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I am breathing hard, tears spilling from my eyes. The textbooks say that the sociopath is detached from emotion. I have spent hours comparing myself to the information the DSM and the psychology websites provide. I have grilled my professors until they urge me to further my studies and do my own research.

I have read and reread biographies written about Robert Yates Jr., Ted Bundy, Gary L. Ridgway, and John Allen Muhammad—all one-time residents of Washington. Serial killers born and bred miles away from where I was born and raised. I have examined my own soul, over and over, seeking to understand the ease with which I take life. Wondering if there is murder in the water we drink. And, through it all, I have found in myself these truths: I kill because I can. I kill because no one stops me. I kill because no one is stopping them. I kill to protect the innocent.

WHEN I WAS A CHILD, I did not capture and kill small animals. I take comfort in reminding myself of this as I capture and kill large, soulless animals, assuring myself that I am not like them—the Dahmers, and DeSalvos, and Coles of the world. Who, as children, shot arrows at animals, and impaled their heads on sticks, and stuck firecrackers in their rectums … just because. Just because. They grew up to kill the innocent. I do not kill just because. I execute the wicked. People who had no place living, sharing the planet with those of us trying to survive—making it harder.

I start planning again, the same way I planned with Lyndee. Lyndee, whose killer is still at large. I look for a conscience, guilt. They are lost.

Unlike Lady Gaga, who asserted her line across radio channels, as millions bopped their heads to the anthem of sociopathy, I was not born this way. I was not born with the capacity to murder. Life brought it out in me. The bad people are slipping through the cracks. They pull over the struggling single mother, who is ten minutes late for a job she desperately needs, because it took longer to wake her kids up that morning, and the drunk driver who kills someone a mile down the road goes unseen. Their focus is off. So I’m helping. Call it a citizen’s watch. Or, maybe, the citizen’s death penalty.

And then I do it. Something risky. I crawl through Leroy’s kitchen window after he leaves for work, balancing my Docs on the sink, and then sliding my feet to the spotless linoleum. His home has the smell of an animal, but not one with fur and paws. Leroy Ashley’s house smells of a predator. There is a metallic dink to the air, like a jar full of pennies. I walk light-footed across the kitchen floor to the avocado-colored refrigerator. Inside is the orange juice Leroy drinks every day. I am hoping he makes it in a jug, one that is not clear. I open the fridge to find a clear, plastic jug with a blue lid. The plastic is frosted, which will do just fine. When I lift the lid and sniff the liquid, I laugh. Leroy spikes his juice with vodka. I take the vial of crushed sleeping pills from my pocket and empty it into his morning liquid, stirring it with a wooden spoon I find in a drawer. When I am finished, I wash the spoon and dry it on my shirt. I go home to get my things.

As I prepare, I wonder if something went wrong. Perhaps, come morning, he will notice the specks of white floating at the bottom of the jug. Or that it tastes different, but no, the vodka would disguise a change in taste. Maybe the whole jug went bad, and he’ll throw it down the drain, never drinking it. I’m wound up so tight by all the possibilities that my hands shake. No, I tell myself. Everything will go as planned. Tomorrow Leroy will wake up and drink his juice; perhaps then he will get dressed and consider what to do with his day. But, instead of leaving the house, he will become tired and lie back down. Maybe he will call in to work, but it doesn’t matter, because no one will come looking for him. Leroy doesn’t have people. With his eyes unable to stay open, and his body sluggish and slow moving, he will wonder if he’s been drugged. But, by that time, it will be too late.

I’ll have made my entrance, coming in through the same window I used this morning, and if that’s locked, I’ll dig the spare key from the dirt in one of the empty potters in the shed. Leroy Ashley will not be expecting me, because I have been very, very careful. I will punish him for what he’s done. I will get what I want: vengeance.

I dress in black pants and a black shirt. I am not slight or skinny. I do not give the appearance of someone able to be blown away by the slightest gust of wind. I have evolved from a pink, doughy girl, who kept her eyes firmly glued to the sidewalk, to a killing woman corded with muscle, who looks everyone in the eye, searching for their sins. I twist my hair into a tight knot on top of my head, securing it with bobby pins. I pull on my steel-toed boots, and then slip my fingers into my gloves. Before I leave, I look at myself in the mirror. Not the girl from the Bone. Not a girl from anywhere. I look dangerous … like an animal. Or worse. Animals don’t kill for sport. They kill to eat.

I carry my weapons in a duffel bag, to the garage where I keep my Jeep. I lay them side by side in the trunk, underneath a blanket—three knives of various sizes, rope, plastic handcuffs that I bought at a fetish shop, a Taser, and a pocket pistol, a Kel-Tec P-3AT that I bought from the fry cook at work. I’d taken it to a shooting range, and was pleased with how light it was. Next to all of my dangerous-looking weapons is a small, pink Zippo, taken from and never returned to Judah Grant. It was this weapon that I intended to use on Leroy. I pocket the Zippo, put the handcuffs, the Taser, and the smallest knife in my knapsack, and cover the rest of the weapons with a thick, felt blanket. Over the blanket I put half a dozen plastic bags of groceries I keep there for show. Bags of canned vegetables, two boxes of Diet Coke, a giant sack of dog food. All deterrents in case the police pull me over.

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