Nick woke with his stomach rumbling, but on that particular morning, he was hungry for something more than food.
He was hungry for vengeance.
Sitting up in bed, he looked over at his latest victim, the groupie he’d gone home with after last night’s show in San Jose. She lay beside him in bed, her naked body covered only by her tangle of long, dark hair and the thin sheet draped across it. He could see the outline of her breasts beneath it. For a few moments, he watched her chest rise and fall, and he thought of the heart beating inside it and his desire to stop it, to end her life the way she and her kind had ended his so many times before.
He licked his lips, the craving to kill growing stronger with every breath she took. Somehow, he hadn’t done it in the heat of passion the night before. She’d been wilder in bed than he’d expected her to be, and she’d worn him out before he’d managed to tame her. He’d fallen asleep, satisfied in one way, but not in the other. He’d still awoken with a taste for blood. Her blood.
Nothing like a little murder in the morning to start the day off right.
But it would be too easy to kill her now, while she was just lying there, docile and unaware. He preferred to see the light leave his fans’ eyes as they clouded over in death. He wanted her to know what was happening and to fear him, if only for a few minutes. It was no fun if she never knew.
So he gave her a rough poke in the shoulder and, when she stirred, pretended to have just woken up himself. “Mm… morning,” he said with an exaggerated yawn, stretching his arms up over his head. He saw her eyes follow his movement, from his ripped arms to his bare chest, and he smirked. Even with her conscious, this was going to be too easy. It always was. The fans trusted him. They never put up a fight.
“Good morning!” she replied, looking delighted at her good fortune, waking up in bed with a naked Nick Carter. She had no idea how unlucky she was about to become. “You’re still here.”
He couldn’t remember her name, had never bothered to learn it the night before, so he just replied, “Of course, baby. Like I could ever leave you…” Alive, he added to himself, a wicked smile spreading across his face. His stomach growled in response, reminding him of his hunger – both kinds. He cleared his throat. “Actually, I do gotta get going soon, so we can get back on the road. But first, you got anything for breakfast?”
She beamed back at him. “Of course!” She slid out of bed and wrapped herself in a robe.
“Marguerite,” she supplied, shooting him another grin over her shoulder as she left the bedroom.
“Marguerite,” he repeated, his heart racing in anticipation as he watched her walk away. He rolled out of bed, pulled on the pair of boxers he’d left on the floor, and followed her out to the kitchen, tripping over her cat in the hall. It hissed at him and ran away. Smart kitty, he thought.
As for its owner? Not quite so perceptive. “Muffin?” Marguerite asked, offering him one from a basket. “I just made them yesterday.”
“Thanks.” Nick perched on a stool at the center island and took a blueberry muffin, setting it down on the napkin she placed in front of him. “Do you have a knife, to slice it with?”
She pulled the smallest knife out of her wooden knife rack and handed it to him, along with a tub of margarine spread. He cut the muffin and buttered it slowly, licking the knife clean when he was done. He made sure she was watching as he fondled the blade with his tongue. “Mmm,” he said, after the first bite of muffin. “This is amazing. Almost… magical. Seriously, best damn blueberry muffin I’ve ever tasted. What’s your secret?”
Marguerite swelled up with pride. “It’s my grandmother’s recipe.”
“Yeah? Care to share it with me? Or is it really, like, a family secret or something?”
“No, I can show you.” She got out a recipe box and rifled through it, pulling one card, which she slid across the counter to him.
He pretended to study it, watching her out of the corner of his eye. “Aren’t you going to have one, too?” he asked, without looking up.
“Oh – yeah, of course.” She helped herself to a muffin from the basket.
As she peeled back the paper cup around the bottom of it, he said, “Wait… let me.” He slid off his stool and went around to her side of the island, where she stood, holding the muffin in one hand. He came up behind her, pressing his body into hers, and reached around in front of her. Lightly, ever so gently, he took hold of her hand, the hand that held the muffin. He guided it up towards her mouth, his fingers tightening around her wrist.
Then, as fast and as forcefully as he could, he rammed it at her face, cramming the whole muffin into her mouth. He felt her stiffen in his arms, heard her begin to sputter and choke as she gagged on the mouthful of muffin. He spun her around and shoved her backwards into the counter. Her eyes were wide, and rasping, retching noises were coming from her throat as she tried to expel the muffin. Grinning, he pressed the heel of his hand over her mouth, stuffing the muffin all the way in. She couldn’t even cough now. He kept his hand over her mouth and felt her last breath as it was expelled through her nostrils. He saw her face turn as blue as the berries in the muffin and her eyes bug out of their sockets, until, finally, they became fixed and frozen. She stopped struggling and went limp in his arms. He finally lowered his hand, and her head lolled backward, the muffin foaming out of her open mouth.
She was dead, suffocated, but he was not yet satisfied. Besides, he’d left his fingerprints all over her face. He had to get rid of the body.
He stripped it of its robe and hoisted it onto the countertop. Then he grabbed the biggest knife from the knife rack and set to work, chopping, slicing, and dicing. The soft bits of flesh he carved from her bones went into a large mixing bowl. What was left went into the food processor, which ground the rest of her body into a thick paste. He added this to the mixing bowl, along with the more traditional ingredients the recipe she’d left on the counter called for: flour, sugar, eggs, and so forth. While he beat them together, he sang, “Do you know the muffin man, the muffin man, the muffin man? Do you know the muffin man that lives on Backstreet Lane?”
He spooned the chunky, bloody batter into muffin tins and stuck them in the oven, set at 400 degrees. While they baked, he scrubbed down the kitchen with bleach, even adding some to the load of dishes he ran through her dishwasher. When the kitchen was spotless and sparkling, and the smell of cooked meat and freshly-baked muffins overpowered the stench of bleach, he smiled and pulled the pans out of the oven.
Steam swirled up from the muffins, which were golden brown on top. He waited just until they were cool enough to touch, then plucked one out of its tin and raised it to his lips, unable to resist. He took a big bite out of the top and felt a gush of something warm and juicy in his mouth as he chewed. Swallowing, he looked down to see the inside of the muffin, tinged red, where he’d bitten into it. He licked the blood from his lips and wiped his fingers clean on the napkin she’d given him.
Then he heard a familiar scratching, the sound of toenails against glass, and he followed the noise into an adjacent room, where he saw a dog sitting outside the patio door. It was pawing at the door, whining to be let in. “Well, hey there,” Nick said, opening the door and bending down to scratch the dog’s ears. “I bet you’re hungry, aren’t you, boy?”
As if it could understand him, the dog slunk right past him and scampered into the kitchen, where its food bowl stood empty. It looked up at Nick expectantly, seemingly more concerned about the lack of food than the stranger in its owner’s kitchen. “You want some breakfast, buddy?” Nick asked, offering the dog his half-eaten muffin.
The dog scarfed it right up, and it was gone in one swallow.
Nick smiled. “Good boy.”
Confident that the dog and cat would survive on the muffins made of their master until she was reported missing, he left her house and walked the few blocks back to his hotel, still humming the Muffin Man song to himself and thinking, One dozen down… so many more to go.