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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

Sarah Bishop
by M. Richard Smith

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Life was easy for Ryan Mather. Perhaps it had become a little too easy. The twenty-one year old had not set any goals beyond spending a few extra years in school before having to face the real world, and his life had become stale. Over the past two years, he had become well known and quite popular at the small Massachusetts college. In fact, with all the exposure he received as the lead in most of the school's theater productions, he had become something of a celebrity.

Most of his time was spent eating, drinking and rehearsing in the same small cluster of classrooms, neatly tucked behind the stage. He already knew everybody who regularly ventured into the area. Most of the females he had known more than once. Once, he even got laid in the same semi-circular, acoustically enhanced choral room where he now sat waiting for Music Appreciation 101 to begin. He was a big fish in the little pond of Wrentham College, but the pond had become stagnant.

He watched the other students enter the room, as usual paying attention only to the females. Most were freshmen or 'fresh meat', as he thought of them. He knew they would be, which is exactly why he had enrolled in the class.

One by one they filed in, naïve little hotties; each one firmly molded in her plastic personality after having been convinced throughout high school that she ought to be in movies or magazines. Every one of them checked him out as she entered the room, scanning his strong but un-intimidating stature, then gazing at his ice-blue eyes and smiling. This was something Ryan was quite used to and he was well aware of their attention to him, but pretended not to notice. His natural ability to charm the opposite sex was a gift that came with his good looks. He knew he could easily entice any of them into playful conversation with a simple wink; and playful conversation usually led wherever Ryan wanted it to, but he was bored and desperately wanted a change. He was looking for something new. Then something new walked through the door.

She was different. She was older, probably late twenties, and somewhat thicker than the other girls were. She was not what he considered fat, but certainly less frail. This one didn't look as if she would break if he merely touched her. There was a semblance of toughness about her and he thought she might have been around the block a few times. Nevertheless, she was cute and he was attracted to her. She walked across the front of the room to the podium and signed the attendance roster, then chose a seat in front and slightly to the right of Ryan. Close enough that he could taste the sweetness of her cologne. It was the same perfume worn by the woman to whom he gave his virginity so many years earlier and though he could not even remember her name, he would never forget the seductiveness of her Animale.

Her alabaster skin tone lent a complementing contrast to her all-black outfit. A suede jacket, zipped only at the bottom, covered the waistline of the short leather skirt that clung like a second skin to her thighs, while a feminized fedora rested playfully on her kinky bleach-blond hair. Her lips were the color and brightness of a candied apple. In his mind, they tasted sweeter. She glanced at him and smiled. The sparkle of silver glitter high on her cheek below her caramel colored eyes held him captive. Something about this mystery girl intrigued him. He wanted to reach out and massage her shoulders or gently stroke the nape of her neck, a technique he had used in the past that usually yielded positive results, but something told him that this girl wouldn't fall for such a ploy, so he restrained himself. For the first time in as long as he could remember, he was intimidated by the presence of a woman. In a way, it was somewhat exciting.

Ryan's eyes wandered south along her profile and locked onto the three-inch slit in the skirt that rested halfway between her knee and her hips. Pretending not to notice, she stretched her hand beneath the desktop and peeled back a small section of her skirt, revealing for him alone, a bright pink smiley face sticker and the word 'hello'. Maybe this semester would not suck after all.

"Hi, I'm..."

"Ryan. Ryan Mather." She finished the introduction for him.

"Oh. How do you know me? Have we met?"

"No, but I know who you are. I was here last November visiting a friend, and I saw you in Streetcar. I thought you were great in that play."

"Well, thank you. And you are?"

"Sarah. Sarah Bishop."

"So who's your friend? Maybe I know him."

"Her."

"Okay, maybe I know her."

"Laura Davis."

"Who?"

"Laura Davis. She was in the play with you."

"Oh yeah, Laura. She was a nice kid. She was great. I mean... very talented. I wonder how she's doing."

Laura Davis was the last thing he wanted to talk about and he really didnít care how she was doing. Throughout the fall semester of the previous year, Laura had been his leading lady both on and off the stage. She was talented in many ways. In addition to being an excellent actress, she was an utterly beautiful and intelligent girl who, unbeknownst to him at the time, had tested her way out of high school early. Laura was physically mature far beyond her sixteen years and easily passed herself off as much older. Ryan had never thought of asking Lauraís age, this was college after all, and by the time he found out, he had slept with her many times. As great as the sex was and no matter how willing she was to try new things in the bedroom, it still wasnít worth going to jail for, so he broke off the relationship.

Laura was devastated by the break up and became irrational. She stalked him, following him everywhere he went. He soon began to receive telephone calls, often in the middle of the night, where the caller would not say a word. He determined that the calls were coming from her after installing a caller ID box on his phone line.

Ryan met with Laura face to face and told her again that it was over between them and that he was not going to play her little games. She still would not leave him alone. Ryan did the only thing he could think of and purposely started acting cruel towards to her. He would flirt and show affection to other girls, often right in front of her as if she didnít even exist. Laura left school and never returned. The phone calls stopped around the same time.

Ryan had felt a little bad about the way he had treated her, but the relief of not having her around to damage his reputation quieted those feelings. He had not seen or talked to her since. Several weeks into the spring semester, he started receiving strange calls again. They were less frequent and instead of silence, there were often noises in the background. Sometimes it would be a slamming door or a muffled conversation. Other times it was a faint sound of a baby crying. He thought it might be Laura again, but could not be sure, as the display on the caller box would simply show: 'CALLER ID BLOCKED'.

"Actually, sheís a little whacked out, if you ask me," she said. "We used to be pretty close, but then she changed. It got to the point where I couldnít stand to be around her anymore. Nobody could."

Ryan changed the subject, wondering if this girl knew about their relationship. "So, tell me, what brings you here? I mean, you just donít seem like all the others, coming in here with stars in their eyes and dreams of moving to New York or LA to be discovered. Thereís something different about you. You just seem so much..."

"Older?" She chuckled.

"Actually, I was going to say, more mature. Listen; maybe I can buy you a cup of coffee after class? We can talk and get to know each other better?"

"I canít, I have to take care of something." Sarah checked her watch. "In fact, Iím already late and really canít even stay for this class." She stood and began to walk away. "Iíd better go before the instructor gets here and sees me leave."

"Ok, well maybe some other..."

"But I've got a better idea." She opened her jacket, showing off a shiny silver flask protruding from the inside pocket. "Maybe we can not talk and still get to know each other better."

"Oh... uhm... yeah... that'll work." He was caught slightly off his guard.

"Letís say four oíclock, in front of the main entrance?" She winked.

"Alright, four it is. I'll see you then." Ryan watched her as she exited the room. He smiled to himself, looking forward to the afternoon interlude. Maybe the semester wouldnít suck after all.


Ryan looked up at the clock tower of the ivy burdened brick building. It was 4:10pm and Sarah was late. He wondered if she might have stood him up. If she had, it would be the first time anyone had since he was in high school. She wouldn't have, would she? He supposed it was possible, after all, he didn't know much about her, except that she used to be friends with the one person he was glad was out of his life.

The area in front of the school was busy, as it always was at that time of day. Students and faculty rushed about to avoid the daily traffic jam in and out of the only paved parking lot on campus. Ryan was deciding whether to wait another five minutes when she arrived.

"I'm so sorry I'm late, I was buried in errands." Sarah had changed her clothes and was wearing a pair of worn out blue jeans and a pale green hospital scrub shirt. "I hope you don't mind that I changed. I was getting cold."

"Mind? Why would I mind?" He masked his slight disappointment. "What about that drink you promised?"

"Sure, but not here. This place is a madhouse. Come with me." She took his hand and led him through the parking lot, stopping behind a 1969 midnight blue Chevy Camaro SS. "Here we are."

"You're kidding, right? This is my all-time favorite car." He was genuinely excited. "Wow, this is a sweet machine."

"Thanks. I stole it myself. And please be careful not to drool all over my baby."

"Man, you're a regular comedienne."

"Not guilty on both counts. I am not a 'man' and I am certainly not 'regular'."

"No, I guess you're not."

"I'm jus' a widdle gurl," she said as they each got into the car.

"Yeah, I know, but just how little are we talking about?" He picked up a baby's pacifier from the passenger side floor and held it out to her.

"Oh, that's not mine... and no, I do not have a kid. It belongs to a friend, well actually her daughter." Sarah tossed the pacifier onto the back seat then turned the key, cranking life into the powerful 350 horsepower engine. It was sweet music to his ears. "Would you like to go for a ride?" She touched his leg, rubbing it softly. "Maybe later, I'll even let you drive."

"Sure, let's go! Where to?"

"Shh..." Placing a finger to her lips, she whispered, "to a secret place I know."

She turned out of the parking lot in the opposite direction to the other traffic and handed him the silver flask. He held it under his nose and took a deep whiff.

"Wow, is this Southern Comfort? I haven't had this stuff since..." He stopped himself before bringing Laura Davis into the conversation again and took a big swig of the bittersweet concoction. He tried erasing her from his mind. "Whew!" he exhaled heavily. "Did you add salt to this? It tastes different than I remember."

"No. I just opened it and poured it in there. It should be fine."

Ryan took another drink. "Here, it's your turn." He offered the flask to her.

"No, you go ahead," she smiled. "Knock yourself out. I never drink and drive at the same time... because I wouldn't want to spill. Just make sure you save me some."

He took another sip. The warm liquor was syrup-sweet, with a strong aftertaste. After just a few drinks, a numbing sensation coated his throat and he began to feel dizzy. Alcohol was nothing new to him, but he could not recall ever feeling such effect so quickly after drinking so little. "This stuff is potent. I think I'm already starting to get buzzed." He gulped down another mouthful.

Sarah drove fast along the narrow and winding tree-lined street, paying more attention to her passenger than the road in front of them. Ryan stiffened and clutched the armrest on the passenger door.

"You're not scared, are you? I had you pegged as the kind of guy who liked to take risks. I'm a little disappointed."

"Scared? No, I'm not scared. It's just that I've had some close calls before. And cops hide out along here all the time." He reasoned as much with himself as with her and took another swallow.

"The cops around here don't scare me." She laughed.

"Okay, but ya... might... wanna... sloowdown... or ya get ah... ticket." His speech came with effort, as the world around him grew increasingly darker. "Uhm... geddin predty... fug..." His vision narrowed quickly, as though he was looking through a shrinking camera lens. "Yup... preddy... fu." With labored breaths, he began to spiral out of consciousness and into a blackened void.

"Nighty night, lover boy. Don't you look so sweet and innocent?"


When Ryan came to, he was prone on the ground and surrounded by thick groves of forest. Night had already taken over the sky, but the autumn moon was bright and provided ample light by which to see. Effects of the tainted drink lingered in his head. He sat up too quickly, enmeshing himself in a network of throbbing pain.

"What the... where are we?"

"Wow, she told me you were easy, but I thought there'd be at least a little challenge." Sarah stood over him, holding a stainless steel snub-nosed revolver. "Don't you recognize this place? You should know it quite well. This is where you killed her."

"What? Who? Killed who? I never killed anyone."

"Laura. This is where you killed her."

"Laura? I did not kill Laura. What are you talking about?"

"Well, maybe not physically, but you definitely killed her in an emotional sense. You really messed up that poor kid's mind. She told me all about it and all about you. After you walked all over her and treated her like dirty water, she went crazy. She started lashing out at everyone. That poor girl did things that no one ever could have imagined. She cried all the time, and then she started hurting herself. She would scratch up her own face something terrible and say that she was trying to make herself 'un-pretty'. She even began cutting herself with razorblades. She had everything going for her. She was pretty and smart and had a nice family. Then you came along and destroyed her. If you had not raped her, she would have had a great life."

"Raped her? I didn't rape her. I never forced her to do anything she did not want to. Besides, she came on to me in the first place!"

"I don't care. Her willingness has nothing to do with it. She was only sixteen and you were twenty. You should have known better."

"But I didn't know how young she was!"

"That really makes no difference to me now."

"But I loved her!"

"Loved her? Yeah, like you loved every other girl in every other play you've ever been in." She stepped closer, with the revolver still trained on his head. "You never loved her. You probably didn't even like her. She was nothing more than another pretty trophy for your arm. Just another notch in your headboard, except you didnít even have the decency to take her to a real bed. No, you did her right out here in the woods like a freaking animal."

"But I... She..."

"No, you didn't love her at all," she interrupted. "I loved her. I still do, but as long as you're still around, no one else has even the slightest chance with Laura."

"Please don't. Please, don't kill me!"

"Please, don't kill me!" She mimicked his plea. "Oh would you just shut up already. Nothing you can say will get you out of this one, Mr. Hollywood." She paused. "I bet you're probably acting right now. Are you?" She looked closer at his face. "Nope. Those tears look real to me." She was amused. "If you do what I say, then just maybe I won't kill you. Now dig. There." She pointed behind him, to a large circular area of the ground that had been cleared of fallen leaves. A long handled shovel lay in the freshly turned soil. "And don't stop until you find it!"

"Find what?"

Sarah fired a shot from the revolver, narrowly missing his knee. "JUST SHUT UP AND DIG! And if you stop, youíre dead."

Throughout the nighttime excavation, Ryan's mind had registered only two sounds. The first was the shovel slicing into the ground and the second, his own exhaustive breathing. He had dug down about two feet when the shovel struck something solid causing the spade to slide forward. He lifted the shovel, and tossed aside the loosened earth. He repeated the process until he had cleared the perimeter of a rectangular box. He stepped back and removed an additional foot of dirt beyond one end. He used his hands to locate a handle and jerked the old footlocker free. The trunk was not as heavy as he had anticipated and its contents shifted and thumped as he dragged it to the surface. He cleaned the access latches with his shirt, but turned for further instructions before opening the locker.

Sarah was gone. She had slipped away unnoticed into the surrounding forest, but had left the revolver where she had been standing. Alone and freaked out by the day's events, Ryan rushed for the handgun. He was tempted to escape with haste, but curiosity quickly killed the thought. What was in the box? After everything he had just been through, he had to know.

The slide on each locking mechanism was jammed, but after several strikes with the butt of the revolver, the first latch sprung free. The second lock proved to be more difficult and between the futile strikes, he started hearing something in the distant darkness.

Voices!

They were voices; growing louder from within the woods around him. Someone must have heard the shot and was coming to investigate. Help was on the way. He peered into the dark forest and saw a light dancing through the trees. As the light grew steadier, he heard running footsteps beating cadence along the packed trail and the sound of bouncing keys. Keys that clanged together like the chains of a ghastly spirit in a low budget horror film.

"Over here! He's over here!" An army of police officers emerged from the trees and surrounded him. "GUN!" A voice yelled out. Several officers drew their service weapons, pointing them directly at his head. "Move away from the box! Get down on your knees and place your hands on top of your head! NOW!"

"But... I..."

"SHUT UP AND GET DOWN! NOW!"

Ryan complied and a herd of cops converged on him. In seconds, they had jammed a pair of handcuffs to his soiled wrists. Shards of pain shot up through the length of his arms. A female officer knelt behind Ryan and opened the unearthed box. Silence blanketed the scene.

"Oh God!" She spoke in a sullen, breathy whisper. "How could anyone do this to someone so young, so beautiful?"

Ryan was bewildered, uncertain of what she had found inside the trunk.

Pictures!

He suddenly remembered playing around with a camera one afternoon, during one of his and Lauraís love making sessions. That must be it, he thought. And that damn diary of hers. She used to write in that thing constantly; never letting him read her ramblings.

"That bitch set me up." He turned his head, attempting to confirm the suspicion.

The policewoman swung with the precision and power of a tennis pro, striking him across the bridge of his nose with her baton. His eyes flooded instantly with blood-poisoned tears and he fell backward to a half-sitting position. A high-pitched ringing echoed through his head.

"Somebody get that bastard out of here before I kill him!"

Kill him?

Ryan knew he was in serious trouble and might be facing a stiff sentence for his inappropriate actions with a minor, but he had never hurt Laura. Why would anyone want to kill him? Why was he was being brutalized so badly for committing such a non-violent crime?

A pair of burly officers lifted Ryan to his feet, but his legs gave out. They struck him repeatedly, as they dragged him toward the wooded path by which they had arrived. He cocked his head in the direction of the old trunk and saw the female officer cradling the lifeless body of an unclothed infant, its skin mottled with livid discoloration.

"What the... Wait! I didnít do that!" He screamed to the female officer, hoping that she would somehow believe him, or at least listen. "All I did was sleep with her..no wait, not her," he said, motioning toward the child, "with Laura... Laura Davis. But I didn't do that!"

"Shut up, you freaking monster. Just shut up!"

Ryan saw the muted traces of a malignant smile on the womanís too-familiar face. From underneath her uniform cap, Sarah Bishop winked at him.

Ryan Mather had been looking for something new in life. Something new found him.

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