Bhakti was telling Nate that she was cutting out of work a half hour early because she wanted to have a friend help her pick up a “free couch” she had spotted curbside on the drive to work that morning.
“Don’t do it!” Nate exclaimed, so loudly that other workers in the lunchroom looked their direction.
“Don’t you know about ‘The Free Couch Killer?’” Nate put down his pudding spoon in excess of emotion.
“What the hell?” Bhakti was sure she was about to hear a really bad joke. “No. Tell me, sweetheart.”
“There was this guy, this skinny creep who modified couches so he could hide inside them. And then he would put them out by the curb or sometimes advertise them on craigslist, places like that. And people would pick up the couches and take them home, and when they were sleeping, he would slip out of the couch and murder them. He killed at least three women that they know of.”
Bhakti was still smiling at the way Nate had turned his face into a mask of terror when he had dramatically italicized the phrase “that they know of.”
“Well, is the couch creep still at large?”
“No. He was served justice. But he was never arrested.”
“Enlighten me, please.”
“Well, he was lying there in one of his couch traps one summer night, and a truck pulled up and this tarantula was loaded onto the bed of the truck inside that couch. He figured he was sitting pretty for another victim. Turns out it was a bunch of totally high kids out joyriding who had picked up the couch for a different reason.”
“They had this stupid thing that they would do where they would drive around at night picking up large items to throw off Entwhistle bridge. They loved watching them fall hundreds of feet into the river, especially in winter time when they’d use things like old washing machines to break the river ice. Assholes. But they served a higher purpose that night when they threw the couch with the creep in it off the bridge. The monster must have figured out what was happening at the last moment, because they heard the couch scream as it fell. That was a first for them. None of the other appliances or furnishings they had thrown off the bridge had screamed.”
“And they found his body?”
“Yeah, he washed up downstream a few days later. They had gotten DNA samples off the couches where the murders had occurred. He would leave the couches torn open and overturned. The cops weren’t getting it at first, thought the nut just had something against couches as well as people, so he left a note at the third crime scene actually explaining his m.o. You know how some of those twisted creatures like to brag. And yet people still drive around picking up these free couches.”
“I think he was one of a kind. I doubt there are any more couch creeps out there.”
“You never know. But hey, I have a solution for you. If you are still going to pick that couch up today.”
“Yeah. Stand real close to the couch, where any couch creep could hear you talking, and say, ‘This is just the perfect couch for the bonfire. I can’t wait to burn this old thing!’
“If the couch screams or starts acting like a Mexican jumping bean, don’t take it.”