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He stepped out of the night, grabbed her by the throat and forced her face into the rough brick of the building beside her. A scream tore from her lips only to die as her assailant clenched his fingers deeper into her pale skin and tender muscles, cutting off her oxygen.

“It’s been a long time Cathy, how is everything?” His voice was rough, his breath foul and Cathy wondered how he knew her name. Her eyes bounced back and forth, trying to catch a glimpse of where he stood behind her but to no avail. Her neck hurt and her lungs had caught fire inside her chest.

“Please.” She gasped, choking for air. He eased his grip on her throat long enough to let her suck in a quick breath before he pulled her deeper into the shadows of the alley behind them.

Harshly he pushed her onto the rough ground beneath them, her head cracking against something cold and sharp in the alley. A flash of white light went off before her eyes followed by jagged hot pain ripping through her skull. She wished for unconsciousness. Her eyes squeezed shut as if to wipe away the man in front of her she struggled to get back on her feet. He dropped to his knees beside her before she managed to stand and took her roughly by the arms.

“Oh god please.”

“Oh don’t beg Cathy, its so pathetic.” He mocked, chuckling to himself against her ear.

With a burst of speed born of desperation and fear, Cathy tore herself away from the fetid smell and liquid heat of his breath. She managed to gain her knees before being shoved face down on the pavement once more. Her attacker's fingers snaked cruelly into her long honey brown hair, forcing her on to her back. Then, before the hope of escape had begun to fade, he was on her.

Her mind still reeling from the savage assault, Cathy’s blouse was torn off, buttons popping off to clatter like small stones on the wet pavement. She could see his face now, feral and menacing his lips contorted into a snarl. After a brief struggle with the front clasp of her bra, a knife appeared in his hand like a shard of pale fire.

“I wouldn’t move, honey.” he whispered in her ear like a lover. “We wouldn’t want to ruin that creamy white complexion, would we?” he leered as the blade bit into the fabric releasing her breasts into the damp night air. Cathy moaned in revulsion as her nipples hardened from the change of temperature, and then his mouth was on her, five o’clock shadow abrading pale skin as his knee began prying her knees apart.

Think, damn it think! Cathy struggled against the growing wave of revulsion. There has to be a way. Once he’s done, he’ll use the knife!

Clinging desperately to her dwindling hope Cathy tried to remember the self-defense seminars she’d attended in college. Her keys were lying somewhere behind her in the alley, knocked aside when she fell. It was then that he bit her, his teeth ripping into her naked breast drawing blood. The sudden viciousness of this further violation and the resulting
pain sharpened her focus on survival.

The eyes! Go for the eyes! the thought exploded into her mind. Gritting her teeth against the needles of pain in her breast and the pounding of her skull, Cathy grabbed a handful of greasy hair withone hand, pulling him to her chest while one lacquered nail stabbed into the corner of his left eye. Screams immediately filled the alley as he sat bolt upright clutching his blood smeared face, his knife forgotten beside his left knee.

Cathy however didn’t forget its presence. Staggering to her feet on weak knees, blood staining the remains of her blouse and her pale skin, she kicked the knife as far down the alley as she could, turned and fled.


***


Excerpt taken from the Chicago Tribune:

Billingham to Die by Lethal Injection.

Gregory Alan Billingham, dubbed the Austinville Barracuda was sentenced
to death by Judge Harriet Brown today. The Barracuda was responsible for the grisly string of six murders in south Chicago. His victims were all young women found covered with multiple bite marks their throats cut.

The testimony of Catherine Finch, a key witness for the prosecution about the harrowing events of her August escape from the Barracuda in the suburb of Austinville was only the beginning of the end for Billingham who maintained his innocence throughout the trial. A credit card bill belonging to Ms. Finch found in Billingham’s vehicle, along with forensic evidence gathered from both the crime scenes and Willingham’s dental records were instrumental in closing this case, which has kept the city riveted to their televisions for the last three months.

Billingham’s attorneys have stated that they will seek an appeal. When asked, both the Cook County District Attorney, Samuel Talbot and Ms. Finch declined comment on their feelings concerning Billingham’s chances for an appeal.


***


A few hours into the morning Cathy stood in front of the mirror, the steam from her shower began to dissipate allowing her a somewhat fuzzy reflection by which to put on her make-up and comb her bob of short red hair. A lot had changed about her appearance in the last three years, least of which was her shorn locks. She had taken to wearing
glasses rather than contacts concealing rather than showcasing her cobalt blue eyes. Her make-up was minimal, nothing more than foundation, a bit of mascara and lip-gloss. The changes were superficial compared to the haunted look she carried like a stone. It pulled the natural planes of her face earthward, adding an unhealthy puffiness to her eyes, turning down the corners of her mouth as if an attempt to smile would shatter her delicate jaw. As she finger combed her hair, Cathy’s eyes were drawn to the inverted crescent moon of scar tissue on her left breast. The individual hash marks left by his teeth gave the scar a look of stitches both badly sewn and healed. The mere sight of the expanse of ruined skin gave Cathy a chill drawing her back to the reason for her midnight shower.

The nightmares tapered off a few months after the trial. However, it was to be a temporary reprieve, Cathy hadn’t had a single night of uninterrupted sleep in the last two weeks, the weeks leading up to Billingham’s execution. An execution Cathy had every intention of watching.


***


Cathy rode to the Starkweather Correctional Facility with Sam Talbot, the District Attorney whom she had gotten to know well during the months of the trial. Sam had gone out of his way to shield her from the armada of reporters that a case as high profile as the Barracuda trial always drew. She trusted him, and his presence now, at the final hour of her ordeal was a comfort. As they walked down the corridor leading from the administration complex towards the section of the prison affectionately known as “Red Hat Row” by the inmates stemming back to the days when executions were carried out by electric chair Sam stopped her.

“Catherine, are you sure you want to do this. Billingham’s wife and teenage daughter will be here. Considering it was your testimony that led to his conviction, it could be a hostile crowd. You can wait outside, if you like. There’s no shame in backing out, you know.”

Fixing her blue eyes on the attorney’s Cathy spoke “I’m going to see this through Sam. It’s the only way it’ll ever be over. Tough room or not.” With that said, they entered the room. Billingham lay strapped to a table, a glass divider separating the civilians from the condemned.

Taking her seat, Cathy spotted a matronly looking middle-aged woman sitting in the front row. She immediately recognized Geneva Billingam; from the photos, the papers had run of her during the trial. She had never appeared in the courtroom. Sitting beside her in a plain black dress, a velvet-banded choker fastened around her slender neck was a girl, no, a young woman with the same raven black hair as her mother. She would be Billingham’s daughter. Cathy could feel the weight of the girl’s eyes on her as she turned to watch the happenings behind the glass.

The warden announced the sentence, giving Billingham the chance to say any final words. The condemned man didn’t speak, only met the eyes of both his wife and child for a moment before closing his eyes. The first intravenous feed put the murderer to sleep. The second stopped his heart. It seemed almost unjust that a man who had almost taken her life should die so peacefully. The fact remained however, that Billingham would never harm another woman the way he had her.

As she followed Sam from the room, with only the sound of Geneva Billingham’s sobs breaking the silence, Cathy felt eyes on her once again. She turned, and was startled to find the young woman in the black dress standing almost on her heels.

“Y-Yes.” Cathy stammered.

“I’m Rachel.” the girl said in low voice. “I just wanted to say…” she paused obviously struggling for the words, “Thank you.” She managed quietly, turning her head as if to see if her sobbing mother had heard.

It was then that Cathy spotted the faint outline of scar peeking out from beneath the velvet band around her neck. It was in the shape of a crescent moon, and she could just make out the pale stitches left by a dead man’s teeth.


------
Smile if you're stupid,
laugh if you understand.


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Comments

The following comments are for "Write Off: A Dead Man's Teeth"
by Bartleby

wow!
I found this a gripping piece of writing from start to finish. The pace is just right, and as far as the prose itself ... I shall be taking some notes for my notebook!

Unlike Jessica, the first thing I thought when the lawyer mentioned the Barracuda's wife and partner was "he did the same thing to them" ... but that didn't detract from the ending, just added a degree of anticipation.

Gets my vote!

( Posted by: crazylegs [Member] On: July 7, 2003 )

my Two cents for the world.
I'm not sure whether a comparison would be appreciated by all, so I'll keep it to my personal view regarding this story alone.
Maybe it's because of my somewhat warped mindset, but I was not surprised by the ending. Perhaps I share a trail of though with crazylegs *blinks*. That detracted from it for me, because I dislike predictability without dashing, opaline-eyed action heroes(ten points and bookmark if you catch me in that reference). unfortunately, it was the predictability that took away from the story for me. While I agree that the prose was very well done, much more terse(?, in a good way, saying much with little) than the other short story of yours that I reviewed, I got hung up on the fact that I knew what was going to happen. Granted, the daughter was a loop, but once I saw her, it was more trolly ride than roller coaster.

-Kitten
(you should have broken the rules)

( Posted by: Kitten Courna [Member] On: July 9, 2003 )

Saving the children
Man, you must do more of these write-offs. How you come up with material like that on the spur of the moment is an inspiration and a testament to your creative ability and human experience. Bravo.
As for specifics,the action (as usual) was superb. It flowed and kept me involved. The story itself was predictable in Some respects, but that made it even better to me, because it is a human story, not a fantasy. The kid at the end was a possibility that I hadn't thought of, but even had I, the kids comments at the end would still have blown me away.
My only crtique at this time goes out to both of you, for it was never explained how he knew Cathy's name. A minor point I suppose in the midst of the rest of the story, but one I would have expected elaboration on, and indeed thought would have been the basis for both your stories. No worries, you both pulled off great ones on your own.

( Posted by: malthis [Member] On: July 10, 2003 )

thanks and a closer look for Malthis
First of all let me thank everyone for their comments and critique of this story. I certainly enjoy these little contests and although Crowe has put me in charge of organizing them, I still plan on joining in on the fun from time to time.

As a reply to Malthis' point that there was no mention of how Billingham knew Cathy's name, I believe a closer look at the news clipping in the middle of the piece will clear that up nicely.

With that said, we have another Shortt Story Write Off in two weeks and I'd love to get some volunteers from this assembly of critics. Any takers.

~Bart

( Posted by: Bartleby [Member] On: July 10, 2003 )

Great Job
You write very well maybe someone will take notice and give you a shot.

( Posted by: LovesEssence [Member] On: July 13, 2003 )





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