Curiosity Killed the Cat

Like Immortality, this story is just a one shot that bit me late one night after doing a paper on a strange type of serial killer, the ones that stop without being caught. Since they are insane, and the things they do when killing answer something in that insanity, they shouldn't be able to stop, but a very few do. Possibly the most famous of these is the Zodiac Killer, from California in the 70s. Here's one possible explanation.

The man was watching the house again. He'd been watching it for nearly a month now and he knew the routine of the family inside very well by now. The husband, a red-haired man of about thirty, would leave somehow by 0830. The watcher had not figured out how he left the house yet, but by 0830 every weekday morning, he was gone. The children disappeared at about the same time, and he didn't know how they left the house either.

Those were a couple of the questions that he planned to ask the woman. He lifted his binoculars again. There she was, right on schedule. The family went wherever they went, and by 0845, the wife was doing the dishes. He watched her through the kitchen window. She was dressed simply, in jeans and a blouse, and there was nothing to distinguish her from a thousand other housewives.

That is, until you had watched her awhile. The man drifted into memory.

He'd been in a bookstore when she entered, and he'd paid her no mind at first, until he noticed how happy the clerk had been to see her. The reason why had been obvious in short order, as she pulled a list from her purse and handed it to the clerk. In just a few minutes, twenty-two books were on the counter, and eight more were on order.

The sheer number of books intrigued him. Who orders thirty books at a time? He had chosen a book at random and gone to the counter. Standing there, waiting for the clerk to finish with her had gotten him her name. Mrs. Hermione Granger-Weasley. The clerk had addressed her by that name anyway. A quick look at the order form for the other books had gotten him an address to go with the name, and a casual comment to the clerk had gotten the information that she came in two or three times a month, and always ordered a pile of books.

The man had gone home and written down the information in a new file. He recorded his thoughts and questions about Hermione. He looked at his file, and felt the urge to find out more about this woman, an urge he knew well. He got in his Morris and found the right neighborhood. The Granger-Weasley house was at the edge of a small suburb, and a few minutes of looking found a place where he could see the house from a small grove of trees without being seen.

It was nearly perfect. It had enough underbrush to hide in, and a good view of the house. There was evidence that it was used occasionally by couples, but he'd deal with that when the time came. He only spent a few minutes observing the house that day, and the next morning he was in place before the sun rose. He had brought lunch, water, his file, and a pair of binoculars, and watched the house until the last light went out that night.

For the next two weeks, that was the pattern of his days. He had seen the library upstairs, with books everywhere, organized and never out of place. He knew where the kitchen was, the dining room, and by a process of deduction, he had figured out where all the bedrooms had to be, and he was almost certain he knew who slept in which bedroom.

The family had five children, all with the red hair of their father. The oldest was a boy about ten, and two more boys of about eight and five. The last two children were a set of twin girls about six. The girls had the bushy flyaway hair of their mother as well as the coloring of their father.

From the first day of his observations, the questions piled up. Where did the children go? Where did the father go? How did they leave the house without him seeing them go? Hermione spent just one hour cleaning the house every morning, and with dishes and picking up after seven people, that was impossible. How could she clean the house in just an hour?

After she cleaned the house, Hermione always went upstairs to the library, and that was fine with the observer. The library had one of the largest windows in the entire house, and it made watching her easy, although it had taken him two days to figure out what she did all day.

Hermione was a writer of some sort. She took the books she bought and researched them, and would sit for hours in front of the computer, getting up only to double check something in a book. After he figured that out, he'd spent hours on the Internet, trying to find something she'd written, and only found two things. One was a guest editorial in the local paper about the treatment of the animals in a local zoo. He was very impressed with the clear concise writing, with each of her points laid out and explained. The other thing he found was a short article in the paper about animal rights. He sat back after nearly four hours of searching. Hermione spent hours every day writing, so where did all of that writing go? He finally concluded that she had to use a pen name.

Two days later, the event happened that the observer had been waiting for. Hermione finished her cleaning, but instead of going to the library, she went into the garage and drove away in the classic Bentley he remembered from the bookstore. He didn't have to ask her what the car was at least, as he'd found that out by taking a picture of the car and taking it to a car show. It was a 1936 Bentley Sedanca Coupe, and it was immaculate. How she afforded a car like that was a question he was going to ask, because that car didn't fit the house, which was nice but not as expensive as the car was.

He gave her five minutes and went around to the back door of the house. Taking a set of lockpicks from his pocket, he opened the back door and slipped inside. The house was neat and clean, but still the house of a family. Toys and books for children were on the bottom two shelves in the family room, and children's drawings covered the icebox. This was not the floor he was interested in, though, and he went upstairs.

He went to where he thought Hermione's bedroom was, and he was right. He looked around. Hermione's side of the bed was obvious, with its reading light and a few books. He looked at the books and found them to be common bestsellers. He went back out of the bedroom and paused. The walls of the hallway upstairs were covered by pictures of the family, and he was struck by something strange.

The pictures showed another child, a girl that appeared to be older than all the other children. He found a picture of the family and turned it over. Yes, according to the neat handwriting on the back, there should be another girl, named Emma, who was nearly fifteen by the date on the picture. Where was she? Why had he never seen her? Was she dead? Away at school or what? He tabled those thoughts for later and continued down the hall to the library door.

He ran into something puzzling here, because although there was no lock on the door, it simply would not open. He even tried to break it down, and succeeded only in bruising his shoulder. He finally gave up, mindful of the amount of time he was spending in the house, and added more questions to his list. Hermione Granger-Weasley was becoming very intriguing.

He went back to his hiding place after making sure he left no signs of his entry and thought while he waited for Hermione to return. He had so many questions for Hermione. Why wasn't there a television in the House? Why did the fireplace show signs of regular use when he'd never seen any smoke, and there was no firewood in the house?

In his flat that night, he looked at the list of questions for Hermione and added the day's observations to the file, which was getting quite thick. It had been fifteen days since he noticed Hermione, and it was time to decide if he was going to take this to its conclusion. Not that that was a very hard decision; Hermione was far more interesting than any other woman that had caught his eye. He looked at the other files. There were twelve of them, one for each of the women that had attracted his attention. Compared to Hermione, they were drab, boring people, not worthy of notice.

They had all disappointed him in the end, being merely normal women with a quirk or two, and consequently, they were all buried near the Secret Place. He drove out to the Secret Place that night. The house he entered was a small farm, overgrown and with an air of disuse that he had cultivated. He checked around outside, looking for signs that anyone had been there, and smiled when he didn't find any. The old farmhouse was out of the way, and far enough from anywhere else that most people didn't even know it was there.

He entered the house and went straight to the cellar door. Here was the first sign that there was something unusual about this house. The door was thick, nearly eight centimeters of heavy oak, bound in steel, with two large locks securing the door. He took the keys out of his pocket and opened the locks. Descending into the cellar, he looked around. The room was a chamber of horror. One side of the room was a strong cage, with nothing inside it except a mattress and a chamberpot. Carefully placed out of reach of anyone in the cage, the rest of the room was filled with various benches and devices for securing people against their will. Hanging on the wall across from the cage were whips, floggers and other instruments for causing pain. He stopped and looked at the pictures of the twelve women that had preceded Hermione in this room. The pictures were large enough that every detail was clear, especially to the occupant of the cage.

He smiled, lost in the memories that the pictures raised. There was the health-crazy Amy, strapped into a St. Andrew's cross, an X shaped device that held people for whippings or other beatings. The red, bleeding welts on Amy spoke of a brutal beating, and his eyes flickered to the bamboo cane he'd used. His eyes then went to his favorite as his excitement grew. Debra had been willing to anything he wanted, as long as he let her live, and in the picture she was nude, riding him, and he had just shoved a large knife up under her ribs.

The thrill of sex and the thrill of killing had fused into one for him that night, and the last four girls had died while he violated them. He rubbed the suddenly tight crotch of his pants and turned away. It was not time for this yet. He checked the cage with the ease of long experience. All he needed now was the right time. Everything was ready for his next guest.

Mrs. Hermione Granger-Weasley.

The summer holidays started a week later, while he prepared to take Hermione. The children disappeared one day, and didn't come back that night. He watched as the two adults had a candlelight dinner and went to bed much earlier than normal. He decided that if the husband left as usual the next day, he would take Hermione that day.

At his flat that night, he reached under his bed and pulled out the case that held the secret of his success. His father had been a veterinarian before his death, and the observer had kept a great deal of his equipment, including a tranquilizer gun. He estimated Hermione's weight and loaded two darts with Thorizine, an animal tranquilizer also used in human mental hospitals as a sedative. He went over his plan carefully. He would shoot Hermione from outside the house, enter through the back door, and take her away in his boot. If he did it early enough, he'd already have her secured in the Secret Place before her husband came home to find an empty house.

Once she was in the Secret Place... well there were many questions to satisfy his curiosity and pain-filled torture to please his body. The prospect that he would rape her and use her body for his pleasure as if she were no more than a sex doll was actually quite secondary, until that last act, when she would die as he used her for the last time. Before then, the questions and torture would create a slave willing to do anything to keep from being hurt again. He sighed. Such a pity, really. Hermione was disciplined, as her adherence to her schedule showed, but she didn't have any signs of a strong personality. She would break within a month, he judged, not having the strong will that had kept Meredith fighting him for nearly six.

The man began making his plans to break Hermione. He had studied almost everything published about long-term hostages and prisoners, applying that knowledge to his victims. For long-term prisoners, the Stockholm syndrome was his best weapon. Hermione would be easy. The quiet academics always were.

The next day, he was in place as usual, with only the rifle showing that this was not an ordinary day. Anticipation filled him as he waited for the husband to leave. He decided that Hermione would wake up on the spanking bench. This bench elevated a person's behind while securing them against escape. After he finished using her the first time, he would give her a beating. He was still trying to choose which whip he would use when the couple in the house got up for the day.

He watched the familiar ritual gleefully. The husband kissed Hermione good-bye and went into the family room. Where he went from there was one of the burning questions he wanted Hermione to answer.

The time had come, and the observer was about to act. He slid the rifle into position and waited patiently. For the last week or so, as it got warmer, Hermione had taken to opening the window over the sink as she did the dishes, and that was what the man was waiting for now. Hermione didn't disappoint him, and as she followed her schedule, by 0850 she was washing the dishes in front of the open window. He took careful aim at her shoulder, and squeezed the trigger. He watched her look of shock and pain as the dart struck her. She reached for it, and was looking at it in a puzzled manner when her eyes unfocused as she fell.

The watcher went back to his Morris Minor and put everything away. It simply would not do to leave anything the police could track him down with now. After all, he had a new toy to play with.

He pulled around the back, blessing them for not having close neighbors, and entered through the same door he had picked before. He started toward the kitchen, and that was when his plans went straight to hell in a handbasket. As he walked toward the kitchen where he expected to find Hermione on the floor, he suddenly froze, becoming as stiff as a board, and falling on his face. Too late, he realized he'd heard a female voice chanting something that sounded like 'petrifcus totalus' to one side of him.

He strained at whatever held him, trying desperately to move so much as a finger when he got another shock. The female voice said something like 'winguardium levy-osa' and he was turned over, and then leaned against a wall. He looked around, but saw nothing until he got his greatest shock. Right in front of him, Hermione's head appeared out of thin air. She made a motion as if she was taking off a long coat and the rest of her appeared. She was holding a wooden rod of some kind and she merely stared at him for a minute before sitting down.

She stared at him for nearly an hour, and he saw shock, revulsion, pity, and anger crossed her face. Finally, she stopped staring at him, and began pacing up and down the floor, a habit he associated with deep thought for her. She stopped suddenly, looking at him and an implacable coldness settled into her face, an expression that sent a chill down his spine.

Hermione began speaking. She told him about the Wizard World, about Witches and Wizards, about magic and the wards on the house that had told her about him breaking into the house the first time. She told him about Legilimency, the art of reading people's minds and how she had created an illusion in the library one day after he had broken into the house, and gone looking for him. Covered in the Invisibility Cloak she had been under this morning, she had spent a few minutes reading his mind that day, enough to set the trap he had fallen into this morning. She demonstrated the Cloak for him again, disappearing before his eyes, and reappearing. She smiled fondly at something in her mind. "Its been a long time since I could use this cloak. Harry doesn't like to loan it to anyone, and since he gave it to Tiffany to use at Hogwarts, it has been harder than ever to borrow it."

She shook off those thoughts and continued, telling him that the Hermione he had shot this morning had been another of her illusions, while she waited for him, covered once again in the Invisibility Cloak. She demonstrated her ability to read his mind by answering all his questions. Her family left the house each morning by using the Floo network, a bit of magic that allowed travel between places via the fireplace. She told him about the books she wrote for Wizards, which is why he didn't find any of them during his Internet search.

A sudden panicked thought made her stare coldly at him. "Yes, I know about those other girls, and your plans for me." She frowned thoughtfully. "What I don't know is what I am going to do with you. Your mind is too warped for me to help you, nor do I know anyone, Muggle or Wizard, who can save you now. I also can't let you go. The next girl you choose to 'question' may not be a Witch, capable of defending herself." She began pacing again, as he watched her, trying to think of anything that would get him out of this.

Hermione stopped pacing suddenly, and the expression on her face made him cold, as if someone had just walked over his grave. The last thing he saw was her wand, pointing directly at him.

He woke in a very familiar place, but the angle was all wrong. He still couldn't move, and it took him a second to realize what was wrong. He was in his Secret Place, but he was in the cage. He began to babble in his head, hoping Hermione was reading his mind, but nothing happened, except that he was picked up again, and leaned against the wall.

Hermione stood outside the cage, looking at him. "You were wrong about me. I am stronger than I look, and after surviving the Voldemort War, I have learned that sometimes you can't have legal justice, you can only have true justice. You have killed twelve women in your curiosity, and now, you're going to find out the answer to the last question you'll ever ask. You're about to find out what lies beyond the Veil."

Hermione waved her wand at him again, and suddenly he was free to move around again. "Look at yourself," she said. He looked down, already feeling something different about himself, and nearly lost his mind. He was a she. He whipped his head around, looking in the mirror. He felt a bone-deep panic as he saw the face of Elizabeth, his first victim, staring back at him.

"I have sentenced you to live through everything you did to those poor girls. One by one, you will be each one of them. Only when the last one dies, will you truly die with her." Hermione cast another spell, and suddenly, he was in the back of the body's mind, unable to affect his own actions, but with his senses entirely intact. Hermione kept speaking. "You will react just as she did, in every detail. Everything you did to those poor girls, will be done to you, and you will be completely helpless to stop it." Hermione looked at him, started to say something, and then shook her head. A second later she disappeared.

He stared, waiting for her to reappear, but the next thing he saw was his male body. It picked up a whip, and opened the cage. The watcher knew what was coming, and he was screaming silently in the back of this body's mind before the body was even strapped into the restraints.

"I have some questions," he heard, before the lash of the whip striking his breasts dissolved his world in pain. "If you wish to avoid pain, you will give me the answers I want."

More pain ripped through the watcher as his/her body was roughly violated by the handle of the whip. "Of course, first I have to show you what pain is."