That Bloody Red Riding Hood
AKA, The Girl Wolves Love to Attack
“Dad, I’ll be fine!” Scarlett assured her father for the millionth time. Or it felt like the millionth time. “I’m eighteen! Besides, we live in one of the busiest and safest district in the city!” She followed her father into the kitchen, determined to win the argument.
“Doesn’t matter. You’re not going alone.” Scarlett’s father opened the refrigerator to grab a bottle of water. Then he strode into the living room, Scarlett close on his tail.
Scarlett sighed. Truth be told, she was worried, too. Her father was assigned to a murder case and had been working on it for the past few months. Although he did not say anything, she knew her father was getting closer to “Hunter.” She could feel it.
“Is this about that serial killer nicknamed Hunter?”
Her father stopped in his tracks.
“Eep!” she yelped. She almost bumped into him.
Before she could recover from her surprise, her father whirled around and grasped both her arms. “You have no idea. No idea!” he growled. “Twenty years on the force in this city, I have seen nothing like what this killer does! The mutilation, the blood, the –” he stopped and took a deep breath.
Scarlett’s eyes and mouth had formed three O’s, and it would have been funny enough for him to make a joke, if it were not for the dreadful subject.
“I heard he only targets young men,” she whispered. Then she heaved a soft sigh. “Please, Dad. It’s been more than a week since we visited Grandma. And you know her situation.”
And her father did know. He was torn between the safety of his princess and his filial duty to his mother. He let go of her and closed his eyes. Scarlett knew she had won him over the minute he opened his eyes.
“Fine. Get the groceries, go to Grandma’s. But stay there for the night. Your mother has an extra night shift at the ER, and I’m on a stakeout for Hunter. There won’t be anyone at home tonight.”
Scarlett’s mouth twitched and, in her mind, she cheered. Her father did not surrender easily.
“Straight to Grandma’s. No side trips, no boutique, no vet clinic,” her father warned.
“You know, we probably wouldn’t have had this conversation if you had gotten that red Cadillac for me two years ago as my birthday pre— OK, it’s late, got to go!” Scarlett caught the look on her father’s face and chose the coward’s exit. It would be wiser to provoke a tiger than her father with a loaded gun.
In spite of the lengthy wrangling with her father, Scarlett was on the way to her grandmother’s quicker than she expected. She carried a sports bag containing the things she needed for the overnight stay and — at her father’s adamant insistence — a pepper spray. Of all things. If the situation with the serial murderer escalated any further, her father would be getting a Taser for her.
Wearing her favorite jacket, she plugged into her iPod, a magical device that politely stopped all human interaction in the public. She was in her own world until she felt a tap on her shoulders. When she had gotten on the bus, there was no one else, and she had chosen a window seat. Someone must have boarded at some point and sat behind her. Evidently, this alien did not understand the unspoken rule of the twenty-first century — never talk to a person with earphones and a hood drawn up.
Scarlett pulled her hood and earphones off, turned around and was ready to be rude.
“I’m sorry. Is there any way I may be of assistance to you?” Scarlett’s tone was pleasant and polite and she had just the right hint of smile on her face. A rather good-looking young man was sitting behind her. The kind a girl could safely bring home and introduce as a boyfriend. The kind that was ever so gentlemanly that everyone assumed he was taken or a gay.
“I’m wondering where you got that jacket. The color seems special and I think my boyfriend would like it,” he said.
Or he could be both. Public assumptions are not without basis.
“Well, I don’t think you can find it anywhere. It’s unique,” she said, hiding her disappointment.
“Oh, someone made it for you?”
“Actually, it was dyed bloody red when I was killing a wolf,” Scarlett looked down and picked at her jacket. “The blood had all dried up. That’s why it’s this weird rusty red,” she looked up to a shocked look on the young man’s face. She never failed to get this reaction each time she told the story.
The awkward silence was soon broken by the young man’s deep, throaty laugh. “That’s a good one!” he guffawed.
Scarlett grinned. Despite the interruption to her routine and the initial disappointment, she found herself enjoying their talk immensely. It turned out that young man was amused by her joke due to his name. Wolfrik and his family were originally from France and, in their language, his name meant “Ruler of the wolves.” However, Scarlett could not detect a hint of French accent. If anything, he sounded more like a German.
He was witty and charming and he had a staggering knowledge of the world. Although it became meaningless when his family found out he was gay. They performed the sacred duty of disowning him to prevent the spread of his counter-culture behavior to his brothers four years ago. He had lived with his boyfriend ever since.
Before long, Scarlett was telling him things about herself, too. That her father was in the police taskforce staking out for the serial murderer “Hunter,” that her mother was in the local ER working as a nurse and she was on nightshift. Under her mother’s influence, Scarlett had learned a lot about biology, although she was more interested in the physiology of animals. Eventually, her love for animals decided her career path as a vet. She was currently working part time at a vet clinic, sometimes spending more time there than at home. For her, handling animal temperaments was easier than human nature. However, their family was taxed because her grandmother had difficulty moving around since a particularly bad fall three years back.
“And that’s why I’m getting groceries and staying overnight with her,” said Scarlett, concluding her tale.
They were done with shopping and were walking to her grandmother’s house. Wolfrik had offered to walk her to her grandmother’s, noting that “Hunter” was showing in random parts of the city. He was, thus, suitably surprised when he learnt that Scarlett’s grandmother lived in the same apartment building as he and his boyfriend.
“What a coincidence! I’ve been living there for almost four years but I’ve never seen you around!” he exclaimed.
“Well, maybe I’m just not your type,” she joked. “Erm, where are you going? This is the way to the apartment building,” she pointed to the well-lit pathway into the collection of apartment buildings, rising around them like a concrete jungle.
Wolfrik, who was carrying most of her groceries, looked over his shoulders. “You mean you don’t know? That there’s a shortcut through this alley?” He frowned. Scarlett only shook her head. Then his face brightened up. “Really? After all these years of visiting your grandmother?” he teased.
“I always thought it was a dead end!” she retorted.
“Well, allow me to show you a whole new world then!” he grinned. “Or unless you are not interested?” his voice became quieter when he noticed Scarlett’s expression. “I’ll take you home,” he promised.
Like the useless heroine in the Twilight series, Scarlett had no idea if the promise was conditional, or restricted to an immediate departure. In fact, she had no idea if it was a promise.
“Fine, let’s go your way.”
He did not seem bothered by her acidic tone, neither did he struggle to understand her tone and expression. “After you, milady,” he mocked and bowed.
Scarlett flicked her hair and marched past him into the alley, playing the role of a haughty heiress. The alley was always dark but that night, it seemed particularly sinister. The overhead lights were flickering and all was quiet. The perfect stage for murder, like “Introduction to Bad Horror Movie 101” module of twenty-first century film-making.
“Almost a horror movie, isn’t it?” Wolfrik suddenly whispered into her ear.
Scarlett’s shriek resounded and the echoes did not die down for a while. “Stop that!” she glared. Wolfrik was convulsing in laughter. Looking at him, Scarlett’s anger melted away and she soon joined him, laughing at her silliness.
Wolfrik wiped away his tears and straightened up. “Come on, let me show you something,” he jerked his head.
“What is it?” Scarlett was unable to contain her curiosity.
“I can’t explain it. You have to experience it yourself,” he insisted.
It was late. Her father was busy getting ready for “Hunter” at the other side of the city and her mother was already in ER. Her grandmother was not expecting her since it was a sudden decision. There did not seem to be any harm in further delay. Scarlett stuck her hands into the pockets of her jacket, almost like a petulant child.
“All right, let’s go,” she decided.
Wolfrik led her around the apartment buildings, taking so many turns Scarlett would have lost her sense of direction, had she not played in this neighborhood in her childhood. It appeared to Scarlett they were moving steadily away from the main road and the crowd. All was quiet. The apartment buildings around them were almost like a labyrinth.
“Are we there yet?” Scarlett scowled. It took longer than she had expected.
“Almost,” Wolfrik replied. Suddenly, he stopped. “Did you hear that?” his voice dropped as he looked around.
He turned to look at her. If he was surprised by her answer, he did not show it. “Really? You didn’t hear anything at all?”
Scarlett raised her eyebrows in response. “Are you trying to scare me? Because it’s not working. I didn’t hear anything at all.”
“Good,” he nodded. Before Scarlett could react, he dropped the groceries, lunged at her and clamped his hands over her mouth. Wolfrik straddled her and grinned manically; Scarlett, like all other teenage girls, had surrendered without a fight when she realized what was happening.
His expression was no longer warm and friendly. Instead, he looked menacing. “You are no longer a child. Didn’t anyone tell you not to talk to strange — ” his voice trailed off. He opened and closed his mouth a few times. “to strange-strangers on-on-on, your way…”
Wolfrik, or whoever the man claimed to be, clumsily raised his hand to claw at the needle stuck in his neck. He was too late. The effects of the drugs were faster. His body felt like a heavy rock.
Scarlett maintained a steady and vigilant gaze on the rapist on top of her, her eyes calculating. Her hands were no longer in the pockets. One hand was against his chest while the other held on to the needle. She then pushed him off.
She got up and dusted herself while the man went into spasms. In less than a minute, he was still, mentally caged in his unresponsive body. He stared at the girl in deep rusty red as she stood over him. She paid scant attention to his situation.
“Just because I talk to strangers doesn’t mean I am defenseless. If you want to prowl, at least get your facts straight. Wolfrik is a German name and there is nothing in this alley. I know the ways of these apartment blocks inside out.” She examined her fingernails, checking for broken nails. “At least you didn’t ruin my fingernails like the others.
“It is exactly people like you who make our city dangerous. What is the world coming to when girls can’t walk around visiting their grandmothers at night? Never mind, that’s why people like me exist. I’m not the hunted. I’m Hunter. Oh, so here’s my knife! I thought I lost it.
“Oh, come, come. Don’t give me that look. Weren’t you feeling muscular just now? Wait, let me roll you onto my new jacket before I start. That way, the blood will dye the jacket and make less mess. I would hate to trouble the cleaners. Their job is difficult enough, don’t you think?
“You see, I wasn’t lying when I said my jacket was dyed by the blood of wolves. For a while, I thought it’s time to hang up the jacket like some forgotten old tale. There weren’t any wolves around! Then you have to show up.
“I’m glad I had a shift yesterday at the vet clinic, though. I managed to stock up before tonight’s trip. You’ll be surprised by the amount of paralytic drugs they have in their medicine cabinet to sedate animals. Yup, that’s what I used on you. Befitting, isn’t it? That way is better. The blood flows evenly when you don’t struggle. My new bloody red jacket would look nicer too.
“You know, I really feel so sorry for you. You are so handsome. O Wolfrik, what large ears you have. Too bad you don’t listen to the news. O Wolfrik, what large eyes you have. Too bad you don’t see women as women. O Wolfrik, what large hands you have. Too bad you don’t do the right things with it.”
The nameless young man gurgled. Hurry up hurry up hurry up let it be over already!