A Loose Wire in the Stepford Programming

Marta stood in front of the mirror in the hallway by the door to check her hair and floral dress one last time before headed for the evening.

“Tony, sweetheart, I’m leaving!” She called toward the den and her husband. He gave no indication of hearing her. “Tony? I said I’m — “

“I heard you! Bye!” Tony’s voice finally rang from the darkened room.

Marta rolled her eyes and grabbed her purse. As she headed toward her dark grey mid-sized SUV, she waved and blew kisses at her two boys playing in the front yard. The boys had convinced Marta and Tony to get them a puppy three months ago and the infatuation had turned to genuine affection for the pup.

Once a week, Marta would take an evening for herself to meet with friends. The group of five women always met at one of their houses; this week was Jeanie’s turn to host. Marta liked Jeanie’s house the best because it was the longest drive for her and was well secluded compared to the suburban houses the other four women had.

When she pulled up to the ranch house surrounded by thick trees, Marta saw Lisa unfolding her tall frame from her small purple Volkswagen Beetle. Lisa had never let go of her college car even though it had cost her more than a new one in repairs years ago. Marta parked behind Lisa in the circle drive.

“Hello, Marta,” Lisa said as she approached and kissed her on both cheeks, “ready to start a new project?”

“Absolutely. The last one turned out so beautifully.”

“It did, didn’t it? I especially loved Sarah’s addition.”

As the two women approached the door, Sarah and Ayumi drove up together. Usually they each drove themselves, but Sarah’s car was in the shop and Ayumi lived next door to her. A long time ago, the five women agreed to do everything in their power to never miss a meeting.

Lisa knocked then opened the door, “Knock, knock Jeanie! Everyone’s here!”

Jeanie’s head popped out of the kitchen, “Come in! I’m just finishing snacks.”

The four women walked down the long corridor that led to the kitchen from the front living room. Along the counters sat savory dishes from different countries; tamales from Mexico, steamed buns from China, flat bread from India, pierogi from Russia, and corn dogs from the US.

“Wow, Jeanie, this looks amazing! You must have worked all day.” Marta said while hugging her friend.

“I did, but it was worth it. I wanted to do something special for our first international project.”

After all the women had greeted one another they each got a full plate and moved toward the den behind the kitchen. Everyone sat, legs crossed and chatted for a few minutes, dabbing their mouths after each bite with cloth napkins.

“Ayumi, have you been keeping up with the cardio you wanted to do?” Lisa asked during a lull.

“I have. I know how important it is to stay in shape these days. It’s hard, though, juggling everyone’s schedules. I’ve started running while Aria is in band practice.”

“That’s so great. Maybe we should get started?” Lisa always started the meetings and the other women put their plates aside.

“Okay, ladies, it has been a full three months since our last project was completed. Sarah has been diligent in ensuring no one is suspicious. Thank you, Sarah, as always.”

Sarah bowed her head slightly in recognition of her abilities.

Lisa continued, “Up to this point, our efforts have focused on those in the US. After ten years, it’s time to try something new. Each of you has an international candidate?” All of the women nodded and took out their phones. “Good. Jeanie, would you like to start since you have so generously hosted this week?”

“Of course,” Jeanie smiled and focused her attention on her phone, “My candidate is Ahmad Suradji from Indonesia. He had a flair for the dramatic and rituals. Killed between ’86 and ’97; buried female victims up to the waist then strangled them with a cable; after death buried the women with their faces toward his home due to a belief that it would grant him supernatural power. Total victims is forty-two.”

“Thank you, Jeanie. Sarah?” Lisa motioned toward the next woman.

“Moses Sithole,” Sarah began in a quiet voice, “Also known as South Africa’s Ted Bundy; worked at an anti-child abuse organization called Youth Against Human Abuse while killing. He killed in ’94 and ’95; standard beat, rape, murder combo, but used the victims’ undergarments for strangulation. Currently incarcerated. Total victims is thrity-eight.”

“Thank you, Sarah. Any objections to me going next?” Lisa asked to no objection then continued, “Great. My candidate is Alexander Pichushkin also known as The Chessboard Killer. He killed mostly homeless men by luring them with promises of vodka, though he also killed women and children. He would drink with the men then kill them with blows to the back of the skull with a hammer and developed a signature of leaving the empty vodka bottle shoved into the cavity produced by the hammer. A few of his victims survived when he was careless and tried throwing them down a network of sewers. Active between 1992 and 2006 with a total of forty-eight victims.

“Marta, you’re next.”

“Thank you. My candidate is Yang Xinhai who was named Monster Killer by the media and is the most prolific Chinese serial killer to date. He would enter the homes of farmers to kill entire families with various farming tools, mainly hammers, shovels, and axes. A clear motive was never determined, but he was quoted as saying, ‘I don’t care whether they deserve to live or not.’ Active between the years 1999 and 2003, he had sixty-seven victims.”

“Succinct as always, Marta, thank you. Last but not least, Ayumi.”

“Though a Soviet-Russian citizen, Sergey Tkach killed mostly in the Ukraine. Active between 1980 and 2005; he would abduct, rape, and suffocate his victims before performing necropheliac acts on their bodies. He used his knowledge of the criminal investigative process to avoid capture. He claimed to have over one hundred victims, but only thirty-seven confirmed victims.”

“Thank you, Ayumi. Before we vote, I would like to list our completed projects to give you time to digest your options and remind you of past obstacles.

“Dean Corll, Wayne Williams, Ted Bundy, Juan Vallejo Corona, Earle Nelson, Ronald Dominique, and Randall Woodfield. We have killed as an homage to these men and to declare the danger of assuming women will remain silent to protect the status quo. As you consider the candidates, remember that we have already proven we have nothing to fear from obstacles like physical struggles or the investigative power of the police. We have the opportunity to use the heinous acts of men of the past to punish one still loose on the street. The man we will kill has no chance to escape and we have no chance of getting caught.”

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