James Howard was born in a family of five: his father John Howard, mother Mary Jones, and his two brothers, Matthew Howard, and Peter Howard. James was the second born son of the family. They lived in New Jersey, America, where life was somewhat good. His mother was a housewife who loved watching television and listening to country music. She also had a passion for rearing livestock at her backyard. James’s father was a corn farmer who loved taking his children down to the river after a bumper harvest for fishing and bird watching where he would sip his expensive whiskey. However, James’s father was brutal and stern. He always wanted everything to be done in time. In particular, all his instructions were to be followed to the letter, and failure to do this often made him very angry.
James loved his father very much, but he had a deep-seated fear of his stern looks and fierce actions. One day, as James was coming from school, he stopped by his neighbor’s house to play with his classmate Paul. They played in the neighbor’s fish pond, getting all dirty and wet. When he arrived home, it was already late, and his father was angry with him. His father whacked him over and over again with his walking stick until he broke the boy’s leg. Poor boy lay outside their house bleeding from the wounds inflicted by his father and suffering from the undying pain from his broken left leg. No one was allowed to speak to him or even leave the house to go and help him out. His father ordered his brothers and mother to leave him out there in the cold so that he could learn his lesson.
James remembered that fateful day clearly as he was forced to find shelter in their dog’s kennel, next to the garage. He slept outside all night long, enduring the cold. He struggled to keep himself warm by leaning next to their dog until the next day. His father still did not allow anyone to go and see him, at least, to find out whether he was dead or alive. Inexplicably, James gathered all his strength and knocked at the door. To his utter shock, his father kicked the door open, holding in his hand the walking stick that he used to whack him the previous night. Next, the boy could not recall; he only found himself in a hospital bed covered in bandages and intravenous pipes. He was still in incessant pain. He was later informed that their neighbors intervened when they saw his father beating him mercilessly that fateful morning. However, when the police were called, his father made the entire family lie to the police about what happened to James.
Life at home for James, his brothers, and even their mother was never that good. They lived in fear, not wanting to offend or disobey their father. Although, they wished to run away from their home, including their mother, something did not let them do that. This could be the other side of their father when he was happy and sober because he was always jovial and entertaining when sober, but a monster when drunk. This fear of his wrath was always fresh in their minds.
One sunny day when the Howards were getting ready to take breakfast tables turned, James’s brother Peter, the last born of the family, dropped their father’s favorite cup, and it broke into pieces immediately it touched the floor. This sparked severe anger in their father who had been drinking all night. They could literary see the fury in his eyes, as his veins toughened, drawing visible lines on the skin. They knew what would follow, and they smelt blood. Their father was known to spare no one when angered, but Peter was small, innocent and, in fact, the last born son. Everybody hoped that the father would forgive him for the silly mistake. It was all silent for about 5 seconds before their father jumped from his seat and smacked the small boy in his face like thunder. Peter was sent flying on the floor, smashing his head directly on the concrete floor. Blood gushed from Peter’s face as he lay lifeless on the floor. James’s mother was now screaming at the top of her voice followed by piercing screams of everyone in the house.
James ran out of the house as fast as he could; behind him, loud wails and screams filled the air. He landed in front of their immediate neighbor who was now prepared for the worst, this time, round. Inside the house, James’s father was kicking and banging everything, including the lifeless child, Peter. His father had gone extremely mad, and nothing could stop him. The neighbor called the police and kept on calling them to remind them that they needed to come fast as the "mad" man would kill the entire family. The boy could not help knowing his family was trapped in the house as his father beat them mercilessly. His father had one goal in mind: to take the life out of everyone who angered him.
James could not stop crying and by the time the police arrived, he could not even see the need to feel assured of his family’s safety. After the police gained entry into their house, they realized that James’s father took his life by stabbing himself in the neck repeatedly after knocking their mother, Mary completely out. Peter succumbed to his head injuries while their mother died as a result of internal bleeding. Luckily, Mathew was found hiding in the cupboard safe and sound. He slipped into the cupboard immediately after James ran out and saw everything that went on in the house, including how his father killed himself, Peter and their mother.
Life took a difficult turn after the burial of the three family members: father, mother and their last born son, Peter. The pain of the loss was intense as the media captured every moment of it, terming it as one of the gruesome murders that Atlanta has ever experienced in the recent history. James and Mathew were separated later on as they were taken to foster care in separate locations in the United States of America. James always wished to see his elder brother Mathew and the only time for visiting his brother was during the special holidays like Christmas. This was not enough for him, but his wishes could not be fulfilled as such. He wanted to see him regularly, but his foster parents always refused, citing financial excuses. Besides, the memories of his brutal father, including the incident when he received a thorough beating for playing in their neighbor’s pond, and the day his father killed his small brother Peter and mother, remained vivid in his mind. These memories haunted him and he had endless nightmares, seeing his father striking him with a stick every night in his sleep. He shuddered when night fell and did not want to go to sleep at all. His foster parents seemed to understand, but were carried away by their other children and other family responsibilities.
After finishing school, James left his foster care to start his new life after securing himself a stable job as a banker. He always woke up early, prepared himself and went to work early enough. He enjoyed his work; however, all this long time something was disturbing him. He always felt lonely despite the frequent visits he had from his elder brother Mathew. He opted for strolling in the park every evening before he boarded a bus to his house after work. He believed that tranquility is a better cure for inner tribulations.
The evening walks in the city park seemed to work, for he felt all again relaxed and happy. He felt great throwing stones to stray dogs and hitting them hard as they ran away screaming. Sometimes he trapped some dogs and cats, tying them together and setting them on fire. He would sit next to the helpless animals as they burned to ashes. This made him relaxed as he took the lives of animals in a blink of an eye. He was becoming addicted to this trend, and whenever he missed a chance to trap an animal, he felt incomplete.
One day, as James was strolling in the park, he noticed a dog running around with a broken chain. The dog looked lost. He went straight to it whistling, and the dog responded by wagging its tail. It sat down as if it understood the language. James looked at the dog as if feeling some pity and sank his hand down his left pocket, where he kept his pen knife. All, this time, the dog was looking up with its tiny eyes resting slightly above its tiny nose. It looked peaceful and nonchalant. Alas! James stabbed the innocent dog right in its neck repeatedly as the dog cried out loudly. He did not to fear anything, even the sharp and menacing teeth of the small animal. In a few minutes of struggle, the dog fell to its side bleeding profusely. It made small sounds till it stopped breathing and kicking – there was no movement at all.
The job was hard, but James saw it as a simple routine, which gave him more desire to kill or squeeze the life out of victims. He needed more challenges, like something difficult that would make him work up some sweat. Before he could make a few steps away from the lifeless animal, a middle-aged man shouted at him, "Hey! Stop, what have you done to my dog?" James did not answer and continued to walk away as the man struggled to reach him. On the spur of the moment, James stopped and turned back; in total fury he pulled out his knife and sunk it deeply into the man’s chest. The man let out a sharp scream as they both scuffled on the ground. The man tried to call for help, but it was too late, and the knife had already done its job. It went straight through his ribcage, shuttering his heart. He took his final breath while staring directly into James’s eyes.
James killed a man for the first time in his life. He felt some sadness and guilt. He did not just walk away; he started running away from the lifeless man and his dog. His heart was now racing fast and he felt confused. He boarded a bus fast and arrived to his apartment faster than usual. He bolted his door and sat in his couch staring at the ceiling. He knew that he had killed a man and this would lead him to trouble. He was not sure whether anyone had seen him, but reassured himself that all along no one had been seeing him when he tortured innocent animals. He retired to bed certain that it was all between him and God.
The following morning he woke up earlier than usual; he had a feeling of happiness burning in him and switched on his television. The story of a person found dead beside his dead dog was the breaking news. Every channel was reporting the breaking news, as detectives reported that they were yet to capture the murderer. James laughed and patted himself on his back as he prepared for work. He was astonished that no one had a clue of his actions and was happy to see people concerned about this escapade. He realized how easy it was to take life out of people and animals and leave people with the puzzle forever.
He went to work as usual and shared his sentiments about the death of the man and his dog with his fellow workmates as he pretended to be shocked and in fear as well. He was filled with joy to learn that everyone in the workplace were in sheer fear including his boss. He felt like a hero. He changed his routine of taking a walk at the park and considered going straight home as the police were struggling to find the killer.
Months passed, and police was not able to find the real killer. This made James even happier, and he called himself a smooth operator. However, he was soon to realize that his desire to shed more blood was burning in him. This feeling was battling with his desire to settle down and have a family of his own. He wished to have children and live a happy life, where he could see his children grow. This, he thought, would make a stop to his desire to kill.
It did not take long before James found a beautiful woman, who had just moved into his neighborhood. The lady, Carol, became fond of James and loved spending time in his house every evening after work before she retired to her own house. James began falling in love with Carol, but he did not find the most appropriate time to break this news to her. Apparently, Carol was in a relationship with another man named Jimmy, who visited her during the weekends, which was something that James did not know about. Carol only paid James a visit to pass time considering that she felt bored alone in her house.
One day, as James was taking a walk in the estate, he noticed a car parked at Carol’s doorstep. He had seen this car one of the past weekends. He became concerned about it and decided to visit Carol and satisfy his burning curiosity. Carol opened her door and welcomed James happily. She was quick to introduce him to Jimmy, informing him that Jimmy was her boyfriend. James smiled as he shook hands with Jimmy. They engaged in a light conversation as Carol prepared some tea for them. All this time, James was burning inside. He was not happy to learn that Carol was in a relationship. He felt disappointed but remained cool and relaxed.
After taking a cup of tea, James decided to leave and Carol escorted him out. In his house, James kept on cursing himself for meeting Carol in the first place. He felt deceived and taken for granted. He felt beaten in his own game and could not understand how someone would rob his woman whom he had so much desired. A feeling of shedding blood crept up on him. He knew he had no way to convince Carol to leave Jimmy for him, considering the fact that Carol was happy around Jimmy. He had to do something quick, something that would restore his happiness and give him a chance to be with Carol without any problem. James knew that no one would go against his wishes and with his strength, he was willing to set things right.
James made an effort to investigate where Jimmy lived and it took some time to establish his specific home address. He found out that Jimmy lived with his grandmother a few miles away and worked as a truck driver. James was determined to finish this business and immediately set camp the moment Jimmy was back from his day’s job. Jimmy just walked into his sitting room, where his grandmother was seated next to the fire place. His grandmother was not feeling well and was slowly taking her medication. She had a fever and Jimmy was worried about her health.
After freshening up, Jimmy came down to watch television together with his grandmother. They chatted as they took tea. All this time, James was watching them from Jimmy’s garage, with a brandished knife in his hand, which he used to kill animals and the man with his dog about a year ago. His heart was beating fast as he factored in how to gain entry into the house. As he went near the window, he stumbled over the flower bed and fell in a thud. This made some noise that startled Jimmy and his grandmother. Jimmy went out to check what was happening. James stood immediately and went to the door just before Jimmy opened it.
Jimmy was shocked to find James standing dumbfounded. James’s eyes were bloodshot and he was shaking in sheer urge to execute an evil move. “Hey, James what are you doing here?” asked Jimmy. James did not reply, but kept on advancing towards Jimmy. Jimmy realized that something was wrong and ran back into the house. James went in after him brandishing his knife in the air. Jimmy was screaming at the top of his voice, in an attempt to make James relent, considering that he had seen the knife in his hand, which was still stained with blood.
James caught up with Jimmy, cutting his throat like a piece of cloth, in front of his grandmother. Jimmy fell down on his knees as James stabbed him repeatedly in his neck until the screams faded. Jimmy begged James to spare his grandmother in a faint voice as he took his last breath. James could hear none of this. His main attention was now turned to Jimmy’s grandmother. She was trembling and praying while holding her small bible. She begged James to spare her life and asked him to take anything that he wanted, but James remained cold. On the spur of the second, he hit Jimmy’s grandmother with the blunt side of the knife, and she fell off her chair. She was wailing in pain and despair. James executed his mission like he had always done, but this time he chose to strangle her to death – she died instantly.
James finished his job and he knew that Carol was now for him alone. He went back to his house and, as usual, Carol knocked at his door. However, she came in crying and in total confusion. She said to James that Jimmy and his grandmother had been killed in cold blood. She could not stop crying as James struggled to soothe her and promise her that everything would be alright.
Coincidentally, Carol saw a knife with blood stashed under the table. Her heart started beating hard and James felt her unusual change of emotion. Carol tried to run out of James’s house, but he grabbed her by her dress and pulled her back. He pulled his knife and placed it on her neck as she begged for her life. It dawned on Carol that James was behind the killing of Jimmy and his grandmother and that she was also going to die.
Outside, the police was already taking positions. James looked through the window and realized that he had nowhere to go, but finish what he had started. Suddenly, he felt a sharp pain in his neck – he had been shot; he released his grip on Carol and the knife, falling down and dying instantly. The police had uncovered his series of killings by trailing him and bringing to an end his slippery serial killings.