Lester Niles lifted the garbage bag of human remains into the bed of his truck. It wasn’t his first time, but it was still quite the load. Four bags: two parents, two children. He thought about chopping up the dog after he had strangled it to keep it quiet, but he decided against it. He didn’t know if They liked canine. Don’t mess up the order. Don’t get Them angry. He closed the tailgate and got into the truck.
Lester’s first murder was of his pet goldfish, Jimmy, when he was seven. Jimmy was the only pet Lester’s parents would allow him to have because a dog, a cat, or a bird would just make a mess all over the house. Lester loved that fish. He would watch it swim in its little bowl for hours on end. Going around the tiny fake castle amongst the pebbles, he felt a kinship with Jimmy that he hadn’t with other people. Though he was too young to articulate it, he felt like Jimmy understood his worldview. That, for him, the world was just one giant glass bowl. The human race spins around and around and we forget everything that we’ve done before. We are on a constant reset button. Forgetting, or choosing to forget, the mistakes that we have made.
Jimmy’s murder wasn’t out of malice or anger, just curiosity. He had never seen anything die before, so why not use his best friend as a test subject? He thought Jimmy wouldn’t mind. He grabbed the fish by the tail one day, took him out of the bowl, and placed him on the table where the bowl sat. The fish flopped on the table like it was on a pogo stick, it’s mouth opened wide for air. Minute by minute Jimmy’s jumps grew shorter until he just laid on the table. His fin moved up and down, his mouth opened and closed, his eyes bulged out of their sockets. Then he stopped.
Lester drove to the pick-up spot with the windows down. He didn’t like the smell of blood. He let the night wind blow his long, greasy hair. He remembered the look on the parent’s faces when he injected them with the needle. They seemed so calm.
The seven year-old Lester didn’t dispose of the fish’s corpse after it had expired. Nor did he cry, he just left the fish there on the table and continued to play with his toys. Mom and Dad would be mad, though.
When Lester was using the cleaver to take apart the little boy and little girl, he wondered if he left the toaster on back at his house.
“Honey!” His mother said when she came back home. “What happened to Jimmy?” She rushed over to the table and picked up the now pale-white fish with her soft hands. She frowned. “Poor thing. Must have jumped out.”
“I killed him,” Lester said.
“You. . . you what?” His mother asked.
“I. Killed. Him,” Lester said as if she were hard of hearing.
His mother dropped the fish onto the carpet. “But. . . why?”
All he could do was shrug.
“We’ll talk about this when your father gets home,” she said, her face as white as paper.
He got hungry, so he stopped by a McDonalds to get something to eat. Always a Happy Meal. He loved the little toy inside.
Dinner that night wasn’t the most lively. It never was in the Niles household. They would usually sit and just watch the TV. No talking, no questions, just stare at the glowing box. Tonight was different, though. Lester’s father wasn’t very good with feelings. He sat at the table, ringing his hands together.
“Lester,” he said.
“Yes, Dad?” Lester asked.
“You. . . you know that what you did was. . . “ his father’s eyes wandered about as if the right words were in the air. “Wrong. Don’t you, son?”
“Maybe,” the little boy said playing with his corn. “I don’t know.”
“What do you mean, you don’t-”
“Phil,” his mother said, cutting him off. She, unlike her husband, was good with talking to people. “Sweetie, what we’re trying to say is. . . what you did was very bad.”
“Why?” Their son asked.
Mr. and Mrs. Niles could only exchange worried glances. The tilapia that they were having had lost its flavor.
Lester filled up his tank with gas. He liked that people weren’t friendly. Minding your own business meant not wanting to ask questions. He considered it to be a virtue.
For the next three years little Lester was subjected to appointments with psychiatrists and prescriptions to various medications. At first, Lester was honest with his doctors. He told them about how he didn’t understand why killing was such a bad thing to do. But he had gotten smart. He soon realized that the doctors, his family, and the world didn’t understand him. Didn’t understand that what he did was personal and that it wasn’t bothering anyone else. So why should it? He told the doctors that yes, he had been taking his pills, and no, he wasn’t having murderous thoughts anymore. He didn’t tell them about the decapitated bird that he kept in a shoe box in his closet.
Another pick-up truck pulled up at the gas station. On the back window, a sticker read: “GET ‘ER DEAD” with a picture of a cartoon deer’s corpse on it. Lester smiled at it fondly.
When Lester was thirteen, Phil Niles thought it would be a good idea to teach his son how to hunt. He had, after all, been episode free for some years and he was taking his medication regularly. Lester’s father bought him a rifle that Christmas and one week later, they decided to test it out. Up at dawn, the cold air stung Lester’s face as they waited behind a log in the forest.
“When’s it coming, Dad?” Lester asked impatiently.
“Any minute now, son” his father replied. “It should be- there it is!”
His father pointed up ahead at a deer that was trotting in the snow. Lester thought it was beautiful. It looked so innocent. So pure.
“Now remember, Lest,” his father said. “Keep calm and squeeze the trigger. Don’t pull it.”
Lester tried to keep his hands from shaking. Even through his gloves he thought that he could feel the metal of the trigger on his skin. He squeezed, there was a small pop that echoed through the woods, and the deer fell.
“Great shot, my boy!” Phil Niles said as he clapped Lester on the back. He flinched. Lester didn’t liked to be touched.
They walked over to the corpse and Lester looked down at his kill. He was surprised to see that it wasn’t like how Jimmy had died. The fish’s body looked just as plain to Lester as a sock lying on a dresser. But, this, this was different. The deer looked even more beautiful now than it did when it was alive. Voluptuous even. Lester looked into the deer’s eyes and thought he saw God.
They brought back the deer to his grandfather’s woodshed and he and his father dressed it. Cutting off the skin. Removing the organs and head. Disposing the skeleton.
“Now,” Phil said, breathing in cold air, finally done with the task. “What do you want to do with it? Eat it or hang it?”
“What do you mean?” Lester asked.
“Lester, this is important,” his father said. “Some folks like to hunt for the sake of killing. That ain’t right. Whenever we hunt, we either eat it or stuff it. Okay?”
The next time he hunted, Lester asked if he could do it alone. Each time he killed a deer, the hair on the back of his neck would stand up. He believed in Jesus, but this was the closest thing he would ever come to having a religious experience. At the shed, he would skin the deer slowly, as if undressing a lover. Once all the organs and flesh had been removed, he would take the skeleton off the hook and lie it on the floor. He would lay down next it, covering himself in blood. He would caress its rib cage and its teeth where its fur would have been. Soon it became mundane. He would bury all the skin, bones, and organs in the ground with the ease of brushing his teeth. He needed to improve his hobby.
With a full tank of gas, Lester continued to drive to his destination. He had rolled up the windows now, the smell had passed. At a traffic light, he turned and saw a couple on the sidewalk kissing. First pecks and then, soon, full lips and mouths together. First kisses were always the best.
Teenage Lester would watch programs about serial killers with rapt attention. The kind of attention that was reserved for sports fans on game night. He would sit in his chair, bent over, eyes wide, gazing at the expose’ of murderers. Charles Manson, Jeffery Dahmer, B.T.K, and of course, Ed Gein. Mr. Gein was Lester’s favorite. His Elvis. A man who put so much pride and detail into his work. A man who wasn’t ashamed to be who he was. That was the one thing that infuriated Lester the most about these programs. His idols were demeaned as “monsters” and “sickos.” As if the public would understand. Lester would make them understand. No college for him. Only total dedication to his work. He would make his heroes proud.
His high-school girlfriend was named Gertrude Mayberry. A heavy-set girl with braces and huge glasses. Lester and her started dating because they bonded over a shared experience of being bullied. He took her to the movies, to dinner, to prom. She was nice and quiet. He really did like her. Whenever he had a difficult time getting an erection with her, he would think about caving her head in. But he didn’t go through with it. He couldn’t. He needed more time to study his craft.
Lester turned a corner and there it was: an alley between an old hotel and a restaurant. Both buildings were dead. He slowly drove into the alley, making sure that no one was around. He put the truck in park next to the dumpster and got out.
Once Lester graduated, he had trouble figuring out what type of job he wanted. What job would allow him to gain money and peruse his passion? Then it clicked: pest control. It was perfect. He would be able to go into people’s houses with their consent and scout out his hunting grounds. See where every lock, every door, every alarm system was. He would be able to see if they had a cat or a dog, if they had kids or not, where their bedrooms were. He had found a solution to his problem.
That next summer, he got a job with Bug Stompers Pest Control. Every day, he would gear up with his jump suit and gather up his equipment. He would greet his customers with a friendly smile. Then, at night, he would break into their houses. At first, it was hard to decide which tools he should use. There were so many choices. Gun? Knife? Rope? He quickly decided on the cleaver. He liked the the weight of it.
At first, Lester was sloppy with his killings. His arm would get sore from jerking the cleaver out of someone’s flesh. But, as they say, practice makes perfect. Soon Lester became quite the pro at his work. He wasn’t an auteur like Gein, Dahmer, or Gacy, was., but he got the job done and he was pleased with it. The newspapers called him the “King Beach Cleaver.” A nice enough title. He would cut out the articles on him and place them in a scrapbook. He made sure to record every TV piece about his killings. He would repeat the name over and over again until the word just became noise. “King Beach Cleaver, King Beach Cleaver, King Beach Cleaver, King Beach Cleaver.” It was without a doubt the best three years of his life. That is, until They came.
It started out as nightmares. Lester would wake up in a cold sweat after seeing visions of fangs and blood. The nightmares soon became voices in his head, whispering his name. Even before he was prescribed medication, Lester never heard voices. They would taunt him, tell him that They knew what he did and that They would tell everyone about his work. That They were watching him.
Finally, after a month of voices in his head and nightmares, They paid him a visit. Lester woke up one night and saw a shadow at the end of his bed. The Shadow was wearing a suit, it looked too real to be a dream. Lester quickly reached over to the lamp on the bedside table.
“Don’t bother,” the Shadow said.
Lester clicked the lamp anyway. The room remained dark.
“Who are you?” Lester asked, shaking.
“I am a representative of a very powerful organization that is headed by a very powerful man, Mr. Niles,” the Shadow said. The voice was calm and business like.
“What do you want? Why do you keep following me?”
“We would like to offer you a proposition, Mr. Niles.”
The Shadow explained that the organization that he worked for survived purely on the life force of humans. Blood to be more specific and that this organization had shared the same hobby with Lester for centuries. But, times had changed, they needed to make themselves more hidden. What Lester would provide for them would be the bodies of his victims. He would place these bodies at a specific location to be picked up. They received their food, he got to do what he loved, a win-win scenario.
“Do I get paid for this?” Lester asked.
“Ah, yes, Mr. Niles,” the Shadow said. “Not with money, but with dreams,”
Lester’s vision was flooded. His room was now gone and he was in a field of bodies. Hacked and mangled, all of them screaming. Their wails of pain were music to his ears. He looked up at the red sky and saw a portrait of himself along with his heroes. He was famous. He was among the best. He had made it. And with all the victims he could ask for. He suddenly came back to the room.
“And. . . “ he started, trying not to get too excited. “What if I refuse?” Lester blinked and the Shadow was no longer at the foot of his bed, but at his side. The Shadow’s face was inches towards his. In the darkness, Lester could make out his horrible bat-like features.
“That would be very unwise of you, Mr. Niles,” the Shadow said, two white fangs glistened where his canines should have been. “Very unwise of you indeed.”
Lester blinked and the Shadow was gone. He’d never cried that hard since he was a baby. He felt his underpants and they were wet.
The next night, a note appeared under his front door. It read:
622 West Matheson Street.
Drop off point.
A week from tonight.
Do not be late.
The note was signed with an insignia of some kind, a snarling bat’s head.
And so, Lester Niles had to change his act a bit. Firstly, he would now inject his victims with a poison using a syringe. He hated how he they would slowly stop breathing and become stiff. Too minimalist for his taste. He would then carefully place the body over a a tarp and then he would use the cleaver. He didn’t like using the tarp. He loved having the blood splatter on the bed, carpet, or wherever the person was when they were killed. He liked to show his work. Oh, well, he would think to himself. This would all pay off sooner or later.
After he used the cleaver, he would place the limbs in garbage bags. He would do the arms first and save the hardest part, the torso, for last.
Like his first time killing people, it took awhile for Lester to get used to it. Making sure that the bags didn’t rip or leak. . Making sure that no one was around when he would drive into the alleyway.
But tonight was different. Tonight, he was angry. He had been doing this for a full year now and he still hadn’t received one piece of high-profile attention from the media save for the local news. Much less a thank you from this “organization” that he was helping out. Fuck ‘em, he thought. He was tired of being their delivery boy. All he wanted to do was do what he wanted to achieve on his own terms. No one else’s. He didn’t care if They were monsters that were only found in movies or books, they were full of shit. Tonight would be his last night. He slammed the dumpster door and got back into his car.
As he turned the key into the ignition, a thought came into his mind. It was something that had come up every now and then after he would kill someone. It was about Jesus. Would He forgive him? Lester always knew that killing people would send him to Hell, but he just loved it far too much to care. He was brought up to believe that Jesus would always turn the other cheek. That no matter how bad you may have sinned, He would forgive and welcome you into His kingdom. Jesus would have to forgive Lester. Wouldn’t He?