Alex doesn't often keep things to remember those he spends time with, but sometimes he is compelled to do so. As he moves his few things into his storage locker, he has time to reflect on his mementos. He'd kept something of Liz's, of course, how could he not? But he also kept something of McConnell's. McConnell was the beginning of a new chapter, an important milestone, a new step for Alex. Murder in plain sight. McConnell's service ribbons, which he'd found in the bottom of a drawer while taking a break from spending time with the vet, had a special place in the cigar box where Alex kept his special things.
He'd planned on taking a few days off, but visiting McConnell during the day had left him too excited. He put his plans into action immediately. He went to a Home Depot and bought a length of heavy rope that was tested to more than 200 pounds. Wouldn't do for it to be too weak. Then he bought a sheet of wood that was only a quarter of an inch thick. And then, wonder of wonders, they cut it to length for him! He had them cut it into strips, a foot deep and two feet wide. He admired the large ripping circular saw the young Latina girl used to chop his lumber for him. Free of charge even. It was hard to believe anything was free anymore. As he watched her deftly saw the lumber, he thought of other applications for the large saw. How tragic it would be if someone just accidentally slipped and how gloriously damaging it would be. Even a simple accident here would cause you a digit or a limb. He was sure he would have explored such a thing if he had a space to do it in.
That was a fantasy of his. A cabin, not unlike the one where'd he stayed with Liz, up in the mountains, far away from questions and hearing ears. There he could set up a tool shop, a morgue, a dungeon, anything his little heart desired and he would be able to explore any idea he had. A fantasy, and it always would be, it would never be safe to stay in one place very long, certainly not while living in such as way as to expose himself to prying eyes. Ah well, some fantasies lived perfectly well in the imagination without needing to explore the reality.
The reality was what he would be exploring tonight with Roger Lloyd McConnell. He had a leisurely steak dinner that evening, and the heavy table disguised his excitement as he planned his evening, step by step. He always treated these experiences as a treat to himself, and spent money accordingly. Tonight was extra special, as he would be trying something completely new.
He wondered how long McConnell would last. He could still be playing with him well into tomorrow, depending on how things went. That would be very special. And at the end, McConnell himself would be left, exposed to the world, a slap in the face to the entire world and the structure and bullshit of justice and Alex would just walk away.
He went to a movie and tried to keep himself distracted until 9 p.m., when McConnell usually turned his lights off and watched television. Alex drove by at 9:30 and could see the flickering blue light of the television through the blinds. He drove off and came back twice, and when the television was still on after midnight, Alex guess the man had fallen asleep. The thought of being able to sneak into McConnell's house and taking him right there in the living room filled him with joy. It would be so much better than drugging him and having to move him.
He walked confidently through the front yard, carrying his backpack. He always looked like he knew exactly where he was going and it served him sell. One of the blinds was not completely lowered, and he could see McConnell snoozing on the couch, his head tilted back at an awkward angle. No doubt he would be snoring.
Alex went to the back door and he was easily able to repeat breaking into the house, again wrinkling his nose at the sour milk smell of the interior. As he slowly opened the door he heard that he was right, the man was indeed snoring. Alex grinned his hungry grin and quietly let himself into the house, making sure the door was locked behind him.
He took of his shoes immediately and quietly zipped open the backpack. He removed the rope from it and standing in the kitchen, he tied a hangman's noose in it. He had debated simply tying a slip knot, it would certainly work the same for what he had in mind, but he somehow thought of McConnell as more of a traditionalist than that. Once the knot was finished, he looped the excess rope over one arm and crept into the living room.
It was perfect. McConnell was sitting a few feet forward of a heavy exposed beam that ran through his ceiling. The beam was what had given him the idea in the first place. Alex quietly moved a chair from the flimsy chair that served as a dining room table and stood on it beneath the beam. He threaded the noose over it and lowered it to the floor. He moved the chair out of the way and looked for someone that he would be able to secure the end of the rope to. He couldn't find anything at first, and for a moment he was furious with himself. After a moment, though, he spied the solution. The kitchen had a that opened out of the living room, into the kitchen. It had a large, brass handle on it. It would have to do. And if it didn't do the job, he could always resort to more traditional methods.
He carefully placed two phone books and a short stack of sheets of wood beneath the place where the noose hung from the beam. He was ready.
And now the moment was here. Alex's erection strained against his pants as he took his place behind the grizzled snorer. This was always the moment. The place where his plans and fantasies crossed paths with the reality and the practice, what he wished would happen, what he imagined would happen, and what he actually created. He tied the loose end of the rope in a loose loop over one shoulder and under the opposite armpit. He kept taking deep breaths, as he felt he was dangerously close to hyperventilating. Alex weighed close to what McConnell did, he was confident, so he knew he could do what he had planned. He also knew it would not be easy. He smiled, his teeth flashing in the blue light of the television.
He stood behind the vet for a minute or two longer, carefully reviewing the steps he would take. 1-2-3-4, his fingers quickly counted back and forth, touching thumb tip to pad, thumb tip to knuckle. He laid the noose on McConnell's shoulders as gently as an undertaker would place a shroud. The old man barely stirred. Alex wrapped one hand in the loose end of the rope, slowly taking out the slack. When that was finished, Alex placed his other hand on the back of the recliner. In an instant, he dropped the back of the recliner and the old man was almost horizontal, his eyes just beginning to pop open, and in another moment, charged with adrenaline, Alex was hanging from the loose end of the rope, pulling the noose taught and then pulling the old man off the ground. He pulled and heaved and McConnell's feet cleared the ground by almost a foot. Maintaining the tension, practically dangling from the end of the rope himself, Alex pushed the stack under McConnell's flailing feet with his right foot. The old man kicked the first telephone book off the pile, and it thudded against the recliner, but as he lost his breath and his feet began to kick less, his toes found the support and stood there. Alex watched the old man struggle to live, lifting up on his toes to take the strain off his neck and throat.
Alex waited until he saw the man's chest fill with air, he was sure so that he could scream for help, and then Alex heaved on the rope again. With a gag, the old man rose again, his feet losing the support, kicking in the air again. Alex made his way to the kitchen door, making a fast knot around the brass door handle, making an adjustment before releasing the tension. The old man's toes were now barely able to reach the phone book, and Alex called out to him, walking around him.
“Hey!” As he crossed in front of McConnell, Alex saw recognition in his eyes. “Remember me? Listen, man, I'm just here to steal your stuff. I'm not gonna hurt you if you don't do anything stupid, okay? I promise. If you stop struggling I'll put another phone book under your feet so you can breathe better, alright?”
“Oguhk,” the old man, said, and Alex took that for an okay. He carefully approached the other man and placed the second phone book under his feet. He then gently rotated the hanging man so he was facing the kitchen door. Alex stood before him again.
“Now listen, I'll be as quick as I can. You make any noise, you try to attract any attention, I'll lean on this rope until you die. Otherwise, when I'm finished I'll cut you down. Alright?”
The old man could breathe better now and his eyes glared at Alex. “Just get out.”
“Soon,” Alex said, and left the room. He put on latex gloves and quickly went through the old man's things, looking to see if there was anything worth keeping. Other than the man's military bars, there were not.
When he returned to the living room, the old man was trying to do a half-assed pull up on the ceiling beam, taking tension off of his throat. Alex was impressed. The man was apparently stronger than he thought. Maybe he would last a while after all. Excellent. The old man's pale, sagging arms vibrated with tension and he pulled himself to the very tips of his toes, gasping for clear breaths. Alex strode forward and put his body weight on the other end of the rope. The old man rose higher, his arms slipping off the beam in surprise. Holding the tension in the rope, Alex kicked the top phone book away. He lowered the old man back and watching him struggle to maintain his weight on his toes, standing on the remaining phone book.
“See now you've upset me,” he said, wiggling the rope in his hand. The old man's eyes held nothing but panic now. His chest heaved and his shirt was almost dripping with sweat.
Alex met his eyes and began to wait.