A collaborated thriller/suspense written with up and coming author Doug Lafuze.
American misfit, Raymond Lang, has always dreamed of writing a suspenseful thriller. The problem is every time he tries to write about the gruesome murder scenes he visualizes so clearly in his mind, the sharp images fade and his pages remain blank. A chance meeting with an old flame reveals a way to solve his writer’s block. In fulfilling her astonishing request, he’s surprised to find his creativity released and the chapters flowing smoothly. The only drawback is his ability to capture the scenes with words doesn’t last long. He has to unleash his dark side and kill again if he wants to continue his writing. Now, even though the police and several others are on his tail, he won’t stop this blood-lust until he’s finished his novel. How many victims will he have to claim? Even more to the point, can he finish and publish it before he’s caught?
The Birth of Your Last Breath
I published a short story about a murder victim on my WordPress blog, and it caught the attention of up and coming writer, Doug Lafuze. This stranger commented on my story saying he liked it so much it had inspired him to write the same story from the killer’s point of view. I liked his story too and jokingly said we should collaborate on a book based on our short stories. To cut a long story short, we had the first draft completed in less than eight weeks. I have to say though, it was almost another year before it was ready for publishing. Since Doug lives in Nebraska, in the USA and I live in Lancashire, England, it was no mean feat to complete this novel. Although we’ve never met in person, our constantly flying emails ensured we were both on the same page of our book (please forgive the pun). We both thoroughly enjoyed writing it and hope our readers enjoy it too. Here are the original stories that inspired ‘Your Last Breath’. My short story followed by Doug’s.
A Day in the Life of a Blogger
Spotting an interesting post from a new male blogger, Annabelle clicks on ‘Follow’. Just as the highlighted word changes to ‘Following’, she catches sight of his avatar photo. God! He looks like a criminal. Why did I click ‘follow’? Oh yes! I need to follow bloggers so they’ll follow me.
At least that’s what she’s come to understand after spending months trying to build her online audience. As well as having an interesting website, she’s noticed he lives in the same county as her. She always likes to support her local fellow bloggers, that’s mainly why she clicked, but now studying this man’s face closely, she worries she could be following criminals, thugs and every other wrong-doer? Can you judge a person on their looks? Annabelle shrugs.
Her friend Jayne had warned her, “Be careful what personal information you put on there; you never know who’s looking at it.”
Jayne doesn’t understand. To access some websites, you have to give more away than you want to. Annabelle considers all the people she’s followed and engaged with. Most of them have thanked her for following them, or ‘liked’ something she’s done, but a few haven’t responded in any way. She wonders what they are waiting for, and why they bother posting if they’re not going to respond when anyone shows an interest in their blog.
That last blogger she’s just followed is an aspiring author, trying to write a thriller. He says he’s never written about murder before and, in his post, he was asking for help to visualise the scene. Annabelle reads the ‘comments’ to his post, and his reply to each contributor was always the same. “Sorry, this didn’t help.” No variation in his words at all. After nineteen helpful hints, he still doesn’t feel able to write about it accurately. Some of the suggestions put forward seem really useful, to her at least. Oh well! I suppose you just can’t help some people.
She exits that page and moves on to her notifications. Oh, that’s good! Several new people are ‘following’ her, and she has a fair amount of ‘likes’. There’s also a list of comments she should reply to. Checking out the websites of her new followers, she adds a few comments of her own to their posts. She enjoys the two-way chats from people all over the world, it broadens her knowledge. Next, she goes back to the growing list of messages she has to respond to. She’s in the middle of the sixth one when the telephone rings in the hall.
No response, just silence.
Letting out a deep sigh of frustration, she wishes these irritating sales people would leave her alone; they’re always interrupting her when she’s busy with something. Annabelle knows it’s one of them again, because there’s always a prolonged silence before their automated message starts. She doesn’t give them chance to get going on their sales pitch these days. She just disconnects as soon as she recognises the silent period. So she does this, noisily banging down the phone.
Since she’s already been disturbed, she makes her way to the kitchen for a mid-morning drink, and then spends the next couple of hours doing a few chores. She also prepares a casserole, so now she can work a bit later and still enjoy a good meal when she’s finished. Later, back on her computer, she finishes replying to her blogging friends, and then starts writing a new article.
“Ring ring” The telephone cuts into her creative thoughts again.
Once more, that annoying silence from the other end . Cursing, she replaces the receiver in its cradle and in the same moment, hears a loud shattering crash from the kitchen. Annabelle freezes momentarily. Hell! That sounds like a window breaking… Tip-toeing from the hall, she cautiously heads toward the kitchen. Oh no!
The now jagged glass pane in the back-door has a huge piece missing. Thousands of glittering pieces, like sparkles in sand, lay randomly scattered on the floor where they’ve landed. Now she panics. She’s terrified…. Her heart jumps in her chest almost reaching her throat and she’s glued to the spot. She’s acutely aware of her awakened nerve endings, primed for flight. Holding her breath, she listens… No sound now.
She looks frantically around … The door, thankfully, is still closed. Annabelle fearfully looks through the broken pane to the garden beyond. She can’t see anyone. Everything outside looks quiet and normal, yet, someone, or something, has broken the glass. Slowly, carefully avoiding stepping on the shimmering fragments, she inches closer to the door…. Is it still locked? Frantically checking behind her while drawing ever nearer, Annabelle feels, rather than sees, the smashed door thrust violently inward with the propelling force of the intruder.
He’s holding aloft the most frightening knife she’s ever seen. As it plunges deep in her flesh, she recognises him. Her horror is apparent on her face; it’s that criminal-looking blogger she followed. He’s going to kill her. It’s crystal-clear to her now. There’s only one way he can visualise, and then write his murder scene.
The View from the Other Side
I’ve stared at the words ‘Chapter 19’ on this computer screen for over two hours now and I’m really frustrated! I know what I want to write about. I can see it. I just can’t get the words to come out.
“This is maddening!” I say to myself. I pick up the beer beside my computer screen and take a swig. It’s too early in the morning for a beer, but after two days of not getting anywhere with this story, I’m aggravated as hell and need something to calm me down.
“Maybe I need to distract myself from this thing,” I say, setting the bottle down in the same ring of standing water it came from. I grab my red mouse, slide the arrow over the red x, and close the chapter I’ve been stuck on for days now. I look at my home screen with the rows of shortcuts and click on the one for my blog. My sign in page comes up. I sign in, and wait for my page to load.
I’m about to go straight to my stats page, like I normally do, but I see a notification. Clicking on it, I see I have a new follower. Anna is her name and she is an attractive young woman. I go to her blog and check out what she’s been writing, nothing that really turns me on, but I find her full name, Annabelle Thompson.
Armed with this information, I type her name into my search bar. In just a few seconds my screen fills with information about this new, attractive follower. Seeing a link to her Facebook page, I click on it. Her page is not set to private, as it should be, so I check her out. She has some extra pictures here, different and better quality than what’s on her blog profile. I can get a really good look at her. I click on the ‘About’ button and check out her personal information. Her marital status is single.
Very nice! She only lists an aunt and a grandma as family, so no kids, and she lives in……. why that isn’t very far from here!
I can’t believe my luck, a single, attractive female who lives real close to me. I’ve gone as far as I can on Laura’s death. I need someone else to help me get over my ‘writers block’, so I want to check out Annabelle to see if she is that someone. She even lists her home address and phone number for me. She’s either very trusting, naïve, or doesn’t understand about privacy settings. This just made my day so much easier! I grab my cell phone, laying beside my laptop on the table, and dial the number listed, just to see if it is correct. It rings a few times before a pleasant female voice answers.
I let her voice sink into my brain but I don’t respond. She sounds as beautiful as she looks. She doesn’t stay on the line long before she hangs up. My thoughts, stimulated by the prospect of a new quarry, produce words that tease me. They just won’t flow forth on their own, feel disconnected and incomplete. I need this, I need her! It bothers me a little that I don’t know anything about her, but the need to finish this book drives me from my chair. I grab the car keys and hurry to my car, unlocking the trunk when I get there. I move things aside, pull a red steel tool box towards me, and open the lid, rummaging around inside until I find what I am looking for, a knife, no, the knife. The same knife that had gutted Amy and made Laura bleed out. I run my finger down its blade, admiring its reflective silver surface. If fate allows, in a few hours, it will be stained with Annabelle’s blood!!
I toss the knife on my passenger seat and climb behind the wheel. It only takes twenty minutes to find her house, the last one on a quiet little road. I pass a delivery truck on the way in, but other than that, I get the impression it’s a pretty quiet place. I see a place to pull off along the narrow road, so I park my car there and walk the rest of the way on foot. She has a cute little cottage with a modest but well-manicured yard out front that’s dotted with a few small flower beds, but as I cautiously make my way around the house, checking windows as I go, I come to a large back yard with a large flower garden that shows the results of many hours of loving care and dedication from someone.
Peeking in a window on the side of the cottage, I see her! She’s leaving what looks like a bedroom with a basket of laundry. I make my way around the house and spot her through another window, putting the laundry from the basket into the washer. She’s wearing a blue pair of casual looking pants and has a blue sweater over a dark top. The top is a tight fit and I like what I see. She’s probably in her late forties, but it looks like she’s taken care of herself. She’s even more attractive in person than in her pictures. I duck back out of sight just in time, as she finishes her task and then turns to look out the window at her garden.
Annabelle and I play cat and mouse for a while as she goes about her chores, never suspecting I’m only a few feet away from her at times! I watch her put together a casserole dish and set it aside for later. She dries and folds some laundry, returning it to the bedroom she came from earlier, does a few dishes, sorts through her mail, and sweeps a few floors. When she settles back at her computer, I take stock of my situation. This will be my first time killing ‘cold’, without days of planning and thought. I have been here for hours and I’ve seen no-one but Anna, so I think I’m safe. She seems mild, meek, no real problem to control if things don’t go right. I just need to figure out how to pull this off quickly and smoothly. I see a shovel leaning against a wheel barrow, next to a flower bed sporting fresh dirt. A plan comes to my mind, so I slip to the back door and try the knob. It’s locked, but I can see inside the kitchen. This might work!
I quickly make my way to the wheelbarrow and grab the shovel before returning to the back door. I lean the shovel against the house and once more I dial Anna’s number.
Again I remain silent, but after she hangs up, I take the shovel in my hand and use it to shatter the glass in the back door. I toss the shovel into the grass, reach inside to unlock the door, then quickly turn placing my back against the outside wall. I hear her footsteps coming down the hall then stop as she enters the room, but she is quiet after that. I take out my knife. Gripping it tight I listen intently. I would like her to come nearer the door, maybe even open it herself, before I strike. I don’t hear anything else for what seems like several minutes.
Why is she so quiet? Has she fled to the front door? She couldn’t have, I would have heard her leave the room like I heard her enter it. No, she is just being cautious, that’s all, maybe I should peek around the door? No, if she is close I will lose my element of surprise. Be patient. She will open the door….’
The tiniest sound of glass being ground into the tile floor breaks my train of thought. She is there after all! My adrenaline starts pumping faster, my heart rate increases and the pounding in my ears makes it hard to hear her. She is close now, I can smell her perfume wafting from the broken window!
Come on, open the door! I think to myself, becoming impatient. I grip my knife tightly and reach for the door knob. I can’t wait. She’s right there, I know she is. In one swift motion, I grab the knob, turn it, and shove the door in as I turn the corner and enter her house.
There she is before me, only three feet away. Sheer terror flashes across her face as I cross the last few feet which separates us in a microsecond. She opens her mouth to scream, but my knife penetrates her flesh and I bury it deep in her stomach. She inhales loudly as the pain takes her by surprise. Her blue eyes dart around the room and settle on my face. Through the pain showing in her eyes, a hint of recognition shows in her expression. Does she recognize me from my blog? Who the hell cares!? Emboldened by the look on her face, the terror, the intense pain and agony I’m inflicting on her, I shove her backwards across the kitchen until she comes up against the counter. I withdraw my knife and plunge it into her stomach again. I feel it hit something hard, her spine maybe. She’s small, could be the counter top.
I feel her warm blood flowing over my hand; I draw near her right ear and breathe her in, her shampoo, her perfume, her blood, her fear! Quickly and forcefully I withdraw the blade again and reinsert it. Her gasp is quiet this time, her life is ebbing low. She starts to sink to the floor, so I shove my knee in between her legs to prop her up. Her blood soaks through my jeans and warms my leg as I take her hair in my hands and lift her head to look her in her eyes. They are quivering from the pain I’m causing her. I twist the blade to see their response. They shoot skyward and then back to me, quivering faster. There it is! That is what I need. I feel the curtain drop again as my creativity is released once again.
Slowly and deliciously, I remove the knife from her stomach and hold it between us for her to see. Her dark red blood trickles down the blade, over the hilt, and over my hand clenching the knife. Her breathing is slow and shallow as I place the knife to her throat. She is barely conscious as I press it into her soft pink flesh. In one quick motion, I plunge it deep and pull it across her throat, opening her neck and spilling her crimson blood to the floor. She lets out a gurgling gasp as her lifeblood spurts weakly from the opening I have created, striking me in the face and chest. With each beat of her heart, the flow of blood lessens. Her eyes flutter shut slowly and her head tries to drop, but I keep it held back. I kiss her lips and breathe her in before I withdraw my knee and allow her to sag to the floor, dropping lifeless into the puddle of her own dark red blood that has formed on the white tile beneath her.
I lean over her dead body, place my bloody hands on the counter, and breathe deep the smell of her blood and the stench of death that I am becoming accustomed to now.
The two short stories shown here are not as they appear in the final version of our book, although various parts of them are used and intermingled to form one cohesive scene in the story. This is only one of several murders.