El Toro was packed every Friday, and I had to strain to see her at the other side of the bar. She sat with her friends laughing and drinking Sangria while I slouched at my window table and sipped a glass of club soda. When the waitress set down a braised leg of chicken she chattered for a moment, and I answered mechanically, but I wasn’t listening. I was watching.
Could she feel me? She looked up once or twice, but the crowd swelled around her. Nothing to see. I was a ghost shadow. She wouldn’t recognize me in any case. I careful, so careful, never to look the same when I visited the bar. She was careless. She always came to the same place on Fridays.
The first time I saw her in the elevator I knew I had to have her. She didn’t notice me then either. She was talking to someone named Brian, and I learned her name was Marta, and she worked on the tenth floor. Design. Her hair was long and black; she smelled exotic and wore bright colors: reds, yellows, oranges.
It was easy to look her up in the company directory, to find her apartment. I was so careful at work never to pay outward attention to her. But I watched. I took pictures. I studied the object of my desire.
Marta. Tonight she wore green, and I knew it was a sign.
I paid my bill and left the restaurant, but I knew the way she would go. It was a perfect night: a little chilly with a pale sliver of moon dangling in the cloudy sky. Rain would be coming soon, cleansing and cold.
As I crouched behind some trees in the tiny park, I listened to the leaves shivering in anticipation. She’s coming. She’s coming. And I ventured a peak. Marta strode up the dark street, pulling her scarf tight around her neck.
In the end, people are trusting. I only had to step out behind her and gasp, “Oh, help me.” Who is afraid of a frail old man? Poor Marta. She should have been. It was so easy to take away her cell phone and get her into the car.
I sedated her at once before I took her away to add to my permanent collection. I’ve even changed her name to Suzanne. No one can hear her cray any more now that I’ve cut out her tongue. I’ve told her it’s important that she keep herself looking pretty for me, but lately she’s begun to let herself go. Maybe it’s because I cut her beautiful black hair and hung it on the wall next to the others. Ponytails, Mother used to call them. I probably shouldn’t have let her see the wall.
Then again, maybe it’s good for her to know that there are others out there and that she can be replaced.
It’s not my fault really. If only Suzanne Bartollo had said yes all those years ago. If only she hadn’t laughed at me and called me a freak. After that, all the other girls mocked me and called me a freak, and no one would go out with me. Someday I’m going to find Suzanne Bartollo, and I won’t even give her a chance to apologize. I’ll take my big knife and hack her to pieces.