For fans of Die Hard, 10 Things I Hate About You, Jerry Springer, and Downton Abbey, comes the epic tale of killers killing killers. Now, you can develop feelings for a sadistic serial murderer from the safety of your home. Demonize the ultra-wealthy and give your confirmation bias a hearty breakfast with Super Serial.
"I could never represent this and feel good about myself."
"Please don't publish this under your real names. What if my friends see it?
"Is this fiction or non-fiction? I'm cool with either."
"Is this supposed to be funny? I'm not sure other people are going to get this."
"I feel like I read something illegal."
"I'd probably remove some of the references to private parts."
Mandy Harker and Preston McNair know books pretty good and they've come to the literary world for two reasons: debuting novels, and kicking ass... and they've already debuted a novel. Mandy's a sensitive Pisces with a white-belt in karate and a wardrobe full of rabbit pelts and turquoise jewelry. Preston collects ninja stars, and has over two-hundred Pokemon cards, including a Mega Charizard XY. Together, they make the most epic co-authorship the world has ever known.
Ziglar Ghostshade stared down at the congealed bowl of instant oatmeal slop. It looked like a pile of albino goat shit, but if he didn't force it down, he'd be hungry all day. He poked at it, cringing at the squelching sound the spoon made as it slapped into the lumpy pile. He'd already dumped in a few old raisins, a shriveled-up apple slice, and a spoonful of brown sugar, but nothing could make it anything other than what it was. Gluten-free ass paste. He dropped the spoon onto the flowered plastic tray that served as his dining room table and glanced at the bent metal cupboard where he stored his last remaining bottle of Gluto-Block.
“Seven-hundred eighty-four dollars a bottle,” Ziggy muttered aloud, trying to stop himself, but he was already up from his threadbare camping chair, pulling on his ratty wool coat and scuffed leather boots. “Damn mega-corps price-jacking. Think they can do whatever the hell they want,” he ranted, grabbing the Gluto-Block. He tossed the bowl of oatmeal mush onto the pile of dirty dishes already stacked high in the rusty sink and trudged out into the dim hallway. He didn't bother to lock the door behind him. There was nothing to steal. He’d already liquidated everything of value he owned to cover his debt to Pill Depot, and he still owed them a fortune. He'd be rotting in a debtor’s prison if he weren't a corporate marshal.
An elderly woman with stringy white hair and a sackful of cans tied to the front of her walker nodded to Ziggy as he passed, but he shuffled by without meeting her eye. The other thing that protected him was anonymity. That's why he moved to District DipShip. No one lived here if they could help it. DipShip was a fledgling corporation, always teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, passing around the leadership helm like a cheap joint. In the three years Ziggy had lived there, it had changed hands too many times to count. DipShip survived on cheap leases from sub-corps and cheaper rent from the down-and-outers who couldn’t afford anything better. Private security was non-existent, too expensive for the district dregs. It was easy to stay hidden in DipShip, so long as you kept to yourself and didn't mind too much when your shit got stolen.
Ziggy lumbered down the creaky stairs, sucking in stale air and muttering curses about the broken elevator and too-loud samba music that always seemed to play in his seedy apartment complex. By the time he made it down five flights, he was regretting his hastiness in tossing the oatmeal. His lungs heaved as he wiped his sweaty brow on the sleeve of his coat. It was three blocks to Sweet Sally's Bakery. If he hurried, he could make it before the Boston creams were gone. His fingers brushed over the cap of the Gluto-Block stored safely in his pocket. The ridges along the edge were soothing to touch, and he felt a bit like a pious nun gripping a crucifix. As long as he had Gluto-Block and a belly full of pastries, life was worth living.
He lumbered along the cracked and narrow sidewalk, careful to avoid the murky brown puddles from last night's rainfall. The sky above was clouded over, and Ziggy vaguely remembered the meteorologist from his favorite station saying there'd be scattered storms all week. In the nicer districts, the petrichor smelled fresh and earthy, but in District DipShip, rain only stirred up the penetrating foulness of the streets. It smelled like warm wet trash, cat piss, and ethnic food turds. Ziggy held his breath as he hurried along.
“You lookin’ for redcloud?” A junky with red-stained teeth and glazed eyes solicited him from a narrow cross street. Ziggy sighed as he passed the haggard grifter, and she clicked her tongue in response to his dismissal. She wouldn’t last another week selling bootleg Pill Depot drugs. Marshals would sniff her out, or someone would turn her over to Pill Depot for the small reward offered to anyone willing to snitch on rogue dealers. They were all slaves to Pill Depot.
Ziggy narrowly avoided stepping in a massive pile of dog poop as he maneuvered around a group of men crowding the sidewalk. They were watching the news on an old television set perched on a street cart selling fragrant chai.
“It’s the third beheading this month at Skidmore Dumping,” drawled a balding news anchor. “Executives are scrambling, offering huge bounties to corporate marshals worldwide, in an effort to catch the killer who, so far, remains a mystery. Maybe they’ll get lucky and find our next Super Serial superstar!” the newscaster exclaimed. Ziggy rolled his eyes and twirled his fingers in the air as he passed. He couldn’t care less about shit-brained mega-corp CEOs. They deserved what they got for making murder into a rich man’s game.
The door chime tinkled as he stepped into the refuge of Sweet Sally's. The rancid smell of the streets disappeared into an aromatic perfume of freshly baked breads, fruit pies, and sweet pastries. Ziggy's mouth watered. If there were any place even halfway decent in this garbage district, Sweet Sally's was it. It had only been open for thirty minutes, but it was already busy. Customers waited in line, tapping their feet and checking the time, eager for a quick breakfast and an even quicker escape. Hopefully, the rush would be over soon. The bakery opened a few years ago, just after Ziggy moved to the district, and he longed for the days when no one knew how great it was.
He looked around for LaRhonda, the only person around who knew him by name, and spotted her at the checkout counter. Her long red nails clicked against the register screen, and she tucked a strand of thick black hair back into the bun under her hairnet. She smiled when she spotted Ziggy, and he nodded before moving to his regular booth at the back of the store. There was no need to wait in line. LaRhonda knew what he liked.
Ziggy nestled against the cracked red vinyl bench of the booth, breathing in deep until his bulging stomach grazed the underside of the table. A server brought him a cup of coffee and he doused it with sugar and cream, feeling himself relax in the warm fragrant air. Ziggy hadn’t had a lover in years; the bakery was his mistress, and nothing was better than resting his head in Sweet Sally’s soft bosom. He reached into his pocket to touch the Gluto-Block again. If Sweet Sally was his mistress, Gluto-Block was the key to her heart.
Just then, a man slid into the booth, squeaking down the vinyl until he was directly across from Ziggy. He was on the small side, with thick glasses, crooked front teeth, and a too-large t-shirt that said, “Support bacteria - they’re the only culture some people have.” His hair was somewhere between blond and brown and cut in uneven chunks against his head. He was wearing a massive pair of blue noise-cancelling headphones, which was the only reason Ziggy didn’t bolt. Debt collectors were burly guys with sharpened reflexes and tattoos. This man looked like he got lost on his way home from an online gaming tournament. He couldn’t fart on a ladybug, let alone take down a man Ziggy’s size.
“I knew it! I knew you’d be here,” the man said way too loudly, and half the customers glanced their way.
Ziggy cringed. “I think you must have mistaken me for someone else,” he responded as politely as he could. It was clear the man was socially backward, at best, and LaRhonda wouldn’t like it if he were rude to one of her customers.
“What did you say?” the man shouted, leaning across the table. He’d obviously forgotten he was wearing the headphones.
“You must have mistaken me for someone else,” Ziggy repeated with a bit more inflection and a bit more threat. Someone behind the bakery counter chuckled, and Ziggy felt heat run up the back of his neck. He’d grown accustomed to blending into a crowd; it had been a long time since he’d drawn so many eyes.
“Nope,” the man replied with a grin. “It’s you all right. You’re fatter now, and you’ve lost some hair, but I can tell it’s you.” The man held out his phone, showing Ziggy a picture of a smiling, self-assured man wearing a smart black suit trimming a muscular frame. Ziggy blinked, his brain stalling for a moment before recognizing he was looking at a picture of himself from about ten years back.
He froze to prevent giving anything away, an ingrained reaction he’d learned as a marshal. It would take a keen eye to recognize Ziggy as the same man in the photo. He had gotten fatter over the years. Fatter and balder. He suddenly felt damp everywhere and fought the urge to try to unpeel his ball sack from the side of his salami leg.
His adrenaline surged as he peered more closely at the man. “Who are you?” he asked, clearing his throat against the strain.
“I’m Floyd McNut,” the man was almost shouting now. “Penny didn’t believe me when I told her I could find you, but she was wrong. Once I discovered you were somewhere in DipShip, all I had to do was go to all the bakeries. Your corporate marshal profile said you like donuts, although I noticed no one has updated it for almost twelve years. Four thousand, two hundred and ninety-seven days to be exact.”
Ziggy’s brain went into overdrive, wondering if he could outrun Floyd, who was clearly some bizarre new type of bounty hunter. He mentally calculated the steps to the door. Floyd was in better shape, but Ziggy had studied every backstreet and alleyway between the bakery and his apartment. He just had to hide long enough to keep Floyd off his tail, get the cash stashed inside his toilet tank, and blow town before Pill Depot had him detained and chucked into the nearest labor camp.
LaRhonda approached the table with a tray covered in chocolate-glazed donuts and Florentine cannolis. “I was hoping I’d see you today,” she said to Ziggy, setting down the tray, two small plates, and a thick stack of napkins. “No one loves my cannolis as much as you. Who’s your friend?” she asked, her sharp brown eyes landing on Floyd.
Ziggy wasn’t sure how to respond without drawing suspicion. “This is Floyd,” he muttered, scanning Floyd’s baggy shirt for possible hidden weapons.
“What did you say?” Floyd yelled, craning his neck toward LaRhonda.
She pointed to his headphones. “You could hear me a whole lot better if you took those off, Sugar.”
Floyd looked confused for a moment, his hand creeping to the top of his head where LaRhonda had pointed. He poked around for a moment before grasping the headphones and pulling them off. Underneath, his hair looked even more molted and unruly, like it had been chewed up and spit back onto his head.
“I forget sometimes that I have them on,” he said at a more normal volume. “I wear them in crowded places so the noise doesn’t bother me.” He took a donut from the stack and placed it carefully on the center of his plate, his fingers coated with chocolate glaze. Ziggy swallowed the growl building in his chest; he was a junkyard stray protecting his bone. His fingers slithered over the slick surface of the table as he inched the tray of pastries closer to his side.
“The morning rush is over now,” LaRhonda said. “It should quiet down.” She lingered, straightening the salt and pepper shakers and refilling Ziggy’s coffee. She pulled a small pad of paper and a knubby pencil from the front pocket of her apron. “I don’t think I’ve seen you in here before. Floyd, was it?”
Ziggy glanced at LaRhonda. She pinched her generous lips together so tightly, purple lipstick smudged underneath her nose. She knew something was wrong and was determined to investigate. Ziggy didn’t have friends, and he didn’t share his Boston creams.
“The reason you haven’t seen me here before is because I haven’t been here before,” Floyd said with a shrug. “I just came to talk to Ziglar. Penny Nichols wants to hire him. She didn’t think I’d be able to find him, but I did.”
Ziggy gripped the greasy edge of the table. Floyd wasn’t there by mistake. He was looking for Ziggy. He had his picture. He knew his name.
“Penny Nichols?” LaRhonda snorted. “What kind of name is that?”
“The kind her parents gave her, I suppose.” Floyd looked confused by the question. “She’s Alexia Ito’s executive administrator.”
LaRhonda gasped, her eyes growing into saucers. “Alexia Ito? The new CEO of DipShip?”
Ziggy shoved a cannoli into his mouth and the rest into his coat pocket. Not just the new CEO of DipShip, but the daughter of Hirofumi Ito, owner of Pill Depot. His cover was blown. He had to get out of here before it was too late.
“Penny said to bring you in if I found you,” Floyd told Ziggy, wiping the chocolate off his hands with a napkin. Bits of white fiber stuck to his fingertips. “Do you have anything less messy?” he asked LaRhonda, his nose wrinkling as he looked down at the fingerprinted donut. “I can’t eat this.”
Ziggy tried to wobble out of the booth, but it was like pulling a screaming toddler from quicksand. He was lodged in tighter than an overfilled sausage casing, his stomach pushing against the table until it rocked, spilling coffee down the sides and onto his lap. LaRhonda shrieked as it soaked her white canvas shoes, then cursed before bolting away for a towel.
Floyd looked pained by the noise of the chaos and jammed his headphones back on. Ziggy was already at the door when Floyd shouted after him.
“Penny also said that if you came in, she’d wipe the rest of your debt to Pill Depot.”
Ziggy’s hand paused on the door handle, then crept to the bottle of Gluto-Block still in his pocket. He stroked it like a talisman, turning until he could see the golden flecks in Floyd’s hazel eyes.
“What did you say?”
Floyd pointed at his headphones. “What?” he shouted back.