I think he would look better dead.

The words fell flat in a room filled with laughter and chatter. A coffee shop was no place to discuss the plan of a murder, but they sat one table away and I was typing their words as they spoke. The conversation taking place was slow, tediously slow, considering I was typing every word.

women and coffeeTwo women discussing the eminent murder of one woman’s husband.

“Do you love him?”

“Of course, I love him. Why would you ask such a thing?”

“I think he would look better dead.”

“No. Why would you say that?”

“He has insurance, it’s not like you’d have to go to work or anything.”

“Why would you say that?” Nervous laughter ensued. The conversation shifted and the two finished their coffee and left.

I noted the license plate and recorded the make and model of the car in my notes. A visit with a police officer would happen shortly, and I was determined to report this conversation. Even the nervous laughter had sounded eerily like compliance with the friend’s suggestion.

Three weeks later, same day of the week, I heard the same voice behind me, and immediately I started typing their words into my ipad. I hadn’t seen them come in, but they appeared to be intently discussing a funeral they’d just attended.

One of the two women seemed sadder than the other, yet both were talking, chattering, and laughing as if they genuinely enjoyed the discussion. My fingers caught on the words, as I realized I hadn’t found an opportunity yet to discuss the previous conversation with a police officer. The realization that I was now an accomplice to their crime. I shivered at the thought, thinking I couldn’t possibly have known they were really going to do this.


And that was as far as the story went…

Jan VerhoeffEditing has always been my forte. I love taking a general story from the telling on paper, to the book, published and profitable, marketed as if it matters… even fiction.

He would look better dead.

That line kept eating at my sense of decorum, and never settled. The sheer psychosis of the phrase snatched at my sanity, and clawed at my values. “Look” the word, appeared to have sustenance and volume, suddenly taking on action that destroyed a human being. I struggled through the editing job, all while thinking I probably should have turned this job down, then I remembered…

I wrote the book.

The whole scene really happened – at least the first one – well with a few changes to bring the scene into modern times, since there was no starbucks back when I wrote this book. I never went back to that coffee shop, and since I was rarely in that community after that, I never had an opportunity to talk to the police officer about it. I didn’t know if the woman actually followed through, or if the whole conversation was some sarcastic litany of snark and satire. But I wrote the book, about a woman so psychotic that she manipulated the actions of her friends to involve them in her murder schemes, killing those they loved.

Murder she wrote had nothing on me. I had been inspired by the satirical discussion of two murderous women in a coffee shop. And that was a big reveal, the inspiration.

The idealistic concept of inspired means to do something great, not to murder a human being. In my defense, I wrote the story, one yet to be published, and older than most of my children, I find myself clearly on the fence about publishing the book, and more on the fence about finishing the last two chapters. I never decided how she was caught… That is yet to come. I’ve grown since writing that, as a person, as a writer, and as a published author. I believe I might be better than that story, but the ending… Could matter.

How do you justify your adventures in writing mysterious horror? There must have been a moment when I felt justified to write 85,000 words of horror. What could that justification have been? And can I make it matter in the final chapters?


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I think he would look better dead. — 2 Comments

    • Definitely. In fact, it’s very lightly based on a true “as told to me” story. People are pretty weird, and they’ll do anything if they think they can get away with it.

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