Photo © Richard A. Meade
Johnny didn’t like it when they came in his face. Johnny didn’t like them at all, if he were to be honest. They don’t pay him for honesty, though. Exiting the warmth of the vehicles was the worst. Johnny made his way back to the bus stop where he worked. He’d specifically chosen one near an electronics store so he could watch TV while he waited. There was a lot of waiting for Johnny, and it sucked.
Tonight he could see his breath as he walked. A skateboard hung from his backpack, but he didn’t feel like riding it. He was still pissed off about earlier and wanted to walk it off. Johnny liked to think and he did his best thinking while he was walking. Johnny pulled the black ski-cap down over his ears, which would dampen his hearing. He was okay with that since this stretch of his path was well lit and had lots of reflective windows. Now one would ever sneak up on Johnny again. No one! Fuck that! He kept walking, shaking his head as he made his way. Once back to his bus stop, Johnny leaned against the rail, his back to the street, and stared into the rows of TV screens that broadcast continuously through the window fronts.
Johnny reached into his pocket, pulled out his smokes, and lit a cigarette. Menthol. The best ever. Some of them complained about the smell of smoke, but not many. They were an odd bunch of fuckers, and they always had been. Johnny had been fighting them off for as long as he could remember. He never knew why this was so; it was just the way it had always been. Johnny turned his gaze back to the only constant in his life, the television screens. The screens had grown sleeker and flatter in recent years. Johnny wasn’t sure how long he’d been on his own, seemed like forever, but that wasn’t possible. Every living thing that reproduces sexually has to come from somewhere, right?
Johnny thought that he must still have family, somewhere. He could remember them all vividly. There had been a mother, four brothers, three sisters, several fathers, and numerous uncles. There had also been lots of: police officers, paramedics, caseworkers, foster parents, parole officers, and public defenders. Johnny’s memories were not all warm and fuzzy, but there is comfort to be found for any animal within a litter of its own kind. Johnny wasn’t the oldest or the youngest, he fell somewhere in the middle. There had been a lot of helping out with the little ones with mommy. Though he and his littermates were often unsure as to which male might be their father, they could never doubt who their mother was. Johnny fondly recalled how he would curl up next to her when she’d fall asleep on the floor after coming home late from work. Of course, Johnny was now old enough to know mommy had been passed-out during these tender moments, but he nonetheless treasured them. A car horn’s honk brought Johnny fully back to the present. He nodded at the driver, approached the vehicle, and quickly got in.
Johnny looked blankly out the windows as the car drove on. He had always imagined Hollywood to be just like it was on TV, but life isn’t what it seems. Good people hold dark secrets and criminals are capable of deep loyalties. Johnny motioned to a darkened street in which to conduct the transaction. The driver obeyed without question, like the scared church-boy he probably was. Afraid that God himself would bother to cast a glance in his direction and judge his actions, not just his words. Fuck their god! Johnny thought as the car slowly rolled to stop. This was another part of it Johnny hated. Conducting awkward negotiations, with a moral degenerate, who was always on a fucking budget.
Johnny couldn’t remember the first time he had had sex because he has yet to be a willing participant in any of the acts themselves. Every removal from his mother’s home landed him in situations more nefarious than what he was being rescued from. Some had not been so bad, the people had genuinely cared, and treated him with respect and dignity, but those situations were rare. More often than not, he had been treated as, at best, a second-class citizen, and at worst, a commodity. It was during a stay with a foster family that Johnny had learned all about the Internet and computers. The father of this family had a secret website dedicated to Johnny. They had spent a lot of time taking pictures and videos for his fans.
Back at the bus stop, Johnny dug his hands into his pockets. It was getting colder. He had heard it was never cold in Hollywood, and that it never rained in California. Total load of shit. All of it had been bullshit. Everything he had ever learned from the television screens was false. Lies! All of it was lies! Johnny would make them pay for this betrayal. Pay big. He cast a scornful glance in the direction of his current objects of disdain. Mockingly they cast back the images of protest within the United States over the abuse of children in a foreign country. Johnny shook his head, lit another cigarette, and turned his back to his virtual parents. He knew how to get their attention, when he was ready, of course.
Johnny headed east toward his favorite all-night taco stand. Okay, he thought, not everything about California is a lie. It did have really good, cheap, Mexican food and excellent marijuana. Johnny stayed away from alcohol and drugs. Both of which were contributing factors to mommy’s problems in life. So many nights he had spent huddled with his siblings, listening to her tales of woe. Mommy had always apologized for being an addict and talked a lot about how much she hated herself, and how they would all be better off without her around. Johnny learned early that she was right. The last time he had seen his mother she was sitting in the back of a police car, crying hysterically. One of their uncles had finally gone too far and killed one of the babies, one of the little girls. Johnny had witnessed the whole thing while mommy was at work.
He really liked the all-you-can eat salsa and condiments bar at this joint. Spicy pickled carrots and jalapenos rock! Johnny thought as he nodded to greet several of his peers, who were also taking a meal break. Wary bunch, his lot was, but how could you blame them? Some kids had had it even worse than he had. Johnny has heard some real horror stories in his travels, stuff that made his life look easy, by comparison. He had learned gratitude and found comfort in the little things. Like cheap, all-you-can-eat, spicy carrots; Californian tacos; and Chronic. Johnny smoked-out his peers behind the taco joint, in the alley. Most of them were fucked-up on harder stuff, but the babies appreciated the gentleness of the weed. They made small talk, comparing notes on: sickos, cheapos, weirdoes, meanies, and whomever had most recently gone missing. In his peripheral vision Johnny saw the color he had been waiting for, one of his regulars, the one who only came around every quarter or so. He had been one of Johnny’s firsts and held a special place in the child’s heart. He was the essential element needed for Johnny to launch his campaign. The boy quickly excused himself and meandered west.
Within minutes the car pulled up to the curb, window slowly coming down to conduct business. “Good evening, Johnny Boy” the man called out. “Would you like to go the beach?” Always with the double-speak and innuendo, these stupid fucks, Johnny thought as he quickly ran through his preparedness checklist. He was quite certain he was finally ready to begin. His belly was full of tacos and carrots, which made him very happy indeed. The smell of cigarettes wafted from the car, engulfing Johnny in its warm aroma. Stale cigarette smoke always reminded him of mommy and home. This was the final assurance he needed to initiate the game. Johnny gave the driver his best angelic smile and said, “Of course!”
As they drove down the empty streets Johnny’s thoughts drifted off to the foster monster who had taught him all about computers. He had lived there for almost a full year before the authorities had come to take him away. His foster monster had been found dead in the basement, which, of course, meant that Johnny had to go. He glanced over at the driver who was too lost in his own sick head to notice the child. Just like the foster monster. Just like the others. Too fixated on perfecting the details of their fantasies to notice the child or assess the threat properly. The computer geek had liked to hang himself from a handcrafted contraption and then jack-off to his handiwork, after the fact. After a particularly brutal session with the child, the foster monster drifted off to his happy place, and failed to notice Johnny adjusting the cables on the masturbatory machine. His wife found him much later, still swinging, cock in his hand, child rape images flickering in the background.
Johnny snickered, which got the driver’s attention. “What’s so funny Johnny Boy?” the man asked. He gave the child his signature odd smile. Fuck these meat-sacks are creepy, Johnny thought, but he smiled sweetly back and said, “I forgot to do my homework.” The man nodded and returned his gaze to the road and oncoming traffic. They were headed toward the usual place, a beach house that belonged to a friend’ of the pervert. Johnny liked the house, the dungeon hidden within it, not so much. This guy liked to drug kids, little kids. He was notorious amongst the street urchins. He had drugged Johnny once, the very first and last to do so.
Tonight was going to be special; Johnny could feel it in the breeze coming from the ocean as soon as he opened the car door. He knew the drill, the guy would take him inside and then excuse himself. He’d be gone about 30-minutes and then reappear, all hyped up on drugs, wearing some wacky outfit, and start barking orders. The guy paid okay, but the world would be a much better place without the creep in it. Johnny was allowed to wander, and so he headed to the scary place. Funny how often horror can be hidden in plain sight. He figured the house belonged to someone in the movie business. The props and recording gear in the place were impressive. He did a quick scan to confirm that everything he needed was in its usual place, which it was.
“At least these sick-fucks stick to their rituals and routines,” he said aloud as he made his way back topside.
Within moments of his return the man reappeared. As predicted, he was all trussed-up in black leather, holding what appeared to be a leash. Johnny had to refrain from laughing at the ridiculous sight of him because the guy really wanted to be scary. Johnny silently made his way back down to Mister Spooky’s House of Horrors. The sound of the leather rubbing together between the fat fuck’s legs had an odd cadence to it, rhythmic, organic. The man turned on all the lights and set the cameras rolling. “Take your clothes off Johnny Boy,” he commanded. “Give us all a good look at how much you have grown.”
He locked eyes with the masked man, smiled sweetly, and started to undress. It was almost too easy, but these deviants deserve every fucked-up thing they get.
Later, as Johnny sat at the computer, waiting for the files to upload, he noticed a headline trending. Yet another ‘update about more violence breaking out at an American protest. This time it was about the treatment of animals as food in some foreign country. Just makes it easier, he thought to himself. Thanks to his computer teacher, Johnny still had access to all the special websites they had discovered together. All of it had been stored on flash drives that were kept locked away. Johnny remembered to grab them on his way out, but only after he had made sure the foster monster’s breathing had really stopped. He figured uploading tonight’s events from the dead man’s computer would be funny- ha ha.
Johnny made sure to cover his head and face on his way out. Not that he was traceable; he had never been arrested or fingerprinted. Hell, there wasn’t anyone looking for him. Except perhaps a harried and horrified caseworker, who would leave within a short period of time. Only to be replaced by an equally inept caseworker, who would also try to pick up the shattered pieces. His Internet fans, however, would instantly recognize him, and be eager to see his progress. Johnny had given himself a new name in the latest installment. Johnny Boy was now Feral. He had practiced tagging the new moniker for weeks with varying shades of spray paint. Tonight he had chosen a dark red, which he believed looked perfect on the walls and added a sense of realism to the scene.
Once he reached the highway Johnny stuck out his thumb. Wouldn’t be hard to troll a sicko, in this area, at this time of night. He was correct and quickly hopped into the first car that stopped without so much as a glance at the driver. Johnny was the predator now and they were his prey. He’d made sure to set a small fire in the kitchen on his way out. Probably take at least an hour for flames big enough to set off the security systems. That was ample time for Johnny to arrive safely back at his workstation. He would arrive in a car driven by a ghoul and be back in business long before any of that mess was found. He paused and brought his focus to the present moment. He wanted to experience the now, to live without fear, to be free of the bullshit life had blessed him with since birth; to experience the clarity of an apex predator. Johnny felt his body relax, his heart rhythmic, his eyes staring blankly forward. He sensed the fear welling up from the driver. He broke focus and smiled sweetly to allay any fears for the man. The driver would never forget his face. Johnny empathized; he knew what it was like to look a devil in the face.
Johnny hated trading the car’s warmth for the street’s cold, but the streets held less creeps than the cars. He cocked a sideways glance at the faces on the TV screens, perpetually attractive, perky, and perfect with dead eyes. Smiling as they spewed their propaganda, lulling their audiences to sleep with horror. Reinforcing the façade. Everyone was culpable. Believing in god and heaven solely because absolution of one’s wicked deeds is easier than adherence to decency and morals. Johnny shook his head, fished a cigarette out of his pocket, and lounged against the bench. It was almost quitting time, he could cut out early, but that would draw attention, and he wasn’t ready to give up his camouflage just yet. Eventually he would, but not today. No, today he would return to the run-down motel room he was sharing with a crackhead and her three kids. They helped each other out and to Johnny it felt like home. She wasn’t much of a cover, but then again, lots of horrible truths are hidden in broad daylight. Johnny had a busy day ahead of him. There were several lockers to attend to and watching the kids while their mom went to her day job. She claimed to be a nudie girl at a dance club. Johnny knew she was a street-walking whore, but could not be bothered to care. He had goals, ambitions and nothing was going to stop him. As Johnny rocked the youngest child to sleep in his arms, he looked into the sweet face and genuinely smiled.
Mary Bell had been one day shy of her 11th birthday when she made her first kill in Glasgow Scotland. American Jessie, the “Boy Fiend,” Pomeroy sadistically tortured small children and animals prior to his first kill at the age of 14. Most recently, eight-year-old Armadeep Sada killed three familial female infants. It was acknowledged as a “known family matter” publicly by the child’s relatives. Johnny knew what that meant. That meant this poor kid in India was doing the girls a favor, sparing his sisters their horrible fates. That’s not killing for the sake of killing. The baby in his arms gave a slight cry, which brought Johnny back to the present. He’d been just like the sickos, lost in his own wicked thoughts. He noted to be more aware of this tendency. He put the bottle back into the child’s mouth and put his feet up.
The baby bottle reminded Johnny of his collection of pretty jars. Each container was as unique as the contents it held. Johnny couldn’t be sure where he first got the idea, maybe a TV show or a movie or a foster monster, no way to be sure; however, he was sure that he had watched three-years worth of holidays on the TV screens. Which meant Johnny was probably six- or barely seven-years-old when he killed his first foster monster. That would technically make him the 21st Century’s youngest serial killer. Johnny had lots of material saved up to slowly release to his fan base and media-at-large. Phones have always been smart to Johnny, and he liked his virtual mementos. All of which would soon be spreading, like a virus, through the darkest and dirtiest corners of the Internet. Evil and wicked men will fear him and look for him in the faces of their future victims.
Johnny smiled at the baby, who gave him a contented sigh before nodding back off. The baby’s fingers were so small compared to his own. He pondered how killing the infant would be more an act of mercy, than malice, but knew it was not his place to intervene. Johnny relaxed into the chair and began to drift off, still holding the infant. Eventually his crimes would be discovered. Eventually he would spend the rest of his life in prison, which didn’t sound all that bad, really. Johnny was good at following orders. Especially when it rewarded him with a warm, safe place to sleep and food in his belly. Both of which made the child very happy. “You have to enjoy the little things,” he whispered as he kissed the baby’s forehead and fell soundly asleep.
Richard A. Meade