Chapter One Sneak Peek
Sam Reids reclined back into the seat of his black 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme and examined the women that shuffled in and out of the supermarket like predictable herds of cattle. It had been three long years since he felt the steady churn of butterflies in his stomach, but the anticipation of the nights soon to be events made it all worthwhile. The wait hadn’t been easy, and whenever he felt he couldn’t control his urges any longer he walked down the steep series of steps that led to the basement and gazed at the trinkets he’d collected. They were all spaced two inches apart in single-file formation on a shelf. In total, there were fifteen glass bottles. Each container had a white label about the size of a post-it note affixed to the front with the date and a name written in thick black marker.
Over the past few years Sam visited them often and took special care to dust and polish their exteriors, but he never opened them once they’d been sealed. He didn’t want to take a chance that one of his precious mementos could get spoiled. Sometimes he took one to his room and deposited it on the stand next to him while he slept. When he woke during the night to the illuminated glow that shone through the glass from the lamp above, he felt a sensation of peace, like a child that watched the constant spin of the mobile over their crib. It wasn’t the same thrill he’d experienced when he secured the object within the bottle, but it helped him pass the time.
Through his binoculars, Sam observed two women walk out of the store together; one carried a brown paper sack in her hand and the other, a gallon of milk. The one with the sack showed promise. Her long espresso-colored hair flickered in the wind. It reminded him of flames from a forest fire fighting its way across acres of trees. He waited for her to say goodbye to her friend and then placed his binoculars on the seat next to him. His palms expelled an oily substance that spread until they were both drenched with sweat. The time had come.
Sam grabbed an unused diaper from the passenger seat and pushed his car door open. At the same time, the woman unlocked her passenger side door and bent down and placed the sack of groceries on the seat of her car. She was too preoccupied to hear him approach.
“Excuse me,” he said.
The woman retracted out of the car and turned and faced him.
“Do I know you?”
“I’m sorry to bother you,” he said with a crooked smile, “but do you know how to change a diaper?”
She looked at the diaper in his hand and then back at him.
“Who do you ask?”
“My sister asked me to watch my nephew for a few hours, and I can’t seem to get the darn thing on right.”
He angled the diaper in the direction of his car.
“My car’s right over there,” he said. “Do you think you could help me?”
The woman hesitated and studied the man’s car for a moment and then shrugged her shoulders.
“I really need to get home.”
The man smiled, but not just any smile. It was one he’d practiced in the mirror over and over again until it conveyed what he needed it to—trust me.
“It will only take a minute,” he said.
They walked over to Sam’s car, and he was careful to remain a few paces behind her. He glanced over his left shoulder and then his right. All was still, and since the store closed in five minutes, he was certain it would remain that way.
He watched the woman peek through the window of his car and relished the startled look on her face when she didn’t see a baby. With a perplexed look, she turned and faced him.
The man reached into the front pocket of his hoodie with all the calmness of a drug addict who’d just smoked a bag of weed and pulled out a needle and inserted it into her shoulder. In an instant her body went limp and she sagged into him.
Happy anniversary, he thought to himself.