I Didn’t Ask For This
I’m sitting crossed-legged on the shag carpet of a Motel 9 (I can’t say where) pecking away in the glow of my laptop. The shades are drawn. The pencil flash between my teeth is shining on the keys.
I was good, but I wasn’t lucky. My buzzer beater rolled off the rim. My walk-off line drive screamed over third, but the left fielder made a diving catch and became the hero instead of me.
The other benchwarmers went geeky or Gothic, or just got tragic on drugs. I kept trying. I wanted to be the All-American boy. Star on the field, brain in the classroom. The dude in the flashy tux escorting the Prom Queen.
There were eleven hundred in the senior class of 2003 at John C. Fremont High. Graduation day we lined up in the heat on the football field, all capped and gowned and giggly from bong hits behind the gym.
My name is Peter Vogel (in the class photo I’m the oblivion sandwich in the last row.) The kid before me was Felipe Velez, the star striker of the soccer team. He got a roar from his teammates and “whoo whoos” from the hoochies who thought he was hot. I walked out to a pathetic smattering from my mom, my faculty advisor, and the few good souls who applauded every grad. On my heels came Jenny Voorspan, the editor of the newspaper, volunteer in the Feeding the Homeless project, scholarship to Princeton, She got a standing ovation. The kiss ass teachers on the dais stood up and cheered.
I spent the summer working at Blockbuster, getting blasted and watching the worst movies I could fine. The Tuesday after Labor Day I started at a big UC (can’t say which one.) I had no plans. My ambition was to stay drunk and have meaningless sex. Girls walked by me like I was invisible.
Tutoring My Fetish
A UC is a universe of parallel galaxies—jock world, frat world, geeks and politicos. English majors whirl in aimless nebulae, disdained but left in peace. We have a pleasant life pretending to write, learning to drink and trying to hook up which is tough when you have no money and can only talk about dead authors and old movies.
Senior year a girl appeared in my America Lit class. She was almost as tall as me, pale and skinny with big breasts that stirred at her slightest movement.
I tried to be cool and unimpressed around women but couldn’t stop sneaking sidelong looks at her. She had long legs that led to a tight, perfect ass. I’d seen that body type a thousand times in porno flicks and knew exactly what she looked like naked, right down to the mane that led from her pubes to her navel, which I would have bet my scholarship she never shaved. She daydreamed in lectures, eyes half closed, mouth half open. There were coffee stains on her blouse and wisps of black hair curling out of the stubble in her armpits. At night I was tormented by a vision of her eyes widening and her mouth flopping open in astonishment as I stood over her, naked and masterful. My body would throb and it would feel as if my brains were going to burst out of my head. Next morning I would pass her in class like nothing had happened and shoot her a casual “hi.” I got a dismissive smile in return.
And then one day she chased me down in the quadrangle.
“Is William Dean Howells the most pointless shit in the world?”
I had read that if you masturbated thinking of the same girl every night she would feel your energy and be drawn to you. Had that happened? Her eyes were dark, almost black, and impossible to read.
“All writers with three names are boring,” I said. “Wait’ll you get to Ralph Waldo Emerson.”
She squinted like she didn’t get the joke. “I’m an Economics major and I’ve been putting off taking these Lit classes, but now I need them to graduate.”
Don’t worry, this is English you don’t have to know anything. Just show up and hand in a paper.”
She jumped out in front of me, walking backwards. “I have to get at least a B to keep my three point five so I can get into a decent Law School. I’ve been watching you in class. Professor Katz always perks up when you start to talk.”
I’m an English major. I know the code.”
“You get A’s on all your papers. Even an A-plus…”
She laughed and answered the question I was about to ask. “My roommate is seeing Katz’s teaching assistant. He says you’re the smartest guy in the class.”
“I want people to love me for my body, not my mind,” I said
“Your body is workable,” she said. When she leaned forward I could see the imprint of her nipple on her sleeveless blouse.
“I need someone to write my papers for me,” she said. “Will you do it?”
“People are getting three or four hundred bucks to ghost papers,” I said.
“I can’t pay you, I’m broke,” she said. “I’ll let you fuck me. That’s the best I can do.”
I was shocked at how casually she said it. “Let me get this straight,” I said with a knowing smile that implied I fielded propositions like this all the time. “You’ll let me…” I wanted to say fuck with the same nonchalance, but couldn’t get it out “…sleep with you if I help you write a paper.”
“Only if I get an A.”
It had to be a prank. My stupid friends had put her up to it. I was supposed to start slobbering and agree to everything and then they’d jump out of the bushes, yelling “punk’d!”
I played along. “How do I know I can trust you? Say I write the paper and you show up with your boyfriend who’s the captain of the Lacrosse team and say the deal is off?”
“I can see why you’re an English major,” she said. “Don’t worry I’m not creative enough to come up with an idea like that.”
“If this were a porn movie I’d be following you into the bedroom right now,” I said.
She grabbed my hand. “Life can be a porn movie sometimes.”
She took me to an apartment a few blocks off campus. There was a Subaru in the driveway. “My roommate is home,” she said.
She led me into the garage, to a vintage Ford pick up draped with a tarp. I kept waiting for my friends to jump out at me. But she lifted the tarp and we both crawled under. She pushed me back down onto the cold cement floor and unbuttoned her blouse.
I was afraid to look down or touch her because I wanted this to last. But it didn’t and a minute later she was checking herself out in the smudgy mirror over the worktable.
“You’ll have to give me a few smart things to say in class.” She said. “Participation is part of the grade.”
“The way you participate it won’t be a problem,” I said.
She offered her hand. Her grasp was warm, She grazed the inside of my wrist with a long nail and I felt a chill to the top of my head.
“Hi Peter,” she said. “I’m Hannah.”
“After a major hiatus (one book since 1988), novelist Gould (Fort Apache, the Bronx; Cocktail) is back with a noir thriller, full of action, dark humor, multiple killings, and a swath of eccentric characters plucked from the American heartland…This high-caliber redemptive road trip is quick-witted, stylish, and highly entertaining.”
— Library Journal, Seamus Scanlon, Ctr. for Worker Education, CUNY
“Gould is a movie guy (screenwriter for Boys of Brazil, among other writing and directing credits), and it shows in the big-screen style he brings to this novel. no essayish exposition, just snappy dialogue and narrative set forth in sentences bursting with energy….The reader gets to “watch” a fine thriller unfold.”
—Booklist, Don Crinklaw
“With the creation of Peter Vogel, veteran author Heywood Gould has accomplished for THE SERIAL KILLER’S DAUGHTER what Salinger’s Holden Caulfield did for CATCHER IN THE RYE.”
—Jedwin Smith, Two-time Pulitzer nominee and author of FATAL TREASURE and OUR BROTHER’S KEEPER
One never knows where Heywood Gould’s creative mind will take us and he’s in rare form again. Now I am honest enough to state that serial killers are not my favorite stories per se, but actually this IS about the serial killer’s daughter and her wild ride through the mystery. Fast ride, weird assortment of characters. And the end did surprise me. Enjoy!
—I LOVE A MYSTERY Magazine, Manya Nogg,
Author Heywood Gould has crafted a hell of a thrill ride in The Serial Killer’s Daughter. The action jumps off immediately and never lets up, forcing Peter and Hannah to run from pillar to post in their efforts to both stay alive and figure out who’s behind the attacks. Through it all Gould keeps the pace blistering, the violence visceral, and the actions of Peter and Hannah absolutely believable.
—Savannah Morning News, Florida Times-Union, Elizabeth A. White
Heywood Gould has written an exciting crime thriller that looks deeply into the various masks people wear and change to hide their peculiarities and what they consider a fault. …Readers will understand that even serial killers have families who are victims of their insanity too as Mr. Gould allows fans to see up close how the Serial killer’s Daughter survives the whisperers about her heritage.
—Midwest Book Review, Harriet Klausner
“Heywood Gould never ceases to entertain and amaze. I could not put this book down. The suspense was literally excruciating.”
—Tom Thayer, former president of Universal Television and Emmy, award winning producer of “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee.”
“This is the kind of book that you can’t wait to finish and then you’re sorry it’s over.”
—Joe Stern, Executive Producer “Law and Order” & “Judging Amy.”