Brownley Harris was a stocky five-eight, but with a surprisingly well-toned body at age fifty-one, considering all the beer he drank. He had hooded brown eyes with thick, bushy eyebrows, almost a unibrow. His hair was still black but flecked with gray now, and he wore it in a military-style buzz cut, though not a "high and tight."
Warren "the Kid" Griffin was the youngest of the group, and still the most impulsive. He looked up to both of the other men, especially Starkey. Griffin was six-two, lanky, and reminded people, especially older women, of the folkrock singer James Taylor. His strawberry blond hair was long on the sides but thinning on top.
"I kind of like old Hannibal the Cannibal," Griffin said as they entered the den. "Especially now that Hollywood decided he's the good guy. Only kills people who don't have nice manners, or taste in fine art. Hey, what's wrong with that?"
"Works for me," said Harris.
Starkey locked the door to the den, then slid a plain, black-box videotape into the machine. He loved the den, with its leather seating arrangement, thirty-six-inch Phillips TV, an armoire filled with tapes that were categorized chronologically. "Showtime," said Starkey. "Dim the houselights."
The first image was a shaky view by a handheld camera of someone approaching a small, ordinary-looking redbrick house. Then a second man came into view. The camera operator moved closer and closer until the shot was through a grimy, bug-speckled picture window into a living room. There were three women in the room, laughing and chatting up a storm, totally unaware that they were being watched by three strangers, and also being filmed.
"Take note that the opening scene is one long camera shot without a cut," said Harris. "Cinematographer is a genius, if I don't say so myself."
"Yeah, you're an artist all right," said Griffin. "Probably some latent fagola in you."
The women, who looked to be in their mid-thirties, were now clearly visible through the window. They were drinking white wine, laughing it up on their "ladies' night." They wore shorts and had good legs that deserved to be shown off. Barbara Green stretched out a leg and touched her toes, almost as if she were preening for the movie.
The shaky camera shot continued around the brick house to the back door at the kitchen. There was sound with the picture now. One of the three intruders began to bang on the aluminum screen door.
Then a voice came from inside. "Coming! Who is it? Oohh, I hope it's Russell Crowe. I just saw Beautiful Mind. Now that man is beautiful."
"It's not Russell Crowe, lady," said Brownley Harris, who was obviously the camera operator.
Tanya Jackson opened the kitchen door and looked terribly confused for a split second, before Thomas Starkey cut her throat with the survival knife. The woman moaned and dropped to her knees, then she fell onto her face. Tanya was dead before she hit the black and olive-green checkerboard linoleum of the kitchen floor.
"Somebody's very good with a survival knife. You haven't lost your touch over the years," Harris said to Starkey as he drank beer and watched the movie.
The handheld camera shot continued, moving quickly through the kitchen. Right over the bleeding, twitching body of Tanya Jackson. Then into the living room of the house. A jumpy song by Destiny's Child was playing on the radio and now became part of the movie soundtrack.
"What's going on?" Barbara Green screamed from the couch, and curled herself into a protective ball. "Who are you men? Where's Tanya?"
Starkey was on her in an instant with the knife. He even mugged for the camera, leering eerily. Then he chased Maureen Bruno back into the kitchen, where he drove the RTAK into the center of her back. She threw both arms into the air as if she were surrendering.
Copyright © 2002 by James Patterson
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Southern Gothic fantasy with a contemporary flare set in Savannah
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