Always arrive five to ten minutes
early on the first date. This isn’t so much for your date, as
it is for the parents. After all, a teenage boy isn’t exactly
considered the most respectful of people, but if you arrive a
little early it shows you at least respect the commitments you’ve
This stood as one of the first
rules Vince followed. He told his friends he’d write a book
about it one day, and in fact had already filled a notebook
up with his rules and tips. He sold a ten-page set of guidelines
to some of the guys at his school. At the age of eighteen,
high school dating had become a form of art.
So to follow his own advice,
Vince’s car pulled up in front of Karen’s house at exactly
ten till six. He parked on the curb rather than the driveway—tip
number 47 on page two. After all, he had waited for up to a
half hour for a date to get ready in the past, and if someone
needed to leave the house in that time, and he happened to
be blocking them in, well, that didn’t look good, now did it?
Vince stepped out of his car
and started up the front sidewalk. He took in the house with
a smile. Given all he’d seen of Karen so far, the house fit
The two-story house was painted
white with blue around the window frames. He saw two windows
on the second floor, a light on in one of them, probably Karen’s
room. Three windows were visible on the first floor, curtains
drawn on all of them. Bushes lined the front of the house,
and flowers along the front walkway. The house looked quaint,
just like Karen, but then, those kinds of girls had the wildest
When Vince reached the front
door he rang the doorbell. His black hair was slicked back.
A nice pair of slacks and a button up, blue shirt made up his
outfit. They weren’t going anywhere special, but still, he
liked to look nice, mainly for the parents. It showed he really
cared about the date with their daughter.
No part of Vince expected the
man who opened the door. He stood over six foot two at least,
probably a little taller. A broad, strongly built body complimented
the height. While by no means like a body builder, this man
looked strong, his muscle probably gained from years of working
construction or something similar. He wore a short-sleeved
plaid button up shirt and blue jeans along with steel tipped
boots on his feet. Dark, scruffy brown hair topped his head,
and coarse, black hair covered his arms. From under his bushy
eyebrows, two dark brown eyes glared at Vince, this man obviously
aware of Vince’s intentions. And to compliment everything else,
a large, rather deep scar had been carved across the man’s
left cheek. It began just beside his left eye, and ran almost
to his mouth.
Without opening the screen door,
he asked, “What do you want?”
Vince didn’t falter or back
down, nor did he take on an air of arrogance or challenge. “I’m
here to pick up Karen,” he said in a conversational tone.
Karen’s father stared Vince
down for a few more seconds, before he finally grunted and
opened the door to let him in. Vince offered the man a smile
as he passed, and paused in the front hall.
A nicely decorated house greeted
him. A staircase stood directly in front of him, a living room
to his left, and a hallway to a dining room and kitchen to
“You must be Vincent,” Karen’s
mother said as she walked out of the kitchen. Vince made sure
not to let even a hint of surprise touch his face. Behind him
Karen’s father still stood motionless as if waiting for Vince
to do something.
Karen’s mother fit the mental
image Vince had formed based on Karen. The mom also fit the
house itself. At only five foot five, perhaps shorter, she
looked like a midget when compared to her husband. She also
had brown hair, pulled back into a bun, a warm smile on her
face. She wore a day dress and had an apron on over it. Behind
her Vince saw a pot on the stove.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,
Mrs. Williams,” Vince said, and reached out his hand to shake.
Mrs. William’s happily accepted his hand and gently shook it.
This seemed to be enough proof
for Karen’s father that nothing bad was going to happen. He
closed the door and walked into the living room.
“You’ll have to excuse me,” Mrs.
Williams said, “but I’m preparing dinner for me and Herb, so
I won’t be able to talk much. Karen should be down in a few
minutes. I’ll go up and tell her you’re here. You can wait
in the living room if you want.”
Vince offered the friendliest
smile he could, and said, “That sounds wonderful.”
While Mrs. William’s left to
tell Karen about Vince’s arrival, Vince walked into the living
room. Numerous chairs lined the walls, all aimed at the TV
on the other side of the room. Each chair had different floral
designs sewn into them except for a recliner in the corner
where Herb sat. The old, beaten up recliner fit him perfectly,
and looked just as out of place as Herb did.
Vince chose the couch and sat
down. He stared at the football game on the TV. Tip number
61 said to always make conversation with a girl’s father. Vince
knew what he needed to do, but when he opened his mouth, nothing
came out, so he sat in silence.
“You know something about computers,
right?” Herb broke the silence and looked over at Vince.
His knowledge of computers was
one of many over-exaggerations Vince had made when he first
started talking to Karen. He knew more than enough about computers
to use them, but little past that. However, even though deep
down he knew where this was going, he still felt it best to
stick by the lie in hopes he might have a chance to get in
good with Herb.
“I know a decent amount, yeah.”
“I want you to look at something.” Herb
said as he rose from his recliner.
So Vince followed Herb. He actually
liked this, the previous hostility Herb had aimed at him momentarily
departed. Tip number 24: make yourself as helpful as possible.
They walked into the kitchen
and then through a door into the basement.
While the house was obviously
designed by Mrs. Williams, the basement was Herb’s domain.
They descended down a narrow, wooden staircase, and into an
unfinished basement. The floor was cement with a drain in the
center of it. They ended at some worktables against the far
wall. Boards covered with tools filled the walls.
An open computer tower had been
laid out on the table. “Damn thing stopped working. Normally
I can fix just about anything, but this kind of stuff, it’s
Vince looked at the circuit
boards, clueless about all of it, and said, “I’m afraid I mainly
deal with programming. I’m not much for hardware.”
From upstairs, Vince heard Mrs.
William’s call down, “Karen is ready.”
Vince turned away from the table
and towards the stairs, when something beneath them caught
his attention. In the darkness that filled the space below
the wooden staircase he saw movement. “Hey, what’s under…?” Vince
began, and turned to look at Herb as he spoke.
Had Vince turned any later,
he wouldn’t have seen the hammer clenched in Herb’s hand, about
to swing down, or the look of almost sympathy on Herb’s face.
Instinct far more than any rational thought made Vince move
before the hammer could find its target. Rather than take a
blow to the head the dull tip of the hammer drove into Vince’s
He screamed and fell back in
pain. All of his rules and tips left him as he inched across
the floor while Herb brought the hammer up for another swing.
Then a tip did flash through his mind, but not one of his own.
If you’re fighting a big enough guy, especially one with a
hammer, dignity doesn’t matter anymore. Kick him in the balls.
Vince took his brother’s advice,
and buried the tip of his shoe in the space between Herb’s
legs. The action did the trick, and the hammer fell from Herb’s
As soon as the hammer struck
the cement Vince scrambled to his feet.
From under the steps a man erupted
with a metal collar around his neck. Dirty hands slammed into
Vince and knocked him into the wall. Tattered clothes covered
the man’s body, who, as Vince saw, looked the same age as him,
perhaps even younger. The boy’s shaggy brown hair and almost
apelike features told Vince he stared at Herb’s offspring.
A chain had been fastened to
the metal collar, and fortunately for Vince, the boy’s shove
had knocked Vince just barely out of reach. Bony fingers with
overgrown nails clawed at the air, and from deep within the
boy’s throat Vince heard a vicious growl.
On the ground Herb began to
recover. Fear and hysteria overtook Vince’s mind. He had to
get out of the basement, and now. Without thought he lashed
out at the chained boy, and managed to drive Herb’s offspring
into the side of the steps. The pain made the boy recoil, and
allowed Vince to sprint past him and up the stairs.
He envisioned Karen’s mother
with a kitchen knife in her hand as she waited for him at the
top of the steps. Vince knew this aggression against him probably
wasn’t a lone assault by Herb. Whether Karen knew about it
Vince couldn’t say, but deep down he figured she probably did.
Vince didn’t falter at the top
of the steps, ready for an attack against him as he hurried
through the open door, around the corner, and right into Karen.
She had been walking into the kitchen apparently, just as surprised
to see Vince as he was to see her, and the two collided with
each other. Immediately Vince tried to get to his feet for
another dash for the door, but before he could he felt strong
fingers wrap around his arm.
Herb had made it to the top
of the steps. Vince couldn’t bring himself to move as he saw
the hammer raised above Herb’s head. From the ground in front
of them, Karen screamed at her father, and from within the
kitchen Mrs. William’s ran forward with the very kitchen knife
Vince had envisioned her holding.
“Herb!” she screamed, and the
combined yells proved enough to make Herb stop. He stared at
the two women, his wife with the knife aimed at Herb’s face.
The hammer still in his hands, still ready to strike, Herb’s
eyes flickered down to Vince. Mrs. William’s quickly brought
the tip of the knife closer to Herb’s face. “Don’t make me
cut you again,” she hissed.
With a sigh Herb lowered the
hammer and let go of Vince’s arm. He had no chance to make
another run for it before Karen kicked him in the same placed
he’d so recently kicked Herb. Vince curled into a ball and
coughed. Herb once again grabbed him, and began to drag him
down the steps, Mrs. Williams and Karen right behind him.
When they reached the bottom
of the steps Herb pulled Vince into the middle of the room.
The boy had retreated further under the steps and huddled up
against the wall. As soon as Mrs. Williams saw him she hurried
over and knelt down beside the child.
“What happened?” She asked as
she pulled the boy close to her.
“Dad tried to hit him, but he
hit dad first. I wanted to stop him, but I couldn’t reach,
and he hurt me mom. He hurt me.”
“It’s okay, now. You tried to
help, and that’s what counts. Just sit back while we handle
this.” She stood up, and when she turned around, the boy’s
eyes moved away from Vince to Karen.
“He’s looking at me again mom,” Karen
said, and immediately Mrs. Williams turned around and smacked
the boy across the face. He recoiled from the blow and nestled
further against the wall with his hands now over his eyes.
“What the fuck’s going on?” Vince
screamed. Immediately Herb kicked him in the side.
“Don’t you swear. There’s women
present.” Herb said.
“Yes, act like you’re on our
side again,” Mrs. William’s spit out. “You tried to kill him,
“No, I was just trying to knock
him unconscious. That’s all.” Herb still refused to make eye
contact with his wife.
“Don’t think I’ll forget this,” she
said, and then turned back to Vince, motionless on the ground
as he stared up at them. “I suppose I should thank you,” she
said. “If you had let Herb kill you, then we wouldn’t be able
to give you your proper punishment. Herb never did have the
guts to do what needs to get done.” She shot her husband a
“Why are you doing this?” Vince
“I know what you were planning.
You wanted to steal my little girl’s innocence just like all
the others. Just like Ethan wanted to when we first adopted
her, but I put an end to those thoughts.” She glanced back
at her whimpering son in the corner. “I made sure he never
had those evil thoughts again. But there will always be others,
and from what our little Karen has told us, you’re one of the
Karen walked forward, a familiar
little book in hand. She handed it to her mother with a look
of amusement on her face as she stared at Vince. He suppressed
“Don’t you worry though, we’ll
get those nasty ideas out of your mind soon enough. First,
we’ll let you think about what you’ve done. After that, well,
a crime needs a punishment, doesn’t it? Herb, put him in the
Herb grabbed Vince’s arm and
pulled him to his feet. Vince didn’t even try to struggle against
the large man’s grip. He had no illusions that he might actually
be able to get away from any of this.
Their destination was a small
stone hallway along the wall near the steps, and at the end
of it a metal door. Behind them, Mrs. Williams and Karen waited
while Herb opened the door. Immediately Vince smelled something
horrible inside that pitch-black room. He screamed, and for
the first time tried to struggle against the inevitable.
“You should’ve just let me kill
you. Better than what you got coming now,” Herb whispered in
Vince’s ear right before he shoved him through and slammed
the door shut.
Vince pounded on the metal door
and screamed his protest, not that any part of him thought
this would do any good. On the other side he heard as the three
of them walked up the stairs, and clearly heard Herb get scolded
some more. Then the kitchen door slammed and Vince was alone
with the smell.
With no other options, he turned
around and stared into the darkness. His fingers groped along
the wall for a light switch. Cautiously, he put out his hands
and began to walk forward, until he felt something dangle across
His fingers closed around the
string, but didn’t pull right away. Did he really want to see
what produced that smell? He knew he didn’t, but then, what
else was he supposed to do as he waited for them to eventually
kill him, and yes, that was exactly what they were going to
do. Maybe if he searched the room he could find a weapon to
use against them, or maybe even another exit. He needed to
at least see, so without further delay Vince pulled down on
the string, and instantly light flooded the small cement room.
It took him only a few seconds
to take in the five hanging corpses. Metal hooks had been driven
into the cement ceiling, and a rope was tied to each. At the
end of each rope, a corpse hung from its hands. All five were
male, all of them about Vince’s age. And most of all, what
Vince couldn’t take his eyes away from, was the bloody stains
between the legs of each where something had been cut off.
With a jerk Vince, pulled the
string and returned the room to darkness. He slammed his fists
into the metal door and screamed until he had no voice to scream
with. He slid to the ground and huddled in the corner of the
room. He saw the look of pity on Herb’s face as he held the
hammer above his head, and heard the words whispered into his
In a little while they’d be
back, and Vince would be given his punishment.
He couldn’t stop screaming.
# # #
By Association by
published April 17, 2009