Behind the Mystery Series

People always assume that I am solely a women’s fiction writer and that my recent foray into crime thriller is a real departure. I’ve been writing since I was seven years old when I penned my first short story series, but it was at age 12 when my English teacher, Mrs. Hughes, gave the class a writing assignment, that everything changed.

“Your writing assignment is simple. Start with this sentence,” she said. “When I opened the door…” And we all looked up expectantly. “And with that beginning, write a story.”

I remember feeling excited. I knew that every other student in that 7th grade English class would write about opening a door to a visitor or opening a closet door and choosing a dress or shoes, the mundane realities of a 12 year old’s life. But I was already a fan of Alfred Hitchcock and Perry Mason and I was determined to do something that would stand out. And I went home and wrote it out and here it is:

‘When I opened the door, the body fell out. Damn, I muttered, and my mind wandered to the events of the day before. I suppose it had been like so many other days. I was living in an insane asylum, a nut house they called it. A tall, lonely building surrounded by deep woods. I tried to act normal, but I wasn’t sure what that was, and I attended groups and tried to pretend that I was cured of whatever they thought was wrong with me. But I hated being there around all of these crazy people.

And the guards were worse, they took great pleasure in tormenting us.  The rules went on forever—two cigarettes a day, no extra desserts and outside exercise required daily. The rules were endless. Bedtime was at 8p.m., lights out at 9. Unlike the troublemakers, I shuffled around, did what I was told, all the while planning and praying for an escape and then one day, the most miserable guard, the one I hated, caught me alone behind the building hidden, I’d thought, by trees. “You should be inside,” she said. “What are you doing here?”

And I exhaled a long stream of smoke and dropped my cigarette to the ground. “Pick that up,” she shouted. And at that moment, I had had it. I’m not sure how I did it, but I killed her. I knocked her to the ground, my hands around her throat. I’d grown bulky here in this prison because that’s what it was, and with my weight on top of her and my hands around her throat, she barely put up a fight and she was gone. No one was more surprised than I that it had been that easy. If I’d known, I’d have done it years before.  

I looked around and then fished through her pocket for keys, my eyes searching for her dark blue Chevy. I knew I had to get away quickly and under the cover of the trees and the brush, I dragged her to her car and pushed her into the backseat.

I pulled myself into the driver’s seat and realized I had nowhere to go. I checked her glove compartment and there it was—her car’s registration and her address, and as night took over, I drove to her house, lugged her unseen inside and shoved her into the closet.

And then I took a shower, a real shower with no one watching me, no one timing me and then I used her fluffy white towels and slept in her bed. And the next day, when I opened the closet door, she fell out.  I waited until nighttime, dragged her out to the car and drove to the nearby lake. I pulled up close to the water and threw her in, the deep satisfying splash let me know she was gone. I slept like a baby that night.

The next day I rose, had a cup of good, strong coffee, smoked her cigarettes and took a walk to the lake, wearing her sunglasses, not that anybody would recognize me, but it seemed like a good idea. There was a crowd of police cars and people and a medical examiner’s van and everyone muttering what a tragic ending for that woman, and I smiled to myself.

A policeman stood next to me surveying the scene. I should have been nervous, but I wasn’t. I lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply. It was already my third or maybe fourth cigarette of the day. I watched as they pulled the body from the water. The policeman folded his arms across his chest. “What is the world coming to?” he asked.

I shook my head sadly and took a long drag of my cigarette before stubbing it out on the ground.

“The world’s gone crazy,” I said before walking away.’

And Mrs. Hughes loved my story. And her praise stayed with me, the lure of mysteries and true crime stories always shadowing me. Until… I finally wrote book one of the Jessie Novak series. I hope you enjoy reading about her as much as I like writing about her.

And to Mrs. Hughes and all the teachers who encourage our creative spirits, thank you.

Originally published in Crime Spree Magazine


  1. Mary Wasacz on October 30, 2023 at 6:22 am

    It’s amazing that the phrase “when I opened the door….” you came up with a mystery that was great. You were only in 7th grade but a gifted writer at that early age.I’m enjoying your writing and will be reading your books. Consider me one of your followers. I’m also a nurse.

    • Roberta on October 30, 2023 at 8:42 am

      Thank you for all of your kind comments on my blogs! I can’t even begin to tell you how much they mean especially coming from another nurse! Best, Roberta

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