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I'LL BE WATCHING YOU
By M. WILLIAM PHELPS
PINNACLE BOOKS Copyright © 2008 M. William Phelps
All right reserved.
Chapter One I
Outside, the stars in the night sky are a brilliant shade of silver, flashing dimly against a dark plum-purple canvas. A vestibule, really. An inviting end-of-the-summer evening. Cool. But also crisp and refreshing, especially after what has been a long summer of fiery temperatures and stagnant, choking air.
This beautiful night doesn't seem to have an effect on this one man sitting, watching the Red Sox game on a big-screen television, inside Kenney's Restaurant and Bar, in downtown Hartford, Connecticut. To him, well, to this man it is just another night-consequently perfect in so many different ways, none of which having much to do with the weather.
Before we get too far, however, you must consider that "he" or "him" are relative terms. There are some who see this man as a predator. Nothing more.
Certainly nothing less.
Yes, when you clear away the residual variations of him being just another middle-aged man sitting at a bar, having a beer, it is a persistent evil inside his soul, behind his eyes, of which he can't seem to refuse or rid himself. Those thoughts of harming women and rendering them unconscious. Then grabbing their throats.
He cannot stop these random images-no, urges. Of squeezing and killing. Even as he sits calmly and watches a simple baseball game. There they are. Impulses. They come to him in waves.
I'm dying to know what causes this turmoil ... inside of me, he once wrote, questioning it all himself.
Sitting with his chest against the edge of the bar, he switches his focus from the television-the Red Sox are likely losing, anyway-to her. Staring, he is quite infatuated tonight by her not-so-flawless figure: the bumpy, hourglass curves of her hips, her long legs, velvety dark hair, and large breasts-yes, double Ds, which are, surely, of great importance to him, not to mention a necessary part of his plan and basis for the illicit fantasy.
Although she is a bit rough around the edges, she looks good, all dolled up with dark red lipstick, rosy red cheeks of powdery blush, and a sultry, inviting smile. Tonight, for some reason, he can't seem to resist or turn away from her. She holds a sort of candid, arresting, magnetic attractiveness, like, say, for example, the urge some of us have to maybe slow down and have a quick peep at a fatal accident on the side of the interstate.
He doesn't want to look, but he does.
He doesn't want to give in to his impulses, but he will.
He's studied her for a few weeks. Even spoken to her. "I'm a maintenance worker in town," she had told him one night.
"Yeah, OK," he probably answered, not believing her for a minute.
Analyzing her every move, watching her closely, and getting to know her personally, however, aren't things he's done for the sake of love, companionship, or even obsession. He wants nothing to do with her in any of those ways. His motive tonight, so say law enforcement, is clear: she fits perfectly into an assortment of prey he's collecting, a mold he created while incarcerated from 1988 to 1999.
Tonight she is the Chosen One. She plays a role. Nothing more.
Tonight she is, simply, the Victim.
It took him some time to dredge up the nerve to talk to her. Before he had even opened his mouth, he watched as she schmoozed with other patrons, finagled free drinks out of the college kids, and, twisting her hair, prowled the bar for God knows what else. He's heard stories about her. Even offered her money for sex. With a voice gravelly from nicotine, she made idle chitchat with him one night, likely about the weather and baseball, as if she actually gave a damn about either.
He knows she doesn't.
But then, truthfully, if we're being honest, neither does he.
She tries to sit with him on occasion. In public, he shoos her away, same as the homeless he sometimes passes near Bushnell Park on his way into the bar; after all, to his fellow barflies, those sitting next to him night after night, he's a clean-cut businessman, a well-groomed and well-mannered professional. Yes, a working stiff like the rest of them.
During the day, he's a "food counselor"-a lavish industry term for a plain old-fashioned salesman-for a frozen-food company with a satellite office in Wethersfield. He travels alone all over the state of Connecticut and the Northeast. It's been quite a professional drop on the vocational ladder for a man with a bachelor's degree in business science from Rutgers-someone who had once lived in New Jersey and worked for Hewlett-Packard (HP), traveling all over the country, making 40K a year, when the base annual income for Americans was half that. Indeed, selling boxed meats, frozen pizzas, and vegetables out of your trunk to the middle class of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts is a slap in the face.
And he knows it.
A job is a job, he might have told someone who cared to ask. To me, in a letter, he writes, I am simply referred to as ... a door-to-door meat salesman. Ha! [My company did] not sell frozen foods door-to-door. We made appointments.
As if it actually matters.
He has no friends, perhaps as a result of having an enormous growth erupting from his neck. And never-that anyone who ever knew him could recall-has he kept a girlfriend longer than the time it takes her to figure out how perverted and abnormal he is. And even then, the only girlfriend on record he's had was later found murdered-stabbed and strangled, her body posed-in her apartment.
But what is an ex-con supposed to do with his life after prison? Where can a convicted felon-a man who has admitted strangling and stabbing a woman to death, and strangling and stabbing another who survived to identify him-go for a job? He is lucky that after he came clean with his boss about his past, the guy hired him anyway.
None of that matters at the moment, though. Right now, he sits and he stares. Thinking about her. Waiting for her to leave.
Yes. Waiting for her to walk out the door so he can follow.
Tonight, he's decided, it feels right.
Tonight, most definitely, it's her turn.
Chapter Two I
After that stretch in a New Jersey prison-nine years short of his sentence, mind you-he moved into a motel down the street from his childhood home for a few months, and then, in August 1999, he knocked on Mom and Dad's door in Berlin, Connecticut, some ten miles south of the bar he hangs out at in Hartford.
He had grown up in Berlin. The suburbs. The sticks. It was strange and humiliating, he claims, being back in the same house where it all began forty-something years ago, living once again with them. How pathetic, he thought one night, tossing and turning, contemplating suicide. How disappointing.
No wife. No kids. Mooching off his elderly parents.
But what else can he do?
There is a bedroom available upstairs, but he opts for-some later say insists on-the room in the basement. "He wants to live in the basement," says the prosecutor who soon goes after him. "He wants to live ... in that little workshop-that little sexual fantasy den."
It seems weird and, all at the same time, wonderful-that is, his choice to live in an unfinished, musty basement and sleep on an old ragged couch (simply because for ten years he got used to sleeping on an iron mattress in prison). Stranger still, considering there are four bars within a mile radius of his parents' home, is that he frequents this particular bar in Hartford. Does he need a second DUI (to go with the one he got last year after hitting a parked car) on his rap sheet? What about his job? It depends on keeping an active driver's license.
And yet, according to some, for him, the pros of trolling downtown Hartford far outweigh the cons. It's something he must do. He cannot help himself. He has a few regular prostitutes he meets at the bar. He likes to treat himself once in a while. He likes to get rough with them, too, several later report. Put his hands around their necks and squeeze. Call them filthy names.
Maybe even make idle threats to their lives.
Some wonder if this is why he drives into Hartford on such a regular basis-to maintain that control over females? To make sure that no one in his hometown sees him. Or to simply frequent the seedier bars, trolling ... searching for that perfect victim. He had once said the perfect woman, in his eyes, was a blonde, good-looking, big-breasted, laid out and posed, topless, dead, there for him to do as he wished. So this must be why he travels into Hartford. But then, it can't be. Because within earshot of his home in Berlin are three strip joints and a few underground clubs with an "anything goes" policy if you can swing the cover charge. In fact, if you know where the clubs are, you can walk in and set the rules, tell the ladies what you want, and they'll oblige.
Regardless, it's Hartford he chooses: night after night after night.
And so Hartford it is.
He has no family or friends in Hartford. No work contacts. But here he is, bellied up to the bar at Kenney's, on Capitol Avenue, mixing it up with the regulars, watching his favorite baseball team on the big screen, playing pool, eating his favorite meal (tuna salad with extra Russian dressing), and cracking jokes-not to mention talking to the prostitutes as if they are below him.
Imagine that: a convicted, admitted killer who looks down on hookers.
In the bar, he feels superior. Suddenly he is the more respected member of society. He's cocky that way; there isn't a law enforcement officer or former peer who later says different. Still, in a certain way, he's an enigma. Because for every person that says he's strange, weird, or even scary and dangerous, there's someone out there who says he's smart. Bright. Articulate. Borderline brilliant.
The Hartford prosecutor who will soon make him a priority, however, views him differently: "The embodiment of pure evil," Assistant State's Attorney (ASA) David Zagaja says. "A persistent dangerous felony offender," Zagaja's boss, State's Attorney (SA) James Thomas, adds.
Others put it more simply. More direct: "Scariest person I've ever met."
"The Devil incarnate."
"Even his cell mates thought he was weird," a prison source says. "And these are guys who've murdered and maimed people."
Nonetheless, to those around him inside Kenney's on this night-especially her, the one he has his eye on-he comes across as the friendly salesman who looks like a cross between a high-school math teacher and a professional golfer. His kinky, dirty blond hair is cut Wall Street short, his eyes comforting and sad. He likes to wear ties. Nice sweaters. Mildly expensive shoes and slacks. In a way, he seems to fall in somewhere between the peculiar and the unconventionally charming. He appears gentle, laid-back.
Dare we say it ... harmless.
The fact of the matter is, no one really knows him, or the compulsions bouncing off the dark walls of his soul. He harbors secrets. Sick thoughts, he himself later admits, that have penetrated, pervaded, and perverted his mind in waves, like motion picture slides, since the second and third grade. One secret he admitted while in prison was an innate-teetering on an uncontrollable jealous-fascination with sexually sadistic serial killers. He likes to cut out articles about them-Gacy and Dahmer and the "Green River"-from newspapers and magazines and store them in files in his basement bedroom. One of the most infamous serial killers of all time, however, is unquestionably his favorite. For the sake of argument, let's call this killer his mentor.
Born in 1946, inside a home for unwed mothers in Vermont, Theodore Robert Cowell soon took his stepfather's name, Bundy, and in 1968, while a student at the University of Washington, he was said to have been devastated after his first real girlfriend, a woman he fell deeply for, ended the relationship unexpectedly, shortly before graduation. This was said to have set Bundy on a path toward evil.
"He continually talks about Bundy," David Zagaja says of the man who adores the famous serial killer. "He continually talks about Bundy's prior experiences: what went right and what went wrong." He criticizes Bundy. Critiques him. "That's where you have the evolution of a killer-that's where you have his true and sincere reflections of what he did in the past and how he will improve his conduct in the present."
Without a doubt, as he sits on that bar stool, staring at her, surely undressing her with his eyes, sipping from his favorite beer (Moosehead, which the bar, for his convenience alone, keeps a case on hand per his request), there is a violent monkey on his back that no one-especially this woman and the patrons passing by him night after night, or the bartender serving him those skunky beers-can see or feel: a sexually cruel past that includes one homicide, an aggravated sexual assault and attempted murder, and, well, another that is indisputably, undeniably, in the works.
Chapter Three I
It is the fall of 2001, the time of year when that refreshing air rushes down from Canada and pushes the summer humidity hovering in and around lower New England-Hartford, in particular-out to sea for another six months. Soon the leaves will turn. The trees will become skeletal. The air will have a bite to it. And the snows of November and December will bring in the icy freeze of winter and send people hibernating inside their homes.
Tonight, though, it is a relatively warm late-summer evening. As he sits inside Kenney's and continues watching her, he is no doubt posing her in his mind: unconscious and naked from the waist up. You see, that's his gig. His fetish. Strangle them until the white light approaches. Tear off their tops and bras. Expose their large breasts. Pose them. Then, of course, pleasure the sexual demons by doing whatever it is he does.
If they awake, well, that's their loss.
Out come the knives.
As she walks out the front door, he takes one final sip of his beer, grabs his car keys from the top of the bar, and follows, nodding to the bartender.
"See you tomorrow."
"Take it easy," the bartender says.
The one he's been watching pushes the door open, steps onto Capitol Avenue, and hooks a sharp right, clutching her pocketbook closely to her side, while walking a few steps north. Her nephew and a guy they call "John the Security Guard" are outside the bar by the entrance.
She sees them. Stops. Chats.
Meanwhile, he walks out of the bar and turns left toward his car. It is late-and very dark. Although Hartford is at once a bustling city during the workweek's daytime hours, being the birthplace of insurance, the creatures come out at night: dope dealers and addicts, urban crack-cocaine consumers and the suburban white middle-class junkies, carjackers and gangbangers. It is a virtual den of thieves and predators.
Tonight, of course, he is among them-but also one of them.
Those words he wrote years before, those words of confusion and regret for getting caught, they mean nothing to him right now. Instead, the need to quench that thirst supersedes any rational thinking on his part.
Satisfy Mr. Hyde.
It is the only way.
Satisfy Mr. Hyde.
I've ruined my life ..., he wrote, [I need to] get help to change my thinking towards women.
In one of his letters from prison, he explains what is, essentially, a natural, even spiritual, connection he has with Bundy. The two of them share many attributes, he feels. He can state "with confidence," he wrote, what Bundy was "feeling"-it is a "sexual thrill"-when he held the life of his victims in his hands and, staring coldly into their eyes (something he likes to do, too), took that life at the precise moment of his choosing. It is the last breath, that sudden rush-or, should we say, hush-of air from the lungs when the soul leaves the body.
Excerpted from I'LL BE WATCHING YOU by M. WILLIAM PHELPS Copyright © 2008 by M. William Phelps. Excerpted by permission.
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