Authors: Daniel Marks
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2012 by Daniel Marks
Jacket photograph copyright © 2012 by Rustam Syunyakov
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
Delacorte Press is a registered trademark and the colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.
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For Wayne Henry
the original storyteller in the family
hen Velveteen Monroe pictured Bonesaw’s house—and she did, more often than could be considered healthy—blood striped the paint a muddy reddish-brown, internal organs floated in jars of formaldehyde, and great big taxidermy crows leered from branches that twisted from the wall like palsied arms.
Velvet always did have a vivid imagination. It was part of her charm.
But she’d never have guessed that the first thing to jump out at her in the murderer’s dank living room
a human-bone coffee table cluttered with the latest issues of
, dog-eared and swollen with scribbled Post-its like her mom’s
magazines, nor the killer himself, wild-eyed and clad in a blood-spattered rubber apron, growling maniacally.
He wasn’t there at all.
The first thing Velvet noticed was a dangerously normal Kleenex cozy with the words “Home Sweet Home” cross-stitched into its side. As if there were anyone sweet dwelling in that boxy, bland farmhouse.
Bonesaw had dropped the ball on macabre creativity. It’s like he never got the text message. When a serial killer decorates his home, it’s his duty to opt for, at the very least, a moderately freaky and off-kilter, if not deranged, design scheme.
Everybody knows that.
It’s Psychopath 101.
The couch and chairs were as sandy brown as the paint job and plainly arranged rather than all backward or spotted with gore like you might expect of a properly insane decorator. The carpet was clearance-sale beige and just the slightest bit threadbare in a meandering path that led to the old-fashioned swinging kitchen door. The only thing remotely weird was an alabaster ashtray the size of a hubcap, with a half-eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich stubbed-out in the middle instead of a cigarette butt.
Velvet’s eyes lit on a giant TV—not one of those LCDs, but the other kind, with the big tube in the back—teetering atop a small chest. One of the stand’s doors hung open just a crack, and something twinkled from its murky depths like a lonely star. She reached out and swung the door open on its squeaky hinges, half expecting to see a knife collection of the variety sold on home shopping networks.
“Look at all of you.” Velvet cocked an eyebrow as she peered inside. “Lined up like toy soldiers.”
Bonesaw collected salt and pepper shakers. Lots and lots of them.
Mexican guys in sombreros, turtles with top hats and canes, and even a pair of Oreos with bites taken out of them—though how delicious cookies were related to salt and pepper was beyond Velvet.
“Correction,” she mumbled. “
Velvet snatched a pair of hideous cacti, the pickle color having faded into a pale, sickly lime from age or, maybe, Bonesaw’s relentless polishing. She launched them across the room, where one shattered into a hundred pieces and the other dug into the drywall, jutting from it like a diseased tooth. A couple of cockeyed chickens were next to get the fastball treatment, followed by the rest of the animal-shaped dispensers. They exploded against the back of the front door, salting and peppering the carpet with tiny shards of porcelain but no actual salt and pepper.
The cabinet emptied, Velvet clamped her fingers under the edge of the coffee table and heaved it forward onto its top, sending the magazines flapping across the room and the giant ashtray thudding to the floor. The peanut butter and jelly dropped away as the mammoth disk of alabaster rolled off on its side, ridges beating a rhythm across the thin pile of the carpet. It collided with the chest, and the TV rocked precariously before settling back onto its base.
Velvet cocked her head to the side; black waves of hair fell over her shoulder and cast a shadow across her face. She quickly tucked a lock behind her ear and assessed the situation for maximum destruction. A slow grin carved its way across her lips, as jagged as a jack-o’-lantern’s.
“That won’t do, will it?”
She spun, kicking the chest with her full weight, and watched with glee as the TV toppled to the floor with a bang. The screen exploded satisfyingly, spraying the carpet with tiny splinters of TV glass that twinkled like morning dew. The booming echoed through the small house exquisitely, the sound defiling every normal-as-white-bread corner.
If you overlooked the vandalism, the house was the kind of place where anyone could have lived.
Even the killer of four high school girls from New Brompfel Heights, New Jersey.
That crapload of crazy had all started the summer before Velvet’s senior year, when Misha Kohl hadn’t shown up at home after getting wasted at a kegger, but instead appeared eight days later in several different ziplock freezer bags down by the river. The town had gone shit-bag crazy over that. Curfews had been instated. Buddy-ups for the kids whose houses didn’t warrant bus stops. Cameras pointed at the playgrounds like owls on the hunt for woodland scamperers.
Velvet had been pretty sure Bonesaw wasn’t a scamperer.
Those cameras hadn’t been about catching the serial killer anyway. They’d been about parents pretending their teenage girls were playing on swing sets rather than holing up in some sweaty basement, dodging boys’ grabby hands.
Despite an obvious love of thick eyeliner, eighties Goth music, and giving her mother heart palpitations, Velvet hadn’t been particularly interested in the Bonesaw case at the time. She would have, if pressed, admitted to a certain
fascination with sociopaths, and she had spent more than a few “library enrichment” hours scouring the
Encyclopedia of Tragedy and Mayhem
, but a few missing girls didn’t really thrill her as much as you’d think.
Sure, Ted Bundy was kind of hot if you squinted really hard, but he wasn’t nearly as extraordinary-looking as his “survivors” always claimed on those History Channel psycho-killer shows. Velvet’s interests didn’t have anything to do with romanticizing psychotic personalities, anyway. What intrigued her was the whole disconnectedness-from-emotions “thing” that unites all true sociopaths, like they’re part of a Moose lodge or a fantasy football league. She’d been accused of the same behavior on more than one occasion (the disconnectedness, not participating in a ridiculous pretend sports thing). Whether she was guilty of having the symptoms was debatable. Lord knows the counselors at her school were happy to discuss what they termed her “oppositional defiance” at
Velvet’s thoughts on that had been consistent, clear, and resounding.
Two big middle fingers to everyone involved.
The counselors should have been more interested in the actual sociopaths in the neighborhood, rather than playing junior psychiatrists with her school records. Why couldn’t they have been like everyone else in New Brompfel Heights and fixated on Bonesaw like he was a new fad diet? Because, seriously. People were obsessing over the case like it was the itchiest mosquito bite known to man.
Eventually Velvet was, too. But it turned out that someone
very close to her had to make Bonesaw’s cut in order for him to grab her attention.
Which brings us back to busting up houses.
And in particular the houses of serial killers.
No matter how exhilarating destruction can be—and to Velvet it had always been that rarest high—things have a tendency to become boring over time.
A little stale.
For example, today, when Velvet crept back in on what would be her twentieth breaking-and-entering charge, the furnishings were even more boring because she recognized each and every one, and Bonesaw never replaced anything she broke, which essentially stripped the fun out of fucking his shit up. No more salt and pepper shakers, no ashtrays, and even the TV had been replaced by a crappy clock radio. She could flip his coffee table only so many times before it just seemed futile. Luckily, she’d thought of a way around this little problem.
Velvet strode through the living room, past the only two flingable objects that she avoided—a leaden urn and a framed photograph of someone she assumed was Bonesaw’s mother, the woman’s wrinkles stretched smooth by a severe chignon. Velvet had opened the urn once and found ashes inside. Until then, she’d always thought cremation got rid of the whole body, but little pieces of bone stuck up from the gray powder like a tiny shadowed diorama of a graveyard, ivory tombstones pegging the ashen soil.
Best to leave that alone
, she’d thought.
Bonesaw’s kitchen was a sterile place, plain except for bright yellow café curtains hanging in the window above the steel sink and a stained coffee mug sitting on the counter. A bleach smell nearly overwhelmed the space, bringing to mind hospital wards and Laundromats, and the linoleum, a hideous tan with pink sparkles, was probably clean enough to eat off.
Velvet crossed the room, swung open the refrigerator door, and leaned in. As usual, row upon row of butcher paper packages lined the chilly shelves, each marked in Bonesaw’s meticulously neat penmanship.
Ground beef. Porterhouse. Linguica
There was never any milk or butter, and, worst of all, no cheese. Velvet missed cheese and just for a moment wondered whether the guy was lactose intolerant, before she remembered that she didn’t give a crap about him or his dietary restrictions. What the refrigerator lacked in dairy it made up for in condiments. The door was full of steak sauces and catsup—not ketchup—mango chutney, and that disgusting green junk you’re supposed to put on lamb, because who doesn’t love neon crap on their food? The amount of meat the guy consumed was frightening.
Velvet had always hated meat and how it sat in your stomach like a brick, though she couldn’t for the life of her turn down a taco.
Funny how things worked.
She jarred the refrigerator shelves loose, clanging them against the sparkling interior. The meat packages thudded to the floor, skidded across the linoleum like hockey pucks,
and settled under the small bistro set in the corner. The ones nearby she stomped on, squishing the raw meat out through the tears in the paper. Ground beef smooshed onto the floor like a curl of bloody toothpaste.