A real estate agent donated nearly $1,000 to pay off the school lunch debt of 430 students in Jupiter, Fla., earning praise from the local community. Andrew
What are some short stories about psychopaths?
The Plundered Pilot
Keith is talking to a man in the corner of the room. I’ve known Keith for ages, so I go to say hi. He’s agitated, stressed. It’s not like him. He’s always been a calm man, confident and quiet. He owns a plane, a little Cessna. He does small commercial gigs, takes tourists over the Grand Canyon. When he gets something extra, he puts it aside. “One day I’m going to buy our ranch,” he tells me. Keith and Alexis, and their retirement dream.
“Hey Keith, how’s it going?” I ask. The other man sits there, says nothing. Dark curls, Shaded glasses. Good suit, heavy gold watch. Keith shakes his head and shoulders in anger. “Fine! It’s going fine!” he tells me. “Now can you please leave us alone? Please?”
I’m shocked. I’ve never seen him like this. “Sure, catch you later,” I tell him, and go back to my place at the bar. I watch them. They’re arguing about something. The man shrugs, talks. He’s quiet and intense. Keith calms down, stop shaking his head. He’s nodding now. The small drama ends with them shaking hands. Keith signs a piece of paper. The man folds it, puts it in his jacket pocket, stands, leaves. I wait a minute, then take my drink and sit across from Keith.
“Mind if I sit?” I ask him, already sitting. It’s our running joke. He looks at me, not laughing, and sighs. “What was that?” I ask, still somewhat annoyed at him for sending me away before. “Nothing,” he says, “Business.” He changes the subject, asks about my kids. We chat for a while. He’s distant, skinnier, hasn’t shaved. I want to ask more about the guy in the suit. Then I don’t. No need to stir the pot, right?
That’s the last time I see Keith. Two weeks later I get a funeral card from Alexis. His widow. I call her immediately. Keith is dead. He crashed his plane. No passengers, just him. I’m lost for words. “So sorry.” It’s all I can say. Keith?
The investigator finds the plane had no technical problems. It didn’t hit anything. The skies were clear. So he rules it a suicide. Keith crashed on purpose. No insurance for Alexis. The worst part is Keith cleared out their joint savings account. And just a few days before I saw him. Over $180,000 gone, no explanation.
The Party Maker
He wanders into his favorite place, a large bar and restaurant. The spot is popular with noisy young people looking for good times. It’s early on this Saturday summer evening. He chats with the bouncer, Mike. The large man enjoys the distraction, and tells him little fragments of his life. His ex-girlfriend and the unexpected baby. His boss. He highfives the bouncer and cuts the conversation. “Catch you later, Mike, I’m gonna get myself a beer”. He crosses over to the bar.
Outside on the terrace he finds a large round table and sits with his cold bottle. People are trickling in. He watches them. A good mix, typical of this part of Texas. Migrants come here from all over the US, and beyond. Men check out women. The women pretend to ignore the men. Some couples. Some loners, backs to the wall, body language shouting, “I wish I was taller.”
The place is getting full now. A small group of young men sit on the steps beside his table. White, black, Hispanic. They look uncomfortable. He turns to them, asks “where y’all from?” Soldiers from a nearby army base, on a night out. He sweeps his arm to show his table. “Come join me,” he says, “it’s more fun at a table,” he smiles. The men accept, and get up and join him. They’re glad for the chairs, and the welcome.
These young men are smart, and curious. Not yet deployed, they’re optimistic and trusting. He tells them sweeping stories of his own foreign adventures. They laugh with excitement. He stops, puts his hand on the table, and states the obvious. “We need women!” One soldier points with his chin. “How about those two?” He turns to see two pretty dark-haired women. They look bored and uncertain. “OK, don’t move!” he tells the men, and gets up.
“Hi ladies, how you doing?” he asks them, not listening to the answer, which is always “fine” or “great.” He watches for any signs of irritation. They seem happy to talk to him. “You waiting for someone else?” he asks, and they say no, it’s just the two of them. He frowns, studying their features.
“Where are you from?” he asks. “Guess,” says one, laughing. He tries to place them. Dark eyebrows, dark green eyes, pale skin, high cheekbones. Lebanon? Georgia (the country, not the state)? They laugh and shake their heads, “no.”
“Won’t you join us? We’ve space,” he invites the women with a broad sweep of his arm. They look at the handsome, crew-cut male faces, shrug, and accept. “Sure, why not.”
The two women sit beside him, and he chats with them, making more wrong guesses. Russia? Armenia? They laugh. The soldiers buy them drinks. Everyone is happy, it’s a great party. Finally, he admits defeat, and they tell him, “India.” He’s shocked, impressed, and fascinated.
“The most beautiful woman I ever met,” he says, “was from Georgia. We talked for five minutes, and I wanted to marry her right on the spot. You both have the same features. I was sure you were Georgian! But India, wow… India!”
“Yes, India!” they laugh, flattered and enjoying themselves. They chat through the evening. The bar closes, and the public empties into the car park . His group is last to leave. The soldiers say goodbye and go their way, and the two women stay with him. “Do you want to go somewhere else?” he asks. “My car’s there.” He pushes his remote and the lights on his new Mustang convertible flash on and off.
Later, one of the women asks him, “so how long have you known those guys?” He answers, “Oh, I only met them this evening.” “What?!” she exclaims, shocked. “We thought you’d known them for years! You were like best friends!”
The Careful Nurse
She likes old people, she says, because they talk so much. The old men and women in the home seem to like her too. “She’s always in a good mood,” they tell each other. “Such a good listener!”
She’s worked hard for her nursing degree. Endless books, studying, writing, exams. The other students get better marks, and she guesses they all cheat. They’ve got people helping them, and they bribe the teachers. Well, that’s easy. She can do that too. She can’t use the computer, it’s so difficult! Oh, could you check my work for me? Pretty please?
Finally, the torture is over and she gets that magical piece of paper. “Qualified nurse,” she repeats to herself. “Qualified nurse!” That afternoon she’s already sending emails around, looking for work. Soon she has a gig lined up. She’ll join a team looking after a wealthy man who has cancer.
She dresses for work. Hair tied back, and the neat outfits she learned from the nursing home. Black and blue, white cap, long skirt, dark shoes. Expensive dark shoes. She has three colleagues, and they take shifts. Their patient is in his seventies and spends most of his time in bed. Before lunch they get him up, dress him, and take him for a walk in his gardens. He returns tired, and sleeps. Her colleagues prefer the evening and night shifts, as they have less to do. Despite the extra work, she prefers the morning shift, when he’s awake and talkative.
He’s an interesting man, who’s built several large businesses. They get close, always talking. She asks him once, laughing, “so how much are you worth?” He laughs back, “that’s one thing I regret. I never quite made a billion.” She raises one eyebrow and tuts. “Silly man, I’m sure you have more regrets than that!”
He does. Hard work is good for you, he tells her. Yet it’s no replacement for family. He married, his wife died in a car crash twenty years before. He has a son, forty-five now. The son hates his father and visits once a week, like it’s a chore. They talk about nothing. He leaves as soon as he can, in his black Mercedes. She finds out he divorced his wife, and refused to help his father in his businesses.
It takes her almost six months to reconcile them. In the end, they hug, and she smiles to herself. The old man is getting stronger. He’s promoted her to head of the nursing team. She replaces the other team members with her own people. Now she’s the only woman. One evening, as the son is leaving, she goes with him. They have a meal in a restaurant close by, and she stays overnight at his house.
When they marry, soon after, they both know it’s the right time. Why wait longer? Destiny makes its own plans. They buy a ranch, high in the hills, and plan their dream home. The father dies in his sleep a few months later. They name their baby after him. It is a boy.
The Doctor’s Daughter
“You’re looking chubby,” he tells her, concerned, over dinner. She touches her face. She leaves her dessert. No appetite. They’ve been arguing a lot recently. She can’t get it. The first year they were together, he was fine. It is as if he became a different person.
Their fifth anniversary is coming up. He promises to take her out. She buys a new dress, she wants to be beautiful for him. On the day itself, he has to meet people. He will be home late. She spends the evening alone at home, hurt and angry. He comes home after midnight. He slides into bed beside her. She smells the alcohol, and pretends to be asleep.
He’s studying again. Business school, this time. Before that, marketing. Before that, Eastern philosophy. He studies evenings and weekends. She works office hours. They live together like uncomfortable strangers in an elevator. She wishes he’d get a proper job. When she says this, they fight. “They’re racist!” he tells her. “You don’t know how hard it is for a black man. You whites,” he says, and she winces. “Go study,” she says, “I want you to be happy.”
Her mother never liked him. “He’s not a nice man,” she says, shaking her head, after meeting him. “He doesn’t make you happy.” She cuts her mother off, refuses to talk to her again. He is handsome. He is full of love. He makes her passionate and come alive. When she is with him, she feels energized, euphoric. It is magical. How can her mother be so petty and jealous?
“You have to forgive her,” he tells her. “Her generation aren’t used to foreigners. Jealousy and hate, I know it so well. She’ll get over it in time.” His eyes are moist and she sees five hundred years of pain. She hugs him and wonders how her mother can be so small-minded. She tries to kiss him, and he turns away. “I’m tired,” he says, “Tomorrow.”
They are always in debt. She doesn’t understand it. Before she met him, she’d never owed anyone money. She saved every month. Now, it seems she is scrabbling at every turn. They spend so much, on wasteful luxuries. Trips they can’t afford. Eating out, several times each week. A new car. New furniture. The worst part: he neglects everything.
He takes the car and brings it back with scratches. Then, dents and broken lights. What happened? she asks, furious and shocked. “Some idiot backed into me,” he says. It is always someone else’s fault. “Did you fill in the insurance form?” she asks. “He drove off! I called the police of course.”
She gets the post. Credit card statement. She opens it, glances at the total. What?! She reads again. No mistake. It’s more than her monthly salary. Her hands tremble, as she looks through the details. Some mistake! This isn’t her. She tries to make sense of the text. Her mind is slipping on ice. She grapples for balance.
The bank! The number is there on her statement. She calls them. Give me a real person… give me a person… ah.. “There’s been a mistake on my credit card” she blurts. They calm her down. Client number. Name. OK. They check. Madam, was your credit card stolen? “No,” she says, “no, it wasn’t. I have it right here.” Sorry madam, these are legitimate purchases. All confirmed with PIN code.” She frowns. Who else knows her PIN code apart from her husband…?
When he comes back from his studies, she confronts him. He denies it flat out. “It’s one of those websites you shop on. I told you not to trust the Internet,” he says. “Cancel the card, and if the bank won’t refund you, change banks. Damn thieves.” It does not end well. She argues with her bank manager, and closes her accounts there. After years of the same bank! She sits shivering in anger, fear, insecurity. Her world is collapsing.
One day, she is too sick with flu to go to work. In the post she gets a letter with a court summons in her name. Unpaid traffic fines, more than a year of them. Her mind finds itself on slippery ice again. This is impossible! She parks with such attention! There’s a number for the bailiff. She calls to ask for details. The female voice is happy to explain. Eleven different parking violations. Unpaid despite many reminders for each one. Fines and costs are now over three thousand dollars. She sits in shock, unable to process.
I’m going mad, she thinks. I can’t take this. She weeps slow hot tears as she takes the bottle of sleeping pills, and puts a handful in her mouth. The black void pulls at her. Come, it says, why fight?
And then her phone rings. It’s him. “Where are you?” he asks, without pause. “At home,” she tries to say. It comes out as a nasal mumble. “Don’t expect me home this evening,” he continues, as if she’d not spoken. “I’ve got stuff to do, put the garbage out, OK?” He cuts the conversation. She holds the phone, stares out of window at the wordless city.
In her mind, an ancient door slides open. Something steps out. “No,” it says, “not that way. We fight.” The bottle of pills drops from her hand. Cold anger wipes out her self-pity. She spits the pills out onto the carpet.
She goes to the cupboard where her husband keeps his papers and books. It’s locked as always. She has a second key that he never knew about. She opens it. Inside there are piles of papers. She takes the piles one by one and goes through them. Finally she sees it: a plastic bag with letters. They are all addressed to her. Dozens and dozens of them.
The tickets. Then reminders. And second reminders, then final warnings, and penalties, and letters from lawyers…
She confronts him when he gets home. Waves the papers in his face, shouting, what is this? What IS this?
He looks at the letters, and then at her, and then explodes in rage. “You looked through my papers? How DARE you?” He slaps her, once, and then again, harder. She falls to the floor, in shock. He kicks her in the ribs, in the face, in the back. He shouts. “Never.” Kick. “Touch.” Kick. “My stuff!” Kick!
In the hospital, they recognize her name, and call her mother. The doctor checks her daughter. Nothing broken. She asks, “Did he do this?” and her daughter nods. She calls the police, who send a unit. They write up a statement, and then go to arrest him. He does not deny hitting her. It was her fault, he explains. She told me I’m too poor for her, and she kept taunting me with racist slurs. In the end I couldn’t help it, I got angry. It’s terrible, and I feel so bad about it. He is crying, miserable, a broken man.
He is not charged, instead they both get warnings, he for assault, and she for hate crimes. Much later, at home, he tells her he’s sorry, and that he loves her. She looks at him, and sees the man she fell in love with. For a brief moment she feels the connection again. She wants this so much, and she’s so afraid of what comes next. And then she remembers his violence, his lies, his stealing. The other voice speaks. “Get out,” it says, and she takes a step towards him. “Make me!” he says, but takes a step back.
The Happy Couple
Mark is in love. It’s not like him. Yet he is full of romantic energy. It washes over him and washes him away, like sea waves. He’s been seeing Florence for a few months, and they are perfect together. They clicked at once, love at first sight. Eyes meeting across the room, she strides towards him. She pokes him with a finger. “So you’re that Mark guy they tell me about.” “What do they say?” he asks, flustered. “Nothing good,” she says, turns, and walks away. That night, she’s in his hotel room and the next days he cannot stop thinking about her.
Apart from their age difference, and the fact he’s married, it’s perfect. Well, she’s also married, with a young child. Details, nothing can stop destiny. He’s a stubborn and confident man, works on intuition, afraid of no-one’s opinion. That’s how he made his money. That’s why Florence loves him, for his power and strength.
He tells his wife, who stares at him in shock. “How old?” she asks. She cannot believe this conversation is real. “How long have you been seeing her?” All the obvious questions. “I don’t want a divorce,” he says, “just my freedom.” He’d discussed this with Florence. He’s a responsible man. Abandoning his wife and kids would be shameful. The correct choice is separation.
His wife doesn’t argue, and doesn’t get angry. She has no tools to deal with this. The younger woman stealing her husband, it is such a caricature, so fatal. She wants to disappear. Money, she panics, how will she live? It’s all his money, she has nothing, except part of the house. If he cuts her off, she’ll have to beg. A life spent at home, raising the kids and cleaning. She feels powerless, mute.
Florence and Mark travel, and make their plans. They will live together, she has already chosen a house. “I don’t want your money,” she tells him, and he insists. They fight over it, their first real argument, and finally she accepts. “Don’t think you can buy me,” she warns. “I know men like you.” He assures her, he’s different, and she relaxes again.
His friends tell him he’s looking happy, for the first time in so many years. He feels he is bouncing with energy, euphoric, and confident. Florence’s power flows through him. Only his sister scrutinizes him. She says, “you’ve lost weight, brother.” He admits he isn’t sleeping enough. Problems at work, he explains.
And yes, there are problems at work. The endless corporate politics have turned against him. Florence is his rock. She helps him understand what’s going on. She warns him against trusting people who hate him and want to destroy him.
His accountant emails him, warning him he’s been spending too much money. Well, of course, the houses and the travel, it’s adding up. Everything in double now. He gets a personal loan from the bank. He buys Florence a new car. She’s angry with him for wasting their money, and they fight. Later she forgives him. The car’s OK, she says, and she takes it away for a drive.
It has been a year, and he’s changed. His ex-wife sued for divorce and won a good settlement. The house went back on the market. It sold with a loss. He didn’t care. Just money. They are fighting every day. She flips all the time. One minute, exuberant joy. The next, dark brooding anger. He can’t control her and he can’t predict her. He’s drinking too much, and not taking care of himself.
One day his boss calls him in. “Mark,” he says, “I’m letting you go. Your department is not working. You’re in charge and I’m holding you responsible. We’re shutting it down. Your people will go to Bill. Please take your personal belongings. You’ll get a month of severance.” Two men from security escort him out, to his office, and then out of the building.
He picks up the phone and calls his ex-wife. He needs someone to tell him it will be OK. Anyone. The calm voice says “the number you have dialed is no longer in service.” He stares at the dirty wall of the small room. He reaches for the bottle of vodka. The bedroom door opens, and it’s Florence, suitcases in hands. “I’m leaving you, it’s over,” she says, “don’t call me and don’t text me. You’ve done enough damage already.”
The Best Friend
Sure, I’ll tell you what happened.
We had a rocky relationship from the start. I’m a large guy and usually pretty chill. Yet we fought all the time. And I mean, all the time! There was no real reason. Sure, I look at other women sometimes. I’m human. She’d freak out. “Hey you,” she’d shout at a waitress who I’d said hi to. “Do you want to go out with my boyfriend? Do you?”
We stopped going out after she got into a fight. Some woman had called her a whore, when her boyfriend stared at my wife’s legs. Short shorts, right? I told her she’d been showing a lot of skin, men were going to stare. “So you think I’m a whore, do you?” she said. “No,” I sighed. “He called me a whore in public, in front of everyone!” she said, to anyone who would listen. For years.
I thought she was insecure and jealous. She’s so good looking though. I was so in love. So in love. My family loved her too, told me I’d found the right woman, told me to look after her. So that’s what I tried to do.
She started going to college, evening classes. I paid her tuition. “It’s our money,” she said. To be honest I don’t know why I wanted to marry her. But I did, more than anything, and she said “yes” right away.
About a year after we married, my unit deployed to Iraq. We spent our last night together, and she cried, and told she would wait for me. Only two months later, our Humvee hit an IED. It was like I flew overseas to get blown up. I was in hospital for a month and then they sent me home on disability.
The decision happened so fast I didn’t have a chance to call her. OK, I thought, I’ll surprise her. I’m back from work, honey!
I got back to our place and the house was empty and quiet. The plants were dry and going brown. There was mail, a lot of mail. I walked through our home, and sat on our bed. The side cupboard was a little open. I pulled it open and saw this little beaten-up black notebook. I’d never seen it before. Strange.
I opened the book and read it. It crammed with letters and dates. “A.H.B, 3-12-05.” The same letters showed up over and over. They were peoples’ initials. Beside some of the names there were figures. Money, could be. There was an entry every few days, and the first ones dated back to years before we met. There, I found our first few dates. I looked through twenty pages, to the end. The dates continued until a few days ago. I recognized the last initials. J.A.K. One of my best friends, across the street. Wife and two kids. Not possible. No harm taking a look, right?
So I got up and walked outside and crossed the street and rang the doorbell. He opened it, then went pale when he saw me. “Have you seen her?” I asked him. He pointed over his shoulder, into the house. I walked inside, and there she was, in a towel, on the sofa.
She didn’t even blink. She stood up, and shouted at me, “What do you think you’re doing here?” She was screaming at me, “You bastard, almost getting killed! I thought you were dead! It was terrible! How could you?”
What, I said, what the f? Why are you naked here with Jon?
Jon kept saying, “sorry man, I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize what I was doing, sorry man.” It was obvious he meant they’d been sleeping together. Where’s Judy and the kids, I asked him. “She left, about a month ago, when she found out,” he said, starting to tremble.
A month ago.
All the time she’s shouting at me, threatening me. She’s accusing me of sleeping with whores in Iraq. She’s saying I betrayed her from the start.
“Hey,” I say to her, “look what I found!” I hold out the book. She lunges for it, shouting, “Mine! That’s mine, give it to me! I swear I’ll rip your eyes out! You piece of shit!” She’s saying the most horrid things.
I tell her, “I’ve read it and taken pictures of every page. I’m going to find every one of those guys you slept with.” That’s not the word I used. I tell her, “I’m going to find these guys and tell each of them what kind of trash you are.”
She stared at me, completely blank, for about a quarter of a second. I’d never seen her make that expression before. Like her face froze while her brain was doing some kind of calculation. And then she shrugged. “Fuck you, you piece of shit” she said, went to dress, then left the house.
I had a few beers with Jon, months later when I’d pulled myself together. Poor guy never knew what hit him and I wasn’t mad at him. He’d just saved my life. I was so lost. Two years we were together. I loved her so much. When I got back to our place, her clothes and papers were gone, and so was she. I never saw her again, though I spent a while looking for her.
The Pretty Woman
My mommy and daddy divorced when I was eight. Mommy got to keep me and Daddy told he could not stand to see her ever again. So he went away. I don’t see him much.
Granny is a lot like Mommy. They act nice to everyone and people just LOVE them. She is always so polite when people are watching. She has a honey voice. “I love you,” she says to me like she means it.
Everything is Daddy’s fault, she says all the time. Poor Mommy, everyone is against her. She tells me I have to stay with her, all my life. One minute, she’s praising me, telling me I’m her smart baby. Next minute she’s yelling at me. She tells me I’m an impossible child, I won’t listen, how I don’t know what I’m doing is wrong. Then she starts crying, and I feel bad.
She is never wrong. Everything bad is someone else’s fault.
She always has bills that she doesn’t pay. She tells me: cheating, lying, and stealing are OK as long as you get something out of it. She steals from me, says she’ll give me the money back. She never does. She cries or gets mad when I ask her for it.
She stopped talking to her old friends because they don’t have money to give her. Money, money, money. It is all she thinks about. She used to hit me, and threaten me with horrible diseases. “If you use the phone you’ll get cancer in your brain.” Or, “if you don’t eat this food you’ll get stomach disease and have to go to hospital.” Everything I like doing is shit, for her. When I dress myself she tells me I am stupid, and she changes my clothes.
She never says “please” or “thank you” at home. She says, “do this or else!” Always “or else!” I have to go to the shops for her, do the dishes, and the laundry. Daddy once taught me to cook and she threw a rage fit. She said he was making her poor baby into his slave.
She treats me like a baby, asking “did you go poo-poo? How was it? Soft or hard?” She does this in front of my friends, in public. She tells me I don’t wash, that I smell, that I’m fat. When we’re with family she’s always complaining about me. She keeps saying how she sacrificed her life for her poor baby.
At school they bully me a lot, and don’t know how to stop it. The teachers know and do nothing. Mommy says it’s my fault for not making friends. I once got sick with appendicitis. She complained the whole time I was in hospital. Daddy should have been there to look after me, she said. Then she said how lucky I was that she was there, that if Daddy had looked after me, I would be dead.
I’m sixteen now and want to leave and live with Daddy. Mommy doesn’t want that. I made a friend at school. Mommy spoke to her and told her I am depressed and hysterical. My friend stopped talking to me. I don’t know who I could ask for help.
The worst part is how people tell me, all the time, how amazing she is and how lucky I am. Sometimes I think I’m the crazy one, and Mommy is just trying to save me. Sometimes I want to kill myself, so I don’t hurt other people like she hurt me.
I miss Daddy.