Sometimes, the cravings just take over.
Jimmie Putnam is an ordinary man by any measure. By day, he works as a law clerk. At night, when he can’t fight the cravings, he becomes a collector. He takes great care of his human Things; buying them cherry lipstick and reading to them from his journal. When they’ve been on their best behavior, he even takes them out of his freezers…
Sometimes, the need is just too deep.
Florel Ross has been mostly invisible since the death of her twin, who died twenty years ago at the hands of a serial killer. Obsessed with justice, Florel is willing to risk anything for the answers she craves: What goes on in the mind of a serial killer?
When the two yearnings collide, will it be justice or just Things?
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My name is James “Jimmie” William Putnam, Jr. I apologize. I’m actually a very polite man. I just don’t do well on so little sleep or when my mind is racing. I should have introduced myself in the beginning. It was very sloppy of me. I hope you will forgive me. I’m not a perfect man by any stretch. With that said, I have to be candid with you. This is, after all, my story. I refuse to censor myself. So if you can’t handle it, I suggest you stop reading now. My version of things won’t be like the stupid newspaper articles referring readers to another page for more information with the worlds “in lieu of.” I collect those too, anything I can find written about them or me, tiny reminders of my Things. I keep them in a scrapbook. Momma would be pleased.
I’m thirty-five years old. I work as a clerk at Ducharme, (he’s dead) Tweed, (he’s the dead guy’s son by marriage) Hadley & Roderick. These guys, all four of them, think they own me. Sorry, but I’ll never be anyone’s Thing. Pretentious pricks think their shit doesn’t stink, all because they have the word esquire behind their names. All because their parents had the cash to send them to fancy schools with fancy names. All of them think they are God. None of them respect me.
They make fun of me for wearing a wedding band all these years from a woman who left me with maxed out credit cards and an ugly cat. That’s fine. I’m a man of my word, in spite of Shelia. The cat’s long gone; out back. They don’t get that. Although I want to scream at them that they can’t commit, I say nothing. They tell me I need to get out more, that my dick’s going to fall off if I don’t start using it soon. If they only knew. I press my lips together and smile. I tell them I swore off women years ago. They look at me with pity, shrug, and pile more work on me. I tell them I don’t have time to date. More work. More pity. More slavery.
It’s fine. I use it to my advantage. I allow them to underestimate me. I’m actually a really smart guy. Just because I got most of my smarts on the streets and at a community college, not the Ivy League, doesn’t mean I couldn’t beat a single one of them in a game of paper-push bankruptcy style law. The truth is, I do all their work for them anyway. Don’t let the stutter fool you, I’m a fast learner.
I’ve been here at the firm since 2005, back when I was with blissfully hopeful with Shelia. In those days it was a refuge for me. I didn’t mind coming in early to get away from the landlady who sang the national anthem to her cats and told us to keep the music down. It was a relief to be away from Shelia’s loud-mouthed cackling and endless phone calls to her even louder mother. I spent early mornings filing cases in massive cabinets out back. I miss those cabinets; everything in order, in its place, like my Things in the freezer. These days we use hard drives. There’s nothing to smell, touch, or check on.
I don’t get the same peace I once did at the office. It might be because the landlady’s gone and I haven’t heard from Shelia or her mother in years. Living alone, you don’t really need a place to escape to. Now coming to the firm is more of a chore. I’d rather be home with my Things out in the barn.
They say that two out of three ain’t bad. I wonder what they say about three out of four. Only one of the partners in in today. Roderick isn’t a bad guy. I get his complex and why he thinks he’s a god. He’s been treated that way since he was a kid. He still takes his mother to lunch on Thursdays at noon. It’s the one appointment he’s never late for.
I don’t mind slow days like these. They give me time for thinking and planning. I have a lot of work to do in that area. Normally, I take my time. Lately, my urges have been too strong. I’ve never collected as quickly as I’m about to now, with another Thing, tonight.
Cravings are strange like that. You can never tell exactly when they will come on. For me, killing is like craving ice cream. It might be why I keep my Things in the freezer, besides the obvious reasons. Anyway, I’m not sure if it’s the odd numbers or the other obsessions that are getting harder to ignore. Maybe it’s just that the cravings never go away once you get a taste for it, like hot fudge on a banana split. Maybe it’s that the last few have been such fighters, challenging me to work harder and harder to obtain them. I’ve always been a hard worker, never one to turn down a dare or challenge.
Even as a kid, there wasn’t much I wouldn’t do. When I did play with other kids in the neighborhood, because Momma forced me to, I was the kid who would climb the highest tree or pick up the fattest salamander bare-handed. I was the kid who drove past Mr. Vitous’ ‘Beware of Dogs’ and ‘No Trespassing’ signs to peek at the old man passed out in his chair. It’s probably when I got my fascination with watching things. Also, being the kid who would do anything helped take attention away from my stutter.
I’ve always been wired a little bit different. It’s not enough that anyone would notice, aside from my speech. Because of it, I’ve focused—hyper focused—on everything. It was a matter of survival and a lesson my Things could have learned from me. Even on the playground, I made sure things went my way. I had a group of kids who did what I said simply because they knew I’d keep things interesting. At the same time, I wished they’d go away. I didn’t see value in their requests for play dates. I didn’t have much fun hanging out with them after school. It was merely something to do to shut my mother up. Secretly, I wanted to be in my room reading and studying the encyclopedia. I like learning. And I learn fast. I told you that. I hope you are listening. Never judge a person by the way they talk. I’m a living example of that.
People always thought I was dumb. In third grade, I was in the remedial reading class, something Momma insisted on so I could keep being on disability. The truth was, I could read full length novels in my head but when it was my turn to read aloud, something in my brain shut down and my words came out twisted, probably guilt and worry about not wanting to betray Momma. Betrayal is the worst, and I still struggle with it now. I stuttered through the shortest of sentences and turned blood red when teachers said things like, “It’s okay, not everyone’s a reader.”
Momma would argue, telling them that I liked to read for fun. She didn’t mean it. She laughed, telling me they were dumb when we got in the car. She’d spend the whole drive home telling me every single thing she loved about me. She counted them, like I count my Things. Then she’d go back and say the same thing, threatening lawsuits if they didn’t do something more – testing, anything. They didn’t listen. They thought she was crazy as a bat. Momma was misunderstood too, a fact she called “intentional” and proof of her intelligence. She’d repeat it over and over in her gravelly voice. When she said it, she’d look at me to be sure I understood.
It was strange, people said, that I didn’t have a dad or a brother or sister to play with. “Only children are odd,” they’d say. Maybe you live up to the things people say about you. Either way, Momma taught me not to worry so much what people thought of me. I tried, I really did. Sometimes it even worked. Other times, even now, it doesn’t work so well.
Frankly, I was glad I didn’t have a sibling, or even a dad. Momma said only children were smarter, more capable of getting their way. Momma mostly left me alone. She had her hands full with her pills, bottles, and three-pack-a-day habit. Momma spent nights sipping on vodka and talking on the phone to any man she could get to listen. Luckily, she never brought them home for more than a month in a row.
See, that’s the thing. People thought of Momma as a bad mother. Truth was, she was perfect for me. She left me alone and never tried to change me. She only wanted to improve me. She told me the system sucked and that she was going to teach me how to work it. She said it was the key to survival and she only wanted the best for me. I believed her. Momma was always loyal.
She was the opposite of Shelia, who was always nagging. Momma collected too. Not my kind of Things though. She collected little figurines of animals. Her favorite was an orange glass cat. I still feel bad that I broke it when I was ten and buried it under her shed. When she died, I tried to go back and dig it up. I never did find it. I feel bad about that.
Tonight I’m going to even the score. Sweet sixteen has me on my toes. I jump when the phone rings. The anticipation is one of my favorite parts. The killing, well, that’s okay. Really, it’s about the planning and the control. We’ll get to that later, if you care to join me. You can be the cherry on top. I like having an audience.
About the Author:
Erin Lee is a freelance writer and therapist chasing a crazy dream one reality at a time. She is the author of Crazy Like Me, a novel published in 2015 by Savant Books and Publications, LLC, Wave to Papa, 2015, by Limitless Publishing, LLC and Nine Lives (2016). She’s also author of Alters, Host, and Merge of the “Lola, Party of Eight Series,” When I’m Dead, Take Me As I Am, Greener, Something Blue, Once Upon a Vow and 99 Bottles. She also penned Her Name Was Sam, an LGBTQ awareness novella. She is author of Losing Faith, and co-author of The Morning After with Black Rose Writing. These days, she spends her free time working on the sequels to this novel, Jimmie’s Ice Cream and Thing Fifteen.
Lee is a co-founder of the Escape From Reality Series. She, along with authors Sara Schoen and Taylor Henderson, are working with twenty other authors to bring the hopes, dreams, fears and terrors of a tiny fictional town alive. The town and its setting is exactly the type of place a man like Jimmie might escape to as the bodies thawed.
Lee holds a master’s degree in psychology and works with at-risk families and as a court appointed special advocate. She cannot write horror with the lights off. However, these days, she’s getting braver and dimming them. She’ll get there . . .
You can find and contact Erin Lee here:
Ten (Crazy) Things I Learned About Myself after Becoming An Author
By Erin Lee
1. That we’re all a little crazy (and I wouldn’t change a thing).
2. That our crazy is what makes us each unique.
3. That part of being alive is wanting to connect with other human beings and stories and words are a way to do it.
4. That all stories have more than one meaning and there are no right or wrong answers.
5. That it’s okay to be different or unique.
6. That it’s okay to be flawed. We all are.
7. That I have been a writer since I could pick up a pen.
8. That crazy isn’t a bad thing. To me, it means creative and interesting.
9. That there’s always a deeper meaning.
10. That we all walk the fine line of in/sanity.
What a quirky, crazy journey this has been. Two years ago, I published my first book, Crazy Like Me, with Savant Books and Publications, LLC. Since then, I’ve put out a dozen or so more books with a variety of publishers and imprints. I’ve learned a few things along the way – mostly that I’m crazier than any of the clients I work with in my day job as a therapist. And I wouldn’t change a thing about my work, words, or the indie writing community. It’s taught me so much about myself:
My writing didn’t start with that first release. I’ve suffered with the crazy need to tell stories since I first picked up a pen. If I were to diagnose myself based on the first story I ever wrote, I’d go with narcissistic idealist. This is a professional classification within the psychiatric lexicon of personality disorders.
Long before I knew anything about such pathologies, I wrote a book about an aardvark. Its title, a real grabber, was Nire, the Purple Aardvark. Always one to see the world backwards, it doesn’t surprise me that I named my quirky protagonist after my own name, spelled in reverse. Six-year-old me was sure Nire would make it to the best seller list, but I quickly learned that the literary world can be a cold place with little room for purple aardvarks. Earning only an “honorable mention” for that book in a Young Author’s contest – something given to every kid who participated – I knew Nire and I had a long way to go: hopeless split personalities.
I haven’t stopped writing since that first attempt at putting my words into print. My first teenage job was writing hometown “news” – aka lists of community events – for a free weekly newspaper. I was paid 10 cents an inch and thrilled with my bi-monthly $13 loot. The byline was better than the money. Since, I’ve worked as journalist, marketing director and therapist. I’ve written children’s books about rainbow cows and talking apples, exotica, suicide prevention literature, journal articles, memoir and poetry. When I stop and think about all the topics I’ve touched on, I realize I might want to add schizophrenia to my self-diagnosis.
For me, that’s what makes writing fun. Where else, but in art, can you wear such different hats so easily passed off with an “oh, she’s a writer”? Writing has made my world such a crazier – in a good way – place. For me, writing is a love affair: It’s allowed me to fall in love with hundreds of characters. Add love addict to that diagnosis.
I’ve come a long way from my days with Nire, and apparently increased my pathologies, but some things have not changed. My favorite color is still purple. I continue to write for the love of the art. I’m still attracted to writing about quirky characters. My mother, my first writing mentor and a retired English professor with a heavy red pen, is still my number one wordsmith coach.
But some things do change. My days of undergrad internships with manual paste up all-nighters are gone. The sweet smell of scented markers and newsprint on my hands has long ago been replaced by a stylus and antibacterial lotion. The Internet and digital photography have opened doors to creative folks who otherwise may not have had the opportunity to share their stories.
Along the way, I’ve been fortunate to run into kindred spirits who have encouraged my love for storytelling and imagination. As a therapist who specializes in narrative therapy – the art of helping people define themselves, tell, and rewrite their own life stories – I feel privileged to tell my characters’ stories. Nire will always live in my heart, but things have changed. If I had to diagnose myself now, I’d go with word-a-holic, type A – a condition I never desire to change. There is no cure, treatment, or expectation for my recovery.
Through my latest project, the Diary of a Serial Killer series, I’ve learned more than I care to know about the world. Diving deep into the worlds of good and evil, I’ve learned—through clinical interviews with men convicted of murder—that we’re all a little crazy. It wouldn’t be that far of a stretch for anyone to commit the types of crimes that Jimmie Putnam, the killer in my series, did. And while I sleep a little less knowing this, I wouldn’t change a thing. That’s the awesome thing about this crazy journey we’re on – we all have something to learn and something to teach and each of us walks a fine line between sane and not.
I will continue to run on coffee and push off sleep to explore worlds that touch people’s lives. I have learned that this is what fuels me and always has. I think it’s part of the human condition; the need to touch other people and share experiences. And while it make me a little quirky and even insane sometimes, I wouldn’t take it back for anything. Being an author has taught me that there really aren’t any right or wrong answers. And that’s a heck of a liberating thing…
There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of Things. One winner will win a signed copy of Just Things by Erin Lee (US only)
For a chance to win, enter the giveaway below: