I asked her if she had any enemies. It seemed reasonable.
Have you ever thought about it, dear Jude? Have you gone through the catalogue list in your head of people you’ve wronged and asked yourself if any of them would want you dead?
It’s an interesting exercise. I’m sure as an editor you have had “set-tos” which ended badly with a couple of people. It seems strange to me the number of folks who honestly answer, “I can’t think of anyone.” I can name several.
To a certain extent, I was curious what these people, my intended victims, had done that would inspire someone to spend $50,000 to have them killed. It has to be more than cutting someone off in traffic. After Tom died, I decided I couldn’t do it another year. Then, two priority mail envelopes arrived with the picture of a slightly overweight woman and her contact info. Beside the cash was a note:
“It would be a great public service to rid the world of this scourge: defrauding poor people with fake mortgage abatement schemes, slander and libel of innocent people, adulteress, home-wrecker, peddler of snake oil and fake natural cures. Her crimes against innocent people, though not on the level of a war crime against humanity, have caused sufficient pain and suffering to earn her a place in Satan’s arms forever. To remove her from the planet before she can hurt others would be a gift to humanity.”
Sara had dark hair, obviously badly dyed, and not much else to recommend. Warning flags immediately went up. Why would I want to spend a second in this woman’s presence and open myself up as a target to her? The first pass at a web-stalk had revealed someone who moved about every 18 months. Mmm, she wears out her welcome quickly, doesn’t she? She was still pushing this intestinal flora business and really gunning for a couple of exes. The profile piece could either be about her intestinal flora or about a previous beau she claimed was a fraud. Which would get a better response?
Her flora pyramid marketing business was as unpleasant to write about as you can imagine, Jude. I think you remember the piece I turned in—you killed it (I would have, too).
She was in Mississippi by then. I love Oxford—and adore Square Books, one of the premier independent bookstores in the country. (Remember when I sent in “Lighting up August: Faulkner’s Book Store Alive and Well”? Yep, it was during my Code Flora hit. We arranged to meet at Square Books. She wasn’t hard to pick out: dumpy, over-dressed and fairly obnoxious. When I walked in, she was molesting the poor kid behind the counter by speaking in a high breathless voice. She obviously thought she was some sort of femme fatale.
“Excuse me,” I interrupted. “Are you Sara?”
She had been bending over the counter, squeezing her cleavage out of the top of her dress. I spoke to her large posterior and when she wheeled on me, I stammered.
“I … I’m looking to m … m … meet a Sara Carter here. I just though you … might be … her. Sorry.”
Even though it was unseasonably warm in November, I felt a terrifying chill run down my spine.
She pursed her lips at me. “Are you the reporter?”
“Yes, I am.”
She turned back to her pale quaking quarry behind the counter.
“I’m being interviewed as an authority in my field,” she said. “I must go; stay good.” She tapped his chest with a fingernail and leered at him provocatively.
Oh, God! I remember thinking. I’m going to throw up on this woman.
“Shall we walk over to The Library for some lunch?” I suggested, thinking I needed something to settle my stomach and the Ole Miss Stronghold Bar and Grill would be perfect. That turned out to be a mistake. Discussing the intricacies of the intestines over lunch is about as bad an idea as one could get.
I trudged back to the bed and breakfast I was staying in, just off the square, and collapsed face-down on the bed. There was absolutely no way I was going to be able to stand to spend any additional time with Sara. This wasn’t like Tom, who was likable in his idiocy and malevolence; this was plain bad.
Maybe it was a mistake to try and be friends with people I have been hired to knock off anyway. I don’t know…
I left after one night, paying in full and cash for the time I had reserved for my entire stay. I reasoned small business owners need a break every now and then.
Once I was in her clutches, she called constantly and e-mailed fanatically. She had hundreds of crusades, thousands of believed wrongs that she was out to right. Knowing I was a journalist, she assaulted me with myriad people she wanted to expose for the frauds they were—all of whom seemed to be former “lovers,” though it seemed like the wrong word to coin them. Her modus operandi seemed to be if any of them achieved success or recognition, she would wage a siege campaign against their personal lives. She launched assaults via e-mail and phone not just to them but their family and friends, making accusations of infidelity, second families, child-molesting, mental disorders, and theft peppered with personal attacks on family members themselves. I thought none possibly could be substantiated when I did the research myself—and none worthy to pitch a news outlet.
When she called on Christmas Eve with her latest litany of torment, I mentioned I was coming back to Oxford for New Year’s Eve and asked if she wanted to meet up at The Library to ring in the new year. Of course much like Tom, she didn’t really have friends or plans. She promised she would be there and bring me proof that her ex-fiancé was a liar, and not in fact, a doctor bringing life-saving emergency medical care to children dying of starvation in Southeast Asia. I was sure she would also bring up her ex that prosecuted hate crimes through the Southern Poverty Law Center, convinced he had never passed the bar and was molesting his teenage daughter’s friends.
Goddamn it! The note was right! She was the scourge of humanity.
She showed up with a bag bulging full of manila folders. It went perfectly with the dress she was bulging out of, as if her girdle had just burst. Before she greeted me, she heaved her bosoms now almost hanging out of her dress, up on the bar and executed her most perfect pouting lips to the mixologist.
“Hello,” she gasped in breathless seduction. “Could I have a Screaming Orgasm?”
The bartender made his face as impassive as he could. “Do you want that as a shot or straight up?”
“Oh—I bet you do good shots,” she simpered again, dropping her head to give him a coy look from under her lashes. “Bet you hit the bulls eye every time. Can you add my cherry on top?”
There are few times in life I have been more embarrassed to be in the company of another human being in public. I have always felt terrible for people who work in the service industry anyway knowing that at least once a day they have to wait on someone, who like my relatives, send their food back repeatedly and don’t tip. Consequently, I tend to overcompensate by not asking for things, not complaining about anything and usually over-tipping. The fact that, until I embarked upon life as a contract killer, I knew most servers made more money in a month than I did in a year was a moot point. It was still a tough job—and to be honest, one I could never do.
The bartender returned with a shot glass brimming over with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry on top. He looked at me with my gin and tonic.
“Are you ready for another one?” he asked.
I nodded at him gratefully. “Yes, please. And can I get a shot of vodka on the side and a dinner menu?”