PERIMETER MALL, ATLANTA, GEORGIA
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 11:30 AM EASTERN
THE TIME HAD COME TO select his next victim. He had to choose carefully and perfectly—he wouldn’t get a second chance. The mall was teeming with life, and that made for a lot of eyeballs, a lot of potential witnesses. But he supposed it also helped him be more inconspicuous. People were hustling through the shopping center, interested solely in their own agendas. They wouldn’t be paying him—or what he was doing—much attention.
He was standing at the edge of the food court next to the hallway leading to the restrooms eating a gyro. The lidded and oversized garbage bin on wheels that was behind him would ensure that anyone who did notice him would just think he was a mall janitor on his lunch break.
The pitchy voice of a girl about eight hit his ears. “Daddy, I want ice cream.”
Trailing not far behind her were a man and woman holding hands. The woman was fit and blond, but his attention was on the man beside her. He was in his twenties, easily six feet tall with a solid, athletic build. He’d be strong and put up a fight. Yes, this was the one. And talk about ideal placement—he was across from the Dairy Queen.
He wiped his palms on his coveralls and took a few deep breaths. What he was about to do wasn’t because of who he was, but rather, because he had to do it.
And he had to hurry. The family was coming toward him.
“It’s almost lunchtime,” the woman said, letting go of the man’s hand.
“Daaaaaaddyyyyy.” A whiny petition.
The man looked to the woman with a smile that showcased his white teeth. “We could have ice cream for lunch?”
The little girl began to bounce. “Yeah!”
“Really, Eric?” The woman wasn’t as impressed as the girl, but under the man’s gaze she caved and smiled. “All right, but just today…”
“Thank you, Mommy!” The girl wrapped her arms around the woman’s legs but quickly let go, prancing ahead of her parents and toward the DQ counter.
“Brianna, we wash our hands first.” The woman glanced at him as she walked by and offered a reserved smile. Had she detected his interest in them?
Breathe. She thinks you work here, remember?
Look away and act uninterested.
“Oooh,” the girl moaned but returned to her mother anyway.
“We’ll just be a minute,” the woman said.
“Hey, doesn’t Daddy have to wash his hands?” the girl asked.
Sometimes things just work out…
The woman smiled at the man. “Eric?”
“Yes, he does,” he playfully answered in the third person.
Mother and daughter headed to the restroom, the man not far behind.
It was time to get to work.
He took the last bite of his sandwich, crumpled the wrapper, and tossed it into the bin. He casually moved behind it and pushed it down the hall into the men’s room.
He put up a sign that said it was closed for cleaning and entered, positioning himself next to the door. From there, he could see his target at one of the urinals and another man washing his hands at the sink. Otherwise, it was quiet.
Just as if it was meant to be…
The stranger left the restroom without a passing glance. This left him alone with his target.
He twisted the lock on the door and then moved behind the man, who paid him no mind. He took the needle out of his pocket and plunged it into the man’s neck.
The man snapped a hand over where he’d been poked. “Hey!”
It would take a few seconds for the drug to fully kick in. He just had to stay out of the man’s way and block the exit in the meantime.
“What did you…” The man was away from the urinal now, coming toward him on unsteady legs. Both his hands went to his forehead and then it was lights-out. He collapsed on the floor.
He hurried to the bin, wheeled it over to the man’s body, and lifted him just enough to dump him inside. Once the man was in there, he lowered the lid, unlocked the restroom, collected his sign, and left.
His heart was thumping in his ears as he wheeled the bin out a back service door. Some people were milling around, but they didn’t seem curious about him. He went to his van and opened the back door. He put the ramp in place and simply wheeled the bin inside.
When he was finished, he closed the doors and headed for the driver’s seat. He wanted to hit the gas and tear out of the lot. The adrenaline surging through his system was screaming, You got away with it again, but he didn’t like to get too cocky.
Still, he did take some pride in the fact that he’d gotten what he’d come for—and it had been so, so easy.