Zero Cut Danger

A Killer Need Prequel, available exclusively to newsletter subscribers.

Copyright © 2023 Joely Sue Burkhart

I’m looking for the perfect victim. So perfect that my target won’t be able to resist the bait, even if he suspects a trap.

So I can nail the motherfucker once and for all. 

Fanned out in front of me on the table are pictures of likely candidates I’ve gathered from several online BDSM groups. According to the details provided in the kill order, these are the same places my target hunts for his next conquest. 

In a second pile, I have pictures of his victims. They don’t all look the same, which has made it difficult for the FBI to profile him beyond probable white male in his mid-to-late thirties. Some are brunettes but not all. He doesn’t prefer a particular body type or even locale or dating service. He’s killed all over the United States, so he travels widely. He’s smart enough to evade police for five years, with his body count climbing steadily to almost twenty. He’s cocky enough to not hide his victims. He wants them found. He even marks them all so there’s no question at all who’s killed them. 

Though his marks are messier now. He’s losing control quicker, desperate to feed his urges as his bloodlust escalates. He’s smart enough to still be killing beneath the FBI’s noses, confident that he can’t be caught. Which tells me he’s in power, most likely law enforcement. Maybe even a Special Agent himself. It wouldn’t be the first time the Bureau had a serial killer on their payroll. 

I should know. 

I even have a hunch I may know this killer. The instinct was there when I was a Special Agent. Maybe he went on to darker and bloodier things too. He’s still listed as active duty, so if it’s him… He’s deep in the trenches, covering his own tracks effortlessly. Even if the FBI has their best agents on the case, they won’t be able to expose him easily, and they certainly won’t want a long, drawn-out trial describing his crimes in gruesome detail. 

That’s why someone with deep pockets hired me. 

They don’t understand his motives. They can’t figure out why he’s hunting these particular women. They can’t predict how he’s selecting his victims and catch him in the act. Why these submissive women out of all of the ones posting on the various online communities?

I know why.  

I’d pick them too. If I allowed myself to indulge. 

This killer and I share the same taste for blood and sex and pain. The same urges. So my perfect victim will make the best bait to lure him in for the kill. 

My jaw clenches as I stare down at the photos. Even a thin crack in my control will put an innocent woman in danger. Not from him.

From me.

The predator inside me lifts its head. I haven’t indulged in a scene in nearly two years, not since the last contract went bad. Even professionals fear to tread where my sadist is out to play. 

Let alone the killer. 

“It’s in the blood.” My father’s voice echoes in my head. “You can’t deny my heritage.”

“Fuck you,” I mutter darkly. If only I could silence the memory of his voice the same way I put a bullet in his skull to end his decades-long killing spree. My infamous father lived on—in the bellies of half a dozen alligators in the Louisiana swamps.

And me.

My eyes keep coming back to rest on one particular photo. She has long, unruly curly dark hair. A sweet, shy smile with full lips. But it’s the certain tilt of her head, the way she looks sideways at the camera through her hair, as if she’s hiding in plain sight, that mesmerizes me. I prefer to hide in plain sight too.

I can see it now. The way she’ll look up at me through that mess of hair. Big eyes shimmering with tears and hurt. Lips trembling. Crying. Begging. On her knees.

Even while she opens her mouth to take my dick down her throat.

Her Discord account, slaverainy, hasn’t posted an update in months, which won’t work for the trap. I need a submissive eagerly posting about her new Master and all the bruises he leaves on her. Especially the bites—my target’s signature. I need her willing to post pictures, so he’ll see another alpha dipping his toe in the same little play pool. 

A pissing contest he can’t refuse. 

Fuck, she’s perfect, though. Those soft, wide expressive eyes and sweet face. Graceful neck begging for a collar. Or my fist wrapped around it, squeezing. Controlling her breathing. Controlling everything. Will she see through my disguise as easily as I see through hers?

If so, the pretty little bait will be long gone before I can lure my target.

Her older posts flag her as a masochist and slave to stpaulDom7, who was active in the same channels a year ago. In her last post, she poured out her heart to her online friends—while forgetting that men like me might read those deeply personal experiences about the breakup of her relationship and subsequent break down. 

I savor the hurt in her words. I imagine the taste of her tears on my tongue. I yearn to hold the shattered remnants of her heart in my hands and squeeze just to feel the shuddering pain of her lost love. 

She’s fucking irresistible. I can’t help but think about all that emotion and desperation being focused on me. A submissive so deep in the Master-slave game that she can’t remember how to breathe without me. 

Dangerous games. 

I set her picture to the side. She’s not active enough in the Discord groups where my target hunts, so it’s not worth the risk. I don’t want to bring the monster out and put her in needless danger if she’s not going to bait the online trap. 

The other three submissives could do just as well, and they’re more active online than sweet little slaverainy. All three have been kind enough to list their kinks in their profiles for me. S&M. Edge. FO. TPE. Basically, anything goes. 

One’s in San Diego, another in New Orleans, and the last potential sub lives in New York City. My target does have more kills on the East Coast than anywhere else, but trying to bait a trap in the largest city in the United States has complications I’d rather not sort. To keep the bait as safe as possible, I’d rather have a more secluded location than a high-rise in the city. It’s just too easy to disappear. If he somehow evades the initial trap, he’ll be able to blend away into the crowd in seconds. He’ll be gone, and I’d have to start all over again.

Meanwhile, another woman—or several—could fall victim to him, and he’ll be even more wary of lures that might reveal his identity.

I don’t care to return to Louisiana. I already have to live with my murdering father’s ghost as it is. I certainly don’t want to be back on the same territory where I could be connected to his disappearance. I’m good at what I do. In fact, I’m the fucking best. But even I can make mistakes. 

San Diego. Still not ideal, though I could make it work. She lists the Naval Base as her employer, so she might be wary of military types. I can disguise my past effortlessly—until I take off my clothes and reveal the tattoos that scream Special Ops. Depending on what her job entails, she might have connections with enough pull to start looking into my background. Which will fall apart quickly. I never have more than a year or two of history for any new identity I create.

Still, for the right bait, I could work with those complications. What I can’t work with is the absolute lack of spark I feel when I look at her photo. She’s a beautiful, willowy woman with long silvery-blonde hair. Bright, confident smile and a bold sense of style. Granted, she’s probably masking hard with filters and careful angles to look her best, but she doesn’t appeal to the monster inside me. She doesn’t carry that raw, palpable sense of pain that I can’t resist. That he can’t resist.

She’s not broken enough. Not like slaverainy.  

With a sigh, I turn my attention back to Ranay Killian of Springfield, Missouri. I need to see her in person to be sure, but she’s too perfect not to use. 

For him. So I can complete the contract and eliminate the target. That’s all.

Though I can’t deny the surge of possessiveness I feel when I look at her picture. I want her. So he’ll want her too. I’ll make it work. If she’s as perfect as she looks through a simple photograph, then I’ll simply order her to share pictures in her former groups. She’s done it before. 

I can make her do it again. 

A surge deep in my gut insists that I’ll be able to make her do anything. Anything at all.

So fucking dangerous.

Opening the driver’s door, I step out of my very safe and boring Buick sedan as Charles MacNiall, my newest identity.

An older man in his sixties holds his hand out to me. “I’m Bob Timbers. Glad to meet you.”

Smiling, I shake his hand, just an everyday normal sort of guy. I dressed the part in jeans and a red hoodie sporting the city’s football team. “Thanks for calling me.”

We’re about twenty miles outside of Kansas City, Missouri. Far enough out of the city for rolling fields and family farms. Bob walks toward a white barn with Bear Creek Shepherds painted in big black letters. “As I said on the phone, I always take back any of my dogs, for any reason, for a full refund. Her family loved her but didn’t feel like it’d be right to put her in quarantine without them for months after they moved overseas. She’s especially good with women and children, and she’s only three years old, so she’s still got several good years ahead without you having to train a puppy.”

The barn has been converted to hold several dog kennels with individual runs and larger pens. Everything is clean and well organized with lots of space for the dogs. We stop at the first pen, where a black king shepherd sits on her haunches. She’s a big dog, well over one hundred pounds. Her ears flicker and her head tips, as if she’s listening to every word and understands everything. 

“What kind of training has she had?” I ask.

“They gave me some of the certificates if you want to take a look. Mostly protection classes. I think she’s too affectionate to be a working guard dog, but she’s ideal for protecting her family.”


He opens the stall door, and I’m impressed that she doesn’t immediately come closer or bolt through the opening. Polite and socialized, she accepts Bob’s scritches behind her giant ears, her tongue lolling and tail swishing. “Her name’s Sheba.”

Keeping my energy low and calm, I squat down but I don’t try to approach her. “Hello, Sheba. You’re such a beautiful girl.” I can’t help but chuckle softly as her head tips, her big ears flopping adorably. “I’ve got an important job for you. A very special young lady needs a big mean dog to keep her safe. Are you up for the challenge?”

I offer my hand, letting her sniff me. Her large golden-brown eyes gleam with intelligence. She makes a low sound, not a whine but more of a huff. A laugh. As if she’s saying, Are you up to the challenge?

A dog with a sense of humor. I laugh again, sinking my fingers through her silky fur. “I am, with your help. Let’s go.” 

Sheba immediately stands, her tail wagging excitedly. 

Let’s go get our girl.

Everything is going perfectly according to plan. 

I established a homebase outside of Springfield in a remote farmhouse—but not too remote. I’ve already installed motion-activated lights and a custom security system that I can monitor from anywhere in the world. Sheba’s a dream, providing interesting company as we get to know each other.  

Even if slaverainy doesn’t work out, I’ve got a great set up here.

My instincts insist she’s the one, and I trust my gut more than I trust anything else. I haven’t seen her yet. I’ve driven by her parents’ house hoping to run into her organically, but I haven’t learned her schedule. Maybe she moved. Something tells me she’s still here in Springfield, though. My predator can almost smell her irresistible scent on the wind. She’s here. 

When the time is right, I’ll find her. 

My first priority is finding the right vet for Sheba. I’ll be in and out over the next few months as I worm my way into Ranay’s life, so I need an excellent boarding facility. The local vets who made my short list have been out to meet Sheba, but now I’d like to take her to each of their facilities to see where she’s most comfortable. Her instincts are even better than mine. If she’s comfortable, then I can leave her for days or even a week or two at a time without worrying about her care. 

I call up this week’s clinic.

“Good morning.” The woman who answered makes a low sound of embarrassment. “I mean, good afternoon. Sorry. How can I help you?”

“Is this Wentworth Veterinary Clinic?”

She makes another sound of distress. “Yes, I’m so sorry. This is my first day. How can I help you?”

Her voice trembles with embarrassment while still being professional. It’s a very odd combination—that the sadist in me finds highly entertaining. I’d pay a fortune to listen to her make those soft sounds just for me. “No problem. I’d like to make an appointment for a very large fur ball.”

“Of course, sir. I can do that. Give me just a second to pull up the calendar…” I can hear her breathing, soft yet rapid little pants of stress. “The computer’s a little slow. I’m so sorry.”

Fucking hell. Maybe I should find a professional for a scene or two before I try to approach slaverainy. I’m in bad shape if a simple phone call with the vet’s receptionist is giving me a hard on. 

I can’t resist playing with her. Just a little. 

“Take your time. I won’t bite.” Yet.

Another sweet little gasp mixed in with laughter. “That’s good. I wouldn’t want Dr. Wentworth to have to give you a rabies shot. Can I put you on hold for a moment?”


I wait for the soft elevator music but instead all I hear is, “Shit, shit, shit!”

I bite back a laugh. “I’m apparently not on hold.”

“Oh.” That single word vibrates with scorching emotion. Embarrassment. Humiliation. Desperation. 

So fucking delicious. 

“I’m so fired,” she whispers.

“I won’t tell,” I whisper back to her, letting a chuckle warm my voice. “I haven’t enjoyed myself so much in years.”

She lets out another soft, torturous sound that makes me think of a fluffy little kitten. How I’d love to hear her purr with pleasure.

“Thank you, sir. You’re too kind.” The formality makes me think she’s played with a dominant before. Someone who’s made her thank him for every single swat. Though maybe I’m just that fucking desperate myself. 

“I’ve got the calendar app open now,” she says in a firmly professional voice. “Has your fur ball been here before?”

“No. Do you have something today?”

“Um….” I can almost see her nibbling on her lip, frantically scanning the screen. “Yes, I think so. We have a slot at six. It’s the last appointment of the day.”

“That’d be great.”

“Dog or cat?”

Sheba lays her head on my thigh, almost like she’s pleading with me not to take her to the vet. “A very large dog. Don’t worry, Sheba. You’re going to love this place.”

“Sheba, got it. What’s your name, sir?”

“Charles MacNiall.” I spell out the surname since it’s a little tricky, though dead men can’t be choosers. “And what’s your name?”

She hesitates a moment as if I’ve surprised her. “Ranay.”

No fucking way. That’s not a common name. Not by a long shot. 

My bait. On the phone with me, as tempting as I envisioned. I haven’t even seen her yet, and I’m locked in like a Tomahawk missile. I’m in so much fucking trouble. 

But what a fucking way to go. “I’ll see you at six, Ranay.”

Maybe it’s my imagination but I could swear that she whispers, “Yes, sir,” before hanging up.

The bell rings over the door, announcing our entrance into the clinic. With a calm, measured pace, I stride toward my target with Sheba on my heels. Nothing to see here. Just an average, everyday man taking his dog to the vet. I don’t even have a single weapon on me, just in case she has some kind of sixth sense that picks up on danger.

She sits behind a tall counter. With practiced care, she turns her head toward us, peeking out behind a riotous fall of hair down past her shoulders. Her armor that she uses to hide and protect herself. 

But there’s no protection from me. I know that deliberate, respectful downward tilt of her chin. The quick flick of her gaze up to my face, gauging my mood and intent in an instant without challenging me with eye contact. Her hands are clenched together in her lap, but I can all too easily see her dropping to her knees with her head bowed. Waiting on my command.

Or better yet, turning her face up to me. Her throat arched like an offering, waiting for my collar.

Or my hand, fingers squeezing tightly as I pull her to me.

I see you, Ranay. 

Unfortunately, she sees me too.

Not Charles MacNiall, just a good-natured dog owner looking for a new vet. Not even the sadist who ate up her embarrassment just hours ago like fucking dessert. No, she sees the real me.

The predator. The monster who will hunt her down for the fun of it and ravage her like the nightmare I am.

Her eyes widen. Her nostrils flare. She freezes, stiff like a terrified rabbit crouched in plain sight, trying to disappear.

That quickly, the game is up. She’s too perceptive by far. 

Disappointment cuts through me. Ah, but she would have been a sweet, delectable little treat. I clearly don’t deserve to touch a single strand of her hair. Let alone find out if she tastes as good as she sounds. And looks. And moves. I watch her jerk her gaze away, flipping her hair down across her eyes.


“Mr. MacNiall!” Another older woman steps out of an exam room. “Thank you for bringing Sheba in for a visit. I’m Dr. Wentworth.”

 “Yes, I remember you. Thank you for letting us stop by.”

“We don’t have any other patients here currently, so if you’d like to let Sheba explore and get to know the place, that’s fine.”

“Good idea.” I unsnap the leash and give her a nod to release her.

She makes a beeline for the silent woman huddled behind the desk. She immediately senses the same vulnerability in Ranay that makes her so irresistible to me. Though instead of feeling the urge to destroy, Sheba moves to protect her. Protect her from me too.

I barely hear a word that Dr. Wentworth rattles off about her facility. I’m too furious with myself. I’ve already invested weeks establishing my base, only to fuck it up within a minute of meeting Ranay. I’m going to have to start over with new bait. A new plan. I’ll go through all of the available submissive women who’re posting in the same Discord channels and see if I can find another target.

Though none of them are going to be better than her. 

She’s too fucking perfect. Even now, it takes every ounce of my self-control not to look at her. Approach her. Play a little game. Give her a soft, gentle, easy command just to see if she’ll do as I order. Even with her boss watching. 

Her first day. Fucking hell. What are the odds?

At least Sheba is enjoying herself. Getting all the pets and attention. Even putting her front paws up on Ranay’s thighs so she can drape across her lap, making her laugh despite the fright I gave her. I can’t help but glance at her, hoping to see her smile. Even though it’s too late for more.

Or is it? Because she risks another glance into my face. She doesn’t make eye contact, but she’s still reading my body language. Maybe it’s just the dog’s steady presence. Or maybe…

She’s not as scared of the predator as she should be.

Which could be an even more disastrous issue to resolve. I need her to be afraid enough to stop me. Before it’s too late for her.

“Ranay, would you like to join us for a tour?” Dr. Wentworth asks. “I didn’t get the chance to show you the kennels yet.”

I expect her to make an excuse. Even with backup, I can’t imagine her wanting to stay in the same room with me. She knows what kind of predator wears this human suit.

“Sure,” Ranay replies. 

We walk through the exam and surgery areas while Dr. Wentworth describes the services she can provide without needing to send Sheba out to an emergency hospital. Ranay walks behind us, quiet and absorbing in everything. Sheba stays beside her, though she does look at me, checking in for her orders, before staring back up at Ranay. Already besotted with her.

Me too.

Dr. Wentworth opens an external door. “We have a play yard in between the clinic and the kennels, and each kennel also has a run on the opposite side of the building.” Still rattling off details, she doesn’t notice I’m still at the door.

Holding it open, waiting for Ranay to pass. 

So close, I can see the pulse thumping in her throat. I hear her nervous swallow. More of a gulp, actually. She risks another quick look up at me, a bare foot away, and whispers, “Thank you.”

“For what?” I ask softly.

“For keeping my secret.”

She means the phone conversation earlier, though I know the real secret she’s carrying. Her brown eyes are dark with raw emotion despite her best effort at hiding what she is. One year since her breakup and she’s not whole. She’s still damaged from that last relationship, aching, broken, and incomplete. Needing so much more.

Ground zero. Danger zone. 

No matter how fucking long it takes…

You’re mine. 

Watch for TWO CUTS DEEPER later this year! You can read along as I write on Patreon.