By Carter Hank McKater, presenting under the pseudonym of Hampton Roadhouse*
Well la-de-da, here we are again. Me talking in my brains to a bunch of writers, telling them how it is. Remember me? Yeah, I’m the one who ITW hauled in last summer from the federal pen to speak as a direct expert on the issue of serial killing. Had me up on the podium in my orange jumper with my hands cuffed behind my back. But the clowns misgauged how smart I am, forgot I graduated from Florida State (left a few bodies in the Everglades), and so I was able to escape by shoving the pimple-nosed, dumb-nuts prison guard off the hotel roof and splattered his carcass in an alley dumpster—after taking his guard uniform.
Anyway, here we are again. I bet your nosey, prying ass wants to know how and why. Here it is. I slipped into shadows the night I escaped, cut and colored my hair, changed my muscled body type by plumping up, rounding my edges, and since I know a guy who knows a guy who knows a ho up on 56th who runs a fake ID business in her brothel basement, well, now I’m Hampton Roadhouse. Hello world, nice to meet ya. Ho charged me five thousand dollars to get a name with a verifiable background. I could have filleted her, left her skanky parts around the city in drainholes. But I sort of had to respect her demon stare; she sure didn’t give a rat hair about me. So I paid her and now I’m Hampton Roadhouse, former brother of the fraternity Beta Chi Alpha Gamma divorced, no kids, was working as a paralegal at some fancy New York firm, but quit to be what I am now, a full-time writer.
That’s right. I, Hampton Roadhouse (Carter Hank McKater), am living my second life as a crime writer. A weird feeling brewed inside me last summer when I stood presenting at the annual ITW ThrillerFest in New York City on ways to hide a body. I’d never in all my deranged life had a flutter in my heart, that I might be friggin’ happy, that I might buried-deep-in-my-inner-mind enjoy being around those lunatics. Four months after the night I escaped, when I wore my new look and identity like comfortable skin, I entered the bedroom of a woman who had been in the crowd for my serial killer talk (I’d memorized her nametag and stalked her ass to another writers conference—which these writers and agents and editors seem to always be at). When her crime-writing-addled mind didn’t scream at my sudden presence lording over her hotel bed (swiped a key card from a maid station), and instead she coiled up to my face in her dark hotel room and hissed about how I better tell her every single minute step I took to break in—whipping off the nightstand her writing journal to take notes—I thought: Could I maybe belong somewhere? Is that possible? I got to say, the bang-fest she and I had that night left me sore—in the good way. Turns out, she’s not just a writer, she’s an agent too. And she plays to this day she ain’t never seen me before the night I bust into her hotel room; she believes I am a true human named Hampton Roadhouse, some writer who was clammy-hands eager to get in her pants and also snag her as an agent.
In the morning—can you believe I stayed the whole night and even fell asleep next to her, next to an alive human, in a bed? What was—what is—happening to me? In the morning, I fought the notion of strangling her to death, as per my usual “modus operandi” with girls I screw (this is a fancy Latin or whatever phrase the jerkass prosecutor used in my last pre-meditated murder trial). She urged me to send her my manuscript, assuming I must have had one. Since of course I didn’t fucking have one, I told her I needed a couple of months to polish one off. I set to work. What I did, see, was I wrote a true-life memoir about a serial killer who infiltrates the crime writing industry, poses as an author, and once in, kills off nine peckerhead critic-trolls who sullied the world with their negativity. Title I gave my “novel” was WriteOffed
The New York Times went totally froth-mouth bananas over WriteOffed because I hid until the end how the writer was the serial killer. Headline said: WRITE-OFFED OFFERS DEVILISH PLOT TWIST. The author photo I used was a picture of a mangled hand. I don’t do readings. No tour. The only place I feel safe with my new identity is with these crazy-ass, crime-thriller-mystery-horror writers at ITW.
WriteOffed went international. It’s been huge. Little do any of these idiots know, the biggest plot twist is that it’s all true, and I am indeed the real-life serial killer. The real-life critics who died were nobodies. Just Internet trolls, who built algorithms to crawl across the infosphere, seeking ways to infest the electronic world with nonsense. Losers who don’t even read.
Anyway, the ITW crew wanted me to present (again)—this time on the craft of plot twists. I seriously didn’t have a clue what they were talking about. So I tried to do something I ain’t done since I was trolling the basements and alleys of Florida State for lone victims: I went to a library to research.
Now I’m sitting in my SoHo apartment going over my slides on plot twists, preparing for my ITW presentation. My agent/writer/most-frequent-booty-call polished up my slides into professional English words, so now I’m studying her wordsmith witchcraft to be ready to talk right.
(Click on slide to enlarge.)
But I can’t concentrate.
I’m still thinking on the call I got last week.
“This Hampton Roadhouse?” The caller said.
“Look man, I’m happy you’re a fan and all, but you need to call my agent and shit. How’d you get this number?” I said.
“I am Hampton Roadhouse. Your time’s up using my name, man. I’ll give you one week…” He said. I hung up before he finished.
This exact prospect had been bugging me for some time. The 56th Street Ho who sold me this identity said I needn’t worry about anyone drumming me up for using their identity because she said this Hampton character was a fiction she created. She said she cooked up Hampton’s backstory and made it verifiable by extorting johns who use her brothel—johns who happen to work in key governmental records offices. That’s what she said. Seems I’ve been riding the Ho Train Of Lies, Transcontinental.
None of this matters for nothing. I turn back to my PowerPoint slides, try to focus on my writer job.
(Click on slide to enlarge.)
Look, I got a guy who knows a guy who has a cousin connected to a ghost, who happens to have one hand. When I got the “real” Hampton’s phonecall last week, I called the one-handed ghost on a disposable phone, hired him to take this Hampton out. Bang bang go my problems. I can’t do Hampton’s hit myself. I got to outsource. Too close to home for a fake Hampton to kill a real Hampton.
I’m waiting for the hit to go down, so I might as well get on with my PowerPoint on the plot twist. I know I said I went and did research on the topic, but truth is, I fucking hate research, so I took a bubble bath at my agent/I-guess-I’ll-call-her-girlfriend’s townhouse last night and dredged this sludge up from my own brains. No writing professor blessed my PowerPoint; no literary authority with a master’s degree said this is correct or nothing. These are my thoughts on what plot twists are all about. If you disagree, well, word of advice—don’t disagree.
(Click on slides to enlarge.)
Son of a bitch, a pounding on my apartment door breaks the laser focus I’d attained. Not many know my address, so this can’t be good. Before I can grab my gun or my murder knife, my door slams open and a guy who could be Vladimir Putin, but with an even more jagged-boned Russian face, slogs right on up to me in my cushy blue armchair, my PowerPoint still up on the silver Apple laptop in my lap. His gun is in my face with one hand, the right one is buried in his coat pocket, so I figure he’s hiding the absence of it.
“Hampton, you’re dead,” he says.
This ghost I hired must be as dumb as his broken nose.
“You buffoon. I hired you! You have the wrong Hampton.”
“Hired me? You called me! You said I had a week to pay or you’d out me! I’m Hampton Roadhouse and will always be Hampton Roadhouse now.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
I’m twisting my face at this granite-faced Russian because there ain’t no way this clown is the real Hampton Roadhouse. More like his name is Vladimir Tolsky Mutherrussika. Says his name is Hampton though, so something ain’t right.
“Screw this,” he says, cocks his trigger and fires, hitting me solid and straight in the chest. He runs out of my joint. I fall to the floor, gasping for life.
Almost as soon as he must have hit the pavement outside, I hear more yelling, so as I clutch my damaged chest, in the last few breaths I hold on to, I crawl to my opened apartment window. I drop my laptop to my hardwood floor; like a miracle, the slideshow is still somewhat visible.
(Click on slides to enlarge.)
I pull my torso so I’m leaning over the opened window ledge and listen. My chest feels like it must have felt for the poor fool in Decatur all those years ago, the traveling scumbag Wall Street stockbroker whose rib cage I cranked open so as to extract his beating heart. This is my chest on fire now, that feeling.
On the sidewalk below, Vladimir-Hampton argues with a white guy in dad jeans and a camel brown jacket with a zipper.
“I gave you one week,” this white guy says. “I gave him one week too,” he says, pointing up to my window. “I’m the real Hampton, that ho works for me, and neither of you have paid me my money, so time’s up.”
He never said money was an option. But then again, maybe he did. I had hung up on him.
White-Hampton pulls his own gun, and pop-pop on the sidewalk Vladimir-Hampton’s temple spits a gusher of blood. His half-a-head dead body falls into a bush under my window. White-Hampton looks up at me, hanging out my window, but all of this is becoming blurry: I’m passing out, passing on, I can’t breathe.
But sure as shit, don’t you know, as White-Hampton wags a finger to me, what I thought was a shadow forms into a man, emerging solid and standing behind him. He too has a gun, and by way of his handless right arm, I know he’s my ghost. Pop-pop execution style, my hired gun shoots his mark: the finger-wagging Hampton Roadhouse, the real one drops dead. An extra special bonus for me—ain’t none of their traceable bloody DNA stinking up my abode. A black, brandless whisper of a car pulls up and parks beside the two scattered bodies. My ghost and his ghost driver drag the real Hampton into the backseat. I paid a surplus to be sure his body was eradicated complete, so I’m sure he’s heading for some acid vat or a muddy hole, way upstate. I point to Mutherrussika in the bushes and flash my hands with all ten fingers to indicate I’ll pay an extra ten grand to dispose of this other Hampton too. They nod they’ll oblige. Although, I don’t know why I care. I’m on my way out.
I slump to the floor and die.
(Click on slide to enlarge.)
Or do I?
As I come back into the world from however many Godless minutes I was passed out, I notice the cracked screen of my laptop. Damn portal of knowledge caught the bullet when I shielded it to my chest, and so, like a bulletproof vest, this savior Mac absorbed most of the strength of the bullet meant for my heart.
But the strangest part of all of this is, instead of my first urge being planning how I’m going to go on down and slice the 56th Street Ho up for the con she’d run, my first urge is to write about all this in my plot twist PowerPoint. So, like cosmic poetry or some karmic bullshit, it seems writing has literally and figuratively saved my life.
Hampton Roadhouse is the pseudonym of Carter Hank McKater, which is the pseudonym of Shannon Kirk. She is the award-winning author of the debut psychological thriller, METHOD 15/33 (THE METHOD in UK, NZ, and OZ), which has garnered three starred reviews, won the National Inde Excellence Award for best suspense, and was selected by the School Library Journal as one of the best 17 adult fiction books for teens. METHOD 15/33 has been optioned for a major motion film and has sold into sixteen foreign territories. Ms. Kirk’s second novel (not a thriller), HEAVENS, will be published in June 2016. Read more about Shannon and her books and short stories at www.shannonkirkbooks.com and www.thegoatmancometh.com.
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