Adam walked slowly along the river, a path he had stalked many times over the years. He loved it there, in the stillness of the night with nothing but the gentle lapping of the water below. He liked to look out over the river as the moon's reflection twinkled in its phosphorous glow. He found a sort of calmness within, down there. It made all the horrible things he'd done seem so insignificant, like the flow of the river could carry them with her out into the ocean and he would be clean and free to start all over again, night after night.
The river was a great place to find victims, she claimed so many herself that it didn't matter if he helped them along their way. Or at least that was how he justified it to himself. His thirst for the kill brought him out there time and time again, always at this ungodly hour, the magic hour, happy hour, that time of night when he felt free.
He never cared if his victim was male or female, it was inconsequential, a means to an end. They were the vessel of his release. And the river would transport them along with his guilt on to the next place, the afterlife, if you like. He was their ferryman. And he always needed paying.
Past the old railway station now a museum, with its burned out train, a monument to troubled youths, the shabby flecks of red paint curling back from the rusting metal underneath in disgust. Under the bridge breathing in the stench of urine, where the drunks of the city relieved themselves in abandonment, with each step echoing a distinct memory of the countless faces he watched strive to take their last breath. Then stopping at lovers walk, a quiet and slightly secluded area, he thought back to a young couple he had watched arguing there. It was late October and the air was crisp with just the faintest hint of winter's frost. He could see the warmth of her breath as it hit the air with her heated words. He had admired the young man's restraint as he walked away frustrated at the bitter exchange of insults that had taken place, a lesser man might have struck out in his anger. But the young man stormed off to cool down and collect his thoughts leaving the young woman all alone. And that was when Adam sought his opportunity.
He waited until the young girl had sat down, her face buried deep in pink gloves, the faint smell of warm, wet wool laced with the sweet salty taste of tears. As he approached he could hear her mumbling about how wrong her young man had been, how unfair the whole situation seemed from her perspective and how she wished that he could just trust her choices. Being the gentleman that he was, he produced a clean handkerchief from his pocket and offered it to the sniffling girl on the summer seat.
He would never forget the look of her face, all blotchy and red from crying, mascara rivers streaking the soft creamy flesh of her cheeks. She really was quite pretty underneath it all, big blue eyes, tiny freckles dotted all over her nose and cheeks, and big bouncy curls crowned her petite face in hues of caramel and gold.
“You look like you could use this.” He said offering the scrap of white cotton.
“Huh? Oh, yes, thank you.” She stumbled, a little dazed by the interruption from the stranger standing above and waving something at her. It took her a moment to realise that it was someone with a shred of kindness offering her something to dry her tears and not her upsetter with a peace treaty.
“Do you want to talk about it with someone or is it too personal? I don't want to pry just you look like you could do with a listening ear right now. And I happen to be an expert listener. Of course I also happen to be an expert at rambling.” He said laughing and rubbing the back of his neck nervously.
“Thanks, I'd rather not talk about it if you don't mind. In fact I don't really want to think about it right now.” She said drying her tears and smearing the mascara tracks on her cheeks with his handkerchief. He nodded his head and turned to walk away when she stopped him, and how he smiled when she stopped him. “But I could do with some friendly company, and you do seem kind of nice. Would you sit with me for a bit?” Her voice had an innocent quality that caused a stir inside him that he fought hard to control. He had a good feeling with this one, she would be a perfect victim for his collection. And so he sat down beside her on that little summer seat on lovers walk, down by the river where it was nice and quiet.
They talked for a bit, she told him how she planned to go to University the following year, and all that she wanted to study and achieve. She told him how she had always wanted to travel, all of the historic cities she longed to visit with all of the exciting experiences they had to offer. He told her about some of the places he had been to, how he had travelled the world many times over, but never found a place he could settle in for very long. Itchy feet and a restless nature made it hard for him to call any one place home. But he always returned to the city, to the river. He felt an affinity with it. How it was constantly moving along, and yet remaining the same. That was how he saw himself, ever moving and yet somehow always the same.
She listened to him, his rich warm voice felt like a blanket of smooth velvet washing over her and wrapping her securely in its embrace. She could have sat there with him all night. As she relaxed in his company the red blotchy patches that covered her face faded and the moonlight cast a rich pale glow that illuminated her pretty features in the night. Adam reached forward and brushed her hair back from her face, pushing it behind one ear. The icy touch of his fingers against her skin caused her to flinch a little. He smiled and apologised then reached into his pocket for his gloves. He slipped his hand into the rich leather feeling the cool silk lining against his skin, clenching his fingers into a fist to secure the fit with the quiet creak of the soft leather. She gazed out at the river and marvelled at the tranquillity there. She could understand why he loved it so much, there was a stillness that hovered gently in the air.
She turned to say something offhand, perhaps about how peaceful she felt or how grateful she was that he had happened upon her when she was feeling so lonely and upset, but the seriousness on his face made her pause. He had an intense and unsettling look about him that made her instinctively want to run, but so many people fail to act on their gut feelings and regret it, she would not, that is, she would not live long enough to regret anything.
He leapt forward grabbing her by the throat and pinning her down, his hands firmly gripped on her, clamped tightly. She fought against him trying to gasp for air, trying to scream, but nothing, only choking silence. The blotchy red patches began to return to her creamy skin, her blue eyes now all puffy and red, bloodshot and bulging. He looked down at her as the last wisps of air escaped from her. He held fast to her throat in a relentless bid to send her on to meet her maker. He imagined the thoughts of her uneventful life flashing in her head, all her dreams, the places she would never visit, the people she would never meet, the things she would never do. All the times she had said tomorrow, and now tomorrow would never come.
Still the gentle lapping of the water down below as the river moved gracefully along to its destination, as he heard her heartbeat sound slow and loud in her head. Until nothing. Silence. Death. Her body lay limp against the summer seat, there in lovers walk, down by the river, where it was nice and quiet.
He smiled as he remembered the look in her eyes at that final moment. How privileged he felt to be so close to her as he released her from her life and committed her to the next. And how sweet the splash of the water sounded as he dropped her body into the river. That was his favourite part, listening to the sound of another soul being carried off in the current.
Perhaps someday he would be caught, perhaps someday, someone would find him. And perhaps someday he would pay his price. But for now, he would go on walking the path, down by the river, where it was nice and quiet