Right off the bat, the first time she saw him, Bethany knew she had a thing for the folksinger. Not just because he was handsome with those long, curly locks and dark, brooding eyes. No; there was something about his voice and the way he sang. She’d never heard anything like it. It was not only sensual but mystical, like she was being put under a spell.

She was a waitperson at Club 813 and the first time he played there, she went nuts. His name was Caleb and he sang songs like “Sweet Baby James” and “Girl from the North Country” and she just swooned. Good-looking and a poet to boot; what more could more could a single, 29-year-old woman who lived with her invalid mother ask for? She’d never heard a singer like him before in her life. The fact that he was local made him even more attractive.

During his break, she stopped by his table. With a smoldering countenance and surly attitude, he was sitting alone, and she could tell he preferred it that way. “Hi,” she said, giving him her sexiest smile. “Can I get you anything?”

He shrugged. “Sure. A beer. Any kind.”

He acted kind of rude, so why she was attracted to him? She had no clue, but when she brought his beer, she asked, “How about if I join you after I’m done here? If you’re going to stick around, that is.”

He shrugged again. “That’d be cool.”

So she did.

They slept together that first night and dated a few times after, but things never moved any further. Being with him just wasn’t all that great. After about a month, she broke it off after an especially violent night of sex where he had actually hurt her. She got out of his little house in the country fast, thinking about what was wrong with him. She’d even bought a razor-sharp, quick-opening pocket knife the next day just to be on the safe side. But she didn’t need it. She never heard from him again and then pretty much forgot about him, spending her time working and taking care of her mother.

So imagine her surprise five months later when he showed up again at the club looking just as long and lean and sultry as he had when she’d first fallen for him. While he was tuning up on stage, she watched as one of the new servers, Randi, came under his spell.

Bethany liked the young, 19-year-old server, and felt a sort of motherly affection for her. “Watch out for that guy, Randi,” she said while they were standing side by side at the bar waiting for drink orders. “He’s bad news.”

Randi laughed and blew her off. “I can handle myself, Mom,” she said jokingly. “No problem.”

That night, the cafe was packed, every table was filled, and the servers were kept on their toes. Caleb had become quite popular in the intervening months and tonight drew a large crowd. Bethany was busier than ever waiting tables. So busy, in fact, that she forgot all about Randi.

But when she didn’t show up for work the next day, Bethany was concerned.

She approached Jocelyn, the manager. “We should call Randi. See if she’s all right.”

“Why? She’s probably just sick. Or hungover. I saw her leave with Caleb last night. Maybe she’s with him.”

Against her better judgment, Bethany said, “Okay, I guess. But let’s only give it one more day.”

The next day, Bethany had a scheduled day off. She called Randi’s phone at ten in the morning but only got her voicemail. Then she called every hour during the day until six at night. No answer. She called work and talked to Jocelyn. “Any word on Randi?”

“No. She was supposed to come in for the lunch shift today and never showed.”

“That’s not like her.”


Both of them were quiet for a moment. Bethany could hear noise in the background, people talking, dishes rattling, piped-in music in the background.

“Sounds like it’s getting busy.”

“Yeah, the group that was going to play cancelled. We’ve got that folksinger guy Caleb coming to fill in. We’ll be busy. You want to work? I know you had a thing for him.”

Bethany involuntarily cringed. “Ah, no. I don’t need to see him again. And thanks for the offer on working, I could use the money, but I think I’ll pass.”

“Suit yourself. Look, it’s getting busy. I better go.”

“See ya.”

Bethany hung up. While talking to Jocelyn, she’d formulated a plan. With Caleb at the club tonight, she would have time to check out his house. She’d had a bad feeling about him ever since that last night with him and now Randi had gone missing. Maybe she was in trouble and needed help. There was only one way to find out.

She nervously waited until nine that night, when Caleb’s set started. Then she drove from her apartment near the University of Minnesota campus past the exit to Club 813 and west to Orchard Lake, a small town located in the rolling hills and farmland 30 miles from Minneapolis. Caleb lived off a little-used county road in a small house that had been left to him when his parents had died in a tragic car accident. At least that was the story he’d told Bethany the few times he’d talked about his past. But the more she thought about it, the more she wondered if he had been telling the truth. He was one of those guys who developed a mythology about himself and then sold that myth to the world: the lonely, misunderstood poet who sang about loss and heartache because he couldn’t find true love.

What a crock. Bethany had seen his true colors and they weren’t pretty. The bruises from that last night with him had taken over a month to heal. How she ever could have liked the guy in the first place was beyond her. After that last violent night with him, she’d had the good sense to get rid of him forever. Too bad she hadn’t been able to convince Randi. Now, she felt like she owed it to the young girl to make it up to her. Hopefully, her instincts were wrong. She’d soon find out.

Bethany drove carefully down the county road until she saw the mailbox at the end of Caleb’s driveway. She turned in. The quarter-mile road was rutted after recent rains and there was a pungent aroma in the air like something had died. She pulled up to the front of the house. All the lights inside were off, but a bright halogen outdoor floodlight was on, illuminating the entire yard along with a couple of old, falling apart outbuildings. Caleb’s dog was staked to the ground off to the right near one of them, a big German Shephard that began barking madly when Bethany drove up.

She got out of the car and waved to the lunging animal. “Hi, Buck,” she said, smiling and being friendly, despite her fears for Randi. “How’s the fella?”

She reached in her pocket and took out a packet of beer jerky she’d thought to purchase at a Quik Stop on the way. “Here you go, boy,” she said, tossing the huge animal the food.

Buck immediately quieted down and started in on the jerky, looking at her with suddenly friendly eyes. He remembered her, and why wouldn’t he? She’d always been kind to him. “That’s a good boy,” she said, and then went to check on the house.

The front door was locked and so was the back, but Bethany sighed in relief when she looked and found that the key was still under a stone beneath the back steps, like it used to be. She used it to let herself in. Even though the lights were off, there was enough glow from the yard light for her to make her way through the small home. She checked the entire first floor, concentrating on the two bedrooms, but there was nothing suspicious, only the stale scent of unwashed sheets and recent sex. All Bethany could think about was Randi. Had she been here? Probably. Was she still here? It didn’t look like it, but if she wasn’t here, where was she?

The only place left to check was the basement. She turned on the light and made her way downstairs, where she found the poor girl alive, but in bad shape. She’d been beaten and was laying on the floor, gagged and tied to a water pipe.

Bethany ran to her and tugged the gag down. “Randi! My God, what did he do to you?”

The poor girl was terrified but able to talk through bruised lips. “He said he was going to kill me after he was done with me,” she broke down in tears. “Please! Get me out of here before he comes back! Hurry!”

Bethany took out her knife and cut the rope binding Randi to the pipe in one quick swipe. “Let me help you up.”

Randi got to her feet and leaned into Bethany. “Thank you. You saved me. I’m positive he was going to kill me.”

“You’re safe with me. I’ll get you out of here.” Bethany’s hatred for the creep Caleb had reached a new high. She took out her phone. “I’m calling the police. Then we’re getting out of here.”

But right then, things got worse. First, there was no signal for her phone, so she couldn’t call for help. Second, there the sound of a door slamming and then sudden footsteps above them followed by a voice at the top of the stairs. It was Caleb.

Bethany acted on instinct, opened her knife, and held it hidden against her leg.

“Well, well, well,” he said as he started down the stairs, “Bethany. Nice to see you, girl. Two for the price of one, I see.” He licked his lips as he hit the bottom step. “I can’t wait to get to know you again.”

He smiled and took a step closer. A step too close, it turned out. Bethany lunged at him with her knife and slashed him across the chest. He staggered backwards and looked at her in amazement as blood spurted out, flowing down his chest like a river. Enraged, he leaped for her. This time, Bethany stabbed him in the neck, in his voice box, plunging her knife deep and twisting it before she pulled it out. At first, Caleb had a surprised look on his face, then horror as blood gushed from the gaping wound. He sank to the floor, writhing in agony. He tried to scream, “You bitch, you fucking bitch,” but only mumbled words came out. She had severed his vocal cords.

Randi had fallen to the floor during the attack. Bethany helped her to her feet and propped her against her side as they slowly made their way past the bleeding man. She gave Caleb a satisfying kick in the groin on the way out, saying, “Die, sucker. Die a long slow death.”

Outside, Bethany called the police. While they waited, she got a couple of bottles of water from her car, which the two of them drank while they kept Buck company. He’d taken an immediate liking to Randi, who, all things considered, was holding up pretty well.

“How did you think to come here?” she asked, scratching Buck behind the ears. He sank to the ground and rolled on his back with his feet pawing the air in ecstasy.

Bethany shrugged. “I just had a feeling. Like I told you the other night, I’d dated the jerk once before. I knew he was bad news.”

“I should have listened to you.”

“Well, at least you’re safe.”

In the background, they could her sirens approaching. The police would be there shortly. On the phone, they said they were bringing an ambulance.

Randi pointed to the house. “Should we go check on him?”

Bethany shook her head. “What for? He deserves everything coming to him.”

“He might bleed to death.”

“Do you care after what he did to you?”

Randi didn’t hesitate, “No. Not at all.”

Bethany agreed, “Me neither.”

And the two of them sat waiting, talking quietly together, both of them looking forward to a world where there was one less jerk like the guy in the basement in it. When the cops showed up, both women were smiling. The police didn’t even bother to ask why.

The next day, Bethany took Randi to the store to buy a knife, just to be on the safe side. Randi was all for it. She bought one just like Bethany’s.