Hello. I don’t know who you are, but you asked me to meet you for coffee and I thought that it might be interesting to indulge you. I probably shouldn’t be telling you what I’m about to tell you, but I’m going to do it anyways. Maybe this is a manifesto. Maybe this is a confession. Maybe I’m just bored, and the thought of being honest for once in my life is exciting. The danger is intoxicating. Honesty isn’t in my nature, but again, I think that it might be interesting to indulge you and your curiosity. But let me be clear. My honesty here today has nothing to with a sense of guilt, a need to confide or get something off my chest. I’m not doing this for any compassionate reason. Rather, I’m doing this because it serves my own interests. A need for recognition. This meeting exists entirely as an ego-stroking vanity project.
I can understand why you might be curious, though. Your kind seems to have an unerring fascination with me and my ilk. I say it like that because I really do consider myself to be something more than human. I think, on some level, we all do. And that supremacist streak is what leads us to do what we do. Which in and of itself, I think, inspires a certain fascination. How else would you account for all the documentaries and movies and prison letters and the almost fetishistic fervour that surrounds our proclivities.
My name? How did you find me without knowing my name? Never mind, I suppose that isn’t important. You can call me Mary Smith. That isn’t my real name, of course. I’m not going to tell you that. I’m not stupid. What I can tell you is that, if you knew me, you never would suspect anything untoward about me. In fact, you would probably find me quite unassuming. I’m the sort of person who you could pass on the street and not think twice about. The sort of person who you might already know a hundred of. I’m white, educated, and middle class. I volunteer for my HOA and my children’s PTA. I’m married to a real estate agent, and my parents left me with a trust fund before they passed away. I maintain the facade of normalcy, and it’s a mask that has served me well.
But that’s not why you’re here, is it? You don’t want to hear about my son’s football and my daughter’s ballet. Their scholastic achievements. My holiday to Cancun, or the recipe for the potato salad that I bring to church potlucks. You don’t want me to numb your brain with lies about how much I love my husband or the spawn that he foisted on me. I have nothing resembling a maternal instinct. I maintain my family as simply a part of my façade. Besides, if you wanted lies, you could read the newspaper articles written about me and my achievements. You’re here for the truth, so I won’t waste anymore of your time.
Sorry. I’m monologuing, aren’t I? Here I am rambling, and I haven’t even allowed you to get a word in edgewise. How are you? Your job? Your family? Who are you, anyways? Not that it matters. Do you need another coffee? I’ll call the waitress over. No, don’t worry. I’ll put it all on my bill. It’s not like I’m really paying, anyways. The credit card is in my husband’s name.
Let’s start at the beginning, then, shall we? I always knew that I was different. While other kids were out playing in the sunshine, shouting and climbing and getting scrapped knees, I was reading. I’ve always had an interest in the macabre, and I’ve always been a fan of the greats. King, Koontz, Poe, Barker. I kept a sketchbook where I recreated my favourite scenes, burgeoning desires immortalised in crayon and felt-tipped pen. I dug it out of storage and burned it, right before my first. Too incriminating, I thought.
I realised early, too, that I would need to build and perfect a mask. I hated smiling, walking around with a big dumb grin plastered across my face. But most found it unnerving, and I knew that, if I wanted to fit in, I would have to change. So, change I did. I got involved in sports and student government and the debate team. But all the while that I was learning to pretend to be a human, my desires were growing. At first, I sated them by starting fires. The thrill of doing something that was expressly forbidden, the excitement of destroying something. Watching it be consumed, red tentacles devouring it and leaving only burnt black husks. When that was no longer enough, I moved on to the neighbourhood pets. It was easy enough luring them into the backyard, building their trust, letting them let me get close to them. My favourite was cats, all lithe and disdainful. I smuggled a dissection kit out of my middle-school science class and used it great effect.
Oh, don’t look at me like that. You wanted the truth, and there it is. I don’t need your judgement. If I wanted that, I would have spilled my guts to a shrink a long time ago. Besides, I’ve always felt removed from humanity. Distant. Like I was on the wrong side of a pane of glass, looking in. Unlike them, I am destined for great things, and I know it. That’s why I’ve been able to get away with it for so long. My goal is sixteen, and I’m only two shy. I don’t believe in a God, but if there was such a thing, I would be him. I don’t see others as being my equal. I’m better than them. That’s why I have the right to take from them what I want. I am an impulsive thrill seeker.
I hurt people when I get bored. Oh, not like that. That’s a one way ticket to a rubber-room vacation. I’m much more insidious than that. I like getting close to people, finding out everything I can about them, and then using that information to destroy them from the inside out. I managed to convince Chrissy from the bake sale to kill herself that way. She made the mistake of confiding in me, of giving me information that I could use against her. So I did. I don’t feel bad about having done it, either. I never feel bad for the things I do. I am callous, and I have neither remorse nor empathy for those I’ve hurt.
I don’t care about facing consequences either. Anytime I’ve ever come close to being caught, I simply smile and talk my way out of the situation. I’m good at it. At this point, it’s a well rehearsed routine. I have perfected my mask. I am well-spoken, charming, and manipulative. I have everyone around me wrapped around my little finger, and I enjoy the feeling of power that it gives me. I think, too, that’s why I enjoy lying so much. I’m good at it, and it comes naturally to me. There’s a certain thrill in spinning bullshit, toeing the line of being caught without ever actually being tangled up in the web of lies. The trick is to always double down. Never admit to anything. Cover your lies with more lies and keep lying.
But that’s me in an intellectual sense. In an operational sense? I suppose it’s much more simple than all that. I have a very unique relationship with law enforcement. I would consider it almost something approaching intimacy. I sign all my letters to them as The Hexadecimal. The papers have nicknamed me something else, but that’s how I have styled myself. Maybe one day, once the sequence is complete, I will correct them. I’m not sure yet. But that’s my goal. A perfect sixteen. What will I do when I’m done? Maybe wait a few years and then start again. A new sequence, another sixteen. My colleague in northern California claimed thirty-seven. Can you imagine? And he taunted them. For years, he taunted them. Publicly. And he was never caught. Still hasn’t been, not even to this day.
You still haven’t said who you are. A private investigator? A journalist? A fan of my work? Or perhaps another one just like me, looking for some companionship. I have to say that I’m flattered that you took the time to find me. But my kids are almost done practice, and I need to get dinner started. I’ve enjoyed this chat. I hope you’ll find me again in the future. Just try not to look too hard. You might not like what you find.