He didn't usually plan to take them, but Jonathan was careful, all the same. He wasn't foolish about it, or self-gratifying. He didn't allow himself to set his sights on someone specific, or to have certain standards or expectations of age, appearance, or personality traits. He didn't take unnecessary risks, and he didn't involve anyone beyond himself and his chosen target in the process. Other people might make the capture run more smoothly, but other people could also become betrayers or simply unreliable. It was best, Jonathan believed, to rely on oneself, always, when the task at hand was one of importance.

Instead, it happened when an opportunity happened to present itself to him. He acted only when the circumstances were not only tempting personally, but ideal for minimal risk to himself. In truth, there was no real impulse to it at all; there couldn't be, when one took all the needed calculations for success.

It had to happen when no one was around to witness, or at least, when there was no one of importance present who also happened to be paying attention. The setting, therefore, needed to be unlikely to draw others close enough to observe his actions within a short frame of time. Darkness was preferable, but early morning, before the typical commute to work began, could also work.

It wasn't just the setting that was important, however, but also the selected target. True, he couldn't afford to be picky about appearance, but it was best to choose the sort of girl whose absence was unlikely to be noted quickly, whose sudden disappearance would cause minimal alarm to the public eye. Girls who were hitching a ride, runaways, hookers, women traveling alone who were having trouble with their car- not women with children accompanying them, not elderly women with children and grandchildren sure to inquire after them, and certainly not girls young and clean cut enough to be someone's beloved offspring, out for a daring but stupid adventure. No, the sort of women Jonathan settled for were those with few real ties in life, whom might never be missed at all.

But today was different. Today, Jonathan Dentry felt daring, even reckless. He was tired of strung out whores and drunks, string-haired, empty-eyed girls with track marks up their arms, missing and decayed teeth in their mouths, and sallow tints to their skin. Today, Jonathan wanted to choose someone special, someone different, someone who had not already been marked and ruined by life, to the point that his influence was merely the last mishap in a long trail of misfortune. Today, Jonathan wanted someone he could truly enjoy, someone as invested in life as a person could be.

Today, he felt lucky. He had been cautious and patient for so long, following all the rules he had long ago determined to keep himself from notice. Just this once, he deserved to push it all aside and go with his desires, rather than his reasoning. Besides, what was to say that he couldn't combine both?

88

It had taken a combination of good luck and good timing for the right girl, and the right opportunity, to present itself. Jonathan had taken up a post in the Fairfield Mall's parking lot, smoking cigarettes unhurriedly as he stood near, but not quite leaning against, a car that was not his own. His own car had been parked in the parking lot of a bar a full block down, one open into the early hours of morning. It would go unnoticed and unreported, he was sure, and he would be able to make it back to it in plenty of time to leave before the bar's closing.

He had taken up his post about an hour and a half before the mall's closing, just in time for the dawning darkness of the setting evening. For this period of time, he was able to observe the figures exiting their cars to enter, then eventually exit, the building. Jonathan noted the females in particular as he waited, testing, then rejecting, different possibilities in his mind. Automatically rejected were those who entered in groups or with a male or child in tow, as well as those clearly younger than eighteen. Those older than forty and which he considered unattractive were rejected next; after all, just this once, he was allowing himself to choosy.

It took him about forty minutes to see her. She came alone, a pack carried in one hand, a small purse slung over her opposite shoulder, and she walked with small but confident steps, her head held high, as though she had a specific purpose or goal in her mind. Although she was smaller and slimmer than the average teenager that Jonathan had observed, he could tell from the way that she carried herself that the young woman was indeed an adult, somewhere in her early to mid twenties, by his estimate.

She was wearing a short, flared black skirt, ending a few inches above her knees, with tights that had silvery speckles dotting their length. Her shoes were red, visibly even from a distance, and appeared to have pointed heels. Her red shirt was scooped at the neck and covered in a colorful pattern of tulips, and she had a tight fitting jacket over the ensemble, somehow managing to convey both innocence and sexiness all at once. Her hair was short, dark, and tousled, though Jonathan guessed this was a deliberate effort more so than a lack of hygiene, and she wore heavy eye makeup but little other garnishments.

She was perfect. She was perfect, and Jonathan knew as soon as he saw her that she was his target for the night.

She came alone, carrying a bag that read the name of the mall's movie store across its front. Jonathan reasoned that she was likely returning something she had purchased. As the mall was closing soon, she likely would remain in there for long. If she was his choice, then he must act quickly.

Jonathan waited, watching the girl make her way to the mall's side entrance, and could not stop himself from staring at her legs, the twitching of her skirt with her strides. He imagined himself thrusting up that little skirt, ripping off those glittery tights to expose the pale skin beneath, and swallowed hard, forcing himself to keep back his automatic grin. As she disappeared through the glass door, he counted to ten, then snuffed out his cigarette. She would likely be returning soon, so now was the time to act.

He had noted her car, of course, a nondescript grey Ford Focus which did not at all seem the type of car belonging to a girl like her. Perhaps she had borrowed a parent's car, or a grandparent's; it didn't matter. What did matter is that he could tell as he approached it that it was a very basic, standard issue car, complete with the sort of windows that a person had to crank up and down by hand, and without the more high tech locking devices that newer and fancier cars usually had. She had also chosen to park towards the very back of the parking lot, lending credence to his assumption that the car was borrowed, as there were plenty of spaces closer to the mall's entrance. Probably she wanted to make sure no one side swiped her. This was only helpful for Jonathan, as there was very little lighting and no one paying attention towards the area she had parked.

It was easy enough for him to jimmy the window down on the driver's seat, just enough to unlock the door and slide inside. Locking it back again and carefully rolling the window up, making sure to leave no signs of his entry, Jonathan maneuvered himself behind the driver's seat, hunching over and crouching down in the darkness. He had taken care to wear only black clothing, and with his dark hair and the hood of his sweatshirt pulled over his head, it was very difficult for a person who happened to glance into the car to be able to see him in the darkness.

He waited, impatiently aware of his heart knocking against his ribcage, and focused on controlling his breaths. As he concentrated on maintaining an even flow of breath in and out of his lungs, Jonathan felt his heartbeat slow, enough so he could be sure that the young woman would not hear. His control proved to me timely when he heard the sound of light, quick footsteps drawing near the vehicle, stopping in the area he estimated to be the side or back of the car. He tensed, wondering if the young woman would open the door to the backseat, thus possibly spying his shape even in the dark interior. But no, he heard the faint clicking noise of the trunk of the car unlocking, along with a light rustling noise. It appeared she had bought something and was now storing it in the trunk of the car. He heard the trunk lid slam back down and lock into place, then the girl's light footsteps again as she walked back around to the driver's side of the vehicle. Another click of a lock being opened, and then the girl herself was settling into the driver's seat in front of him, her slight weight causing no movement of the chair against him.

Here she was, less than a foot away from him. Had he wanted to, Jonathan could have reached out and touched her, even grabbed her by the throat and choked the life out of her lungs. But this was not his style, nor would it have been the wisest course to take. The more patient he was, the more anticipation he built for himself, the more likely his full control of the situation. Impulse could be fun, but control was vital.

Instead, he remained motionless, nearly holding his breath as the young woman started the car's engine and began to back out of her parking space. He could smell her hair, still freshly washed and smelling of coconut. She turned the radio to an oldies' station and sang along quietly, occasionally tapping her fingers against the steering wheel as she pulled onto the road in front of the mall. Her voice was high, clear, and sweet, exactly as Jonathan might have imagined it.

This was going to be amazing, the best he could recall. This was going to be a night to savor.

It would not do, he knew, to reveal himself or his intentions so near the mall, with enough drivers, businesses, and otherwise populated areas that the girl could easily attract attention to herself and him, or possibly even escape. His patience would need to continue until the odds were higher on his own side, when the girl had turned off into a less populated area. Surely she would have to do so at some point, and when she did, Jonathan would be ready.

He waited until he had counted to a thousand, until he could not see the constant flash of lights through his hood or hear the noise of the city around him; he could now be reasonably certain that the girl was in a more remote area. He waited for thirty seconds more, and then slid into a kneeling position behind her, one hand snaking around the seat to wrap around her throat, the other gripping his knife tightly as he raised it to press against her cheek. In the rearview mirror he watched the girl's dark eyes widen, her entire face growing tense and drawn as her shoulders stilled beneath the grasp of his arm.

"Do not draw attention to yourself," he said in a low voice, leaning forward so his lips nearly touched the young woman's ear. "Do not try to fight me, and do not attempt to crash the vehicle or otherwise sabotage yourself. Listen to what I say, obey me, and you will not be harmed."

The girl was intelligent enough to keep driving, without so much as slowing her speed or jerking toward the center line. He saw something flicker in her eyes in the mirror before she nodded, just a faint jerk of the head that would not draw his hand more tightly around her throat. Jonathan let his eyes skip side to side, just enough to note that his estimate of their location had been on target. There was no one else on the road, and he saw nothing around them but trees, not even a powerline breaking the view.

"Who are you?" she asked, barely moving her lips to speak. "What do you want?"

She was braver than many, he had to acknowledge. Most of the women had simply gasped or screamed, or immediately began to beg or plead. This girl had questions, logical questions, the very ones that Jonathan himself might have asked in her place. He could respect that; he knew for certain now he had made the right choice in her.

"Just drive," he instructed all the same. "Get off at the closest place that you can pull over in, and shut off the engine. Turn off the radio so you can hear me."

She did as he ordered, not asking anything further. When she found a bare patch of rocks and gravel about half a mile down the road, he indicated for her to pull over onto it. Again the girl obeyed, pulling the car over and cutting off its headlights, but not the main lights. As Jonathan shifted just enough of his grip to allow her to reach to pull the car into park, he was thinking of the next step, manipulating her into the backseat with him, without yet being forced to make a cut.

But the girl had something up her sleeve- literally. As she reached to shift the car into park, her hand coming back up from the shiftstick, a twisting of her wrist flipped the small but sharp blade of a knife into the palm of her hand, as though it were an extension of her own hand. She deftly twisted her slim body down and then completely out of Jonathan's grasp, before another fast wriggle had turned her to face him, up on her knees and straddling the shiftstick. Before Jonathan had quite registered what had happened, her hand had raised high, the blade of her knife plunging down into the socket of his left eye.

The pain that split through Jonathan then was like nothing he had ever encountered, nothing he could have ever had the words to describe. It spiked not through his eye, but through all the bones around it, through every nerve and every neuron of his skin, even, it seemed, into his brain. It was even worse when she pulled it out. He could feel the blood spurting out of his eye, spraying the young woman and the back of her seat, but she didn't appear to flinch, let alone make noise of her own. He screamed without words, raw anguish alone in his voice, and did not register the young woman easily sliding the knife from his hand and tossing it down at the floorboard beneath her feet. She was still facing him, but Jonathan's good eye was blurred and watery from pain, and the injured eye continued to pump blood steadily through the fingers Jonathan had clamped over it.

"Fuck!" he panted, trying not to think of what he might resemble now, of just how long it might take to go completely blind, if he wasn't already beyond the point of no return with that. "Fucking bitch…you fucking blinded me, you fucking bitch!"

"And you hijacked me, held a knife to me, and threatened me," the young woman replied smoothly, not so much as raising her voice. In fact, Jonathan actually thought he heard amusement in her tone. "I would say I had very good reason for self defense against you, and even better reason to be a tad perturbed."

"Fucking BITCH!" Jonathan spat.

Mostly blindly he struck out at her, trying to grasp her hair, her face, something, to bring her near enough to attempt damage. Rikarah was faster, not only in evading his efforts, but in snatching his wrist with hers in a surprisingly strong grasp, her other hand moving once more to hold the knife to his face, the tip of the blade just touching the bridge of his nose.

"That was very rude," she said quietly, but there was steel in her words and gaze. "You have invaded my property, threatened my person, and yet somehow you feel justified in now using ugly, sexist words against me as well. Not only that, but when I asked you a very simple and reasonable question, one you easily could have answered, you were very discourteous and chose not to reply. So, I'm afraid that I'll have to extract the knowledge I'm seeking in another manner, one that seems you would be much more responsive to, judging upon your actions so far."

With that, she raised her hand up again, and before Jonathan could duck or even quite understand her intentions, the girl had plunged the knife's blade once more, this time into his still uninjured eye. As Jonathan screeched, writhing and trying to lash out at her, Rikarah wrenched the knife free, holding it up above his heart.

"Let's try again," she called, over the loud gasping of his breath, the pained cries still tearing from his throat. "I'll take as long as I need, it's no skin off my nose, but it may very well be plenty of skin off yours. Who are you, and why would you choose to do this to a young woman who never did you harm?"

"I can't see!" Jonathan groaned, panting. Blood continued to seep steadily from both eyes, and he didn't dare let go of either, for fear that he would simply bleed out in the backseat. "You took out my eyes, I can't fucking SEE!"

"That isn't what I asked you," the girl said sweetly, leaning closer, enough that he could almost feel her knees against his own. "Hm, perhaps I should try lower down, see whether you happen to treasure other parts of you more than you evidently cared for your eyes."

She slowly brought the knife level with his chest, cutting through the fabric of his shirt, but not pressing hard enough to nick the skin beneath. Jonathan didn't dare wiggle or lash out at her; it would be all too easy for her hand to slip, cutting deep. When she reached the top of his jeans, hovering as though to lower to his crotch, he relented, panicked.

"Okay, stop, stop, fucking stop it! I'll answer, I'll tell you whatever you want to hear!"

"Okay," she said calmly, but the knife did not draw back. "I'm listening."

Jonathan swallowed noisily. His breath seemed to jag and tear inside his throat, not quite able to fill his lungs. His own blood seemed to be thickening as it continued to seep through his tightly clamped fingers, but he wasn't sure if this was positive or not. His mouth opened, but nothing came to mind except the fervent fear that the girl's hand would slip.

"I'm not hearing answers," she was saying, and then came still more of the pain, sharp and sick in its intensity, as her knife jabbed down through the meat of his thigh, just missing his crotch.

When Jonathan hollered out his rage and fear, his arms jerking out more in instinct than any controlled effort at striking her, the knife jabbed again at each arm, so new wounds opened up. There seemed to be nothing to Jonathan but the pain he was enduring, almost a throbbing, physical cocoon formed of it seeming to surround him and dull his hearing. Still, with effort, he managed to just make out her words, and on her third repetition, he understood them.

"You just keep giving me wrong answers, don't you? You are a slow learner, I suppose. So let me ask one more time, but the third time is the last. Who are you?"

"Jonathan!" he spat out, almost eager to give the answer she was looking for, and so to maybe be able to stop her from causing him any further hurt. "Jonathan, Jonathan Dentry!"

There was no further cutting of his skin, not yet, nor any new blows, but neither did it seem that the girl had backed away. Jonathan could still sense her near him, and her voice sounded no further away than before when she spoke.

"I see. Now, really, if you wanted to meet me, Jonathan Dentry, the proper way is an introduction. But you didn't ask my name, did you? In fact, you didn't do anything but give me orders and threats. Did you even care what my name is, Jonathan? Or was I only a body to you, a female face with no identity behind it, not a person at all?"

Jonathan paused, torn at this question. He wasn't sure what sort of answer the girl was looking for, or if there was any sort of right answer at all. If he told her that her name did matter to him, it would be a lie. In fact, he would have preferred to deal with her exactly as she herself had suggested, as nothing more than a body and face, easily discarded when he wished, on his own terms. But he couldn't tell her that; it would be like signing his own death warrant.

When he didn't answer her quickly enough, he felt her grasp hold of his right arm, roughly shoving up his sleeve with her left.

"Well, you never asked me my name, Jonathan Dentry, but I will introduce myself all the same, in a manner that will insure you never forget me. In fact, I'll spell it out for you."

And then the knife came down again, dragging across his skin slowly but precisely, as the girl spelled out loud the letters she was writing into his flesh with the blade.

"R….I….K…"

Jonathan's hips bucked, his left arm pushing out at her, but the girl held firm, not seeming even unbalanced as she maintained her grip on his arm with one hand and continued to cut with the other. Soon the pain was so much that he couldn't even bring himself to do much more than shake, shock coming over him as she finished the fourth letter.

"A. R, I, K, A. It isn't the whole of it, but it's a good start. I doubt you'll remember any more syllables than that at this point."

The woman- Rika?- moved the knife back to his throat, straddling his legs almost carelessly, and yet her thighs were strong, gripping his almost like a vice as she leaned in towards his chest, propping elbows on his rib cage as her hands grasped his wrists, preventing Jonathan from hitting or pushing at her again.

"So let's try again, Jonathan Dentry. What were you doing, climbing into my car and hiding behind my seat? What were you doing, holding a knife to my throat and asking me to drive away? Did you intend to scare me…steal from me? Hurt me…rape me…kill me?"

Her voice was husky, almost sexy in tone when she spoke. Even with the unrelenting, pulsing heat of his pain, Jonathan couldn't help but notice this, nor the way that her voice, combined with her slight weight against him, made his groin grow hard involuntarily. He squirmed, trying to keep her from noticing. He couldn't be sure if she would find his arousal amusing or infuriating, further cause for her to punish.

When he didn't answer her immediately, distracted by the issue of his own unwanted response to her, Rika's knife jabbed at his throat, drawing up a bead of blood and slightly puncturing his Adam's apple.

"I don't believe your mouth has sustained an injury that would prevent you from speech, but if you'd like, I can certainly change that."

It took him a few more seconds to remember her question, let alone to bring forward the words she was looking for in response, but another jab of the knife brought them out of Jonathan in a rush.

"Yes, yes, yes! "

"Yes, what?" the girl said steadily, unflinching, unsatisfied. "Which, exactly, did you intend to do to me? What was your plan?"

"All of it!" Jonathan managed, sweat mingling with the tears and blood streaking down his cheeks and settling into the damp folds of his shirt. "All of it, I was going to do all of it, everything you said! I'm sorry…I'm fucking sorry, please! I'm sorry!"

There were no further cuts or slashes from the girl; for several moments, she remained still, perhaps contemplating his reply. Jonathan gulped for breath, his heart seeming to struggle to climb its way up his throat and into his mouth, along with his last few meals. He almost dared to believe that maybe, just maybe, the girl would be satisfied. Her grip on him did seem to be loosening. Maybe this was her twisted way of teaching him a lesson. Maybe all she wanted was one good scare, and then he would be released to go. Blinded, bleeding, certainly in need of immediate help…but alive. Maybe, if he was very careful now, he could get out of this alive.

"I would agree," Rikarah said finally, her voice strangely light. "That you are sorry, that is. It is a truthful answer, although perhaps not in the context in which you intended. Unfortunately…it's also the wrong answer."

She chuckled, actually chuckled, to herself, and then long nailed fingers crawled up Jonathan's chest, causing him to shudder violently, wanting to cringe away from her touch even as his other parts of his responded quite differently.

"But honestly, Jonathan Dentry, I am not sure there is a right answer that I was looking for. You see, I think you chose to fail, to forfeit on your own life, from the moment you chose to climb into my car. So, good effort, but I'm sorry…in this game, you have lost."

He didn't have time for anything more than to open his mouth, to tense his body in preparation to struggle, before a quick and all too carefully aimed slicing of the knife cut open his throat, and anything he may have thought to attempt in self defense, or even to resist, was made impossible. All that was left in Jonathan's consciousness was the overwhelming, suffocating nature of his pain and his terror as he choked on his own blood; in what coherent thoughts of his were still able to rise to the tangled confusion in his brain, it occurred to him that he may very well be gagging on his own fear as much as his blood.

As his body spasmed and blood bubbled up from his lips, still spraying in uneven spurts from his throat and slowing to a trickle from his eyes, Jonathan nevertheless could just hear the girl, calmly speaking, as though from a great distance away, as removed in his perceived distance as she was in her own emotions.

"It's a good thing that this car isn't registered under my name, isn't it? In fact, it belongs to another silly boy like you, another fool who thought he could best me. It's just as well. It's been a few days, I suppose I needed a new one. I always do, eventually."

Something brushed his ear then, soft, and when he registered her voice, a part of him dimly recognized it as her lips. The last words Jonathan Dentry heard were those of his killer, softly purred into his ear just moments before his death.

"Just so you know, my name is Rikarah Pallaton….and my passion just happens to be ensuring the end of people like you. Truly, you should be glad of getting off so easily. Imagine, how much more could I have planned, and how much more you could have suffered, if I had seen you first."

The end