Read Culture Shock Online

Authors: Ginger Simpson

Culture Shock

Culture Shock

 

By

 

Ginger Simpson

 

ISBN: 978-1-77145-105-5

 

PUBLISHED BY:

 

Books We Love Ltd.

Chestermere, Alberta

Canada

 

Copyright 2013 by Ginger Simpson

 

Cover art by Michelle Lee 2013

 

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

 

 

Prologue

 

 

He
sat alone in his dim apartment and thought about what he'd done. The tattered draperies blocked out society and created the perfect ambiance for his dark mood. His curtains were never open; instead he kept the floor lamp in the corner turned down low.

In his mind, he tightened the electrical cord over and over, choking the last breath from each of his victims. Momentarily, he warmed at the thought
. In a flash of sanity he supposed he should feel bad—but he didn't. His lips curled in the feral smile he'd seen so often in the mirror, and a feeling of power swept over him. For now, his hunger for death was sated.

His memory replayed the crimes. His victims all had it coming—every one of them.

They shouldn't have fought. He only wanted to show them love, but they wouldn't let him. He scowled. Filthy women—playing with a man's emotions and eventually destroying his ego and breaking his heart--and for what? He snorted. To move on and do the same to someone else?

His fist tightened, reveling in his quest to end man's suffering. Each of his victims
had begged for mercy, but he had none to spare.

The red tip of his cigarette glowed brighter as he inhaled. Safe in his comfort zone, he relaxed. No one would ever suspect him.

He passed potential victims every day—coming and going as he pleased. Whether they lived or died all depended on how he felt at the moment. He emptied his lungs, filling the air with acrid smoke.

Meeting women had always been problematic. He either wasn't tall enough
, rich enough or didn't have the good looks they preferred. But, things seemed right when he had first met her. She acted unlike the others, or so he'd thought. Memories caused his calloused fingers to ache, wanting to splay through her soft, blonde hair as he had when they'd made love in the past. His lips still hungered for her kisses. She'd been very convincing—accepting him, welcoming his attentions, and sharing his bed. But, her actions had all been a farce.

The ancient wood beneath the chair's upholstered arm splintered beneath the pounding of his fist.

Some days, he put the memories behind him, forcing the hurt and anger from his mind and trying to live a normal life. He didn't really want to hurt anyone, but there were days; dark haunting days when her mocking laughter taunted him, and visions of her cold, blue eyes burned a hole in his heart. Her downfall had been hurting him.

If he couldn't have her, no man would. He started to rise, but his simmering anger boiled. His fingernails painfully embedded themselves in his palms and he dropped back into the seat.

Didn't she know he had feelings? Wasn't his heart supposed to ache when she told him she had no further need of him? She had discarded him like yesterday's garbage. Her words still resounded in his head. "I don't want to be with you anymore, and I certainly don't want to bear your children. You turn my stomach."

A loud whoosh of air rumbled past his lips. He'd willingly planned to devote his life to her, and she dashed his dreams. How could she vow to love him 'til death parted them, and then change her mind?

Death parted them all right. He saw to that.

He curved his mouth into a smile when he remembered how she had pleaded for another chance and vowed to love him again. But it
had been far too late for that. She'd already proven she was a liar and a cheat. He made sure she never hurt anyone again.

Her last gasping breath numbed his pain for a little while, but now doing away with her wasn't enough!
The others who looked like her, reminded him of her, called out to him. They were the same; never giving him the time of day unless they wanted or needed something. Users, all of them. He was making sure to get rid of as many as possible.

With the help of the media, people would soon recognize his calling card as the mark of someone doing the world a huge favor. It might take time, but folks would know him as the hero he was.

The already dim room went totally dark for a moment as the lamp across the way flickered, died then came back to light. Unfazed, he pondered what had just happened. Another electrical surge. Living in such an old building, he'd grown rather used to them.

 

 

Chapter
One

 

"Women Still Missing—No Leads." Cynthia Freitas straddled the complementary copy of the daily newspaper lying in the hallway in front of her apartment and gulped. The thought of a kidnapper loose in her neighborhood sent a shiver up her spine.

With two grocery bags balanced in one arm, she strained to see around them to find the keyhole. Just as she unlocked the door and stepped inside, the bottom of one sack gave way, sending her carefully-selected apples skittering across the warped floorboards. An assortment of vegetables landed in a premature salad at her feet.

She clenched her teeth. "Damn! Damn! Double damn!"

Not in the habit of cursing, she winced and turned to see if anyone was in the hallway and had overheard. Seeing no one, she took a deep breath, removed the dangling key, and closed the door. "You've picked up some bad habits, Cynthia Ann."

She stepped over the spillage, still grasping the torn bag, and placed it and the intact one on the stained kitchen counter. With a deep sigh, she dropped to her knees and crawled from apple to apple until she had recaptured all the escapees, but not before crinkling her nose in disgust at the recent rodent droppings next to the stove. She made a mental note to buy a mousetrap on her return visit to the store.

With the Granny Smiths cradled in one arm, she stood and dumped the fruit into the sink. Curiosity drew her back to the hallway to retrieve the newspaper. She tucked the daily edition beneath her chin and fiddled with the deadbolt. It still wouldn't work.

The super hadn't responded to her call, and this wasn't the best of times to have a broken lock. After placing the flimsy chain across the door, she added making another call for maintenance to her growing mental notebook.

Cynthia sat and unfolded the paper. The hair on her arms bristled when she read the startling headlines again. She quickly scanned the story beneath the bold print. The news wasn’t encouraging. The kidnapper hadn't left any clues, and there hadn't been much progress on the case. Reading about the crimes made her nervous, and she was about to toss the paper aside when the word divorced, describing the victim, jumped out at her and yanked her thoughts elsewhere. Painful memories flooded over her. Her mom and dad had split, but both still lived in
Ord, Nebraska—a dim spot in the road to somewhere else. She left home because of the small town scandal.

Their separation soured Cynthia on relationships. Not that she'd had any of which to speak, but, if an occasion arose, she planned to use caution and move slowly. Besides, she wasn't sure she trusted in love anymore. People always talked about how divorce affected young children. The pain in her heart reminded her of the equal effect on someone twenty-six.

She folded the paper, placed it on the coffee table and returned to the sink to rinse the apples. The pipes squealed and vibrated in protest, but finally sputtered a thin stream of liquid into the discolored basin. She shook her head in disgust, praying God spared her any more surprises in her apartment from hell.

With the clean fruit stowed in the antique refrigerator, and the rest of the mess cleaned, she turned to her usual weekend routine. A stale, musty odor, a constant companion in the dank spaces of The Cairns, greeted her when she opened the coat closet to retrieve the vacuum.

She removed the machine and slammed the door, trapping the smell inside, then after shoving the plug into an outlet, with a flip of a switch the old Hoover whirred to life. Was this how everyone else spent their Saturday morning? A pang of guilt gripped her heart. The murdered or missing women would probably give anything to be able to tend to even the most boring of chores. Those darn headlines; she just couldn't get them out of her thoughts.

She vacuumed the threadbare carpeting in a crisscross pattern, moving the worn furniture as she went. Being thorough was a must. She never did things halfheartedly, and although she hadn't yet entertained anyone in her home, she aimed to be prepared.

She tucked a bothersome strand of hair behind her ear, stashed the vacuum back in its niche, and pulled out a dust cloth. The apartment was so old, a constant coating of dirt seemed to sift through the walls. She wrote her name in the latest layer on the coffee table and stifled a chuckle. Although dusting would be a waste of time, fortunately, on weekends, time was something she had in abundance.

Lost in the mundane task, Cynthia inspected each nick and scratch and pondered who or what caused them. Her mind wandered. How many people had lived in her apartment before her? What brought them to The Cairns...and what finally made them leave?

She grinned at her last thought. If she could afford to move, she certainly wouldn't be living here, especially with a kidnapper running loose in the neighborhood. Maybe coming to the city hadn't been such a good idea. She couldn’t recall a murder ever being reported in Ord, but despite the small town atmosphere, there wasn’t much of a future to be had there.  Opportunity prompted her decision to leave the only place she’d ever called home. She sat on the sofa’s edge and harkened back to the day she received a letter in answer to a job application.  San Francisco?  Was she ready for the challenge?   

Cynthia’s resume earned her a job working for Harris & Morgan Accounting. Completing a
Bachelor’s degree made her a viable candidate, and she looked forward to her boring life changing. Residing in the big city had turned out to be more frightening than exciting.

She glanced around the room, swearing the walls were closing in on her. Commuting back and forth to work and the hours spent there didn't give her much time to explore, even if she dared. Her days were spent crouched at a desk and her evenings in this crummy, run-down apartment. The rent here was all she could afford on her starting salary. Who would have guessed everything would be so expensive? But then, what did she know? In
Ord, everything was a bargain...and safe.

The silence wore on her nerves. She turned the radio on and tuned to her favorite, smooth-jazz station just in time to catch the news. Just what she needed…more reports about the missing women and lurking danger. The ringing of the phone jolted her. She swallowed the lump in her throat and answered.

"Hey, Cyn, what's up?" Her brother’s cheerful voice provided a welcome respite.

"Kevin! Same
ol’, same ol'. What's new with you?" She plopped down in the armchair, and pulled her feet up beneath her.

"Just thought I'd call and check in before I head over to Sara's. We have an office picnic today...big
doins' in Ord." His voice bubbled with the great personality she missed. "Just didn't want you to think I'd forgotten about you."

"A picnic?”  Despite brimming tears, she managed to tamp down her envy and homesickness. “How nice. It's been ages since I've been on one. Actually, it's been ages since I've done anything." She gulped back her self-pity.

"Sounds like life in the big city isn't all you expected."

Her thoughts turned to the missing women. The hair on her arms stood on end.

“Murder certainly wasn’t on my list of things to occupy my mind. Ord never prepared me for anything like what's happening right here in my neighborhood. Women are disappearing or dead, and the police haven't caught the person responsible yet."

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