I Never Meant to Start a Murder Cult

I never meant to start a murder cult.

It’s not something I woke up one morning and decided to do. But after I was convicted of all those murders, I started to get fan letters in prison. People admiring me, praising me for being so “visionary” and “courageous.” Praising me for being the only woman on death row in my state. For being a ground-breaking feminist in a field – serial killing – that has so few women. Then they started visiting me. Confessing to me, telling me about murders they’d committed themselves. Looking at me through the plate glass window of the prison visitor booth, searching for some sign of approval. Looking for a connection. I would smile and nod my head, listening intently. And without me doing anything other than smiling and nodding, their numbers grew.

Eventually those numbers included one of the correctional officers at the prison. After months of careful planning, she was able to help me escape. In the prison laundry truck, of all things. It’s such a cliché that no one actually stopped to check the laundry. They do now, of course. But not then. And she still has her job. No one at the prison ever discovered her role in my escape.

They holed me up here in this cabin, hidden away in the woods, if you can call such a large house a cabin. My followers take care of all my needs, and I’m free to pursue my painting and my writing. Some days I go on long hikes in the woods, and some days I just lounge in the library here and read. My artwork sells very handsomely to an underground network of collectors, so I have a steady stream of income. Off the books, of course. Just like this cabin is way off the grid.

Don’t bother struggling. Those ropes are secure. You’re not going anywhere. My follower who tied you to that chair was a Merchant Marine, so he knows his ropes. My disciples are nothing if not thorough. One of them even got a job at your newspaper just to keep an eye on you and your work. That’s how we knew what you were planning to publish. All that research has been destroyed by now. Your computer was thoroughly burned to a crisp, and your backup files in the cloud have been deleted.

I’ll give you this: you’re a damn good journalist and investigator. Too good. Uncovering the DNA evidence on my early convictions took a lot of hard work. But I can’t let you publish that. If my conviction is overturned on those early murders, it might lead to questions about the other murders they pinned on me, and that might lead to the public knowing my secret. And that would destroy the mystique that has built up around me. I would no longer be a living legend. My disciples would leave me. And I really like the life I lead, with followers attending to my every need and my every desire.

You see, all that info you uncovered about my early murders was absolutely correct. I was wrongly convicted of those murders. I was completely innocent. In fact – and this is my deep dark secret – I’m innocent of all the murders I was convicted for. I’ve never killed anyone in my life.

Until now. Stop squirming. You’re gonna be my first.

The Bag in the Corner

This guy looks soft, Harley thought. A trucker from the city who don’t know his way around the back-road truck stops. Easy pickin’s.

Harley had watched the guy reading a paperback while eating his dinner at the truck stop café. Harley had seen him arrive, driving a reefer, a big refrigerated truck. Harley didn’t know what cargo the mark was carrying, but that didn’t really matter. To Harley and his buddy Chuck, the hunt was the main thing. Seeing a man cower in fear was a bigger thrill than taking whatever loot they might carry away. Sometimes it gave Harley more than a rush, it gave him a boner. But he never told Chuck that. Didn’t want Chuck to think he was queer.

The mark had been friendly when Harley and Chuck approached him in the almost-deserted parking lot behind the truck stop. When he saw the guns, though, the friendliness turned to fear.
He started stuttering and stammering. “Hey, what do you guys want?”

Chuck answered, “We want you to shut the fuck up and open the back of your rig.”

The mark started to protest but did as Chuck told him, opening the truck’s back door, letting loose a blast of cold air into the hot summer night. “Listen, guys, I’ll do whatever you want, just please let me go. I got a wife and a kid and I—”

“Didn’t he tell you to shut the fuck up?” Harley smashed the butt of his pistol on the man’s forehead. When he saw he was bleeding the mark started to panic but was too afraid to speak.

This is awesome, thought Harley. Total fear. Totally at our mercy.

Harley noticed a lot of the boxes in the reefer were marked STEAKS, which was great – he’d be hungry after they finished this job. Then he noticed a huge insulated bag in the back corner of the cargo area. Looked big enough to hold a whole side of beef. “What’s in the bag?” Harley asked.

“Th–that’s for my family,” the guy stammered, his eyes wide with fear. “Please, take anything you want, but please leave that for my family.”

“We’ll decide what to take, not you,” said Chuck. “What’s in it?”

“Just some stuff for my family. Please!” said the mark, trembling all over. He looked like he was about to cry. The man’s fear was like a drug to Harley, who was starting to get hard.

“If you’re not gonna answer the question, then shut up,” said Harley, feeling more powerful than ever. “We’ll see for ourselves.” The mark looked like he was about to keep talking so
Harley bashed him in the head again, this time with his fist.

The man fell into the corner of the truck and whimpered as he cowered in the shadows.

Chuck and Harley knelt by the bag. “I bet it’s a side of beef,” said Harley, excited.

“Help me figure out how to open this,” Chuck said. They rolled the bag over—it was heavy—and found a zipper.

When the zipper was open, it took them both a couple of seconds to fully realize what they were seeing. It was a face. A man’s face, with frost in his beard, his eyes open wide. This wasn’t a side of beef, it was a man’s corpse. A frozen corpse.

“Holy shit,” said Chuck. Suddenly a crowbar connected with the back of Chuck’s head and he crumpled, unconscious, on top of the bag and the frozen body.

Harley stood up quick. “What the–” He turned around and faced the mark, who was no longer cowering in fear but was standing a foot from Harley, a blood-stained crowbar in his hand.

Now Harley was the one stammering. “Who–who is that?” he asked, cocking his head toward the bag.

Harley could see the rage in the man’s eyes as he answered, “That’s the last motherfucker who tried to rob me.” Harley saw the crowbar coming at him but there was no time to react before it struck the side of his face and he too crumpled onto the body bag.