READ THE FIRST FEW CHAPTERS: Clare at Sixteen by Don Roff
The small town of Pickman Flats offers a bright sunny place filled with quaint shopping and wine tasting. But underneath the town's inviting exterior lies a dark underbelly, a sinister element that lurks in the shadows.
Clare is a devoted vegan who goes to Catholic high school, is fastidious in her manner, and also, well, a killer. The Other Clare takes over at the most inopportune of times. She tries to keep her inner beast at bay, but it's hard when there are so many creeps around who help to unleash it.
What secret lies hidden beneath Pickman Flats? And who is Clare really?
If you want answers, well…there’s only one way to find out—even if it kills you.
Slay away with Clare in CLARE AT SIXTEEN by Don Roff—out next Tuesday, March sixteenth. Pre-order your copy NOW!
“Go fuck a collie.”
That’s what I tell this tweaker dude when he rolls up in his hunk-of-shit black Mazda and asks me for directions. Obviously, Mr. Screepy doesn’t own any collies. He just keeps !apping his yellow teeth and white-spotted tongue. His crazy eyes go wide like that bug-shit crazy movie actor, Mel what’s-his-name on a bad day.
Him talking to me requires that I pull out my earbuds while I was listening to “American Dream” by LCD Soundsystem. That alone irritates me—it’s one of my favorite songs.
Tweaker dude says that he’s from out of town. He claims that he’s been driving around lost all afternoon looking for this winery. Yeah, I’m pretty sure this guy doesn’t need any wine. He’s already a few beers short of a six-pack.
He tells me he’s a nice guy, that I have the wrong idea about him, and that he’ll give me some money for my troubles. He fishes out a wadded-up twenty from his grimy gray sweatpants and slaps it down with a fat hand on the dash. Does he think I’m some kind of stripper who’s going to give him a lap dance here on Canal Street?
All the flags are waving red.
And then something crosses over in me.
A metallic taste in my mouth. My head starts to throb. My stomach tightens up.
So, just like you’re told never to get into a stranger’s car, I climb into the Mazda. If you’re a tweaker who pulls up next to a lonely, sixteen-year-old Catholic school girl walking home, then you’d better reconsider.
Why? Because you don’t really know who’s climbing into the car with you.
You never do.
Ten minutes later, poor Mr. Screepy is dead.
Forgive me, oh father who art in heaven, for I have sinned…a lot. My name is Clare Marie Bleecker and I’m a serial killer.
Confession, they say, is good for the soul.
If you’re a heartless killer without a conscience, you may not even have a soul, let alone a soul that’s redeemable. But here it goes, my deepest, darkest secrets.
Now, before you start thinking, “Oh gross, she probably started when she was young. She probably tortured small animals like goldfish and hamsters and neighborhood cats. And then she probably worked up to killing people—”
I don’t kill animals.
Never have. Never will.
Love them to death. I love animals more than most people. I’m a poster girl for PETA. Let’s face it, animals simply do what they do. They don’t buzz a radio frequency of annoying static like most people. Once, this dog came out of his yard and bit me. That happened when I was seven. Did I judge the dog? No. Our neighbors’ dog, Loyal, was a big monster German shepherd. Biggest dog I’d ever seen, and that’s not because I was seven and only four-foot-two.
No, Loyal was a huge dog of Cujo proportions.
He bit me as I was walking up to the house to sell some Firefly Cookies. You’ve seen us, the Firefly Girls of America. We bang on your door or stop you at a shopping mall and ask if you want to buy Coconut Crunchers or Raspberry Creamers. Yuck, I hated all that crap. I’m not really into sugary sweets, but I had to peddle my wares for the Firefly cause.
Yeah, I know, I’m sixteen-years-old, don’t eat sugar, and I kill people.
Everyone has their problems.
It’s not like I went on this huge I-hate-animals serial murderer tirade before I started doing what I do. Loyal’s owner executed the German shepherd for what he did. He took the dog to the vet and they gave him a lethal injection. It’s like it was a penitentiary death sentence.
Ted Bundy, a famous serial killer, received a death sentence. Except he got fried in a Florida penal electric chair. Like Loyal, he also bit a female and left teeth marks that later indicted him. We live in a weird world.
I don’t blame Loyal the German shepherd. He thought I was some weird random stranger in a red, blue, and yellow Firefly outfit. I’d probably lose my shit, too.
I was madder at the owner for having the dog put down than the sixteen stitches I had to get on my right arm where Loyal bit me.
One for every year of my life up to now.
You’re probably wondering what happened to Mr. Screepy, right?
Like I said before, confession time. Helps keep my thoughts straight. At least that’s what my therapist once said.
And I have lots of thoughts.
Too damn many.
Well, it went down kind of like this. I climbed into his shitty black Mazda that smelled like mildew and bad intentions. Mr. Screepy then starts asking me all these questions that have nothing to do with wineries. Where do I live? How old am I? What do I like to do for fun? Do I like tacos?
Mr. Screepy sports a bulging belly and wears a t-shirt that reads I BRING NOTHING TO THE TABLE. A couple of blue blobs stain his hairy forearms that may have been tattoos about thirty years ago. Peg the guy at about forty-eight.
Now, I didn’t climb into the Mazda to kill him, let’s get that straight. I didn’t plan to climb into the car at all. As I said, those red flags made something cross over inside me. Following the "ashes of red, there’s the weird metallic taste on my tongue, the head pain, and the stomach cramp. It’s only later, after the fact, that I found him dead.
You see, I have this condition, which I’ve dubbed psycholepsy. I sort of lose my shit, metaphorically speaking, when I’m extremely stressed out. Then certain chemicals in my brain mix into a killer cocktail—literally. And then—boom—someone is most likely dead. It’s almost like a bullshit meter. I know when someone isn’t being real with me. When Mr. Screepy laid that twenty dollars down, that dark voice within me knew something wrong was happening. Most people would have walked away, but when I’m confronted with a situation, I don’t walk away. Someone often ends up hurt. Or well, dead.
Long story short, I don’t remember actually doing the deed.
Think of narcoleptics who fall asleep when they don’t want to. The same thing kind of happens to me. Except when it does, somebody often dies. That’s when the Other Clare takes over. The clinical name of it is DID, Dissociative Identity Disorder. It was once called MPD, Multiple Personality Disorder, but I’m so much more, and less, than a couple of acronyms. Psycholepsy is much cleverer and more interesting, don’t you think?
When my psycholepsy condition first occurred, it confused me. I’d thought maybe somebody had taken my unconscious form and dragged it next to a dead body. It first happened after I killed this awful mail carrier about a year ago. I woke up and found him strangled under Lowell Street Bridge.
The last thing I remembered was that he wanted to deliver his package into my mail slot. No thanks—returned to sender with a vengeance.
Same kind of thing happened here. Again.
Only Mr. Screepy has a knife sticking out of his chest.
I must’ve gone for a heart shot. Impressive, considering it’s a slim chance to impale someone’s heart with the ribcage guarding it.
But, bullseye, it’s in there, all the way up to the hilt.
Mr. Screepy has this slack-jawed, surprised expression on his dead face.
Guess you shouldn’t really carry knives around in your car if you don’t want people to use them on you, right?
The one I stabbed him with looks like a cool fighting knife with a five-inch blade or so.
I also find a taser. What a naughty boy you are, Mr. Screepy…or were.
Pulling the knife out of his chest and wiping the blade on his shirt, I slip both weapons into my backpack next to my KJV bible. And I take the twenty dollar bill. Why leave good money lying around where someone can steal it?
I leave the bobblehead Darth Vader on the dash. It’s sun-faded and has a nick out of the right side of his helmet.
We’ll call the knife and taser parting gifts for today’s game show.
Finding a greasy rag on the back seat, I wipe down the car of any traces that I was ever there. Finger prints, any possibly stray hairs…then, I stuff the rag in my pack for later disposal, climb out of the car, and leave it at the end of Canal Street. It’s a dead-end in a sketchy part of town.
The black Mazda sits close to another car. It’s parked next to a banana Popsicle yellow station wagon that probably looked better back in 1987.
After escaping Canal Street, I pop my buds back into my ears. I crank up my Spotify playlist that’s now playing MGMT’s “Time to Pretend.”
Time to pretend is right. Time to pretend that nothing happened. Time to pretend that nobody just got killed. Time to pretend that I’m an innocent, small-town girl. Pretending to be something I’m not is pretty much my modus operandi.
Without a second glance back at Mr. Screepy or his Mazda, I turn the corner and head toward home. Well, home as it is for me now.