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A Victim’s Prey (one)

        The decision was impulsive, of course, and Travis’s mind was keen to change. Who was he to decide when her life should end? Even if she HAD a heart condition and would be dead already if it weren’t for modern medicine, she still had a right to live. He couldn’t live with this on his conscience. But, if he wouldn’t kill her, Toby would find someone else to do the deed and he would miss out on the money. Travis would have to tend that counter, day in, day out -- and suddenly she would stop showing up and then he would know it had been done; he had would have neither stopped it nor partaken in it. He would have stood by, cowardly, and let her be killed. The more he analyzed it, the more fickle he became to the issue.
        Saturday’s sleepless night was followed by a Sunday morning church visit. The first since he left Atmore, it was more of a move of desperation than one of faith. Whatever it was that moved him from his sheets to the pews, it left him as the chorus started the first hymn. The angelic voices brought upon him an angelic feeling, the sweeping and infiltrating air of slumber. When he came back to senses, a rather corpulent pale man with the lips of a fish was stomping in front of the congregation and voicing his opinion over the P.A.
        “Free will. It is free will that caused this sinner to fall asleep during our service. It is free will that causes the whores on Broad Street to go out every night and do their dirty deeds instead of getting a real job. It is free will that causes us all to sin, and it is free will that causes us all to come here. Free will is a means, a test if you will! The Christian, church-abiding citizen will have a free will which is bent towards grace and salvation. The sinner, however, is caught with a free will that brings him towards more sin, and reinforces his flawed will. It is therefore that the sinner will naturally sin more and the churchgoer will achieve grace easier than the average man.”
        He went on about the concept of grace, how the Church is the active agent in this magical process and ended the fiery sermon with a terrible little poem. It was this Sermon, however, that gave Travis his decision. He would let the girl’s free will decide over her life. By brewing two cups of coffee – one with the pill, one without – and presenting both to her, she would have to pick one herself. Travis trusted the preacher about the concept of positive and negative decisions, and seeing death as a negative decision, allowed the girl to administer her own punishment for a potential history of sin.
        Travis spent the rest of Sunday sleeping; waking up five minutes before the alarm clock went off at 5:30 Monday morning. Even after having slept through Sunday, Travis was physically tired. Slouching out of bed, he turned off the alarm, staggered into the shower and pondered the course of the day. He would simply give her the poison, it was that which would kill her. This was easier to believe than it should have been.

The Café opened at 6:00, and while physically tired, Travis was kept awake by the eminence of the fatal act. In a way he enjoyed the power: In his hand he detained a white gel cap containing a powder that had the power to take away someone’s life. Any one was susceptible to his power, and thereby at his mercy. As the clock approached 7:30, Travis became nervous. He put the warped capsule into his pocket, fearing it would melt in his cold and sweaty hands.
        Travis’ watch showed 7:33 when the doors opened and revealed the beauty from the picture. She strolled to the counter, bringing Travis’ anxiety to new heights and placed her order. A grande moccassippi, and she was in a hurry. Travis started the two shots of espresso and dropped the gel cap into one of the steel cups, trying his hardest to forget which one it was. Two cups were drawn from the stack, half-filled with coffee, topped with milk, creamer, sugar and lastly the espresso. The two blenders were filled with ice cubes and their respective poisons. The coffee-milk mass filled in the spaces between the ice cubes and began to melt those at the top on contact. Tiny swirls in between the ice cubes announced the cooling of the liquid as Travis pushed the red buttons on the two blenders. A stereophonic roar tore through the deserted café and echoed throughout the dining area, destroying what once was a quiet, sunny Monday morning. He flipped the two machines off and emptied the slush back into the cups. Simultaneously, he put both cups in front of the puzzled lady.

        “I only ordered one.”

        “I know, I was thirsty so I made two, I was going to let you chose which one you wanted – they’re both the same.”

        “Hmm… I don’t like picking, you chose.”

        “No, I really want you to pick.”

        “Look, I’m in a hurry, just cut the shit and give me one before I have to notify the manager.”

        “I am the manager. Pick one.“

She found entertainment in his anxiety.

        “You pick for me, or I will be forced to write to the company.”

        “Alright, if you insist.”

Uncertain of the content, Travis forwarded the left cup. She grasped it, thrust the straw between her strawberry colored lips, sucked the contents with a smile and strode out, shaking her hips in his face. Remembering, he emptied the remaining cup into the sink, watching the sludge reluctantly descend into the drain. She would die.

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