This is the eighteenth part of a fiction serial, in 800 words.
In the space of six weeks, I managed to accumulate a great many insects and spiders from numerous sources. The neglected greenhouse in my garden was full of spiders of various types, as was the wooden shed, which hadn’t been used for years. Some digging in the borders provided an assortment of beetles and grubs, and I was able to find some caterpillars on the bushes and trees at the back of the property.
Nothing exotic though, naturally. For that, I ventured over fifty miles away, to a specialist pet shop I saw online. Pretending to be keen to start a collection, and paying full price in cash, I rapidly accumulated a considerable number of creatures, mostly quite repulsive things. I also needed the tanks, heaters, and lights to keep them alive as well as various disgusting foods for them. The shopkeeper thought he had an easy target for his suggestions, and kept promising me more and more exotica. After spending a substantial sum of money, and also buying books about how to manage all the different invertebrates, I had enough to have opened my own attraction, I was sure. The best thing was that the owner of the shop didn’t have to know my address or real name, as I always went there in person.
Hundreds of locusts, crickets, and grasshoppers, as well as a selection of exceedingly large tarantulas. There were massive centipedes and millipedes, and an assortment of cockroaches, including an enormous hissing cockroach; also stick insects and praying mantises of different sizes. At the prompting of the shopkeeper, I had also bought some large black scorpions, though because they were potentially poisonous, they would mainly be for show.
My next problem was how to arrange to get Danielle to my house. She rarely had anything to drink except tap water, and that usually from a glass that she filled herself, and drank immediately. She had never shown any interest in me romantically, so suggesting a date was out of the question. But when she offered me the chance to stay behind one evening to join her in Chinese food as a thank you for my hard work, I pretended to be busy that evening, immediately suggesting that we do it on the following Monday instead. I also told her that I would go and collect the food, and she could pay me later. She agreed happily, which gave me the chance to prepare.
That day, I arrived with a hefty dose of sedatives already diluted into a syringe. We worked as normal, and later on she showed me a menu, and where the restuarant was. She chose a very spicy dish, chili king prawns, accompanied by fragrant rice. I drove off in my van to get the food, waiting for it to be cooked fresh, and paying in cash of course. On the way back, I stopped in a quiet lane, and injected the sedative solution into the sauce surrounding her prawns. Back at the house, I served it onto plates, strirring well as I did so. My own bland meal was completely different, so no danger of any confusion.
Danielle wolfed the food as if she hadn’t eaten for a week, washing it down with some apple juice drunk straight from the container. I watched her as she ate, her sweatshirt and leggings completely covered in animal hair of various shades and lengths, her legs pushing away the collection of cats gathering at her feet under the table. No doubt she had a habit of sharing morsels with them, when I wasn’t there. When we had finished eating, I gathered up the containers into a plastic bin bag, saying it was to stop the cats from still trying to get to them. I took the bag outside to the bin, but put it into the back of my van instead. Then I offered to wash up the plates and cutlery, and she was happy to let me do that.
As it was getting dark by then, I said I had better go home. She insisted on giving me the money for the food from her purse, telling me she felt unusually tired, and might go to bed early. I walked to my van, saying I would see her the next morning. But I didn’t go home. Instead, I drove to the nearby supermarket, and parked at the edge of the car park. I sat there for over an hour, just to make sure, returning to Danielle’s house just before nine. I knew the side gate was never locked, and reached over to flip the latch. She was where I expected to find her, slumped over the kitchen table, with the back door still unlocked.
I had guessed that the sedative would work quickly, and it had.