You know about that TV show “ripped from the headlines”.
There’s very little that’s new under the sun, and that goes for homicides, as well. And in the case of homicide, one factor stands out: psychopathy.
Here’s an interesting fact: psychopaths are pretty much all the same. There isn’t much “there” there. Yes, they can be cunning. Yes, they can be smart—very smart. Yet all of them are predators, whether they’re just ruining a co-worker’s day, or destroying a family unit, or killing someone because they feel like it. It’s all a matter of degree.
Because they are so empty inside, you wouldn’t think they would be all that interesting. But this is where character meets horror; a garden-variety intellect can overcome the odds by its willingness to do something terrible—and there are plenty of opportunities for that. Psychopaths are hunters. They can sense the weak animal in the herd. If three girls are at a nightclub drinking, the psychopath knows which one to cut from that herd. The one who will give them the least trouble, the one who will comply. They have a killer instinct, whether they’re driving a hard business deal or stalking a victim. They are predators. Even the psychopath who never kills a soul will destroy lives in other ways. And the people who find themselves in the rubble wonder, “How could she do this to me?” “How did this happen?”
Sociopaths and psychopaths live among us, and they look like everybody else. They have the same foibles, the same appetites, the same good looks or extra poundage or excellent teeth. They live in neighborhoods, they have cars, they have children, they have wives or husbands. But, wonder of wonders! Things never go right around a psychopath. The people who are touched by them, who live with them, often are off-kilter, worried about things—even vague worries—and they have a bad feeling, they feel angry, feel sad, feel put-upon, feel wretched. And usually, they don’t realize that those feelings are usually right at the surface when they’re around a certain person: a person who makes them feel bad.
Not all psychopaths are killers. That said, psychopaths are basically the same. They may not kill you, but they will find ways to hurt you. Even small ways. And you find yourself stepping back emotionally from them, you find yourself watching your step, watching what you say, because deep down inside, you don’t trust them.
Worse than that, if you’re long in the company of a psychopath, you don’t trust yourself. You might second-guess yourself. Or make excuses for a person who has no regard for you at all. Thinking they are normal human beings, and are driven by the same forces you are. It’s what you know. What you expect.
There are warning signals. People know when something’s wrong with a person, and many of them take a step back. Maybe they’re polite about it, but it’s like an animal smelling a poisoned carcass. Better just unentangle. Still, psychopaths can be charming. They can read a person. They know how to manipulate the weak sheep they pick out of the herd, and they know just how far to go and when to pull back, so that the victim wonders if it’s just her imagination.
And then we come to the famous psychopaths. The killers. They’re no different from the garden-variety psychopath (both psychopaths and sociopaths have a very dull inner life), except for the fact that they enjoy the whole predatory experience, especially the killing. Sadistic psychopaths are not brilliant. They just don’t care, and they have a certain animal cunning. They can sense the weakest animal in the herd. They know which deer they can take down.
Without that cunning, they would be completely empty. That they can put something over on you, or even take your life (depending upon their appetite) gives them a lift.
How do smart people fall for these predators? They assume that these folks are just like them: driven by the same wants and needs. And the predators hide in plain sight, acting like a normal person, looking like a normal person, and fool you because they’re so good at this.
And that is how I came to write my work in progress, LADIES MAN, in which a smart, sensible woman crosses the path of a killer, and never suspects what’s behind the mask.
Until it’s too late.