Doing God a Favor
The door was slammed shut behind her by the strong wind that was whipping her face as she pulled on her red coat.
“Phew, the wind’s really whippin today isn’t it Sadie, gal” said a deep, soft voice inside her head.
“Yeah daddy, sure is,” she whispered softly to the memory.
She was glad that he was with her tonight. It seemed fitting that he be present for this. She flipped up the collar of her coat to block the bite of the wind and walked to the little one car garage behind her house and hopped in her truck. Red had always been her favorite color, so of course she’d picked the brightest red car on the lot. It wasn’t exactly the most conspicuous color, but in Tennessee any sort of truck blended in just fine.
The sky was dark and grey even though it was only six o’clock. A storm was blowing in. Sadie’s headlights cut through the thick dark atmosphere with difficulty. Rain began to pelt the windows just as she pulled up to the coffee shop. The bell above the door tinkled as she walked into the warm, cozy little brew house. She took her seat at the table meant for two and faced the green leather chair, as of now unoccupied, that stood in the corner.
“Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord,” she murmured as she leaned her head back and closed her eyes with her hands folded in her lap listening for the next tinkle of the bell.
Cooper didn’t know why he kept finding himself walking down the cheery little street once again. Even with the oncoming storm the streets of Franklin were well lit and lined with cute little houses, each one not quite like the rest, looking like something out of a fairytale book.
He hated the little coffee shop on the corner; hated the coffee, hated the noise, and hated the people. And yet ever since returning to Tennessee some two months ago he found himself walking through the front door almost every day. Perhaps he liked how well he could blend in amongst the constant crowd or maybe the place reminded him of the one that had gotten away. She was the only one and she haunted his every waking thought, as did her father, Sergeant Sanders, with his pock marked face, his massive jaw, and his eerily quiet, gravelly voice.
“Don’t you dare touch her you son of a bitch,” Sanders had snarled, spraying blood from his busted up lip all over the white carpet of his daughter’s bedroom from where he’d sat handcuffed to the radiator. “You touch her and I’ll make you pay, you understand? I swear I’ll make you pay.”
To this day Cooper remembered that threatening voice but the thing he remembered most was what Sanders had said next. His whole demeanor had changed as if by the flip of a switch.
“Now don’t you be afraid Sadie, darlin,” he’d crooned to the little curly haired girl frozen in terror on the bed, her eyes full of tears, “Daddy’s not gonna let anything happin to ya. You hear me, Sadie Mae?
Little Sadie Mae had nodded once, let out one last sniffle, wiped her eyes and forced her bottom lip to cease its quivering.With those few words Sanders had gained the upper hand. Cooper’s victim refused to be afraid of him all because of a few words from that cursed man.
The bell tinkled his arrival into the coffee shop, another thing he could not stand. Every eye in the place glanced up briefly to see who had come through the door. But no one seemed interested in the broad wide-faced man with miskept salt and pepper hair that tickled his jaw. His eyes darted quickly around the coffee shop, but he paid no mind to the beautiful woman with voluminous dark brown curls who was drawing the eyes of every other man in the room. She was much too old for his tastes, and therefore he did not notice the intense gaze she fixed upon him as he sat down in his customary green leather chair in the corner.
The bell had rung many times and the clock struck eight before the person she’d been waiting for showed up. She’d ordered a black coffee when the waitress came by, not really because she wanted any, but because it was what her father had always ordered.
“Best coffee in town,” He’d told her the first time he’d brought her here when she was five, “So strong it’ll knock you right on your butt.”
She’d giggled at that. What five year old didn’t giggle at the word butt? Unless of course the sentence was “I’m going to whip your butt.” But that was not a phrase sweet five year old Sadie Mae Sanders heard very often, and she had giggled away. And as the twenty two year old Sadie sipped her bitter black coffee she thought about how different she was from her five year old counterpart. Before the death of her beloved father, who’d raised her single handedly since her mother had died when she was two, she had been a sweet, shy, quiet girl. Everyone said she was just like her father soft spoken and kind hearted. She had prided herself in her resemblance to the great Police Sergeant Sanders, who in her eyes could do no wrong. But the moment he was taken away from her had set in motion a change deep in the heart of sweet Sadie Mae. Her words were often harsh, though still rather scarce. People now described her as driven or determined, but they did not know what really drove her, what her ultimate goal truly was. And when the man who had caused all the pain walked through the door, defiling her father’s favorite place, her hardened heart began to beat faster.
“Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord,” she whispered, spitting the words in the direction of her oblivious target.
She reached into the inner pocket of her coat and stroked the smooth barrel of her father’s 9mm. If she’d had the gun the first time she’d seen Cooper in that exact same chair about a month ago she would have shot him on the spot. The intensity of the anger that followed the initial shock had taken her by surprise, but she’d managed to choke it down and let it boil beneath the surface until the time was right.
She’d been following him ever since and it hadn’t been much of a surprise to find that he had been watching someone as well. Her name was Molly. She was a rosy cheeked blonde who always wore pigtails. If Cooper had his way those pretty blonde pigtails would become his new good luck charm. But Sadie wasn’t going to allow him to kill Molly or shave her head. She followed Cooper as he followed Molly to school, to her house, even to her grandmother’s house. He would watch her playing on the swings on the playground and riding her bike in front of her house, and all the while Sadie stalked the stalker. She’d watched him enter the coffee house though her truck’s windshield. He came here almost every night at almost the exact same time, but that was the thing with serial killers. Once you knew their patterns they were all too predictable.
She watched him now as he twiddled his long bony fingers around his coffee mug and darted his eyes around the room, alighting on everything but focusing on nothing. His fingers both fascinated and disgusted Sadie. He was a big man with wide, flat features, save his hands. They were long and delicate but the protruding knuckles made them look gnarled. She remembered those hands all too well, touching her hair, sending chills up her spine.
“Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord,” she repeated in order to both soothe herself and ready herself for the task at hand, for Cooper had stood up without even drinking his coffee and exited without paying. Tonight was the night, she knew it as well as he did. Tonight he would strike. He had already bought all the tools needed, observed all of Molly’s habits to his sick heart’s desire. For the past three days he’d done nothing but peer inside her bedroom window. There was nothing left to do, he would strike tonight.
Just as Cooper walked through the door, a man brushed by him gripping the arm of a little boy just a little too tightly.
“Come on,” the man growled, giving the boy’s arm a nasty yank, “I don’t want to hear another word out of you. You understand?”
Cooper’s jaw clenched as the unwanted memory shoved its way into his mind.
“Boy!” his father thundered, too drunk to even remember his son’s name.
A much smaller Cooper with the same shaggy hair cowered in the corner of the dingy living room, knowing hiding would only make things worse. His father barreled into the room from the kitchen, beer bottle in hand, and went straight for Cooper. Then without so much as any kind of provocation or rationalization he balled up his fist and began to beat his son mercilessly while managing not to spill a single drop of beer.
Through the blows and the pain Cooper saw his little sister standing in the doorway of the living room, clutching her blanket with fear and pity in her eyes. It was the pity he despised most. How dare she even look at him when she would never know such pain. She was the precious one, the gem of the family and their father’s fists never once touched her smooth pale skin. And for this he hated her more than his mother, who was disgusted when he tried to dress like a girl to free himself of beatings like his sister, and his father who beat him harder than ever when he caught sight of him in the blue dress and Mary Janes.
The memories followed him all the way to little Molly Rosenbee’s house. They clung to him like spider webs; no matter how hard he tried he could not shake them. Sometimes he wished he could make the images go away, for if he could achieve that the girls would not have to die. Sometimes he wished so badly that the girls did not have to die. But tonight was not one of those times. He let the memories fuel him, so absorbed in his own twisted mind that he didn’t notice the red truck following him a the perfect police regulation distance.
As Sadie drove through the pounding rain, her wipers working overtime in a frantic, mesmerizing dance before her eyes, she thought back on the night that started it all. The fire was warm and hearty, dancing merrily behind the metal grate. Her father was in his designated spot in the burgundy armchair next to the lamp, his tattered old Bible in his lap. Sadie was playing with her toy horses on the rug, trying to make the most of the ten minutes she had left until bedtime, and listening to her father read aloud from the Bible. Sadie hadn’t really been paying attention that night. There was no interesting story that night. But she had heard one line, right before chaos had broken out in the quiet home, that she did pay attention too. Her father’s quiet voice had grown loud and authoritative as he’d read, “Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord.” And that was when a strange man had jumped through the window and shot her father with a taser and then knocked him unconscious as he lay twitching on the floor.
Cooper parked the car a street away and turned around in his seat to grab his tools: a lock picking kit, a knife, duct tape, and an electric razor. It had been nearly two years since he’d had his last fix and it was seventeen years since he’d had a girl anywhere near Tennessee. Sanders had taken him out of his element, forcing him to move from state to state, waiting years between fixes, but no more. He would not allow that damned Sergeant to influence him any longer. He slammed the car door with gusto, as if proving his confidence to himself.
Sadie had her hand on the door handle, ready to leap out and tackle Cooper as he crossed the dark lawn. It was past ten now and the little girl would be asleep.
“Easy Sadie, darlin,” said her father’s voice inside her head, “Take your time. He’ll be jumpy until he gets inside that room.”
Sadie released the handle and slunk down in her seat so that all Cooper saw when he glanced behind him was an empty red truck parked on the other side of the street. She dared a peek a few moments later and saw him slip inside the window. Sadie flew out of the truck and across the lawn, hardly noticing the wind that whipped her hair against her face or the rain that soaked her skin and coat. She drew the gun as she ran. She stopped beside the window and listened.
“Don’t go crying now,” Cooper was saying in a flat, eerily smooth voice, “No use crying. It’ll only make me mad you see.”
Sadie didn’t dare wait any longer. She slid in the window feet first, aimed the gun, and switched off the safety before Cooper even turned around. His dull eyes grew as wide as the eyes of the little girl who sat bound and gagged with duct tape on the bed.
At the sound of her voice and the intensity of her eyes the memory of that fateful night so many years ago came flooding back.
“I’m going to make you watch,” Cooper had spat at his most hated adversary cuffed to the radiator, “I’m going to punish you for your insolence. How dare you think you understand me? How dare you think you can hunt me down like some stupid animal? I’m here to put you in your place, and I’m going to take from you the one thing you have that is of any value to you and I want you to hear and see it all.”
Sanders had said nothing, only glared at him. Cooper had turned to face Sadie Mae, knife ready. The wood had been old, if only he’d known. There had been a horrible groan of metal as Sanders ripped the radiator from the wall. He had swung the radiator around and hit Cooper nearly senseless with it. He had lain sprawled on the floor, gasping for air as Sanders yelled and swung the radiator again. Cooper had barely been able to roll out of the way, but he used the momentum to spring to his feet and he’d sunk his knife deep in Sanders’ belly before he could straighten up with the heavy radiator.
That was when she’d started screaming. The little green-eyed bitch had screamed so loud he’d thought his ears might bleed.
“Sadie,” sputtered Sanders just before Cooper had rammed the blade into his chest, “Sadie run, honey, run!”
But she hadn’t run, she’d simply gotten off the bed, looked up at Cooper with a crazed fire in her eyes, and screamed. He had no doubt that she wasn’t just screaming out of fear, she was screaming because it was what her father had told her to do if she was in danger. She was screaming so that Cooper would be caught. Fear had gripped him as Sanders fell, coughing blood onto his daughter’s white nightgown just before he hit the floor. That fear had remained for hours after he’d fled the house, her screaming still in his ears. And now here she was again, standing before him, her green eyes ablaze once more, but she wasn’t screaming. She’d swapped her angelic nightgown for a devil red coat and she meant business. That same fear hit him once more, but this time it turned into sheer terror.
“Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord,” she said, a smile curling her lips, “But I like to think I’m doing God a favor.”
Cooper knew that his time was up. The bedraggled curls and the wicked green eyes of the one that got away would be the last thing he ever saw. She always did have a fire in her, that little Sadie Mae….Pop!
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