The Element of Surprise

This story was inspired by a photo taken from a collection of stock photos. Click here to see them.

enhanced-22319-1400017156-7 Pa had been married to Ma for the last forty-two years and every year was better than the last. She treated him like a king and every year for their anniversary the gifts that she got him were hard to top. It wasn’t that they were lavish or expensive, but they were just perfect. He’d never been able to quite top them. It wasn’t a contest and every year she’d just tell him it was the thought that counted. Still, he wanted to get her something this year that she’d remember. He thought he had just the thing.

They finished their dinner and were sipping irish coffee. “Ready to open presents, Ma?”

She smiled at him. “Sure thing, Pa. I think you’re gonna love what I have for you this year.”

“I always do.”

They moved to the living room where the two packages awaited them. “You open yours first, Pa.”

He smiled and nodded. He’d tried the “ladies first” dodge nearly every year for the first twenty, but that was another battle she always won. He took the long rectangular package from her. There was a good heft to it. The paper was expensive, a dark blue and very shiny. He untaped one end. He’d never been one to simply tear into a present. Once the paper was taken away he held a heavy wooden box. Cardboard wasn’t good enough for Ma. The boxes her presents came in were almost always as good. The cedar smelled fantastic. He lay the box down on the floor and found the catch that held it closed. He flipped the lid open and gasped when he saw what was inside.

“Ma, this is too much.” The shotgun had been broken down into two pieces. The barrel and stock were nestled in velvet the color of the wrapping paper. The metal gleamed. He’d been given the shotgun by his own dad. It was dinged and beat up and he’d often said that he wanted to get it restored. The value was sentimental not just because of who he’d gotten it from. He’d also used it on one of their first sprees.

He took the pieces out and fitted them together. He felt a stinging at his eyes. They fit perfectly. He cracked open the breech and checked all of the moving parts. “Darlin’, I can’t thank you enough for this. I can’t wait to use it.” The person in the basement would probably be as thankful for it as Pa was. He broke it back down and set the parts on the desk.

“My turn, my turn.” Ma clapped her hands.

“Careful opening it. You may want to leave it on the floor there.” Ma’s back was always a bit tricksy.

She knelt down in front of the box and began peeling away the paper. Her brow knitted at the cage it held. “A rabbit? You got me a rabbit?”

Pa chuckled. Sure enough a huge brown hare sat huddled in one corner of the crate. The poor thing was scared, just as scared as many of their victims had been. “No, no. Think of it like the keys to a new car. What I really got you is what’s down stairs. It would have been too hard to wrap.

“Well, I’ll be…”

He could see the tears in her own eyes. She’d only mentioned it once, but he’d been paying attention. “I hope you like it.”

“My very own boa constrictor? How could I not?” She grabbed the barrel of the gun and swiped playfully at him.

He could see by the look on her face that he’d finally done it. “I’ve been working on its habitat for a month. It’ll have its own space down by the kill room.”

“You sweet man. I can’t wait to see the look on our next project’s face.” She motioned for him to stand up. “Thank you so much.”

He did and they embraced. “You’re welcome, my dear.” Years of marriage and scores of victims and he’d proven that he could still surprise the old girl. Evading the police wasn’t enough to keep the spark alive. The element of surprise was even more important to wedded bliss than it was to being a serial killer.

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