When a thrill-seeking serial rapist terrorizes the college town of Platteville, WI, Officer Stuart Thompson takes up the hunt. As he closes in on the rapist, the assaults escalate to murders, and Thompson finds himself in the crosshairs.
Alcohol—the social lubricant computer geeks need to enjoy their Christmas party. In actuality, it was a holiday party because they were government employees. All the database administrators and information technology staff for the University Wisconsin-Platteville campus were enjoying a night out at the college bars. It was a Monday evening, so not many college kids were out in the bars.
Michelle Schultz wasn’t one to dance, but she was out on the dance floor, mixing in. The thin database administrator was dressed in her typical uniform of Yoga pants and black T-shirt. She sometimes lamented the yoga pants were the only thing that could make her butt look bigger, but preferred comfort over vanity. Her jacket, also black, was nearby. People always assumed she was copying the look of Steve Jobs of Apple Computers. Michelle liked this ensemble due to the practicality of not worrying about a favorite outfit. When every day presented the same outfit, life had one less thing to fret about.
The bar had enough people in it, but Schultz seemed drawn to Nick Padgrove like a magnet. The two were long-time friends. They had gone to college together, and both started working for the UW immediately upon graduation. They were not roommates, but Nick lived upstairs from her in the same apartment building.
Grabbing his buddy, Nick turned Michelle around and started to grind his crotch against her butt. The pop holiday music provided a cool groove for the two, implying they were more than friends; their moves synced as flawlessly as if they’d done this before. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Various coworkers hooted and hollered about the display, a few females close by slapped Nick on his backside. Eventually, the song ended and so did their dance.
Separating herself from him, Michelle offered to buy Nick a drink, as she’d done many times before. At the bar, Michelle held up a folded ten-dollar bill, attempting to attract a bartender, but after a minute of being ignored, Nick took over. A simple wave of the hand and the underdressed busty female bartender was standing in front of them.
“Hey there cutie . . . I need my Jack and Coke topped off, and she needs one more . . . what is that . . . oh . . . yeah . . . Vodka Gimlet.”
The blonde girl smiled and then scampered off to the back bar to make the drinks. Soon enough, she was back quoting a price. Nick handed over the money and walked away from the bar before she could return with the change. Michelle followed Nick eagerly, sipping her drink through the stir stick. She drank it innocuously, as she absorbed the feel of the bar and acknowledged the slight buzz she felt. She looked at Nick and noticed a puzzled look on his face.
“You don’t come out to the bars much, do you?” Nick asked Michelle, looking down at the stir stick.
“No . . . why would you say that?
“Oh, nothing to worry about . . . just you know . . . how you handle yourself in a bar.”
Michelle was somewhat offended by the comment her friend made. “What do you mean how I handle myself? I am having fun just like everyone else.”
“Well yeah . . . it isn’t that . . . just forget it . . .”
“Forget it? What the fuck . . . I can’t ignore a statement like that!” Michelle was annoyed Nick would try to blow her off. She worried that her voice might have been too sharp, but decided the tone was justifiable.
“Never mind . . . it is nothing . . .”
Nick might be a computer geek, but he was what some called an alpha geek. He was
smart and technically proficient, but also suave. Nick tended to wear designer jeans, trendy button-down shirts, and would put on a tie at work. He had a comfortable casual look, yet it was also very professional-workplace appropriate. While others they worked with looked like slobs, with untucked shirts and ruffled hair, he always looked hip.
Nick often went on dates, with real girls, in the real world. Many of his coworkers would ask him for tips to getting dates. Nick’s answer was always the same. “Log off the computer and go out in public to places girls go to.” This advice often fell on deaf ears.
A couple of ladies walked up to Nick and Michelle. Nick recognized them as working in the college foundation office. Both ladies were young, fresh business school graduates who had participated in internships in the foundation office while attending their respective classes. Nick always laughed at how it seemed the foundation kept such a large staff of young, attractive females. He always suspected there was a statistical correlation between the number of male alumni who were willing to donate to university charities, and the attractiveness of the staff seeking donations.
“Hey, Nick, what brings you out on a Monday night?” one of them, a cute red head, asked, smiling and clutching her glass.
“Hey girl.” Nick had no clue what her name was. “The IT department always gets slow the first part of finals week. So, we do our holiday party on Monday night. This way at the end of the week when all the grades are being entered and systems start to slow down, our staff have recovered from the hangovers and don’t get bogged down. How about you, what brings you ladies out on a Monday evening?”
“Same . . . foundation office is having our holiday party. We are across the street at OT, but a few of us decided to check out what the other bars looked like.” OT was what the locals and students called a bar named Over Time. The bar mostly catered to the Greek organizations, especially the fraternity Sigma Chi and the sorority Delta Zeta, which were known to have money and the inclination to party. In addition to mostly hiring young ladies, the university foundation also seemed to employ based on social nepotism. Much of the staff came from these two Greek chapters, especially the DZs.
“Hi, I’m Michelle, by the way,” Michelle said as she stuck her hand out toward the two ladies.
“Oh . . . sorry, I’m Stacy, and this is Beth. We do donor relations, mostly focusing on the endowment of scholarships.” Stacy was the redhead, still dressed in professional attire like she’d left the office to come right to the bars. Her loose curls fell into her face each time she took a sip, and she pretended not to brush them back. Beth was a tall blonde with straight hair who was more casual, wearing skinny jeans and a fitted polo shirt with the school’s emblem. The lowest button of the shirt was unclasped, and she occasionally touched the pendant on her necklace, lying just above her breasts. By their body language, Nick knew both had an interest in him.
The group chatted about campus politics and local events. Nick purchased a round of drinks for everyone. During the conversation, Stacy seemed to be hitting on Nick, but Nick had his eyes on Beth. His gaze kept drifting down, stealing glances at her large breasts. The polo shirt didn’t show any cleavage, but the form-fitting fabric did accentuate her curves, hinting at a possibly lacy bra underneath.
Michelle wasn’t very active in the conversation, and Nick found himself annoyed she was hanging around. Neither Stacy nor Beth tried to engage her much. Despite picking up on Nick’s nuances of annoyance, for the most part, Michelle was all right with just watching. Nick felt she was going to wreck his chances of bringing one of them, preferably Beth, home.
Eventually, a guy walked into the bar, wearing a polo shirt like Beth’s. He was taller than Nick, and heavier set, as though he might have played football at one point. He walked directly over to the group and interrupted the conversation. Nick recognized him as having some kind of accounting or bookkeeping role with the campus foundation. The guy gruffly said the director of the foundation wanted to present some gifts to the staff and was buying a round of drinks; the girls were being summoned back to OT.
Turning toward his silent friend, Nick commented, “Well, that sucks. I thought maybe I might get some action tonight. We could have asked them back to your place for an after-bar party.”
“Oh, and let me guess . . . you would have even allowed me the redhead while you got stuck with the blonde . . . right?”
“Well, you do seem to have an obsession for that Doctor Who companion with the red hair. What was her name?”
“Amy Pond,” she replied, knowing that he knew.
“Yeah . . . her . . . you still have that photo of her and The Doctor as your desktop wallpaper for your office computer. She isn’t even on the show anymore. Heck, even The Doctor is being played by a new actor this season.”
Nick, for all his suave exterior fashion, was a true geek at heart. His affection for Sci-Fi was something he hid from most. Then again, Nick hid a lot about his personal life, even from those who believed they knew him well. It always seemed to be subtle little things, too, like the bottle of ketamine in his pocket, which he used to drug and rape women. A rumor on campus spoke of a serial rapist. Nick enjoyed knowing the story was true, and it was him.
Someone going into Nick’s home wouldn’t guess he was an expert on all things Star Wars. He didn’t display posters and collectibles like the stereotypical fanboy. But a close inspection of his bookcase would show row upon row of books based in a galaxy far, far away. In public, he tended to hide that side of himself, not out of shame, but rather as an inside joke, not much different from how he hid his rapist side. But in private, Nick was happy to binge watch a trilogy of movies, or get into a verbal debate over which Star Trek captain was the best.
With the girls gone, the two neighbors started to talk to some coworkers. Michelle was a bit more open talking to her fellow database administrators. Then again, their talk was all about systems and dreams of what hardware they could budget for in the next year.
The bar began to empty and time began to wind down. Even with this being a slower time for the IT staff, employees were expected to show their faces in the office at some point the following day. Nick finished his drink and looked at Michelle. “I think we should walk over to OT and see if Beth and Stacy are still there. Maybe we can still get some after bar action going.”
Michelle just shrugged and set her glass on the bar.
Upon their entry to OT, the two found the bar nearly empty. Nick was surprised and angry to see the girls, especially Beth, were gone. He ordered a drink for himself and Michelle anyhow. The half dozen people in the bar all looked like college students, and all had Greek letters shirts on. Nick thought how he and Michelle didn’t exactly fit in with the typical clientele here for a Monday night. The local fraternities were relatively non-cliquey, so no one minded the two nerds who never pledged an organization being in the bar. Some people said hi as they walked from the tables to the bar to buy more drinks. Then again, Nick thought, it is a regular Wisconsin thing for strangers in a bar to say hi. Midwest mannerisms.
Not a lot was said, the pair just stood at the bar in a comfortable silence. Nick was the first to finish his drink. Michelle must have felt obligated to buy him a new drink. She wasn’t even halfway done with her vodka gimlet, so she only purchased the single drink for Nick. Still, the two stood in silence while Nick kept an eye on the door to the bar. He was keeping an eye out for the girls, but they never returned.
After taking a long swig from his drink, Nick announced he was going to use the bathroom. A minute later Nick returned from the bathroom and grabbed his glass off the bar. “I think it is time to get the fuck out of here.” He then drained the liquid from the glass and slammed it to the bar. Before Michelle could respond, Nick was walking out the door.
He sensed she had followed him out the door and was walking a half step behind him.
The walk to their apartment building was less than a mile. Nick could hear Michelle’s steps echoing in the cold night, and her heavy breathing as she trotted to keep up with him. He felt more annoyed, telling himself he wasn’t her babysitter. Their building was close to campus, but was also newer, so the owners kept the rent a little higher. The intent of the owners seemed to be to attract university employees. UW-Platteville had a reputation as a stepping stone campus. Many support staff, such as these two IT professionals, took jobs to gain experience on a smaller campus network, before seeking a job at a larger, more lucrative campus. People looking for just a few years’ job experience were not likely to buy homes, so upscale rental properties were in demand locations.
During the walk home, Nick complained about going home without a potential lay. He could tell his speech was slurred, and he wasn’t walking in a straight line. Michelle suggested the two go to her apartment to have more to drink and watch television. Nick agreed.
Nick was familiar with the layout in Michelle’s kitchen, it was like his own. As she turned on the TV and loaded an online video streaming service, Nick made them drinks from her liquor supply.
Nick had never thought of Michelle in a sexual way. She had always been the girl he worked with and mildly got along with. But, he was drunk and feeling horny. Fingering the bottle of ketamine in his pocket, he debated if he should drug her. Holding the bottle up, he decided he needed a thrill and tipped it into her drink. His buzz must have been stronger than he thought; he emptied the bottle into her glass. Typically, he only put a few drops in a girl’s drink.
Michelle’s living room furniture consisted of her old college futon acting as a couch, a La-Z-Boy chair, and an entertainment center. After handing Michelle her glass, Nick plopped down on the futon. “This sucks. When we left to go uptown, I thought for sure I was going to get laid tonight. Then we met up with the girls like that.” Nick sipped his drink. “I have been hoping to hook up with Beth for a while now . . .” He sighed. “Such is life . . .”
“Yeah . . . it is what it is . . . maybe next time, right?” She turned toward the television and un-paused a movie she’d selected for them to watch. Nick ignored the lights and sounds of electronics, focusing his attention on the drink he’d just handed her.
As Nick watched, Michelle’s eyes started to glaze over. They chatted, and she drank. Her words were getting muddled.
Eventually, Michelle slouched over on the futon. Nick saw her eyes were open and empty, staring into nothing. On further examination, Nick thought her eyes looked dead.