I think I’m a serial killer
By Jody Lebel
I’m not entirely sure, at least not 100%, and I don’t have any real proof or anything, but I’m pretty sure I killed a couple of magazine editors. Don’t believe it? There are dead people and I’m involved. In some states that’s enough probable cause to get me an orange jumpsuit. I don’t look good in orange. I don’t know what room the deaths occurred in, or whether they were done in by a rope, a knife, or a candlestick, but they’re dead nonetheless. These days, every time a police cruiser drives down my street, I flatten myself against the wall and do a slitty-eyed peek from behind closed blinds convinced that it’s a homicide detective hunting me down.
How did I get into this mess you might be asking? In addition to being the author of several romantic/suspense novels, I also write short mystery stories for fiction magazines. This whole thing started when I finished what I would call a killer story (no pun intended) and I began looking for the perfect magazine to submit it to. Anyone who knows me knows what a control freak I am and that I own a voluminous book that lists every current magazine and its editor in the world. I stayed up nights into the wee hours, bleary eyed but determined, to find the lucky recipient who would get to buy my story. Like a rat on a Cheetos, I devoured the listings, ran one hi-lighter bone dry, and fattened the book with hundreds of neon green Post-its to the point of tearing the binding. I became so obsessed in locating the perfect editor that I transferred the information to a computer spreadsheet with a color-coded, intertwining, cross referencing, alphabetic and numeric system. This editor must be a person with a good track record and someone who would appreciate my dark humor. A fuddy-duddy editor would never do. Uh-uh. I needed someone who enjoyed laughing until they got a stitch in their side and didn’t mind spitting out coffee when they read my witty story. I especially kept an eye out for editors who claimed to ‘love innovative material’ and those who delighted in finding ‘gold’ in their slush pile.
Initially I had toyed with the idea of sending the story out willy-nilly to everyone. Caution, meet wind. Let the chips fall where they may. I envisioned voluminous bags of mail, being dragged to my door by a weary mailman, filled with options and offers and perhaps even some unabashed begging. I had planned to throw them all over the floor and roll in them with childlike delight. But a niggling little voice in my head began to give me worries. What if someone stole my prize-winning (I’m sure) story? What if it got in the hands of some unscrupulous editor who sold it to Russia and I never saw a dime? Or a ruble for that matter. So I wisely decided to submit to only the top two qualified, meticulously honest, most revered, unfuddy-duddy editors I could find and let them fight it out.
I used premium bond paper (with a watermark), wrote a perfect introduction letter that in itself should be in a writing museum somewhere, had a friend do the addresses in calligraphy, and took the packets to the post office where I made the clerk stamp them ‘first class’ and ‘do not bend’. I gave them a kiss (something I always do when I send off work even though it makes everyone around me back one step away), sang a quick version of Help Me Rhonda by the Beach Boys (don’t laugh, I implore Rhonda’s help a lot and she comes through for me), and sent my babies on their way.
Then I went home to await the responses that would thrust me into the world of fame and fortune. I truly expected a fast turnaround but after a few days of waiting and no fat contract, I figured the editors were struck dumb with my fabulous material and were at this moment imploring the editors-in-chief to pay me double the normal royalty.
Finally, ten days later I received my first reply. It was my original package, a bit worn around the edges from its travels much to my dismay, and across the front of it in large red letters it said DECEASED. I was shocked. My first reply and she keeled over just looking at my envelope. Rhonda, what did you do? I would just have to wait for the second editor to respond. But when I didn’t hear from her, and after scanning the obituaries just to be sure, I decided my envelope must have gotten lost in the mail (curse you, Haverhill branch). I decided to try again and this time I’d mail them at a luckier post office. I went back to my super-duper organized list and chose editors number three and four. This time I kissed the envelopes while I was still in my car and I sang to Rhonda under my breath.
A week later, one of the envelopes was returned unopened. Across the front was stamped, once again, DECEASED. What?! I had managed to murder another editor. I cried to my mother, in the true spirit of an only child who thinks the world revolves around her, “Why is this happening to me?” To which she replied, “I think we’re out of peanut butter.” Mom’s not really with it.
I was on a killing spree but darn it I couldn’t just let my superb story suffer. I sent it out to the next ten editors on my spreadsheet, disturbed to see I was now getting into the B-listers. No responses. Puzzled and beginning to experience a little panic that I might be jinxed for killing those women, I sent it out to any person who was in the mystery/thriller field in any capacity. If you were a janitor at the publishing house, you may have gotten one of my packets. I was in such a frenzy that I may have posted it to the same magazines more than once. In fact I’m sure of it. The publishing industry is a small, tight community. Word must have leaked about the two dead bodies because I started receiving strange replies like “we have put you on a no-fly list; do not submit anything to our magazine again or we will assume it contains anthrax and report you to the authorities” or “please do not contact our magazine again, or our sister magazine, or any company remotely involved with us within a 50-mile radius. Also note we have Caller ID and a sample of your DNA from the envelope.”
Hmmmph. They don’t scare me. But I would like to clear the air and officially go on record saying I had nothing directly to do with the demise of the first two editors, and as far as I know Rhonda does not have a rap sheet. However, if you are a magazine editor and you do find a submission from me on your desk, you might consider having someone else open it. You know, just in case Rhonda’s got an itchy trigger finger or something.