Newton, Georgia is a small town near the Alabama border. Less than an hour away from Stanwyck, my husband Robert’s hometown. Newton’s your typical one Wal-Mart, one high school town. People are friendly. And every November, the weather starts getting a little cooler.
But there’s also quite a bit of history in Newton as well. Some of it ugly, some interesting. But recently, we’ve started getting some new history in this small town. A dark notoriety. You see, Newton was a quiet All-American town. Well before it became home to The Day Stalker.
The police and press don’t know anything about the killer. For all we know, the Stalker could’ve been male, female, whatever. It didn’t matter. There were no clues. Just a bizarre M.O.: a victim that always went missing in the daytime.
All of the victims were suspected to have been taken during the day… morning, afternoon, evening. It didn’t matter to the Stalker. And then like clockwork, the bodies were found a little less than twenty-four hours later. Always in a remote location. Always in the daytime. It turns out the Stalker was a pure sunrise-sundown serial killer.
The murders had been piling up for about a year now. A year of panic and turmoil. And yes, the media went fucking nuts. We had national and local affiliates patrolling the town like a swarm of buzzards. All of them rude as fuck.
I dealt with the chaos for awhile. After all, I was one of the local beat writers for The Rockdale Citizen, our bi-weekly paper. Well, I should say I was a writer for them. The intrusive invasion of all these other pretentious “reporters” killed my action. All anyone ever wrote about was The Day Stalker… and these national writers all had a Hell of a lot more resources than I did. More ways to bullshit the lack of information at least. And since I didn’t cover sports or local history, I was among the first of the Rockdale casualties.
So I was laid off a few weeks ago. I guess Rockdale figured they’d let the big boys cover The Day Stalker. I was expendable. Well, whatever. Fuck them. I didn’t need that shit paper. I had a degree, Robert made good money on the police force. Me and him would still live in the heart of Newton suburbia. Only now I’d have more time to write. Yeah, that’s right. Local Newton reporter Michelle Lenz was now gonna become a world famous novelist. Or at least, I was gonna make my umpteenth attempt at it. Most importantly though, I now had more time with my son Billy.
Billy was eight and scared shitless by the Stalker coverage. I couldn’t blame him considering the fear that swept over the community like a thick fog. And like in a thick fog, we couldn’t see who the killer was. We didn’t know who’d be next. And even in the daytime, we had no idea when the Stalker would strike again. Regardless of all the press, us Newtonites felt totally isolated. Nothing more than helpless pawns for this exploitative news story.
During the long layoff, I spent more time with Billy. I think having me around comforted him. Gone were those long work nights spent at the office or covering local elections. Shit, I could even pick Billy up from school on time without having him wait around over an hour like an embarrassed orphan. Now Billy and I were closer than ever.
While Robert was stressed and overworked with the other officers, I became like both a mother and father for Billy. Both the nurturing mama and devoted daddy. We’d even play catch together in those cool autumn evenings.
From what I saw, my constant unemployment gave Billy constant reassurance. Constant safety from the plague of unease brought upon us by both the Stalker and the stifling media.
Everything in Newton was so tumultuous nowadays. A feeding frenzy of news cameras and asshole anchors. They made it tough to do anything in our little town. Traffic got congested, crowds conquered the city. And of course, putting Billy to sleep was harder than ever.
With Robert gone most nights, I was always there at Billy’s bedside. A lot of nights I even fell asleep lying right next to him. A Scooby-Doo book usually on my chest.
And tonight was no different. There we were lying on his bed. In Billy’s bomb shelter of a bedroom. There were the shelves of action figures. The Scooby-Doo dolls. And the countless comic books. Billy was interested in the scary stuff… just not old enough to handle the real disturbing stuff.
In his room, Billy cowered beneath his Superman blankets like a terrified soldier hiding in the trenches. I could sense his unease. His trembling timidity. Billy’s nerves yet another victim of the Day Stalker.
But I was there by his side. I held Billy close, my arm draped around him like a shield. All while reading him the latest adventures of Scooby-Doo. The illustrated monsters provided us a safe spookiness from the all-too-real horror conquering our small town.
As I finished the last page, I looked over and saw Billy’s eyes glued to the window. Perpetual worry on his young face.
I squeezed his shoulder. “Hey,” I said in a soft tone.
Startled, Billy looked at me with quivering eyes.
“It’s okay, Billy,” I comforted him.
“But what if he’s out there?” Billy asked in a low voice. His nervous gaze drifted back to the window. To our back yard.
The lighting outside illuminated the small yard. A perfect lawn I’d kept pristine due to all my free time. Even the shed out back looked nice… the opposite of the dilapidated eyesores that most of our neighbors had allowed theirs to turn into.
I closed the book and laid it on the nightstand. I could see it was gonna take more than Scooby-Doo to ease my baby’s fears.
“He’s not, Billy,” I told him. Ever the caring mother, I leaned in closer. “I promise.”
Billy faced me. He could see the confidence radiate off my warm smile.
“He won’t get you at night,” I said to him. I rubbed Billy’s shoulder. “The Day Stalker only comes out in the daytime, remember.”
“Yeah…” Billy said, his voice still full of trepidation.
I kissed his forehead. Like a Lifetime mom’s kiss. Only mine was sincere. “You’re safe at night, sweetie. I promise you, you are.”
Silent, Billy just looked at me with his big bright eyes.
“Ain’t no one gonna get you,” I continued. I pinched Billy’s cheek. “Not as long as I’m here.”
“But what about the daytime?” Billy asked in a tremble.
“What about it?”
Like a paranoid scout, Billy stole another glance out the window. “What if he gets me in the daytime?”
Grinning, I pulled him in closer. “Sweetie, you’ll be in school!” I followed his gaze out the window. Out at our lovely lawn. “And when you’re not, I’m with you. Okay. Mommy’s gonna be here a lot now. I’m gonna take you to school and take you back home.”
My playful hands threatened to tickle Billy.
He couldn’t help but laugh as he leaned in toward me. The chuckling alleviated Billy’s scared state. Music to my desperate ears.
“Mommy’s never leaving you, baby,” I reassured him. “I’m always with you, remember that.”
“I know…” His lingering smile relieved me. Even a weak smile was better than seeing your eight-year-old son so dominated by unease.
“And daddy’ll protect us too. You know he’s tough!”
With the confidence of Wonder Woman, I strengthened my hold on Billy, showing off my physical and emotional strength. “You got that right!”
Right before I could give him another kiss, Billy’s small hand blocked me. “But mom.”
“What about Jodie?” he said, his voice a mere whimper. Like he was asking a question he wasn’t sure he wanted the answer to. Like he didn’t want the answer.
“Jodie?” I asked, keeping my smile. “That girl from school?”
“Yeah…” He peeked out the window. “I’m worried about her…” He faced me. “Is she gonna be safe too?”
Supportive, I cradled Billy in my arms. “Yes!” And this time, I did tickle him. “I promise you Jodie’ll be fine!”
Billy giggled like a grade school maniac. So much so he almost fell of the bed.
Grinning, I held him steady in my arms. “Jodie’s safe, okay. Both of y’all are!”
Still laughing, Billy wrapped an arm around my neck. “Okay!”
Like a victorious mama, I planted a kiss on Billy’s soft cheek. Full of joy, we looked on at each other’s smiling faces. My job here was done in this arena of toys and superheroes.
But deep down, I knew I’d lied. One of the few lies I’d ever tell my son…
Less than thirty minutes later, Billy was sound asleep. He slept heavy too. I could go berserk in that room, but he’d never wake up. The cartoons I’d left on his flatscreen were more effective than a sleeping pill.
Billy didn’t even budge when I stepped off the bed. I’d left him some juice and cookies on the nightstand… a little something extra in the grape juice just in case Billy were to wake up in those next few hours.
I turned off the lights in the backyard. Like I always did for these late-night rituals. Dressed in my hoodie and jeans, I walked alone toward the shed. The November coldness did nothing against the warm excitement I felt within.
You see, I hadn’t told Billy a complete lie. He was safe. And he would always be safe. Unfortunately, I just had to lie about Jodie. When she skipped school today, the opportunity was too perfect to pass up. Like when the naive fly just happens to land on that vicious trap.
The little girl should’ve known better. After all, Newton isn’t the town for skipping class. Not when The Day Stalker lurks about in those mornings and afternoons.
I stepped inside my shed. Trembling with never-ending excitement, my hand managed to lock the door behind me.
The hanging small lightbulb broadcasted little Jodie Marks lying on a table in the back. She was out cold. Naked. Bound-and-gagged in duct tape with tight precision. Like a patient awaiting surgery. Only there was gonna be no drugs to ease the pain. I’d awaken her soon enough. I always woke them up before I got started.
Behind her awaited all my tools. Items on the pegboard and shelves. Knives, spades, hammers. All sorts of vicious weapons. All at my disposal.
My exhilaration warming me from the shed’s coldness, I walked up to the arsenal of weapons. My eager eyes scanned each and every one of them. My touch caressed them. There were so many choices…
Throughout my pre-game ritual, I realized no one in the media would ever know that forcing me out of Rockdale had only increased my reign of terror. Back when I was working, I had a tough time with the schedule. Balancing being a mother, wife, reporter, and killer was tough! But now… well, I had all the free time in the world. While Billy was in school, I had all day to do what I wanted to do. To indulge in my sick pleasures.
And tomorrow after dropping Billy off, the police would discover what was left of Jodie’s body. Like a musician releasing a surprise album, I’d dump her corpse somewhere to continue this circus. My world tour of slaughter. And everyone would still fear me. They’d still be terrified of The Day Stalker.
And through it all, Billy would always be safe. That much was true. Our relationship would never suffer. I may hurt others, but I’d never dare hurt him. I love Billy. While he may forever live in fear of the Stalker, he’ll forever love me.
Finally, I settled on my sharpest garden spade. In the blade’s reflection all I saw was my wide smile. My Day Stalker face. Like a demented child at Christmas. Only I was gonna have much more fun…
Holding the weapon, I looked over at Jodie. In just a few moments, I’d wake her. Then her helpless eyes would watch me make that first vicious wound. Her screams suppressed. Her body trapped.
Sure, I was The Day Stalker. I collected my victims during those long afternoons. And I’d dispose of their bodies early in the morning. But the real work… the real fun part always happened at night.