Date Published: April 18, 2017
Tim and Susannah have ordinary lives on the surface, he’s a mortician for whom death is a serious business, and she’s a chef who really knows her way around a knife, but if the neighbors in their small Midwestern town knew of her dark hobby, they’d run for the hills.
Raised by an apathetic mother and a cruel father, Susannah was bullied and pushed to her breaking point long before she met mild-mannered Tim, and has learned to channel her murderous impulses into a strange form of art, which keeps her clueless husband safe…for now.
As strange events occur, and Susannah’s eccentric behavior becomes more dynamic, Tim starts to wonder about his wife. Will he be too perceptive for his own good?
This twisted, psychological, serial killer thriller will sear your psyche and rattle your soul, so buckle up, you’re in for a terrifying ride.
CONTENT WARNING: If you are a reader of Summer Prescott’s Cozy Mysteries, please be advised that this book depicts the actions and mindset of a serial killer, contains some adult language and adult circumstances.
Chapter One: Susannah
Susannah Guntzelman was invisible. Not in the traditional sense of the word, of course, but in the far more painful translation where all of humanity simply failed to notice her existence. She’d been overlooked and unnoticed her entire life, whether at home, by parents who worked too hard to care, or in public, where strangers merely saw a plain, overweight girl, if they saw her at all. Today was no different, as she shuffled to class in last year’s jeans and sensible shoes, her mass of dry, frizzy hair carelessly piled atop her head in an unruly bun.
Being invisible had its advantages of course. It allowed her to get through nearly every day of her dreary existence without having to interact with other human beings. Teachers never called on her, no one said hello when they passed her in the hall, and she sat alone during every unending lunch hour, methodically eating the interesting assortment of foods that she’d stuffed into her bright blue insulated lunch pack. The bag was an intrusive spark of color in her otherwise beige existence. She hated it, but her mother, Greta, the long-legged, perfect-haired china doll who loved her job more than her daughter, had said that the store didn’t have any black or grey ones, so she would ‘just have to deal with it.’
Susannah trailed behind a gaggle of giggling girls, entering the calculus classroom with perhaps less trepidation than the twittering twats in front of her. She was good at math, it came easily to her, and the teacher seemed to know that she might just spiral into a panic attack if she were forced to participate in a way other than quickly scribbling out correct answers and turning them in. Math was orderly. She liked things to be orderly. She was glad, for the teacher’s sake, that he somehow understood her need for invisibility.
Early parent/teacher conferences had pegged little Susie as an angry child who didn’t get along with others, which led to wretched things. The punishments at home for bad reports were worse than the punishments at school, so she’d learned to keep her seething resentment to herself. She’d kept it to herself for so long, in fact, that she’d grown numb emotionally. Even when battered and taunted mercilessly by thoughtless and cruel classmates, she compressed her mouth into a thin line and kept her head down, waiting until she got home to pick the spitwads from her colorless and tangled hair, and to dab a cold cloth on the welts made by well-aimed rubber bands.
At home, she taught herself to withhold tears from the monster who tried his best to encourage them. When she was stripped naked and whipped with kitchen utensils, belts, shoes, or any other handy device, when she was locked into the chicken coop for days at a time, not even allowed to sleep in her bed or relieve herself in private, and even when she was denied food after the beast who spawned her poked at her soft, white flesh, declaring her to be a fat pig, she’d bite the inside of her cheeks, dig her nails into her palms, or even hold her breath if necessary…but she Would. Not. Cry.
Her goal was simple, wait for the herd of cattle to get out of her way, and get to her seat without bringing any attention to herself. She’d had a rough morning at home, and her nerves were sprinkling dark sparks into her psyche. Susannah was more than ready to immerse herself in the orderly realm of math, glorious math. So focused was she on getting to her seat, that she never saw the furtive foot, encased in an expensive running shoe, darting out like the tongue of a serpent, tripping her.
Arms full of books, the gawky teen hit the ground hard, her head knocking against the metal leg of a desk. There were a few gasps, and more than a few giggles, and when Susannah turned over, stunned, still clutching her books, the concerned frown of Mr. Davis loomed over her.
“Susannah…are you okay? What happened here?” he asked, the cuff of his polyester pants brushing against her arm.
She sat up slowly, dazed, a trickle of defiantly crimson blood running down her forehead, and over the soft round of her cheek. Her heavy glasses were askew, and she pushed them up absently, horrified that every eye in the class was upon her. She flushed bright red from the base of her neck to the roots of her hair, as she heard the guffaws and soft pig sounds of her classmates. Humiliation was an overwhelming emotion that couldn’t be stopped, even with years of conditioning. It slammed into her with brute force, threatening to steal the very breath from her lungs. Her head throbbed with it, her mouth turned to cotton, and beads of sweat sprung out on her forehead as she worked to control the tremors which rippled through her. It took her a couple of tries, while the teacher blathered on with his concern and his questions, asking if she needed to go to the nurse, but she rolled herself onto her knees, and leaning on the desk that had struck her, she rose shakily to her feet.
Debbie Moran. Smug, snooty, Debbie Moran was smirking at her, enjoying the result of her sly move. Until this moment, Susannah hadn’t loathed her more than any of the other simpering American princesses who glided through the halls as though their nimble feet didn’t even touch the chipped linoleum, but now…it was different. Now, dainty little Debbie Moran made something dark rise up inside Susannah the Sow, as her classmates called her, something darker than the judgmental little bitch was prepared to deal with. So dark that it made her heart pound. So dark that it made her mouth water. Soon, Debbie Moran, soon.
Susannah lumbered from the classroom, with Mr. Davis saying something about it being good that she was going to the nurse, but once out of his sight, she bypassed the office and walked out of the school unchallenged, breathing hard, but not from exertion. She huffed and puffed as she walked, striding fast and far as she made her plans, the need for order and justice in her world burning like a hot coal within her.
Teeth clenched, hair blowing in the chill autumn breeze, Susannah swiped absently at the tickle on her cheek, fascinated when she saw blood smeared on her fingers. She turned her hand this way and that, focused on the blood – the rude red color of it. The blood made her think, the blood made her feel, the blood made her hunger. She brought her fingers to her mouth, sucking the crimson liquid in, the metallic blast of it invigorating her. She licked and sucked her fingers until every last trace was gone, and surveyed her pale hand with a slight smile playing about her lips. Soon, Debbie Moran, soon.
Susannah Guntzelman was not a joiner. Participation in school activities was just not something that she did…ever, but when the Student Athletics Association put up a flyer saying that they needed servers for the State Finals Pancake Breakfast, she jumped at the chance. The breakfast was scheduled for mid-November, just before Thanksgiving, so she had just over a month to put her plan into action. She would assimilate…briefly, because it was necessary.
Food was Susannah’s solace, and often times her only pleasure. It didn’t merely provide her with sustenance, it provided her with an outlet for her sometimes odd creativity. She was usually able to grab a hasty breakfast before her father woke up, although, if she wasn’t quite fast enough, he would see her at the table eating, pick up her cereal bowl and dump its contents into the sink. Dinner at the Guntzelman house was a tense affair, where the beast measured every spoonful that was placed on her plate and watched her like a hawk so that she didn’t take seconds. But lunch…lunch was Susannah’s salvation. She would prepare her noon feast at night, after her father went to bed, and stash it in a cooler in her closet. Experimenting with all sorts of delicious combinations from the refrigerator and pantry, she gorged herself on her creations as she sat in her lonely corner of the lunchroom.
The high school offered cooking classes, and she took every single one, so it seemed quite natural when she volunteered to help out with the athletic club’s breakfast, despite her extreme aversion to social situations. She prepared for the event by doing things that she had to do to fit in. Her plan would require some degree of trust from her fellow volunteers, which she knew she’d never obtain by skulking around, sharing her thoughts with no one.
For the first time in Susannah’s life, she paid attention to her hair, finding that, when she conditioned it with avocado, it fell into smooth, bouncy ringlets. The determined young lady also went on a strict diet, much to her father’s grim satisfaction, and started working out in the beast’s basement gym after school, taking great care to wipe down his equipment afterwards, to spare the wrath that would inevitably come if he knew that she had touched something that belonged to him.
Pounds melted away, revealing a figure that prompted more than one double-take from the boys who passed her in the hall. Susannah’s overall appearance had changed dramatically in a matter of weeks, and she’d gone to a local thrift store in order to finish off her assimilation process by purchasing snug-fitting stylish jeans, low-cut tops like the other girls wore, and shoes that were the polar opposites of her sensible oxfords. Between classes, she pilfered makeup, a curling iron and hair products from gym lockers, and spent hours in front of her mirror at home, teaching herself how to use them. Her mother would have been pleased to see the changes, if she hadn’t been too busy to notice.
The morning of the athletic club breakfast dawned, cheery and bright, matching Susannah’s disposition. She had waited and planned for weeks, and finally, the day had arrived. She dressed with extra care on that lovely morning, wearing a flattering outfit that would help her fit in with her peers until the deed was done. Once her revenge had been exacted without mercy, she could go back to being comfortable and fading into the woodwork socially.
Susannah checked in with Coach Nickerson in the cafeteria kitchen, noting with disdain the long looks that she was getting from people, boys in particular, who had never noticed that she lived and breathed prior to this morning. She put on a happy face however, and affected a cheerful demeanor much like the one that her mother adopted for parties and other social events. She smiled, she volunteered, she was quiet, but she was present, and she made certain that she had one of the serving positions.
Debbie Moran bounced into the cafeteria, shiny ponytail swishing, with a cluster of lesser cheerleaders surrounding her. Susannah had known that her royal bitchness would be there with bells on, to accept what was rightfully hers. All of the high school elite had come out to be seen and appreciated by a fawning staff, and their inferior classmates. The annual breakfast practically existed to remind the lesser beings that they were fortunate to be allowed to attend the same institution of learning as these tanned, immaculate demi-gods.
Plating the fluffy hotcakes with care, while desperately hoping that Debbie Moran actually ate such things, Susannah loaded up a tray with several plates and delivered them to the table, setting each one down in front of the squad of debutants with a brilliant smile. Her mother would have been proud.
“Umm…helloooo,” Debbie blinked at her in utter disbelief while dangling a pitcher of warm maple syrup from two perfectly manicured fingers.
A dark scenario suddenly flashed through Susannah’s mind, culminating in gelatinous goo bubbling from the cheerleader’s eye socket after she stabbed a fork into that pretty blue orb, but she quickly quashed the thought and smiled.
“I’m sorry, is something wrong?” she asked sweetly, still savoring the brief image.
“Uh yeah,” Debbie replied, clearly offended. “This may be enough syrup for everyone else, but I’m going to need my own pitcher. Don’t be so stingy…how do you expect me to eat pancakes without enough syrup? I mean really, what would be the point?” she asked nasally, raising her eyebrows.
“Oh wow, of course,” Susannah nodded. “I feel the same way,” she smiled brightly. That part, at least, wasn’t a lie. “Sorry about that, I’ll be right back.”
When she turned to head back to the kitchen, pleased that Debbie had played right into her hands, she heard the vile creature speak in a stage whisper that was clearly meant to be overheard.
“I swear, she’s probably back there drinking the stuff,” she snickered. “Soooey, Susannah, oink, oink, oink.” The fact that Susannah had lost enough weight that her body now rivaled that of some of the cheerleaders surrounding their queen bee had apparently escaped Debbie Moran’s notice.
Feeling the heat rise in her face, Susannah concentrated on taking some deep breaths and maintaining her mother’s social façade. Her plan was almost complete. If she lost her cool now, she wouldn’t have the satisfaction of seeing things through, so she collected her thoughts, pasted a lovely smile on her face and reached under the counter when no one was looking. She’d been force-fed syrup of ipecac often enough by her father, that she knew it’s sweet taste was incredibly similar to thick maple syrup, and she had arrived early enough at the breakfast to have had time to prepare a special “syrup” just for dirty Debbie Moran, mixing in just a touch of maple syrup to mask the ipecac.
She stood in the kitchen, holding the pitcher for a moment, savoring what was about to happen, and wishing that she could film it, so that she could watch it over and over again, giggling all the while. Filming was out of the question however, for all sorts of reasons, so she’d just have to be content with having created a delightful amount of chaos and humiliation, and replaying it in her mind. She took a deep breath, and grinning broadly, she presented Debbie with her own personal pitcher of syrup, which the cheerleader poured liberally over her stack of pancakes. What happened after that would become a story that would be whispered about in the halls of the alma mater for years to come.
About the Author
Summer Prescott is well-known in the Cozy Mystery realm, having written and published several Best-Sellers in the genre. An avid reader of Thrillers, Horror and Suspense, the author has decided to follow her passion with the debut of her Thriller, The Quiet Type, which launched in the top 50 of the Serial Killer category on Amazon. The novel has received high praise in its reviews, and Summer is considering a possible trilogy or series to continue the story.