A serial killer mistakenly targets a true-crime podcaster.
Whitney’s heart fluttered. Male, late 20s/early 30s with an alethic build? Check. Shaggy, blond hair? Check. Thick, black plastic sunglasses resting on a curved, wedge-shaped nose? Check. A prominent crescent scar on his right cheek? Check. She was positive the stranger jogging behind her matched the police sketch of the Noon Slayer.
Whitney kept a steady pace as she traversed the dirt trail at Stewart Memorial Park. The summer weather in Washington state never got uncomfortable for her noon jogs. The tall, western hemlocks and various evergreen trees provided ample shade, with the fresh rain bringing its petrichor fragrance.
She tapped on her headphones, which weren’t playing music. They never did. They were only on her ears for the same reason a worm would be on a hook. The serial killer caught up to her. Whiney smirked. He took the bait.
As the Noon Slayer was about to grab Whitney, she spun around and tased him.
* * *
The Noon Slayer’s eyes fluttered open to a microphone attached to a boom arm with a pop filter. White nylon rope strapped him tight on the metal chair.
“You’re awake,” Whitney greeted with the joyful tone of a morning radio host. “Don’t say anything. I need to hit record real fast.” She took a seat on her RV kitchen bench behind the matching microphone she had set up for herself and pushed the record button on her audio recorder. “Hello, crime-heads. I want to start off this episode by thanking my guest. I’ve gotten in pretty good shape since I started jogging about a month ago to get you on my show.”
“Where am I?” the Noon Slayer grumbled.
Whitney pushed the red button on her pop-out kitchen table, sending him a painful electric shock. It wasn’t enough to kill or do any serious harm, but the pain was enough to say, “I’m the one in charge.”
“Hey, I’m the host here,” she playfully scolded. “This is my podcast, so I’ll be the one asking the questions–until the end when I let my guests ask me a question before I let them go.”
He looked around the cozy fifth-wheel travel trailer that held him captive. Everything was clean and neatly organized. His gaze focused on a massive cork bullion board as long as him, pinned with newspaper clippings of all his killings. He nodded toward the murder board. “You a fan of mine?”
“You can say I’ve been tracking you. Oh, wait. That was technically a question.”
She pushed the button, shocking him again. When he settled, she took down the murder board from the easel (revealing another board covered in clippings about a different serial killer). She laid his board on the bed next to him so he could see her research and then returned to her seat.
“What do you think?” she inquired.
He reviewed the large board. In addition to the newspaper clippings, there were crime scene photos, a copy of the police sketch, and a pair of gold foil business cards with the word, “Congratulations.”
“How did you–” he stopped, catching himself. “I mean, I’m impressed you have my calling card. Two of them.”
“Thank you, but truth be told, one is a replica I made. The public doesn’t know about your calling card. I managed to sneak a photo from one of my sources investigating you. The other is the one I pulled out from your wallet, Trent.”
Trent tried not to laugh at his carelessness. “I knew I shouldn’t have kept my wallet with me.”
“Don’t be too hard on yourself. I’ve learned that nobody is perfect in all my years of doing this podcast. On the subject of mistakes, how accurate is my board about you? Are all of those yours? Am I missing anyone?”
“You’re missing my first one.”
Whitney sat up and leaned forward. “I am? Do tell.”
“It was different.” His eyes drifted up as he reflected. “I did it with my car. It was an accident–a complete accident. It was a hilly road. I wasn’t paying attention to the jogger when she ran in front of me. I thought I was going to get caught. But I didn’t.”
“Then let me guess, the thrill of not getting caught become intoxicating?”
“This happened around noon, just like all of the others?”
Whitney nodded. “That’s what the psychologist Dr. Miller suggested when I interviewed him in episode 215. Well, Trent, you’ve answered all of my questions today. Before I let you go, as per tradition, I like to let my guests ask me a question.”
Trent didn’t say anything. Whitney added, “Don’t worry. I won’t shock you.”
Whitney pulled the chef knife from the cutlery drawer, walked over to Trent, and brushed the blade along the rope behind his back.
“Who are you?” he asked.
She sawed the rope just long enough to give him a false sense of hope before she stabbed him in the back. “I’m the Pacific Northwest Podcaster.”
Inspired by the writing prompt: “A well-known serial killer has been following you through town. He seems to be has been targeting you for a while now. But you’re not scared, in fact, you’re thrilled about it. Finally, you have a new target.”
I realized I hadn’t set any of my weekly stories in Washington state, where I grew up in my grade/middle school years. I got inspired by the writing prompt to have a serial killer stalk one of the woods there. Since it had been forever since I visited that area, the only park with a hiking trail I could think of was where my parents found a golden ticket for a radio contest. I texted my Mom for the name of the park. She asked why I was asking about it and I told her the premise of the short story. She asked me if I was going to incorporate a golden ticket into it somehow and I said I’ll see what I can do. Then she suggested it should be the killer’s calling card.
That’s the origin of this week’s short story. Thank you for reading!