Excerpt: Chapter 9

Chapter 9 from The Devil You Know: The story of Roberto Negro

The windows in a small two-bedroom house built in 1937, wept with grime and filth as a young girl lay in a bedroom. From the outside the flicker of a TV in the living room could be seen. Her frail body crumpled in a heap with her head wrapped in a blanket and secured with duct tape. Roberto could hear her muffled cries asking for something to drink while he sat on his sofa. It made his heart race to know that she knew what would be coming, that is as soon as he had his strength back. He was excited by the stench of her fear in the air.


It will be alright

Get down on your knees

Hands in the air

Put your head back

Exhale deeply

Just don’t think about it

It’ll all be over soon


Quit fighting


She recited a mantra of random words he’d said to her, and words that came out of nowhere from the depths of her subconscious. Maybe it could help her stay awake, but it went on till he could take no more and he shouted at her; I imagine the words they quoted him as saying, cutting sharply through the darkness,

“If you don’t shut your fucking mouth, I’ll rip your tongue right out of your head.”

The police noted that he had heard a muffled thump from her jumping where she sat in the closet and it making his lap warm. How thoughts raced as he smoked cigarette after cigarette. Each one breaking as he put them out while he wrote on a notepad.

According to the letter the police found in her pocket she endured so much pain before he accidentally killed her.

“I don’t know where to start this. I just know I have to start it because there will be a lot of people asking questions but I won’t have anything to say.

The day we met I was sitting in my van between deliveries, chicken grease on my fingers. Hours had passed since my last call. That’s when I saw her walking down the side of the road. It was early morning; her wobbly legs gave me an instant hard on. I’d never seen a girl this far out in the country. From my toes to the top of my head I was on fire. It almost felt like I was going to piss my pants.

She was real young, real pretty. Her black hair fell just below her shoulders but when a breeze caught her, I could see that soft patch of skin where her neck curved into her shoulder. That place when you kiss a woman there you can feel her pulse. She had on a white t-shirt; her little waist teasing me with these skin tight high waist shorts girls are wearing again. I remember them from thirty years back when I was in high school. Girls never understood why they were called whores when they dressed like that.

None of the women’s liberation bullshit about wear what you want when you want. You dress like that you’re getting fucked one way or another.

She wobbled a bit more before sitting down on the side of the road next to a mailbox. Picking at flowers, swatting at little gnats near her head. Her body swayed as she tried to keep herself sitting up.

Take her into the woods?

Tell her I’ll take her home?

I couldn’t decide. So many choices that made my body feel warm and flushed.

All I knew is that I had to have that tight young body under this slippery old skin.

Feel the breath leave her chest as she feels all my weight on her

That ripple through my body as I slide inside her warmth

The look on her face when she tells me her parents will worry

I’d had it once before when I was in the Army stationed in Germany and I’d never felt quite like a man since.

It felt meaningless every time I was with some woman that looked at me with eyes that said she wanted it over with before it even started. As if they were giving me a mercy lay. Every lay was a mercy lay in my mind. If I had wanted to spend the rest of my life in prison, I would have killed every one of them.

I called out to her again.

“What the fuck is your name anyway?”


“You answer me when I’m speaking to you. “


I put the last cigarette out on the palm of my hand. Watching the little burn patch expand and bubble. To kill the pain, I wrapped my hand around my beer on the table and took it with me into the bedroom.

She started to struggle in the closet when she heard my feet coming down the hallway. I could hear her trying to find some dark corner where I might not be able to find her. Standing in my bedroom doorway, I listened to her panting in the closet across the room.

“How old are you?”

The little voice called out,


I tapped my fingers on the wall and asked,

“What’s your name?”

Making my way across the room, I hummed while she answered.

“Jennifer. My parents will worry if I’m…”

I cut her off.

“Shut up. You answer my questions and only the questions that I ask. Do you understand?”

That nubile quiver in her voice was delicious.

“Yes, I understand.”

I walked further across the room; pressing my chest against the slats on the closet door. She was squirming to the farthest part of the closet again and whispering softly over and over, 

Two little dicky birds,
Sitting on a wall;
One named Peter,
One named Paul.
Fly away Peter!
Fly away Paul…

When I opened the closet door, she was curled in a ball.

“What the fuck is that song?”

Her hands were on her ears over the blanket on her head. As I pulled her up by the back of her top and brought her to her feet; I pulled the blanket off.  Her eyes were swollen with all the blood vessels were broken around her eyes from crying.

“Look at me!”

With a push, she was on the bed with my full weight on top of her.

My hand on her soft fleshy neck. She till had fight in her even after I got her shorts off because she wouldn’t give in till I ripped her white cotton panties down the middle. Then twenty minutes later after she’d gotten sick a few times, I was done. When I looked over at her on the right side of the bed. She wasn’t moving, and the color had left her skin.

I reached out to shake her and nothing. Purple welts rising on each side of her neck as her chest rose once then lay sunk and motionless. A breath rattling in her chest, and then silence.

The pond on Central Ave was the closet place I could get rid of her. That’s why you’ve found her here. ”

That’s where the note that Roberto Negro left in her pocket ended.

I tipped my cup back; the last drips of coffee sliding down my throat.  The diner I was at was about forty-five minutes from his house.

What could have been going on in his head to do that and leave her where he did. Dragging her through the grass from where he parked. Heaving her into the water and turning his back to walk away as she sank. His note in a plastic baggy stuffed into the pocket of her jean shorts that he slipped back on.

I swore to myself I’d fix it even it killed me.

Tapping my spoon on the table

My knee jumping under it

Rocking in my seat

Clicking link after link

I had a day

Maybe two, to get all this done


Booze and crackers

Binoculars and bleach

Rope and tape

Benadryl and

A hunting knife

The kind you gut a deer with

I’d tell them I was going camping

The old couple in the booth in front of me tried to look inconspicuous as they peered over their coffee cups at me. I left before drawing attention to myself, but paused to wink at the husband.

There was no time to waste.

Driving at night is like watching live art. Speed and shadow melting together casting fractals on the dash.  The more I drove, the more my thoughts raced.  The more I ran though everything in my head, the more I thought about him. Which boiled over into rage. All of it coagulating  in my belly like cold stew.

Heavy and jellified.

As mile markers passed by me, I considered all the ways I could get that last breath from him. Imagining what I would say to him.

I was going to get it done

It’ll be so quick

The monster in my belly

Pushing through that cold jelly talking to me

I could feel it rumbling




Disposable girls

Trash heaps

Left in ponds

Left alone with kids at home

Left to sweat on a pole for some guy who has a twenty-dollar bill

And a pregnant wife

Pushed out into a world of Playboy models

Pedophiles and personal trainers

Bigger tits

Jack em’ up high so your husband doesn’t trade you in

Flatter stomach

Long hair

Milky skin

Don’t let your thighs touch

Get rid of that acne as quickly as you can

Magazines plastered with all the things you should be

Telling you how to get a man

Try harder

Look better

Find a man

You need a man

Sex positions

Turn yourself into a pretzel to get him off

Lower your standards once you’re over forty

After all

The clock is ticking and

All the good men are married or gay

All the shit I’d heard from the time I was thirteen

I slammed my hand on the steering wheel and turned the radio up. My eyes peeled for the redneck glory glow of a Walmart sign from the highway.

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