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Desire, Menace, and Murder

Love Is A Dangerous Game

By T.D. ZummackPublished 2 years ago Updated about a year ago 20 min read

He was a player, and he was good at it. Blessed with good looks and a natural charisma that made conversation with strangers come easily, women were simply drawn to him. It was all an act, his entire life, he had been conning for so long that he couldn’t remember what he was actually qualified for anymore. It was so simple, a little bit of research, not on Google, and he could convince anybody that he was what he said he was. Sure, Google made it easier to look things up, get information quicker, but that was the same information anybody could get. If you were going to convince somebody that you were an airline pilot, or a defense attorney, or an antique dealer it required a deeper knowledge of the subject. Trips to the library were frequent, he liked the feel of pages in his hand, liked the obscure tidbits he could find among the shelves of books. The devil was in the details, the more facts you dropped the more convincing you were. Besides, the library was always a good place to meet smart, single, maybe a little lonely, women. He could pick a new job and a new soul mate at the same time.

He stared out the window of the taxi he was sharing with a stranger. The raindrops raced sideways across the glass as the cab maneuvered through traffic. He thought to himself about his latest conquest and how perfectly things had worked out. Beverly Clarence had been the best he could have hoped for, a widowed eighty-year-old with a ton of medical issues and even more money. She had been the perfect mark, lonely and not feeling attractive anymore, she fell under his spell, and he barely had to try. It had been a great nine months; he lived the life he wanted to, and she was more than happy to pay for it. He wined and dined in all the best restaurants, drove a fantastic car, and had a membership at the local country club. Sure, he had to throw the old crone some loving every now and then, but he could stomach the fifteen minutes it took as long as she kept paying. She changed her will to include him, her children were not thrilled, things were setting up nicely and then came the snag. The old lady started getting better, she wasn’t in the area of imminent death anymore. He had hoped this time was going to be easier, that nature would do the dirty work for him, but when that wasn’t the case then he knew he had to suck it up one more time and take care of it himself.

After the first time each one was easier, but they still weighed on your soul a bit. He had gone older this time hoping to miss out on that part, but he was prepared when it turned out he couldn’t wait. It was easy enough, she was getting better, but she was still a sick lady. They hadn’t even performed an autopsy; the family didn’t want one. It was no small feat to poison someone, it required patience and certain key set of knowledge to do it and make it convincing, both of which he possessed, although less patience than knowledge. He stared at the buildings as they went by, they looked like steel and cement monuments against the gloomy, grey sky. The funeral was in two days, the reading of the will two days after that, he could probably collect his money in about seven days and then it would be time to move on again and start over once more. Another new identity, another new life. “Perfect.”, he said low, but aloud.

“Excuse me?”, said the stranger in the cab.

He snapped back to reality. “Oh, oh nothing.”, he said, “Just talking to myself. He hadn’t noticed it before, but she was an attractive woman. She had jet black hair which hung just below her shoulders and was currently wet and stringy from the weather. She had fair, almost porcelain skin, and piercing blue eyes. He wasn’t sure how he had missed her, he must be slipping a bit.

“Well, I’m sorry I interrupted your conversation.”, she giggled a little as she said it.

“Not a problem, wasn’t a great conversation anyway.”, he flashed a smile.

“I doubt that.”, she smiled back and pushed her hair back behind her ear to keep it out of her face. She couldn’t believe her luck, she had read stories like this in Cosmopolitan magazine. The ones where women tell you all about the chance encounter they had with Mr. Right, which led to them becoming married and living the fairy tale, but she never thought she would experience one. Here she was sitting next to a man who stepped right out of an old Hollywood picture, dark hair kept trimmed close with even a little swoop in the front like Cary Grant, a strong jawline, clean shaven, and dark eyes that you thought you could look into forever. When he had smiled at her he had little crinkles around the corners of his eyes and mouth that gave you a warm, cozy feeling and made you let your guard down instantly. His legs looked cramped in the backseat so he must be tall and, in the suit he was wearing, it looked like he worked out. The man was a dreamboat, and he was all hers for the foreseeable future.

“I’m Maggie.”, she continued the conversation and extended her hand for him to shake.

“I’m…I’m Erik.”, he had been caught off guard by her beauty and had to think about which name he was currently using.

“Are you sure?”, she giggled again, this time at his pause trying to remember his name.

“Yes I am. Of course, I am. I’m Erik Rutley. I was momentarily mesmerized by you. I have to say that you might be the most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes on.”

She could feel her face getting red as she stared at him. She looked away quickly. “Oh please, like this? My hair’s a mess and my makeup is running everywhere.”

“Window dressing. Although, I must say, I do like the window it’s dressing.”

She blushed again. “Stop.”, she said bashfully as she put her hand on his knee and playfully pushed his leg away. She didn’t want him to stop, it had been a while since a man had spoken to her like this and it felt good, she felt beautiful.

“Where are you headed Maggie?”

“Uptown. I’m headed into work.”

“Can I interest you in some breakfast? I would never forgive myself if I let you leave this taxi without getting to know more about you.”

She smiled but spoke with caution. “That sounds nice, but I don’t even know you, you could be a psychopath or something.”

“Oh, come now.”, he smiled that smile at her again. “Do I look like a psychopath? Tell you what, there’s a diner up on the next block, nice and public. We’ll get out there and if, after breakfast you’re not convinced, we don’t have to share a cab again. My treat. I believe God puts people in your life for a reason and if we messed up this chance, I believe he’d be very upset with us. You don’t want to upset God, do you?”

He was laying it on thick, but she was flattered. A public diner wouldn’t be so bad, and it was just coffee and a bagel. He was so good looking, how could she pass it up? What if he was her Mr. Right? She could hear the voices of her friends in her head screaming at her to do it. “Well, if it will upset God, then I guess I have no choice. Let’s do it.”, she felt the butterflies inside.

Breakfast was great. They chatted about anything and everything, he was so easy to talk to. She told him she was a literary agent and he told her he was a day trader or hedge fund manager or stockbroker, something on Wall Street, she had been too enamored to really pay attention. He was successful and did something with money, she knew that much. They finished eating, swapped phone numbers, and then shared a cab to her office building. When she exited the cab, he kissed her hand and promised to call. “This time we’ll share a meal more fitting for a lady.” he had said. She was swooning. She floated into the office and sat at her desk idly shuffling papers around, barely focused on her tasks. The rest of the day was a blur.

What was he doing? The old lady wasn’t even in the ground yet and he was seducing another one. This wasn’t the plan. The plan was hit it, quit it, and move on, hopefully richer than before you started and now here he was getting involved with another one. He should be planning his next destination, not dinner. The longer he sticks around, the more chance he gets caught. What was it about her? There had been something, something about the way she looked in that cab, her hair all wet and those eyes. They were like nothing he had ever seen before, simply hypnotic. He was being a fool, he needed to get back to basics. He had never been the same guy in the same city before and now wasn’t the time to start. Four days until the reading, maybe one dinner couldn’t hurt.

Maggie was ecstatic, dinner had been amazing. In fact, the last four days had been simply incredible. Erik was the man of her dreams, fancy cars, expensive dinners, and the things he said. God, that man could talk. She was a little disappointed when he told her that he wouldn’t be able to see her today, but he said he had business and she didn’t want to be too needy. She had just sat down on the couch in front of the television when there was a knock on her door. She answered and there was a woman standing there who introduced herself as Sandra Vickery. She said she was the daughter of a woman named Beverly Clarence and wanted to talk to her about Erik. Maggie was confused but invited her in.

“Erik had been involved with my mother for the last nine months. He wined her and seduced her. She changed her will for him, at the reading today she left half her fortune to him, and her three children split the remaining half. She was getting better and now she’s dead, we think he killed her.”

Maggie was dumbfounded. What was she hearing? There was no way the Erik she knew, her Erik, could do something like that. “He never told me about any woman or any fortune.”, she said.

“We hired a private investigator to follow him and dig up what he could, that’s where your name came up. You’ve seen quite a bit of him these last four days. I’m just here to try and give you a warning. Please be careful, watch yourself with him.”

“You must be mistaken, there’s no way Erik could do something like that.”

“His name isn’t Erik Rutley. We’ve found at least three aliases in three other states. He was Tom Flannery in Minnesota, William Desmond in Iowa, and Mark Preston in Nebraska.”

“What? That’s not possible. He…”

“In each state he had a woman he was involved with. Each one was well to do and each one ended up deceased. Shortly after each death he disappeared along with the money and showed up with a different name in a new state.”

“It can’t be true, it has to be a weird coincidence or something, he doesn’t need money he’s very successful on Wall Street.”

“That’s not true either. He’s a grifter, a con man. We paid a lot of money for our investigator, he’s very good, it’s not a mistake. We’ve got about three days until he gets paid and then he’s probably gone again. We’re taking this information to the police before then. You do what you want with the information, I just felt someone should warn you before he did it again.”

“You’re wrong, you have to be. I don’t have any money, why would he have chosen me.”

“You do what you want, I just wanted to give you everything we have so that I could sleep easier at night. Thanks for your time.”, and with that she left.

Maggie was left sitting on her couch in a stupor. How could this be? It had to be a mistake, didn’t it? Erik was a perfect gentleman with her, he never showed any signs of being deceptive, not even a shifty eye glance every now and then. Sandra had been convincing though, all those files she had. If it wasn’t true where did all that information come from and why would Sandra bring it to her? She went to bed but didn’t sleep, all those thoughts swirled in her head all night. Before she knew it the alarm was ringing the next morning and it was time to start another day. She had barely started moving when her phone rang. “Hello?”

“Hey Baby.”, Maggie’s blood ran ice cold as soon as she heard his voice.

“Hey.”, her voice was scarcely louder than a whisper.

“How’s my angel this morning?”

Maggie’s mind was racing. Could it be true? How would she know? A thought came to her mind. “Busy. I’ve got to get into work right away, I’ve got a big meeting today?”

“Oh yeah? What’s on the agenda?”

“My boss has this new prospective author she wants me to talk to. A guy named Tom Flannery. He’s from somewhere in Minnesota I believe.”

“Minnesota? Sounds like an interesting place. Good luck. I’ll let you go. Talk to you later. I love you.”

She said goodbye and hung up. He hadn’t even paused for a second when she mentioned Tom Flannery. It didn’t cross him up at all and she threw one of his aliases right in his face. Maybe Sandra Vickery had been wrong, maybe it wasn’t Erik after all. She didn’t know what to think, but she was definitely going to call Sandra later and clarify some things, tell her what she had done.

Erik hung up the phone and a small bead of sweat formed on his upper lip. Tom Flannery from Minnesota? Did she know? How did she know? How much did she know? It couldn’t be a coincidence; he didn’t believe in those. He made a decision at that very moment; she was going to have to die. He had just been told he was receiving three and a half million dollars, his biggest score yet, and he wasn’t going to let some broad stand in his way, no matter what her eyes looked like. He was such an idiot! He knew the plan and he deviated from it for nothing, just some skirt, they were a dime a dozen and now everything was on the line. He swore and wiped everything off his counter with an angry swipe of his arms. Dishes broke against the wall, he saw it as a metaphor for his dreams shattering in front of him. He gathered up his jacket and left the apartment he had been staying at while Beverly’s final affairs were sorted out. He was going to have to do another one, one more time, and he wasn’t even working this one. Things were starting to get out of hand, it was time to take the fortune and then lay low for a good, long time while he healed his soul. Maybe a trip to Bali was in order.

Maggie spent the day in turmoil. She had called Sandra and told her what had happened. Sandra and her private investigator had come down to her office to speak with her again and reassured her that the information was not incorrect and that the longer Maggie stayed with him, especially after tipping him off, the more she was in danger. She had decided to err on the side of caution, she was going to break it off with Erik as soon as she got home. She walked out of her building and almost jumped out of her skin as she saw Erik standing there waiting for her. “Hey Angel, how was your day?”, he flashed her that smile and she almost fell for it all over again. He put his arm around her, and she stiffened at the gesture.

“It was fine.”, she managed a little smile. “What are you doing here?”

“I thought I’d take my best girl out for a little romance.”

Her heart dropped to her feet, and she filled with dread. “Oh, that sounds nice, but you know, I’m really tired. I have this terrible headache. I think I’d just rather go home.” She tried to lie but wasn’t as skilled as he was.

“Nonsense. A little romance will take that headache right away.” He opened his car door. “Get in darling.” The words sounded nice, but his smile was gone. Maggie was filled with panic as he drove them to who knows where.

“Where are we going?”, she smiled at him.

“I thought we’d go for a nice walk out by the lake. It’s a lovely evening. We can look at the stars.”

This was it; he was going to kill her. They drove for about an hour and stopped at a secluded, wooded area. “Let’s go darling”, he said as he opened his car door and got out. He shut his door and walked around to her side of the car where she locked the doors before he could open hers. He smiled at her. So, she knew then, knew he was going to kill her. Alright, game over, let’s get on with it he thought as he raised his hand and jingled the keys in front of her. He kept smiling as he pressed the unlock button and opened her door. She tried to fight him from inside the car, but he grabbed her hair and dragged her out, throwing her to the ground. She got up quickly, screamed, and tried to run away. He caught up quickly and put his hand on the back of her neck guiding her where he wanted.

“Please don’t do this.”, Maggie begged as they walked.

“I didn’t want to, but you gave me no choice. How was your meeting with Tom Flannery?”

“I.. I didn’t know what to do.”, Maggie was crying as she spoke. “Sandra Vickery came to me, brought me all this information, said she was warning me. What was I supposed to do?”

“Sandra. Figures. That bitch never could stand the thought of losing her money to me. How much did she tell you?”

Maggie stammered a little, “She…she said you had a bunch of different aliases in a bunch of states. That you had killed women, that you killed her mother.”

Erik pushed her forward a little and took his hand off her neck. She turned to look at him as he spoke. “Do you really think I could do something like that?”

Maggie threw her hands in the air as she yelled “Look where we are, look what you’re planning. I think that’s a yes!”

Erik smiled a little as he realized it had been a stupid question and she had called him on it. “I do love your feistiness. We probably could have been good together.” They walked out into a clearing beside a lake.

“Good together? For what, nine months?”, Maggie asked. “How many have there been? How many have you killed?”

She stood in front of him defiantly now. He stared at her, still conflicted, she was a beauty. He pulled a gun from his pocket and leveled it at her. “Too many to count. How many did she tell you?”

“Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska. And her mother.”, she was walking backwards slowly, staring at the gun.

“Yes, to all four. There were others but that’s all you need. People do what they’re good at and I’m good at loving women. I could have really loved you. You are beautiful.”, he raised the gun again. “They made it easy. They were so lonely, and they just wanted to keep me happy, they gave everything to me willingly.”

“Why kill them then? You were getting what you wanted?”

Erik shrugged a little. “I get bored. Bored and there’s so many beautiful women looking for companionship. It was a challenge to see just how many I could fool, and it got easier every time. That’s far enough. I’m sorry Maggie, but it’s three and a half million dollars. You’re first and Sandra’s next. I can’t leave any witnesses, I need to disappear like I was never in this city.” He pulled the trigger.

“Wait!”, Maggie had raised her hands. She stumbled backwards and fell to the ground just as Erik had pulled the trigger. The bullet whistled over the top of her as she lay on the ground. Erik swore and moved in closer for a second shot. Maggie looked around frantically and grabbed a large branch that was on the ground beside her. She swung it at Erik as he closed in and knocked the gun out of his hands. He swore again and looked around for the weapon. Maggie staggered to her feet and tried to run again. Erik caught her and dragged her towards the lake. He put his hand around her neck and pushed her head under the water. Maggie struggled but he was now straddling her body as he tightened his grip on her throat.

Erik stared down at her as she struggled to breathe. The water was dark, and her light skin glowed under it with those piercing blue eyes looking straight at him like two sapphires shining brilliantly. He shed a single tear while he grit his teeth.

Maggie stared up at him from under the water while she struggled. She couldn’t loosen his grip no matter how much she tried. She looked up him as he was killing her and suddenly his body straightened as a shot rang out. His grip loosened and he fell face first on her in the water. She rolled out from under him and struggled on the shore as she gasped for breath. She looked up and Sandra and the investigator were there, the investigator held a gun in his hand. She stood and looked down at Erik’s body in the water.

“Thank you.”, she gasped, “But you could have come a little sooner.”

“Sorry, we lost you in the woods.”

“Did you get it?”

Sandra grabbed Maggie’s purse and pulled out a recorder. She listened to a little of the conversation Maggie and Erik had just had. “Got it. Enough to prove he killed mom and give some closure to those three families in Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota. Maybe a reversal of the insurance payouts. Thanks for doing this.

“Don’t mention it. Ever again. I’m glad it helped. When you brought it up this afternoon, I wasn’t sure it would work.”

The two women stood there in the dark as the investigator pushed Erik’s body further into the lake. He had wanted to disappear and now he could.

Short Story

About the Creator

T.D. Zummack

I'm a 48 year old aspiring writer who has finally taken the time and put in effort to make the dream come true instead of just keep wishing it. I currently have 2 books available on Amazon, 'Amazing Grace' & 'The Brand of Brotherhood.'

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