There’s something to be said for walking long distances. At some time in every Long Walk I’ve taken I discover that I have traveled a lot further than I had anticipated and time has evaporated. Also, when I discover this lapse in time and distance I realize that no matter what happens I am only halfway done, at most. But usually I keep going. If I walk long enough and far enough there is a certain clarity of the moment that will come to me. And there are characters in stories that must either live or die and walking helps me determine their fates.
I’m writing a short story about a woman who decides to kill one of her coworkers who lives in the same building as she does. He’s not a mean person, and he doesn’t flirt with her, and he’s not evil or bad at all. She just decides that she is going to kill him. No real good reason.
The more she thinks about it the more the idea fascinates her. She knows better than to use her computer to look up ways to kill someone so she watches detective shows on television and makes notes on how people get caught. She begins to realize that no murder is perfect, in fact, no crime is perfect, but if done right and done well, she feel like she can get away with it. It’s a challenge to pit herself against an entire police force and it’s not enough to kill someone, no, she has to make sure that the police know the person was murdered and they have to know they’ve been outsmarted.
This women begins to feel a sense of purpose in her life that she never has felt before. She stalks the man, listening to conversations that he has with others, learning everything she can about what he does and where he goes. Her apartment is upstairs from his and she can see the light from his bedroom reflected in the window of a building across the street. She knows what time he turns the light on and off. She discovers he eats carry out pizza every Saturday night so she knows when the pizza guy is showing up for his delivery. She careful to keep only paper notes and she never uses his real name. She know the best time to kill him would be right after the pizza guy leaves and the best time of year would be winter, so it would be cold.
I look up and realize that another mile or so has passed. The sun is a little warmer than it has been and I’ve noticed there are a lot more Asians on the beach than I remember seeing before. Of course, the demographic in America is changing very rapidly and the influx of people from all parts of the world is crafting new cultural norms. I wonder if I should make the victim Asian. But no, that would make our killer seem as if she might be racist, and I want her to be a pure psychopath.
So she decides that she will watch this man for an entire year. What does he do on vacation? Where does his family live? She discover he has an ex-wife that stole a lot of money from him. She smiles. There’s someone out there who hates him and could be blamed for the murder. Our killer smiles. The plot begins to take shape. She will kill him the day before Thanksgiving. She has heard him talk about taking that time off to go birdwatching in Mexico. He is going alone and won’t be back for a week. That means he won’t be missed for ten days, maybe even two weeks. The trail will be very cold and she plans to leave the window open in his apartment as to keep the body from smelling. But how to kill him?
She knows better than to buy any sort of weapon and she only used a gun once or twice in her life. Poison pizza? No, that’s not a sure way at all and she would have to buy poison. Push him out of a window? She stops and thinks, but no, too risky. She watches and waits and wonders. But just in case things get physical she starts working out like a fiend.
I stop and stock of where I am. I have to turn back now or risk falling off the edge of the earth. I wonder if there’s a way to plot a murder where there is no doubt there has been a murder but at the same time, something that hasn’t been done before. Then again, things that have been done before have been done because they work.
I stoop down to pick up a seashell and discover it’s a piece of plastic of some sort. Suddenly, our killer finds a box cutter while jogging. It’s a gift from the Gods of Murder, a sign she ought to fulfil her plan and she knows that she has to practice with it before she kills.
The box cutter is one of those that have a screw holding the two halves together with spare blades hidden in between. She buys cheap pillows and slashes them to pieces while wondering what it will feel like to kill.
A month before the date she rids her apartment of all the evidence of the pillows and tears up all her notes. She’s careful to get rid of everything that connects her to the crime and she very carefully goes through the stages of her plan. It is time.
I’m nearly back at the hotel but I walk past it. The story has occupied my mind. There’s a need for a twist, some weirdness that occurs that both surprises the reader and completes the tale. We have what we need here; a weapon, a date, good planning, yet there needs to be more. Should the ghost of the murdered man come back to haunt her? That would be unexpected.