He sat at his desk in the upstairs study, typewriter in front of him, a glass of his favorite Italian red wine to the left, the remainder of the bottle resting nearby. He took a drink from his glass and stared at the blank page sitting ready in the machine. It was a portable Royal from 1941, the exact model that Hemingway sometimes used. It was the one he had the most luck with. He was halfway into his second glass of wine and was starting to feel good. He gazed around the little room and at the shelves of books that lined the walls. Some were his own. while others were by friends and writers he admired. The walls were adorned with paintings and drawings done by acquaintances, as well as artists of some fame. Framed photographs of his favorite writers were scattered about the little room as well. They inspired him, and he liked to imagine himself among them. He felt his best when he was in his study, with his books and his paintings and photographs,  a few bottles of wine, the typewriter on the desk before him. It was in this setting that he felt like he was doing what he was supposed to be doing; it was here he felt truly alive. He finished his glass, poured another, and started in.

The words flowed from his mind, through his fingers, and onto the page at a pace that satisfied him. He was starting the first chapter of his third novel, the last of a trilogy. He’d been working it out in his head for the last six months, occasionally jotting down ideas and loose outlines, but mostly he just let it incubate inside him until it was ready to be born. When he woke this morning, he felt it was time. He felt the book was fully formed somewhere within him, and all he had to do was channel it out into the old machine. He felt like a magician of sorts, a seer.

He was twelve hundred words into it when he felt his phone vibrate from within the pocket of his jacket. He pulled it out and looked at the screen. A new text. He looked at the name of the sender and a wave of annoyance and apprehension passed through him. He didn’t read the text, but put the phone on his desk next to the bottle of wine. He took a drink from his glass and started typing again. He got in another three hundred words before the phone was vibrating again. He rested his eyes upon it until it stopped. He then went back to typing and only got in 25 words before the phone was vibrating again. He cursed, picked up the phone, and looked. Two texts and a missed call, all from the same person. He looked at the texts. The first one read:

You sick motherfucker.

And the second:

You are so fucked.

He deleted the texts and listened to the voice message:

Jim, this is Shannon. You are so fucked, you fucking bastard. I am going to fucking destroy you. Do you think your wife won’t find out what kind of bastard you really are? Do you think you can ignore me? Do you think you’re safe? I owe it to your wife and to all the other people you’ve hurt to get the truth about you out into the world. Do you understand me? You are fucked.

He let loose a heavy sigh, deleted the voice message, then wrote back:

Shannon, you need to stop. I thought we agreed you were going to get on with your life and leave me alone. Please stop this.

He put the phone down, took a drink of wine, and turned back to his typewriter. Before he touched the keys, the phone was buzzing with a fresh text. He looked:

You are a fucking coward. Men like you make me sick. You think you can just fuck with me and get away with it? You are so fucking wrong.

He wrote back:

Shannon, stop.

Before he could put the phone down, it was buzzing again. He waited for the voice message and listened:

Jim, I’m not letting you off on this. You dug your own grave, and I don’t feel sorry for you, not one bit. I will not be ignored. Call me, you bastard, or I will destroy you.

The voice was all alcohol and rage. He stood up and returned the phone to his pocket. He finished his glass of wine, opened the door to his study, and headed down the stairs. He went through the hallway and into the living room, where his wife was drinking wine and watching television.

“What are you doing out here?” she asked him. “You’ve barely been up there an hour.”

“Just a little break,” he said. “Gonna run and get some more wine.”

“Will you pick up a bottle of my stuff as well?”


“Hurry up and get back to work. The world awaits the new masterpiece.”

He smiled back at her, then stepped out into the night and started walking the five blocks to the liquor store. Halfway down the first block, his phone was vibrating. He answered it.

“Shannon, really, this needs to stop,” he said into the phone.

“You think you can fucking ignore me, bastard?”

“I’m not ignoring you, Shannon, I’m talking to you right now. But I don’t know what you want from me.”

“I want you to know that you can’t just shit on me and walk away. That’s what I want.”

“I didn’t shit on you, Shannon. I was honest with you. I never lied about my situation. You were okay with it at the time.”

“You did shit on me, fucker. You used me and tossed me aside, just as you’ve done with so many other women. And now it’s time to pay the piper.”

“Look, I never lied to you. About anything. And I don’t know what other women you’re talking about. You were a more than willing participant in everything that happened between us.”

“I regret it. I regret it all. I regret ever meeting you.”

“Well, I’m sorry for that. But it’s not fair to blame me because you regret your own actions.  You certainly showed no signs of regret at the time.”

“You sick motherfucker! I was vulnerable! You took advantage of me!”

“Shannon, you’re not fucking twelve years old. Take responsibility for your actions and don’t make me the scapegoat for your regrets. I’m not to blame for your unhappiness.”

“Take responsibility? That’s exactly what I’m doing, fucker! I’m ashamed of what I did to your poor wife! I need to apologize to her. I don’t owe you anything, but your poor wife…I owe her an apology!”

“Shannon, you stay away from my goddamn wife.”

“Yeah, you’d like that, wouldn’t you? She needs to know the truth about you. I owe her that. As a woman who has also been cheated on.”

“All you owe my wife is to leave her the fuck alone. You don’t give a shit about my wife, Shannon, you just want to spread your pain, your unhappiness like a goddamn virus. Just get on with your life and leave me alone.”

“I’m not unhappy, you bastard. I have a real man, now, not a coward. And we have a normal, happy relationship.”

“Well, right now, you sound like the unhappiest happy person I’ve ever encountered in my life.”

“You fucking bastard! Don’t ever contact me again, ever!

“You’re the one doing the contacting, Shannon.”

“I know where you live, fucker!”

She ended the call. He put the phone back in his pocket and he was at the liquor store. He bought two bottles of wine, walked back home, and finished drafts of the first three chapters of his third book.


The next morning, he sat in his study with a large mug of coffee. He had a scheduled phone interview with a popular entertainment magazine and was waiting for the call. It came just a few minutes before ten  He answered it and was greeted by a woman with a pleasant, yet overly-enthusiastic voice. He imagined her very young. They exchanged formalities, fell into a workable groove, and the interview proper began. A film based on his second novel had just opened up in the theaters to decent reviews and strong ticket sales, and the conversation quickly turned to that.

“So,” the girl asked, “are you happy with the performance of the new film?”

“I’m very pleased with the film’s reception,” he said amiably, “and I really enjoyed it on a personal level as well.”

“There were rumors that you were unhappy with the casting of a few of the major roles.”

He laughed a bit. “Well,” he said, “that was a bit exaggerated. We all have our own ideas about such things, but I ultimately left it in the filmmakers’ capable hands and was happy with the results.”

“Have you started working on the new book?”

“As a matter of fact, I officially started on it last night.”

“Oh! Any revelations you’d care to divulge?”

“Well, as I said, I just started in last night, so we’ll see how it goes.”

“Will the new book continue on the somewhat darker path set by the last one?”

“I suppose that’s safe to say, yes.”

“Some reviewers have suggested that you’re channeling bits of yourself into Peter’s character, using him to live out some of your darker tendencies. How do you respond to that?”

“Oh, gosh, that’s interesting, I hadn’t heard that one. Well, it’s fun to write a character that…indulges in things you yourself never would. That’s part of the fun of writing: getting in someone else’s headspace.”

“Ah, so you’re living vicariously through Peter’s character!”

“I didn’t say that, exactly, but we’ve all got a bit of a dark side, I think. It has to go somewhere, right?”

They talked for another five minutes, and the girl thanked him for his time. He said he looked forward to reading the interview. He ended the call and stared at the wall for a few minutes before walking to the store for more wine, having some lunch, and returning to his study to continue work on the book.

He spent the afternoon writing. The hours were productive and he felt good about the words he put upon the pages. That fact, along with the wine, filled him with a feeling of confidence and warmth. He was deep in a draft of the fifth chapter when his phone started vibrating. He pulled it out of his pocket and looked. Shannon. He waited. She left no message. He put the phone on the desk and started typing again. He got through a paragraph before it was vibrating again.

“Good God, Shannon. Please.”

“Do you think you’re safe? Because you have money now? Do you think your money keeps you safe?”

“Shannon, you’re drunk. Go to sleep.”

“You used to like it when I was drunk.”

“You used to be different kind of drunk.”

“Fuck you, you sick motherfucker!”

“Look, Shannon, I’m honestly sorry if I hurt you, but it’s time for both of us to move on. Leave it in the past and get on with our happy lives.”

“I thought you actually liked me. I thought that you liked my work, my writing.”

“I did.”

“The second I stopped sucking your dick, you dropped me like a stone.”

“The sex was your idea, Shannon, not mine.”

“And you liked it, motherfucker, didn’t you?!”

“Well, yes. As did you.”

“You used me, like you use everybody! You bring sorrow to everyone you touch. Someone needs to stop you.”

“Jesus, Shannon, listen. This is harassment. I’ve already talked to someone about filing a restraining order against you. What you’re doing is against the law. You need to move on.”

“The law? Are you gonna call the cops, fucker? Go ahead. I’ll have plenty to tell them.”

“Shannon, I never meant you any harm, but I’m not going to do this anymore. I’m going to make some calls. I really wish it hadn’t come to this.”

“Make your calls, fucker, I will destroy you!”

“I’m hanging up now. We won’t speak again.”

“Fuck you!”

He ended the call and returned the phone to his pocket. He went back to the writing, but he felt off, now. He’d lost the flow of things and couldn’t get it back. His head was in the wrong place. After 20 minutes of struggle, he gave it up for the day. He took his wine downstairs and had dinner with his wife.

They spent the evening drinking wine and watching movies. At about 9:30, his phone received a text. He initially ignored it, but when his wife got up to use the toilet, he looked:

Don’t think you are safe. You will never be safe. The world will know who you really are. Say goodbye to your life, fucker!

He deleted the text, blocked the number, and returned the phone to his pocket. For a few minutes, he sat on the couch with his head cradled in his hands. He took the bottle of wine from the coffee table, walked up the stairs to his study, went inside and closed the door. He opened the top left drawer of his desk and rummaged through it until he found a scrap of paper with a phone number written on it in black marker. He took the scrap of paper, along with his wine, into the tiny bathroom, closing the door behind him.

20 minutes later, he rejoined his wife in the living room. “Where’d you go?” she asked.

“Phone call,” he said, settling back down on the couch beside her.

“Another multi-million dollar book deal in the works?”

“Yeah,” he said, “something like that.”


The next morning, he woke, made a pot of coffee, and wrote. He had a good few hours and eventually went downstairs for some lunch. His wife was in the living room watching television. “Have you been listening to the news?” she asked him as he passed behind her.

“No,” he said, “why?”

“A local woman was killed. A writer. I think you knew her.”

“What? Killed? Who?”

“Shannon Johnson. Last night. Someone broke into her home and shot her. A robbery gone bad, they think, but they don’t really know. You knew her, didn’t you?”

“Oh God, that’s crazy. Yeah, we were in a writing group together a couple years ago. Nice enough woman. Kind of funny in the head, though. Very pretty. Depressed, I think. But, Jesus, that’s crazy.”

“You don’t think of that kind of thing happening here,” his wife said.

“No, you really don’t.” He went to the kitchen and made himself a sandwich, and one for his wife while he was at it. He took his sandwich and a fresh bottle of wine back up the stairs. He worked late into the afternoon until his phone buzzed. He pulled it from his pocket, looked at the number, and answered.


“Jack? This is Heather. We met at the reading last Saturday.”

“Oh, yes. I remember. It was great meeting you. How are you?”

“Fine, thanks! I was so excited to finally meet you. Am I bothering you?”

“No, not at all. Just having a glass of wine.”

“Well, I just wanted to know if I could take you up on your offer to have a look at my book. I finished a draft, and I’d love for you to have a look.”

“Sure, Heather, I’d be honored. Um, let’s see, are you free next Sunday afternoon?”

“Yes, yes, I am!”

“Great. Would you like to meet at the Amsterdam Cafe? On Fifth Street? Around three? They have great sandwiches, and happy hour’s all afternoon.”

“Oh wow, perfect! I’d love to. Thank you so much. I’ll let you get back to work now; see you Sunday!”

“Looking forward to it, Heather. Bye now.” He ended the call and returned the phone to his pocket. He opened the new bottle of wine, poured a glass, and started in on chapter seven.