More Praise for Bad Men (USA)
"The feminist serial killer you didn't know you were waiting for. Sensational." Claire Mackintosh
"Had me turning the pages like a fiend." C.J. Skuse
"Fast, furious and very, very funny." Tammy Cohen
"Saffy is a cross between La Femme Nikita and Alexis Carrington and it's a winning combination." Justin Myers
"Wickedly funny, with twists and turns that aren't for the squeamish, BAD MEN is a damn good read." Sarra Manning in Red Magazine
"It's great when I love a protagonist that I shouldn't—Saffy Huntley-Oliver is one." Nina Pottell in Prima Magazine
"Sassy, sexy, and edge-of-your-seat entertaining, this fabulously funny, feminist serial killer thriller could not come more highly recommended." Joanne Owen, lovereading.co.uk
"Preposterous and silly, yet ever so fun." Jennifer Lipman in the Jewish Chronicle
The second bad man was the first one I killed on purpose. Sure, I wanted to kill Harold—subconsciously, I’d probably wanted to maim him from the minute he married my mother, and to murder him as soon as he laid a finger on me. But I can’t really say that I hatched a plan or anything. It was more spur of the moment, in self-defense. He was a pedophile, and there was a handy pool.
But the second one . . . that one, I thought about it before I did it.
Not for long, to be honest. I definitely thought more about my prom dress. That, I’d been imagining for years. When I killed Mr. Scheeler, I’d only been thinking about it for two days.
It started late one night. I was in my sophomore year at an all-girls’ boarding school in Massachusetts, and while I liked the academics and the sports, my little sister Susie was hundreds of miles away, at a boarding prep school in New York. We only got to see each other during school vacations, which we spent in Harold’s Upper West Side apartment, or Harold’s beach house in the Hamptons, according to the seasons, along with a succession of paid guardians who were selected by the lawyers who administered our and mother’s and stepfather’s trust funds for us until we turned eighteen. This wasn’t too unusual—a lot of the girls I was at school with hardly ever saw their parents, even if they were still alive. Anyway, going to boarding school and spending vacations with strangers was definitely better than living with Harold.
I missed Susie, though. Even though I knew she loved her school, especially the sports teams and dance lessons, and I knew that she was safe and happy there, I felt every empty, lonely mile stretching between us. Which was why I was up after lights out, under my blankets with a flashlight, writing Susie a letter on daisy stationery, which was her favorite, and pink ink, which was also her favorite. Until the pen started leaking all over my hands.
Sighing, I turned off my flashlight, got up, and made my quiet way past my snoring roommate and down the hall to the bathroom. The house mother had gone to bed hours before and all the lights were off, but like all the other students, I was very used to groping my way down a dark hallway, past other rooms containing snoring girls. You’d think that with what my stepfather’s estate was paying for tuition, we’d get private bathrooms, but the school administrators evidently were of the opinion that sharing facilities would keep us rich kids humble or grounded, or something like that. In my experience it mostly meant that the shy kids developed bowel problems from holding it all in until the dorms were deserted, and the kids with eating disorders or body dysmorphia became even more miserable. Take a bunch of teenage girls and give them zero privacy without other gossiping and prying teenage girls seeing every single thing they do, and it’s an ideal breeding ground for paranoia and narcissism. But hey, what do I know? I was just a kid, and possibly a budding sociopath.
I could tell there was someone in the bathroom before I got in there because the light was shining underneath the door. The lights were on movement sensors, which meant that you could never sneak into the room without anyone knowing, or conversely that sometimes when you were doing your makeup or having a shit in peaceful solitude, the lights would suddenly go off, plunging you into darkness and ruining your eyeliner game.
Also, I could hear someone crying.
I opened the door stealthily, using my hip rather than my ink-stained hands, and listened. When you hear someone crying in the girls’ bathroom you have basically three options: ask if the person is OK and run the risk of getting tangled up in some immature teenage drama; ignore it and potentially miss out on some top-notch gossip; or eavesdrop and hope to get all the dirt and none of the hassle. In this case, I struck gold, because I’d only been standing there for five or six seconds when I realized that there were two girls in there, one crying and one whispering.
“Are you going to tell anyone?” the whispering one whispered.
“No,” the sobbing one sobbed. “No one will believe me!”
“They might believe you.”
“Then they’ll know it was me! He’ll get fired and everyone will blame me! Everyone loves Mr. Scheeler.”
“Everyone knows you’re his favorite.”
I perked up at this, because it gave me two bits of vital information. Mr. Scheeler coached the softball team, which I was on (first base, because I was really good at the quick catches). Everyone did, in fact, love Mr. Scheeler. He was a former minor league baseball player who’d coached our team to the top of the state. He had a big belly, a booming laugh, a penchant for terrible puns, and he carried a genuinely signed by Babe Ruth wooden baseball bat with him everywhere. I’m not kidding—the Babe bat had its own seat on the team bus. In anyone else, this would be incredibly cringey, but something about Mr. Scheeler managed to make his obsession look quirky and fun. In addition to coaching the softball team and teaching computer science, he also directed the annual senior play, where the senior class dressed up as various teachers and staff. The senior who played Mr. Scheeler always got to carry his Babe Ruth bat, which was the only time that it ever left his side.
I also knew who was crying: it was Neve Owens, because Neve Owens was our star pitcher and also the senior most likely to act as Mr. Scheeler in the play.
I pressed my ear closer to the ajar door.
“Maybe it was a mistake,” said the other girl.
“He had his hand in my bra,” said Neve.
“Are you sure? Maybe he didn’t mean to.”
“Even if he did, I can’t tell anyone. And you’re not allowed to tell anyone either. My life would be miserable. They’d all say it was my fault. Promise you won’t tell!”
“Are you going to quit the team?”
“I have to. I can’t look at him anymore.”
This was enough. I scooted away from the bathroom door and back to my room, where I cleaned my inky hands with some tissue. Then I climbed back into bed, with visions of killing Mr. Scheeler dancing in my head.
You may think that a bit of overheard gossip is a slender basis for killing a beloved softball coach, especially one who’d got us to the top of the state rankings, and who had personally increased my batting average from 400 to 450. But in my defense, pedophilia was a touchy spot for me, and with good reason. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that no one ever put their hand inside someone’s bra “by mistake.” How many teenagers had Mr. Scheeler groped, or worse? Neve was right: no one would ever want to believe it about him. Added to which, Neve Owen had the best right arm on the entire East Coast. She couldn’t quit. Our team might never have won all those games without Mr. Scheeler, but we definitely wouldn’t go on to win the championship without Neve.
Also, in my opinion at least, my plan was foolproof.
Of course, I was wrong, but again in my defense, I was only fifteen, and I’d already gotten away with murder once. I thought I was invincible.