She heard a large twig snap behind her. She whirled around, in time to see a shape come charging out of the bushes toward her. She had just enough time to scream as he tackled her to the wet ground. The man had a hold of her legs, but her hands were free as they rolled around in the lush grass. Barbara could feel his gloved hands clawing at her. She reached around blindly, trying to find some kind of weapon. Her hands closed around a jagged branch that had recently fallen from the large oak tree above them. Gripping it tightly, she turned and thrust it backwards just as the man began to strangle her. The stranger let out a screech of pain as the branch penetrated just below his left eye. He rolled off of her, clutching his eye and writhing in the wet grass in agony. Trembling, Barbara turned and strained through the darkness to get a look at her attacker.
It was the stranger from the bus. He wore dark sweat pants and a bulky black wool sweater. A shiny sharp knife lay in the grass a few feet away.
Barbara struggled to her feet and began to run helplessly. She fled across the street and up the driveway of a large house across the way. Nearly slipping on the slick surface, she ran up the front steps and started to bang on the door.
“HELP! HELP ME! OPEN UP!” She held the doorbell down until she could hear movement inside the house. A moment later, the porch light flickered on above her and she heard the sound of the front door being unlocked. The door finally opened several inches, and she saw a tall, broad-shouldered young man with dark curly hair staring back at her. He was dressed in a faded nightshirt.
“Mister, you gotta help me!” Barbara cried to him. He quickly opened the door the rest of the way and motioned her inside. She stepped in gratefully, still panting and trying to control her ragged breath.
“What’s wrong, lady?” the man asked, gripping Barbara by the shoulders and gently shaking her. “What happened to you?”
“I was walking home from work and this guy jumped out from behind the bushes and HE TRIED TO KILL ME!” Barbara began to sob hysterically, clutching at the man for support as she tried to recover from her ordeal. “Please! I’ve got to call the police!”
“Okay. Calm down. The phone is in the kitchen, right through that door at the end of the hall. I’ll go outside and see if he’s still there.” The young man helped Barbara to her feet and gestured toward the end of the hall. He then quickly opened a closet door and rummaged around for a flashlight. Finding it, he threw open the front door and vanished into the stormy night.
Barbara ran down the narrow, dark hall, dripping water as she dashed through the open kitchen door and scanned the cluttered room for the phone. Seeing it on the counter, she ran for it and quickly picked it up.
The line was dead.
Stifling a scream, Barbara threw the phone against the wall and looked in horror at the kitchen floor.
There were several drops of fresh blood on the linoleum. Following the path of the drops with her eyes, she saw that they led across the bright yellow canary floor and into open door of the dining room. At the same moment, she spotted the same leather briefcase with the GLD monogram on the side laying on the kitchen table. It quickly dawned on Barbara that she had made a fatal mistake.
“Surprised, Barbara?” she suddenly heard a deep voice say from the darkness of the dining room. It was her attacker. He was clutching a long butcher knife, and Barbara could see the deep wound near his eye where she had frantically stabbed him. As he painstakingly advanced across the floor toward her, the blood on his forehead glistened. The front door slammed, and the curly-haired man appeared in the doorway. Barbara felt a momentary glimmer of hope, but it soon vanished when she caught sight of the smaller but sharper knife that he carried in his gloved hand.
“I see that you’ve met my brother. It’s a pity that you and he won’t have a chance to get better acquainted,” the first man said as he raised the knife to silence her screams.
* * * *
A loud crash of thunder shook Katie Millner from her sleep. Sitting up on the comfortable couch, she could hear the wind shrieking outside. Every few minutes it would gust against the house and make the windows rattle. She wondered if her parents were safe. They had gone out to dinner with two of her father’s friends from the advertising agency where he worked. Finding the remote control on the coffee table next to an uneaten bowl of cold popcorn, Katie flipped off the blaring television and glanced at the grandfather clock in the corner. It was silent; the two hands at stopped at exactly 8:35.
She got off the couch and walked across the cluttered family room, kicking aside stacks of Architectural Digest and Forbes magazines. Katie walked down the hall and into the dimly lit kitchen. Sighing to herself, she was about to attack the stacks of dirty dishes in the sink when the phone rang. Subconsciously running a hand through her shoulder-length chestnut hair, she reached over and picked it up.
“Hello?” she answered eagerly, hoping that it was one of her friends from school.
“Hi Kate?” It’s me, your sister. Listen, the movie’s about to start, so I thought I’d call and see how you’re doing. Are Mom and Dad back yet?” The voice on the other end sounded far away.
Katie groaned audibly. “Oh, hi. It’s only you. No, they’re not back yet. I was just about to start on the tons of dirty dishes that you guys left. There’s an awful storm here, is it raining out there?”
“It’s just starting to drizzle. Well, as long as you’re doing okay, I gotta go. Tell Mom and Dad I said hi when they get back, and tell Dad I’ll be home around 12:30. See you later.”
Katie stood for a few moments with the phone in her hands, listening to the buzz of the dial tone. Suddenly, a movement outside caught her attention. From the large picture window in her dining room she had a clear view of the house behind them. The house’s back porch light was on, and she saw a man dressed in dark clothes come stumbling up the driveway and up the back steps. Katie watched him pound on the back door until a light came on in the kitchen and a tall, curly-haired man in a faded nightshirt opened the door and pulled him inside.
Feeling her heart begin to pound, she walked closer to the window and looked across the dark back yard and into the other house’s kitchen. A moment later, she saw a tall woman rush into the kitchen, look hurriedly around the room, and run over to what Katie guessed was the counter. She vanished from view for a brief second, and then reappeared, as Katie saw her mouth open wide in a scream of terror. In a split-second she saw the dark shape come charging across the room toward the woman, a long knife held high in its grasp. Katie’s eyes grew wide as she watched the shadow come slicing down and the woman’s lifeless body fall to the kitchen floor.
“Oh my God,” she whispered hoarsely, raising a trembling hand to wipe away the drops of perspiration that were forming on her forehead. She backed away from the window, feeling her head start to spin. Trying to regain her composure, she again picked up the phone and dialed the police.
“Hello, Precinct Eight-Six-Oh. Sergeant Hogue speaking.”
Forcing herself to speak slowly and clearly, Katie took a deep breath and said, “My name is Katie Millner. I live at 1609 Riverside Drive. I think I just witnessed a murder.” Her pulse was racing furiously.
The line was silent for a moment, and then the policeman’s deep voice inquired, “Excuse me, Ma’am. A what?”
“A MURDER!” Katie screamed. “Don’t you understand? I need help! I was looking out my dining room window, like I am now, and I saw this woman get murdered in the kitchen of the house in back of us!”
“And what did this woman look like, Ma’am?” The sergeant’s voice was patronizingly calm.
“I—I dunno. She was tall. I only saw her for a second or two. Anyway, these two guys who just moved in there, they’re really creepy. And I think th—OH MY GOD HE’S LOOKING OUT THE WINDOW! HE’S LOOKING STRAIGHT AT ME!” Katie had been standing in full view in front of her dining room window. She had foolishly left the light on, and her slender form was plainly visible to anyone on the outside looking in. At that same moment, the curly-haired man in the nightshirt had glanced out the window and had spotted her. An evil grin immediately flashed across his face. The light in the kitchen quickly went out and the house across the way was instantly dark.
Katie weakly picked up the phone that had fallen out of her shaking hands. She reached over to flip off the light switch and croaked into the receiver, “I need you to send someone over here now! They’re gonna come over here and kill me! What should I do?” At that moment, a barrage of hailstones thumped against the window, making her jump.
“Okay. Stay calm, Miss. You need to check all of your doors and windows. Don’t let anyone in your house, do you understand? There’s a squad car in your neighborhood, it should be there in a couple of minutes. Just don’t panic, okay? And turn on all of your lights!”
“Wait! Don’t leave me!” Katie screamed, but it was too late. She was again left with the monotonous buzz of the dial tone. She let the phone drop to the floor and began to run from room to room, flipping on lights and checking the doors. The wind was shrieking louder outside as she ran into the kitchen, threw open a drawer, and grabbed the longest knife she could find. The metal object nearly slipped out of her sweaty palms.
Suddenly, she heard a sharp knock on the back door. Her heart seemed to jump up into her mouth. Nervously adjusting her grip on the knife, she tiptoed silently across the yellow linoleum and up to the heavy oak door. There was a small window in the center, and she cautiously looked out.
There was no one there.
Feeling her heart return to its normal rate and letting out a deep breath, she was startled by the chilling noise of the front doorbell. She ran down the hall, still clutching the cutlery tightly.
The doorbell rang a second time, its metallic chime echoing through the lonely house. Holding her breath, she brought her eye up to the tiny peephole and looked out.
A tall policeman was standing outside, huddled hopelessly in the pouring rain. Katie quickly unlocked the heavy brass locks and threw open the door, gesturing him inside. He stepped in, smiling gratefully at Katie as he dripped water on the floor.
“Thank god you’re here, officer uh—“ Katie quickly glanced down at his badge, searching for the policeman’s name. DAWKINS; it read; MALL SECURITY.
She backed away, the knife slipping out of her sweaty hands and clattering to the floor. “You’re not a cop,” she whispered, her eyes bulging. “You—you killed that woman! OH MY GOD!” The man grinned at her and reached into his back pocket and pulled out a long knife. His hands were still covered in the tall woman’s fresh blood.
Katie quickly turned and stumbled back down the hall and into the silent kitchen, almost tripping over a trash can. She could hear him close behind her as she searched blindly for a place to hide. Her eyes traveled rapidly around the room, and seeing the open door to the den, she hurtled past the refrigerator and into the dark room.
She heard his heavy body thump against the door as she locked it. Pawing the wall for the light switch and breathing heavily, she finally found it and triumphantly flicked it on.
A loud crash of thunder made her jump. At the same time, she heard the sliding glass doors that led to the backyard sliding open behind her!
She whipped around and saw a dark shape enter the room. Katie held her breath and pressed herself flat against the wall, not daring to move. She could hear the first man outside the door that led to the kitchen. He was throwing his weight against it, and Katie could see the frail wooden door weaken visibly with every hit.
Dear Lord Jesus, please help me, she silently prayed; watching the shape stumble over the tv as it walked across the room toward her. Suddenly, a bright flash of lightning lit the room for an instant. Katie found herself staring into the concerned eyes of her neighbor, Mr. Kravitz.
“Kate, is that you?” he whispered, reaching out a hand to touch her rigid arm. She flinched. “Are you okay? I saw all the lights go on, and you left your French doors open. What’s wrong?”
Katie threw her arms around him and let out a sigh of relief. “THE KILLER IS AFTER ME! He’s in the kitchen! Can’t you hear him moving around?” They listened intently in the darkness, but the only sound was the rumble of the thunder outside. Mr. Kravitz reached over to the doorknob and started to open it. Katie grabbed his hand. “No, Mister Kravitz! Don’t you understand?” she screamed, “They’re waiting for me!” She felt the sting of the first salty tears as they formed in the corner of her frightened eyes.
Her heart suddenly skipped a beat. “Wait a second,” she whispered helplessly. “Where’s the other man?” She gripped her neighbor’s wet raincoat sleeve tightly.
Mr. Kravitz placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “I think we’re safe now, hon. Here, let me turn on the lights.” He felt on the wall for the light switch.
“NO!” she exclaimed. “THERE’S NO POWER!”
But it was too late. Mr. Kravitz found the light switch, and the light above them slowly flickered on, then off, then on again. At the same time, Katie heard a noise in the corner of the den. They both turned to look, just in time to see the tall, broad-shouldered man that had first spotted Katie from his kitchen window stand up from his hiding place from behind the couch. The blood on the shiny metal of his sharp knife glistened. He advanced slowly across the room toward them.
“RUN!” Mr. Kravitz screamed. Feeling around for a route of escape, Katie’s hands closed around the doorknob. Screaming and quickly unlocking the door, she threw it open and ran into the kitchen. It first appeared to be empty, but she gave up hope as she felt the killer’s hands close around her neck. A loud clap of violent thunder shook the house as her body fell to the cold linoleum floor.