Today. Today was the day I had been waiting for since the incident occurred nine long months ago. I had been ticking off days on my Hello Kitty calendar knowing that every ‘X’ I placed over Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday brought me one day closer to her. To that glorious bitch that taunted me with her pompous phrases and twisted plots. The blowhard who wrote people like me as if we were some sideshow attraction to be gawked and marveled at with no real feelings of our own. Today, I would get close enough to smell her breath. See my reflection in her emerald green eyes. My name would hover on the last breath that escaped her lips as I strangled her; her bloodshot eyes popping from her skull as she realized I was real. Her characters were real. Sickness is real.
I had come to the decision by total accident. I admit, I was a long-time admirer of the woman prior to the event. I had read Easy Does It and was a fan of her psycho, sexy male leads as much as any hot-blooded American woman might be. What can I say, I have a penchant for bad boys. I should also interject that I, myself, am living with bipolar disorder and I always found that I related to the characters in Samantha Riley’s books as they struggled to battle their own inner demons. My life, was a constant battle of depression that pushed me to attempt suicide by blade or by pill bottle on numerous occasions. I was saved only by the watchful eye of my nosey-ass mother who lives for unannounced drop-ins and had the bad luck of finding me marinating in pools of my own blood or vomit on more than one occasion.
In my manic states, I am unstoppable; a tornado of imagination capable of tremendous feats. I am a goddess of sexuality able to make men or women bow to my whims. I prowl around bars and seduce them until we are both hammered and unable to suppress our sexual appetites. This usually leads to all types of naughty exploits wherever is convenient. It was a manic state that led me to Strangle.
I had been enjoying the story, getting a great deal of amusement from exploits of the sexy, yet murderous protagonist. I was lying in bed after a long night of drinking and debauchery and giggled to myself as I read. On the morning of the event, November 16th, I took the book into the bathroom where I intended to read it as I soaked in the tub. The room was chilly. The bathroom was covered in floor to ceiling black and white tile, an old 30s style space that had never been updated. I ran steaming, hot water into the old porcelain claw foot tub and eased myself in once it was full. The wonderful thing about those old tubs is that they are so deep the water covers your breasts and knees at the same time. I was thoroughly encapsulated in the embrace of the water while the chilly air wafted around me. It was beautiful and relaxing. It was everything that bipolar is and isn’t. Without realizing it, I had soon drifted off to sleep, apparently dropping the book next to the tub. I woke up some time later to the sound of my intrusive mother.
“Katie. Katie where are you!” She shrieked frantically.
I could hear her footsteps banging away on the scratched and worn hardwood floors of my apartment.
“I’m in here, Ma,” I mumbled.
I was in a haze. Not quite out of my sleepy state. I pulled the plug and hoisted myself up on the side of the tub, reached overhead for a towel hanging on the shower rod, and stepped a wet foot onto the tile. As I tried to hurriedly wrap the towel around me, mother swung the bathroom door open. I was startled and lost my footing. I slipped, fell, and, mother tells me, hit my head on the toilet on the way down. I woke several minutes later with a loud ringing in my ears and heavy, syrupy blood dripping into my eyelashes. In front of me lay my book, ‘Strangle Samantha Riley’ neatly printed on the side. I stared at it as my mother shook and yelled at me to get up. I could hear her, but everything was muted – fuzzy. I suddenly understood my purpose; knew that I was receiving a message from some higher being. I had to make right the stereotypes this woman was perpetrating. The book told me right then: I had to strangle Samantha.
Today, August 29th Samantha would be at Fraiser’s Books doing a signing to promote her latest piece of shit. I sat in my bedroom on the corner of my rumpled bed. The single light that just barely lit the place swung gently back and forth in the breeze from my box fan. It lent an eerie yellow glow that illuminated the walls which were now covered in months of obsession. Riley’s smug face looked at me from glossy magazine pages and matte printer paper that I had tacked to the peeling white paint of my bedroom walls. Morbid wallpaper that served as a constant reminder to not abandon the mission that God had laid out for me.
Her eyes followed me like haunted museum paintings as I unraveled my bare legs and walked my slinky, sexy walk over to the mirror that rested atop my old beat-up dresser. I lifted a hand to my forehead and leaned in to examine my pink scar, the remnants of the event that reminded me daily of my brush with the divine. My eyes looked sunken, but the neon yellow of my irises was intense and cat-like. They could suck an unwitting partner in with a bat of my long black lashes; ease them into a trap like a canary into the jaws of a hungry house cat. My red hair cascaded over my breasts and made me feel, and look, both exotic and innocent. They joke that gingers have no souls; maybe I didn’t, or maybe I was doing this because my soul wanted redemption for everyone who had been wronged by a hack writer. I looked over at my alarm clock, 2:25 p.m. only a few more hours until it began. I should probably put on some makeup, just a little.
“Katie! Katie, come get something to eat.”
I rolled my eyes. That was my mother. It had been nine months since I fell and cracked my skull, her fault by the way, and she had basically been living here since. She thinks I am at risk for seizures, hallucinations, stroke, a damn aneurysm, or whatever else Dr. Google has told her I might spontaneously collapse and die from. I can’t get her to leave. It has made planning for today that much more difficult.
“Don’t you need to be at work in an hour? You should eat. You might pass out from malnutrition.” She barked as she barged into my bedroom as if I was 15 and not 26.
“Yeah, Ma. I’ll grab something in a minute.” I was still topless and had given up on privacy.
“Katie, I can see your ribs.”
“You wouldn’t if you’d knock first.”
“Oh, stop. I’m your mother. I’ve seen it all before.”
“Yeah, it’s just bigger now.”
“Exactly,” she looked around the room at the Riley pictures. “I don’t know what you see in her. Why not find a nice handsome man like that Jim Elliott fellow.”
“Sam Elliott, Ma.”
“That’s what I said. Come eat,” she backed out and closed the door.
My mother was a nuisance. She had no sense of personal space, and the only real reason she stayed with me was so that she could complain to her friends that she had to take care of me. I diagnosed her as having narcissistic personality disorder when I started therapy four years ago, but the problem with narcs is they won’t admit they have a problem.
By now you’re asking yourself how I planned to get close to Samantha Riley. Close enough to kill her. After the event, I did my research. I learned she was releasing a new book and was then going on a signing tour. I discovered Fraiser’s was a stop on the tour. I went down in December when they were hiring seasonal help and got myself a temporary position. I worked my ass off during the Christmas rush with all the angry old ladies who wanted sale prices a week after the sale was over and then wanted to speak to a manager. I worked double shifts. I didn’t take lunches. By the time the holidays were over the owners couldn’t imagine letting me go, and I secured a full-time position in the store. I secured a position that would get me close to Samantha. After that I let them catch me carrying around her books. I talked about how much I enjoyed her writing. I feigned being a writer myself, claiming she was a hero and inspiration in my own work. This built up a solid foundation of fandom. As the day of her signing drew closer I approached the owners to ask if I could work it. I fed them some bullshit about how much it would mean to me to meet my idol, bring her water. It was garbage, but they bought it. She’d be arriving at the store at 4:30 to begin her signing at 5:00. I would help set up and direct traffic. There would be hoards of idiots there to get some trash book she wrote signed—pay $50 bucks for a cheesy photo op. I was there to fulfill my cosmic duty. Poor Samantha Riley, I smiled at myself in my mirror, “You’re gonna die today.”
“Hey Ma, I’m probably gonna be late getting home tonight.” I said as I took giant bites out of the room temp turkey sandwich on the counter. The insides were warm and mushy, and the bread was stale. It flaked off onto the plate and my black button up shirt. I tried to brush it off and they fell inside scattering over my bare chest. My gold nametag jiggled.
“Why? I rented The Notebook. I thought we could watch it.”
“Ugh. Ma, you’ve seen that move a hundred times. It’s terrible.”
“It’s a great love story, Katie. You could use a little romance.”
“I get plenty of romance.”
“One-night stands don’t count as romance.”
“How would you know? You never had one.”
“I don’t need one. I hear what goes on in that bedroom.”
“You know how to alleviate that, right?”
“I turn up the volume on the TV already.”
“No, Ma. Go home.” I patted her shoulder and tossed my dish in the sink. “I gotta go.”
“You need me here. You would be lost without me.” She yelled as I closed the door and started down the stairs of the Victorian house my apartment was in.
I didn’t need her. What I needed was to get this job done. I needed to feel the release of every emotion I had been bottling up for nine eternal months. Feel my hands wrap around Riley’s neck and squeeze until her chest stopped rising and falling.
“Hey Katie, today’s the big day.” Nate, one of the stock boys, yelled out over his shoulder as I walked into Fraiser’s.
“Yeah,” I feigned a seductive smile and winked, “I’ve been dying in anticipation.” Nate was seventeen and had been harboring a secret crush on me. I liked to get him fired up whenever I could. He was cute with his blonde shaggy hair and pouty lips, but obviously jail-bait, and not even I would go there except flirtation that I knew ate at him all the way home.
I made my way passed customers lounging in overstuffed arm chairs fingering through new releases, girls with long dark hair trying to look inconspicuous as they perused the section where we kept our occult books, snot-nosed brats making a mess at “Kiddy Corner”. There was already a line of people in ‘Easy Does It’ shirts with giant, distorted character faces screen printed on them, white shirts with flashy writing that read ‘Samantha Riley’, and a bevy of other ridiculous, sloppy looking people forming a line to meet the woman. I rolled my eyes and then regrouped quickly before I pushed open the big wooden door that said ‘employees only’ at the back of the store. Matt and Jan, the owners, were standing there talking to Eric and Andy.
“So, you guys go ahead and get the banner set up. As soon as Katie gets here we’ll get her on…” Matt was instructing.
“Katie’s here,” I smiled and approached the group. I added an extra bounce to my step to look extra excited.
“There she is! How excited are you?” Jan walked over and wrapped an arm around my shoulders.
I absolutely hated being touched unless I was the one initiating the touching. Jan, I had learned, was a hugger. I had tried every method I could think of to get out of her grasp, but nothing ever worked. Once this woman had decided to hug you, that was it. I went to my happy place and grinned through it. It made every muscle in my body go tense. They felt like dry silly putty that had been pulled too far, like they might just snap.
“It’s very exciting.” I squeaked through gritted teeth and a distorted smile.
“Try not to flirt to hard, you. We don’t want to distract her from her signing.” Jan laughed a hearty laugh and shook me against her over-sized bosom. Then, she finally released.
Andy and Eric looked at me and smirked.
“I was just telling the guys to go ahead and put up the banner. Katie, can you get out the décor for the table and make sure the snacks and water are all ready for Miss Riley in case she requests something?”
“That’s what I’m here for.”
“Well, that’s kind of what you’re here for,” Eric mumbled under his breath.
I gave him a side-ways glance but laughed jovially at the jab. He had no idea how right he was in my ulterior motives. It was just that everyone in the store assumed I wanted to get Samantha Riley into bed, like I was some writer’s groupie flipping my hair and flashing my breasts for a few words inked on paper. It was so much more than that.
Riley arrived right on schedule. She was surrounded by assistants that ushered her in the back door to avoid the growing crowd of increasingly rowdy fans. I had no idea book nerds could be so rambunctious. I hurried to the bathroom to re-apply lipstick and stealthily unbutton the top buttons of my shirt. I needed to look attractive, feminine, and most of all, harmless.
When I walked back in the back-room Samantha Riley stood talking to Matt and Jan. They were exchanging pleasantries and the owners were attempting to fawn over her in just the right way—not to be off-putting but to be grateful she was visiting their little store. I stood back with a smile plastered to my face while I assessed my target. She was a slender woman and not much taller than me. I had read she was about 5’11”, I stood at 5’9”, so physically it was a pretty even match. If I caught her off-guard, surprised her, it would increase my chances of victory.
“Katie, hello, Earth to Katie.” Matt was trying to get my attention.
“Sorry Miss Riley. I’m afraid she might be a little star-struck. She’s one of your biggest fans.” Jan was smiling and laughing at Samantha by the time I snapped out of my assessment.
“Sorry,” I blinked and shook my head, “sorry guys. I drifted off for a sec.”
“That’s ok, Katie,” Jan was motioning for me to come over, “come here and meet Miss Riley.”
“You can call me Sam.” She smiled a broad smile revealing perfect, bright white teeth. She looked like the vampire she was; some mystical creature that sucked the life out of ordinary people and used their blood to pen her horrible stories. She extended a hand out to me.
“Hi, Sam.” I smiled coyly and batted my lashes offering her my hand. I flipped my hair as she leaned in and my shirt opened a little. “If you need anything at all, let me know.”
“Thanks, Katie. I’ll do that.” she said and pulled her lotioned hand away.
“We should get started then.” Matt said.
“I’m ready when you are.” Samantha told him.
They walked out through the heavy wooden door and up through the back of the store. First Matt followed by Samantha and her assistant. Matt stood in front of the table and addressed the crowd.
“Welcome everyone! Thank you for coming to Fraiser’s. We are very excited to welcome Miss Samantha Riley!”
Matt stepped aside, and Samantha stood and did a little princess wave to her audience. Her assistant asked that everyone stay in line and pay in advance if they were going to have a photo taken. I hung out behind the banner and waited for Riley to request a bottle of water and then played the part of eager gopher. My real scheme was to listen to side conversations. Wait patiently for someone to mention where Sam was staying. I knew better than to attack her at the store. I would have to find her at her hotel room. Get in. Take her where she wouldn’t see it coming.
Around 6:30 Sam paused for a 15-minute break. I escorted her and the assistants to the breakroom where I had set up fruit and vegetable platters along with champagne and water. I pretended to be attentive when one of the assistants asked if there were any bars near the Hyatt on 31st.
I turned to face her and cocked my head in curiosity, “Oh, is that where you guys are staying? That’s a spectacular hotel.”
“Well, it’s no Four Seasons, but it’s decent.”
“Yeah, I imagine,” I blushed. I had never been anywhere near a Four Seasons. “There is a really nice bar called Blush about three blocks from there. It’s pretty exclusive.”
“What do you think, Sam?”
“You guys go. I think I’ll stay in.” She was updating her social media and wasn’t paying much attention to her bored assistant.
I looked at her and raised my shoulders. A “you should go anyway” maneuver.
“Miss Riley. Sam. We should probably get back out there if you’re ready.” I whispered in seductive innocence.
“Lead the way.” She smiled at me, standing up and shoving her phone into her purse.
By the end of the night I had seen all I could stand of Samantha Riley fans. The men fawned over her. Women cried. Dudes gave her high-fives. Some of them cried. They posed for moronic photos. Ironically, some let her wrap her skinny hand around their necks and strangle them. I snorted in laughter at those and had to walk away to compose myself. The entire day was exhausting yet exhilarating. Everyone in the store poked and prodded me. They insinuated I might try to follow her home. They were almost right, but for the wrong reasons.
At closing time, when the store was finally empty, I went into the bathroom and changed out of my black button up and black dress pants. I slipped into a faded black vintage Journey crop-top and a pair of low-rise jeans. I tossed my hair around to give it a just-got-out-of-bed look. I liked to look like I put as little effort into my appearance as possible. It was easier to look aloof that way. It was easier to look inconspicuous that way. I slung my patchwork tote bag over my shoulder and yelled good-bye to everyone as I strutted out the door. I didn’t turn left toward home. Instead, I went right toward the Hyatt.
I walked through the rotating door at the entrance to the hotel and immediately knew I would draw attention to myself. Men with potbelly’s in three-piece suits waddled past escorted by women in gowns who looked like Hollywood starlets. Business men scurried along shouting into Bluetooth headsets. There was a giant crystal chandelier, a wall of mirrors, and a woman playing piano in the corner. I hurried through the lobby to the hotel bar and took a seat. I motioned to the bartender and asked for a cherry sour. He appraised me suspiciously but brought the drink over. I turned in my seat and there they were. Riley’s assistants having a drink in a corner booth. I dropped a ten on the bar and moved covertly to the booth behind theirs where I sat with my back to them.
“What a dump,” the blonde assistant was complaining in a high-pitched voice.
“Those employees were so weird,” responded another.
“The red-head was trying to get into Sam’s pants. I thought her boob was going to fall out.”
That was the brunette who asked about bars in the break-room.
“Shit. I forgot my lipstick in the room. I have to go back and get it.”
“We’ll wait here,” replied one of the others.
I watched from my booth as she got up and sauntered through the tables and into the lobby. I left my drink and hurried after her keeping my head down as I entered the elevator, so she wouldn’t recognize me. She got off on the 12th floor. I stayed far behind her, and when she turned around I leaned into a door and pretended to fumble with my room key. She disappeared into room 1226. I crept down the hall and hid behind a corner where I could see what she did next. When she emerged from her room a few minutes later she walked a few doors down to room 1232. She knocked a few times and the door opened, Riley was on the other side. They exchanged a few words and she walked away.
I leaned against the textured wall feeling the bumps press into my flesh like a gourd in autumn. I ran my hands along the wall imagining the bumps were excited goose pimples on Riley’s flesh. I wondered what her skin would feel like as it pressed against my palms. Would it mark my skin? Would I get a rash on my hands like the intentional flesh burns kids give themselves as dares on the playground? I wondered if I would carry her conceited energy in my hands for the rest of my life. I shook my head. It didn’t matter if I walked away with permanent scars. This mission was deeper than flesh. I had been sent from God. Received a personal message from God on my bathroom floor. Right the wrongs. Tell the truth where she had spread lies. End her.
I breathed deeply, counted to four, held it, released to a count of seven. My therapist had taught me that. He taught me how to center myself. I could feel the calm wash over me. I couldn’t do it if I wasn’t calm. I stood up and straightened my clothes; gave my hair a tousle. Then, I walked to room 1232 and tapped the door.
“Amy, I told you I’m good. Go ahead and go.” Riley said as she cracked the door.
When she saw me standing there she was taken back. Her eyes got big and she cleared her throat and licked her cotton candy pink lips. I assumed as a nervous response.
“Hi Sam. Sorry to disturb you, I--” I started stammering like a school-girl. “This is stupid. I’ll go.” I started to turn to walk away.
“It’s ok. Katie, right?” she opened the door a little further.
“Yeah, I’m sorry. I was just so excited to meet you. I had this story…”
“You wanted me to read it?”
“Yeah. I should have just emailed. I figured you get a lot of emails. This was dumb.”
“It’s a surprise.”
“I’m sorry,” I muttered, “I’ll go. This is weird.” I had no intention of going. If I hit a soft spot I wouldn’t have to force my way in.
“No, it’s fine. Why don’t you come in. I was just reading.”
I followed her into the hotel room. It was a suite; a little living area separate from the sleeping area. There was a bar in the corner. She walked over to it and poured herself a bourbon and soda. She asked if I would like one as well. I told her sure. No sense killing without a drink.
I asked her about her tour and she told me some stories about people she met at different stops. I asked her about her books, and she was happy to share some information about how she came up with her ideas. I scooted closer to her on the couch. I wanted her to let her guard down, and with every bourbon she drank and every inch I moved closer the looser she got. I was bridging the gap, creating a friendly, if somewhat sexually charged, atmosphere.
“So, where is this story you wanted me to read?” she looked at me, our lips so close I could smell the hot brown liquor on her breath.
“It’s just in my bag.”
I slowly turned away and rifled through my tote. I had done it. She felt safe, assumed I was some poor girl with a crush. It was really a shame. She had no idea that I wasn’t there because I had a story. No idea I wasn’t even slightly attracted to her. I felt a little dirty for the whole charade. It made my flesh crawl with goosebumps. A hard lump wadded up in the middle of my throat. I had to fight back vomit for reducing myself to poor pitiful girl.
I turned back around with foxlike speed. Before Riley had a chance to react my hands were wrapped around her throat, crushing the fragile windpipe that provided her oxygen. She grabbed at my wrists and tried to pull my hands away, but my veins were filled with adrenaline and I had the strength of a man twice my size. I sat on her chest with a knee between her breasts, digging into her sternum. Her legs kicked wildly like a bull trying to buck me off. I squeezed her neck like I was wringing a wet washcloth. My fingers dug into the smooth surface. Her skin reddened, and blood vessels broke and turned purple under my grasp. Her face was scarlet, and her eyes swelled in the sockets—her green irises pleading, begging for mercy. She choked and stammered as she gasped for the breath that I denied her.
“This is for all of us,” I growled through my teeth. “This is for everyone whose life you’ve made a profit from.”
She wheezed and whispered a faint “Why?”.
“God sent me,” I said flatly. Then, I squeezed her tighter, like I was juicing an orange, and watched as the last air escaped her.
Her whole body went limp, but I squeezed for a few minutes more, just to be safe. I put an ear to her chest and listened for a heartbeat, but there was only silence. I took some sanitization wipes from my tote and wiped off her neck and her hands. I washed the glass I drank from. I scrubbed the coffee table to be sure I left no fingerprints. I stayed behind a full 2 hours after Samantha Riley was dead to make sure every trace of me was destroyed. Then I gathered my belongings and left just as quietly as I had come.
“Hey Ma, I’m home.” I shouted as I walked into my apartment. My mother was sitting on the couch watching The Notebook.
“Katie, you’re late.” She had a wet tissue in her hand and her eyes were red.
“Ma, I told you not to watch that again. It’s garbage anyway. That isn’t real life.”
“It could be. Your father and I met like this.”
“Dad was an alcoholic and left you for a twenty-two-year-old woman, Ma.” I took the remote and turned off the movie. “Dad is scum.”
“Don’t talk bad about your father. He’s coming back. He’s just confused is all.”
“Oh, Ma,” I leaned down to kiss her head. I looked down at the coffee table and noticed Strangle sitting there. “What’s this doing out?”
“I tried reading it. What a nasty book that is. I couldn’t get through it.”
“Yeah, this stuff isn’t for you.”
I took the book and went to my room. Samantha Riley stared down at me from all four of my walls. Her eyes followed me as I shimmied out of my jeans and crawled into bed. I leaned into my pillows and opened the book to where I had left off nine months ago. I breathed a sigh of contentment and began reading.
#StranglingSam #HumpdayHorror Copyright 2018 Kira McKinney
Welcome to my blog. Sit back and enjoy a short story, a poem, or some flash fiction--whatever I have recently cooked up. I will post a new piece as often as possible. Check back once a week to see what's new.