How do killers and rapists choose their next victim? Does it have to do with some repressed childhood memory, fueling a blind hatred toward a particular type of person? Or is it just something they see in the moment: the shape of a body or her pretty face stirring the blood into an undeniable throb? Whatever it is, I understand why he chose my co-worker Casey. It’s hard even looking at her without letting your mind wander. It’s not that she’s overtly sexual or provocative or anything — it’s more the way she moves, graceful and flowing to the point where even waiting tables looks like an intricately choreographed ballet.

It was at the end of our shift the other day when I noticed this customer staring at her. He’d been there for almost an hour, and he still hadn’t ordered anything except a coffee. He didn’t have a book or a phone or anything either — he was just fixated on her, tracking her every movement with his hungry eyes. Scruffy coarse beard, leather jacket, snake tattoo winding all the way down his hands — I wouldn’t want him staring at me. I tried to warn Casey and offered to drive her home (she lives right around the block), but she didn’t seem very concerned by him.

She should have been though. The second she walked out the door, the scruffy customer was on her heels, making zero effort to hide his single-minded fascination. I’m not one to be paranoid or anything, but there was a desperate urgency as he followed: a predator stalking the last few feet before the chase is on. Better safe than sorry — I hopped in my pickup and trailed them around the corner.

Casey glanced over her shoulder, and she must have seen him because she started walking faster. The man matched her stride for stride, almost breaking into a run the last few yards before she reached her apartment. I parked on the street until I made sure she got in safely. The building needed a key to enter the lobby, and watching the man rattle on the locked door it was obvious he didn’t live there. I watched him pace restlessly for a minute before he began to circle the structure. My instincts hadn’t lied to me yet; he was still trying to find a way into the building.

I got out of my car to watch what he was up to. I wasn’t thinking about personal danger. All that mattered was that Casey was safe — that and her thinking of me as a hero for looking out for her. I lost sight of the guy for a few minutes after I turned the corner though, and I had to circle the whole building again before I realized what he was up to.

He was climbing the metal exterior stairs of the fire escape. He must have jumped from the top of a dumpster to reach the platform. A black ski mask was pulled over his face. This was getting serious. I should have called the police at this point, but I was still entertaining this fantasy about charging in to save her, and my nerves were on fire with the thrill of the hunt. I clambered onto the dumpster and made a wild leap, action-music playing in my head as I hauled myself onto the metal platform. I shouted at him to stop, but he was already four floors above me and disappearing into an open window.

How much could he do to her in the time it took me to climb four stories? I didn’t want to think about it. My last fight had been in grade school. What the hell was I thinking? It was becoming way too real, way too fast, but I’d already committed this far and I couldn’t turn back now. I raced up the rattling metal stairs with a sound like a herd of elephants. There was a scream — Casey’s scream — but the air I inhaled had turned to daggers and I was already going as fast as I could. Reaching the window he entered by, I dove inside, utterly out of breath and ill prepared for whatever was waiting for me.

I was in a bedroom. Casey was stripped to her underwear, face down on the bed, hands roughly tied behind her back. The man was looming over her — that’s all I needed to know. I grabbed steel reading lamp from her desk and smashed it two-handed into the back of his skull. I wish he wasn’t wearing the mask just so I could see the look on his face as he crumpled on the ground.

“Hey baby? What was that sound?” she asked, muffled against the pillow.

I was still trying to catch my breath and couldn’t respond. It gave me a moment to take in the whole scene: the box of chocolates on the desk, the fuzzy pink ropes which tied Casey’s hands, the fact that she wasn’t struggling or trying to get away. How had he known this was her room from the outside anyway? Unless…

The truth hit me so hard that I wanted to crumple on the ground next to her boyfriend. Or even better, knock me out the window so she never saw me or figured out what happened. Absolute panic as she began turning her head in my direction. Mind-numbing, terrified, dry-mouthed panic as I dropped to the ground under the bed.

“Well? I’m waiting!” Casey said, wiggling her butt.

I could only think of one solution. I ripped the ski mask off her boyfriend’s unconscious body and put it on, and I stood up.

“Please don’t hurt me!” she wailed at an unexpected volume. Did she see through my disguise? “I’m all alone, Mr. Intruder Man! What are you going to do to me?”

I couldn’t answer or she’d recognize my voice. I couldn’t run because she’d already seen me. And seeing her tied up in her underwear like that, practically begging for it… well if my mind wasn’t already numb from panic, then that would have been enough to purge the rest of my thoughts. I was in absolute despair and euphoria at the same time as I climbed on top of her, feeling the curve of her body squirm against mine in an erotic and fantastic nightmare.

Is it still rape if she wants it? If she loves it? If she’s begging for more? The sex was phenomenal — the best of my life — and I can tell she felt the same by how she welcomed me into her and moaned. I was really starting to get into it when I heard another, deeper moan. She must have thought it was from me, because it made her go even louder.

But I knew better. It was her boyfriend on the ground, starting to wake up. There I am, frozen mid-thrust, her desperate for more, now listening to her boyfriend waking up. Oh my god oh my god oh my god — I leap off and leap straight through the window, completely naked from the waist down. A second later there’s the most ear-splitting scream, joined by a confused bellow. Casey appears at the window a moment later, still naked, watching me flying down the steps and leaping onto the dumpster below — sliding off in my panic to plaster flat on the ground.

Thank god I was still wearing the mask. I hope she leaves her window open again tomorrow night.

Spread the fear.
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