This is really rolling along, 16k words so far! I’ll have to pub it as “Derek Vance” because marketing, but if (warning magical thinking ahead) it becomes truly huge, I’ll switch out Brad for Derek on the title and fuck ’em if they don’t like gay romance. It’s taken me long enough to “transition” from my old self to Brad, the last thing I plan on doing is transitioning again in the public eye to another name, especially one that will only exist because “branding” means Brad’s back catalog would negatively impact Stabitha’s potential success. (NOTE IRONY that I need to worry about people who love serial killing being offended by gay sex.)
A serial killer / homicide detective, so good at both jobs! And corrosively funny in the darkest way. And I do think it will be truly huge. Could be. Always could be, because I want to cry when I think about sales and marketing. The only reason I’d ever go back to tradpub would be “someone to do all that for me,” but these days, shit, even they won’t sign you without 1,000,000 Twitstagram followers.
Brian is… a VOICE. Probably the best character I’ve ever written. He’s a part of me, sure, my humor, my rage, my own totally justified desire to bump off people who “have it coming” 🙂 Some days he just talks, and I transcribe.
And Carrie, his partner? She’s no Watson to his Holmes, no “straight man,” she’s got her own thing going on. More like Nick and Nora, if Nick was a serial murderer. I’m so depressed that Hulu cancelled Difficult People; that show and You’re The Worst were my models for Brian and Carrie, two equally “terrible” people whose dark humor and defensive cruelty = a match made in Hell.
It’s all coming in bits and pieces, and the traditional composition method I’ve always relied on, seven point structure etc., isn’t working. I’m still in the dark about his nemesis, Stabitha, but I’m getting there.
That said, here are some of the choice tidbits I’ve been sharing on Facebook!
It was dull work, interviewing the dead teacher’s coworkers. Give me a sinner over a saint anytime. All we heard over and over was how much she loved the kids, blah blah.
“Well, she didn’t have any enemies, I guess,” Carrie said ruefully.
“Unless it was one of the kindergartners.”
Carrie nodded. “Wonder which one of the little tots came after her, secretly sharpening the construction paper scissors, hiding his prints by coating his fingers with that white sticky goop, what was it.”
“What kind of paste?”
“I don’t know, kiddie paste. Something they can eat and not die, like Play-Doh.”
Carrie frowned. “He called her at home on his Fisher-Price phone, rode his Big Wheel over to her house…”
“…and took his terrible revenge for the time out she gave him after he threw a marble at Billy during recess.”
I noticed the horrified look on a teacher who’d wandered into the dead saint’s classroom.
“You can’t be in here, ma’am,” Carrie said coolly. “Police business.”
The poor woman practically ran out of the room.
I pointed at a cage on the sill. “We’ll need to take some DNA from the class gerbil.”
“You think the gerbil did it?”
“It’s always the gerbil.”
Serial killers don’t have names like Hannibal or Dexter. Serial killers have names like John, or Jeffrey, or Richard. Or Ed or Ted, lots of those. If you wanted to solve a serial murder case, you should round up all the likely Eds and Teds and whittle down from there. Of course you can’t do that because rights and law and all, but if I were in charge, that’s where I’d start. Let the freaks like Oswald and Jame (sic) go, and focus on the normals. Like me, Brian.
Real serial killers don’t go in for all that baroque grand opera shit you see in the movies. No cops pinned like angels above a cage, no trees of bones, no elaborate Da Vinci Code shit you have to figure out.
Hell no. They kill you right there, or they kidnap you and fuck you up and then kill you. Then they hide or destroy the bodies. Okay, some of them pose the bodies for lurid photos, to create the Vacation Slide Carousel from Hell.
And okay, maybe on rare occasions they keep your head in the freezer, which is pretty weird even for me. But they’re more likely to keep a piece of jewelry than to make some artsy-craftsy shit out of your dead body and sell it on Etsy. Hmm, though there’s a little sideline if I ever need extra income…
But good o’ Stabitha, Stabs, Stabbers, she’s got style, I gotta say. A pair of scissors for a teacher, a scalpel for the donor, a sharpened piece of turnstile for the Subway Savior! Where the fuck did she get that! That’s a lot of work. She could have just pushed him onto the electric third rail and made her point.
She doesn’t need to write a Zodiac letter, no cryptograms, no ISIS-like claims of responsibility. She’s signed ‘em all, Love, Stabitha.
It’s true there are so fewer serial killers now than there used to be. Certainly there are a lot of factors. It’s not as easy to be a Drifter, leaving no trail. Getting paid in cash, paying in cash, flying without a rigorous ID check, before instant BOLOs to the transportation network.
Nor are your victims as easy to pluck out of their own rootlessness and disappear them. Great strides have been made in identifying child abuse, so other than my experience with D.O.D., that is, many mini proto-killers are identified early, removed from the toxic environment, and given the mental help they need to stop them from turning into the next BTK or Green River Killer. Oh and they don’t beat them in school anymore, either. (I bet evangelical home schooling is the most promising source of future serials!)
And certainly total information awareness by the police makes it much easier to catch you before you really get on a roll.
Serial killing is just not a blue collar job anymore. You can’t find victims as you install basic security systems or work as a dog catcher/general community busybody and nuisance. You can’t pick up hitchhikers without the traffic cameras scanning your face against a database. Unless you smash your vic’s cell phone the moment you abduct them, you might as well slash their throats and hang their bodies out the car window to leave a trail of blood.
It takes advanced technical expertise to get away with it these days. See, your parents told you college would pay off!
I won’t bore you with the details of bureaucracy, you know how they are. Intuition: it’s their enemy. The People of the Binder.
Ever heard of Emergenetics? Surprisingly accurate test of your work and workstyle preferences. Your pie chart divided up into Yellow, Red, Green and Blue. If you’re heavily yellow, you’re creative, innovative, impatient with rules and routine (hello!). Red, you’re very social, into collaboration, hate to be holed up alone on a project. Blue, rational, mathematical, you’re creative but in a reason based system like math or science.
Now Greens… they’re the boring ones. The People of the Binder, I call them. You know, someone who’s most comfortable doing the kind of job that AI will be taking from them next week. Payroll, the same steps over and over, every two weeks till the end of time. Or HR rule administration, proper process for handling violations of policy.
The Greens, what they live in fear of most is a disruption of their routine, a change in the rules, an exception that can’t be brooked. They’re not flexible. And they’re in heavy demand in bureaucracy with as much possible blowback as this one, where more employees than not carry a gun all day.
So if I go to a Green and say, there are two victims so far of a serial killer, they will look at the Binder, and say, Oh goodness, we can’t go to the Mayor or the press with that. What if we’re wrong? I’ll be called on the carpet, I’ve looked at the relevant tab in the Binder and the Binder says it’s too soon to make that call!
What’s so exciting about intuition is that you’re both sure you’re right, and you know you could be wrong. It’s going out on that wire that makes it so much fun. You have the skills to cross from building to building but yeah… you might fall.
The people of the Binder will never fall. The Binder keeps them warm and safe and dry. The Binder is their hammock, their cocoon, their womb.
Okay, fine. I’m not Dirty Harry, I don’t have to sneer at the Binder people and go break the rules to catch the criminal.
I don’t mind waiting. No skin off my teeth if she has to kill again before they see it my way. All I have to do is file my report after this second killing, my recommendations, my conclusions. The Binder will say no we mustn’t proceed on such flimsy speculation.
And yet, every time when they’re wrong, there’s such a terrible outcry that even the Binder can’t save them. That’s the rich irony, as long as nothing goes wrong, the Binder protects them, but when it does go splendidly, horribly wrong, it’s the Binder that crushes them.
“You knew and you did nothing!” the press, the people, the politicians will shout. And they will hold up the Binder and say, but look here, it says…
Oh it’s a terrible spot to be in, when the Binder is wrong. Everyone who demanded you follow its every word as gospel? All suddenly want to know why you didn’t defy it with “a little common sense.”
Poor Carrie, it does get to her. She makes the jokes with me but I can see it in her eyes, it truly bothers her that there has to be another dead body before we can move ahead. But she’s been around long enough to know that’s how it goes.
I will make sure my report leaks, and my enemies will be crushed. It’s all just a matter of patience.
Then we’ll do it my way.
I’m sure you’re surprised to learn that I have a cat. Jonesy is his name. Big orange monster. Just like the cat in the movie, only I’m not Sigourney Weaver, am I? I’m the alien.
He’s part of my cover story – how bad can I be if I have a pet? I picked him out at the humane society (and I never forget to say “he’s a rescue” when discussing him, also part of my cover).
They said, “He’s been abused. He doesn’t like being held, or even touched for that matter.”
Neither do I, I wanted to say. We’re perfect for each other.
Jonesy doesn’t hold it against me that I used to kill little animals, and after all, who is he to judge? He goes out the window, up the fire escape to the roof, and brings me mice and birds, efficient predator that he is. Gifts of gratitude for his safe and happy home.
We know our own kind, I guess. I make him warm places to sleep, I keep him well fed and clean and healthy, and he makes me look like a human being.
Carrie pondered. “If Stabitha has a romantic partner, he’s a beta male, who leaves her alone to do her special thing. She’d have a hobby room, for instance, wherever she keeps her plans and trophies. To all outward appearances, she’s an, I don’t know, basket weaver selling at a flea market.”
“SKs if they pair off, they want someone… submissive.”
“Submissive like they won’t ask questions when you ‘work late.’ Not dog collar submissive. That’s your thing. Whatever happened to that boyfriend of yours, anyway?”
“Not into the whips and chains, eh?”
“Oh, he was. He was just afraid ‘someone would find out.’” She hunched over, and mumbled the last words with derision.
“Like his job?”
She snorted. “More likely his mommy.”
“Poor Mistress Carrie. If that’s also your dominatrix name.”
“Only one way to find out.”
“Ah shit,” she groaned.
She pointed at the front of the Met Museum. “We’re missing the Hockney exhibit.”
“Fuck. You know I love Hockney, too. We should slip away some Friday night, we could see it without the crowds.”
“You should just murder someone in there. Then we could tape it off. ‘Everyone out, police business.’”
“I know, right? Just us and Forensics. We’d have all the time we want for each piece.”
“I know you’re a serial killer.”
“Don’t you have anyone on your to do list you could bump to the top?”
Several members of the Met Board, in fact, I want to say, but don’t.
“Not at the moment.”
Dexter had it easy, man. So he saw some blood when he was a kid, big deal. It takes more than that to make a killer.
You need to be hit and touched and treated like shit.
You need to be bullied and laughed at.
You need to be kept locked up in the dark for no reason you can fathom, for no crime you can understand.
And most importantly, the last eyedrop’s worth that makes the liquid in the beaker bubble and smoke like magic, you need to have that one shred of hope in you, that last human quality, that leads to you try to attach one last time, to another human being. And then they need to stomp on that, to reject you, to put the USDA Seal of Disapproval on your carcass.
Because only then, do you start killing things. Only then is the world your enemy and all the people in it.
Trust me on this! It’s straight from the horses’ mouth, as they say.
The secret to Stabs isn’t to be found in regular detective work. Who her enemies are now, who her last boyfriend was, her last boss.
The secret to Stabs is back in her hometown, her home, her bedroom, the childhood monster under the bed, who became the monster on top of the bed, the monster inside her who in the physical world got up and left with the admonition Not To Tell, but who in her head never got up and left. Who found a warm place in the back of her mind, and curled up there to sleep.
Look back. Go on, I’ll be here. Have I lied to you yet? I’ve warned you not to trust me, right? But that doesn’t just mean, maybe I’m lying. It also means, maybe I’ve just left out huge swaths of the truth that I don’t want you to know.
Okay, that’s not a maybe anymore, is it? But I haven’t lied. Yet. Really! I left a lot out, and you filled in what you wanted to believe. That’s my greatest asset, your tendency to do that. But it’s not my fault if you used the wrong colors when you filled in the coloring book.
And remember. I’m the only one who can stop Stabitha. Look at her victims, saints all! Not a one of them ever threw a fit in a store, or abused a servant, or ever did a thing to make anyone experience that little flash of murderous rage we all have in us.
You do want me to stop her, don’t you? Okay then. You probably want me to stop killing Mom’s avatars over and over, too, I know. But remember, a relationship is about compromise!
You know why I’m telling you this story? It’s my gift to you. Because I want you to have what I have. I want you to have my nightmares.
I want you to wake up screaming tonight. It’s your turn.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go murder Stabitha.