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Tonight was the night.

Gordon felt an electric tingle in his chest and belly. His cock had been awake since morning, rising and twitching like a hungry fish every time he thought of Judy McLarren. He'd sped to work that morning, cursing the Friday-morning traffic, and had attacked the pile of writs and briefs in his office with savage disdain until, at last, he'd shoveled the papery snowfall away like a good little junior partner and could leave the office early without raising too many eyebrows.

He'd been rock-hard when he stalked out of the office, and it had given him an extra measure of pleasure that the old dried-up clockwatching prune of a secretary on the first floor had noticed his condition, her eyes widening. When he'd smiled and winked at her, she'd blanched, her hand twitching upward as if she wanted to cross herself.

Gordon chuckled to himself as he toweled off his hair and stepped out of the bathroom. Oh, how he wished he could show that old crone exactly how much fun he was going to be having that evening. If a simple hard-on got her goat, he could only imagine the priceless look she'd wear if she could see what he had planned for sweet Judy. She'd piss her lavender polyester slacks and keel right over in a dead faint. Perhaps someday ... no. He shook his head. Why bother with a prune when there were so many cherries left to pick?

He carefully hung his towel on the drying rack by the radiator and stepped naked into his living room. The cool air felt good on his naked skin. His erection bobbed before him like a divining rod.

"Hungry boy," he cooed at it. "But you've got to cool it, or else you'll scare poor Judy. She'll take one look at you and know you'll burn her like the fire that made her a new virgin."

All Gordon's girls were new virgins: women who had been scarred so badly that they no longer had the company of men. Sometimes, the scars were physical, and men simply passed them over in favor of unblemished flesh. Often, the scars were in the women's heads -- they thought themselves too ugly to have a man, or they had grown too afraid of love's agonies and kept themselves locked away. But Gordon knew that scarred fruit was still beautiful and luscious. And the challenge of wooing such women made them even sweeter.

He paused at the wet bar to pour himself three fingers of cherry kirsch. He swirled the clear liquor in his glass, then breathed in the heady aroma appreciatively. Judy was a real challenge. He still didn't know much about the fire that had killed her husband and turned the skin of her left hand and arm into a crepe-delicate lacework of scars. But he did know that she had no family or friends to care for her or check up on her; she'd almost completely withdrawn from the world. Even her job as a night auditor at a small hotel preserved her isolation.

But ever since the afternoon he spotted her at the grocery store, he had pursued her gently. First with flowers and love notes, then phone calls, then Sunday brunches after she got off work. And slowly, he had drawn her out of her shell. Tonight was their first true formal date. She'd taken a night off to be with him, and he would complete his seduction. She would tell him her secrets and open herself to him, body and soul. Tonight, Judy would be his and his alone. His to pluck and enjoy.

Still swirling his drink, Gordon walked to his trophy case and unlocked the black steel doors. He ran his fingertips over the smooth glass jelly jars inside. Each bore a carefully-penned label bearing his girl's names and the dates of their harvest.

"Ah, ladies," Gordon whispered. "Did you miss me? You'll have a new sister to keep you company after tonight. She's a beauty, and I'm going to enjoy her a great deal."

He lifted the first jar and held it up to the light, admiring the severed clitoris, inner labia, and nipples bobbing in the plum eau de vie within. "Sweet Belinda. You had the prettiest cunt. And your nipples were the most perfect pink. No one else ever imagined you had them, not with that face of yours." He slowly twirled the jar in the light, smiling as he remembered his date with Belinda. A neighbor's dog had attacked her when she was three, and had gnawed off her ear and most of her right cheek. Her family had been too poor for plastic surgery. Most people could scarcely look at her, but she had the kind of curves most women could only dream about. He'd been the happy recipient of years of pent-up sexual energy. She was a real virgin, and she couldn't seem to get enough of his cock. He'd had her screaming even before he brought out his harvesting tools. "Judy has your coloring. I wonder if her tits are as pink and perfect as yours? Pity your flesh has grown so pale and gray over the years."

He put Belinda's jar back on the shelf and glanced at the clock on the wall. He was supposed to meet Judy at the Tremont Cinema in forty minutes.

"Sorry, ladies, I've got to run." He opened the drawer beneath the display cabinet and began to sort through his tools.

"Who wants to come with me tonight?" he asked the denizens of the drawer. He selected a roll of duct tape, his skinning knife, scalpel, dental forceps, chloroform bottle, and a fresh coil of nylon rope.

"Now, behave yourselves tonight," he said as he wrapped the tools up in a piece of plastic tarp. "We mustn't scare the girl before the time is right."

He blew the jars a kiss as he closed up the cabinet. "Be ready to welcome Judy when I get back."

 

The Tremont was in the Old City, nestled in the quaint little maze of shops and restaurants at the base of the hills of Memorial Park. The 200-acre city cemetery took up most of the park; some of the graves in the inner cemetery dated back to the late 1700s. As a boy, he'd enjoyed wandering amongst the old headstones, looking for the graves of women who'd died young. He liked to imagine how they had met death. As he got older, he liked to imagine that he was the one who had killed them.

Judy was waiting for him outside the theater. Her honey-blond hair was done up in a tidy French braid. She was wearing a flowered- print dress, pink silk cardigan, and Birkenstock sandals. He smiled. She'd be able to walk in those sandals; that would make things easier. Of course, it had been most convenient that she had suggested the Tremont in the first place. With the deserted park nearby, he'd be able to enjoy her in the woods at his leisure.

As he approached her, he pulled a tissue-papered bouquet of a half-dozen red roses out of his leather shoulder bag.

"You look lovely," he said, presenting the roses to her with a gallant flourish.

Judy giggled nervously and ducked her head. "Oh, wow, you didn't have to ... but they're great. I love roses." She took the bouquet, gave the roses a sniff, then stood there, crinkling his gift to her breast and rocking back and forth on her heels like a shy little girl.

She smiled at him, showing white, straight teeth. Her teeth really were quite good; should he collect them when he was done? Or perhaps her ears? Her ears curved delicately, perfectly; he didn't think he'd ever seen a better set of ears on a woman. Certainly not on Belinda. She had so many excellent features, and he hadn't even seen what she kept hidden under her clothes. It would be very hard to choose. He might have to find an extra-large jar for Judy.

"I ... I was thinking maybe we could see that new Hugh Grant movie?" she said. "But maybe that's too much of a chick flick for you. That new thriller is playing here, we could see it, instead, if you want?"

"Whichever you'd like is fine," he replied. "It doesn't matter what we watch, as long as I can see it with you beside me."

She decided on the romantic comedy. He paid for their tickets, and they walked into the darkened theater and settled themselves in seats on the back row.

Gordon scarcely paid any attention to the trifling film. His tools, which he'd carefully stowed in the bottom of his shoulder bag, were whispering to him, begging him to use them. Their voices were low and slithery, the sound a snake might make as it crept over the strings of a bass violin.

He poked the bag sharply with his foot. "Shut up. You'll scare her away," he muttered at them.

The voices died down to a low, electric hum.

"Did you say something?" Judy asked.

"No, nothing. Just stubbed my toe."

A few minutes later, during a particularly romantic scene, he reached over and took her hand. She seemed surprised at first, but then her fingers laced into his and she relaxed.

By the time the movie was ending, she'd snuggled up close to him and was resting her head on his shoulder.

Hook and line, he thought. Now I need to find a place to sink her.

"Did you enjoy it?" he asked as they stepped out of the theater.

"Oh, yes," she replied, taking his hand again and tucking the bouquet under her arm. "It was wonderful. The ending was just dreamy. Thanks for inviting me; I'd have never gone to see it on my own."

"The pleasure is all mine," he replied.

The tools were hot in his bag, and they burned uncomfortably against his ribs. It annoyed him that they were being so impatient. He was in charge here. They'd have to wait for him to decide when the time was right. It wasn't just a matter of taking her body, after all; true seduction was all mental. Only when she'd told him the secrets of her soul would he know how he should harvest her.

"Would you like to get some coffee or dessert?" he asked her.

"Could we go for a walk, instead?" she asked uncertainly. "It's such a nice night, and the park will be pretty in the moonlight."

"A splendid idea," he agreed, trying not to smile too eagerly. The tools flared painfully.

"You've been so nice to me," she said as they walked hand-in-hand under the wrought iron archway that marked the entrance to the park. "I mean, you're a real gentleman. Not like most of the men I've known. Ever since the fire ..." she trailed off, staring into the distance. Then she shook herself from her reverie and smiled at him sadly. "It's just ever since then, I think I've had bad karma. I just didn't seem to attract nice guys anymore, so I just sort of stopped looking. And then you came along."

"Well, you're a very special woman to me. I think we were meant to meet."

He stopped on the path and pulled her close to him. "Would it be okay if I kissed you?"

She stared up at him, and her face darkened in horrified recognition. Her smile faded, and her eyes started to fill with tears. "Oh no ..."

He mentally cursed himself. Too much, too soon. "Shh, shh, it's all right, what's the matter?" he asked, fishing a handkerchief out of the side pocket of his shoulder bag.

She took the hanky, but pulled away, turning her back to him as she wiped at the tears. "I'm sorry. It's just, in this light, you look so much like him. Like my John. You've got his eyes."

"John was your husband?"

She nodded, sobbing quietly. "True love never dies, you know."

She took a ragged breath, then straightened up and faced him. "Have you ever been in love, Gordon?"

"Yes," he lied.

"What would you do for the one you loved?" she asked, her expression unreadable.

"Why, I'd move the sun and the stars to be with her," he replied smoothly. "I'd make sure nothing stood in the way of our love. I'd do anything I had to do to keep her by my side. Anything."

Judy took another deep breath, and her sad smile returned.

"My ... my John is buried over there, in the mausoleum," she said, pointing toward the cemetery. "I know this seems weird, but ... I just miss him so much, Gordon. Would you mind if we walked to his grave? I'd like to put one of these on his marker."

She touched the rose bouquet.

"It's not very far from here," she added.

Gordon's tools hummed. They liked the idea of the mausoleum. To fuck the girl on the cold marble floor, to harvest her in front of the sleeping dead ... oh, that would be sweet.

"Sure. If it would make you happy, I'll be glad to go there with you," he said.

They walked in silence for a few minutes before he asked, "How did it happen? The fire, I mean."

When she didn't reply, he quickly added, "We don't have to talk about it if you don't want to --"

"No. No, it's okay. I don't mind talking about it. You have a right to know, since ... since we're going to his grave and all." She gave him a quick, almost guilty smile.

Her teeth, Gordon thought. I definitely have to take her teeth. And maybe her lips, too. Such pretty lips.

"John was an anthropologist. He taught at the university before the fire. He specialized in comparative Afro-Carribean religions, and wrote a book about Santeria. He and one of the local Haitian priests he'd interviewed for the book, Hector Tambo, got to be really good friends. After John and I got married at St. Pete's, Hector suggested that he hold a private ceremony for us so that our marriage could be sanctified in the eyes of Olorun and the orishas, the spirits that watch over us. It sounded like a neat idea to me, so after we got back from our honeymoon, the three of us gathered at Hector's house for the ceremony."

Judy paused, frowning. "I still don't really remember what happened next. We were just starting the ritual when there was this incredible explosion. I woke up on the front lawn, surrounded by paramedics. Half the neighborhood was on fire. They said there was a gas leak in the basement, and when Hector lit some incense, most of the gas main ignited. John and Hector were dead. They said I was lucky to be alive." She shook her head. "But I wasn't lucky. Not at all. When a ceremony like that goes unfinished, when true lovers are separated like that, the orishas take matters into their own hands."

They passed under some cherry trees and walked up the path to the mausoleum, broadly square and gray in the moonlight. Wrought iron lamps with weak yellow bulbs lit the entrance and interior walkway. Gordon's tools were humming louder and louder, and his cock was straining against his underwear.

Very soon, he thought. You'll have her very soon.

She took his hand and led him into the mausoleum.

"I didn't really think I'd take you here," she said sadly. "I mean, you're such a nice guy. This isn't the place for you. I wish the orishas had brought me someone else. But I can't help it. True love never dies, and you've got his eyes."

There came the low rumble and scrape of stone sliding against stone, then a booming slam as a section of marble hit the floor. Startled, he stared toward the noises. One of the grave drawers was open. And something large and black was crawling out.

Gordon's tools went silent and cold as death. Judy gripped his wrist tightly, painfully. He tried to pull back, but she held him fast.

"John, I've brought you a visitor," she called.

The black thing shambled up to them with alarming speed. It was the burned, skeletal corpse of a big man, well over six feet tall. Its charred tissues had been stitched over in a green-gray patchwork of newer dead flesh.

The thing leered down at him with its empty black eye sockets. The stench from it was unspeakable. Gordon wanted to scream, wanted to throw up, but nothing came out of his throat.

The thing picked Gordon up and slammed him against the marble wall, holding him there fast, his feet dangling helplessly.

Judy stepped up beside them and caressed the thing's arm. "True love," she sighed. "John loves me, and I love him, and we'll do what we must to make love tonight. The orishas have made this our blessing and our curse."

She carefully set down the rose bouquet and opened up her purse. She pulled out a stainless steel pocketknife, a surgical needle and spool of suture. "We'll be needing your skin, and your lips and tongue. And of course your dick."

Gordon tried to kick at the thing, and found that his strength had evaporated like alcohol on a hot iron.

"But first things first." Judy reached up and gently pulled up his left eyelid. The knife flicked open in her hand, the blade gleaming silvery sharp. "You've got his eyes ...."

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