The Perfect Evening

It was going to be the perfect evening, of that he had no doubt. Whistling merrily, some fragment of an old ballad that he'd once heard her sing, he stepped brightly down the sidewalk and turned into the gourmet store to make his first purchase.

The chocolate had to be perfect. Her favorites were those little European ones that cost about five dollars a piece. Ridiculously expensive, and so very much her. He ordered a tastefully decorated gold foil box that nestled twelve of them, and had the deluxe red gauze ribbon tied on artfully.

With chocolates under his arm, he whistled as he walked down the street, aware that there was just a hint of spring in the mid-February weather. He thought he'd heard a bird chirping earlier, and the spring bulbs were starting to force their way through the soft dirt. Yes… Valentine's Day meant a new chance for life and love. It came as the first harbinger of spring and a reminder of the possibility of love.

He turned into the corner florist shop to pick up the dozen red roses he'd ordered. He paid cash. Again… buying roses in winter was ridiculously expensive. Even the florists said so, often suggesting mums or carnations. But he knew she'd appreciate the roses. He'd gotten the really good ones that had been refrigerated since being first cut… and were guaranteed to open and last at least a week.

So with the bouquet over one arm and the box of chocolates under the other, he returned to the street, nodding pleasantly to the passersby who must have thought"There goes a man in love" It was the truth. Every Valentine's Day he felt this way… his feet barely seeming to hit the pavement as he walked, his love giving him wings.

He thought to surprise her outside her apartment building and waited as the warm afternoon turned into a chilly evening. Lights blinked on all over the city… still he waited. He'd made reservations at the most expensive restaurant in town… he'd even considered pre-ordering the lobster… but thought she might like the steak… so he'd decided to wait. He'd tipped the management so that they'd be seated immediately and that at some point during the meal… the live entertainment would play that song she liked… the one she was always humming.

She stepped from the doorway of her apartment building, her dark hair, impeccably perfect, as was her attire. She wore that little black dress he liked so much… and a black leather coat, tied about the waist. Around her neck was the crystal she always wore. She'd never said where she'd gotten it… monstrous thing. She should have diamonds… and rubies… not some hunk of quartz to flatter her beauty.

For a moment, that line from Byron touched his mind. "She walks in beauty like the night/ Of cloudless climes and starry skies..." His heart swelled within his breast with love for her. He was ready to step forward and proclaim his undying affection when the yellow cab pulled to a stop in front of the building and the doorman assisted her into it.

Had he made a mistake? Carefully he went over his plans, deciding no… they were perfect. But maybe she planned on meeting him at the restaurant… perhaps she had some last minute shopping of her own to do. Sighing and nodding to himself that surely that was it. He hailed a cab going the other direction and gave the driver the address of the restaurant. He'd be there… waiting for her.

Once he'd arrived at the restaurant, he was shown immediately to his preferred table… the one he requested each Valentine's Day, and ordered champagne to be brought. Setting the box of chocolates and the roses artfully at her place, he settled back to wait. Surely she'd arrive soon.

Two hours later he stared morosely at his watch and began to fidget. What was keeping her! What could have been more important to her than this dinner? He felt anger and resentment beginning to build within him. She was thoughtless! She didn't appreciate all he'd done to make this day special! Angrily he rose and tossed money on the table. He snatched the candy and flowers, determined to shove them down her miserable throat if he had to, and stalked out.

Arriving back at her apartment, he waited in the shadows until he saw the taxi pull up and she got out… laughing and a bit tipsy. She leaned back into the rear seat, evidently to kiss someone. He saw red! She was cheating on him! And on Valentine's Day! A low growl began to emanate from his chest and along his throat. Why did she always do this? Didn't she know how he felt?

Thankfully the taxi with her mysterious suitor left and she entered the building, the doorman tipping his hat to her with a polite smile as he held the door for her.

He waited for ten minutes, trying to get his emotions under control. It took twenty. When ready, he crossed the street, smiling broadly at the doorman who let him into the building. He whistled slightly as he waited for the elevator… nodding pleasantly to Mrs. Soames; the seventy-year old socialite with the blue-white hair and the mink stole which she wore over her bathrobe. The poor dear was wandering again.

He got off on the fifth floor and strolled confidently down the hall where he rang the buzzer at her apartment. With a grin, he held up the candy and flowers so that when she looked through the peephole… that's what she'd see. It always worked. Every time.

The door opened and she "Oohed" as she gathered them into her arms and turned away. "Are these for me? Now I wonder who they're from" She rummaged for a card. Not finding one, she looked up at him with wide eyes. "And you are"

He slid the knife into her ribcage with a grin. "I'm the love of your life" he said.

Blood bubbled in her mouth as she fell to the floor at his feet. Every year it was the same. Every year he went all out for her… and every year he had to kill her so that they could have their night together. He stared at the blood dripping from the knife and sighed as he turned to shut and bolt the door.

He'd bathe the body, dress her in her best, lay her on the bed amongst the roses, and sit there and eat her chocolates while he told her how much he loved her. He'd leave in the early morning, once he'd cleaned away any evidence of his presence in the room, and return to his apartment on the eighth floor. He'd be properly shocked when the building buzzed with the news of another murder… that the Valentine Slayer had struck again. He'd be satisfied for a while… but eventually he'd look for her again in the face of another woman. Perhaps he'd find a redhead next year.

He shut the door.

-

Behind him on the floor… Amanda opened her eyes and drew in a sharp breath. Then she rose with deliberate stealth. The man's face paled as he saw her, and he stepped back aghast. The bloody knife dropped to the marble entryway floor with a clatter.

"But" he shook his head fearfully and in confusion. "I killed you" he protested.

Amanda bent over to retrieve the knife. "Yes… you did." She then returned the favor with a practiced thrust into his heart… carefully placed to do the most damage yet release the least amount of blood… she hated cleaning up blood.

He sank to the floor, staring up at her until his eyes glazed over and he knew nothing else.

Amanda sighed. She'd planned a long bubble-bath before Duncan returned, but she'd have to get this mess cleaned up first. At least, she thought as she busied herself with the corpse, you won't be killing any more defenseless women. She held up his wallet"Now let's see who the hell you are."

-

By the time Duncan arrived, there was no body, and no blood. Amanda was arranging the roses in a crystal vase on the foyer table so that in the mirror's reflection… they looked even fuller and more spectacular. The chocolates had been opened and she'd had one already.

"From anyone I know" he teased as he kissed her cheek.

"Oh… just a secret admirer" Amanda said as she slipped an arm into his and led him into the living room. "I've champagne on ice. It should be the perfect evening."

#30#

Author's Note: This story was influenced by Stephen King's short story, The Man Who Loved Flowers, where the unidentified murderer goes through his routine in preparation for the year's killing. Until near the end of the story, one doesn't realize that he is the murderer. Anyway, I got to wondering what would happen if his target were an immortal. elle