"I'm going to kill you when you leave the party," said the tall dark-haired man in the white suit, smiling cheerfully.
Richard blinked. He didn't go to parties often, and situations like this--finding yourself in a baffling, awkward conversation with a total stranger--were a big reason for that. Even so, this particular situation was... getting very odd even by those standards, so odd that he was almost certain that he'd misheard the man. "Did you just say you were..."
"Going to kill you when you leave the party," said the dark-haired man, smiling at him.
"Follow you back to your car, sneak up behind you, probably throw you to the ground, stomp on you a bit, and then--oh, a little crude torture before I finally kill you." He gave a pleasant chuckle.
"It'll be quite agonizing for you."
Richard stared at the man, considering a response to this. Various ones came to mind, most of which involved asking him if he was drunk, or high, or if this was some bizarre Dada-esque party game that had caught on and which Richard was only just now finding out about. But somehow--somehow he couldn't ask the man any of those questions. Looking at him, Richard just realized that he was perfectly sober, and even though the man was strangely pleasant about the prospect of murdering him horribly, he seemed... sincere. And so Richard found himself asking the only question that seemed to suit the situation.
"Why would you do that?"
"Why not?" said the man, with a jovial shrug. "It'll be fun. For me at least." He gave Richard a slightly sympathetic glance. "Not for you."
"You... you'll be caught," Richard said, slightly desperately.
"No, I won't be," said the man, shaking his head.
"I... I'm going to call the cops," muttered Richard, starting to move away.
"No, you won't," said the man, dark eyes following him.
"You can't do this!" Richard said, turning and shaking his finger at the man.
"Yes, I can," he answered, an amused grin on his face.
Richard turned away, and headed towards his host. Larry was an old friend, and Richard knew--knew--that he wouldn't let this man threaten him in this... utterly bizarre fashion. For the first time in the night, he was glad Mabel had stayed at home with the kids, rather than hiring a babysitter--he didn't want his wife to be anywhere near this lunatic. As Richard tried to remember if anyone had told him the man's name--he didn't think so--in fact on reflection, he couldn't recall just how he and the man had started talking--he walked up to Larry and the small knot of people gathered around him.
"Larry," he said, gesturing behind himself, "that man just threatened to kill me..."
Larry blinked and looked over to where Richard was gesturing. "Ummm... which man?" he asked.
"The tall man, with the dark hair. In the white suit!" snapped Richard, as he gradually turned his all-encompassing wave into a precise point.
Larry's eyes searched over the crowd until they found the person Richard was indicating. "Oh, you mean... oh, what's his name again..."
"That's Cal!" said a woman. "He works in shipping!"
"No, no," said a man. "In real estate!"
"Are you sure?" said the woman. "I swear it was shipping..."
"Cal!" Larry called across the room. The tall dark-haired man in the white suit turned, and started to lope over towards the little knot of people. Larry gave an apologetic cough as he reached them.
"Ummm... that is your name, right?"
"Sure, why not?" said the man with a smile and a forgiving shrug.
"Right, right," said Larry, nodding in agreement. "Cal--Richard here says you said you were going to kill him..."
"That's right," agreed 'Cal'. "I'm going to kill him after he leaves the party."
Larry's mouth fell open, his eyes slightly glassy. "Oh." He stared at 'Cal' for a moment, before speaking again. "Why?"
"Oh, to amuse myself, really," said 'Cal', casually spreading his hands. "I get bored--terribly bored--sometimes, and killing someone really just puts an end to that for a while." He smiled broadly. "It's very amusing."
"Oh," said Larry, nodding casually. As Richard looked over the group, he realized that most of them were giving the same sort of nod, a vague, matter-of-fact gesture that would have seemed more appropriate if 'Cal' had been talking about why he'd changed his insurance policy.
"Well, that makes sense," said the woman who'd earlier sworn he was in shipping.
'Cal' nodded. "You have to keep yourself happy. If you don't, who will?" The group nodded as if he'd just said something profound.
"This one's going to be hilarious, if I say so myself." He gestured to Richard. "I am going to kill him slowly in the parking lot."
Several people broke out into grins at this, and one of them tittered, as if he were telling a funny joke. "You will all hear his cries of pain and agony," continued 'Cal' cheerfully, "but you won't realize it. They will haunt your nightmares for the rest of your lives. You will wake up in the middle of the night, hearing the echo of it, but you'll never really realize it. It will lurk in your minds, always beyond conscious recognition, hovering on the edge of your memory, never to leave your skull, no matter how much you might wish it to."
A sort of general laughter broke out among the crowd at this. As Richard looked around the room, he realized that everyone's attention was now fixed on 'Cal', and even worse, they all seemed to be regarding him as if he were telling some highly amusing joke.
"But I haven't gotten to the best part," continued 'Cal', gesturing emphatically with his hands.
"When I'm done killing Richard, I'm going to tear him into little pieces, stuff him into the trunk of his car, drive it back to his house, and leave it there for his wife and kids to find!" He threw back his head and laughed. The crowd laughed along, with even Larry joining in his guest's amusement.
"I'm thinking I might just put his head on the dashboard. To make it extra horrifying for them." Peals of laughter rang through the room. "They're going to be traumatized for the rest of their lives! His wife--Mabel--is going to try and kill herself two months later!" A woman's swallow of drink gushed from her nose as she joined in the laughter, while Richard tried to remember if he'd mentioned Mabel to 'Cal'. 'Cal' meanwhile smiled confidently, the expert storyteller getting to the best part.
"It won't work--at least not like she plans. She'll suffer a massive organ failure, but survive hooked up on machines for the next two years. And when she does die, it's going to be excruciating! Oh--and his kids!" 'Cal' rolled his arms back in a rather... distressingly fluid manner, then, with a sudden jerk, brought them together so quickly the slap echoed in the room. "Oh, the hell those kids of his will go through in the institutions!" He gave a pleasant chuckle, rubbing his hands together and doing a jerky little jig with his long legs.
"I tell you that's one thing I love about you people--you do so much of my work for me in these things!"
The entire room was now filled with people laughing hysterically at the thought of Richard's horrible murder, and the ruin of his family. As he looked around it, Richard wondered what was happening. He felt utterly alone, and utterly helpless. A companionable hand slapped his shoulder. He turned around.
"Richard," said Cal, looking at him, filled with sympathy, "you don't look like you're having fun."
"I'm not," said Richard, shaking his head.
Cal sighed, and gave a slight, kindly nod. "You should leave then. If you're not having fun at a party, why stay?"
"Y-you're right," said Richard. He straightened himself, and headed to get his coat. Before he left, he turned to regard his friend. "Thanks for the advice, Cal."
"Hey, anytime," said Cal in his usual good-natured way. "Be seeing you then. Real soon."
"That'll be nice," said Richard, as he went out the door.
"It will be," agreed Cal, giving him a toothy grin.
Richard left the apartment and took the elevator to the lobby, then walked across the parking lot to his car. As he did so, a nagging and growing sense of dread began to grip him, one that refused to go away no matter how much he repeated that it was ridiculous. Richard felt certain that something horrible was going to happen to him. He tried to dismiss it, but it wouldn't go away. Richard tried to figure out why he was feeling this way as he got out his keys.
That was when he heard the quick, confident footsteps rushing up behind him, and he remembered.