Content warning: Contains visceral imagery.
James Arnold kept glancing at the clock stationed above his station at the bar, waiting for the time to finally reach five. The fact that the big drinking rush wasn’t coming until seven was, up until three months ago, a blessing, but now, without much traffic to distract him, his pent up adrenaline was at an all time high.
Taking a quick glance, he noticed only about a minute left. Excited, but also sweating, he moved around the beers for a fifth time, while watching the two waiters talk to the old gay couple that came in every Tuesday. Taping his fingers against the smooth table, his breathing increased ever so slightly, the emotions barely contained.
Finally, the large hand moved to the twelve, cementing the time as 5:00pm. That very instant, James dashed past the manager, swiped his card, and raced out the door before anyone had a chance to say anything. Not caring about the cold winter winds slashing through his skin or the sound of rat squeaks, he jumped inside his car, already tearing off his work uniform.
“I’ll catch her this time,” he said to himself. “Today’s gonna be the day.”
It only took him a maximum of twelve minutes to get back to his apartment, and only five minutes to race back out, covered in stakeout gear and black clothes. Racing back out, he started jogging down the sidewalk, his mind racing with excitement.
That excitement briefly turned to anger when he walked by the college that he had been attending up until three months ago. It was still surrounded by “do not cross” tape, and the building’s lights were dark. Everything had changed when a murderer had struck the campus. And it wasn’t just one incident; it kept happening again and again, until the campus was finally closed off. No one had ever been able to find the killer, but James knew in his heart that it had to be Patricia Fathom.
That was when he arrived at the nearby slaughterhouse, where she worked during the day. He could hear the huffing of cows and the squeaking of rats inside. “So obvious,” he thought to himself. “What other job would a killer have?” Of course, this wasn’t something any professional would ever classify as evidence, but it seemed to convince James.
Sliding into an alleyway just outside of the building as the faint sound of rat squeaks sounded, James pulled out a pair of handcuffs he’d gotten from some kind of fetish store, causing one of the kids walking by to give him a funny look. No matter. James was focused on what he had to do, at least in his head.
Or, was he? As the minutes ticked by while he waited, he started to truly think. Was this what he wanted? Did he really think that Patricia was the one behind it all? What proof did he have, other then a feeling in his heart? As he started to doubt himself more and more, the sound of rat squeaks only got louder. He ignored it at first, but it only got louder and louder. Then, his chest started to hurt.
Slowly looking down, he saw claws. Claws sticking out of his chest. He had three seconds to process the situation before a rat torn itself out of his chest, where it was situated in the exact place where his heart was supposed to be.
His eyes dimming, James only had time to watch as Patricia fell to the ground, a similar rat tearing itself out of her chest. “Oh,” he thought to himself. “That’s why.”