The words, “Chapter One” glared back at me on the computer screen; two words that taunted me for last two hours. What was to come after was a complete mystery to me. How do I start? What sounds intriguing enough to capture the reader in only one sentence? My mind drew a blank. No wonder seeing that my day was spent pacing back and forth in my one-bedroom apartment, torturing myself over a lousy sentence. This would be my third book and because of that expectations were through the roof. I had something to prove because I refused to be a two-hit novelist; coasting off that fame years from now. No, I was more than that. For hours I sat at my desk in my sweats and coffee-stained shirt gazing at the screen of my laptop like the undead. My eyes were nearly bloodshot from the lack of sleep and my skin pale from the deprivation of sunlight.
In the back of my mind I could hear my editor’s shrill voice screaming about deadlines. She invaded my brain like Nazis; a literary parasite. She had come over earlier, dressed in her gray pants suit and red blouse from Nordstrom. Her blonde hair and dark roots was placed in a high bun as she barked like a Chihuahua. Over the years I have known her, she has always been a bit of prude. I have learned to zone her out, focusing my eyes on her crow’s feet and the way her lipsticks always manages to smear onto her teeth. Given a few beers, I would probably fine her somewhat of attractive. Somewhat.
Much time has passed and the sun started to set. My thoughts were frozen in time and I could not for the life of me figure out a way to thaw them out. “What to write, what to write?”, I asked myself as I tried my talents at balancing a pencil on the bridge of my nose. My genre was crime thrillers and serial killers for everyone loves a good psychopath, but everything has been done. From the slashers to the immortal maniac who just won’t die; there was nothing new under the sun. Some fresh air was in order. Hopefully a night ride would get the literary juices flowing.
There was solace to be found during the night. It wasn’t the normal hustle and bustle one would experience during the day. There were fewer cars, but louder people; less going-ons, but more secrets. The scattered lights decorated the buildings downtown as though lights streamed across a Christmas tree. It is said that the night belonged to the poets and the madmen. I straddled on the fence to whether which one was I. As I drove through the deserted city streets, I gazed at the empty sidewalks and blinking streetlights. It was all my inspiration; the moon was my spotlight. The night was my canvas for many stories were just waiting to be painted. But where was my muse? Where was the catalyst to spark my imaginative thoughts? All there was were a scatter of homeless laying their heads wherever they may. They rested on the sidewalks and the curbs; the benches of the bus stop. A serial killer of the homeless? A brilliant idea if it wasn’t already done by James Matherson three years ago in his book, “The Jefferson Street Killer”. A madman brings fear into the shanty towns of Jefferson Street, Philadelphia. Spoiler Alert—the killer was the mayor of the city bent on cleaning up his city one bum at a time. Original, I suppose.
Originality is always key; however, there are only a number of stories a writer can write about. Nothing will be exactly the same, but there would be similarities. I despise similarities. My editor hated it more. I imagined her kale smoothie breathe exhaling upon my neck, snarling the words “mediocre” and “bland” as though they were profane. September 15th continued to flash across my mind like a torturing reminder of my possible impeding failure. I refused to hang onto the teats of mediocrity. Destiny deserved to give me more. Success was warranted to me.
My stomach began to growl. All I had to eat today was Greek yogurt I found in the back of the refrigerator behind a week-old carton of milk. I must remind myself to throw it in the trash once I get home. I couldn’t survive off of that, ten cups of coffee, and a can of RedBull alone. Up ahead I could see the large sign for Ezra’s Diner, with the light on the “z” out and leaving it to read, Era. It was opened all-day, known for its fluffy pancakes and delicious sweet tea that tasted the closest to diabetes. Before I realized it, the car was steering into the parking lot. I parked out front, somewhere close where I could see the car from wherever I sat. Though I do love the night, I knew of the hoodlums who saw it as their own criminal playground. Heading toward the entrance, I could already see that there was only one cook and one waitress working tonight. In a booth in the far end of the diner, there was a homeless woman comforting herself with a cup of coffee, dressed in dingy layers of clothing. She looked as though she had not bathed in days. Faint music played throughout the diner. It was something from the eighties, but I couldn’t name the specific song. I made myself comfortable at the counter on a stool, greeted with a tired hello from the waitress as she placed the menu in front of me. She was dressed in a yellow diner shirt and white apron, with her sandy blonde curls pulled back into a ponytail. Judging by her hands and the slight wrinkles that formed on her forehead every time she made a curmudgeon expression, she was nearing her mid-forties.
Glancing through the menu, my hunger decided on an omelet and a glass of water. I could feel my body rejecting the caffeine, as though I was going through a withdrawal. It didn’t take long for my omelet. I commended the chef with a thumbs-up on his timely cooking skills; fast, but still with top quality. The first bite was the sweetest; not too cheesy, but just cheesy enough. As it hit my taste buds, it felt like heaven. It was at that moment, all thoughts surrounding my book faded away. I could care less about the plot or a great title. I couldn’t even think up a measly character. My mind was as blank as the homeless woman’s gaze. No, this omelet was all I needed. Unfortunately, my editor’s voice crept into my head, nagging about me staying focused. Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines! The bitch would not leave me in peace.
Suddenly, the bell rang as the entrance door swung open. The waitress looks at the door, managing a half-grin. My eyes were fixed on my plate as I cut the omelet into reasonable pieces with the side of my fork. Through my peripheral vision I could see someone dressed in red from the chest to above the knee approaching me. I turned slightly, seeing it was in fact a red dress worn by a woman of a slim frame. The dress looked expensive. I was never the one for keeping up with fashion, but I questioned why a woman dressed like that would even trouble herself to step into an establishment like this. As she drew nearer, I could smell her perfume. It was a mixture of a sweet flower scent and fruit candy. The aroma was slightly intoxicating the closer she became. She stood beside me, asking the waitress from a cup of coffee with four creams and four sugars, refusing to see a menu. Her voice was slightly shaken as she spoke to the waitress as though nervous about something. There was slight southern drawl in certain annunciation in words. My first guess was Texas. With a nod, the waitress went to make a fresh brew of coffee.
The woman sat at the counter with a stool placed between us. As the waitress began to pour coffee into her cup, I timed a quick glance where I could fully see her thick long brunette hair that she slung to the right. Her skin was of an olive hue; flawless. She reminded me of a character from my first book, “Lavender and Lust”. She was the real-life Sophia Schaffer, having an outer innocence that hid a deceiving interior. Sophia was the female-lead in a crime-thriller filled with seduction and twists. She was charming and manipulative, able to persuade any man with her feminine wilds. Initially, I based her off an ex of mine who I found sleeping with her professor in the bed we shared. Like the mattress, our relationship went up in flames.
Miss Red Dress had my full attention. I subtly watched her slowly drink her coffee and stare into the mug as though it was a crystal ball that contained all the answers.
“My name is Veronica; in case you were asking.” she greeted, catching me off guard, causing me to almost chock on a piece of omelet.
I washed my food down with the glass of water. Even still, I was at a loss for words. It was unusual for a writer, I suppose. We locked eyes for a second, me gazing into her piercing greens. She exuded an unbelievable beauty; something I could not put into words. She was more than a Sophia. Before I could say a word, my name left her lips. I loved how it sounded; sweet. She immediately recognized me, stating how she read both of my books and was an admirer of my work. I could only chuckle nervously for the picture used in the back of my book was seven-year-old headshot originally for a failed-to-start acting career. I confirmed who I was which started an exchange of flirtatious dialogue between us. Her voice was steady and more relaxed as she shared stories of her childhood in Louisiana. I was caught on her every word; how her eyes lighted up every time she spoke about her ideas and aspirations. She went on to tell me how my first book was her favorite; how she could identify with Sophia. How I described her independence was what intrigued her. Veronica went on and one about how she admired Sophia’s strength. Typical. Women seemed to always identify with a strong female lead; a woman in control. That is what Veronica wanted in life; control.
Our conversation went on for over an hour, her coffee getting cold and my plate nearly clean. Veronica took a pocket mirror from her purse and stared at her reflection, making sure her lipstick was still intact. In my eyes, she was of complete perfection. She was my new Sophia sent to be by unknown circumstances. It wasn’t long before I felt her hand upon my thigh, gently caressing. I could see a lustful grin on her face as blood began rushing to my lower body. I was a fly trapped in her shameless web. With a flick of the hand, I gestured to the waitress for the check; both hers and mine. It was necessary that she knew how much of an gentleman I was. Veronica leaned closer and whispered in my ear that she wanted to take me home. Goosebumps formed on my neck and forearms. One cannot not force the willing, and I was more than. As she stood up from her stool, my eyes fixated on her backside. Her hips swayed from side to side as she headed toward the exit, looking over her shoulder and winking back at me. The check could not have come quicker. Five dollars for the omelet with two extra dollars for a generous tip.
I hurried after Veronica out onto the parking lot. She stood beside the black Toyota Corolla, leading against the passenger side, motioning me over with her finger. With a press of a button, the doors were unlocked and we both climbed inside. Starting up the car, the radio played early nineties rock music faintly through the stereos. Veronica crept her hand onto my thigh, moving higher toward the crotch of my pants as I drove through the streets with no specific destination in my mind. My mind was flustered for all the blood left for the south. She leaned in closer, me feeling her breath on my neck with the slight touch of her lips. Her sexuality was inebriating; a strong aroma that filled the car and gave my body chills. She directed me to turn left on the next street. There was a dark alley up ahead that was secluded and private. Veronica had charmed my mind and now, she wanted to enthrall my body.
I parked away from the streetlights to remain unseen and turned off the car. The silence was immediately broken by her lips and body pressing up against mind. Her lips were as soft as pillows and her skin was just as smooth. She tasted like sweet hazelnut coffee and her hair smelled like lilacs; freshly washed. My hands maneuvered throughout her body causing her to moan in sensual ecstasy. Slowly, my hand slipped into her shirt, palming her ample breasts, while my other hand gently gripped her neck. Veronica playfully chuckled for she liked a bit of the rough. She was such a Sophia. Tighter I gripped her neck with both hands this time, pressing harder onto her lips. Her breathing became labored as she struggled for air which made me squeeze tighter. Her whimpers and gasps were arousing. I could feel her tears stream from her eyes onto my face. There was a need to scream, but she could not obtain enough air.
A few seconds passed and the breathing ceased; no whimpers or gasps. There was silence. Her body was limped and I could feel all of her weight. I leaned back to stare at her face, seeing that life had left her eyes. They were no longer piercing but rather a dull green. Her beauty forever remained. My beautiful Sophia. I placed her carefully onto the passenger seat, placing her arms gently on her lap. With the back of my hands, I wiped her tearful face dry, feeling the warmth of her skin.
I exited the car and headed to the trunk. Popping it open, there inside was the lifeless body of my editor, still in her gray pants suit and now wrinkled red blouse, lying in the trunk of her own car. Her bun unraveled, leaving her hair disarrayed messily over her place face. Her neck was badly bruised. I could see feel the moment when neck eventually snapped from my strength. She was like a rag doll; cold and pale. Reaching behind her, I retrieved the gas can I filled up at the gas station around the corner from my apartment.
Starting with the trunk, I drenched my editor’s body with gasoline as though quenching her thirst. I continued on with the rest of the car, making sure the bodies got the most of it all. The smell of the gasoline was gradually becoming nauseating. No longer could I admire my work without feeling the urge to heave. A small box of matches in my front pocket. A quick scratch of the match and the flame was ignited. I took a second to marvel at what I just done; what I accomplished literally with my bare hands. A simple flick and the car was engulfed in flames within seconds. The scene was entrancing; the warmth from the fire was oddly comforting. Free was the only word to describe how I felt at that exact moment. No more deadlines, no due dates; no pressure. The best feeling of all was that I finally had my story. The characters and plot was swiftly developing in my mind as the stench of burning flesh reached my nose. A writer who killed for his stories. It was brilliant.
Police sirens were heard blaring in the distance. My veneration was coming to an end. A smile emerged onto my face as I disappeared into the night, heading home with the start of the first chapter pulsating through my head. “There was a need for excitement and danger for him. There was a need for blood.”